Exodus 3:14

Discussion in '2004 Archive' started by gb93433, Mar 11, 2004.

  1. gb93433

    gb93433
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    In the MT the word for the English "I am" is in the imperfect tense. But in the LXX it is the present tense. Anybody have any idea why the difference? Why is the LXX not in the imperfect tense also?

    Exodus 3:14, "God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, `I AM has sent me to you.' "
     
  2. Charles Meadows

    Charles Meadows
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    Don't get too bogged down in tenses lining up in various languages. The tenses in Greek and certainly in Hebrew have much more aspectual significance than they do temporal significance. The tense conveys information about the completedness of the action given the standpoint of the subject - not just the concept of past or present or future. The Hebrew imperfect in general connotes an action which is not completed. It can be translated as past, present, or future depending upon context. By saying "ehyeh asher ehyeh" - I am that I am - literally "I will be who I'll be" - the imperfect tense is used to convey that the action of being is not completed. The Greek imperfect (which is not used as frequently and might literally be rendered, "I was being". The LXX present tense is fine here. Also the aorist tense could conceivably have been used here.

    [​IMG]
     
  3. ScottEmerson

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    I don't agree about the aorist tense for the simple fact that the punctiliar sense of time wouldn't really fit. I could be wrong though, and have been several times before... (Okay, MANY times before). The LXX's tense I think is fine, and is seen when Christ declares that he also is "I AM."
     
  4. Charles Meadows

    Charles Meadows
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    Scott,

    You're right the present is probably better than aorist. Seems like different authors vary use of several tenses to make staements like this. BUt the present seems best.

    CM
     
  5. gb93433

    gb93433
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    I always thought the Greek imperfect denoted incomplete action. So I am wondering why it was not used instead of the present tense.
     
  6. Craigbythesea

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    The imperfect tense in Greek is always a past tense which conveys the idea of continuous action in past time. Therefore the LXX uses the present indicative in Exodus 3:14.

    Hebrew has no tense, in the strict sense of the word. The inflections of a Hebrew verb indicate the state of the action rather than the time of the action. The Hebrew verb has only two tense-forms, the perfect and the imperfect, besides an imperative, two infinitives, and one participle. As for the perfect and imperfect states of the Hebrew verb, see the following:

    “For our present purpose the following account will suffice:—The name Imperfect is here used in direct contrast to the Perfect, and is to be taken in a wider sense than in Latin and Greek grammar. The Hebrew (Semitic) Perf. Denotes in general that which is concluded, completed, and past, that which has happened and has come into effect; but at the same time, also that which is represented as accomplished, even though it be continued into present time or even be actually still future. The Imperf. denotes, on the other hand, the beginning, the unfinished, and the continuing, that which is just happening, which is conceived as in process of coming to pass, and hence also, that which is yet future ; likewise also that which occurs repeatedly or in a continuous sequence in the past (Latin Imperf.). It follows from the above that the once common designation of the Imperf. as a Future emphasizes only one side of its meaning. In fact, the use of Indo-Germanic tense-names for the Semitic tenses, which was adopted by the Syrians under the influence of the Greek grammarians, and after their example by the Arabs, and finally by Jewish scholars, has involved many misconceptions. The Indo-Germanic scheme of three periods of time (past, present, and future) is entirely foreign to the Semitic tense-idea, which regards an occurrence only from the point of view of completed or incomplete action.—In the formation of the two tenses the chief distinction is that in the Perfect the verbal stem precedes and the indication of the person is added afterwards for precision, while in the Import the subject, from which the action proceeds or about which a condition is predicated, is expressed by a prefixed pronoun.”

    Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, As Edited And Enlarged By The Late E. Kautzsch, Second Edition, Revised In Accordance With The Twenty-Eighth German Edition (1909) By A. E. Cowley. Oxford, At The Clarendon Press

    Therefore the Masoretic text uses the imperfect tense-form in Exodus 3:14. The Greek imperfect tense and the Hebrew imperfect state are not at all equivalent.
     
  7. gb93433

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    Thanks for your help. I have been wondering for a long time about this.
     
  8. Pete Richert

    Pete Richert
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    Aorist does NOT always denote punctiliar time. Check Carson's Exegetical falacies. Aorist aspect is undefined so that it can be punctiliar, not punctiliar, only context can tell. This is a basic Greek misunderstanding.
     
  9. Craigbythesea

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    The aorist indicative conveys past time only, and may or may not be punctiliar. In other moods the aorist conveys punctiliar action without reference to the time of the action. In these moods the context determines the time of the action.
     
  10. ScottEmerson

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    And while there are exceptions to the aorist/punctiliar rule, in general it does denote a punctiliar action. I still think that aorist would not "fit" the text as well as the one the LXX uses.
     
  11. Charles Meadows

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    I don't think that anyone would argue that the present tense is probably the best one here - but it certainly would not be impossible to say this with an aorist. There's some varying degrees of usage between authors in biblical as well as classical Greek and as such it's difficult to assign strict rules to "tenses".
     

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