John 8:25

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Stephen Carlson
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Re: John 8:25

Post by Stephen Carlson » February 23rd, 2012, 3:10 am

David Lim wrote:Does LSJ mention "wholly" as a possible meaning of the adverbial "την αρχην"? (The one on Perseus does not seem to.)
It's there (p.252 ἀρχή, I. 1. c.) with the gloss "at all":
c. acc. ἀρχήν, abs., to begin with, at first, Hdt. 1.9, 2.28, 8.132; τὴν ἀρχήν And.3.20: pl., τὰς ἀρχάς Plb.16.22.8: freq. followed by a neg., not at all, ἀρχὴν μηδὲ λαβών Hdt.3.39, cf. 1.193, al.; ἀ. δὲ θηρᾶν οὐ πρέπει τἀμήχανα S.Ant.92; ἀ. κλύειν ἂν οὐκ . . ἐβουλόμην Id.Ph.1239, cf. El.439, Philol.3, Antipho5.73, Pl. Grg.478c; sts. c. Art., τοῦτο οὐκ ἐνδέκομαι τὴν ἀ. Hdt.4.25; τὴν ἀ. γὰρ ἐξῆν αὐτῷ μὴ γράφειν D.23.93.
Stephen
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David Lim
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Re: John 8:25

Post by David Lim » February 23rd, 2012, 4:31 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
David Lim wrote:Does LSJ mention "wholly" as a possible meaning of the adverbial "την αρχην"? (The one on Perseus does not seem to.)
It's there (p.252 ἀρχή, I. 1. c.) with the gloss "at all":
c. acc. ἀρχήν, abs., to begin with, at first, Hdt. 1.9, 2.28, 8.132; τὴν ἀρχήν And.3.20: pl., τὰς ἀρχάς Plb.16.22.8: freq. followed by a neg., not at all, ἀρχὴν μηδὲ λαβών Hdt.3.39, cf. 1.193, al.; ἀ. δὲ θηρᾶν οὐ πρέπει τἀμήχανα S.Ant.92; ἀ. κλύειν ἂν οὐκ . . ἐβουλόμην Id.Ph.1239, cf. El.439, Philol.3, Antipho5.73, Pl. Grg.478c; sts. c. Art., τοῦτο οὐκ ἐνδέκομαι τὴν ἀ. Hdt.4.25; τὴν ἀ. γὰρ ἐξῆν αὐτῷ μὴ γράφειν D.23.93.
Stephen
Yes I had already checked those references, and none of them supported "at all", apart from the fact that it is a valid English idiomatic expression for it. Rather it meant "right from the beginning" / "to begin with", having the clear connotation of reference to some "starting point". "ολως" on the other hand has the clear connotation of "completeness" and no reference to any "starting point".
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Re: John 8:25

Post by Stephen Carlson » February 23rd, 2012, 8:58 am

David Lim wrote:Yes I had already checked those references, and none of them supported "at all", apart from the fact that it is a valid English idiomatic expression for it. Rather it meant "right from the beginning" / "to begin with", having the clear connotation of reference to some "starting point". "ολως" on the other hand has the clear connotation of "completeness" and no reference to any "starting point".
I think you're being too picky. Of course, they emphasize somewhat different aspects, but there isn't much difference, IMHO, between "from the beginning" and "completely"--they both refer to the full extent.

Stephen
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Alex Hopkins
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Re: John 8:25

Post by Alex Hopkins » February 23rd, 2012, 9:16 am

I'm joining the discussion late, not because of lack of interest but because time has been short.

It may be helpful to note the following discussions of this verse, in addition to those already noticed:

What did Jesus mean by τὴν ἀρχήν in John 8:25? Caragounis, Chrys C. ; Novum Testamentum, 2007, vol. 49, no 2, pp. 129-147. (I'm not sure how matters stand elsewhere, but here in Australia I was able to obtain an electronic copy of this article through a public library; i.e. access isn't restricted to those able to get to a university or theological library.)
George R. Beasley-Murray, John, 2nd edition, p125

I especially recommend the Caragounis article as being masterly; my working definition of a masterly article is one where, even if I end up disagreeing with its conclusions, I learn new data and am forced to a clearer understanding of the boundaries of possible interpretation.

