[b-hebrew] 2Sam24:1 v. Gen18:1-3

Dave Washburn dwashbur at nyx.net
Mon Aug 15 11:48:31 EDT 2005


On Monday 15 August 2005 06:40, you wrote:
> On 8/15/05, Dave Washburn wrote:
> > Once again, we're dealing with the semantics of the verbs in question
> > here. Your very statement, "He cannot run to them, before seeing them"
> > etc. shows that.  It's the meanings of the words, not the form of the
> > verb, that convey sequence.  You're not making much of a case here.
>
> I am not trying to.  I am trying to show that the semantics of the words
> complement the semantics conveyed by the verb forms.  It isn't intended to
> be a proof.  One cannot prove something out of a single passage or two or
> three examples.  The problem becomes worse in Biblical Hebrew, which is
> (probably) not a uniform language, and contains elements that were not
> only composed over a wide variety of periods, covering hundreds of years,
> and varying geographical locales, but also that each specific document was
> subject to much editing over those hundreds of years.

You're not trying to?  You explicitly said that this was the way YOU 
understood the verb system, and you presented it in the form of a 
presentation that says "this is the way it is."  If that's not trying to make 
a case, I don't know what is.  As for the idea that "the semantics of the 
words complement the semantics conveyed by the verb forms," I believe I 
showed that such a thing is not necessary.  Such a redundancy reminds me of a 
phrase I heard in an old Red Skelton sketch I was watching this past weekend: 
"Do you know what you've done went and did?"  That redundancy is humorous and 
deliberate, but in a theory of grammar with explanatory adequacy the kind of 
redundancy you're talking about is an unnecessary complication.

> > > But in 18:1 we do not have such a sequence.  In 18:1, instead of
> > > saying "wayye$eb"
> > > it says "and he sits."  Why?  Because if it said "wayye$eb" it would
> > > suggest that
> > > Abraham was standing idly by, and then, sequentially, God appeared to
> > > him, and then, sequentially, Abraham sat down.  Because 18:1 wants to
> > > suggest that Abraham
> > > was already sitting, it says "And God appeared to Abraham, and he is
> > > sitting."  The
> > > original line of events (consisting of only "And God appeared to
> > > Abraham") is broken
> > > and a new one is created.  We then follow this new one: Abraham is
> > > sitting outside the
> > > tent, he raises his eyes, he sees.  A perfectly sequential new line of
> > > events.
> >
> > Surely you jest.  Where do you get the idea that a wayyiqtol would
> > "suggest that Abraham was standing idly by"?  Nothing in the context or
> > the text hints at such a thing, nor does anything in the verb form.
>
> Surely I don't.  Even before I understood the concepts of the various
> grammatical
> meanings, the word "wayye$eb" intrinsically conveyed to me, as a kid
> reading the Bible in Hebrew, an *act* of sitting and not some stative verb
> form. 

So what? As a kid, you might have misunderstood it.  I don't see the point 
here.

> This is 
> conveyed solely by the verb form.  

Hardly.  In nearly all places where it carries that connotation, it's conveyed 
mainly by context.

> It also happens to be the standard 
> understanding of such a verb form.  That it doesn't work well with your
> theory is your issue.  

Where did I say anything about my theory?  I'm talking about the context.  And 
we all know that the "standard understanding" of anything may or may not be 
the correct one.  As we've noticed several times on this list recently, 
appeal to what "most scholars" think doesn't impress too many people.

> I think some of the discussions here should separate 
> between personal theories that may be advanced by individual members on the
> list, and which those same members may discuss, and the standard accepted
> understanding which is what someone new to Biblical linguistics is
> interested in knowing.

Excuse me?  Are you trying to declare personal theories, which incidentally 
have been published in refereed journals and elsewhere, out of bounds?  I 
guess you want to silence Rolf too, then, because he definitely has a 
personal theory that he presents often and politely here.  My theory is 
another one.  Galia Hatav's is yet another, and there are theories flying 
around all over the list including ones about tense, George's theory that I'm 
still working to understand fully, and a few others.  One of the fallacies in 
your reasoning is this: there is no "standard accepted understanding."  Go 
read McFall's "Enigma of the Hebrew Verb System" (I think that's the title, 
if not it's close) to get an idea what a jumble of ideas your "standard 
accepted understanding" is.  It hasn't been a unified or monolithic structure 
since the early 20th century or before.  That you're not up on the literature 
"is your issue."

> > YHWH appearing.  That's an awfully short line!  And the business about "a
> > new line of events" ignores the fact that the next verb, "he lifted," is
> > another wayyiqtol.  What's it sequential to?  Abraham sitting?
>
> Yes.  Abraham was sitting, and then he looked up.  What's the problem?
>
> > Hardly.  To get that
> > you'd have to assume that Abraham stood up and then lifted his eyes,
>
> Huh?  Why? How?  Why does "lifting one's eyes" require Abraham to
> stand up?

Because it's a wayyiqtol, and according to your presentation, the action of a 
wayyiqtol presents the next item in a sequence taking place after the 
previous action is completed.  That's what you said, go back and reread your 
post.  So the wayyiqtol "he lifted up his eyes" according to your own theory 
means that the action of being seated had to have been completed first, i.e. 
he stood up.  

> > In addition, what's the first wayyiqtol in verse 1
> > sequential to?  Ishmael's circumcision?  I think not.  It begins a new
> > pericope, and isn't sequential to anything.
>
> It is sequential to anything that happened previously.  Being sequential
> doesn't mean you have to know what the previous episode in the story
> was.  What you do assume is that anything that happened previously
> is over.  And that is the basic assumption of a new pericope.

