[b-hebrew] Prophetic Perfect?

furuli at online.no furuli at online.no
Tue May 18 11:21:08 EDT 2004

Dear Julie,

Your thoughts below are logical and reasonable, and it is fine that 
you try to understand the subtleties of Hebrew grammar. The crux of 
the matter is the claim "sometimes regarded as having already been 
accomplished".  This is in a way a psychological statement, the 
grammarian(s) claim they know the mind of the writer. In order to 
substantiate such a claim, one has to point out that either this 
writer, or one writing in a similar way, has explicitly stated the 
case. Or, one has to point to a text, which, interpreted in a 
reasonable way, implies that this was the state of the mind of the 
author. To the best of my knowledge, this has never been done in any 
grammar or monograph!

But if one looks at the grammatical literature from Samuel Lee and to 
the present, one will see that the prophetic perfect is an ad hoc 
claim.  A fine illustration is the geocentric view (the sun and the 
planets revolve around the earth) of the Church in the first 
millennium CE. Because God is perfect, the planets must revolve in 
perfect, spherical orbits around the earth was the view. However, 
observation revealed that sometimes the planets held positions above 
or below the perfect circle. But God was perfect, no doubt about 
that. Thus, the ad hoc hypothesis was formed that the planets went 
along in perfect spherical orbits, but at the same time they went 
along in perfect spherical orbits perpendicularly on the axis of 
their orbit around the earth.  Now everything became harmonious. God 
was perfect and the orbits were perfect. But no data was used t reach 
that conclusion!

  The perfective perfect notion was originally built on the view that 
QATAL was past tense and /or signalled completed acts. Thus, it 
contradicted fundamental grammatical thoughts to have hundreds of 
QATALs with simple future reference. So, in order to save the grammar 
- but without any data - the psychological explanation was invented 
that the action was completed in the mind of the prophet. Please ask 
your constructor if he or she has any *data* showing that the QATALs 
of Isaiah 9:1,5 are not just simple futures.

Best regards


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

>Perhaps we should look at Jouon-Muraoka on this point:
>"In prophecies a future event is sometimes regarded as having 
>already been accomplished, hence the use of qatal.  This prophetic 
>perfect is not a grammatical perfect, but a rhetorical device." 
>(The examples cited are Isa. 9.1, 9.5.)
>If we step back and consider these so-called prophetic perfects 
>within the frame which the author/redactor constructs, we find these 
>passages embedded within a larger discourse.  What JM calls a 
>rhetorical device is perhaps just a function of pragmatics.  My 
>instructor (if I correctly understood the lecture) asked our class 
>to consider the mode of prophecy itself.  (Assuming continuity of 
>Isa.)  Prophecy here comes in the mode of a Vision.  So, perhaps the 
>use fo the qatal is a function of the vision which was past, Isa 1.
>Julie :)

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