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Robert  Hommel and Jason BeDuhn 

 

A Brief Follow-Up On 

Bowman-BeDuhn: John 8:58 and the New World Translation

 

This brief discussion took place between Robert Hommel and Jason BeDuhn on Robert Bowman's Evangelicals and JWs discussion board in the spring of 2005.  Bowman and BeDuhn had just completed their formal debate on John 8:58, which you can find here, and had opened discussion to board members.  

 

 

 

From: "Robert Hommel" <[email protected]>
Date: Thu Jun 2, 2005  6:07 pm
Subject: Jn 8:58 Debate - A Question for Dr. BeDuhn

 

Hi, Jason,

It's good to "talk" with you again. I enjoyed our previous debate - I
learned a lot in the process!

I'd like to ask you the following:

If Jesus had wanted to say, "Before Abraham came to be, I am!" how
would he have said it in Greek? I realize that you believe this would
have been an awkward sentence in Greek (as it is in English) and
(perhaps) Jesus would never have said such a thing, but supposing He
did want to, how would He have said it?

Thanks and best wishes!

Robert Hommel

 

 

From: "jasonbeduhn" <[email protected]>
Date: Mon Jun 6, 2005  5:48 pm
Subject: Re: Jn 8:58 Debate - A Question for Dr. BeDuhn

 

Hi Robert,

Yes, it is nice to hear from you. I thought our discussion -- wht was
it, two years ago? (time goes so quickly) -- was constructive.

Now, to your question:

> If Jesus had wanted to say, "Before Abraham came to be, I am!" how
> would he have said it in Greek? I realize that you believe this would
> have been an awkward sentence in Greek (as it is in English) and
> (perhaps) Jesus would never have said such a thing, but supposing He
> did want to, how would He have said it?

From my perspective, the power of tradition is so great that many
people do not even recognize that this is a nonsense sentence in
English. You cannot say such a thing in English, or for that matter
in Greek. I will talk now as if Jesus is speaking in Greek, just as a
shorthand for what you are asking. If he wanted to say that he
existed before Abraham, he can quite easily do that with a past tense;
the imperfect would have been suitable (just as it is in John 1:1):
EGW H (or HN) PRIN etc. If he wanted to say he currently exists, he
would say EGW EIMI. If he wants to say both, then he can either say a
compound sentence -- EGW H PRIN . . . KAI (EGW) EIMI -- or he can make
use of the progressive use of the present, where mere juxtaposition
with a past referent, such as the PRIN clause, automatically conveys
both past and present sense to the verb. So the Greek works fine, and
the problem has arisen only in translation.

Now suppose Jesus had wanted to say "I have always existed, even
before Abraham was born." This is easy enough: EGW EIMI PANTOTE PRIN
GE ABRAAM GENESTHAI or EGW EIMI PANTOTE KAI PRIN ABRAAM GENESTHAI.
But the Greek John has written is missing the distinguishing features
that would signal this meaning, and a reader of the time coming for
the first time to the sentence John did write would read it as a
progressive present "I have been" or "I have existed since before
Abraham was born." I think you have heard me say this before, but it
is essential to keep in mind that the New Testament texts were written
in ordinary, average Greek for wide understanding, and so we should
always give preference to the most obvious, ordinary meaning of the
words over any special theological pleading. After all, 2000 years is
a long time to have an opportunity to read things into the text that
just weren't there for the original readers.

My best wishes to you.

Jason B.

 

From: "Robert Hommel" <[email protected]>
Date: Tue Jun 7, 2005  4:05 pm
Subject: Re: Jn 8:58 Debate - A Follow-up Question for Dr. BeDuhn

 

Hi, Jason,

Thank you for providing alternatives that Jesus could have said, had
he wished to express Himself in the various ways you suggest. But
that wasn't really my question.

I had asked you how Jesus would have said, "Before Abraham was born,
I am," even acknowledging that you think such a sentence is awkward
or that Jesus would never have said such a thing.

