[b-hebrew] Conflicting theories of the vav-consecutive

colin at s-m-i-t-h.com colin at s-m-i-t-h.com
Thu May 26 18:23:23 EDT 2005

On 25/05/2005 18:27, Smith, Colin wrote:

>... The Hebrew Bible was the first body of Semitic literature to present
texts inprose form and it presented a unique circumstance in which a
verbal form
was created to suit the needs of the text - a narrative of the acts of a
God of
time/history rather than a god of nature.

This is an interesting theory, but I see a problem with it. A large
proportion of the prose texts in the Hebrew Bible are narratives of
history and/or legend. Although I accept that these narratives are not
entirely non-religious, it is surely at least probable that these texts
are at least in part a written form of a continuing tradition, probably
originally oral, of history and legend - which would have also included
stories about the acts of God or gods. For it is hardly likely that the
biblical authors invented an entirely new genre for telling stories
about the past. These pre-biblical narratives of the past must have had
their own grammatical form indicating the successive events in a
narrative. And, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, it is
surely highly probable that this grammatical form would have been the
WAYYIQTOL or its precursor.

True - given the presuppositons you suggest, your theory would contradict
this theory.

I don't know of any published grammar that suggests an oral/colloquial
prehistory for the wayyiqtol form. The published literature on diglossia
presents the wayyitqtol as exclusive to written texts (as opposed to
colloquial/oral forms). Indeed, the preterite verb unmarked by vav is a
feature of archaic/archaizing poetic texts which clearly have an oral

Theories are hard to demonstrate or refute "by the absence of evidence to
the contrary." Although the theory I proposed was certainly not original
to me, it does answer the evidence of the extant texts, even if it does
not do so for hypothetical precursor texts ;-)

kol tov,

Colin Smith

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