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Thursday, October 22, 2009

I AM - Pt 4 (Endnotes)


1.          But if the first century Jews (including the Jewish Christians) had really believed that someone speaking these words (`I am') meant he claimed to be God, the writers of the Synoptic Gospels, who wrote much earlier than the Gospel of John, would certainly not have ignored this incident as they did!  The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke certainly would not have skipped over such a tremendous revelation!

2.         This leads to an extremely important point, one which, by itself, invalidates the whole trinitarian argument for John 8:58.
This instance of Jesus saying ego eimi convinced some of the Jews that he was claiming to be the Messiah (so they attempted to stone him to death on the spot).  Later, Jesus was taken before the high priest and all the chief priests and questioned by them (Matt. 26:59-66; Mk 14:53-64; Luke 22:66-71).

Now if Jesus had really previously claimed to be God by saying ego eimi (or if the Jews had even thought he might have been making such a claim by saying those words), what questions would they have asked him now that they had him up before the highest Jewish court?  Would they have asked "Are you the Christ?"?  (Remember the Christ was not believed by the Jews to actually be God himself. - NIVSB f.n. for Mark 14:61.)  Wouldn't they have concentrated on "Do you claim to be God?"?

But what did they actually ask Jesus at this most important Jewish trial where the Jews were actually seeking to find a reason, no matter how false, to kill him?  Even though they searched for any and all accusers, even false accusers (Matt. 26 59-60), to give them a reason to kill Jesus, no one accused him of claiming to be God

"Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus in order that they might put him to death; .... And the high priest said to him, `I adjure you by the living God, that you tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God.'" - Matt. 26:59, 63, NASB.

C'mon, be honest now!  Could any honest person reasonably conclude that Jesus had claimed to be God at John 8:58 and that the deciding question at the Jews' trial of Jesus would then be "are you the Christ?" 

There is absolutely no suggestion that the Jews thought Jesus was calling himself God here!  They asked no questions concerning such a thing.  This is absolutely impossible if there could have been even a possibility that ego eimi at John 8:58 could mean the speaker was claiming to be God!  Remember, this high court was looking for any reason to have Jesus killed! 

But if his statement at John 8:58 could mean "I am the Christ," what would these priests and chief priests have asked him?  Just exactly what they did ask him:  "Are you the Christ, the Son of God?"

3.          Capitalization Found in Trinitarian Translations of "I am"       

Key for the following chart:
No capitalization of "am" ("I am"): - - - the abbreviated Bible name has no underlining (e.g., NIV).
First letter of "am" capitalized ("I  Am"): - - - the abbreviated Bible name has its first letter underlined (e.g., NIV)
Entire word is capitalized ("I AM"): - - -the abbreviated Bible name is fully underlined (e.g., NIV).

       Ex. 3:14                              Jn 8:58                               Is 43:10

     ASV                                         ASV                                       ASV
     AT                                           AT b                                       AT
     Beck                                       Beck                                       Beck
     By a                                         By                                          By
     Douay a                                  Douay                                   Douay
     ETRV                                     ETRV                                     ETRV
     GNB                                       GNB                                      GNB
     JB                                           JB                                         JB
     KJIIV                                     KJIIV                                    KJIIV
     KJV                                        KJV                                       KJV
     LB                                          LB b                                       LB
     MLB                                       MLB                                      MLB
     Moa                                         Mob                                        Mo
     NAB   (`70)                            NAB  (`70)                              NAB  (`70)
     NASB                                     NASB                                     NASB
     NEB                                       NEB                                       NEB
     NIV                                        NIV                                         NIV
     NLV                                       NLV                                        NLV
     NJB                                        NJB                                        NJB
     NRSV                                     NRSV                                     NRSV
     REB                                       REB                                       REB
     Ro a                                        Ro                                          Ro
     RSV                                       RSV                                        RSV
     Young's                                 Young's                                 Young's
                                                 Beck (NT)b
                                                 CBW b             
   BBE                                      BBE
   Darby                                   Darby
   God's Word                          God's Word
    The Message                       The Message
   New Century Version            New Century Version
   Third Millenium Bible           Third Millenium Bible
   Webster's                              Webster's

           Ex. 3:14                               Jn 8:58                         Is. 43:10_

a  A translation other than "am" (e.g., "will be") 
b  indicates past or perfect renderings (e.g., "I was")

