John 8:58

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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Barry Hofstetter »

Jonathan Robie wrote: July 31st, 2021, 4:50 pm

But here's one well-known example:
Psalm 89:2 wrote:πρὸ τοῦ ὄρη γενηθῆναι καὶ πλασθῆναι τὴν γῆν καὶ τὴν οἰκουμένην καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ αἰῶνος ἕως τοῦ αἰῶνος σὺ εἶ.

Which is syntactically very similar to:
John 8:58 wrote:εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἰησοῦς, Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί.
But I am also very curious about the Septuagint translation here, the Hebrew explicitly mentions God, the Greek does not:
Psa 90:2 wrote:בְּטֶ֤רֶם ׀ הָ֘רִ֤ים יֻלָּ֗דוּ וַתְּח֣וֹלֵֽל אֶ֣רֶץ וְתֵבֵ֑ל וּֽמֵעוֹלָ֥ם עַד־ע֝וֹלָ֗ם אַתָּ֥ה אֵֽל׃
To me, the syntax of these two examples is similar enough that I would expect the usage to be the same in both places. And it does make me wonder if Jesus may have been calling that verse to mind, it's a very distinctive usage.
Good catch. I had forgotten about this. The issue of the the Hebrew having a predicate and the Greek not is an interesting rabbit trail, but the real issue is how someone with no access to the Hebrew (the vast majority of those who used the Greek) would read the text. The LES renders:
Before mountains were made and the earth and the inhabited world formed, and from eternity until eternity you are.
The Lexham English Septuagint. (2020). (Second Edition, Ps 89:2). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

The NETS:
Before mountains were brought forth and the earth and the world were formed, and from everlasting to everlasting you are.
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/24-ps-nets.pdf

Of course, that doesn't answer the question of how a first century reader would conceptualize it. But I think the question "You are what?" Would be foremost on a first reading of the text.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter, M.A., Th.M.
Ph.D. Student U of FL
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen »

Scott Lawson wrote: July 31st, 2021, 7:00 pm From Wallace’s GGBB:

Time

This use of the infinitive indicates a temporal relationship between its action and the action of the controlling verb. It answers the question, “When?”
I think you are reading too much into Wallace. The "controlling" verb seems to just mean the main verb of the main clause, in this instance ειμι. Temporal relationship means that the clause with the infinitive gives us the time when the event of the main verb happens. Not vice versa. The point in time of the birth of Abraham is known from the real world and context, not from the "controlling" verb. It's the birth of historical Abraham in the past. Because the πριν clause tells that we are talking about the time before an even which happened in the past, we expect an imperfect form of ειμι (unless someone can prove that we can expect the present tense, showing some examples - searching for πριν and προ του from the literature is simple and quick enough to make proving it possible.)
Jonathan Robie
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Jonathan Robie »

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote: July 31st, 2021, 6:32 pm In those examples it's easy to see what can fill in the ellipsis. It must be something readily cognitively available and active. For example "it's me (and not something else like a ghost)". Or "The one you are talking about - I'm that one". There just isn't anything like that in this passage.
Isn't there? Clearly, this is about Jesus, and it is about him being before Abraham, that seems to be what is cognitively available and active.
Barry Hofstetter wrote: August 1st, 2021, 6:24 am Of course, that doesn't answer the question of how a first century reader would conceptualize it. But I think the question "You are what?" Would be foremost on a first reading of the text.
And we can at least see how some first century readers responded to what Jesus said:
John 8:59 wrote:ἦραν οὖν λίθους ἵνα βάλωσιν ἐπ᾽ αὐτόν. Ἰησοῦς δὲ ἐκρύβη καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ.
So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
I think these two aspects of the context limit the range of possible meanings. It has to be about Jesus and a time before Abraham. It has to be something that would inspire the Jews to try to stone him for blasphemy.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Jonathan Robie »

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote: August 1st, 2021, 8:29 am
Scott Lawson wrote: July 31st, 2021, 7:00 pm From Wallace’s GGBB:

Time
This use of the infinitive indicates a temporal relationship between its action and the action of the controlling verb. It answers the question, “When?”
I think you are reading too much into Wallace. The "controlling" verb seems to just mean the main verb of the main clause, in this instance ειμι. Temporal relationship means that the clause with the infinitive gives us the time when the event of the main verb happens.
Actually, I think Scott is pointing at something important. The normal thing you would expect is that an aorist infinitive γενέσθαι indicates something that happened before the corresponding main verb εἰμί. But πρὶν conflicts with the normal way of reading, it's very marked.

