[b-hebrew] Prophetic Perfect?

furuli at online.no furuli at online.no
Tue May 18 16:51:56 EDT 2004

Dear Liz,

If I were to make a  translation of Isaiah 9:1,5, I had to make up my 
mind: is this a prophecy or is it narrative past? Bible translation 
is interpretation, that is unavoidable! I did not answer Julie from 
that perspective, i.e. I did not take a  standpoint as to whether 
these words refer to the past or the future, but I responded to the 
grammatical work that she quoted, which viewed these verses as 
future. So my point was: this grammar says that the verses are 
"prophetic perfect," but if it applies them to the future, how can 
the authors know that it is not simple future? How can the authors 
know the mind of the prophet if this is not stated? My aim was to 
show that the term "prophetic perfect" was suspicious.

We agree that we should  not translate the OT in the light of the NT, 
but my personal view is that Is 9 is a message about the future -this 
is the default interpretation of the words of a prophet (cf. 9:7) - 
but of course, there may be past, perfect or present reference in a 
prophet's words as well.  I am open for arguments to the contrary, 
but an important point I want to put across is this: too many 
accounts have been interpreted as past narrative on the basis of a 
faulty understanding of QATAL (it is either past tense or completed 
or complete), and on a faulty understanding of WAYYIQTOL (it is past 
tense, or completed, or complete).

Best regards


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

>  >
>>    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.
>Dear Rolf,
>What evidence could you possibly bring to show that
>these are not just simple narrative pasts?
>Liz Fried

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