In case they may be of some help, I'll add the following notes made for myself and students which I sketched out quite a while ago:

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Τὴν ἀρχὴν ὅ τι καὶ λαλῶ ὑμῖν; As Chrys C. Caragounis wrote, "The answer which Jesus, according to John 8:25, gave to the Jews has at all times been regarded as problematic." (What did Jesus mean by τὴν ἀρχήν in John 8:25? Caragounis, Chrys C. ; Novum Testamentum, 2007, vol. 49, no 2, pp. 129-147) His article is recommended as a clear exposition of the problems and possibilities in understanding this verse. Beasley-Murray says of this second part of the verse, "V 25b is the most obscure sentence in the Gospel and the most uncertain how to translate." (George R. Beasley-Murray, John, 2nd edition, [etc] p125)

The difficulties of this sentence revolve around a number of questions: What is the correct text? What is the correct division of the words? What is the meaning of the words? What is the correct punctuation? Is any word or number of words to be supplied in order to fill out the sense?

The textual question arises because the Papyrus Bodmer II (P66) reading gives a readily intelligible sentence; however, the reading is unique, and for this reason must be rejected.

The matter of word division arises because ὅ τι may be read as ὅτι.

The question of meaning arises because τὴν ἀρχήν may be understood in different ways.

The question of punctuation arises because some editors have taken the words as a question, others as a statement.

Beasley-Murray gives six translational options, and variants as well. He acknowledges the proponents of each understanding and discusses their merits in a brief discussion on pages 125-126 to which the student is referred. The translational options he identifies are these:

'Why do I speak to you at all?'
'Primarily what I am telling you.'
'(I am) from the beginning what I tell you.'
'(I am) what I have been telling you from the beginning.'
'I told you at the beginning that which also I am speaking to you (now).'
'I am the beginning, that which I am saying to you.'

The last of these is based on the Latin versions, which rest on a misunderstanding of the Greek, and needs no consideration. The second-last is the rendering of Bruce (194) and is based on the Papyrus Bodmer II (P66) reading, not on the text as given in the UBS edition.

It is not the intention of this discussion to resolve the issues surrounding these words, about which certainty seems beyond our attainment. What follows, then, is merely an adumbration of some of the linguistic matters that arise, given with the intention merely to indicate some of the parameters within which we must frame an answer to these difficult words.

Firstly, τὴν ἀρχήν. The phrase is not used as the object of a preposition or verb so that the meaning 'the beginning' is of no relevance here. What is required is an understanding of τὴν ἀρχήν here as an adverbial accusative. The meaning 'at all' is well-established from classical usage. This sense may not seem obvious, but if we think of the English phrase "to begin with", its development of the sense 'at all' may not seem so difficult. (It is this sense that is drawn upon by the first of the translational options noted by Beasley-Murray, 'Why do I speak to you at all?') But it may also be used with temporal reference to mean, according to context, 'in the beginning', 'at the beginning', or 'from the beginning'. But here the student should take careful note of Caragounis' comment that "The notion conveyed in English by the prepositions from, at, or in in the phrase 'from/at/in the beginning' is an added notion in order to make English sense of the construction." (It may help to think of τὴν ἀρχήν as an accusative of respect, 'in respect of a/the beginning' - that is, of itself the phrase does not indicate time from, at, or in.)

Secondly, how is ὅ τι to be divided, and understood? If taken as ὅτι, it may be understood as a conjunction, 'that'. If we supply something like 'to think', the understanding of ὅτι as a conjunction allows the sense to be taken as '... [to think] that I am speaking to you!'. But ὅτι may be taken to mean 'Why?', and this understanding has informed some of the translations. Caragounis, however, points out that, in the New Testament, ὅτι is used in direct questions only in Mark (see Caragounis, pages 140-141, with footnote 38). ὅ τι, however, may be read, and understood as 'that which'. This understanding underlies translations such as '(I am) from the beginning what I tell you' and '(I am) what I have been telling you from the beginning'; both of these supply εἰμί as being understood, but differ in taking the τὴν ἀρχήν with the understood 'I am' or with the following clause.

The third and final point to be noticed here is that it may be felt difficult to take τὴν ἀρχήν in the sense 'from the beginning' when the verb in this clause is in the present tense, as in English to say 'From the beginning I am speaking to you...' is awkward, English idiom prefering rather 'From the beginning I have been speaking to you...'. But English idiom ought not distort our perception of the Greek. "The present indicative can certainly be used of an action that began at some point in the past and continues in the present, that is, it is equivalent to the English progressive perfect." (Caragounis, page 145.)

