John 8:58

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Scott Lawson
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John 8:58

Post by Scott Lawson »

εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἰησοῦς· ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί. (John 8:58 GNT28-T)

I would say πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι is a subordinate clause acting as an adverb of time modifying the main verb εἰμί. At the same time εἰμί is giving γενέσθαι its time.
Is that an accurate analysis so far?

In discussing this verse with a BU he sees ἐγὼ εἰμί as a predicateless copula used by Jesus to identify himself as the Messiah. But it seems to me that that proposition disconnects the main verb εἰμί from γενέσθαι and makes
πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι an incomplete thought….well it’s an incomplete thought by virtue of being a subordinate clause but it would stand without any connection to the propositional statement
Scott Lawson
Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen »

Scott Lawson wrote: July 30th, 2021, 6:03 pm At the same time εἰμί is giving γενέσθαι its time.
What do you mean by that? If "I am" gives its time to "before Abraham was born" it would mean that that Abraham was born in the present time, which is of course nonsense both grammatically and pragmatically.
he sees ἐγὼ εἰμί as a predicateless copula used by Jesus to identify himself as the Messiah. But it seems to me that that proposition disconnects the main verb εἰμί from γενέσθαι and makes
πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι an incomplete thought….well it’s an incomplete thought by virtue of being a subordinate clause but it would stand without any connection to the propositional statement
I don't quite understand his thought or yours, or how you state them.
Scott Lawson
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Scott Lawson »

….because there isn’t a full paradigm for ειμι (no aorist or perfect) my presumption is that ειμι is here being used with the sense of a present perfect…so it is a Present of Past Action.

But to rephrase my question let me ask if a linking verb can also modify an infinitive in a subordinate clause? I’m really struggling to phrase my question so sorry about that
Scott Lawson
Scott Lawson
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Scott Lawson »

The BU I’m talking with sees εγω ειμι at John 8:58 as predicateless as with John 4:26:

λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ἐγώ εἰμι, ὁ λαλῶν σοι.
(John 4:26 GNT28-T)

So his suggested reading is something like …before Abraham was I am the Christ.
Scott Lawson
Daniel Semler
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Daniel Semler »

Scott Lawson wrote: July 30th, 2021, 6:03 pm εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἰησοῦς· ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί. (John 8:58 GNT28-T)

I would say πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι is a subordinate clause acting as an adverb of time modifying the main verb εἰμί. At the same time εἰμί is giving γενέσθαι its time.
Is that an accurate analysis so far?
πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι is just a temporal adjunct to the main clause - it gives an indication of time. It's worth reading Smyth (or something similar) on this adverb and use with the infinitive. When I saw your question I immediately wondered about the difference between this construction and πρὸ τοῦ + inf which, in theory would be another way to say the same thing. At one point Smyth basically equates the two expressions - though not with this verb. Wallace calls this a subsequent infinitive, indicating that the action of the main verb occurs before that of the infinitive.

But it short I don't see the two verbs as related in the ways I think you are considering, though I confess I am not entirely following you. I think you are trying to use an idea like that of time of participle relative to its main verb but I don't think that applies here.

Thx
D
Scott Lawson
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Scott Lawson »

Here are Wallace’s comments on the Infinitive of Time which accords with my thought that the infinitive gets its time from its controlling verb:

596]
3. Subsequent (πρὸ τοῦ, πρίν, or πρὶν ἤ + infinitive) [before . . .]

The action of the infinitive of subsequent time occurs after the action of the controlling verb. Its structure is πρὸ τοῦ, πρίν, or πρὶν ἤ + the infinitive. The construction should be before plus an appropriate finite verb.

There is confusion in some grammars about the proper labels of the temporal infinitives. More than one has mislabeled the subsequent as the antecedent infinitive.22 This confusion comes naturally: If we are calling this use of the infinitive subsequent, why then are we translating it as before? The reason is that this infinitive explicitly tells when the action of the controlling verb takes place, as in “the rabbit was already dead, before he aimed his rifle.” In this sentence, “he aimed” is the infinitive and “was (already dead)” is the main verb. The dying comes before the aiming, or conversely, the aiming comes after the dying. Thus the action of the infinitive occurs after that of the controlling verb.23
Scott Lawson
Scott Lawson
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Scott Lawson »

Daniel Semler calling the prepositional phrase a temporal adjunct doesn’t change its function as I described it (adverbial subordinate clause) does it? A temporal adjunct functions to signal when or how often the action of the main verb happened, its duration and frequency.
Scott Lawson
Daniel Semler
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Daniel Semler »

Scott Lawson wrote: July 30th, 2021, 8:06 pm Here are Wallace’s comments on the Infinitive of Time which accords with my thought that the infinitive gets its time from its controlling verb:

596]
3. Subsequent (πρὸ τοῦ, πρίν, or πρὶν ἤ + infinitive) [before . . .]

