NT "ho theos", and John 8: 58

by hamsterbait 27 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • hamsterbait

    The WT says that if John 1 : 1 said the Word is God it would have put the word "ho" before theos.

    John 20; 28 refers to Christ as ho theos.

    John 8: 58 in NWT is "Before Abraham came into existence I have been" (prin Abraham genesthai ego en) but the W&H greek text reads "prin Abraham genesthaiego eimi"

    There are three footnotes in the three editions of NWT to this:

    "Perfect indefinite tense" - is this a greek or hebrew tense?

    2nd Ed. "properly rendered in the perfect tense indicative"

    3rd Ed. " properly rendered in the perfect tense"

    Whilst I flatter myself that i speak French and German satisfactorily, I should like comment from those who know more of greek as I am a complete amateur here.

    How often is Christ refered to as HO Theos in NT? Why does the NWT omit "Alpha and Omega" in Rev 1: 11 and why are the three footnotes all saying different things??


  • Amazing

    The NWT is only honest when its doctrines are not at stake. I do recall that some independent scholarly criticism said that the perfect indefinite or indicative tense does not exist in Greek ... but is a Watchtower (Fred Franz) invention. I would have to do some digging to rediscover it ... but that is at least a lead for now.

    The NWT also butchers Col. 1:6 by inserting the word [other] into the text that cannot be translated from Kione' Greek in order to bolster their non-trinitarian doctrine ... the original Greek text cannot be so rendered with such an insertion in brackets. It is an act of intellectual dishonesty.

    When I get a chance, I will try to find the source regarding the tenses in Greek, as I think it will help answer your questions regarding the changes in the various editions of the NWT.

  • Earnest

    As regards the tenses used in John 8:58, Jason Beduhn says in his book Truth in Translation, p.

    On the subject of verbal tenses, there is a proper way to coordinate verb tenses in English that must be followed regardless of the idioms unique to Greek that provide the raw material for a translation. John 8:58 has two verbs,one ("am") in the present tense, and the other ("came to be") in the past (technically, the "aorist") tense. In most sentences where we see a past tense verb and a present tense verb, we would assume that the action of the past verb is earlier in time than the action of the present verb...but in John 8:58 this is not the case, and we know it is not the case because the preposition prin, "before," coordinates the relationship between the two actions represented by the verbs. This preposition tells us that the action of the verb in the present tense ("am") happened (or began to happen, or was already happening) "before" the action of the verb in the past tense ("came to be")... In John 8:58, since Jesus' existence is not completed past action, but ongoing, we must use some sort of imperfect verbal form to convey that: "I have been (since) before Abraham came to be."

    There was a thread on the omission of "Alpha and Omega" in Rev.1:11 three months ago entitled "Revelation 1:11 — Calling Leolaia and/or Narkissos" which addresses your question.

    Hope this helps.

  • Leolaia

    1) The Society never claimed that "perfect indefinite tense" was a Greek tense. This is the English tense that the Greek was being "rendered" into. The unfamiliar term "perfect indefinite tense" is from Latin nomenclature. See George Adler, A Practical Grammar of the Latin Language (1858):

    "A perfect tense serves to represent an action or event as completed, either just now or at some indefinite past time, As, amavi, "I have loved (just now)" or "I loved (once, yesterday), scripsi, "I have written (and have now done writing), or "I wrote (at some past time)". With the former of these significations it is called the prefect definite, and corresponds to the same tense in English. With the latter, it is called the perfect indefinite, and corresponds to the simple form of the English imperfect" (p. 236)

    Latin nomenclature was also applied to English by some grammarians and although many of the terms are no longer in use, they were when Franz received his education. Thus "I have seen" is categorized as perfect indefinite in Henry Sweet's A New English Grammar (1900), p. 105 and the same can be found in Michael Crowell's Dictionary of English Grammar and Handbook of American Usage (1928), p. 178. So it would be wrong to say that Franz was inventing a Greek tense that didn't exist.

  • Narkissos

    Sounds more like the description of the English tense (as the 2nd and 3rd footnotes you quote make explicit). I'm not very familiar with English grammar terminology, I would have called it "present perfect". On the 2001 CD-Rom there is no footnote at all, only a link to Appendix 6F where I can read: "The action expressed in Joh 8:58 started "before Abraham came into existence" and is still in progress. In such situation ειµ? (ei·mi´), which is the first-person singular present indicative, is properly translated by the perfect indicative." The description of the Greek tense as "present" is correct.