You answered:

"You cannot say such a thing in English, or for that matter in Greek."

This would appear to be a self-defeating proposition; just say the
following out loud: "You can't say 'Before Abraham was born, I am,'
in English!

Instead, I take you to intend something like, "Before Abraham was
born, I am" is a meaningless sentence in English. If not, please
correct me.

So, granting that you believe this sentence to be meaningless, how
would Jesus have said it in Greek?

Thanks for your time,

Robert

 

From: "jasonbeduhn" <[email protected]>
Date: Tue Jun 7, 2005  11:17 pm
Subject: Re: Jn 8:58 Debate - A Follow-up Question for Dr. BeDuhn

 

Oh, come on Robert. Of course I meant it is a meaningless or nonsense
sentence, and I said so. So do you want to suggest that Jesus spoke,
and/or John wrote, a nonsense sentence? That's quite a strange
proposition. I can see it now, the crowd saying, "Let's stone this
guy because he speaks in ungrammatical sentences!" There is no need
to resort to such a suggestion, since the sentence we have is
perfectly proper, understandable and sensible Greek. I can tell you
how Jesus could have expressed any number of meanings you may want in
Greek. And I have told you how he could have expressed the meaning of
"always existing" even in the face of the PRIN ABRAAM temporal
reference. But constructing a nonsense sentence is pointless and,
well, nonsense.

Jason B.


From: "Robert Hommel" <[email protected]>
Date: Thu Jun 9, 2005  2:25 pm
Subject: Re: Jn 8:58 Debate - Nonsense! (was A Follow Up Question)

 

Jason,

I've have asked you twice now, granted you believe the English
sentence is awkward, that Jesus would never have said it, and that it
is meaningless, how would Jesus have said, "Before Abraham was born,
I am?"

You replied:

"So do you want to suggest that Jesus spoke, and/or John wrote, a
nonsense sentence? That's quite a strange proposition. I can see it
now, the crowd saying, "Let's stone this guy because he speaks in
ungrammatical sentences!"

LOL! I suppose I left myself open to that one! ;-)

No, of course I don't think John wrote a nonsense sentence. More on
this in a minute. The reason I'm asking this question is to point
out that there's really no other way to say, "Before Abraham was
born, I am" in Greek than PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI EGO EIMI, as least as
far as I can tell. Thus, if Jesus said something like this (whether
in Aramaic or Hebrew), John would have rendered it in Greek exactly
as we have it.

As for your assertion that the English sentence is meaningless, I
would agree that translators should avoid rendering Greek into
meaningless English. But, with respect, I think you have defined
what is "ungrammatical" in a fashion that precludes
philosophic/theological allusion, metaphor, or paradoxical usage, and
then used that definition to label any who disagree with you as
theologically driven or arguing nonsense. While this approach may
be useful in a debate, it is not indicative of an even-handed,
inductive study of all the evidence.

The mere fact that commentators ever since Irenaeus have *not* found
the present-tense EIMI following PRIN questionable demonstrates that
it may be more sensible than you allow. Indeed, they seem to have
derived meaning from the sentence quite easily and consistently.

In your post to Frederick, you referred to Irenaeus and Ignatius as
writing the "exact same original phrasing of the Greek." But this is
not true of Irenaeus. The text of Irenaeus has come down to us in
Latin, not Greek. It was (according to Roberts & Donaldson)
a 'wooden' translation done near the beginning of the third century.
The latin was, apparently, not very good (indicating the translator
knew Greek but was not a master of Latin) - but the Latin of
Irenaeus' quotation of Jn 8:58 is very clear:

Antequam enim Abraham esset ego sum (PG, vii, p. 1009).

("Before Abraham was, he says, I am" - Roberts-Donaldson translation).

