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

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Sun Mar 14 17:26:50 EST 2004

On 14/03/2004 13:19, furuli at online.no wrote:

> ...
> 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.
Are you trying to argue here that because the Masoretes did not invent 
the semantic distinction (agreed by all, I think), it was therefore 
invented by later grammarians? That is of course a fallacious argument 
as it does not exclude a third possibility. The position of most 
scholars today is that the distinction dates from before the Masoretes, 
by many centuries, and your argument has nothing to say against that 

>> 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.
Here is one: W)(&H (we 'a`ase) Exodus 32:10, Num 14:12, Deut 9:14, 1 
Samuel 20:4 (and other cases which are cohortative) vs. W)(& (wa'a`as) 
Deut 10:3, Ezekiel 12:7, 20:9,22, 24:18. (And yes, the longer form does 
seem to have a past meaning in Ezk 20:14, Dan 8:27.)


> ... 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 consequences.
These consequences give us the possibility to test your hypothesis. At 
least, I presume that there would be similar distinctions between 
translations according to the two models in translations into other 
languages, including Greek (several times), Latin, Syriac and Aramaic. 
The Hebrew Bible was translated directly (although not always entirely 
independently) into at least these four languages long before the time 
of the Masoretes. If we can find examples in any of these translations, 
especially in the more literal ones, in which WAYYIQTOL and WEYIQTOL are 
rendered differently, that would indicate that there was a pre-Masoretic 

Looking at my we'a`aseh and wa'a`as examples in the LXX, I find the 

Verse      Hebrew form      Greek tense

Gen 27:9   weyiqtol         POIHSW
Gen 35:3   weyiqtol         aorist subjunctive
Exo 32:10  weyiqtol         POIHSW
Num 14:12  weyiqtol         POIHSW
Deu 9:14   weyiqtol         POIHSW
Deu 10:3   short wayyiqtol  aorist
Deu 12:30  weyiqtol         POIHSW
1Sa 20:4   weyiqtol         POIHSW
2Sa 9:1    weyiqtol         POIHSW
2Sa 9:3    weyiqtol         POIHSW
2Sa 24:12  weyiqtol         POIHSW
1Ch 21:10  weyiqtol         POIHSW
Neh 6:13   weyiqtol         POIHSW (2 Esdras 16:13)
Ezk 12:7   short wayyiqtol  aorist
Ezk 20:9   short wayyiqtol  aorist
Ezk 20:14  long wayyiqtol   aorist
Ezk 20:22  short wayyiqtol  aorist
Ezk 24:18  short wayyqitol  aorist
Dan 8:27   long wayyiqtol   imperfect (A: EPRAGMATEUOMHN; B: EPOIOUN)

Note that the Greek form POIHSW is in fact fact ambiguous between future 
and aorist subjunctive, but the aorist subjunctive in such contexts has 
a clearly future modal sense. On the other hand, the aorist indicative 
is unambiguously past. Thus there is clear indication that WEYIQTOL was 
consistently translated as future or modal and WAYYIQTOL consistently as 
past indicative. Daniel 8:27 is interesting because two independent 
translations seem to have rendered this form, pointed by the Masoretes 
as an unusual long WAYYIQTOL, with a Greek imperfect.

But a better test might be with cases which are not distinct in the 
consonantal text.

Also you might argue that these cases would be translated as they have 
been from the context rather than from the verb semantics. So you might 
like to supply some of your ten thousand examples where you would argue 
for a translation different from the traditional one, in which 
presumably the context is ambiguous. We can then examine LXX and other 
ancient translations to see if they support the traditional 
understanding or your one. Do you think that would be a fair test, at 
least of how the unpointed Hebrew text was understood at the time when 
these ancient translations were made?

Or is this the Achilles' heel of your theory?

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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