Psalm 2:7 and Proverbs 31 ben/bar

Trevor & Julie Peterson 06peterson at
Thu Mar 21 17:15:46 EST 2002

Schmuel wrote:
>  > In Aramaic, bar is used only as a construct "son of" (Proverbs 31:2;
> Ezra 5:1-2, 6:14),
>  > whereas the absolute form of "son" in Aramaic is ber'a.
>  > the verse should have read nash-ku ber'a, "kiss the son," not nash-ku
> bar, "kiss the son of."
> I know that cross-language "rules" are very dubious..
> What do you think of this claim ?

The claim is somewhat muddled. Aramaic, like Hebrew, has three states for
nouns (more than that, if you count forms with suffixed pronouns as distinct
from construct): absolute, construct, and determined. An oversimplified
picture for "son" would be:
	Hebrew	Aramaic
abs.	been		bar
csr.	ben		bar
det.	habbeen	braa

Of course, those are only the singular forms. The plural in Aramaic actually
changes stems to match Hebrew. The plural construct, for instance, would be
exactly the same in both. Anyway, what I wanted to say about this issue is
that the claim above--that the absolute state in Aramaic is braa--is
somewhat misleading. It is true that the determined state is much more the
default in Aramaic than in Hebrew. Whereas we normally think of the
determined state in Hebrew indicating definiteness, we could almost think of
Aramaic as the opposite situation--the independent noun regularly appears in
the determined state, unless it is explicitly marked for indefiniteness by
appearing in the absolute. In the Aramaic of the Targums and in Syriac, the
absolute state is quite rare and pretty heavily marked for nouns.

So where I'm heading with this is that I have to wonder whether the
objection is legitimate. True, the absolute state may be rare and indefinite
in Aramaic, but does that mean that an Aramaic word used in Hebrew poetry
would have to follow the same patterns? We know that Hebrew avoids its own
determined state in poetry, even where the sense is clearly definite; so
wouldn't it make sense to see the same thing with an Aramaic word?

Trevor Peterson

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