Expository discourse "profile"

Paul Zellmer zellmer at digitelone.com
Fri Sep 24 20:12:22 EDT 1999

Dear Bryan,

A month ago, you posted the quoted proposal for the Is 44 passage that
Rolf had brought up.  (I apologize for quoting it in its entirety, but I
did it purposefully, not out of mere laziness.  After all, it has been a
while since we saw it.)  I held off starting this thread at the time so
that the discussion would not be intermixed with the falsification
attempts by Rolf.  Since he has restated twice now during this past
month a summary of his point of view, perhaps enough distance has been
opened that we can look at your thoughts somewhat dispassionately.  I
hope you have a bit of time for a colloquy, because this is an analysis
which will probably take a bit of "back-and-forth" since it is really
too large to handle in a single message or two.  Of course, that last
statement would not be true if you have progressed beyond the "Tentative
Expository Discourse Profile Scheme" given in your grammar as part of
your discussion of your third reading, on Judges 16:4-20.

Assuming that you do have the time to enter into this, let me ask a
couple of clarifying questions:
--You see this text as expository discourse, whose task (according to
your grammar) is to "explain and/or argue a thesis."  Do you see this as
basically the same "thing" that Bob Longacre classified as expository in
_The Grammar of Discourse_?  I understand that he sees this as a major
subdivision of discourses marked by the unimportance of the actual agent
and sequence of events.
--Because I am proposing that we have this colloquy on-list, I think the
next question is appropriate, because the term will probably come up.
When we talk about off-the-line (most of the time, the term has been
used in discussions of narratives), you have pictured the concept as
impeding or stopping the forward flow of the action (my words, not
yours).  Would "off-the-line" here mean impeding or stopping the forward
flow of explanation or argument?  Would another explanation of the term
be that the reader/hearer would have to work or think a bit harder about
how this "off-the-line" item contributes positively to the overall
purpose of the discourse?  I think that this applies in the Is 44
passage, because most of what we have here is illustration.
Illustrations may make explanations and arguments interesting, but they
often need further explanation to clarify their applicability.

Just a quick observation about your proposed translation:  Although I
understand your proposal that the qatal tends more toward description of
the noun and farther away from the description of the action than does
the yiqtol, I find your phrase, "X is the Y-er of..." to be overly
misleading in this particular genre.  In my opinion, on the "adjectival
force/action" continuum, the participle seems to be even closer to
"adjectival force" than the qatal, implying that the qatal does still
carry a good bit of the concept of the action.  In this genre where
action is downplayed, your translation of the qatal sounds just like
many would translate the participle.  This gives more force to these
clauses in your translation than I believe the discourse profile

Because most on the list have probably not written to you yet to get a
copy of your grammar, please allow me to include your "Tentative
Expository Discourse Profile Scheme" that you gave there.  [Mainline
refers to the type of clauses which directly move the flow of the
discourse forward.  The higher the number of "off-the-line" form, the
more this type of clause impedes the forward flow of the discourse.]

Mainline: 1.  Verbless clause

           2.  Clauses with qatal of HAYAH
                3.   X-qatal of other roots
                      4.  Clauses with a participle as predicate, yiqtol
with a present time
                           reference, irrealis
                          5.  Qatal and yiqtol in dependent clauses
                               6.  Embedded discourse

Hope this takes off, because I agree that an understanding of the
expository discourse seems to be of greater importance to the
understanding of poetry than that of prose in BH.


----- Original Message -----
From: Bryan Rocine <brocine at earthlink.net>
To: Biblical Hebrew <b-hebrew at franklin.oit.unc.edu>
Sent: Friday, August 27, 1999 9:39 PM
Subject: Isa 44:12-17

> In his quest to falsify traditional explanation of BH verbal
> semantics, Rolf has brought up Isa 44:12-17.  Here's my take
> on the passage:
> First let me suggest a macro-structure for the passage.  The
> passage *describes* the idolotrous labors of the Israeli
> workmen for which they will be ashamed.
> The variety of verb forms used in the passage, together with
> the descriptive (as opposed to narrative) function of the
> passage as a whole suggests that the passage is
> *expository*.  When we translate BH expository texts into
> English, we usually translate them as present tense or
> present perfect.
> As an expository text, the passage describes the habitual
> behavior of the workmen.  *All* the BH verb forms are useful
> in a passage that describes habitual behavior.  I suggest
> the yiqtols are fientive expressing what the workman *does*;
> the qatals and weqatals are attributive expressing what the
> workman *is*; and the wayyiqtols fientive and perfective,
> similar to the yiqtols but also expressing, by virtue of
> their perfectivity, consequentiality.  Here is 12-15 line by
> line to illustrate:
> O, the artisan of iron, a tool!
> And he is a worker (weqatal) in the coals,
> And it is with hammers that he forms (yiqtol) it.
> And then he (even) works (wayyiqtol) it with his arm of
> strength (i.e. he wears himself out working the idol);
> He is even hungry and without strength (verbless);
> But he is no drinker (qatal) of water, and so he faints
> (wayyiqtol).
> O the artisan of wood!
> He is a strecher forth (qatal) of rule;
> He sketches (yiqtol) it with the stylus;
> He makes (yiqtol) it with chisels;
> And it is with the compass that he sketches (yiqtol) it.
> And then he makes (wayyiqtol) it after the fashion of a man,
> and after the glory of mankind to remain in its place.
> O for his pruning of cedars!
> And then he takes (wayyiqtol) cypress and oak.
> Then he strengthens (wayyiqtol) [them] for himself among the
> trees of the forest.
> He is a planter (qatal) of fir,
> And rain makes (yiqtol) [them] great.
> It should be (weqatal) for man to burn (here weqatal of hyh
> signals a change in mood as it most often does).
> So he would then take (wayyiqtol) from them,
> And become warm (wayyiqtol).
> Maybe he would kindle a fire (yiqtol),
> And then be a baker (weqatal) of bread.
> Rather, he makes (yiqtol) a god (we shift here back to the
> original mood),
> And then he worships (wayyiqtol).
> He is a maker (qatal) of it [into] an idol,
> And then prostrates (wayyiqtol) to it.
> Notice how the qatals/weqatals are used in introductory and
> summary statements and wayyiqtol is used in continuative
> statements as befits their meanings.
> Shalom,
> Bryan
> B. M. Rocine
> Associate Pastor
> Living Word Church
> 6101 Court St. Rd.
> Syracuse, NY 13206
> (office) 315.437.6744
> (home) 315.479.8267
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