Dale Tuggy

Dale Tuggy is Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Fredonia, where he teaches courses in analytic theology, philosophy of religion, religious studies, and the history of philosophy.

40 Comments

  1. Silas Z
    September 18, 2016 @ 3:03 pm

    Excellent presentation!

    Jesus made a statement:

    Joh 8:51 Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.

    The disciples did keep his word and yet they died. Was Jesus lying or speaking in allegory?

    The Jews obviously objected –

    Joh 8:52 Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. Joh 8:53 Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead?

    Jesus makes a controversial statement “he shall never see death”. Now we can prove from history this statement is false. Jesus could have said it this way:

    Joh 5:25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

    This is important to keep in mind when Jesus claims – “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” Here again, Jesus is making a radical statement just like his earlier statement: “he shall never see death”.

    The argument between Jesus and his opponents was heated. Let us feel the argument to understand why they eventually tried to stone Jesus.

    Jesus throws these words at his opponents:

    Joh 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil, and “ye are not of God.”

    His opponents replied with equal force:

    Joh 8:48 Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?

    Jesus objects and states:

    Joh 8:49 Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me.

    Jesus, states (as throughout the gospel of John) that his purpose was to teach people about the Father and lead them to HIM:

    Joh 8:50 And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.

    Jesus distinguishes between himself the messenger of God from God:

    I seek not mine own glory v/s there is one that seeketh and judgeth.

    Jesus further states:

    Joh 8:56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.

    Jesus states that Abraham foresaw the ‘future’ concerning the promised ‘seed’.

    Paul explains this concept:

    Gal 3:16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

    Jesus’ opponents misunderstood and thought he meant this literally:

    Joh 8:57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?

    Then Jesus makes the statement under consideration in response:

    Joh 8:58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

    Jesus’ opponents now no longer want to exchange angry words, but stone him.

    Jesus makes an infuriating statement – that he was greater than their “Father Abraham”.

    Jesus first stated:

    People who keep his words will not die yet Abraham was dead. So He claims to be greater than Abraham

    Now he claims he is even before Abraham like he was a divine or mystical being, which to the Jews was not possible and hence they felt he was exalting himself above their patriarch and considered him worthy of stoning

    Analysis

    When God gave the promise to Abraham, The christ was a mystery to the prophets but well thought through by God. God progressively revealed the Messiah in the Old testament and finally the prophecy was released in human flesh for men to behold. So Jesus as the Messiah and Saviour was no longer a mystery anymore. Jesus was destined to be over and above Abraham and Abraham himself would depend on his own offspring for his own salvation.

    Allegorically understanding Jesus’ words, he was greater and before Abraham in the plan of God. That is why he is the promised seed to Abraham. Jesus was clear in God’s vision even before the foundation of the world!

    1 Peter 1:20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you

    This was the gospel message:

    Gen 22:18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

    It is commonly argued that the phrase “I am” is a claim that Jesus is calling himself as ‘Jehowah’. If that were so then the Trinity doctrine fails the definition:

    “The Father is not the Son and the Son not the Father.”

    Trinitarians who claim the “I Am’ are no longer trinitarians but Oneness pentecostals.

    Compare the translation “I am” with the one in John 9:9 in the context of the man born blind being healed:

    Joh 9:9 Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I AM [he] <— ‘He’ added by translators – Wonder Why?

    Joh 9:9 Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, “I am” <— Is the blind man claiming to be ‘Jehowah’?

    ‘I am’ seems to be a common phrase. If Jesus was claiming to be YHWH then the man born blind was also doing the same. Since the man blind is not claiming to be YHWH, so Jesus is also not doing the same.

    To be born of Abraham was to the Jews a matter of pride. So, when Jesus claimed that Abraham himself rejoiced in himself was to tell them that they ought also to rejoice in him and that was a big NO!

    Let us examine in detail the ‘I AM’ translation variations from Exodus:

    “I am THE BEING”

    When we look at the ABP or Brenton versions of the OT based Greek Septuagint then we can note the translation for ‘I AM’ appears very differently:

    “And God spoke to Moses, saying, I am THE BEING; and he said, Thus shall ye say to the children of Israel, THE BEING has sent me to you.” Exodus 3:14 (Brenton)

    “And?? God said to? Moses,?G*? I? am?? the one? being.? And?? he said,? Thus? you shall say? to the? sons? of Israel,?G*? The one? being? has sent? me? to? you.?” Exodus 3:14 (ABP+)

    “I will be that I will be”

    The ‘Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges’ translated the phrase as “ I will be that I will be”

    14. I will be that I will be (3rd marg.)] The words are evidently intended as an interpretation of the name Yahweh, the name,—which in form is the third pers. imperf. of a verb (just like Isaac, Jacob, Jephthah), meaning He is wont to be or He will be,—being interpreted, as Jehovah is Himself the speaker, in the first person. The rendering given appears to the present writer, as it appeared to W. R. Smith, and A. B. Davidson, to give the true meaning of the Heb. ’Ehyeh ’?sher ’ehyeh: Jehovah promises that He will be, to Moses and His people, what He will be,—something which is undefined, but which, as His full nature is more and more completely unfolded by the lessons of history and the teaching of the prophets, will prove to be more than words can express. The explanation is thus of a character to reassure Moses. See further the separate note, p. 40. – http://biblehub.com/commentaries/cambridge/exodus/3.htm

    Consider how ehyeh is translated at Ex. 3:14 in the following Bibles: Moffatt’s translation – “I WILL BE”; Byington’s – “I WILL BE”; Rotherham’s – “I WILL BECOME”; New World Translation – “I SHALL PROVE TO BE.” In addition are the following alternate readings in footnotes: American Standard Version – “I WILL BE”; NIV Study Bible – “I WILL BE”; Revised Standard Version – “I WILL BE”; New Revised Standard Version – “I WILL BE”; New English Bible – “I WILL BE”; Revised English Bible – “I WILL BE”; Living Bible – “I WILL BE”; Good News Bible – “I WILL BE.”

    14 God saide vnto Moses: I wyl be what I wyll be. And he sayde: Thus shalt thou saye vnto ye children of Israel: I wyl be hath sent me vnto you. – Miles Coverdale Bible (1535).

    Further let us consider KJV translation itself of the phrase else where:

    Ex 3: 12And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.

    — “ I will be?“ Strong’s H1961? — haw-yaw’

    Since KJV also sometimes uses the phrase ‘I will be’ elsewhere, So, “I will be’ is a highly probable translation and has no connection with Jesus’ statement in John 8:58

    Reference:
    https://knowtheonlytruegod.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/52-of-100-on-john-858-before-abraham-was-i-am/

    • Rivers
      September 19, 2016 @ 9:57 am

      Silas Z,

      I agree with you that Jesus was claiming to be greater than Abraham in John 8, but it seems to be on the basis of the fact that God the Father was going to glorify Jesus by raising him from the dead (John 8:28, 54) and giving him authority to raise the dead (John 8:30, 31, 36, 51).

      Jesus was also telling the Jews and his disciples that the resurrection of the dead was going to take place during their generation (John 5:25; John 11:24-26) because the Father had given him authority to do so (John 5:21; John 6:40; John 10:28). This expectation was later affirmed in Paul’s letters as well (1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 15:50-56).

      Thus, a simpler way to understand the implications of the language in John 8:58 might be that Jesus was testifying about himself as the one (“I am”, EGW EIMI) whom the Father would glorify (John 8:54; John 17:1-2) “before” Abraham (who had “died”, John 8:52-53) was to appear (i.e. in the kingdom, Matthew 8:11).

      As you noted, the Jews seem to have misconstrued (John 8:57) what Jesus said about Abraham’s faithful anticipation of Jesus’ day (John 8:56) and thought that Jesus had already “seen” Abraham alive. Jesus responded by affirming that he was now present in their day so that Abraham could have life even though he died (cf. John 11:24-25).

    • Sean Garrigan
      September 20, 2016 @ 11:36 am

      Hi Silas,

      You may find this brief blog post interesting, which deals with John 8:58:

      https://kazlandblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/15/before-abraham-was-i-what-exactly/

      ~Sean

  2. Mario
    December 22, 2014 @ 3:49 pm

    Rivers

    Matthew 24 speaks of two sets of events: (1) the destruction of Jerusalem and (2) the Coming of the Son of Man, preceded by false “messiahs”. It is not easy to discriminate which events belong to the first set and which to the second, but this is clear: Matthew 24:29 describes the “heavenly signs” that will precede the Coming of the Son of man.

    Now, the demonstrative adjective “this” (Grk houtos, hautê, touto) refers to what immediately precedes it. So the phrase hê genea hautê, “this generation” (Matthew 24:34), does NOT (necessarily) refer to the “collective group of people who were living at the time he was speaking to them”, BUT to the generation of people that will witness the signs of the Coming of the Son of Man. Unless you specify what, in your opinion, would be the signs that the “people who were living at the time he was speaking to them” would have witnessed, the Coming of the Son of Man is still in the future, today.

