Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Greek Exercise

How do I meaningfully blog on Greek exegesis- or translation? Does anyone care? And if they do, how much Greek do they know? So let me just start in the middle and see what I learn!
John 8:58
εἰπεν αὐτοις Ἰησους-ἀμην ἀμην λεγω ὑμιν, πριν Ἀβρααμ γενεσθαι ἐγω εἰμι.

εἰπεν - he said (past tense, Aorist)
αὐτοις - to them
Ἰησους - Jesus

Because word order in Greek doesn't determine meaning as it does in English, we recognise that Jesus is the subject of the sentence from the form of the word Ἰησους and so the translation so far is 'Jesus said to them'.
I've put a hyphen next - it should be a dot in the middle of the line, but I can't find it on my keyboard! Here it implies that direct speech follows.

ἀμην - truly
ἀμην - truly (again!)
λεγω - I say
ὑμιν - to you (plural).

πριν - before that
Ἀβρααμ - Abraham
γενεσυαι - came to be: This is where it gets fun! The verb is infinitive, I think because it needs to be after πριν (before that). It is also not possible to tell whether the intention is active or passive because the verb forms are the same. But I can't think of any other meaningful way of translating it except 'came to be'.

So far 'truly truly I say to you, before that Abraham came to be'.

ἐγω - this a pronoun emphasising 'I' because the pronoun is already implicit in the verb (which is why you don't see ἐγω above with I say).
εἰμι - I am.

Thus the whole sentence in my own translation:

Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly I say to you (pl); Before Abraham came to be I (with emphasis) am."


Thomas Scarborough said...

Word order is interesting. In German one may say "Ihm gab ich es" or "Ich gab es ihm", while in English one can't easily swap things around the same way. The conclusion is that grammar and syntax are methods of compression. What do they compress? Ah, now there's an interesting question.

Jenny Hillebrand said...

I didn't know that about German. Why do you conculde that they are methods of compression? Sounds interesting.