4.        Kenneth McKay, 'I AM' in John's Gospel 
Kenneth L. McKay, who graduated with honors in Classics from the Universities of Sydney and Cambridge, taught Greek in universities and theological colleges in Nigeria, New Zealand, and England, who taught at the Australian National University for 26 years, has written numerous articles on ancient Greek syntax, as well as authored a book on Classical Attic, Greek Grammar for Students, and A New Syntax of the Verb in New Testament Greek: an aspectual approach, provides the following in relation to the alleged "true parallel between Exodus 3:14 (LXX) and John 8:58"
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
'I am' in John's Gospel
The Expository Times, 1996, page 302
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
 "It has become fashionable among some preachers and writers to relate Jesus's use of the words 'I am' in the Gospel according to John, in all, or most, of their contexts, to God's declaration to Moses in Exodus 3:14, and to expound the passages concerned as if the words themselves have some kind of magic in them. Some who have no more than a smattering of Greek attribute the 'magic' to the Greek words egw eimi.   I wish briefly to draw attention to the normality of the Greek in all such passages, and the unlikelihood of the words egw eimi being intended to suggest any special significance of this kind.   


"Although the natural English translations differ, there are two contexts of this kind in which Jesus uses the words egw eimi alone to identify himself: in 6:20, where the disciples are afraid of the apparition they see walking on the water, and Jesus reassures them by identifying himself, quite naturally, with these words, which translate into English as 'It is I'; and in 18:5, while Jesus acknowledges that he is Jesus of Nazareth by speaking the same words, which are naturally translated into English as 'I am he'. The syntactic difference between them is that in the former egw is the complement, the unexpressed subject being something equivalent to 'what you see', and in the latter egw is the subject, the unexpressed complement being 'Jesus of Nazareth'. In both these passages egw eimi is the natural Greek response in the circumstances, as may be seen in 9:9, where the man cured of blindness uses exactly the same words to acknowledge his identity. The dramatic reaction of the arresting party in 18:6 is readily explained if we note that the confident authority of Jesus's presence was such that he defeated the merchants in the temple (2:15), and he simply walked away when the crowd was intent on throwing him over the brow of the hill near Nazareth (Luke 4:28-30). 

"The verb 'to be' is used differently, in what is presumably its basic meaning of 'be in existence', in John 8:58: prin Abraam genesthai egw eimiwhich would be most naturally translated 'I have been in existence since before Abraham was born',  if it were not for the obsession with the simple words 'I am'.  If we take the Greek words in their natural meaning, as we surely should, the claim to have been in existence for so long  is in itself a staggering one, quite enough to provoke the crowd's violent reaction."

5.          However, as we have also seen, an ending or complement could have been understood (`I am [the Christ]').  To say, however, that such an understood complement could be "God" (`I am [God]') is simply baseless.  There is no precedent for this in the entire NT (as there repeatedly is for `the Christ'), and the context does not allow for it.  The only proper conclusions are: `I existed,' `I was the Christ,' or 'I came into existence.'  Anything else is merely wishful thinking by desperate debaters.

6.      Robertson also gives a good example of this in his Word Pictures in the New Testament. Commenting on Col. 3:14 he says:
The verb [`put on' or `clothe yourselves'] has to be supplied (endusasthe) from verse 12 as the accusative case agapen shows.  - p. 504, Vol. IV, Broadman Press.

The KJV; NASB; ASV; RSV; and NKJV render endusasthe in Col. 3:12 as "Put on."  And in verse 14 they understand that verb as being repeated and add "put on" in their translations.  (The KJV; NASB; and ASV put it in italics to indicate that it is not in the original text but must be understood.)   The NRSV; Barclay; and NWT render endusasthe in Col. 1:12 as "clothe yourselves with" and also add it as the understood verb to verse 14.

Particularly note Lk 21:9 as an example of a verb understood to be repeated.  We see the same verb that is used in Jn 8:58 (genesthai - `to come into existence'or `come to be') used here at Lk 21:9b and understood to be repeated at Lk 21:9c.  (See Interlinear; cf. NKJV.) 
E. W. Bullinger also notes this Bible language usage under the subheading "Where the omitted verb is to be repeated from a preceding clause" in his Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, pp. 81-93, Baker Book House, 1968 printing.  He shows on p. 93 that John has used this idiom at 1 John 3:10 where "born" or "generated" should be understood as repeated from 3:9 to accompany the auxiliary "be" verb ("is"):  "He is not [born] of God."(Cf. NEB; REB; NIV; AT; BBE; GNB; ETRV; Beck; and Phillips.)  He also notes Paul's similar usage at Ro. 6:5.  "We shall be [united in the likeness] of his resurrection" - p. 76 (cf. NIV; RSV; NRSV; REB).