Towards the end of the fourth century, we have Chrysostom writing the
following:

"But wherefore said He not, "Before Abraham was, I was," instead
of "I Am"? As the Father useth this expression, "I Am," so also doth
Christ; for it signifieth continuous Being, irrespective of all time.
On which account the expression seemed to them to be blasphemous. Now
if they could not bear the comparison with Abraham, although this was
but a trifling one, had He continually made Himself equal to the
Father, would they ever have ceased casting stones at Him?" _The
Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers_; Volume 14: "Homilies On the Gospel
of St. John," Homily 55.

As you know, Chrysostom was, arguably, the greatest Eastern
theologian of his day. Greek was his native language, and he studied
deeply in the classics as well as in the Bible. I really don't see
how a scholar of Chrysostom's stature could have been so blind to
this "obvious" PPA, and so deaf to the supposed "nonsense" of the
present-tense reading.

As I recall in our dialog on Jn 1:1, you took the position that the
broad theological\philosophical background of John's Greek and Jewish
audiences must be taken into account. You suggested that John's
audience had certain associations with QEOS, for example. But, it
appears they may also have had such associations with the present-
tense EIMI. On the Greek side, we have Parmenides writing that ESTI
is the only form of the verb "to be" that should be used of the gods,
because it signified eternal "being," as contrasted with "becoming"
(the very contrast Rob has argued for in Jn 8:58). On the Jewish
side, we have the well-known ANI HU verses in Isaiah (rendered "ego
eimi" in the LXX) that Jesus may well have been alluding to, and the
Greek translation of Ex 3:14 - "I am the one who is [ego eimi ho
wn] ....Tell them the one who is [ho wn] has sent you". Are these
sufficient to offset the apparent contradiction between the present
tense and PRIN? I think they very well could be. They should at the
very least be considered as part of any careful review of the
evidence.

There are other points I could raise, but I think these are
sufficient to illustrate that the traditional translation is far
from "meaningless" and "nonsense." If it is, indeed, a
misunderstanding of a "garden-variety PPA," it is one that arose very
early and which - at least according to the evidence so far presented
in this debate and in your book - was only "corrected" in the last
100 years.

Best regards,

Robert

 

 

From: "jasonbeduhn" <[email protected]>
Date: Fri Jun 10, 2005  2:39 pm
Subject: Re: Jn 8:58 Debate - Nonsense! (was A Follow Up Question)


Robert,

You wrote:

> The mere fact that commentators ever since Irenaeus have *not* found
> the present-tense EIMI follwoing PRIN questionable demonstrates that
> it may be more sensible than you allow. Indeed, they seem to have
> derived meaning from the sentence quite easily and consistently.

Yes, of course the Greek sentence is perfectly sensible (along the
lines I have explained). It is the English translation that had
rendered it senseless).

> In your post to Frederick, you referred to Irenaeus and Ignatius as
> writing the "exact same original phrasing of the Greek." But this is
> not true of Irenaeus. The text of Irenaeus has come down to us in
> Latin, not Greek. It was (according to Roberts & Donaldson)
> a 'wooden' translation done near the beginning of the third century.
> The latin was, apparently, not very good (indicating the translator
> knew Greek but was not a master of Latin) - but the Latin of
> Irenaeus' quotation of Jn 8:58 is very clear:
>
> Antequam enim Abraham esset ego sum (PG, vii, p. 1009).

Yes, this is what we would call a wooden translation, isn't it? By
an unknown translator of an uncertain time of Irenaeus simply
repeating the Greek of John 8:58. Not much to hang your hat on
there, Robert.

> Towards the end of the fourth century, we have Chrysostom writing the
> following:
>
> "But wherefore said He not, "Before Abraham was, I was," instead
> of "I Am"? As the Father useth this expression, "I Am," so also doth
> Christ; for it signifieth continuous Being, irrespective of all time.
> On which account the expression seemed to them to be blasphemous.  Now
> if they could not bear the comparison with Abraham, although this was
> but a trifling one, had He continually made Himself equal to the
> Father, would they ever have ceased casting stones at Him?" _The
> Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers_; Volume 14: "Homilies On the Gospel
> of St. John," Homily 55.