    Let’s admit (without for a moment conceding …) that egô eimi can mean, equivalently, “I am [the one]” or “I exist”. Care to make explicit what your “the one” would stand for>? The Messiah? The Son of God? The Son of Man? None of them? (Make sure that your reply makes sense of why “the Jews” would “picked up stones to throw at him” – John 8:59 …)

    While Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 14:6 – where, BTW, eimi is a true copula, and it would be simply a gross mistake to confuse it with “I exist”), NONE of the various verses that you have cited says or implies that within Jesus’ lifetime (or, at most, the span of a generation after) the resurrection has already occurred. In fact this claim is totally incompatible with what Paul says here:

    They [Hymenaeus and Philetus] have strayed from the truth by saying that the resurrection has already occurred, and they are undermining some people’s faith. (2 Timothy 2:18 – bolding added)

    It is absolutely fantastic how, from that beriyith owlam, that “everlasting covenant” in Genesis 17:19, you are capable of spinning, “Abraham understood resurrection” (the second time –more cautiously– “probably” …)!

  3. Rivers
    December 22, 2014 @ 12:08 pm

    Mario,

    Jesus always used the expression “this generation” (Matthew 24:34) to refer to the collective group of people who were living at the time he was speaking to them. Thus, there should be no question about who he was referring to. Moreover, Jesus spoke of the people of that particular “generation” experiencing the destruction of Herod’s temple (Matthew 24:1-3) as well as the desolation of Jerusalem and Judea (Luke 21:20-32).

    I don’t think it makes any difference if EGW EIMI (I am) is taken to mean “I am [the one]” or “I exist” because Jesus was “the one” who had to “exist” before Abraham (or anyone else) could receive eternal life (John 8:51). Either way of translating EIMI doesn’t change the meaning of what Jesus was saying. Nobody would say EGW EIMI if they weren’t “existing” at the time. Elsewhere in the 4th Gospel, the Imperfect Indicative form of EIMI is translated “was” (John 1:1-3) and “existed” (John 1:15, 30) without any confusion.

    With regard to the timing of the resurrection, I think Jesus spoke of it as a certainty in the context of his own generation (John 5:24; John 11:24-26; Matthew 16:27-28). He emphatically told the disciples that “I am (EGW EIMI) the resurrection and the life” (John 14:6), and that the “hour” of the resurrection of all the dead “now is” (John 5:25). Undoubtedly, “the resurrection of the dead” would include Abraham (Matthew 22:31-32), and the implication of John 8:58 is that “the day” had come for Abraham to be made to live again in the Kingdom (Matthew 8:11).

    In Genesis 17:17-19, I think Abraham understood resurrection life because he believed that God could make an “eternal covenant” with him through a son (Isaac) to be born from the barren womb of Sarah. This is what Paul is attributing to his “faith” and his “giving glory to God” in Romans 4:17-20. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant by Abraham “seeing” (faith) the day of Jesus (the resurrection) and “rejoicing” (giving glory to God). Abraham probably understood that God could not establish an “eternal covenant” unless he and his descendants received “eternal life.” That is why he was looking beyond his temporal residence in the promised land, and seeking the “heavenly city” (Hebrews 11:9-10; Hebrews 12:22-28).

    Again … I found your notion that “become a father of many nations” might be the implication of PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI intriguing, but Jesus and the Jews were speaking only of Abraham himself at that point in the conversation (John 8:56-57), and there’s no evidence in the context of John 8, or the rest of the 4th Gospel, that the writer associated Abraham with any non-Israelite people. Thus, I think your explanation of the implications of PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI is unlikely.

  4. Mario
    December 21, 2014 @ 5:37 pm

    @ Rivers

    I don’t believe that anything that Jesus predicted, or that the apostles expected, ever failed.

    I know that “eschatology is not the focus of this blog”, but what you claim depends on the meaning you attribute to the expression he genea aute in Matthew 24:34.

    … PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI, EGW EIMI … meant … that … Jesus exists (EIMI) before Abraham comes to life again (GENESQAI).

    How exasperating … 🙁

    First, I had asked you ONLY about prin abraam genesthai, because I had the right reason to assume that we had agreed on the interpretation of ego eimi. Here is what you wrote:

    [Rivers – December 17, 2014 at 4:13 pm] “I also agree with you [Mario] that taking EGW EIMI to simply mean “I am he” or “I am the one” is the best option here.”

    With your latest comment, you change tack again, and interpret that EGW EIMI, in an absolute sense (instead of as a copula and part of an ellipsis), as “I exist”. You obviously changed your mind on this, or are confused, or love obfuscation … 🙁

    (I suppose, at this point, it is not even worth asking you what do you mean by “I exist”, in the sentence “I [Jesus] exist before Abraham comes to life again” …)

    Second, do you have any idea of when, at the time he uttered the words in John 8:58, Jesus thought that Abraham would “come to life again”?

    Abraham rejoiced to see the day of Jesus Christ [John 8:56] because he believed that God could raise the dead (Genesis 17:17-19; Romans 4:17).

    First, care to explain how Genesis 17:17-19 would speak of (or hint at, or entail, or what-have-you) God raising the dead (or “raising the dead” or “raising” “the” “dead”)?

    Second, this verse …

    (As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.”) [He is the father of us all] in the presence of Him whom he believed––God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did. (Rom 4:17)
    … in spite of its laborious construction, does NOT say (or hint at, or entail, or what-have-you) that Abraham believed that God “gives life to the dead”, BUT that Abraham trusted (episteusen) God [the same God that] “gives life to the dead”. Abraham trusted the promise that God had repeatedly made to him, viz. that he would be “father of many nations”.
    Third, if, by any chance, you also support your claim that Abraham “believed that God could raise the dead” on Heb 11:17-19, that would be evidence that you fail to appreciate the figurative speech there, and, in particular, the meaning of parabolê.

  5. Rivers
    December 21, 2014 @ 2:49 pm

    Mario,

    No, I don’t subscribe to Realized Eschatology (C.H. Dodd’s view) either. However, I don’t believe that anything that Jesus predicted, or that the apostles expected, ever failed. As I noted earlier, eschatology is not the focus of this blog so I don’t want to get into a discussion about those issues. Perhaps we can entertain a discussion about eschatology at another time.

    To answer your “essential question”, I think what PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI, EGW EIMI (i.e. before Abraham comes to be, I am) meant was that Jesus was greater than Abraham because Jesus exists (EIMI) before Abraham comes to life again (GENESQAI). Abraham rejoiced to see the day of Jesus Christ because he believed that God could raise the dead (Genesis 17:17-19; Romans 4:17).

  6. Rivers
    December 21, 2014 @ 12:05 pm

    Mario,

    No, I don’t subscribe to Realized Eschatology (C.H. Dodd’s view) either. I also don’t believe that anything that Jesus predicted, or the apostles expected, ever failed. As I noted earlier, eschatology is not the focus of this blog so I don’t want to get into a discussion about those issues. Perhaps we can entertain a discussion about eschatology at another time.

    To answer your “essential question”, what PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI, EGW EIMI (i.e. before Abraham comes to be, I am”) meant was that Jesus was greater than Abraham because Jesus lives (EGW EIMI) before Abraham will live again (GENESQAI). Abraham rejoiced to see the day of Jesus Christ because he believed that God could raise the dead (Genesis 17:17-19; Romans 4:17).

  7. Mario
    December 20, 2014 @ 5:23 am

    Rivers,

    by now I could expose all the absurdities into which you are getting more and more tangled with your “strictly Israelite” theory, but I will refrain, out of charity’s sake, and also, quite frankly, because it is not worth the bother.

    You say that you don’t believe in “actualized eschatology”, and then you add, parenthetically, “whatever that is”, which is another amusing absurdity. Maybe the expression “realized eschatology” might sound more familiar to you. In spite of finicky distinctions (first and foremost by Crossan), there is no difference.

    But, to cut to the chase, let’s go back to the very essential question: what does prin abraam genesthai mean? You agree with me that it is an ellipsis but, unlike me, you unpack it like this:

    [Rivers] prin abraam genesthai => “before Abraham comes to be resurrected”

    So, if you please, answer this simple question: was Abraham resurrected (or, perhaps “resurrected”) during Jesus earthly ministry, or, at the latest, within a generation after Jesus’ death?

    If YES, in what sense was he resurrected (or, perhaps “resurrected”)?

    If NO, how can you deny that Jesus’ Apocalypticism was “falsified” (in the Popperian sense – see discussion at “podcast episode 49 – 2 interpretations of Philippians 2 – part 2”) by the lack of the “coming” of the Son of Man within a generation after Jesus’ death?

    No third option, I am afraid … 🙂

  8. Rivers
    December 19, 2014 @ 9:23 pm

    Hi Mario,

    Here are my point by point rejoinders:

    1. Yes, I think the writer of the Johannine books understood that the resurrection was going to take place in his own lifetime (John 4:23; John 5:25; John 11:24-26; 1 John 2:18). If we include Revelation, it is even more evident (Revelation 1:1; Revelation 2-3; Revelation 22:20). Thus, I think it’s reasonable to think that Jesus was telling the Jews that “my day” was the time that Abraham would “become [again]” at the resurrection on “the last day.”

    2. No, I don’t believe in “actualized eschatology” (whatever that is). Sorry about the quotation marks. I’ll try to use them only when I’m quoting something.

    3. In John 8:56, I think Jesus meant what Paul indicated about Abraham’s faith in Romans 4:17. Abraham believed that God could “give life to the dead.” That would be consistent with the context of the discussion he was having with the Jews (John 8:24, 34-36, 51).

    4. I agree that Paul was sent to the the nations (Romans 11:13). However, I think those “Greeks” in Rome were not heathen nations but were the dispersed of Israel that the Jews referred to in John 7:35 as “Greeks.” This is evident in Romans 3:9-20 where he argues that “both Jews and Greeks are all under sin” and “under the Law” (Romans 3:19) and “accountable to God” (Romans 3:19) because “through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). This language could only be applicable to the Israelites throughout the world (Psalms 147:19-20; Amos 3:2).

