WAYYIQTOL and QATAL
Cees van Veelen
ceesv at veelen.hobby.nl
Thu Jan 20 17:16:32 EST 2000
On Thu, 20 Jan 2000 18:42:09 +0200, Alviero Niccacci wrote:
>>I try to understand the discussions on the list about the difference
>>between WAYYIQTOL and QATAL and to see what effect diffent views have
>>on the translation.
>>Now I came to Gensis 1:5:
>>And he called (WAYYIQTOL) God (subject) the light Day, and the darkness
>>He called (QATAL) night. (I kept the word order, to show the chiastic
>>This structure is found again in verse 10.
>>Now I don't see any difference in tense or aspect between WAYYIQTOL or
>>QATAL in these examples.
>Dear Cees van Veelen,
> In order to understand the function of a tense transition
>from wayyiqtol to x-qatal such as the one attested in Gen 1:5 and 10,
>it is useful to consult Jouon #118d-g, were 4 different such cases
>are listed. Jouon states that "biblical writers deliberately avoid
>wayyiqtol and replace it with w- ... qatal when they do not want to
You are right - I only looked briefly to #118f. Now I understand his
> This is a good start. If the writer had used a second
>wayyiqtol in Gen 1:5, the naming of the darkness would have been
>presented as a coordinated, successive item to the naming of the
>light, i.e. "THEN God called the light day AND THEN he called the
(By itself that would have made sense: you cannot say the words 'day'
and 'night' at the same time - they have to be spoken one after the
> Instead by avoiding a second wayyiqtol and shifting to
>x-qatal, he intends to show that the second naming is not
>coordinated, successive to the previous one, and on the same level
>with it, but it is rather communicated in constrast with it,
>connected with it, even dependent on it, i.e. "Then God called the
>light day WHILE (AT THE SAME TIME, or SIMILARLY, or ON THE OTHER
>HAND) he called the darkness night."
> I think that wayyiqtol signals the narrative mainline, or
>foreground, while x-qatal signals a secondary line, or background, of
>the preceding wayyiqtol. Indeed, *welaxo$ek qara' layla* is not an
>independent sentence, it can not stand alone in the text, it needs
>rely on a narrative wayyiqtol.
> The narrative wayyiqtol can precede, as in Gen 1:5, 10, or
>follow, as in Gen 3:1 and 4:1. When the narrative wayyiqtol precedes,
>the x-qatal conveys a background information to it.
The words 'background information' put me on a wrong track (I have read
some of your posts in the past). In Genesis 2:23 the woman is called
'isha', One cannot understand why, unless you have the background
infomation, that man is called 'ish'. And precisely that background
information is given at the end of that sentence (with indeed a x-qatal
Now in Genesis 1:5 the word 'night' does not give any background
information, that helps to understand the name 'Day'.
When you use the words 'narrative mainline' and 'secondary line' I
understand you better.
I found a midrash that comments: The Holy One, blessed be He, does not
link His name with evil but only with good. Thus it is not written ...
'and to the darkness _God_ called night' but 'to the darkness _He_
called night' (the word Elohim is not repeated in the second half of
Though it is on completely different grounds, this midrash also sees a
contrast between the two halves of the verse.
>When, on the
>contrary, the narrative wayyiqtol follows, the x-qatal conveys the
>setting of the story, or antecedent information necessary to
>understand the story that follows. In the latter case, the x-qatal
>starts a new story or a new episode of the same story as is the case
>in Gen 3:1 and 4:1.
>Peace and all good.
Cees van Veelen,
Amsterdam The Netherlands
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