[b-hebrew] Psa 107:19-21 (was WAYYIQTOL)

furuli at online.no furuli at online.no
Sun Mar 14 16:19:17 EST 2004

Dear Charles,

See my comments below.

>Rolf asserts that "In principle a single contra-example is enough to falsify
>a claim."
>Which "claim" are you trying to falisfy, Rolf? All the standard BH textbooks
>carefully limit claims for the Imperfect with "Waw Consecutive" [Gesenius'
>terminology, for example] using such phrases as "most frequently," "as a
>rule," "some," "sometimes," etc. I don't understand what you are trying to
>accomplish in denying that in the majority of cases a vayyiqtol is indeed a
>sequential marker of a past or perfected action in a narrative. Finding a
>few non-sequential examples does little to shake the standard understanding
>of vayyiqtol as a narrative sequencer, essentially offering a green light to
>the reader, i.e., telling us not to switch sequences in mid sentence or

My approach to Hebrew is one of a scrupulous distinction between 
semantic and pragmatic factors. If you read Mari Broman Olsen you 
will see what that means.  The question from the mentioned point of 
view is not whether WAYYIQTOL often is a narrative sequencer - it 
truly is - but whether a new R-time (as this expression is used by G. 
Hatav) is a SEMANTIC part of the WAYYIQTOL  form. I agree with the 
pragmatic information that you take from the textbooks.

>Nor do I understand the beating you and Karl give the poor Massoretes.
>[a] Karl, in ignoring the Massoretic "points," do you imply that you also
>refuse to read all other commentaries on the text? No one claims that the
>Massoretes are the final word in every single case, and they themselves
>append countless notes to explain why they put in a form which they believe
>they have inherited from tradition but with which they disagree. But they
>are surely one credible source of comment on the text, non! And even in
>reading a consonantal text only, if you use a single final HE or internal
>YOD or VAV to mark a vowel, you are reading some of the results of
>Massoretic involvement with the text.

I did not write the above paragraph.

>This leads to [b], Rolf. Since the Massoretes were not shy about sharing
>their disagreement with a spelling that they nonetheless continued in the
>body of the text, why do you think they so doggedly made a pointing
>distinction between vayyiqtol and veyiqtol? Does not the evidence of [a]
>indicate that they would NOT feel free to introduce a new concept willy

The Masoretes did not, as I see it, introduce any new concepts. They 
tried to translate what they heard in the synagogue as faithfully as 
the could, and they would not dream of introducing anything new 
semantically speaking.  Therefore I do not think that the distinction 
they made between WAYYIQTOL and WEYIQTOL  is semantic any more than 
the gemination after the article and non-gemination after the 
interrogative particle H is semantic. But later grammarians took the 
mentioned verb distinction as Semantics, and the four conjugations 
were born.

>And does it not follow that the disctinction between vayyiqtol and
>veyiqtol predates the earliest MT copies we have?

If you give me examples of such a distinction from pre-Masoretic time 
I will use them in my thesis. I am not aware of any such.

>Maybe I should ask this:
>What do you GAIN in terms of exegetical knowledge with your understanding of
>vayyiqtol? I don't think you have accomplished a great deal by attacking a
>theory as if it is taught as an absolute when it is not, at least in my
>experience. Nor do I see the benefit in replacing one nuanced definition
>with your rather absolute sounding one using only a small percentage of the
>available data. If I have missed the point of all these exchanges between
>Peter and you, I apologize. But I fail to see how your theory either
>accounts for the data [i.e., WHY the Massoretic pointing disctinction?] or
>advances the ball closer to the goal of our understanding of a classical

I have worked with questions related to Bible translation for many 
years, and I have also translated works from different Semitic 
languages into Norwegian; so I am very sensitive for translation 
issues. By studying different Bible translations, the scholar will 
see that the translators are heavily influenced by the traditional 
views of the Hebrew verbs, which in a way serves as a straitjacket. I 
will estimate that if the model of my thesis was used instead of the 
traditional one, that would necessitate a change in the English 
tenses of more than ten thousand verbs, and many, many other changes 
would be necessary as well. So our view of verbs does have 

>[c] Again, Rolf, of the examples you cite, many are simple idioms that need
>not be carved up in any sequential fashion. Biblical characters always
>"lifted up their eyes" before they "saw," "lifted their voice" before they
>"wept," and so on.  Jacob even "lifted up his feet and went" in Gen 29.1,
>and one is hard pressed to imagine him walking without ever lifting up his

Best regards


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list