    5. I’m not sure about your theory that “the Jews didn’t like the ‘type’ of Messiah” that Jesus was claiming to be. The Johannine writer doesn’t mention anything about Jesus being a “non-ethnic” Messiah. He says that the Jews wanted to “stone” Jesus because of what he was “making himself equal with God” (John 5:18) and “making himself out to be God” (John 10:33). They also want to “kill” Jesus because they didn’t “believe his word” (John 8:37, 40). This was about not believing he was “the Christ and the son of God” (John 20:31).

    6. I think the mistake you are making in Romans 3-4 is presupposing that the “Greeks” were non-Israelites. This was NOT the case in the 4th Gospel (John 7:35) or in the context (Romans 3:9, 19-20). The distinction Paul is making in Romans 4 is between genealogical “descendants” of Abraham who were “circumcised” (i.e. Jews) and those who were not circumcised (i.e. Greeks). That is why he appeals to the “faith” and the “circumcision” of their own “father” Abraham in order to include “all” of them in the gospel (Romans 4:9-11).

    7. With regard to the Samaritans, I’m just pointing out that the writer of the 4th Gospel considered them to be Israelites (John 4:9, 12, 20). There is no evidence anywhere in SCRIPTURE that they were a “mixed breed.” That is why the gospel was going to “Samaritans” (Acts 8:25) before the apostles even understood that any uncircumcised people could be saved. That is “history” according to the apostles. I’m not concerned about the testimony of secular historians when it comes to doing biblical exegesis.

    8. Forgive me for seeming “obtuse”, but there’s no evidence of any “gentiles” in John 8 or anywhere else in the 4th Gospel. That is a critical problem for your interpretation of John 8:58.

    9. I’m right about the majority of uses of GOYM and EQNH in scripture referring to the “nations” of Israel (Genesis 17:5; Genesis 35:10-11; Genesis 48:19-20). You haven’t done the research on the usage of these words. Maybe some day you will see it.

    10. You don’t need to feel sorry for me. I’m just doing my best to offer an interpretation of John 8:58 that is based upon the grammatical and the contextual evidence. I appreciate that you’ve offered your viewpoint for consideration. 🙂

  9. Mario
    December 19, 2014 @ 5:28 pm

    Rivers,

    Here are my point by point rejoinders.

    1. Of course Johannine eschatology includes “the resurrection”, but it is NOT simply the “the resurrection” that you take into account in interpreting that prin abraam genesthai, BUT a very specific resurrection (of Abraham), in very special conditions (imminently, within Jesus lifespan), with Jesus as the Messiah.

    When you speak of “the resurrection” within Johannine eschatology, are you perchance affirming that with the (first) coming of Jesus, “the resurrection” has already taken place? You are not an advocate of “actualized eschatology”, are you? 🙁

    2. See above. Besides, while you claim unfamiliarity, even surprise at my question about your abundant use of “scare quotes”, I wonder why you write, there is a “resurrection”(instead of, there is a resurrection), etc. …

    3. For the umpteenth time, can you explain (or refreshed my memory) on how you interpret John 8:56? (Otherwise, just don’t bother.)

    4. You say that “it doesn’t logically follow that excluding some of Abraham’s descendants requires the implication that Jesus was introducing the inclusion of ‘gentiles’ into the argument”. True, but you ignore my comment that “Paul simply unpacks what was implicit in Jesus”. Otherwise, Paul’s taking the Gospel to the Gentiles practically without conditions would be abusive.

    5. I didn’t say that the “parting of the ways” (a historical fact) being in process when the GoJ was written, was the “writer’s motive behind the 4th Gospel”. I said that you cannot ignore that expressions like “the Jews” would have been simply inconceivable, unless the community to which the GoJ was predominantly addressed was not already largely separated from its Jewish (or, if you prefer, Israelite) roots. And “the Jews” that were “trying to kill him”, as Jesus claimed, even before (John 8:37,40) they actually tried to stone him (John 8:59) were clearly doing it NOT so much because “they didn’t believe his testimony about himself”, BUT because they rejected the type of Messiahship (non-ethnic, non-formalistic, non-legalistic) that Jesus was proposing to them.

    6. You carry on pretending (yes, by now pretending) to ignore the obvious reading of this verse …

    For this reason it is by faith so that it may be by grace, with the result that the promise may be certain to all the descendants – not only to those who are under the law, but also to those who have the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all … (Rom 4:16 – my bolding)

    … AND how consequent Paul was putting it into practice, by actually taking the Gospel to the Gentiles, practically without ANY conditions.

    7. It is simply laughable that “the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24; cp. Matthew 10:5-6) – precisely in its context – would be “a geographic reference”. LOL! You, dear Rivers, are more and more tangled in your contradictions. We don’t need “biblical evidence” that the Samaritans were mixed breed: it’s a historical fact: the Samaritans (aka kutim) replaced the “ten lost tribes”. BTW, it was the Samaritans that tried to impede the return of the Jews from Babylon for rebuilding the Jerusalem temple.

    8. I have shown enough patience with your self inflicted obtuseness. No more.

    9. You have ignored a host of OT and NT citations that (contrary to your claims …) prove that BOTH gowyim AND ethnos, in the OT and NT (and LXX) respectively, mean other nations besides Israel. Enough. (Oh, BTW, to claim that en holê tê oikoumenê would refer to … “Judea and Jerusalem”, is a sign of obtuseness beyond description …)

    10. I feel sorry for your self inflicted obtuseness. 🙁

  10. Rivers
    December 19, 2014 @ 1:06 pm

    Hi Mario,

    Thanks again for continuing the discussion. I’ll respond directly to each of your points in order:

    1. I just meant that I don’t want to get sidetracked into a discussion of different eschatological paradigms on this forum because it is not what Dale intends to be the purpose of the forum. However, I do agree that my understanding of Johannine eschatology includes “the resurrection” (John 5:25-28; John 11:24-26) so I have taken it into consideration when offering an interpretation of John 8:58.

    2. I don’t used the term “apocalyptic Christology” so I don’t know where you are getting that. Since we both agree that there is a “resurrection”, I don’t think there should be any eschatological problem with my suggestion that GENESQAI could be referring to the fact that Abraham would “become [again]” as a result of the “day” of Jesus Christ. Afterall, Abraham was “dead” (John 8:53) before Jesus was present as “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) in that day.

    3. I actually think that the passage you should use to refer to how Abraham might have “seen” the day of Jesus Christ is Romans 4:17 where Paul interprets Genesis 17:5 as a resurrection text. Paul’s explanation suggests that he understood “giving life to the dead” to be “calling into existence what doesn’t exist.” But, in the immediate context of John 8:51-58, it seems more likely to me that the resurrection of Abraham himself would be all that is in view.

    4. I agree that Jesus was denying that Abrahamic descent was sufficient for eternal life. However, it doesn’t logically follow that excluding some of Abraham’s descendants requires the implication that Jesus was introducing the inclusion of “gentiles” into the argument. For example, when Jesus told the crowds that “God can raise up children of Abraham from these stones” (Luke 3:8), he was still talking about “children of Abraham.” He didn’t say “God can make these stones into gentiles and include them along Abraham’s posterity.”

    5. I don’t think your theory of the writer’s motive behind the 4th Gospel is “obvious” at all. I think his purpose is stated for itself in John 20:31. I don’t see that “Jews parting ways with Christians” has anything to do with the purpose of the book. From the writer’s perspective, some “Jews” were believers (John 11:45; John 12:11) and some were trying to kill him because they didn’t believe his testimony about himself (John 5:18).

    6. I understand how you are trying to interpret Romans 4, but it’s easy to show that you would be forcing the words “forefather according to the flesh” (Romans 4:1) and “father” (Romans 4:1, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18) and “descendants” (Romans 4:13, 16, 18) and “nations” (Genesis 17:5; Romans 4:17) and Abraham’s “own body” (Romans 4:19) and “Sarah’s womb” (Romans 4:19) all to have a non-literalistic meaning that is inconsistent with how all of these terms are used everywhere else in scripture. The matter of circumcision or no circumcision makes no difference in this context because the sign of the covenant was not a matter of genealogy (Genesis 17:10-14).

    7. With regard to Matthew 15:24, I was just pointing out that “the house of Israel” in that context is a geographic reference and not a genealogical reference. Some people try to use that text to suggest that Jesus Christ was sent only to the Jews. With regard to the “Samaritans”, there is no biblical evidence that they were “mixed breed.” According to the writer of the 4th Gospel, the Jews didn’t associate with their Samaritan brothers on account of where they worshipped (John 4:9, 20).

    8. I understand that you are thinking that Jesus was “provoking the unbelieving Jews to make a harsh choice.” I just don’t think it had anything to do with “gentiles” who aren’t mentioned anywhere in the 4th Gospel at all (let alone in the context of John 8).

    9. I don’t think “nations” (EQNE) in Matthew 24:14 means “non-Isarelite people.” You are drawing that conclusion, but I would not. Jesus told the disciples that they would “not finish going through the cities of Israel” before his Parousia (Matthew 10:23). As far as the biblical record is concerned, the Twelve remained in Jerusalem (Acts 8:4) to accomplish their commission to the nations there (Matthew 28:19-20). Matthew 24-25 is speaking of what takes place in Judea and Jerusalem (based upon Daniel 9:24-27) and not the rest of the world.