This brief note will suffice to indicate that the meaning of these words is uncertain, and the issues to be resolved are complex and interlocking. Caragounis' article is particularly recommended for its full and clear enunciation of the difficulties and for its breadth of research.
---

Regards,

Alex Hopkins
Melbourne, Australia
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David Lim
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Re: John 8:25

Post by David Lim » February 23rd, 2012, 11:09 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
David Lim wrote:Yes I had already checked those references, and none of them supported "at all", apart from the fact that it is a valid English idiomatic expression for it. Rather it meant "right from the beginning" / "to begin with", having the clear connotation of reference to some "starting point". "ολως" on the other hand has the clear connotation of "completeness" and no reference to any "starting point".
I think you're being too picky. Of course, they emphasize somewhat different aspects, but there isn't much difference, IMHO, between "from the beginning" and "completely"--they both refer to the full extent.

Stephen
I admit I am picky, but I do think that "that which I told you right from the beginning" and "altogether that which I tell you" are two different meanings, and the first is impossible if "την αρχην" means "ολως", while the second is an incorrect translation if "την αρχην" means "απ αρχης".
Alex Hopkins wrote:Firstly, τὴν ἀρχήν. The phrase is not used as the object of a preposition or verb so that the meaning 'the beginning' is of no relevance here. What is required is an understanding of τὴν ἀρχήν here as an adverbial accusative. The meaning 'at all' is well-established from classical usage. This sense may not seem obvious, but if we think of the English phrase "to begin with", its development of the sense 'at all' may not seem so difficult. (It is this sense that is drawn upon by the first of the translational options noted by Beasley-Murray, 'Why do I speak to you at all?')
Since "not at all" in English can mean either "not in the slightest" or "never before", can you give examples that show that "την αρχην" means "wholly" / "altogether" and not "right from the beginning" / "to begin with"? (This is the same question I asked earlier concerning all the examples given in LSJ.) "[why] do I speak to you to begin with?" is surely odd for Jesus to say right in the midst of directly answering the question he was asked, while it is perfectly natural for him to say "I told you right from the beginning and tell you now also!"
Alex Hopkins wrote:ὅ τι, however, may be read, and understood as 'that which'. This understanding underlies translations such as '(I am) from the beginning what I tell you' and '(I am) what I have been telling you from the beginning'; both of these supply εἰμί as being understood, but differ in taking the τὴν ἀρχήν with the understood 'I am' or with the following clause.
I think that if "from the beginning I am that which I also tell you" was the intended meaning of John 8:25, I think it should have said "απ αρχης ειμι οτι και λαλω υμιν", for two reasons:
(1) I think the verb or the subject is usually explicit when it is the main focus of the sentence, and more so if an adverb modifies the verb.
(2) "απ αρχης" is the clear way to say the normal adverbial phrase "from the beginning" and there is little reason why a different phrase would be used.
What do you think?
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Scott Lawson
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Re: John 8:25

Post by Scott Lawson » February 23rd, 2012, 11:53 am

Καλὸς κ’ ἀγαθός,

I'm beginning to think that having come full circle (back to the beginning) in the discussion of who he was, that his response to those who refused to accept what he was so directly saying about himself, was couched as a double entendre. If they won't accept clarity give them a puzzle. Thus both chastising them and answering them all in the same sentence.

That which I have been telling you from the beginning and Why am I even talking to you at all?

Scott
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Re: John 8:25

Post by Stephen Carlson » February 23rd, 2012, 5:14 pm

David Lim wrote:
Stephen Carlson wrote:
David Lim wrote:Yes I had already checked those references, and none of them supported "at all", apart from the fact that it is a valid English idiomatic expression for it. Rather it meant "right from the beginning" / "to begin with", having the clear connotation of reference to some "starting point". "ολως" on the other hand has the clear connotation of "completeness" and no reference to any "starting point".
I think you're being too picky. Of course, they emphasize somewhat different aspects, but there isn't much difference, IMHO, between "from the beginning" and "completely"--they both refer to the full extent.

