The "times" of Isaiah
peter_kirk at sil.org
peter_kirk at sil.org
Wed Aug 11 23:19:40 EDT 1999
Thank you for your contribution and for all your hard work.
I have one question for you: how did you determine whether each form
has "past", "present", "future" etc "meaning"? (I suppose in the light
of your previous definitions you mean not "meaning" but something like
"temporal context"). Did you look at existing translations into
Norwegian, English etc? Or did you look at the Hebrew text? If the
former, you may only be exposing the inadequacies of the translators.
If the latter, I am not sure how you can avoid circular reasoning.
I think the weakness of your method is clearly seen in your statement
concerning Isaiah 44:12-17 that "all of [the verb forms] seem to
represent the same time!" I suggest you look carefully at this
passage, in Norwegian or English, and look at the potential subtleties
in the temporal and other relationships between the various clauses in
this passage. Think which conjunctions etc (other than "and") you
could put between the successive lines, e.g. (based on RSV for verse
The ironsmith fashions it: verbless
FIRST he works it over the coals; WEQATAL
THEN he shapes it with hammers, X-YIQTOL
I.E. he forges it with his strong arm; WAYYIQTOL
MEANWHILE he becomes hungry X-QATAL
SO THAT his strength fails, verbless
ALSO he drinks no water X-QATAL
and AS A RESULT is faint. WAYYIQTOL
Then, I suggest, you can go back and look at how the different Hebrew
verb forms correlate with the different temporal and logical linkages
in the text. For example, here I would note that the two X-QATALs
correspond to a "flashback" or "meanwhile" background clause, just as
in narrative, and the second WAYYIQTOL is in sequence with what
precedes, again as in narrative. (Possibly the first WAYYIQTOL was
originally WEYIQTOL but has become corrupted.) Only if you can find
absolutely no correlation can you come back and report that there your
"11 QATALs, 3 WEQATALs, 11 YIQTOLs, 5 WEYIQTOLs, and 9 WAYYIQTOLs" all
represent the same time.
I accept that Isaiah may be a good final testing ground for a model of
Hebrew verb forms, but given the complexity of the book I am not sure
that I would use it as a starting place. Do you have a verbal model
(beyond "all verb forms are synonymous") to test against Isaiah? Does
it pass the test?
But you have made an interesting point in your last paragraph. This
rather suggests to me a future perfect type of meaning for both QATAL
and WEQATAL in this context: when "the terror of the LORD, and from
the glory of his majesty" (2:10) are revealed, the humbling of men and
the exaltation of the LORD (2:11) are not the next events in sequence
but will already have happened, compare the use of X-QATAL for
flashback and background in narrative.
______________________________ Reply Separator
Subject: The "times" of Isaiah
Author: furuli at online.no at internet
Date: 11/08/1999 08:58
I have just completed a study of all the verbs (in their contexts) in the
book of Isaiah.
Judging each form in the light of the deictic point and the reference time,
I got the following statistics.
I can think of no better text for a test of one's theory/model than the
book of Isaiah. Some of the examples in my statistics above may be
disputed, but the bulk of them has a firm foundation., Even if only 50% of
my examples had a secure foundation, the numbers are alarming. A verbal
model must be able to account for most uses of verbs in the Bible, so why
not test yours against Isaiah and start with 44:12-17? If I have counted
correctly, we find in these verses 11 QATALs, 3 WEQATALs, 11YIQTOLs, 5
WEYIQTOLs, and 9 WAYYIQTOLs, and all of them seem to represent the same
A comparison of Isaiah 2:17 and 2:11 may show us something to look for in
our studies. In v 17 we find three WEQATALs with future meaning. In v 11 we
find a verse with exactly the same words (save a detail or two). The
setting here is also future, and this is expressed by the same two
WEQATALs, but the third WEQATAL in v 17 is in v 11 a QATAL. Why? Because
of the syntax! Because the subject comes first a WE- is not possible, but
the QATAL $PL has future meaning just as W$PL. We find many similar
examples throughout the Bible, and we find examples in past contexts where
an element before a YIQTOL prevents the addition of the WAYY- element as
well. The advantage of studying non-narrative texts is that we can find
these passages where it is evident that WAYY- and WE- are syntactic
(pragmatic) elements and not semantic ones.
University of Oslo
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