    10. I agree with you on the “double ellipsis” all the way. But, I think the “guess work” is easier to lessen if careful attention is paid to the context. I just don’t see any “multitude of gentiles” suggested in either the grammar or the context. I even compared the Hebrew and LXX in Genesis 17:5 to see if it seemed like there could be an allusion, but I don’t see it.

    Good discussion, my friend 🙂

  11. Mario
    December 19, 2014 @ 9:07 am

    Rivers,

    here are my replies, point by point.

    1. It is rather curious, on your part, to claim that “this is not a blog intended for discussions about eschatology”, when you (should) know perfectly well that eschatology (in particular Jesus’ alleged belief in the imminent resurrection, in particular of Abraham) is the “foundation” of your interpretation of the phrase prin abraam genesthai.

    2. No presumption whatsoever. Just reminding you (or making you aware?) that the (most diverse) interpretations of John 8:58 and context are, once again, a good “litmus test” of one’s Christology. Including your “apocalyptic christology”. As you ask, BTW, my “perspective on biblical eschatology” is futuristic, and distinguishes between the predictions about Jerusalem (which I believe to be genuine predictions, not post factum) and the future resurrection (of the elect and of the reprobates), and Judgment.

    3. No, I cannot indicate any “particular historical account in Abraham’s life” explicitly saying, or hinting to Abraham’s vision. I simply consider Jesus’ words in their obvious implication. OTOH, you haven’t explained (or refreshed my memory) on how you interpret John 8:56.

    4. [… patiently …] While, as I clearly said, you do NOT find, in John 8 (and more in general throughout the GoJ) Jesus’ explicit rejection of Israelite exclusivism, once again, Jesus’ provocation consisted in denying that the genetic descent from Abraham mattered, BUT only having the same faith and obedience to God that Abraham mattered. In this Paul simply unpacks what was implicit in Jesus.

    5. I cannot even be bothered to correct your rejection of my obvious remark that the “GoJ (at least in its final redaction) was written when the parting of the ways between Jews and Christians was well under way”, and the implications thereof. I sincerely hope you do not confuse the “parting of the ways” (which is a historical fact, roughly between 70 CE and 135 CE) and a totally alien notion, anti-Semitism.

    6. Your attempt to deny what Paul says at Romans 4 (in particular Rom 4:13,16,18 – that you even cite!) is pretty desperate. Once again: the heirs of the promise made to Abraham are NOT ONLY his genetic descendents, BUT …

    “… all the descendants – not only … those who are under the law, but also … those who have the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all …” (Romans 4:16)

    The unquestionable sense of these words is confirmed by Paul taking the Gospel to the Gentiles, without ANY preliminary request of conversion to Judaism, without any OT legal pre-condition (in particular circumcision). The same is attested by Acts (see, in particular Acts 10, Acts 15).

    7. You are contradicting yourself, or at least being severely inconsistent:

    (1) on the one side, you essentially confirm what I write, viz. that “you seem to assume that both Jesus and the Apostles were under the persuasion that they lived in (strictly Israelite) apocalyptic times”.

    (2) on the other side, in response to my comment (“I have no problem assuming that … at least up to a point and up to some point”, [Jesus] believed that he “was sent only to the lost sheep of the nation of Israel” – Matthew 15:24; cp. Matthew 10:5-6), you reply that “There’s no need to take Matthew 15:24 as exclusive only to Israelites” (what else?), with the even more puzzling parenthetical comment, “as if Jesus didn’t know of a broader scope of his ministry”.

    So what was this “broader scope”? Why shouldn’t it inspire ALL his behaviour, accounted for in the GoJ, even if not explicitly mentioned?

    BTW, the Samaritans were excluded from Israel proper because the Israelite inhabitants of the area were they lived had been replaced (or at least mixed) by the Assyrians with non-Israelites.

    8. [… patiently …] I have already said – and I’ll repeat it here:

    I am not saying that “in the context of John 8 … any thought of non-Israelites [would] be necessary to the discussion with the Jews”. Jesus was provoking “the Jews” (isn’t that a constant theme in the GoJ?) for their complacency: they were quite ready to “believe him” [John 8:31] viz. as the Messiah, or at least as a … very good preacher, but they were not ready to pay any price for that. They wanted to retain their pride in being “Abraham’s descendants” … at least biologically, and faultless “abiders of the Law” … at least formally.

    Jesus was compelling them to make a harsh choice. This, BTW, is exactly the same reaction that Jesus deliberately wanted to provoke in the “disciples” (John 6:59-65), with his Discourse About the Bread of Life (6:25-58).

    9. Once again (contrary to what you surprisingly say) there are plenty of examples gowyim (notice the plural) in the sense of “other nations besides Israel, often with the added notion of being foes and barbarian”. Here’s a small list, just for starters: Neh 5:8; Ps 2:1,8; 9:15,20; 10:16; 59:5,8; 79:6,10; 106:47. As for ethnos, here is a small list, just for starters: Mt 20:25; 21:43; 24:7; Mk 13:8. You can have more for both …

    Oh, BTW, my previous quotation seems to have completely escaped you, so let me re-propose it here:

    And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations [ethnê], and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

    10. There is no problem whatsoever with the “grammatical basis” of “before Abraham becomes [father of a multitude of nations]”. As for the “contextual basis”, like all ellipses, it obviously entails some guesswork. It has already been proposed (I certainly did NOT invent it) and, IMHO, it is by far less far-fetched than any association with “Abraham’s resurrection” … 🙂

  12. Rivers
    December 18, 2014 @ 7:57 pm

    Mario,

    Thanks for the reply. I’d like to respond to your comments again.

    1. Yes, I take the statements that Jesus and the apostles made regarding the imminent consummation of the ages at face value. There are dozens of statements giving that implication throughout the Gospels and the apostolic letters. However, this is not a blog intended for discussions about eschatology so I don’t want to get sidetracked.

    2. I don’t think one’s eschatology has any bearing on the interpretation of John 8:58 at all. Thus, I think it’s presumptuous for you to think that the questions I’ve been posing to you are the result of anything other than a critical analysis of how you are trying to develop your obscure viewpoint. I’m trying to give it a fair hearing, but not an uncritical one. I don’t even know what your perspective on biblical eschatology might be.

    3. I really don’t have a problem with your suggestion that Abraham “saw” Jesus’ day in some kind of prophetic vision. I was just wondering if you had a particular historical account in Abraham’s life that you were referring to.

    4. I’m still not following why you would think that Jesus was trying to “provoke” the Jews by associating his ministry with non-Israelites. As I noted, there isn’t any mention of “gentiles” anywhere in the 4th Gospel. The writer spoke only of “Samaritans” and “Greeks” who were descendants of Jacob just like the Jews (John 4:9, 12, 20; John 7:35). I don’t see where you’ve put forward any exegetical evidence that suggests that anything about “gentiles” would be relevant to the conversation in John 8 either.

    5. I can’t buy your presuppositions about “Jews and Christians parting ways” having any bearing on why the 4th Gospel was written. The writer has Jesus being a called a “Jew” (John 4:9; John 18:35). He has Jesus affirming that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). He also has “Jews” believing in Jesus (John 11:45; John 12:11) and Jesus being “the king of the Jews” (John 18:33). Thus, I think you need to be careful not to be selective when it comes to the evidence about the character of “Jews” in the 4th Gospel.

    6. I don’t think Romans 4 has anything to do with the context of John 8. However, I think if you take a closer look at the context of Romans 4, you’ll find that all the people he is speaking to have “Abraham as forefather according to the flesh” (Romans 4:1), were accountable to the Law of Moses (Romans 4:5-7), “all” of them were “fathered” by Abraham himself (Romans 4:11), were Abraham’s “descendants” (Romans 4:13, 16, 18) from Abraham’s own “body” and “Sarah’s womb” (Romans 4:19). There’s nothing in this language that could possibly refer to anyone other than the Israelites.

    7. There’s no need to take Matthew 15:24 as exclusive only to Israelites (as if Jesus didn’t know of a broader scope of his ministry). In that particular context, “the house of Israel” specifically refers to the region of Judea (as in Matthew 10:5-6 where it is contrasted with “city of Samaria” and “way of the Gentiles”). That is why the writer mentioned that the apostles were in “the region” of Tyre and Sidon when they encountered the woman from that “region” shouting in the Canaanite dialect (Matthew 15:21-22).

    8. I still don’t find your ellipsis of “multitude of (multi-ethnic) nations” persuasive at all. There’s nothing in the context of John 8 that implies anything about a multi-ethnic Messiah. I really think your are trying to force this reading because of your own presuppositions about soteriology and eschatology. Why would it be even reasonable to think that the writer of the 4th Gospel (who never mentions “gentiles” or non-Israelites at all) intended to have Jesus Christ reveal a multi-ethnic reinterpretation of Genesis 17:5 in an hypothetical ellipsis?

    9. As I’ve noted before, it can easily be demonstrated from biblical usage that the word “nations” (either GOYM or EQNE) almost always refers exclusively to the “multitude of nations” that were the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 17:5; Genesis 35:10-11; Genesis 48:19-20). I don’t think you’ve shown anything from the grammar or context of John 8 that would suggest otherwise.

