[b-hebrew] Verbs

Harold R. Holmyard III hholmyard at ont.com
Thu Jul 28 15:36:09 EDT 2005

Dear Rolf,

You know what it looks like? It looks as though you're saying, "It 
creates a lot of theoretical difficulties trying to unravel how these 
various verb forms function in their contexts, so let's just throw 
them all out and make up the meanings that seem logical to us."

In this example you have succeeded in ridding the text of any shades 
of time and perspective inherent in the verb forms. There are all 
these different objective forms, and in every language I have 
studied, such differences indicate a difference of meaning, but you 
have nullified the differences.

It may be difficult for us to discern how the QATAL and YIQTOL forms 
were used, and many scholars have spent a great deal of ink doing so. 
Until we fully understand the system, I feel much safer trying to 
abide by the guidelines established scholarship has laid down rather 
than just throwing the evidence out the window the way you seem to do 
(plus all the scholarly guidelines).

There are generally ways to gain some understanding through the 
perfect versus imperfect distinction, and that may be the case at 
53:12. Perhaps the imperfect at "make intercession" is a concluding 
comment on the Servant's life to explain that in all He did He was 
intervening for rebels. This might cover His healing and teaching 
ministries as well as His suffering. At any rate, there may be a 
meaning-based explanation for the form, and i would prefer to work 
towards it rather than become indifferent to the forms.

Thanks your your efforts, but form and function are closely related. 
Various forms did not usually exist for no purposeful reason. I have 
probably missed the purposeful reasons you have given for the forms, 
but seeing your translation, the purposes were not that meaningful.

