Dying thou shalt die

Michael Hildenbrand hildenbr at Haas.Berkeley.EDU
Fri Aug 25 18:32:23 EDT 2000

	I don't have OED handy, but my impression is that this phrase
means nothing in English outside of the Bible.  It is simply a
word-for-word translation (transcription?) of the (cognate accusative)  
Hebrew phrase in question.  Does anyone have the KJV handy to check how
they normally translated the phrase?  Your conclusion is correct 'is
rather more like "surely you will die".'
	I do not hold to the common division of the Pentateuch into the
classical JEDP documents, but those that do are quite confident that much
of the first part of Genesis consists of P material.  It may be good to
compare the phrases as they occur in P and the other legal documents we
have in the Bible.  Two phrases occur in this material, the one we have
before us, and the passive "you/he shall be killed"  I don't have the
materials and statistics at hand (Probably somewhere in Milgrom's Anchor
Bible commentary on Leviticus), but the passive (using the cognate
accusitive) normally indicates that the offender will be executed by the
people, while the active voice ("dying you/he will die") usually indicates
that God will get him.  This seems to be the regular grammar in the P type


 On Fri, 25 Aug 2000, Peter Kirk wrote:

> I'm sorry to ask questions about English rather than Hebrew, but what do you
> think the English "Dying thou shalt die" means? To me this is almost
> meaningless, there are certainly many possible meanings though none fit
> nicely. Let's look at some of them.
> "Dying" just about could be an adjective qualifying "thou", so the meaning
> would be "You who are dying...". Adjectives very rarely qualify pronouns in
> modern English, but the use of "thou" signals that this is not modern
> English, and it may be that adjectives could qualify pronouns in older
> English.
> A more likely interpretation is that "dying" is intended as an adverbial
> phrase. In that case, it could have one of several meanings including:
> Time: "When you die, you will die"
> Manner: "In the way you die, you will die"
> Place (?): "Where you die, you will die"
> etc etc
> Which of these do you take as the "common or literal sense [which] makes
> sense"?
> In fact all of these are wrong, because the text is written in Hebrew, and
> according to the rules of Hebrew grammar the meaning is none of the above,
> but is rather more like "surely you will die".
> Peter Kirk
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Mark Wilson" <emory2002 at hotmail.com>
> To: "Biblical Hebrew" <b-hebrew at franklin.oit.unc.edu>
> Sent: Thursday, August 24, 2000 12:50 AM
> Subject: RE: Dying thou shalt die
> >
> > I still prefer the literal reading of this phrase since
> > it allows one to take the passage at face value.
> >
> > Fancy gymnastics are required to read into this passage
> > anything other than the simple meaning. Why seek another
> > sense when common or literal sense makes sense  :o )
> >
> > To wit:
> >
> > "Dying thou shalt die"
> >
> > Adam and Eve began "dying" immediately and literally.
> > There are some hard things to grasp in Genesis chapters
> > 1 and 2, but this does not seem to be one on the surface.
> >
> > What am I missing HERE?
> >
> > Thank you,
> >
> > Mark Wilson
> ---
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