[b-hebrew] Genesis 15:6

Stoney Breyer stoneyb at touchwood.net
Fri Jul 25 13:50:07 EDT 2003

Peter -

When my biographer comes to describe my previous momentous contribution
she may put it something like this:

>> In response to Slusher's inquiry, Kirk had maintained that the verb
in question could hardly bear an inceptive construction: '[There is] no
suggestion that Abraham started to believe at this point, more that he
was continuing to believe.' Breyer did not take issue with that.
However, Kirk had further maintained that '"had believed" would be a
poor translation, not least because of the implication that by this
point he had stopped believing.' Matlack in turn had queried that
implication, and it was in support of Matlack, not Slusher, that Breyer
joined the discussion. <<

But perhaps by this point you have, after all, stopped maintaining!

Stoney Breyer
Touchwood, Inc.
314 421-9878

-----Original Message-----
From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Peter Kirk
Sent: Friday, July 25, 2003 10:21 AM
To: 'Biblical Hebrew'
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Genesis 15:6

On 25/07/2003 08:05, Stoney Breyer wrote:

>Stoney Breyer
>Touchwood, Inc.
>314 421-9878
>In English, how about "Now he had believed his friends would always
>him out, but when he really needed them they didn't want to know." To
>this implies that he no longer believed. 
>[SB:] Well, yes, but that implication is in the second clause, and
>particularly the "but", not in the tense of the first clause.  Compare
>"Now he had believed his friends would always help 
>him out, and in fact when he really needed them they all pitched in." 
Sounds like an oxymoron to me. Seriously - unless followed by something 
like "Even so, their grudging expressions made him realise that he 
couldn't count on them for the next time."

I think the difference may be whether we are thinking of "believe" as an

inceptive or a stative verb. And I wonder if it may be a subtle British 
versus American difference. In my British English, "believe" is usually 
stative and we would say "start to believe" or "come to believe" for the

inceptive sense, although especially in a religious context just 
"believe" can be used inceptively as a shorthand. And the past perfect 
of a stative verb implies that the state is ended, although the past 
perfect of an inceptive verb does not. Another verb with a similar 
ambiguity is "understand"; "he had understood" may imply that he no 
longer understood, but not necessarily.

But this is a question of English, not Hebrew.

Peter Kirk
peter.r.kirk at ntlworld.com

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