    10. With all that said, I’m glad that we agree that John 8:58 is not intended to convey any notion of a “preexistence” of Jesus Christ. I just wish your interpretation of the ellipsis (as “multitude of nations”) had some grammatical or contextual basis. It’s an interesting idea, I just don’t think it really fits the context at all.

  13. Mario
    December 18, 2014 @ 6:06 pm

    Rivers,

    thank you for continuing this conversation. I have proposed a hypothesis which is clearly not only based on lexical, exegetical and hermeneutical exam, but also (to use the word of a historian of literature and comparative science of religions that I much admire, Schalom Ben-Chorin) on “intuition”, without being inconsistent or, worse, contradictory with the texts. At this point, before I proceed to give answers to you points (which I am very happy to do), I would like to put something straight. You have formulated, at some point, your own hypothesis on John 8:58 and context (and also on John1:1 and context, and Philippians 2 …). Essentially you seems to assume that both Jesus and the Apostles were under the persuasion that they lived in (strictly Israelitic) apocalyptic times, that the coming of the Son of Man, the Judgment, the Resurrection were all imminent (literally, within Jesus’ lifespan, or anyway within the “present generation”). Nothing particularly new or original, but also nothing particularly compelling.

    (So, I sincerely hope you do not consider your hypothesis “obvious for any scholar”. It is not … :))

    1. I am not saying that “in the context of John 8 … any thought of non-Israelites [would] be necessary to the discussion with the Jews”. Jesus was provoking “the Jews” (isn’t that a constant theme in the GoJ?) for their complacency: they were quite ready to “believe him” viz. as the Messiah, or at least as a … very good preacher, but they were not ready to pay any price for that. They wanted to retain their pride in being “Abraham’s descendants” … at least biologically, and faultless “abiders of the Law” … at least formally.

    (Doesn’t that sound familiar? Just replace the GoJ with the Synoptics, and “the Jews” with the Pharisees.)

    2. How else would you interpret …

    “Your father Abraham was overjoyed to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56)

    … the verse above? Care to remind me of your own interpretation? Have you got any rationalistic problem with the obvious interpretation, viz. prophetic vision granted by God to Abraham?

    (Or do you find it “unscholarly”? Be honest …)

    3. Well, of course IF you were a Jew, and you did not accept Jesus’ totally unexpected kind of Messiahship that he was proposing (at least after Caesarea Philippi), then it would be perfectly normal to hold on to Israelite exclusivism. Even if you don’t find this, explicitly, in John 8, I affirm that this is precisely the core of Jesus provocation. Otherwise, his repeated accusation to “the Jews” that they were “seeking to kill” him, would be, on the part of Jesus, a sign of paranoid personality.

    (You are welcome to prefer the paranoid explanation …)

    4. Your comment reminds me of a Hitchcock film, were the incriminating detail is in full view, but nobody seems to notice it. It is entirely evident that the GoJ (at least in its final redaction) was written when the parting of the ways between Jews and Christians was well under way. Otherwise the author would have never used the expression “the Jews” (hoi ioudaioi) to refer NOT ONLY to the hostile authorities BUT ALSO (as it is throughout John 8) to the Jews/Judeans who (at least initially), “had believed him” (John 8:31). So John 8 (and, more in general, the entire GoJ) is written assuming that the attitude of Jesus was the same as that which is manifestly the attitude the author attributes to him, and the author obviously considered “the Jews” (at least temporarily) condemned precisely because of their exclusivism, even cynical exclusivism.

    (Hint: look at John 11:49-50; cp. 18:14)

    5. You have obviously ONLY looked at Paul’s OT citations, without looking at what he clearly says. For Paul, Abraham’s “descendants” are NOT ONLY his genetic descendents through Sarah (and Isaac, viz. the Israelites, which already excludes the descendents through Esau), BUT “all the descendants – not only … those who are under the law, but also … those who have the faith of Abraham” (Romans 4:16).

    (Of course one may be so dumb as to seriously believe – or pretend to – that Paul was, at most, including the God-fearers – phoboumenoi ton theon)

    6. The Jews certainly never understood Genesis 17:5 as referring to other than the Israelites, and that is precisely their limit, one may even say their God-given limit, so they would not, until the “fullness of time”, mix with the heathen Gentiles. As for Abraham, before the Egyptian captivity, the Exodus, the Judges, the Monarchy, the Babylonian captivity, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the question is rather anachronistic, no? As for Jesus, I have no problem assuming that God’s Plan was broader than what he was made aware of (before his resurrection), and that, al least up to a point and up to some point, he believed that he “was sent only to the lost sheep of the nation of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24).

    (As for Paul, see point 5)

    7. What the elliptical phrase “before Abraham becomes [a multitude of nations]” means is that, for that to happen, and to happen in a non-ethnic sense, non Jewish-exclusivist sense, it was necessary for the Messiah to appear (which, when Jesus spoke to “the Jews” had just happened with him) and for the Gospel to be preached to the “nations” (ethne):
    And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

    (Or do you seriously believe that, even here, ethne means nothing more than the “tribes of Israel”?)

    8. Once again, I have made clear enough that the [elliptical] phrase “before Abraham becomes [a multitude of nations]” has got NOTHING to do (in fact it is opposed) to any explanation based on some alleged “personal pre-existence” of Jesus. Further I have explicitly “unpacked” the phrase egô eimi as “I am [the Messiah]”.

    (OTOH, God’s logos, God’s essential attribute that got incarnated in/as Jesus, is eternal.)

  14. Rivers
    December 18, 2014 @ 10:23 am

    Mario,

    Thanks again for continuing the conversation. I’m genuinely trying to assess the plausibility of your “before Abraham becomes [a multitude of nations]” interpretation since it is interesting to consider.

    Here are the thoughts that come to my mind as I’m reading your comments. Could you please respond to my questions and concerns here:

    1. I agree that Jesus and the apostles were teaching that merely being a genealogical descendant of Abraham was not sufficient to merit salvation or eternal life. However, in the context of John 8, why would inferring any thought of non-Israelites be necessary to the discussion with the Jews?

    2. Are you saying that John 8:57 meant that Abraham “saw” the day of Jesus in an actual “prophetic vision”? Where or when do you think that took place?

    3. Why would it be wrong for the Jews to think that they were “God’s favorites” when it is a central theme throughout the Hebrew scriptures (Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 7:6; Psalms 147:19-20; Isaiah 44:1; Amos 3:2)? The Israelites properly understood that the Law required that “all foreigners be excluded from Israel” (Nehemiah 13:1-3). What do you see in the conversation between Jesus and the Jews that mitigates against anything that the Law said?

    4. Another reason I don’t think “gentiles” are in view in John 8 is because the writer of the 4th Gospel never referred to any “gentiles” (EQNE) at all. Even the “Samaritans” and “Greeks” that appear in his historical accounts are actually descendants of Jacob (John 4:9, 12, 20) and the dispersed of Israel (John 7:35).

    5. I don’t think appealing to Paul’s later understanding of the inclusion of uncircumcised people helps your argument either. For example, when Paul gives his own commentary on Genesis 17:5 in Romans, it’s evident that he understood that the “nations” were Abraham’s own “descendants” (Romans 4:18) from “Sarah’s womb” (Romans 4:20). Thus, how can appealing to Paul help you in John 8 either?

    6. You say that Genesis 17:5 “should not be understood in an ethnic-exclusive sense” but you don’t give any evidence that Abraham, Jesus, the Jews, or Paul ever understood Genesis 17:5 to be inclusive of non-Israelites. I think this is a critical problem for where you are trying to go with your interpretation (especially since there’s nothing in the context of John 8 that makes any explicit reference to either Genesis 17:5 or to any non-Jewish people).

    7. I’m not clear on if you are trying to say that “before Abraham becomes [a multitude of nations]” is referring back to the time of Genesis 17:5, or if you are saying that it refers to the time of Paul when the gospel began to be preached to “the nations.” Can you please clarify.

    8. If you think “before Abraham becomes [a multitude of nations]” refers back to the time of Genesis 17:5, then do you think Jesus was existing in some form at that time? Is that what you think the implication of EGW EIMI would be in John 8:58. Can you please clarify.

    Thank you 🙂

    7.

  15. Rivers
    December 18, 2014 @ 9:05 am

    Nathan,

    Oops … I think my most recent comment to “Sean” was actually in response to your comments. 🙂

  16. Mario
    December 18, 2014 @ 5:52 am

    [Sean Garrigan – December 17, 2014 at 9:40 pm] “… *maybe* Winer was an Arian, which is a subset of Unitarianism.”

    That Arianism would be a “subset of Unitarianism” is an uninformed tale that, unfortunately, keeps being propagated here at trinities.org.

    In fact, historically and doctrinally, Arianism is a subset of Subordinationism, which, in turn, is a “prequel” to full-fledged “trinitarianism” (“co-equal, co-eternal, tri-personal; one ousia in three hypostases”).

    It is quite clear what Subordinationism is, because it is embedded in the word itself: there is a “Supreme God”, the Father, and, in descending order, the Son (“eternally generated” by the Father, according to the fancy verbal invention of Origen, that was adopted also by the full-fledged Trinitarians), who is subordinated to the Father, and the Holy Spirit who is subordinated to the Father and the Son.

    Arius went further. Reading Proverbs, chapter 8, he didn’t realize that the Wisdom of which is spoken there is a rhetoric figure, NOT a real person. Then he equated Wisdom of Proverbs with the Logos of the Gospel of John and the Logos, in turn, as the “pre-existent Son”.