Write down the things you saw, and the things that are [eisin], and the things which will be...  - Rev. 1:19.

The things that are [absolute] in this scripture are not just God alone.  These are things and events within his creation.  It would be terribly wrong to insist that the absolute `be' verb here (`are,' eisin) must mean an eternal existence for these events and created things!
The beast that you saw was [en, hn], and is not, and is about to ascend from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. - Rev. 17:8, NRSV.
The beast that was [absolute] in this scripture certainly cannot be God or Jesus.  They certainly would not finally "go to destruction."  Therefore, it would be terribly wrong to insist that the absolute `be' verb here (`was,' en) must mean the beast had existed eternally - when only God has existed eternally!

8.          This is also the explanation for Bowman's claim that Ps. 90:2 uses the absolute "I am" (in second person singular form: `you are') in the same manner as John 8:58 and clearly means eternal existence.  Bowman claims in his Why You Should Believe in the Trinity

   "[A claim of eternal existence] fits the precise language used [at John 8:58], which contrasts `came into existence' with `am.'  This same contrast, using even the same words, is found in the Septuagint  translation of Psalm 90:2, which says to Jehovah: `Before the mountains were brought into existence ... from age to age you are.'  As JWs recognize that in Psalm 90:2 the language used indicates that Jehovah is everlasting, so too they ought to recognize that Jesus' language in John 8:58 indicates the same thing about himself." - pp. 100-101, Baker Book House, 1993.

In reality, however, the `absolute'  I am [`you are'] of Ps. 90:2 is another example of an understood complement.  Just as Jesus most often used the I am to mean I am the Christ,  Ps. 90:2 used it in the Septuagint version to mean `you are  God'!!

We can see the clear truth of this by examining the Hebrew text (from which the Septuagint was translated) and all the Bible translations of it:

The literal Hebrew of Ps. 90:2 reads: "before mountains were-born  or-you-brought-forth  [the] earth and-world  and-from-everlasting  to  everlasting  you  are  God."

And all Bibles show this reading:

               "from everlasting (or eternity) to everlasting (or eternity) thou art God" - KJV, NKJV, RSV, NRSV,     
                                                                                        NASB, NIV, NAB (`70), NAB (`91), NJB, ASV, AT.

               "from age to age you are God" - REB, MLB, Ro, Young's

So it is not an "absolute" I am [`you are'] in the Septuagint rendering of Ps. 90:2 (which in reality merely signifies `you are God') which testifies to the eternal existence of God here, but the Greek word aionos which, like the original  Hebrew word olam,  in the context probably means "eternal"!  Both words can mean either a long indefinite period of time or eternity.  The original word, olam, in fact, is literally defined as long duration, antiquity, futurity.  Although the word can merely mean `a long time,' JWs believe, like most Bible translators, that the context of this scripture makes it probable that the intended meaning is "everlasting."
There is absolutely no "eternal existence" being shown here by means of an "absolute" I am !

9.      None of the earliest Christian writers (even up to, and including, super-trinitarian Athanasius of the 4th century) when discussing John 8:58 taught that the ego eimi of that verse meant any more than existenceNone of them considered it to be a title or name of God (or of Jesus, for that matter)!  Even when trinitarians, such as Athanasius, began to come on the scene (late 3rd century or early 4th century), they still used John 8:58 only as evidence of Christ's earlier existence. - e.g., Origen, p. 643, Vol. 4, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Roberts and Donaldson.

Isn't it ridiculous to think that the very earliest Christian scholars, including Origen himself, who knew the scriptures and the Bible Greek language better than anyone today, had  no understanding of an "I AM = title of God" concept at John 8:58, but, somehow, a few modern trinitarians have `discovered' it?

In fact, even one of the most popular, and most respected, of modern trinitarians has shown the illegitimacy of the "I Am" argument much as Augustine did.  If a modern trinitarian really believed that `I Am' was a title for God himself, would he really apply that phrase to himself?  Well, in April of 1997 I see that Billy Graham has written an autobiography which is published by the trinitarian Zondervan/Harper Collins Publishers.  The title of his book is Just As I Am.

