[b-hebrew] Verbs, text-segmenting and clause-types
B. M. Rocine
brocine at twcny.rr.com
Fri Jul 29 13:49:42 EDT 2005
Rolf Furuli wrote:
> I have acouple of questions:
I thought it was the job of everyone on the list to ask *you* questions!
> 1. Do you view the whole text as referring to the future, i.e. do you see
> each action as an action where reference time comes after the deictic
Interpretively, of course. That is, it is prophetic. But
linguistically, no. The vision is "right there," "right in front of
them," so to speak.
I think, in both the translation and interpretation of Hebrew poetry,
not enough value is given to the text as a libretto. I use the term
libretto loosely. What I mean is that the style of a lot of Hebrew
poetry reflects an oral or performance tradition, perhaps as the
writers' unconscious preservation of a text's oral origin or as a
conscious attempt to honor the oral tradition.
I suspect many of these texts, Isaiah 52:13-53:12, were first performed
and later written. It is often challenging to understand libretti in a
written-only medium. They are stripped of tone of voice, facial
expression, gesture, musical or dramatic accompaniment, and all the
context that the performance arena can bring to a performance. The
Slavic _guslar_ (bard) Halil Bajoric said of his story, "It has to be
said like that." What he means is that the delivery of the song is
inseperable from its message. The _guslar's_ story is never only the
words; it is also the performance.
When it comes to Hebrew poetry, I think we need to explore the idea of
re-constructing the performance. I think a text like the one we are
examining in Isaiah is begging us to reconstruct the performance by its
use of verb forms that are stringed together in a somewhat unusual way.
A skillful Hebrew _guslar_, as I believe the prophets and poets of the
Hebrews were, could deliver sections of our passage from Isaiah that use
a preponderance noun sentences and X-qatal clauses, such that he
describes a vision that is before him and his audience at the moment he
speaks but tells of things to come. "hinneh!" he says to his audience.
Do they see what he sees? He will help them.
> 2. You imply that sentence initial YIQTOLs do not always express the
> sentiments of the speaker. If my understanding is correct, is there a way to
> know when it does and when it does not?
Actually, I would say that sentence-initial yiqtols rather reliably
express sentiments of the speaker. It is the X-yiqtols that are
ambiguous. If you would like to hear some ways to eliminate the
ambiguity with X-yiqtols, I will do it in another post.
Sometimes in Hebrew poetry, an element in a sentence has elided. (The
elided element may be found in the parallel clause.) As a result, a
yiqtol form may surface as the first word in its clause when notionally
it is actually preceded by an (elided) element. In other words, even
though such a yiqtol appears to be first in its clause, it is not.
> Best regards
> Rolf Furuli
> University of Oslo
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "B. M. Rocine" <brocine at twcny.rr.com>
> To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Sent: Friday, July 29, 2005 3:39 AM
> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Verbs, text-segmenting and clause-types
>>We have seen that Rolf has translated Isaiah 52:13-53:12 as mostly
>>future tense in English. As a result, we see a readable English
>>translation that is disinterested in the Hebrew verb forms at least as
>>I think we can salvage our interest in the Hebrew verb forms with a more
>>careful examination of text segmenting and by recognizing clause types
>>rather than merely verb forms.
>>First text segmenting:
>>52:13-15 are the words of YHWH that are +projection, expressing YHWH's
>>desire and predictions concerning His servant. Accordingly, the yiqtol
>>verb form in both the clause-intial and clause-medial positions plays
>>heavily, particularly in main clauses.
>>53:1-6 Here Isaiah is addressing his audience intimately and 1st plural
>>forms run throughout. The section is to answer the questions that it
>>starts with. It is neither telling a story nor making a prediction. It
>>is establishing the identity of the special man. It is a type of text
>>that I refer to as expository discourse. It defaults for the present in
>>tranlsation. As is characteristic of expository discourse, this section
>>uses heavily noun sentences as well as qatal verbs that come in the
>>second position of their clauses (some grammarians consider a sentence
>>with a verb in the second positon to be be a noun sentence of a sort).
>>Even the yiqtol forms in v. 2 fit in this context. They express the
>>modal concept of what "we could" or "we might" do.