Oh, nice cop-out!  The fact is, it begins a new pericope, and in that 
position, sequentiality has nothing to do with it.  Check out your "standard 
accepted understanding" on this one, because you're way off base here.  A 
good starting place would be F. I. Andersen's excellent monograph "The 
Sentence in Biblical Hebrew" where he discusses this phenomenon extensively.

> > Nor is the wayyiqtol of "he
> > lifted," unless you want to claim that it's sequential to either YHWH
> > appearing or Abraham sitting, neither of which makes sense.
>
> Why is Abraham sitting not a sensible prior event to Abraham raising his
> eyes?

See above.

> > It's a participle.  And there is a "wa" but it's prefixed to HINNEH.
>
> Hinneh is not a verb.  Look at my other message.  "wa" or "w:" will always
> be there.  But generally in conjuction with a verb it suggests serial,
> sequential action.  As a reprecussion of this, when it does not appear in
> conjuction with a verb, it suggests non-sequential action.

I have no idea what you just said.  First, I never said HINNEH was a verb.  If 
you hadn't snipped the rest of my comment, that would have been clear.  
Second, I have no idea what you just said.

> > You're
> > still not making your case, because you haven't shown syntactically that
> > there's anything in any of these wayyiqtols that requires sequence
> > independent of the inherent meanings of the terms used.
>
> You think I'm trying to make a case.  I'm trying to explain my
> understanding of the standard interpretation of the Biblical Hebrew of
> these verses.  I'm not out to make a case or prove anything.  If I'm wrong
> in describing the standard way these forms are understood by most
> linguists, please correct me.

See above.  There is no standard way.  There may be somewhat of a majority 
view, but it's by no means "standard" in the way you mean the term.  And your 
rigid application of that view is leading to absurdities.

> > Okay, you still haven't explained how a form that is always sequential to
> > something else can begin a new line of events.  You also haven't
> > explained why, if it's true that "by the time he looked up and sighted
> > them, they were already standing before him," he had to run to them. 
> > Running to them suggests that they were  still a ways away.
>
> "Standing before him" doesn't mean they were an inch away.  They could have
> been a yard or two away.

So he ran a yard or two?  I hope he didn't wear himself out too badly.  It 
still doesn't make sense.  And I notice you conveniently skipped over the 
first part of that paragraph.

> > So your whole sequence breaks down right there.
>
> No, it does not.

Nice comeback.

> > Actually, what we have is a fine example of shoehorning the grammar into
> > the theory rather than the reverse.
>
> Huh? You don't like the theory because you have your own theory.  However,
> until your theory is accepted by most linguists, you should discuss your
> theory amongst linguists.  But if a new person comes and tries to
> understand the passage, it is only reasonable to say, "Look, this is what
> most linguists and almost everybody thinks it means.  But I think something
> else, based on various exceptions."  And only then discuss your ideas.

Once again, I'd like to know what qualifies you to try and suppress someone 
else's theory on this list.  If we're going to limit ourselves to supposedly 
standard theories and only stick alternate theories off in their own little 
ghetto, we're going to have a problem because there are about half a dozen 
such alternate theories running around here.  I have pointed out, in print in 
peer-reviewed media, the holes in your precious theory.  I didn't even begin 
to develop a theory of my own until I had noticed those holes.  Plenty of 
others have noticed them, as well.  If they upset your apple cart, that's not 
my problem.  But trying to squelch discussion of alternate theories on the 
basis of some hypothetical "new person" is the worst cop-out yet.

> > See my 1994 paper in Hebrew Studies.  I gave scads of exceptions, enough
> > to bring the whole idea into question.  And the "sequential action" in 2
> > Sam 24:1 is built into the verbs rather than the forms, as well.
>
> I skimmed it.  I am not a linguist and am not qualified to pass judgement
> on your theory.  But it appears to me that you attempt to build a case out
> of three
> exceptions.  One of them, is a problematic case in its own right,
> apparently being duplicated in the MT, which you try to explain away.  

Which would that be?  I'm afraid you're being too specific, please be more 
vague.  Oh, and I believe I implied reading it, not just skimming it.  And if 
you're not qualified to pass judgment, perhaps it would be in order to stop 
doing so.

> We 
> have to remember that Biblical Hebrew is not uniform, and contains many
> editorial modifications.  It is not a pure document that can be analyzed
> using the same tools in linguistics, because it may contain imports from
> other languages (Phoenician? Israelite?) and different times.  While
> linguistic analysis can be used to analyze the majority of cases, you can
> never be sure if an exception is the result of an odd use of the language,
> different semantics of the language,
> or simply the result of editorial activity.  So I perceive that
> starting an analysis
> off of exceptions is methodologically problematic, as it makes certain
> assumptions about the text such as that the text is written in uniform
> language,
> of the same time, by the same hand, and does not contain editorial activity
> such as a conflation of multiple accounts.

The final cop-out: resort to more unfounded theories that prevent me from 
actually looking at the holes in the "standard theory."  I will not continue 
this, as it's clear where we're going.

You keep appealing to what "linguists" say.  Yet, you have several right here 
in front of you, including Peter, Rolf, probably George, and yes, myself.  
But apparently it's only proper to listen to linguists that merely rehash the 
old non-working theories rather than actually trying to make any progress.

-- 
Dave Washburn
http://www.nyx.net/~dwashbur
"Well, if I'd wanted a safe life, I guess I wouldn't have 
married a man who studies rocks." - Betty Armstrong (Fay Masterson)



More information about the b-hebrew mailing list