10.      More recently Martin's colleague and successor (Robert M. Bowman, Jr.) has reworked Martin's attack on the JWs' translation of John 8:58:

The fact that the Watchtower Society dropped the term  perfect indefinite tense and used similar-sounding terms in its place in later footnotes to John 8:58 suggests that they were unable to defend the former expression.  As was pointed out earlier, it is strange that the Society has never documented the perfect  indefinite tense from grammar textbooks if they knew it could be so documented.  This silence alone, of course, cannot prove that the Society invented the term (as such a "proof" would be an argument from silence).  However, we have more than silence on which to base this claim - we have the Society's own statement on the matter.  In their letter to Firpo Carr cited earlier, they explained the use of the term as follows:
"What was meant  was that the Greek present indicative ego eimi is here rendered into English in the perfect tense, `I have been,' with an idea of indefiniteness.  That is to say, no mention of the length of Jesus' prehuman existence is here given."
Here the Society explicitly declares the reason for the term  indefinite.  It served to communicate their belief that the word eimi, while admittedly indicating the preexistence of Christ, does not indicate "the length of Jesus' prehuman existence."  This is decidedly different from saying that there actually is a perfect indefinite in English.

Despite this positive piece of evidence that the expression  perfect indefinite tense was coined by the author of the 1950 NWT footnote,  Nelson Herle has for several years maintained that the Society was using "standard grammatical terminology" (to use Walter Martin's phrase).  He bases this claim on two textbooks of English grammar.  The first is Crowell's English Grammar Dictionary of English Grammar and of American Usage, by Maurice H. Weseen, published in 1928; the second,  A New English Grammar Logical and Historical, by Henry Sweet, was published in 1900.

First of all, these two textbooks alone cannot document that something is "standard grammatical terminology."  In order for them to do that, they would themselves have to be standards in their fields - that is, books which have been widely known and used, which have been reprinted over a long period of time, and which have been well received by professionals in the field.  By these criteria, neither Weseen's book nor Sweet's are standard English grammar textbooks.

Moreover, Weseen is dependent on Sweet for the terms indefinite and definite as applied to tense.  Thus, Weseen writes, "Definite Tense.  Sweet Uses this term ... Opposed to Indefinite tense ...."  The fact that Herle could find only these two textbooks, the most recent of which was published in 1928, and that one is dependent on the other for the term in question, indicates that the two books cited by Herle, even if they use the term perfect indefinite tense, cannot be used to establish it as standard terminology.  Even Herle agrees that the term is not "common."

                                                                    Chart 1

                                         Indefinite                                   Definite

                              Present      I see                                 I am seeing
                              Preterite    I saw                                I was seeing
                              Perfect       I have seen                   I have been seeing

Of course, if these two books do use the term, then it would seem that the Watchtower Society can be acquitted of the charge of making it up.  This would be the case, though, only if the Society used the term in the same manner as the two books define and use it.  This is not the case, however.  Note table 1 [chart 1 above has been abbreviated from the original, showing only the first three tenses of the seven listed], found in both Weseen's and Sweet's books, and reproduced by Nelson Herle as evidence in favor of the perfect indefinite tense.  From this chart it can be easily seen that Weseen and Sweet would indeed admit the use of the expression perfect  indefinite tense in English grammar.  According to this chart, as Herle points out, an example of the perfect indefinite would be "I have seen."  This looks and sounds like an exact parallel to "I have been," the phrase used in the NWT at John 8:58.  It would thus seem that Herle has produced the documentation for the perfect indefinite tense which the Society itself has failed to produce for thirty-five years.

However, a closer look at the chart reveals something else.  The exact phrase I  have been occurs on the chart as part of the perfect definite, rather than the perfect indefinite.  In this case, the perfect definite is "I have been seeing."   Looking up the chart, we see that "I have been" would be perfect definite of "I am."  It would appear, then, that "I have been" is the perfect definite, not the "perfect indefinite," as the NWT footnote had said.

Perhaps it will be objected that the chart does not have "I have been" standing on its own.  That is true, of course, but that is because "I have been," like "I am,"   Always implies some sort of predicate ("I have been running"; "I have been here"; "I have been a teacher," and so forth).  This is true, even if the words are taken to be an expression of existence, in which case the predicate "existing" is implied ("I have been existing").  Since "I have been existing" would be defined by Weseen and Sweet as the perfect definite, and since "existing" is the implied predicate of John  8:58 according to the interpretation of both orthodox Christians and the Jehovah's Witnesses, the conclusion cannot be avoided: "I have been" is the perfect definite, not the perfect indefinite.

