Prophetic Perfects in the Psalms

Charles David Isbell cisbell at
Wed Apr 18 19:29:38 EDT 2001

Yet in English as well, we use tenses rather loosely in certain contexts.
We have a historical present, do we not?  "A guy walks into a bar with a
parrot on his shoulder, ..."  is something that clearly has already happened
or we could not tell about it.  But the present tense form lends an air of
immediacy or participation in an actual event.
Also, if I should say, "You are dead," I can clearly be referring to an
event yet in the future, again despite the use of a present tense form.
So why could not a prophet use the perfect form to describe something that
he believed was absolutely certain to happen, even though it was strictly
still in his future?
Charles David Isbell
----- Original Message -----
From: "Rolf Furuli" <furuli at>
To: "Biblical Hebrew" <b-hebrew at>
Sent: Wednesday, April 18, 2001 5:55 PM
Subject: Re: Prophetic Perfects in the Psalms

> Dear Ken,
> In my list of 965 perfects (QATAL and not WEQATAL) in the whole Tanach,
> where reference time comes after the deictic point (future reference), 91
> are from the Psalms. Three or four of these are "future perfect" and the
> rest are simple future. This indicates that there are about as many QATALs
> with future reference in the Psalms as elsewhere.
> I will use the opportunity to ask the list for a definition of "prophetic
> perfect" which is not a tautology. In my view the term is meaningless, and
> it was coined in the first place to try to explain away the simple fact
> that QATAL (without WAW) often has future reference.
> Regards
> Rolf
> Rolf Furuli
> University of Oslo
> >How common are the so-called "prophetic perfects" in the Psalms?
> >
> >Waltke&O'Connor and GKC don't give examples from Psalms, and I don't have
> >Diethelm Michel's study on tenses in the Psalms with me today.
> >
> >E. Puech wants to take the perfect verbs of salvation in the Hodayot as
> >prophetic perfects. I'm trying to determine how unusual this would be.
> >
> >Ken Penner
> >Ph.D. student, Biblical Field (Early Judaism)
> >McMaster University
> >Hamilton, Canada
> >
> ---
> You are currently subscribed to b-hebrew as: [cisbell at]
> To unsubscribe, forward this message to
> To subscribe, send an email to join-b-hebrew at

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list