    So when Arius read, in the Greek LXX …

    kurios extisen me archên odown autou eis erga autou (Prov 8:22 LXX)
    “The Lord created me at the beginning of His ways before His works” (Lit. Eng. Transl.)

    … the obtuse exegete that he was, he persuaded himself that the Wisdom/Logos/Son that he had telescoped in Proverbs was a “creature”, first and foremost among all creatures, but still a creature. A “created god”, so to speak.

    The dispute that raged for the best part of the 4th century was all about trying to put together the broken pieces of Subordinationism. As we (all?) know, the end result was something quite different from Subordinationism: the full-fledged “trinity”, which, in its Eastern flavor, retains something of Subordinationism, in its Western flavor revives old Modalism and, in its “mysterian” fullness, is sheer senseless gibberish. 🙁

  17. Rivers
    December 17, 2014 @ 10:17 pm

    Sean,

    Thank you for considering my perspective. I appreciate your comments. I would just like to point out a couple of things with regard to what you wrote today.

    First, regardless of how many translators might think EGW EIMI was intended to be understood as a past tense (“I was”) or a perfect progressive (“I have been”), there simply isn’t any evidence that the writer of the 4th Gospel used it that way in any other case. I think the evidence in the writer’s own work should be given the greater weight.

    Second, any translation that uses “born” is suspect because the Johannine writer didn’t use GINOMAI to refer to being “born.” He always used GENNAW. To interpret GENESQIA as “was born” and by forcing the Aorist Middle Infinitive (“becomes”) to require a past tense (“was”) is an unnecessary interpretation and also isn’t consistent with how the writer used the Aorist Infintive form everywhere else.

    Third, I’m not sure why you would think that understanding John 8:58a as “before Abraham exists [again]” would not be a direct answer to the response of the Jews in John 8:57. They knew that Abraham had already “died” (John 8:53).

    Thus, if they were (erroneously) thinking that Jesus meant that he had already “seen Abraham” (in their own generation), then perhaps Jesus was simply informing that that his presence (EGO EIMI) would mean that the day of Abraham’s resurrection “day” had come (Matthew 8:11; Matthew 22:32). In that sense, Jesus would be able to “see” Abraham.

  18. Sean Garrigan
    December 17, 2014 @ 9:40 pm

    About Winer and Unitarianism, I found one reference (Robert Morey), though I wouldn’t necessarily judge as correct what this particular person offers unless I were to find corroborating evidence. However, with respect to Titus 2:13, he asserts that:

    “Winer was honest in stating that although the grammar of the text was in favor of ‘our great God’ as a reference to Christ, he was forced by his doctrinal commitment to Arianism not to accept it.” (The Trinity: Evidence and Issues), p. 346

    So, *maybe* Winer was an Arian, which is a subset of Unitarianism.

    ~Sean

  19. Sean Garrigan
    December 17, 2014 @ 8:47 pm

    “by grammarians such as Winer (a Unitarian)”

    After I clicked “Post Comment” it occurred to me that I could be mistaken about
    Winer’s unitarianism. I seem to recall that he was a Unitarian, and I don’t know why I’d recall it if it weren’t true, but since I don’t recall where I read/heard it, I could certainly be mistaken.

    ~Sean

  20. Nathan
    December 17, 2014 @ 8:25 pm

    Rivers,

    Thanks for the helpful feedback. You’ve made some very interesting points.

    I think you’re correct to see EGW EIMI as nothing more than the standard NT use of the verb “to be”, and so I’m also in agreement that “I am” is the most literal translation of this verb (though, I’m inclined to see a dynamic rendering like BeDuhn’s as a good non-theologically driven alternative also).

    Where I disagree with you, however, is in the nature of the inference made. In fact, as vs. 58 can be read as a direct answer to the Jews’ question raised in vs. 57, I see this interpretation as requiring the least inferential demands upon a reader. Why? Because there doesn’t appear to be any compelling reason to think that Jesus is answering his detractors differently than he had done in any of the preceding verses. If that’s the case, then the most charitable reading would be one that is consistent with how Christ handled these prior charges also.

    Sean highlighted earlier that other readings seem to present Jesus as replying with a non-sequitur, and I think that’s true. It seems to me that any other interpretation has Jesus answering a question that was never even asked.

    Nathan

  21. Sean Garrigan
    December 17, 2014 @ 7:51 pm

    Dale, Rivers,

    [Dale] “If we take the verbs as you suggest, we really have…“I am / have been ___ since before Abraham was born!”

    [Rivers] “EGW EIMI is nothing more than the simplest way to express “I am [the someone or something at the present time]”. ”

    Except that when EIMI is used existentially it doesn’t require a designation of identity. BTW, the ancient Syriac/Aramaic translators rendered EGO EIMI at John 8:58 with past reference:

    “Before Abraham was, I have been.” — Sinaitic Palimpsest

    “Before ever Abraham came to be, I was.” — Curetonian Version

    “Before Abraham existed, I was.” — Peshitta Version

    “Before Abraham was born, I was.” — George M. Lamsa’s English version

    To which we can add other translations produced by folks who broke free from the pressures too often exerted by translation committees:

    “I existed before Abraham was born.” – Edgar J. Goodspeed

    “I have existed before Abraham was born.” – James Moffatt

    “I am here — and I was before Abraham!” – Catholic James A. Kleist, S.J.
    (In the footnote he claims that the utterance intimates eternity, but that’s not a necessary implication of the Greek).

    “I most solemnly say to you, I existed before Abraham was born.” – Charles B. Williams
    (Williams’ translation was called “…the best translation of the New Testament in English”, in part because it surpassed “…all other translators of the New Testament in bringing out the tense significance of the Greek verbs” (J. R. Mantey, comments on dust jacket).

    “before Abraham came into existence, I existed.” – Louw and Nida
    (See their Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, Vol 2, p. 158).

    While these renderings are certainly superior to those in which the verse is left in an interlinear form, as it appears in most Bibles, they nevertheless don’t achieve the superior result that McKay achieves, because only McKay’s rendering (a) presents the clause in normal English word order (subject, verb, predicate), but, more importantly, only it truly captures the sense of the PPA described by grammarians such as Winer (a Unitarian) and Turner, i.e. only McKay’s rendering “…expresses a state which commenced at an earlier period but still continues…”, (Winer [1]), or “…which indicates the continuance of an action during the past and up to the moment of speaking…[which action is]…conceived as still in progress…” (Turner [2]).

    ~Sean

    [1] A Grammar of the Idiom of the New Testament, Seventh Edition, by George Benedict Winer, p. 267
    [2] A Grammar of New Testament Greek, Vol. III, Syntax, by NIgel Turner, p. 62

  22. Mario
    December 17, 2014 @ 5:56 pm

    @ Rivers

    Let’s have a closer look at the exchange that occurs between Jesus and “the Jews” in John 8:31-59, and in particular, as you ask, in 8:51-58.

    After a preliminary exchange (John 8:31-50) in which “the Jews” have proclaimed that they are “descendants of Abraham”, and Jesus has rebuked them, affirming that they may well be the genetic “descendants of Abraham”, but they certainly are NOT Abrahams worthy descendants, because they do not do “the deeds of Abraham”, worse, they are “seeking to kill” Jesus, he goes on with his “provocation”, affirming that “if anyone obeys [Jesus’] teaching, he will never see death”.

    Jesus is forcing “the Jews who had believed him” (John 8:31), but who obviously still believe they are “God’s favourites” because they are Israelites (literally Abraham’s “seed”) to make a choice: its is NOT their genetic descent from Abraham that matters, BUT that, like Abraham (who saw in prophetic vision the day of the Messiah and rejoiced at the vision – John 8:57), they welcome the Messiah: Jesus himself. This means (as Paul will amply clarify) that the Messiah, far from being the Savior of (ONLY) the “Twelve Tribes of Israel”, will be the Saviour of Jews and Gentiles alike, with NO ethic limitation.

    This would have meant, for “the Jews”, accepting that the promise made to Abram/Abraham …

    “No longer will your name be Abram. Instead, your name will be Abraham because I will make you the father of a multitude of nations.” (Gen 17:5)

    … was NOT to be understood in an ethic-exclusive sense, BUT that Jesus’ Messiahship, if they truly wanted to accept him, was “open” to Jews and Gentiles alike. That is why “the Jews” (who, once again, before this exchange, apparently “had believed him [Jesus]”) felt insulted when, in reply to their (false obtuse, but in fact) sarcastic question …

    “You are not yet fifty years old! Have you seen Abraham?” (John 8:57)

    … Jesus “slapped” them with his elliptic retort:

    “Verily, verily I say to you, before Abraham becomes [father of a multitude of nations – Gen 17:5] I am [here and now the Messiah].”

    That is why (NOT because of any alleged “blasphemy”) they “they picked up stones to throw at him”.

  23. Rivers
    December 17, 2014 @ 4:13 pm

    Mario,

    I agree with your understanding that PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI is an ellipsis and that the Aorist Middle Infinitive form should be taken to be “before Abraham becomes” or “before Abraham comes to be.” The Aorist is punctilliar, and the Infinitive form would come over into English as “becomes” or “comes to be” and not “was” or “was born.” I also agree with you that taking EGW EIMI to simply mean “I am he” or “I am the one” is the best option here.

    However, although completing the ellipsis with “the father of many nations” (Genesis 17:5) is intriguing, I still don’t see how you are deriving this connection from the context of John 8:51-58 where the conversation was about Abraham as an individual man who had “died” (John 8:53). I also don’t see any corresponding language in Genesis 17:5 that would suggest any allusion to that particular text in either Hebrew or Greek (LXX).