What this implies, of course, is that it is highly unlikely that the Society had actually drawn from Weseen or Sweet in using the term perfect indefinite tense; and if they did, that would not say much for their scholarship, since they would have used it incorrectly.

         In response, a JW might say that what matters is not whether this particular term was used correctly, but whether their interpretation is correct.  Although such a response would to some extent be valid, yet it is relevant to note that  JWs have exhibited poor scholarship in their handling of the term "perfect indefinite tense."  pp. 95-98, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of John, 5th printing, Nov. 1991, Baker Book House.


The conclusion that "it is relevant to note that JWs have exhibited poor scholarship" is a common one for Martin and Bowman (and many trinitarian scholars).  Certainly, then, it should be equally relevant to examine the scholarship of Bowman. 

Whether the Society was aware of the textbooks cited by Bowman or not matters very little since there are other, more recent and better known (today) authorities who acknowledge the "indefinite tense" (whether present, past, perfect, or future) in English grammar.  What does matter, however, is Bowman's methods in attempting to discredit the relevance of them.

Notice that in the chart he reproduces, the main verb "see" is used as an example.   In the present tense "see" stands alone in the indefinite column ("I see" - present indefinite) but in the definite column it is accompanied by the auxiliary ("helping") verb "am" ("I am seeing" - present definite).  It would be very dishonest to say that the "I am" portion of the present definite tense means that "I am" is the present definite tense when it is merely the auxiliary verb (`helping verb') required to accompany the present definite verb "see" ("seeing")!  Bowman uses this same dishonest approach, however, to "prove" that the auxiliary verb "have been" which must accompany the main verb "see" ("seeing") in the perfect definite tense is, by itself equivalent to "I have been" (auxiliary verb "have" accompanying the main verb "be").  Although he actually admits that these auxiliary verbs are only "part of the perfect definite," Bowman is still counting on the almost total ignorance of the basic elements of English grammar by the vast majority of Americans to allow him to completely mislead them!

An honest examination of the charts published by both English grammarians Sweet and Weseen (Chart 1 above) shows that the main verb "be" used in place of the main verb "see" would look like this:

                    Indefinite                                         Definite

                    Present     I am                               I am being
                    Preterite   I was                              I was being
                    Perfect      I have been                 I have been  being

Just as "I have seen" is the perfect indefinite for the verb "see" (and "I have been seeing" is the perfect definite for the verb "see"), so "I have been" is the perfect indefinite for the verb "be"!  We can plainly see Bowman's trick here.  He has taken the auxiliary verbs from the definite tense column and pretended that they alone constitute a definite tense.  But if we look at the indefinite tense column, we see the intended usage: `I am' by itself (`absolute') is in the present indefinite tense.  `I was' by itself (`absolute') is in the past (preterite) indefinite tense.  And, of course, `I have been' by itself is in the perfect indefinite tense!

Bowman's insistence that "I have been" always implies an understood predicate is pointless.  "I have seen" in the original chart also implies a predicate, but that does not alter the fact that "I have seen" by itself, is still listed as the perfect indefinite tense (no matter what implied predicate may go with it)!  Furthermore, if we are going to assume an understood predicate for "I have been" or "I am" at John 8:58, it more properly must be either "I am (or `have been') the Christ" - see "Why Stones?" on pp. I AM 2-4 - or "I am (or `have been') generated, created, or produced" - see "I Have Come Into Existence" on pp. I AM 6-7.

If "I have been" or "I am" is to be considered as an "expression of existence", then it is the "absolute" `am' or `been' (eimi) which, by itself, means existence.  Nothing is to be inferred as a predicate in that case.  The whole point of the trinitarian-developed "absolute" ego eimi argument is that it stands alone (with no further complement or predicate - actually stated or understood), and this, according to them, causes eimi (first person singular form of the "be" verb: "am") to mean, by itself, "existence"!  In such a case "I am" could mean "I exist" (see quote of Augustine - I AM-8).  And "I was" could mean "I existed" - and "I have been" could mean "I have existed" (see Moffatt translation).  Trinitarian NT grammar expert A. T. Robertson says about the verb eimi: "Sometimes it does express existence as a predicate like any other verb, as in ego eimi (Jo. 8:58)" - p. 394, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, Broadman Press.

