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From conversation in an anime (へうげもの、第15話):

(古田佐助) 遠く南蛮に至るまで小さきが良いなどと聞いたこともございませぬ。

千宗易) 茶頭である以前に、しがない魚問屋にすぎぬ私ですらわかるのです。いずれ皆にも伝わることでしょう。(字幕)

Is it 以前 ② or ③ from here? I'm confused because ③ seems to go with context (though ② may fit as well?) but I've not seen it used without a past-tense 助動詞.

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This usage of 「[以前]{いぜん}」 is actually quite common. We say things like:

「ファッションモデルである以前にひとりの[人間]{にんげん}です。このような[扱]{あつか}いは[許]{ゆる}せません。」

"I am a human being before I am a fashion model. I refuse to be treated like this."

Here, 「以前」 is being used to describe priorities in a given situation rather than a temporal order of things. Even though the focus is on the priorities, it is also true that the speaker has been a human longer than she has been a model.

Thus, I would have to pick ② if I had to choose among the three.

  • togetter.com/li/237018 「あの年代の人達にとってみれば店員は店員である以前に人間なのだが、我々の世代にしてみれば店員は人間である以前に店員なのだと感じた。」 You can also ignore the temporal order. – broccoli forest Jan 24 '16 at 15:16

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