[b-hebrew] Gen. 1:26--Connotation of the beth preposition

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Thu Jan 22 20:55:02 EST 2004

Dear Peter:

First of all, thank you for the scans.

Secondly, disagreement is not libel. If so, it would be impossible to have a discussion, debate and to learn.

Concerning the B-prefix, according to my standards, three pages is sloppy scholarship. I disagree with the approach that BDB took towards lexicography.

One, because people are not that complex. We, including you and others on this mailing list, who are part of the intellectual elite, may be able to keep many disparate ideas straight, but not the common man on the street who has trouble keeping “you’re” and “your” straight, or when to use “I” or “me”. The common people are those who define the terms because they are the vast majority, over 90%, whereas the intellectual elite make up less than 5%: unless we shut ourselves up in ivory towers, we need to communicate with all strata of society, therefore we only refine, but do not lead, in the development of language.

Two, it is not looking for patterns of actions that often tie ideas together, rather it is using grammatical structures that often fit other languages better.

Based on memory without access to a list of B-prefix examples, I noticed the following uses:

“In”, but in a very broad usage, broader than English to include location (where in English we sometimes use “near”, “on” and “upon”), also location within or as a participant of an action

As an indicator of instrumentality, “by means of” or “by use of” or “(by) cost of”

Many verbs require a preposition to indicate their object use the B-prefix where in English and other languages other words would be used. Such verbs include but are not limited to XPC “to like” and R)H “to look, see” and its many synonyms.

(OK, I admit, I refined my expression of these ideas after reading BDB, in that they helped me.)

After reading your scans, I noticed it is often used in the concept “in possession of” implying ownership where “possession of” is omitted. This use seems similar, if not connected to, its use as an indicator of instrumentality.

On second thought, maybe BDB were careful, not to define the term as concisely but accurately as possible, but to make it as complex and variant in meaning as possible. For example, Genesis 12:6 it makes sense that Abram crossed over in the land, but BDB insist that it must be read “through”. Starting on the bottom of page 89, “III. 1. With—a. of accompaniment” yet not one of the verses they listed that I checked (I think I checked them all) have that meaning, rather they either are equally well (I believe better) understood as “in” as in “among” or are indicators of instrumentality or possession, hence I see no need for that extra complexity. I understand “cost of” as part of instrumentality (that by which payment is made, the transaction completed, a debt fulfilled), but on page 90 BDB gave definitions of “because of”, “on account of” for cost. Again on page 90 BDB insisted that “with” or “of”  be used for working in crafts, where “in” is perfectly acceptable English. Do I 
 need to give more examples?

I suspect what we are dealing with here is a difference in philosophy. 

I think that BDB had trouble seeing the forest for the trees. Both of us looked at the trees (actual occurrences in the text) but I tend to look at a lot of trees to see what sort of forest I deal with: whether taiga of Siberia or Canada, broad leaf temperate such as much of the eastern half of the U.S., temperate rainforest as on the Olympic Peninsula, tropical rainforest as in Brazil, and so forth. The impression I get from BDB is that they analyzed each tree almost in isolation from the forest around it.

Secondly, Biblical Hebrew lexemes should be studied according to Biblical Hebrew standards. Comparisons, even to cognate languages let alone widely disparate languages, to be done only later. It appears that BDB started with such comparisons (though occasionally, especially in hapax legomai words, the Hebrew doesn’t have enough data to indicate meaning).

Thirdly the analysis should be done in context. Yes, BDB did this, but I mean in even a broader sense: are we dealing with an idiomatic phrase? Is this a construct that is grammatically required? Is this a compound lexeme (e.g. “strike out” as a compound lexeme is only remotely related to “strike”, or in modern Chinese monosyllabic words are combined into de facto polysyllabic lexemes just like German to define new concepts)? Is it a euphemism or other literary construct where the “dictionary meaning” is different from the contextual meaning (here I think of )BD ‘to be(come) lost, i.e. unable to be found’ often used as a euphemism for death)?

Fourth, probably should have been first, I look at function, what action is described whereas BDB looked at form, how does it look in its uses? Functionality often ties together apparently disparate uses into one understanding. As a result, my first sentence covers half of the definition given in BDB; one sentence for a page and a half of their work.

It’s been a long time since I last looked at BDB, and I no longer have a copy. But seeing those scans reminded me why I stopped using their dictionary.

>From other sources, I know that BDB (and Gesenius too for that matter among many others) hewed to a particular Weltanschauung for which I have no respect, but discussion thereof is off list.

Karl W. Randolph.

----- Original Message -----
From: Peter Kirk <peterkirk at qaya.org>

> On 16/01/2004 21:44, Karl Randolph wrote:
> >----- Original Message -----
> >From: Peter Kirk <peterkirk at qaya.org>
> >
> >>
> >Three pages???!!! I can?t imagine any one lexeme needing anywhere near that much verbiage to explain.
> >
> >
> Karl, this is not excess verbiage, but detailed analysis of different 
> senses and occurrences. Since you don't seem to have read or even 
> glanced at the article in question, your accusation of sloppy thinking 
> or twisting a thought is nothing short of libellous. Why are you so 
> prejudiced against BDB? I recognise that it has its weaknesses. But you 
> seem determined not to find anything good in BDB. What is your problem?
> So that you have no further excuse for prejudice, I am sending you 
> offlist a scan of this BDB article.
> -- 
> Peter Kirk
> peter at qaya.org (personal)
> peterkirk at qaya.org (work)
> http://www.qaya.org/
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