If any Bible translator really accepted "existing" as the understood main verb at John 8:58, it would be written out in his translations:  "I am existing (present definite tense); "I was existing" (preterite [past] definite tense); "I have been existing" (perfect definite tense).  But we never see trinitarians translating John 8:58 as "I am existing" or "I have been existing"!  Instead, most trinitarians translate it "I am" (present indefinite tense) or "I was (past [or preterite] indefinite tense)."  Trinitarian Moffatt translates it in the perfect indefinite tense: "I have existed."  Noyes also translates it in the perfect indefinite tense: "I have been."

But many other predicates may be understood here, as Bowman admits.  (In fact, his insistence that "I am" [and "I have been"] must have an understood predicate means he is actually denying that ego eimi  is `absolute' here!)  More likely than "existing" (if we insist on an "understood" predicate) are the above-mentioned "Christ" or "begotten/generated" predicates.  To insist that "existing" must be the understood predicate here is entirely unwarranted. I doubt if we can find even one example of it in the entire NT!

But even if we were to assume the "absolute" ego eimi here meant existence (`I have existed' or even `I have been existing'), there is no proper reason to insist that it must mean `I have existed eternally'!  There are no parallels in the New Testament to suggest such an understanding.  In fact, since Jesus stressed the words "before Abraham came into existence", it suggests that he did not intend "eternal pre-existence" for the "absolute" ego eimi.  It would be strange to stress a certain point in time (Abraham's birth) and then say `I existed eternally, before that point.'  It shows, instead, that there is a beginning point before that specified time.  For example, Prov. 8:22-30 in the Septuagint speaks of Wisdom as having been made (8:22).  Then in Prov. 8:25 Wisdom further explains that "before the mountains were settled ... [God] begets me."   It would be ludicrous to insist that Wisdom (often associated in these scriptures with the pre-existent Jesus - see the BWF and CREEDS study papers) was claiming an eternal pre-existence by using the present tense form of "beget" in a past sense - especially when the point in time was stressed: "before the mountains were settled"!

If something is eternal, you simply don't explain that eternal existence by stressing a certain point in time that it was before!  Eternity is not before (or after) anything!  However, you would use "before" like this:  "before Moses was brought into existence, Abraham was."  But the `absolute' "was," although possibly indicating "existence," would certainly not mean "eternal existence."  The word "before" (as well as the complete lack of any precedent for such a use of "absolute" verbs) would preclude such an understanding.  And if a predicate were to be understood for the `absolute' "was," it would most probably be (because of context) "Before Moses was brought into existence, Abraham was brought into existence."

If a writer really wanted "existing" or "living" to be understood, he would have written: "before Moses was existing, Abraham was."  But if he really wanted us to understand that Abraham has existed eternally, he would have written: "Moses was born and died [not `before Moses was born'], but Abraham always has been."!

Even if the term "perfect indefinite tense" had been coined by Henry Sweet, the fact that this famed expert on the English language used it in his English grammar textbook makes it an accepted, widely-known term!  And the fact that grammarian Weseen refers to the authority of Sweet in his grammar further testifies to the importance and high reputation of Sweet. - See "Sweet, Henry" in the Encyclopedia Britannica (I have the 14th ed.) and in the Encyclopedia Americana (I have the 1957 ed.).  He is even featured in Chamber's Biographical Dictionary which includes "the great of all nations and all times."  And Weseen himself is included in the prestigious Who's Who in America, Vol. 1, 5th printing, 1962.

At any rate, Sweet (or Weseen) MAY have been the source of the term for the NWT footnote writer's use of "perfect indefinite tense."   But, in any case, the 1950 NWT note writer certainly used the term properly at that time!  Even in my own limited library, I have a highly respected standard reference from the year 1962 which also shows that this term is (or was) "standard grammatical terminology"!  See p. 1147, "Indefinite", Webster's 3rd  New International Dictionary (Unabridged), 1962 edition.  (Also see "Indefinite" in the world famous The Oxford English Dictionary, 1933-1961 printings.)  The NWT note writer may have come across this term in any number of ways, but the important thing here is that JWs haven't "exhibited poor scholarship" here - but Bowman (and Martin) certainly has.  In fact, it's much more significant than just "poor scholarship".

11.    These translations of the NT into Hebrew have also rendered ego eimi at John 8:58 as "I have been" in Hebrew (*<**%): Delitzsch (noted trinitarian scholar), 1937 ed.; Salkinson-Ginsberg, 1941 ed.   We can see the same Hebrew word translated "I have been" in these Bibles at Ps. 37:25, NASB, KJV, RSV, ASV, NRSV, NEB, REB, Tanakh, etc.  (Also see Tanakh, NIV, ASV, KJV, RSV, NASB, NRSV, NKJV, etc. at  Jer. 2:31.)