Thanks for the reference, Robert. You seem to have identified the
beginning of this interpretive tradition. As you well know,
Chrysostom and the other biblical exegetes of his time for some real
linguistic howlers as they tried to come up with arguments in a
highly contentious atmosphere of theological debate. What is missing
from the historical record, of course, are the answers and criticisms
of their silenced rivals.


> As I recall in our dialog on Jn 1:1, you took the position that the
> broad theological\philosophical background of John's Greek and Jewish
> audiences must be taken into account. You suggested that John's
> audience had certain associations with QEOS, for example. But, it
> appears they may also have had such associations with the present-
> tense EIMI. On the Greek side, we have Parmenides writing that ESTI
> is the only form of the verb "to be" that should be used of the gods,
> because it signified eternal "being," as contrasted with "becoming"
> (the very contrast Rob has argued for in Jn 8:58). On the Jewish
> side, we have the well-known ANI HU verses in Isaiah (rendered "ego
> eimi" in the LXX) that Jesus may well have been alluding to, and the
> Greek translation of Ex 3:14 - "I am the one who is [ego eimi ho
> wn] ....Tell them the one who is [ho wn] has sent you". Are these
> sufficient to offset the apparent contradiction between the present
> tense and PRIN? I think they very well could be. They should at the
> very least be considered as part of any careful review of the
> evidence.

This is all fine to consider in a commentary, Robert, though I would
point out obvious problems (such as that in the LXX of Exodus it is
HO WN that is used of God, not EGW EIMI, the Isaiah passages bear a
closer resemblance in the Greek, but they are copulative 'i am he'
statements, and of course the Hebrew behind them has no verb at
all). But it doesn't belong imposed on the text in translation
because it is uncertain and because there is a more obvious way to
read the Greek that does not preclude interpretations along the lines
you are suggesting, but that leaves the sentence and its parts
functioning as they would in normal Greek of the time.

best wishes,
Jason B.

 

From: "Robert Hommel" <[email protected]>
Date: Mon Jun 13, 2005  11:53 pm
Subject: Re: Jn 8:58 Debate - An Easily Recognized PPA? (was Nonsense!)

 

Jason,

Thank you for your reply.

You have argued that the PPA in Jn 8:58 would have been easily
understood by John's readers. That is, I think, a critical piece of
your argument and one we need to keep in mind when we look at the
evidence. Indeed, I would submit that the evidence I presented in
my previous post demonstrates that the PPA in Jn 8:58 was *not*
commonly or easily understood, and either dropped out of Koine usage
shortly after the Gospel was written, or never existed at all.

Regarding Irenaeus, you wrote:

>Yes, this is what we would call a wooden translation, isn't it?
>By an unknown translator of an uncertain time of Irenaeus simply
>repeating the Greek of John 8:58. Not much to hang your hat on
>there, Robert.

The unknown translator was not working at an "uncertain time" -
Tertullian apparently quoted from his translation in the early third
century. The translator may not have been a master of Latin, but he
certainly knew Greek, and to suggest that he understood Irenaeus'
quotation of Jn 8:58 as a common, garden-variety PPA, but translated
it as 'ego sum' (which any first-year Latin student would recognize
as a present-tense form of the verb) is extremely implausible.

On Chrysostom, you wrote:

>Thanks for the reference, Robert. You seem to have identified the
>beginning of this interpretive tradition.

You're welcome, but it took me literally five minutes on Google to
find this quote, and another 20 minutes or so in the library with
Migne to verify it. That's about all the research I've had time to
do on this topic, so there may very well be other patristic
citations and allusions out there. I'm surprised that you missed
this quote in your research. I think this oversight is an example
of you being overly one-sided in your book and in this debate, and
not really giving this topic the research and evaluation that an
even-handed treatment deserves.

