Prophetic Perfects in the Psalms

Rolf Furuli furuli at
Wed Apr 25 16:18:09 EDT 2001

Lee R. Martin wrote,

>Dear Rolf,
>You suggested that the second verb in Gen 17:20 (which is QATAL) is parallel
>to the third and fourth verbs, which are WEQATALS.  I disagree. The first
>two verbs are both QATAL and they are parallel. The next two verbs are
>WEQATAL and they are parallel.   I believe that you are driven by your
>grammatical theory driving you to forced and unnatural interpretations.
>Regarding Gen 17:16, you said that one main clause does not establish a new
>deictic point for the next clause. Of course it does. It happens thousands
>of times in the HB. It is everywhere.  Not every change of deictic point is
>introduced by a temporal clause, especially in Direct speech.
>As for perfective vs imperfective and aspect vs aktionsart, you can define
>the terms in such a way that makes the data fit your description.  The
>Hebrew verbs must be understood on their own terms, and I do not think your
>theory and your descriptions are faithful to the usage of the Hebrew verb
>system.  I see nothing in your description of "terminated" vs "unterminated"
>that illuminates the QATAL vs YIQTOL.  I disagree with every one of the
>examples that you listed below.  The QATAL signifies the completion
>(termination, if you will) of an action or state, rather than the movement
>toward completion, which would be YIQTOL. In 1 Sam 8:5, Samuel is not
>becoming old, he has become old.  His sons are not being disobedient, they
>have already been disobedient.  In 1Sam 28:13 the woman has already seen the
>apparition. In 2Sam 15:10, when they hear the trumpet, Absolom has already
>been made king. In 1 Sam 2:1, when Hannah sings, her heart has already
>rejoiced, as opposed to a YIQTOL which would be future "will rejoice."   In
>2 Sam 16:4, the statement about bowing is performative, it is finished at
>the same time that it is stated so.  Ditto with 2 Sam. 19:29.
>Your definitions of termination vs nontermination may fit the examples that
>you have given.  But It seems to me that you are asking the wrong questions
>about the Hebrew Verbs, thus your descriptions do not aid in our
>understanding of BH.  Your methodology does not help me to read Hebrew as
>Hebrew.  I do not think we are on the same page.
>Lee R. Martin

Dear Lee,

I do not intend to continue this discussion. You asked a question, I
answered the question, and you disagree with the answer. We both respect
that the other can disagree.

For the benefit of those who are somewhat confused about the question of
"future perfect" I would like to add a few comments. First: I recommend
Comrie, B, "Tense", 1985, and "Aspect", 1976, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press. Comrie is a very fine linguist whose explanations are
quite easy to follow. Second: I will make a linguistic test of one of the
passages we have been discussing, namely, Gen. 17:16. In order to see the
possible interpretations of a passage we can supply different words and see
if the clauses still are meaningful.

(1) "I will bless (WEQATAL) her and will give you (QATAL)
a son by her." (This is a neutral/literal translation.)

(2) "Next year I will bless (WEQATAL) her and at that time I will have
given you (QATAL) a son by her.

(3) "Next year I will bless (WEQATAL) her and after that I will  give you
(QATAL) a son by her.

(4) "Next year I will bless (WEQATAL) her and the blessing is that I will
give you (QATAL) a son by her.

(5) #"Next year I will bless (WEQATAL) her and I had given you (QATAL) a
son by her.

The adverbial and other words added in the English clauses (2), (3), (4)
collocates with the rest of the clauses, and the Hebrew counterparts would
collocate with the WEQATAL and QATAL as well. This shows that the Hebrew
words both *could* be used as a future perfect (2), as two future
clauses,with one event happening after the other (3), and as one and the
same event expressed by two different verbs (4). However, (5) would not be
grammatical clauses and must be rejected.

In (2),(3), and (4) the first clause creates a new deictic point,namely
"next year", but that does not mean that the next verb (the QATAL)
automatically becomes a "future perfect" (in the English sense of the
concept). To know whether the action of the QATAL comes before, is
contemporaneous with, or comes after this new deictic point, we need one or
more markers. To argue that we have a new future deictic point and
therefore the following QATAL must be a future perfect simply is
nonsensical. There are no markers in the Hebrew text, as there were in the
context of the true future perfects I earlier referred to, and which you
agreed where future perfects. So when there is no evidence for a *special*
case (future perfect), the simple future is chosen by linguists. The only
way to interpret the QATAL of the verse as future perfect is to claim that
the form QATAL *allways* includes terminated events. Thus deictic points
and contexts are irrelevant, the very form is what shows that the end is
included. But this is circular reasoning, because this is what we are
discussing. And How do we know that QATALs *allways* includes the end?



Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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