The action of the infinitive of subsequent time occurs after the action of the controlling verb. Its structure is πρὸ τοῦ, πρίν, or πρὶν ἤ + the infinitive. The construction should be before plus an appropriate finite verb.

There is confusion in some grammars about the proper labels of the temporal infinitives. More than one has mislabeled the subsequent as the antecedent infinitive.22 This confusion comes naturally: If we are calling this use of the infinitive subsequent, why then are we translating it as before? The reason is that this infinitive explicitly tells when the action of the controlling verb takes place, as in “the rabbit was already dead, before he aimed his rifle.” In this sentence, “he aimed” is the infinitive and “was (already dead)” is the main verb. The dying comes before the aiming, or conversely, the aiming comes after the dying. Thus the action of the infinitive occurs after that of the controlling verb.23
Oh that's what you were getting at. I see now. I don't think that I'd say that the main verb is modified by the subordinate clause but certainly the action of the main clause is situated in time by the subordinate or adjunct clause.

I don't know what a BU is, and I've not looked into this passage in detail but I think you'd have to suppose an ellipsis of another verb for the subordinate to make sense if you took εἰμί to be part of a name or title as it were (if that is what the BU means by "predicateless copula"), yes. And ellipsis is common enough so ... But I believe this question has been gone over in the commentaries. So here is something from EGGNT:

In 8:12 (and in 9:5) we find the second of the seven instances where Jesus uses ἐγώ εἰμι with an explicit predicate: “I am the light of the world” (see “Structure” in the Introduction). His exclusive claim to be the light-bearer par excellence for the whole world is subsequently dramatized and individualized in action by his giving sight to a man born blind (9:1–41). Also in this section are three of the four FG occurrences of an OT revelation formula applied by Jesus to himself, ἐγώ εἰμι without a predicate (8:24, 28, 58), that points to the total oneness of Jesus with the God of Israel.

Murray J. Harris, John, Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2015), 168.
https://accordance.bible/link/read/EGGNT-9#14835

The alternative would be to consider εἰμί an historical present. Wallace discusses this too rejecting the historical present due to Jn 8:58 not following the NT pattern for historical presents. But there are clearly translations that go the other way.

Thx
D
Scott Lawson
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Joined: June 9th, 2011, 6:36 pm

Re: John 8:58

Post by Scott Lawson »

Some see the ἐγώ εἰμι without an expressed predicate as having an absolute sense. But in 8 of the 9 (J 8:58 is excluded) instances in GJohn of ἐγώ εἰμι without an expressed predicate the predicate can be supplied by context. For example in 8:28 is most likely τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου and in 8:24 χριστος.
εἶπον οὖν ὑμῖν ὅτι ἀποθανεῖσθε ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν· ἐὰν γὰρ μὴ πιστεύσητε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι, ἀποθανεῖσθε ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν.    
(John 8:24 GNT28-T)

εἶπεν οὖν [αὐτοῖς] ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ὅταν ὑψώσητε τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, τότε γνώσεσθε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι, καὶ ἀπ̓ ἐμαυτοῦ ποιῶ οὐδέν, ἀλλὰ καθὼς ἐδίδαξέν με ὁ πατὴρ ταῦτα λαλῶ.
(John 8:28 GNT28-T)

One question I’m asking is if ἐγώ εἰμι at 8:58 should be understood as implying an unexpressed predicate (say Christ) can the now linking verb still be the controlling verb for the infinitive and can the infinitive modify the controlling verb?

I see ἐγώ εἰμι at 8:58 as a present of past action contra Wallace but I agree that it isn’t likely to be a Historical present.

BU stands for Biblical Unitarian who hold to a Socinian view of Jesus.
Scott Lawson
Daniel Semler
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Daniel Semler »

Scott Lawson wrote: July 30th, 2021, 9:59 pm One question I’m asking is if ἐγώ εἰμι at 8:58 should be understood as implying an unexpressed predicate (say Christ) can the now linking verb still be the controlling verb for the infinitive and can the infinitive modify the controlling verb?
I don't see a problem there, but maybe someone does ...

Thx
D
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