    Can you please elaborate more on why you think the context suggests that Abraham becoming a multitude of nations was the issue in the conversation. 🙂

  24. Mario
    December 17, 2014 @ 2:56 pm

    It seems like we are stuck with John 8:58. 😉

    Probably because no other verse is such a good “litmus test” vis à vis the various positions on the identity of Jesus Christ (incarnation of the second person of the trinity; incarnation of a pre-existent divine figure – “a god”; incarnation of God’s non-personal logos; mere human being who is “pre-existent” as Messiah only in God’s plan).

    The critical phrase of John 8:58 is [Greek] prin abraam genesthai egô eimi and, even more specifically, the first part: prin abraam genesthai.

    Now, genesthai is the Second Aorist – Middle Deponent – Infinitive form of gi[g]nomai, which has a very broad spectrum of meanings (see Liddel-Scott-Jones Greek Lexicon), the most fundamental of which is “to become” and, only derivatively, “to be [born]” (absolute sense). Normally, in the sense of “to become”, genesthai is followed by a predicate, which is apparently not the case with John 8:58, so, the Greek phrase prin abraam genesthai is usually understood as though genesthai was actually used in the absolute sense, and consequently translated with something like “before Abraham was [born]” => “before Abraham existed” .

    But, as I have already written in a comment at “podcast episode 63 – Thomas Belsham and other scholars on John 8:58”, one of the arguments raised by Belsham (A Calm Inquiry Into the Scripture Doctrine Concerning the Person of Christ, § 3, pp. 53-55) is that of double ellipsis:

    (1) Instead of interpreting genesthai as absolute (“to be [born]”), we can suppose that genesthai means “to become”, in an elliptical sense to be determined.

    (2) Besides, the second clause (egô eimi) is normally considered elliptical by many exegetes (who do not understand it as “I am” in the absolute sense, with further associations with the “I am” [MT Hbr hayah; LXX Grk egô eimì] at Exodus 3:14). These exegetes (and I with them) consider “I am” as implying something like, “I am [he]”, viz. “I am [the Messiah]”.

    If we consider (1) and (2) above, the key phrase at John 8:58 becomes:

    [Literal English] before Abraham becomes [ellipsis], I am [the Messiah]

    Unpacking the first [ellipsis], we may have:

    “Before Abraham becomes [father of a multitude (viz. of nations) – Gen 17:5] I am [the Messiah]”

    Less obscurely, what Jesus is saying to “the Jews” may be something like this:

    “And verily I say, that the time for the accomplishment of what he [Abram/Abraham] foresaw is not yet arrived: for before Abram shall be Abraham, i. e. become the father of many nations, according to the import of his name, I am [here and now] the Christ your Messiah.” (Interpretation and paraphrase of John 8:58 provided at the Theological Repository vol. iv. p. 351, as quoted by Thomas Belsham in A Calm Inquiry Into the Scripture Doctrine Concerning the Person of Christ, p. 54)

    Let’s also consider that Paul interprets the repeated promise of God to Abraham (“and to his seed”, Hbr zera’, Grk sperma – Gen 12:7; 13:15; 17:7; 24:7) not generically applied to his descendants, but to a very specific “seed”: the Messiah. See here:

    Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say, “and to the seeds”, referring to many, but “and to your seed” referring to one, who is Christ. (Galatians 3:16)

    To end with, Belsham records that this interpretation of John 8:58 was first proposed by the Polish Socinians (presumably and specifically, the Polish Brethren, a non-trinitarian Protestant church that existed in Poland from 1565 to 1658).

    So that interpretation of John 8:58 should satisfy also Socinian Unitarians … 🙂

  25. Rivers
    December 17, 2014 @ 1:12 pm

    Nathan,

    I agree with your suggestion that what Jesus said in John 8:58 should be simplified (especially the “I am” part which has unfortunately been the focus of almost all debate about the meaning of the verse).

    EGW EIMI is nothing more than the simplest way to express “I am [the someone or something at the present time]”. It is used this way numerous times by the writer of the 4th Gospel with no implication of any “perfect progressive” sense that a translation like “I have been” would mean in English.

    In the context of John 8:51-58, it makes perfectly good sense that Jesus was simply saying that “I am (presently)” the one who’s day Abraham saw (John 8:56). I don’t think it’s necessary to infer anything from “I am” about how Jesus Christ might “have been” understood (prophetically) or “have been” existing (substantially) prior to his own personal awareness of who he “is” claiming to be in the immediate context of the conversation.

  26. Rivers
    December 17, 2014 @ 10:30 am

    Dale,

    Thanks again for your comments. Please consider a further clarification here.

    If John 8:58 is a resurrection text (which I have labored to show is quite plausible based upon the unusual use of the Aorist Infinitive of GINOMAI), then the reason that the Jews may have been offended by the thought that Jesus had somehow “seen” Abraham is because they didn’t understand that Abraham was actually going to be “living” again (Matthew 22:31-33) because Jesus was “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) appearing in their own day.

    It’s interesting to compare the two “truly, truly I say to you” statements in the context of John 8:51-58.

    “Truly, truly I say to you, if anyone keeps my word [like Abraham?], he will never taste of death” (John 8:51)

    “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham becomes [free from his death], I am [the one Abraham believed would come]” (John 8:58).

    In other words, just as Nicodemus misunderstood the meaning of being “born again” as referring to a second biological birth (Aorist Infinitive of GENNAW) instead understanding it to be about resurrection life through Jesus Christ, so also the Jews themselves misunderstood that Jesus was saying he had “seen” Abraham before he “died” (John 8:53) instead of realizing that the presence (EGW EIMI) of Jesus Christ in their own “day” meant that Abraham was going to be “freed from death” (John 8:52) to “exist again” (Aorist Infinitive of GINOMAI) at the resurrection.

  27. Nathan
    December 17, 2014 @ 6:50 am

    Sean,

    I concur.

    Throughout the Gospel accounts I can think of only two types of response that Jesus employs when confronted by his detractors, namely, answering their charge or remaining silent. It seems changing the subject was not one of them.

    Nathan

  28. Sean Garrigan
    December 17, 2014 @ 5:35 am

    Nathan,

    Thank you for sharing your insightful observations, which we can extend to the two related accounts in John (ch 5 and ch 10). Jesus responds directly and astutely to the charge that he made himself equal with God (ch 5) and to the charge that he made himself QEOS (ch 10). Why assume that at John 8:58 Jesus here chose to simply ignore their question and make a statement of his own, which seems to amount to a non sequitur?

    ~Sean

  29. Nathan
    December 16, 2014 @ 11:11 pm

    Hi Sean,

    Excellent points.

    Much hoopla is made of this Johannine passage, but it seems to me to have an elegantly simple answer. Specifically, the context shows that Jesus answers each one of the Jews’ questions in brief, in turn, and in full. Given that he replies directly to the questions asked – even if his enemies initially misunderstood him – Jesus is still seen to converge and interact with their arguments as they are presented. In this particular case, the Jews believe he is discussing his temporal (not yet fifty v. 57a) and existential (have seen v. 57b) condition, and Jesus answers promptly and precisely by stating his true temporal (before Abraham v. 58a) and existential (I am/have been v. 58b) condition.

    It would seem strange, indeed contradictory, if the one who is the “light of the world” would respond to his accusers in such a way as to heap darkness upon the minds of all those present.

    Nathan

  30. Sean Garrigan
    December 16, 2014 @ 9:48 pm

    Dale,

    “I think you’re overlooking that their question in v. 57 is based on their mistaken inference from what Jesus says in v.56. He never said that he saw Abe.”

    How do you know that it’s a mistaken inference? Here’s what Jesus said:

    “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

    It seems to me that, in this case, their inference plausibly follows from what Jesus said. After all, he just claimed to have known that Abraham saw his day and rejoiced. How did he know that? It’s certainly a plausible assumption for those familiar with the Torah that Abraham would have likely rejoiced in the knowledge that the nations would be blessed by the actions of a descendant of his son, but their minds apparently didn’t traverse that path. Rather, they apparently reasoned that this man claims to know how Abraham rejoiced over his day, and to do that he would have to have personally seen Abraham rejoice.

    ~Sean

  31. Dale
    December 16, 2014 @ 9:31 pm

    Hi Sean,

    I think you’re overlooking that their question in v. 57 is based on their mistaken inference from what Jesus says in v.56. He never said that he saw Abe. We don’t need to think he’s now in v. 58 explaining how he saw Abe, in effect saying “I’m not yet 50? Hah! I’m older than Abe!”

    “I have been in existence since before Abraham was born!”

    As I understand it, this is possible given the grammar. But it’s not clear to me that existence the issue. Speaking of idioms, he’s just in this chapter used ego eimi to mean “I am ___” – translations supply “he” – we could say “the one.” But it’s clear that he’s delicately saying that he’s the Messiah, which he dares not say explicitly and unequivocally. (8:24)

    You’re reading Jesus as taking the age question seriously. I read him as plowing past the misunderstanding, and continuing to address his greatness relative to Abe.

    If we take the verbs as you suggest, we really have

    “I am / have been ___ since before Abraham was born!”