That said, other things can affect the time relations between an aorist infinitive and a present copulative. I haven't analyzed these, but here's a bunch of examples to chew on.

<p>Matt.20.26 Matt.20.27 Matt.20.28 οὐχ οὕτως ἐστὶν ἐν ὑμῖν· ἀλλ’ ὃς ἐὰν θέλῃ ἐν ὑμῖν μέγας γενέσθαι, ἔσται ὑμῶν διάκονος, καὶ ὃς ἂν θέλῃ ἐν ὑμῖν εἶναι πρῶτος, ἔσται ὑμῶν δοῦλος· ὥσπερ ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἦλθεν διακονηθῆναι, ἀλλὰ διακονῆσαι καὶ δοῦναι τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ λύτρον ἀντὶ πολλῶν.</p>
<p>Matt.24.6 δεῖ γὰρ γενέσθαι, ἀλλ’ οὔπω ἐστὶν τὸ τέλος.</p>
<p>Mark.10.43 Mark.10.44 Mark.10.45 οὐχ οὕτως δέ ἐστιν ἐν ὑμῖν· ἀλλ’ ὃς ἂν θέλῃ μέγας γενέσθαι ἐν ὑμῖν, ἔσται ὑμῶν διάκονος, καὶ ὃς ἂν θέλῃ ἐν ὑμῖν εἶναι πρῶτος, ἔσται πάντων δοῦλος· καὶ γὰρ ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἦλθεν διακονηθῆναι ἀλλὰ διακονῆσαι καὶ δοῦναι τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ λύτρον ἀντὶ πολλῶν.</p>
<p>Luke.3.21 Luke.3.22 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ βαπτισθῆναι ἅπαντα τὸν λαὸν καὶ Ἰησοῦ βαπτισθέντος καὶ προσευχομένου ἀνεῳχθῆναι τὸν οὐρανὸν, καὶ καταβῆναι τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον σωματικῷ εἴδει ὡς περιστερὰν ἐπ’ αὐτόν, καὶ φωνὴν ἐξ οὐρανοῦ γενέσθαι Σὺ εἶ ὁ Υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός, ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα.</p>
<p>John.8.58 εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἰησοῦς Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί.</p>
<p>John.13.19 ἀπ’ ἄρτι λέγω ὑμῖν πρὸ τοῦ γενέσθαι, ἵνα πιστεύητε ὅταν γένηται ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι.</p>
<p>Acts.7.38 Acts.7.39 Acts.7.40 οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ γενόμενος ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ μετὰ τοῦ ἀγγέλου τοῦ λαλοῦντος αὐτῷ ἐν τῷ ὄρει Σινᾶ καὶ τῶν πατέρων ἡμῶν, ὃς ἐδέξατο λόγια ζῶντα δοῦναι ὑμῖν, ᾧ οὐκ ἠθέλησαν ὑπήκοοι γενέσθαι οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν, ἀλλὰ ἀπώσαντο καὶ ἐστράφησαν ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν εἰς Αἴγυπτον, εἰπόντες τῷ Ἀαρών Ποίησον ἡμῖν θεοὺς οἳ προπορεύσονται ἡμῶν· ὁ γὰρ Μωϋσῆς οὗτος, ὃς ἐξήγαγεν ἡμᾶς ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου, οὐκ οἴδαμεν τί ἐγένετο αὐτῷ.</p>
<p>Acts.20.16 κεκρίκει γὰρ ὁ Παῦλος παραπλεῦσαι τὴν Ἔφεσον, ὅπως μὴ γένηται αὐτῷ χρονοτριβῆσαι ἐν τῇ Ἀσίᾳ· ἔσπευδεν γὰρ, εἰ δυνατὸν εἴη αὐτῷ, τὴν ἡμέραν τῆς Πεντηκοστῆς γενέσθαι εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα.</p>
<p>Acts.26.29 ὁ δὲ Παῦλος Εὐξαίμην ἂν τῷ Θεῷ καὶ ἐν ὀλίγῳ καὶ ἐν μεγάλῳ οὐ μόνον σὲ ἀλλὰ καὶ πάντας τοὺς ἀκούοντάς μου σήμερον γενέσθαι τοιούτους ὁποῖος καὶ ἐγώ εἰμι, παρεκτὸς τῶν δεσμῶν τούτων.</p>
<p>Heb.5.5 Heb.5.6 Heb.5.7 Οὕτως καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς οὐχ ἑαυτὸν ἐδόξασεν γενηθῆναι ἀρχιερέα, ἀλλ’ ὁ λαλήσας πρὸς αὐτόν Υἱός μου εἶ σύ, ἐγὼ σήμερον γεγέννηκά σε· καθὼς καὶ ἐν ἑτέρῳ λέγει Σὺ ἱερεὺς εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισέδεκ. ὃς ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ δεήσεις τε καὶ ἱκετηρίας πρὸς τὸν δυνάμενον σῴζειν αὐτὸν ἐκ θανάτου μετὰ κραυγῆς ἰσχυρᾶς καὶ δακρύων προσενέγκας καὶ εἰσακουσθεὶς ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας,</p>
<p>2John.1.12 Πολλὰ ἔχων ὑμῖν γράφειν οὐκ ἐβουλήθην διὰ χάρτου καὶ μέλανος, ἀλλὰ ἐλπίζω γενέσθαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς καὶ στόμα πρὸς στόμα λαλῆσαι, ἵνα ἡ χαρὰ ἡμῶν πεπληρωμένη ᾖ.</p>
<p>Rev.1.19 γράψον οὖν ἃ εἶδες καὶ ἃ εἰσὶν καὶ ἃ μέλλει γενέσθαι μετὰ ταῦτα.</p>
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Sean Kasabuske
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Sean Kasabuske »

