Pseudocircumstantial sequential clauses

Dave Washburn dwashbur at
Tue Dec 5 12:27:45 EST 2000

> What is the significance of a pseudocircumstantial sequential clause?
> Is it simply a syntactical issue in that, it is anomalous to have a
> sequential clause with the subject preceding the verb (Wenham, 212. vol.
> 1)?
> I do not have access to F.I. Anderson, _The Sentence in Biblical Hebrew_.
> So, would someone kindly assist me by providing the germane section from
> pages 87-88 concerning what he says about pseudocircumstantial sequential
> clauses? (For he record the theological library near my house doesn't have
> it either, so I'm not being lazy. ;-)

Here is what Andersen says (note the spelling of his name):

A string of WP clauses in narrative prose stages events as 
occurring in a time sequence one after the other.  It is implied that 
one is finished before the next begins, so it is possible to speak of 
the verbs as 'perfective' in aspect.  So the successive generations 
are described in Ge 5 and in parts of Ge 10 and 11 by a series of 
clauses beginning wayyoled, and he engendered.
  Such a time sequence is normally broken by a circumstantial 
clause, which represents an event as contemporaneous; at least it 
does not place it in sequence.  It is therefore surprising and 
unaccountable that Ge 14:18 uses clauses of the kind we-X yalad 
'et-Y, even though a sequence of generations isbeing traced, and 
simultaneity is out of the question.  These pseudo-circumstantial 
clauses are restricted to the genealogies, and are commonly 
ascribed toe the J source.  Examples: Ge 4:18, 26, 10:8, 13, 15, 
24, 26, 22:23, 25:3.  The genealogies also alternate wayehi X with 
we-X hay (11:12, 14) with no evident difference in discourse 
  Apart from these examples confined to genealogical texts, this 
happens rarely.  Ge 22:1b could be an example.  Ge 44:4 is 
another.  Here the first event in the new episode (and not a 
preliminary circumstance) is weyosep 'amar... instead of the 
expected wayyo'mer yosep.  This is preceded by an elaborate time 
margin of four clauses.  In Ge 38:25 the sequence hi' muse't wehi' 
saleha 'el-hamiha is a strange alternative to *wehi' muse't 
wattislah... This is the more surprising in view of Ge 38's 
impeccable use of WP clauses.  The Flood Story contains a 
possible example in Ge 7:6--wehammabbul haya instead of 
*wayehi hammabbul as thefirst event, rather than the circumstance 
of the deluge.  Compare the similar but more celebrated problem of 
Ge 1:2 with weha'ares hayeta rather than *wattehi ha'ares, if this is 
the first event of creation.
  Ge 4:22 is chiastic, and authentically circumstantial.  Note gam-
hi' (compare Ge 4:4).  In Ge 4:25-26, 10:21, 25 the passive is used 
in the circumstantial clause.

Any typos or other errors in the above are my own, not Andersen's.

Dave Washburn
"No study of probabilities inside a given frame can ever
tell us how probable it is that the frame itself can be
violated."  C. S. Lewis

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