>>53:7-11a This is also Isaiah, but he has stepped back from his
>>audience. There are no more references to "we." He is taking the role
>>in this passage of commentator. Again we have a lot of expository
>>material communicated, as is typical, with noun sentences, irrealis
>>clauses, and x-qatal clauses. These all default for present tense in
>>expository discourse. The yiqtols of vv. 10-11a finish the commentary
>>with predictive material.
>>53:11b-12 Here YHWH speaks again. The x-yiqtol clauses are predictive.
>> The qatal clauses are dependent clauses, which give relative past
>>You will notice my designations of the verb forms are somewhat different
>>than Rolf's. While he counts qatals and yiqtols, I count sub-categories
>>of qatal and yiqtol according to their positions in their clauses. For
>>instance, I will usually consider yiqtols which come first in their
>>clause to be expressing the speaker's desire, whereas yiqtol's that come
>> elsewhere than first are ambiguous. X-yiqtols *may* express the
>>speaker's desire. However, unlike the clause initial yiqtol, they may
>>express a one-off event in the past. X-yiqtols usually express a
>>prediction, a habit, or gnomic truth.
>>So here is my translation, with special attention to the translation of
>>the verb forms (the vocabulary is mostly borrowed from the JPS Tanakh).
>>Y = yiqtol verb
>>Q = qatal verb
>>X = any element in a clause that preceded the yiqtol or qatal verb
>>DC = dependent clause (a relative is usually present
>>NS = noun sentence
>>? = interrogative clause
>>WQ = weqatal
>>W = wayyiqtol
>>Ir = Irrealis (usually a negatory woird is present)
>>May My servant prosper (Y), be exalted (Y), and raised (WQ), and highly
>>exalted (WQ)! 14 Just as many are appalled at him (DCQ)--so marred is
>>his appearance, unlike that of a man, his form, beyond human
>>semblance--15 Just so shall he startle (XY) many nations. Kings shall
>>be silenced (XY) because of him, for they see (XQ) what has not been
>>told them (DCQ); behold (XQ) what they have never heard (DCQ).
>>53:1 Who can believe (Q?) what we have heard? Upon whom has the arm of
>>the Lord been revealed (Q?)? 2 So he grows (W), by his favor, like a
>>tree crown, like a tree trunk out of arid ground. He has no form or
>>beauty (NS), that we might look at him (Y); no charm that we might find
>>him well-pleasing (Y). 3 He is despised (Q), shunned by men, a man of
>>suffering, familiar with disease. Like one whose face is hid from us
>>(NS). He is despised (Q). We hold him of no account (IrQ). 4 Yet it
>>is our sickness he is bearing (XQ), our suffering that he endures (XQ).
>> We account (XQ) him plagued, smitten and afflicted by God. 5 He is
>>wounded (NS) because of our sins, crushed because of our iniquities. He
>>bears (NS) the chastisement that makes us whole, and by his bruises we
>>are healed (XQ). 6 We all have gone astray (XQ) like sheep, each one
>>going (XQ) to his own way. And YHWH visits (XQ) upon him the guilt of
>>all of us.
>> 53:7 He has been maltreated (Q), yet he is submissive (XQ). He does
>>not open his mouth (IrY). Like sheep that might be led (XY) to the
>>slaughter, like a ewe, dumb before those who have sheared her (XQ), he
>>does not open his mouth (IrY). 8 By oppressive judgment he is taken
>>away (XQ). Who could describe his abode (XY?)? For he is cut off (XQ)
>>from the land of the living through the sin of my people who deserve the
>>punishment (NS). 9 So his grave is then made (W) among the wicked, and
>>with the rich in his death though he has done (IrXQ) no injustice and no
>>falshood is in his mouth(NS). 10 But the Lord chooses (XQ) to crush
>>him by disease that, if he might make himself an offering (DCY) for
>>guilt, he might see (Y) offspring and prolong (Y) life, and that through
>>him the Lord's purpose might prosper (XY). 11 Out of anguish he will
>>see it (XY). May he enjoy it to the full (Y) through his devotion.
>>May my righteous servant make many righteous (Y). It is their
>>punishment that he will bear (XY). Assuredly, I will give (XY) him the
>>many as his portion. He shall recieve (XY) the multitude as his spoil.
>> For he has exposed himself to death (DCQ) and was numbered (DCQ) among
>>the sinners. Whereas he bore the guilt of many (DCQ), he will make
>>intercesiion (XY) for sinners.
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