					Harold Holmyard

>I have already given an example of how the conclusions of my work can
>influence  Bible translation, namely Jeremiah 50 and 51.  But since you ask
>I will give a few more examples from Isaiah.
>When I ask my students to translate some Hebrew sentences, they do what I
>call "academic translation". As a contrast, when someone translates the
>Bible, a draft is made, this draft is worked over several times, it is
>discussed with others, field tests are made, and then the final translation
>appears after much labor.
>My examples below represent "academic translation," and is no final product.
>They were made while I wrote this post, and the purpose was to give a broad
>illustration of one side of Bible translation that would be influenced by my
>namely the choice of English tenses.
>Some time ago I was asked to give a lecture for a group of Bible translators
>on the text of Isaiah 52:13-53:12, and this translation is an example of how
>my grammatical conclusions lead me to choose English tenses (here
>particularly future) different from most Bible translations.
>Before this text is translated, the translator has to make a general decison
>regarding the servant of YHWH, and here we see a clash between Jewish and
>Christian interpretation. The minimum decision a translator must make is the
>temporal reference of the text, and without deciding who is the servant, the
>assumption behind my translation is that the text is a prophecy regarding a
>future servant.  I indicate the Hebrew conjugations  in parentheses.
>52:13 Look! My servant will act with insight (YIQTOL). He will certainly be
>(YIQTOL) and elevated (WEQATAL) and exalted (WEQATAL) very much.
>52:14 Just as many will be appalled (QATAL) at him - so disfigured is his
>appearance more than that of any other man, and his form more than that of
>mankind -
>52:15 likewise he will startle (YIQTOL) many nations. Because of him kings
>will shut (YIQTOL) their mouth.  For what had not been recounted (QATAL) to
>them, they will actually see (QATAL), and to what they had not heard (QATAL)
>they must turn their attention (QATAL).
>53:1 Who will believe (QATAL) our message?  And to whom will the arm of JHWH
>be revealed (QATAL)?
>53:2 He will come up (WAYYIQTOL) before him like a tender shoot, like a root
>out of dry ground. He will not have a stately form nor any splendor (nominal
>cl.). We will see him (WEYIQTOL), but he will not have an appearance that we
>should desire him (WEQATAL).
>53:3  He will be despised (participle) and avoided by men, a man of pain,
>who is familiar (passive participle) with sickness. He will be like one from
>whom men hide their faces, a despised one, who we will not esteem (QATAL).
>53:4 Surely, our sicknesses are what he will carry(QATAL) , and our pains
>are what
>he will bear (QATAL).  But as for ourselves, we will consider (QATAL) him as
>plaqued, stricken by God and afflicted.
>53:5 Yes, he will be pierced (participle) for our transgressions and crushed
>(participle) for our sins. The punishment meanT for our peace will be on him
>(nominal cl.). And because of his wounds we will be healed (QATAL).
>53:6 Like sheep we all wander about (QATAL), each of us turns (QATAL) to his
>own way. But YHWH himself will let our sin strike him (QATAL).
>53:7 He shall be oppressed (QATAL) and afflicted (participle), but he will
>not open (YIQTOL) his mouth. like a sheep to the slaughtering he will be led
>(YIQTOL), and like an ewe before her sheares has become mute (QATAL), he
>not open (YIQTOL) his mouth.
>53:8 By oppression and judgment he will be taken away (QATAL). But who will
>consider (YIQTOL) his decendants when he is cut off (QATAL) from the land of
>the living?  It is because of the transgression of my people that he will
>get the stroke (nominal cl.).
>53:9 He will assign (WAYYIQTOL) his grave with the wicked ones, and with the
>rich in his death, though he had done (QATAL) no violence, and there was no
>deception in
>his mouth (nominal cl.).
>53:10 But YHWH himself will take delight (QATAL) in crushing him, and he
>will cause him to suffer (QATAL). When he gives (YIQTOL) his soul as a guilt
>offering, he will see (YIQTOL) his offspring and prolong (YIQTOL) his days,
>and the delight of YHWH will prosper (YIQTOL) in his hand.
>53:11 After the suffering of his soul he will look (YIQTOL) and be satisfied
>(YIQTOL). By his knowledge, the righteous one, my servant, wil justify
>(YIQTOL) many people, and their sins he himself will bear (YIQTOL).
>53:12 For that reason I will give him a portion (YIQTOL) among the many, and
>with the mighty ones he will divide (YIQTOL)  the spoil.  Because he will
>let his soul be poured out (QATAL)  to death, and will let himself be
>counted (QATAL) among transgressors.  He himself will carry (QATAL) the sins
>of many people, and he will make intercession (YIQTOL) for the
>Because I chose a future setting, most of the verbs have been translated by
>future. If the setting is viewed as past, the same verbs would have been
>translated by past, or sometimes by perefect.  This means that according to
>my system, the conjugations have very little to tell us about the temporal
>references of the verbs.  The temporal references must be construed on the
>basis of the context.  The traditional way of translation leads the reader
>through a confusing zig-zag journey, QATALs and WAYYIQTOLs are translated by
>past or perfect and YIQTOLs and WEQATALs by future. For example, look at the
>two last clauses of 53:12, where we find one QATAL and one YIQTOL. Many
>modern translations give these two verbs the same temporal reference
>(perhaps in most cases past reference).  But if a QATAL and a YIQTOL can
>have past reference in these two clauses, why cannot the same be true
>throughout the whole text?
>More important than the conjugations are the lexical meaning/Aktionsart of
>the verbs, the verb stems and the word order. for example, in 53:12 I
>translate a Hiphil QATAL by "he let his soul be poured out"  and a Niphal
>QATAL in a reflexive way (the old meaning of Niphal) by "will let himself be
>counted". In 53:6 waw+YHWH occur before the verb, and I take this as
>emphasizing the subject. Therefore I translate "YHWH himself".
>The examples above relates particularly to the choice of tenses in the
>target language, but there are several other choices that can be influenced
>by my conclusions.
>Best regards
>Rolf Furuli
>University of Oslo
>52:13 "certainly" - sentence initial YIQTOL,
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Steve Miller" <smille10 at sbcglobal.net>
>To: "B-Hebrew" <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
>Sent: Thursday, July 28, 2005 2:06 AM
>Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Verbs
>>  Rolf,
>>  Along with James Reed, I also would very much like to hear the answer to
>>  Hayyim's question. Could you give us 5 example verses? This would be much
>>  more meaningful to me than the current discussion. Thank you.
>>  -Steve Miller
>>  Detroit
>>  Very interesting indeed.  Can you give us an example of a verse which
>>  would
>>  be translated differently and thereby change our understanding of what it
>>  intends to tell us?
>>  Hayyim
>>  In a message dated 7/25/2005 4:37:07 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
>>  furuli at online.no writes:
>>  My  conclusions are radical indeed, because they in a way turn  of Hebrew
>>  verb grammar upside down. An acceptance of the conclusions would have a
>  > great
>>  impact on  Bible translation, because thousands of verbs in modern  Bible
>>  translations are in
>>  need of re-translation.  This relates  particularly to the temporal
>>  references
>>  of verbs.
>>  _______________________________________________
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