Stephen
I admit I am picky, but I do think that "that which I told you right from the beginning" and "altogether that which I tell you" are two different meanings, and the first is impossible if "την αρχην" means "ολως", while the second is an incorrect translation if "την αρχην" means "απ αρχης".
I thought you were talking about "at all" not "altogether." LSJ actually has a gloss of "at all" for τῆν ἀρχήν. You said it didn't have it, so I posted the relevant section in case you overlooked it.

Stephen
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David Lim
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Re: John 8:25

Post by David Lim » February 24th, 2012, 4:28 am

Scott Lawson wrote:Καλὸς κ’ ἀγαθός,

I'm beginning to think that having come full circle (back to the beginning) in the discussion of who he was, that his response to those who refused to accept what he was so directly saying about himself, was couched as a double entendre. If they won't accept clarity give them a puzzle. Thus both chastising them and answering them all in the same sentence.

That which I have been telling you from the beginning and Why am I even talking to you at all?

Scott
Such a sarcasm is not impossible for Jesus, but it does not fit the context at all (see the next few sentences). Besides, many believe that Jesus was not speaking Greek to the Pharisees, in which case it would be impossible.
Stephen Carlson wrote:I thought you were talking about "at all" not "altogether." LSJ actually has a gloss of "at all" for τῆν ἀρχήν. You said it didn't have it, so I posted the relevant section in case you overlooked it.
Thanks, but actually my original question was:
David Lim wrote:
Scott Lawson wrote:
Mark Lightman wrote:as if the text had the nominative
Under the entry ἀρχή 1 a, BDAG states: τὴν ἀ. J 8:25, as nearly all the Gk. Fathers understood it, is emphatically used adverbially = ὅλως


Scott
Does LSJ mention "wholly" as a possible meaning of the adverbial "την αρχην"? (The one on Perseus does not seem to.)
I asked because I was referring to the LSJ on Perseus, and I did not know if the newer edition had references that support this claim; from what I see the old edition did not at all.
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Scott Lawson
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Re: John 8:25

Post by Scott Lawson » February 24th, 2012, 10:54 am

David Lim wrote:Such a sarcasm is not impossible for Jesus,
I hadn’t thought of it as sarcasm, but....
David Lim wrote:but it does not fit the context at all (see the next few sentences).
John 8:26-27
Chastisement:
26 I have many things to speak concerning you and to pass judgment upon.

Plain speech:
As a matter of fact, he that sent me is true, and the very things I heard from him I am speaking in the world.

Puzzlement:
27 They did not grasp that he was talking to them about the Father.

All of this is epitomized in a possible double entendre at 8:25b.

David Lim wrote:Besides, many believe that Jesus was not speaking Greek to the Pharisees, in which case it would be impossible.
I’ll back off of putting Greek words in Jesus’ mouth if it pleases you and instead I’ll say that the author of the book of John may have intended a double entendre at this point in his narrative. I certainly don’t want to start another discussion on what languages Jesus was likely to have spoken.

Scott
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David Lim
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Re: John 8:25

Post by David Lim » February 24th, 2012, 12:01 pm

Scott Lawson wrote:
David Lim wrote:but it does not fit the context at all (see the next few sentences).
John 8:26-27
Chastisement:
26 I have many things to speak concerning you and to pass judgment upon.

Plain speech:
As a matter of fact, he that sent me is true, and the very things I heard from him I am speaking in the world.

Puzzlement:
27 They did not grasp that he was talking to them about the Father.

All of this is epitomized in a possible double entendre at 8:25b.
In my opinion, "why am I speaking to you!" is really out of place with "just as my father taught me, these [things] I speak." He had been telling the Pharisees many times that he was the son whom the father sent (8:16,18,26,28,36,40,42,49,54), and also presumably much earlier as well. Besides, the structure of "πολλα εχω περι υμων λαλειν και κρινειν αλλ ο πεμψας με αληθης εστιν καγω α ηκουσα παρ αυτου ταυτα λεγω εις τον κοσμον" implies that he was not speaking those "many [things] about the Pharisees" nor judging them at that time, but rather saying only that which he heard from the one who sent him, because it is not the time to speak or judge about them. Anyway, until I see evidence that "οτι" is clearly understood as an interrogative and "την αρχην" can really mean "to begin with, ..." (adverbial clause that modifies the entire sentence and not a verb) let me just say that I cannot accept that "reading" to begin with. :)
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