The "times" of Isaiah

Paul Zellmer zellmer at
Mon Aug 16 12:05:40 EDT 1999


I'm not quoting the previous posts in this one, because I'm not really
interacting with them here.  But, as I was travelling the two hours back
from our current primary church planting location, I realized that we
are still talking past each other on how you determine ET, RT, and C.
So I am going a bit beyond the specifics of the posts.

My statement in my last post trying to explain what I meant by the
"time-less" nature of Is 44:12-17 fell short, and I realized it.  Would
a term like "generic example" be more appropriate?  If you will allow
me, I will use that term to describe what we see in that passage.

When I made the comment that you had a methological problem specifically
dealing with "Thus says YHWH," you responded that it may be an
interpretative problem, but definitely not methological.  Rolf, as I
meditated on it, I still feel the problem is indeed methological, and it
even extends into your analyses of things like generic examples.

I recognize that there are in languages certain portions, like
historical narratives and predictions and reports of current activities,
that are very much time oriented.  As we go from one language to
another, I would be extremely surprised if the ET, RT, and C of those
portions would shift to any real extent.  However, when we deal with
other portions, like generic examples, the primary messages are not so
closely related to the times as they are some other aspect (the
attitudes demonstrated, and such like).

I would agree that all languages put these portions, the ones that focus
on something other than the relative timing of its elements to each
other and to the speaker/hearer, into some C, RT, and ET context.  But
the context that one language uses to handle a certain class on
communication does not necessarily correspond with the time context that
another language uses.  English generally handles the generic example
class by using a concurrent C, RT, and ET.  But, since the example *is*
generic, since *the example's* focus is not so much on whether it is
happening now or happened in the past or will happen in the future,
another language is not bound by English's treatment of that type of

I believe that an examination of generic examples in the Tanakh would
show that biblical hebrew handles them with the same type verbs that it
uses to handle the time-conscious relating of past events.  That does
not mean that time is important to generic examples in the Tanakh; it is
simply the form that the Tanakh uses for this class of discourse.  Just
like biblical hebrew's handling of this class does not dictate that
English must handle it the same way, neither should English's handling
of the class prevent the hebrew from placing generic examples in a
past-time form.  Yet this is exactly what your methodology (not simply
your interpretations) seem to do.

Why is it that you listed the qatals in "Thus says YHWH" as present?
Because *English* does it this way.  Why is it that you keep insisting
that the universal concept for the timing of the generic examples found
in Is 44 be present time?  Because *English* does it this way.

Now, there have been cases in the past when you have brought up
narrative passages, passages that are highly time-oriented, and have
noted some perceived uses of the hebrew verb that violates what you
understand to be the proposal of the four-component theory.  In those
cases, I would not argue that the hebrew looks at the timing of the
events differently than you analyze them.  But, Rolf, this is definitely
*not* the same type situation.

I hope that you understand that the wooden translation was not an
attempt to translate the text into good English form.  It was not.  It
was an attempt to show you how I perceived the hebrew-speakers/readers
would have understood the text.  And, since it is basically written in
the same form as narrations of past events, I feel as strong of a case
could be made for them to see it that way as the case could be made for
an English speaker, hearing a generic example, to see the events as
being present.  Guess what, Rolf.  When I hear a generic example in my
native English, I don't even pay attention to whether it is being told
in past, present, or future tenses, since it is very clear to me from
the context that the timing is not the important thing in this example.
However, my attention to the C, RT, and ET is very much in play when the
discourses are of a time-oriented nature.

It is because I see the same forms being used to do different tasks in
different types of discourses that I am not as devoted to Mari Bromen
Olsen as you have indicated in the past that you are.  I see much
benefit to her analytical processes, but I actually do believe that the
"uncancellable" can be superceded in certain particular cases without
requiring that that feature be eliminated from the meaning of whatever
we're looking at.  To give a specific example from Greek, I still feel
that the augment carries a past-time meaning in the indicative even
though there are a handful of cases where an augmented form is used in
the present.  (Hi, there, Jonathan!)   But that aside, I would be
surprised if even she would concur with a method that forces one
language's timing treatment onto the external representation of anothers
for a form in which timing does not play a major role.

Summary: I think your analytical methods should be adjusted to reflect
how critical C, RT, and ET is to the purpose for a text-type, and that
allowances should be made in these areas to reflect that different
languages handle (and, I believe, even perceive) some of these areas

Sorry to wax a bit more philosophic here.  But I think you still weren't
understanding my difficulties with the analyses on which your
discussions were based.

Paul Zellmer

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