    And still, it makes more sense to me to fill in Messiah, than it does to fill in existence. I don’t see a problem re: existence in God’s mind. When thinking that way, one imagines the predestined thing/person/event as it were coming down from heaven, from where it was stored up for so long. That is, one imagines a change from merely mental existence to existence. But that’s not a real change, for a thing doesn’t (literally) exist before the first moment of its existence.

  32. Dale
    December 16, 2014 @ 9:14 pm

    Your paraphrase:
    ““Jesus said to them [Jews], truly truly I say to you, before Abraham exists again [in my day], I am [the one who’s day he rejoiced to see]”

    This is a strange thing to say. It is consistent with Jesus only becoming Messiah, say, 1000 years in the future of this conversation. Also, I think his point is that he’s the Messiah, not only that he’s the one Abe rejoiced to foresee. But maybe that’s what you meant above. Still, no, I don’t see how this fits in with what went before. This doesn’t connect with the topic of Jesus’s greatness relative to Abe.

    In contrast, mine and the pre-existence reading connect with what went before – the issue of Jesus’s greatness relative to Abe’s. Jesus was already (so to speak) Messiah (my view) or in existence (pre-existence reading). Either way, it is at least arguable that he’s shown thereby to be at least as great as Abe.

  33. Sean Garrigan
    December 16, 2014 @ 4:02 pm

    Dale,

    I’ve asked this of others, so I thought it now appropriate to ask you. McKay and others understand that the Extension from Past idiom is at work at John 8:58. If we go with that, we have a statement that can be expressed in English this way:

    “I have been in existence since before Abraham was born!”

    This answers the question in the previous verse, i.e. how could Jesus have seen Abraham while he rejoiced.

    So the question: What are the odds that the verse contains the necessary parts to form a known Greek idiom, and a rendering based on that idiom results in a rather exquisite direct reply to the question asked, yet that NOT be what the author intended? Under the circumstances, it seems extraordinarily implausible to me to suggest that the idiom grammarians see isn’t really at work. Moreover, a claim to mere prophetic existence doesn’t answer the question asked, while a claim to personal existence does.

    ~Sean

  34. Rivers
    December 16, 2014 @ 3:10 pm

    Dale,

    I understand your different perspective on the interpretation of the passage (which I don’t think it any more convincing than you think my points are). 🙂

    My intent was only to point out another option. I didn’t intend to develop its relationship to the rest of the context because, if one doesn’t see the translation any differently, he isn’t going to see the context differently either. Let me respond to a couple of your points. I appreciate that you took the time to write such a long reply.

    1. I agree that the verb GINOMAI has a wide semantic range (e.g. “appearing”, as you noted). However, most translators render it “was born” in John 8:58. My point was simply to show that GINOMAI is not the verb that this writer used to refer to “birth.” Yes, the wirter did use GINOMAI for “appearing” and that would still make perfectly good sense if I were to translate the first clause as “before Abraham appears [again].”

    2. Respectfully, you seem to be confusing word usage (word count) with how verbs function in biblical Greek. The main point I made about the Aorist Infinitive form of GINOMAI is the way this writer used it to convey something that hadn’t taken place yet. Thus, even if one defines GINOMAI as something like “appearing” (as you suggested), the form of the verb can determine whether the writer was trying to convey a particular “time” of the action. I was simply suggesting that it’s unlikely that a “past” tense was intended by the unusual Aorist Infinitive form (based upon how the writer used it a few other times).

    3. For the sake of brevity here, I don’t want to try to develop the relationship between the Aorist Infinitive in John 8:58 and the full context of the conversation Jesus had with the Jews. However, I think it’s the immediate context that is most important to understanding why Jesus used GENESQAI. I’ll just offer you an amplified paraphrasing so that you can discern how I see that it relates quite easily to the point Jesus makes in John 8:51-58:

    “Jesus said to them [Jews], truly truly I say to you, before Abraham exists again [in my day], I am [the one who’s day he rejoiced to see]”

    What the Jews didn’t understand is that Jesus wasn’t talking about having seen Abraham in the past, but that he had the power to glorify God by raising the dead (including Abraham, John 8:53). Thus, Jesus was telling the Jews that he was going to see Abraham at the resurrection on the last day (John 11:24-26) when they would be together in the kingdom (Matthew 8:11). 🙂

  35. Dale
    December 16, 2014 @ 1:29 pm

    You’re welcome, Pär!

  36. Dale
    December 16, 2014 @ 1:29 pm

    Rivers, thanks for the comment. I’m afraid, though, that I can’t take the suggested interpretation as a serious option.

    About your first two points, I don’t see that birth per se really has anything to do with it. He doesn’t need to refer to Abraham’s *birth* to make the point that even before Abraham (i.e. before that time) he was ___. Note that the verb can mean “appearing” (e.g. on the scene of history). http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/kjv/ginomai.html

    So I don’t think those first two points reduce the probability of a past reference one iota.

    About three and four: as you know, it takes much more than grammatical possibility for a reading to be plausible. It has to make sense in the context of the conversation. I might write a book about baseball, and use “bat” 1000 times. But then if I write in that book “DiMaggio’s car flew around the corner like a bat out of hell.” – we all know that there, in the 1001st usage, I mean by “bat” not the wooden stick, but rather the flying mammal. The previous 1000 uses of “bat” to mean the stick used in baseball don’t reduce the probability of that interpretation at all.

    So, that brings us to your fifth point.

    Let’s look at the “flow” of the conversation, and see if your fifth point illuminates what is going on.

    Jesus promises his believers immortality. (51)
    His opponents find this outrageous. Seemingly (wrongly) inferring that he’s claiming that he’ll never die, they object that even the great Abe died. So did the prophets. They demand to know if Jesus thinks he is greater than those guys. Who do you think you are, anyway? (52-3)
    Jesus says he won’t toot his own horn. But God has tooted it on his behalf – the one his opponents *say* is their god. But God (the Father) really is *Jesus’s* friend and boss. Unlike them, Jesus does what God says to do. Back now to the matter of Abe vs. Jesus. Who’s greater? (54-5)
    Well, Abe foresaw Jesus’s “day,” and rejoiced, presumably because he knew that Jesus, the messiah, is accomplishing a greater ministry on that day. (56)

    Note that the subject-matter is the past here, Rivers. Jesus is clearly talking about something Abe did in Abe’s lifetime, long ago.

    What??!!?!?!?!?!? You’re too young to have seen Abe! (57)
    (Now they’re really mad, and have wrongly inferred that Jesus is claiming to have existed back then.)

    Jesus, continuing his point that he’s greater than Abe, doesn’t correct them, but piles on: not only that, guys, but even before Abe came on the scene, I am [he, i.e. the Messiah].

    So, presumably the subject is still the past, and even “before” that, so, farther in the past, Jesus at that time, or perhaps *ever since* that time, is the Messiah. (We fill in the missing description from verses 24, 28-9, 36, 42 – and really the context of the entire book. The crucial point to believe is that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.)

    In sum, I don’t see that Abe’s resurrection is in view here at all.

    I understand Jesus’s thought on either the pre-existence reading or the one I hold to, as explained in the podcasts. But I don’t at all understand what Jesus’s point would be on your interpretation. What would Jesus be asserting to be “before” Abe’s resurrection? His own existence? His messiahship? In either case, why?

  37. Pär Stenberg
    December 16, 2014 @ 12:45 pm

    Thank you Dale for a great podcast. I’m very grateful that you took the time to present the interpretations of the Fathers. 🙂

  38. Rivers
    December 16, 2014 @ 11:18 am

    Dale,

    I don’t think that the options are limited to what has been presented here.

    Each of the views discussed so far are predicated upon the notion that the first clause of John 8:58, PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI (“before Abraham …), must be referring to the time of the genealogical birth of Abraham. However, there are several reasons that this is not likely (and I think leads to the wrong conclusions about the implication of the second clause, EGW EIMI (“I am”).

    First, the writer of the 4th Gospel used the verb GINOMAI over 40 other times and never associated the verb with anyone’s “birth.” If this writer is also the “John” of Revelation 1:1-2, then there is another 20 times that he used GINOMAI and did not associate it with “birth.”

    Second, when the writer of the 4th Gospel the did speak of “birth” (21 times), he always used the verb GENNAW. This was true of both genealogical “birth” (e.g. John 9:19-20) as well as being “born of the spirit” (John 3:3-6) and “born of God” (e.g. 1 John 5:1).

    Third, the form of the verb GINOMAI in John 8:58 is an Aorist Infinitive (GENESQAI) which can be taken to mean that something was going to happen to Abraham “again” (implying future tense, and not past tense). Thus, the first clause could be translated “before Abraham becomes” or “before Abraham comes to be” or “before Abraham exists again”. It does not have to be taken as referring to anything that happened to Abraham in the past.

    Fourth, there are other examples of where the writer used the Aorist Infinitive to speak of an event happening to someone “again.” The writer has Nicodemus using it to speak of someone being “born again” (John 3:4) and when the scriptures spoke of “rising again” (John 20:9). Likewise, the use of the Aorist Infinitive in John 8:58 may have been intended to speak of Abraham “coming to be” or “existing again” at the time of his resurrection.

    Fifth, if the Aorist Infinitive form of GINOMAI does imply something happening to Abraham yet future (in the historical context of John 8:58), then it would mean that the “I am” (EGW EIMI) can simply be taken in the usual sense of expressing nothing more than the fact that Jesus Christ was (presently) the person of whom he was speaking of himself (e.g. “the son of man”, John 8:28, or the one who’s day Abraham had rejoiced to see, John 8:56).