You continue:

>As you well know, Chrysostom and the other biblical exegetes of
>his time for some real linguistic howlers as they tried to come
>up with arguments in a highly contentious atmosphere of theological
>debate. What is missing from the historical record, of course,
>are the answers and criticisms of their silenced rivals.

Others have pointed out the weaknesses in your blanket dismissal.
It will not do to reject what Chrysostom has written on the basis of
alleged "linguistic howlers" he or other fathers may have written in
other contexts. You'll need to provide evidence that Chrysostom
made specific, grammatical errors when interpreting Scripture in the
same way you allege he does, here. While Chrysostom may have
interpreted various verses according to his theology (or, more
charitably, derived his theology from his understanding of
Scripture), he was a native Greek speaker writing to other native
Greek speakers, and it is inconceivable that he would simply ignore
a "commonly understood" aspect of the verb to make his point,
*knowing that his readers would recognize his error immediately.*
As I said before, Chrysostom was a formidable scholar not only of
Scripture, but also of Greek classical literature. His witness must
be given its proper weight in this discussion, and I think you are
committing a Fallacy of Exclusion by so casually dismissing it.

Regarding the philosophical / theological background of the present
tense EIMI, you wrote:

>This is all fine to consider in a commentary, Robert, though I would
>point out obvious problems (such as that in the LXX of Exodus it is
>HO WN that is used of God, not EGW EIMI, the Isaiah passages bear a
>closer resemblance in the Greek, but they are copulative 'i am he'
>statements, and of course the Hebrew behind them has no verb at
>all). But it doesn't belong imposed on the text in translation
>because it is uncertain and because there is a more obvious way to
>read the Greek...

But why did you think it necessary to consider the background when
translating John 1:1? Either theological / philosophical
backgrounds are necessary for proper translation or they are not.
You argued that they were for translating QEOS as "divine" in Jn
1:1; it is, therefore, inconsistent for you to imply that they are
only needed in a commentary, now.

These "obvious" problems have nothing to do with my point that the
present tense EIMI had theological and philosophical associations
(hO WN is, after all, present tense, and if Jesus is alluding to
Isaiah, it is the present tense copula He is using).

You may not have been writing a commentary, but you were (I thought)
writing a book you wanted Bible scholars and students to take
seriously. Such a work - especially one that undertakes to prove
that translations such as Jn 8:58 are not only incorrect, but
theologically biased - should demonstrate that the author has
interacted with most - if not all - the available evidence. Such a
work need not be overly technical, and can be directed to a popular
audience, but still show (through endnotes or excurses) the
necessary inductive study of all pertinent evidence. Examples from
evangelical scholars are not hard to find (e.g., Larry Hurtado's
_One God, One Lord_), and even the best apologetic books do this
(e.g., Beckwith, et.al, _The New Mormon Challenge_). The apparent
one-sidedness of your research is, IMHO, a significant deficiency in
your book, and may be something you might consider addressing in
future projects.

Best regards,

Robert


From: "jasonbeduhn" <[email protected]>
Date: Wed Jun 22, 2005  9:10 pm
Subject: Re: Jn 8:58 Debate - An Easily Recognized PPA? (was Nonsense!)

 

Sorry, Robert, but you just aren't getting it. You wrote:

> If we have two Greek speakers within the first
> several centuries of John's Gospel that understood EIMI in this verse
> as a present tense, *they* did not understand it as a "common"
> or "clearly understood" PPA.