Barry Hofstetter wrote: August 1st, 2021, 6:24 am
Jonathan Robie wrote: July 31st, 2021, 4:50 pm

But here's one well-known example:
Psalm 89:2 wrote:πρὸ τοῦ ὄρη γενηθῆναι καὶ πλασθῆναι τὴν γῆν καὶ τὴν οἰκουμένην καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ αἰῶνος ἕως τοῦ αἰῶνος σὺ εἶ.

Which is syntactically very similar to:
John 8:58 wrote:εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἰησοῦς, Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί.
But I am also very curious about the Septuagint translation here, the Hebrew explicitly mentions God, the Greek does not:
Psa 90:2 wrote:בְּטֶ֤רֶם ׀ הָ֘רִ֤ים יֻלָּ֗דוּ וַתְּח֣וֹלֵֽל אֶ֣רֶץ וְתֵבֵ֑ל וּֽמֵעוֹלָ֥ם עַד־ע֝וֹלָ֗ם אַתָּ֥ה אֵֽל׃
To me, the syntax of these two examples is similar enough that I would expect the usage to be the same in both places. And it does make me wonder if Jesus may have been calling that verse to mind, it's a very distinctive usage.
Good catch. I had forgotten about this. The issue of the the Hebrew having a predicate and the Greek not is an interesting rabbit trail, but the real issue is how someone with no access to the Hebrew (the vast majority of those who used the Greek) would read the text. The LES renders:
Before mountains were made and the earth and the inhabited world formed, and from eternity until eternity you are.
The Lexham English Septuagint. (2020). (Second Edition, Ps 89:2). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

The NETS:
Before mountains were brought forth and the earth and the world were formed, and from everlasting to everlasting you are.
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/24-ps-nets.pdf

Of course, that doesn't answer the question of how a first century reader would conceptualize it. But I think the question "You are what?" Would be foremost on a first reading of the text.
I've always considered Ps. 90:2 to be an example of a PPA, or, depending on how one understands it, a PPA+. If memory serves, Winer refers to it in his discussion of John 8:58 as a comparable text. While Winer didn't use the acronym "PPA", he clearly understood Jn. 8:58 the same way PPA advocates understand it today. The same could be said for Nigel Turner and a few others.

The Psalm is particularly interesting because it seems to allow an alternate interpretation from what we typically find, which is consistent with Hebrew style/thought.

πρὸ τοῦ ὄρη γενηθῆναι καὶ πλασθῆναι τὴν γῆν καὶ τὴν οἰκουμένην καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ αἰῶνος ἕως τοῦ αἰῶνος σὺ εἶ

Notice that both πρὸ τοῦ ὄρη γενηθῆναι and καὶ πλασθῆναι τὴν γῆν καὶ οἰκουμένην refer to past events.

Then, the Greek follows common Hebrew style of repeating a previous statement in a new way, so that we find

καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ αἰῶνος ἕως τοῦ αἰῶνος

To me, καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ αἰῶνος seems to echo πρὸ τοῦ ὄρη γενηθῆναι while ἕως τοῦ αἰῶνος echos καὶ πλασθῆναι τὴν γῆν καὶ οἰκουμένην.

