The "times" of Isaiah

Rolf Furuli furuli at
Mon Aug 16 15:05:53 EDT 1999

Dear Paul,

Thank you for your interesting observations. I agree in much of what you say.

>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 agree with the above paragraphs
>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.

I agree that it is my methodology that dictates my interpretation of the
Hebrew forms, but not that this has its basis in English or Norwegian
idiom. Rather its basis is the principles of modern linguistics. I do not
deny the *possibility* that what you call "generic" examples are set in a
past-time form in Hebrew. I would just say: "Give me the evidence!" And to
gather such evidence, the range of meaning of each verb form cannot be
ignored. Therefore I look forward to hear your definition of verb forms.

>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.

This is not correct! I will again stress that I study the Hebrew text in
its own right and not with English grammar as norm. Remember, for example,
that I claim that Hebrew aspect is completely different from English
aspect, although almost everybody else think they are similar.

A study of the examples of the words "Thus )FMAR YHWH" tells me that the C
and RT are identical as to time. The prophet acted as the mouthpiece of God
- he spoke God's words- and this is the very force of his message. Not the
lame "Thus said YHWH", but the foreceful "Thus says HYWH!". There are only
282 YIQTOLs of )MR and many, perhaps most of these refer to the future. The
QATAL form occurs 1,187 times and WAYYIQTOL 2,718 times; there are 1,265
other forms. If )MR only refers to the past (and half of the 282 YIQTOLs
have present meaning), this would mean that the verb )MR had present
meaning in only 2,6% of its occurrences - a very low number. In addition to
the Hebrew context, a study of how persens spoke in behalf of their gods or
rulers in cognate languages, suggests a present meaning as well.

>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.

I understand.
>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

Do you think that each verb form has a definite semantic meaning, or that
different situations of discourse can change the meaning of a form; i.e.
give it a meaning that it does not have in other contexts? Your basic
problem if you claim that Hebrew behave differently from other languages,
is to find a method which does not assume this a priori wgen you present
your data.
>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

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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