You seem to have lost sight of the fact that we are dealing with a
Greek present tense form, and that is not at issue. What is at
issue is the range of meaning of this present tense form, and which
exact usage is involved in the construction of John 8:58. You don't
seem to get the fact that a PPA has a progressive sense of
continuing existence that supplies the contrast to the past
existence of Abraham that sufficiently sets up the Christological
conclusions these authors wish to draw. They quote the verse
exactly as it was written, and how that verse is rendered into
English is what is at issue. By them quoting the original Greek
again, they do not help settle anything for us. They regard its
significance as fitting an interpretation they have about Christ
more generally, and there's nothing wrong with that. The wording of
the original Greek does not preclude that, even as a PPA. The PPA
is, after all, a use of the Greek PRESENT. PPA sentences, although
having a meaning that is progressive from the past, are still within
the range of present meaning for Greek, and this allows for
comparison with other uses of the present form for interpretive
affect, as with Chrysostom. Neither ancient author says anything
about this sentence being at all ungrammatical or odd. They simply
see its choice of expression as significant. There is nothing in
their remarks that rejects the PPA rendering. I am afraid that what
is happening in many of the comments on this site right now is the
idea that a Trinitarian application/interpretation of John 8:58
stands or falls with the traditional translation of the verse. This
is not the case. The Trinitarian view of Christ developed among
Christians who were reading this verse in the original Greek as a
PPA and yet saw it as pointing, in conjunction with several other
passages, towards that view. What we see in Chrysostom is an early
association of language between this verse and the language of
certain OT passages where God's ongoing existence is similarly
emphasized. What we see in the Latin translation of Irenaeus is a
particularly "wooden" translation (as recognized in the literature
on the subject) of the Greek which walks roughshod over Greek
idioms. These kinds of developments form the background to what
happened when the traditional English translation was invented,
along that line of interpreting the verse. This has the effect of
locking in that single line of interpretation arbitrarily, whereas
the PPA meaning of the original is open to both this line of
interpretation as well as others, which explains why historically
these divergent lines of interpretation arose from the original
wording of the verse.

best wishes,
Jason B.

 

From: "Robert Hommel" <[email protected]>
Date: Thu Jun 23, 2005  1:15 pm
Subject: Re: Jn 8:58 Debate - An Easily Recognized PPA? (was Nonsense!)

 

Jason,

You wrote:

"Sorry, Robert, but you just aren't getting it." You then went on to
quote a summary sentence I wrote in a post to Paul. Perhaps you missed
it, but I responded directly to your last post in some detail (Post
#18067). You can find it here:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/evangelicals_and_jws/message/18067

I think what I said there addresses much of what you have just said (as
well as what you had said previously). Would you like to offer a reply
to that post, or do you want to let what you have said here stand?

Thanks,

Robert

 

From: "jasonbeduhn" <[email protected]>
Date: Fri Jun 24, 2005  6:13 pm
Subject: Re: Jn 8:58 Debate - An Easily Recognized PPA? (was Nonsense!)

 

Robert,

I am not engaged in a formal debate with you. I felt your reply had
no substantial questions for me to reply to, but was simply a
reassertion of your opinion. I found it more constructive to
address several things claimed by you, by Barry, and by others in a
single response to a question of substance raised by Paul. Take it
as you like.

Jason B.

 

From: "jasonbeduhn" <[email protected]>
Date: Fri Jun 24, 2005  6:36 pm
Subject: Re: Jn 8:58 Debate - An Easily Recognized PPA? (was Nonsense!)

 

As you requested, I reviewed this message. I appreciate your advice
about improving my book in future additions. Your other remarks
concern what you regard as compelling to you on this subject. I do
not agree. Greek hO WN, of course, is nominalized, and therefore
functions as a predicate noun, and then the subject in two clauses
in the LXX of Exodus 3:14. There is nothing comparable in the Greek
of John 8:58. It seems to me fairly obvious that the assimilation
of the one verse to the other occurs in English, not in Greek. Some
decisions made in creating the Latin translation contributed to this
assimilation. Chrysostom's "grammatical" comments, even in the
quoted passage, do not stand up to any scrutiny. The background to
which you refer regarding John 1:1 concerned the meaning and use of
the term logos. What in John 8:58 has a corresponding need of
definition?

best wishes,
Jason B.