If I'm reading this correctly, this places the full reference to God's existence in the past. A rendering that properly captures the sense might go something like this:

You have been in existence since before the mountains were born and before the earth and the world were formed, [yes] even from age to age.

No, I don't deny God's eternality. I just question whether eternality is in view at Ps. 90:2.

Any thoughts?

~Sean
Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen »

Jonathan Robie wrote: August 1st, 2021, 9:14 am
Actually, I think Scott is pointing at something important. The normal thing you would expect is that an aorist infinitive γενέσθαι indicates something that happened before the corresponding main verb εἰμί. But πρὶν conflicts with the normal way of reading, it's very marked.
If we detach an infinitive from the surroundings it doesn't have time indication at all. γενέσθαι is like "to be born"; Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι is clumsily-overliterally "Abraham to be born", better "Abraham's birth". It doesn't yet indicate time. We just know who that Abraham is and that he was born in the past. But we don't have a separate infinitive, we have an infinitive with πρὶν. Therefore I think we are misguided if we compare this with aorist infinitives + present indicatives from all contexts. It may be interesting if we research infitive, but not helpful for this context. We have to compare this passage with aorist infinitive - which we know to be referring to a past event - combined with πρὶν or προ του. Is a present tense main verb ever used with that construction (well, other than the mentioned Psalm)?
Scott Lawson
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Scott Lawson »

Eeli, the aorist with infinitives seems to be the default tense form so very little significance about its time can be drawn from this.
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Scott Lawson »

Robertson says:

Πρὸ τοῦ in the ancient writers was used much like πρίν and in the temporal sense.8 It gradually invaded the province of πρίν, though in the N. T. we only meet it 9 times. It is not common in the papyri nor the inscriptions.9 See Delphian inscr. 220, πρὸ τοῦ παραμεῖναι. Polybius has it 12 times.10 In the O. T. we find it 46 times, but only 5 in the Apocrypha.11 The tense is always the aorist save one present (Jo. 17:5). Cf. Gal. 3:23, πρὸ τοῦ ἐλθεῖν τὴν πίστιν. There is no essential difference [Page 1075] in construction and idea between πρίν and the inf. and πρὸ τοῦ and the inf. The use of πρίν with the inf. was common in Homer before the article was used with the inf. The usage became fixed and the article never intervened. But the inf. with both πρίν, and πρό is in the ablative case. Cf. ablative1 inf. with pura in Sanskrit. Πρίν was never used as a preposition in composition, but there is just as much reason for treating πρίν as a prepositional adverb with the ablative inf. as there is for so considering ἕως τοῦ, not to say ἕως alone as in ἕως ἐλθεῖν (1 Macc. 16:9). The use of the article is the common idiom. The fact of πρίν and the inf. held back the development of πρὸ τοῦ. In modern Greek πρὸ τοῦ as προτοῦ occurs with the subj. (Thumb, Handb., p. 193). In the N. T. πρίν is still ahead with 13 examples. The instances of πρὸ τοῦ are Mt. 6:8; Lu. 2:21; 22:15; Jo. 1:48; 13:19; 17:5; Ac. 23:15; Gal. 2:12; 3:23.

Edit: Here’s John 17:5 which has πρὸ τοῦ with the present infinitive εἶναι. Its controlling verb is δόξασόν (aor. act. imper.)

καὶ νῦν δόξασόν με σύ, πάτερ, παρὰ σεαυτῷ τῇ δόξῃ ᾗ εἶχον πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον εἶναι παρὰ σοί.
(John 17:5 GNT28-)
Scott Lawson
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Scott Lawson »

I thought I’d post Baugh’s comments on present and aorist imperatives. Obviously they don’t have time. Baugh in his paper on Greek Aspect says :

“To summarize this point then, the present tense forms of the imperativals were chosen when the author wished to communicate a general command or exhortation to direct his readers’ general behavior whenever appropriate. An aorist imperatival, in contrast, may call for the readers to perform more than one action—the aorist is not the “once for all” tense!—but it was a call to do something in a specific, limited context, not as a general maxim governing one’s lifestyle. I have labeled this factor, the “general situation.”” (Baugh pg. 46)
Scott Lawson
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Scott Lawson »

I’m sorry I think I misidentified the controlling verb which is εἶχον (imp. act. ind.). That would give the present infinitive εἶναι in the temporal clause its time.
Scott Lawson
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