12.    This was written in my copy of Blass & Debrunner as "Jn 5:58 eimi."  We know, however, that the author intended "Jn 8:58."  (There is no Jn 5:58.  Only Chapters 6 & 8 have a verse 58 in all of the Gospel of John.  John 6:58 does not have the verb eimi, nor does it have any other present tense verb which should be rendered in a durative sense.  John 8:58, therefore, which does have an eimi verb which should be understood in a durative way, is the only possible choice here.). 

In fact, it is most likely a printing or editing error that combined two entries "Jn 5:6 ecei" and "Jn 8:58 eimi" into one.  Most trinitarian NT Greek grammar scholars who comment on the present tense verbs used in this manner list Lk 13:7; 15:29; Jn 5:6; 15:27; and 2 Cor. 12:19 (see Robertson, p. 879, for example).  Some, however, actually admit that John 8:58 also belongs in this list (see Moulton and Winer quotes), and their lists include: Lk 13:7; 15:29; Jn 5:6; 8:58 eimi; and 2 Cor. 12:19.  This is obviously what was also intended in Blass and Debrunner, but the printer accidentally deleted the two numbers between 5: & 58 or Jn 5:6; 8:58 (compare Moulton, p. 62, Vol. 3, T&T Clark, 1963). 

Also notice how the present tense verbs in these examples are actually translated in the most-respected trinitarian Bibles.

         Lk 13:7  - I come looking for is translated "I have come looking..." - NASB; NEB; RSV; NIV; NJB; etc.
         Lk 15:29 - I serve you is translated "I have served (slaved for) you" - NASB, NEB, RSV, NIV, NJB; etc.
         Jn  15:27 - you are with me is translated "you have been with me" - NASB; NEB; RSV; NIV, NJB; etc.
        2 Cor. 12:19 - you think is translated "you have been thinking" - NASB; RSV; NIV; REB; NJB; etc.

Why should anyone object to the present tense I am of Jn 8:58 being translated similarly: "I have been"?

13.       Of course, Wallace is so caught up in defending the trinity doctrine that he only rarely allows himself to see anything beyond it.  He completely ignores the fact that John 8:58 fits perfectly within his definition of a Present of Past Action Still in Progress.  (And, given his interest in and comments concerning the statements by the WT Society defending its non-trinitarian renderings, he must be aware that the WT Society has pointed out the very same thing as found in textbooks by noted NT scholars.)  Instead, when he discusses John 8:58 in other places in his book, he pretends the WT Society has defended its translation of John 8:58 with the "historical present" statement only!  This he claims is highly unlikely (see the next note below) and dismisses their rendering with no further analysis!

14.      Some trinitarian defenders refer to a 1974 Watchtower article saying that the `egw eimi' (ego eimi) of Jn 8:58 is in the historical present.  They then insist that this is improper and/or very dishonest scholarship. They cite some NT grammar scholars' definitions of the historical present as not being used in direct dialog (as found at Jn 8:58), but in narration only (e.g. the literal "he says:" of the NT Greek in Jn 1:21 is often translated into English as "he said:" - cf. NIV).  If we accept the definition of these respected trinitarian grammarians as definitive, then the writer of this WT article has used the wrong term here.  However, some terminology in NT Greek (as in most languages) is not cast in stone but has slightly different meanings for different NT Grammar scholars.  And (although I prefer not to use the term `historical present' to explain the translation of John 8:58) some NT scholars have defined `historical present' in such a way that it could properly be applied to John 8:58!  Therefore, the statement by the Watchtower article writer that `ego eimi' is in the historical present is neither dishonest nor poor scholarship.  I would prefer that we stick to the original justification of the NWT rendering of egw eimi at Jn 8:58 (see the "Perfect Indefinite Tense" section of this paper), but there is nothing dishonest with the "historical present" approach.

        The respected trinitarian NT grammarians Dana & Mantey, for example, give no indication in their particular definition of `historical present' that it could not be used to describe the present tense ego eimi of John 8:58: 

"The Historical Present.  The present tense is thus employed when a past event is viewed with the vividness of a present occurrence." - p. 185,  A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, The Macmillan Co., 1957.