 

From: "Robert Hommel" <[email protected]>
Date: Mon Jun 27, 2005  11:35 pm
Subject: Re: Jn 8:58 Debate - An Easily Recognized PPA? (was Nonsense!)

 

I had written:

>> If we have two Greek speakers within the first
>> several centuries of John's Gospel that understood EIMI in
>> this verse as a present tense, *they* did not understand it as a
>> "common" or "clearly understood" PPA.

To which you replied:

> You seem to have lost sight of the fact that we are dealing with a
> Greek present tense form, and that is not at issue. What is at
> issue is the range of meaning of this present tense form, and which
> exact usage is involved in the construction of John 8:58."

I have not lost sight of this fact at all, Jason. I am simply
questioning your assertion that John's audience (i.e., an average
Greek reader) would have "easily understood" the verbal aspect of
EIMI in Jn 8:58 to be a PPA. If there is evidence that the two Greek
readers we have been discussing understood EIMI to have a present-
tense verbal aspect, your assertion is undermined. Given that you
have introduced *no* evidence that contemporary Greek readers
understood it as a PPA, I must wonder on what basis you conclude
that the PPA would have been so "easily understood?"

You continued:

> You don't seem to get the fact that a PPA has a progressive
> sense of continuing existence that supplies the contrast to
> the past existence of Abraham that sufficiently sets up the
> Christological conclusions these authors wish to draw. They
> quote the verse exactly as it was written, and how that verse
> is rendered into English is what is at issue....What we see
> in Chrysostom is an early association of language between
> this verse and the language of certain OT passages where God's
> ongoing existence is similarly emphasized.

No, Jason, the PPA does not set up a "sufficient" contrast between
past existence to explain what Chrysostom wrote. After quoting Jn
8:58, and questioning why Jesus did not say EGW HMHN, he writes:

"The Father says I Am and he (Christ) also. For it signifies
continuous being irrespective of all time."

I want to stress that I am not primarily interested in
the "Christological conclusions" Chrysostom draws from the present-
tense EIMI. I am focusing on whether he understood EIMI in Jn 8:58
as a PPA or as a verb with a purely present-tense aspect. Given
that he quotes the Father as using 'I am' (TH LEGEI TH EIMI), says
the Son does also, and then says it signifies (SHMANTIKH) continuous
being (DIHNEKWS EINAI) apart from the constraints of all time
(PANTOS APHLLAGMENH XRONOU), it would seem obvious that he
understood the aspect to be purely present, not PPA (Greek text from
Migne, PG, 59, p. 304).

You are trying to have your PPA cake and eat it too, Jason. If the
PPA was so easily understood, Chrysostom simply would not have
written what he did, especially if he *knew* his readers would
immediately recognize that EIMI in Jn 8:58 did *not* carry the same
meaning as in the Father's usage, and would recognize that EIMI
with a PPA aspect did not mean continuous being "set free from all
time."

Surely, your additional comment: "Chrysostom's 'grammatical'
comments, even in the quoted passage, do not stand up to any scrutiny" is overdrawn.
Regardless of what he made of the present-tense usage, the fact is
that he understood it as a purely present-tense verbal aspect, as
his comments demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt.

You continued:

> What we see in the Latin translation of Irenaeus is a
> particularly "wooden" translation (as recognized in the
> literature on the subject) of the Greek which walks
> roughshod over Greek idioms.

I've pointed this out before: The characterization of the
translation as "wooden" is with regard to the Latin. There is no
evidence that the translator was not *at least* as proficient in
Greek as the average reader of John's Gospel, whom you claim would
have "easily" recognized Jn 8:58 as as PPA. You are positing a
translator who was so inept that he "walks roughshod" over a *very
common* Greek idiom. Such a translator would hardly produce an
useable translation. This is simply not credible, Jason. If he had
understood EIMI as a PPA, he would have "woodenly" rendered it
as 'fui,' not 'sum.' This translation would not have required any
knowledge beyond an average Greek reader and first-year Latin student.