    The best formal parallel to this particular construction is probably LXX Psalm 89:2, which reads: "Before (pro) the mountains had been brought to existence (genèthènai) and the earth and inhabited world were formed, from eternity to eternity you are (su ei, present tense)." However the use of the present is more natural there (both in Greek and in English) than in John 8:58 because the reference is not only to the past but to the future as well (from eternity to eternity). The reference in John 8:58 is to the past only, "before (prin) Abraham was born (genesthai)"... which would more naturally call for the imperfect in the main clause, "I was" (such as in... 1:1, the Word was, èn). The oddity of the present tense when the imperfect is expected creates an intratextual link with the other peculiar uses of egô eimi in the Fourth Gospel (8:28 etc.) which are reminiscent of deutero-Isaiah (41:4; 43:10 etc.).

  • Narkissos

    Two additional remarks on BeDuhn's quote by Earnest:

    I find it amazing that BeDuhn seems to consider only the propriety of tense coordination in the target language, as if the "natural" character of the Greek expression was to be taken for granted. In principle, translation should aim at reflecting the style and level of language of the original, not to sound "smoother" or "more natural" than it is. And this can only be ascertained by comparing the particular wording of every text with general usage in the source language. Maybe BeDuhn does that elsewhere. But from a rapid survey, the overwhelming usage of Greek tense coordination is prin/pro + past tense in the circumstancial subordinate clause => past tense (perfect, aorist or imperfect) in the main clause. I found an interesting exception (which BeDuhn could have used) in Proverbs 8:25 LXX, "before (pro) the mountains were established (edrasthènai, passive aorist infinitive), before all the hills he begets (genna, present) me". But this appears to be a (meaningful?) exception: in v. 23 with a similar construction the main verb is in (past) aorist tense (ethemeliosen me), as in most cases.

    Another interesting point is that BeDuhn does suggest that the use of the present tense implies continuous action (or state), even after Abraham came to existence, and finds it necessary to add "(since)" in his translation to render it, making his "I have been" a real present perfect. Which the NWT does not. I doubt the English NWT reader understands that. The French NWT reader definitely does not. In the original edition (1974), if memory serves, the verb was in the imperfect tense, Avant qu'Abraham vînt à l'existence, j'étais (I was). In the latest revision, apparently to mimick the English, we now have the passé composé, avant qu'Abraham vienne à l'existence, j'ai été. In both cases the main verb only implies being before Abraham, not since.

  • Leolaia

    I was going to say something similar. There is something startling and adacious in the use of the present tense that rendering via an everyday run-of-the-mill tense form fails to communicate. The sense of an existence that preexists that of Abraham is not circumvented by the present tense; prin prevents one from temporally relating the present tense to the narrative present. It is therefore not necessary to use a conventional tense form that makes this more explicit than the Greek but which also eliminates all that is unusual and meaningful about using the present to talk about existence in the distant past, as well as the contextual links between egó eimi in v. 58 and its use throughout the chapter (and throughout the book as well).

    It would be really nice to get a collection of similar statements like the ones in Psalm 89:2 and Proverbs 8:25 LXX. I wish I could search the TLG by tense category and not just via specified lexical items.

  • Amazing


    So it would be wrong to say that Franz was inventing a Greek tense that didn't exist.

    Maybe ... I am not a Greek expert. I was referring to a Greek (Koine') expert who made the point that it was not valid to use the tense that Franz used to translate from Koine' Greek ... and he is the one who alleged that Fred Franz invented the usage that Greek translators would not have used. Whether the tense is valid elsewhere in other languages was not relevant to the expert. I need to dig back through my material to find who it was. I will follow along in this thread as I would like to learn more ... you and hamsterbait seem to have a very good handle on it.

  • TheOldHippie

    Franz spoke of an ENGLISH tense, not a GREEK tense. The quote from Franz has been misrepresented over and over again, and I am happy to see that Leolaia does not follow that trail.

  • WTWizard

    The Filthful and Disgraceful Slavebugger doesn't know anything about Greek, save a few letters. They altered it to fit their doctrines, and then they invent some specious excuse to make it all fit in.

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