[b-hebrew] Tenses and aspects; was: footnotes

Vadim Cherny VadimCherny at mail.ru
Mon Aug 8 02:58:52 EDT 2005

> >... Does he choose statistically most
> >common translation? Or, perhaps, a translation justified by the context?
> >by the historical perspective? Or, by his exegesis needs? ...
> Not his or her personal needs of course, but his or her exegesis of the
> text, with a view to the context, the historical perspective etc. It is
> impossible to translate without doing this kind of exegesis.

Why? I cannot imagine exegetical needs affecting, say, Livy or, say, Beowulf
translation. Even Sumerian texts, open to variant readings, are generally
translated without recourse to preconceptions.

> >... How improbable
> >translation he could adopt? Say, if the translation chosen is attested
> >only 10% of the word' entries, does that warrant a footnote of caution? I
> >always found it a bit odd: manuals for electric kettles contain all kinds
> >superfluous precautions, but a manual for supposedly the salvation
> >translated very vaguely.
> I have nothing against precautions. But if the text is all precautions
> and no clear instructions, how will you know even how to switch on the
> kettle?

Exegetical instructions are not helpful or credible to that end. Better
offer a literal reading, and let the reader beware. I have an example of
what I believe is the proper translation format at www.yeshayahu.com in form
of a table.

Exegetical needs sometimes give rise to grammatical superstitions like the
ludicrous idea that Hebrew lacked tenses. See how many advocates of that
bizarre assumption are around, even though there is not a single language
around--nor could there be for obvious semantical reasons--that lack tenses.
Chinese, for example, has tenses in adverbial format, but since there is no
comparable constructs in Hebrew, Rolf et al want us to believe that Hebrews
did not distinguish between past and future. Thus, exegetical needs produce
not only the garbled grammar, but garbled philosophy.

Regarding the tenses and aspects, I posted a question before, and here
repeat the challenge: let anyone offer a single example (ok, besides perhaps
a few grammatical errors) of a verb which is meaningless in its tense and is
only meaningful if it has aspect. Something like "yesterday he will say." I
contend there are no such entries in Tanakh, and all the thousand entries
that Rolf collected for aspects that are clearly not tenses, are clear only
in the light of his preconceptions.

Vadim Cherny

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