In a subsequent post, you wrote:

> Greek hO WN, of course, is nominalized, and therefore
> functions as a predicate noun, and then the subject in
> two clauses in the LXX of Exodus 3:14.

It is a participial substantive, and the participle is in the
present tense: "He who is/The One who is." This is sufficient to
include it in the broader category of forms of the present tense
EIMI used in the Bible and in Greek philosophic literature to
signify eternal existence.

And...

> The background to which you refer regarding John 1:1
> concerned the meaning and use of the term logos. What
> in John 8:58 has a corresponding need of definition?

Well, you also wrote that it was necessary to understand THEOS: "I
certainly never meant to suggest that '2nd Temple Judaism' sets the
definition of THEOS for John 1:1, but rather that it is part of the
broader picture that helps us to understand what John is doing with
language that he is not inventing, but manipulating to convey his
meaning."

I would simply repeat that if the philosophic and theological
background of LOGOS and THEOS are necessary to properly translate Jn
1:1, then surely it is necessary to consider the background of
present-tense EIMI when translating Jn 8:58. And for you to suggest
that it is necessary in the one case, but not the other, is a
noteable inconsistency.

Best regards,

Robert

 

From: "Robert Hommel" <[email protected]>
Date: Tue Jul 12, 2005  5:18 pm
Subject: Re: Jn 8:58 Debate - Nonsense! (was A Follow Up Question)

 

Jason,

You responded to Whiddon:

"And where did the Father use "I AM"? Chrysostom says he did. But
isn't he in fact creating a false parallel by taking phrasing out of
context from the Bible? (Remember that Chrysostom is reading a
writing in Greek.)"

There are several examples of the Father using EGO EIMI in the LXX.
Whether Chrysostom is right or wrong in his exegetical conclusions,
it is clear that he understood EIMI in the context of Jn 8:58 to have
a present-tense aspect, just as it does when used absolutely in the
LXX by the Father. For Chrysostom to completely disregard what you
contend is a very common use of the PPA, and expect his Greek-
speaking readers to do so as well, is simply inconceivable.

Best regards,

Robert

 

From: "jasonbeduhn" <[email protected]>
Date: Tue Jul 19, 2005  4:32 am
Subject: Re: Jn 8:58 Debate - Nonsense! (was A Follow Up Question)

 

That doesn't answer my question, Robert. Where does he say "I AM"?
Where in the LXX is EGW EIMI used with the meaning "I am" rather than
"I am he"? There is a persistent selective recognition of the idiom
going on in here, not only in you but in several people on this site.
The idiom is quite readily recognized in John 8:24, 28, etc., and by
translators of the LXX where EGW EIMI is used in this way.

Jason B.

 

From: "Robert Hommel" <[email protected]>
Date: Tue Jul 19, 2005  2:45 pm
Subject: Re: Jn 8:58 Debate - Nonsense! (was A Follow Up Question)

 

Jason,

You wrote:

> That doesn't answer my question, Robert. Where does he say "I AM"?
> Where in the LXX is EGW EIMI used with the meaning "I am" rather
> than "I am he"?

I'm sorry, Jason, I didn't realize you were working from the English
translation of Chysostom. I thought you had read the Greek I had
posted earlier (TH LEGEI TH EIMI. OUTW KAI AUTOS). As you can see,
Chrysostom makes no claim to the Father saying "I AM," but to Him
saying EIMI, which He certainly does. As you pointed out to
Whiddon, "Chrysostom is reading a writing in Greek."

The key point I have been raising is that Chrysostom understood EIMI
in Jn 8:58 to have a present-tense aspect, as it does when used by
the Father in the LXX. I don't think there's any way around this
fact, which significantly undermines your assertions regarding EIMI
in Jn 8:58 as an "easily understood PPA."

Best regards,

Robert