        And we find that the highly-respected A Greek Grammar of the New Testament by Blass & Debrunner tells us that the historical present "can replace the aorist indicative in a vivid narrative at the events of which the narrator imagines himself to be present...."  But it also adds, "The present is used in a similar way even outside a narrative" - p. 167, The University of Chicago Press, 1961.  This would also seem to indicate that it would not be improper to term the use of the present tense at John 8:58 as an historical present.

        We also find that even NT Greek grammarian (and avid trinity-defender) Daniel B. Wallace, who does not consider ego eimi at John 8:58 to be in the historical present, admits:  "To be sure, eimi [eimi] is sometimes considered to be a historical present as is the first person verb, but most reject these identifications in the passages suggested ....   This is not to say that it is impossible for eimi to be a historical present in, say, John 8:58.  But it is to say that the burden of proof rests with the one who makes such a claim." - p. 530,  Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Zondervan, 1996.

        The fact that most trinitarian scholars do not accept ego eimi at John 8:58 as being a `historical present' certainly does not make those other scholars who do use that terminology for it (or at least consider it possible) dishonest.

                 But the real point here is not whether a certain grammatical term was possibly misused according to some definitions by some grammarians (but not others), but whether there is a real, proper justification for a rendering of "I have been." 

15.   From the book  The Shadow of the Almighty: Father, Son and Spirit in Biblical Perspective by Ben Witherington and Laura M. Ice  (pp. 10-11):

"Notice that we do not have in [Exodus 3:] 14 ANI ASHER ANI but a paranomastic use of the verb HAYAH [EHYEH].  This suggests on the one hand that we ought not to translate the phrase 'I am that I am' as if it were an ontological statement, a statement about God's being, but rather we seem to be being told something about God's activity or self-revelation in his activity.  The focus then is not on God's being a self-contained, self-existent being . . .  God then is not speaking about what God is in the divine essence, but rather what Yahweh is or will be in relationship to his people--in his self-revelation."  [Emphasis and bracketed words added]

All the places where ehyeh is used in the the books of Moses are listed below.  You will find they always mean "I will be" not "I am," particularly when it is Jehovah speaking about his relationship to his people (as also in Ex. 3:14) 

See ehyeh in an OT Interlinear at Exodus 3:14:

Now look up the other scriptures which use ehyeh and see how they are translated:

Genesis 26:3 (Jehovah: "I will be with you" NRSV)

Genesis 31:3 (Jehovah: "I will be with you" NRSV)

Exodus 3:12 (Jehovah: I will be with you" NRSV)

Exodus 4:12 (Jehovah: "I will be with your mouth" NRSV)

Exodus 4:15 (Jehovah: "I will be with your mouth" NRSV)

Deuteronomy 32:23 (Moses: "I will be with you" NRSV)


17.  Bowman claims that most modern trinitarian scholars favor a connection between Jn 8:58 and Is. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4; and 52:6.  "...the Hebrew in each case reads simply ANI HU (literally, `I [am] he'), which the LXX renders as ego eimi ...."  He concludes this section by claiming that most scholars "conclude that the closest Old Testament antecedent to John 8:58 is to be found in the Isaianic `I am' sayings.  If this is correct, the conclusion cannot be avoided that Jesus was claiming to be Yahweh [Jehovah].  Notable in this light is Isaiah 45:18, where God says, `I am Yahweh' (Hebrew, ANI HU YHWH), and the LXX translates simply by the predicate absolute [the verb stands alone with no complement] ego eimi." - pp. 120, 121, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of John, Baker Book House, sixth printing, April, 1994. 

    The very early Christian translators Theodotion and Aquila (ca. 140 A.D.) both translated this passage from the OT Hebrew (“and God spoke to Moses, saying, ehyeh asher ehyeh”) as  esomai hos esomai (Greek for “I will be who I will be”). – Found in Origen’s Hexapla.

Speaking of the Hebrew word ehyeh in the OT, Ringgren writes:  “When the consecutive forms are eliminated, only 29 of the remaining occurrences belong to statements made by God concerning himself.  The majority of these (22) are found in uses of the ‘covenant formula’ (III.3) or similar statements.
“This situation suggests that the correct translation of Ex. 3:14 should be: ‘I will be who I will be.’  The ancient versions of Aquila and Theodotion understood the Hebrew text in this sense (esomai hos esomai).  Such an interpretation is also supported by the appearance of the expression ‘I will be with you’ in Ex. 3:12.” - Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, Vol. 3, pp. 380 - 381.

This fact is also admitted on p. 18 in note #66 of:
Trinity Journal 1 NS (1980) 5-20
Copyright © 1980 by Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

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