[b-hebrew] Also asking a question - Re: YHWH is Aramaic?

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Thu Jun 29 15:10:01 EDT 2006

Dear Peter,

See my comments below.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Peter Kirk" <peter at qaya.org>
To: <Awohili at aol.com>
Cc: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Thursday, June 29, 2006 3:48 PM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Also asking a question - Re: YHWH is Aramaic?

> On 29/06/2006 15:33, Awohili at aol.com wrote:
>> ...
>> In the book, _201 Hebrew Verbs_ Abraham S. Halkin lists ehyeh as the
>> future
>> aspect of the kal of HYH. ...
> Is this a book of MODERN Hebrew? Of course in modern Hebrew the
> "imperfect" or YIQTOL form is a future tense, and so the meaning is
> uncontestably "I will be". But in biblical Hebrew, at least as
> understood by most scholars, this verb form indicates not so much a
> tense as the imperfective or continuous aspect, meaning in the context
> something like "I was and I am and I always will be", or, in simpler
> English, "I am".

It is correct that the classical Hebrew YIQTOL is not a tense but represents
the imperfective aspect. But your conclusion that )YHY means "I am" or  "I
was and I am and I always will be" does not follow.  When tense is lacking
in a language, the translator must use the context to choose the tense in
the target language. In some cases, such as in this case, the context is 

The two most important contextual factors are the stative or fientive nature 
of the verb and the person. There can be little doubt that HYH is stative. 
If that is accepted, the word either refers to something that continues 
without any input of energy, or the force is ingressive, i.e., the entrance 
into a state is focussed upon. The state of being in classical Hebrew is 
usually expressed by a nominal clause and not by HYH (The usual translation 
of such clauses iw EIMI in the LXX). This is particularly important in first 
person singular verbs. A person who is seen or who speaks needs not say "I 
am", since that would be a truism or a tautology. Therefore, even if YIQTOL 
is not a tense, first person singular YIQTOLs of HYH almost always refer to 
the future. They refer to a future entrance into a state or even to a 
semifientive situation, such as to show, or to prove to be.

I remember that the professor who taught me classical Hebrew, Ebbe E. 
Knudsen, often used the present-tense translation of some versions of Exodus 
3:14 as an example of how Bible translators fail to take the 
stative/fientive force of verbs into consideration, and also fail to note 
the force of the grammatical person in some instances. Others have noted the 
same, such as Charles Gianotti (Bibliotheca Sacra 39, January-March 1985). 
He refers to a study of Bernhardt, who concludes that the first person 
singular YIQTOL of HYH never has present meaning in the Tanakh, but Gianotti 
opens for a possible present meaning in Ruth 2:13. Gianotti concludes: "Most 
interpreters translate )HYH in Exodus 3:12 as future (i.e, "I will be ()HYH) 
with you"). yet, two verses later, why should not the same translation 

In order to have a well reasoned opinion of )HYH )$R )HYH Exodus 3:14, one 
should have studied all instances of first person singluar YIQTOLs of HYH 
(there are not too many), and one should be aware of how stativity and 
person can restrict the transltional possibilities of verbs.

Best regards,

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

> -- 
> Peter Kirk
> E-mail:  peter at qaya.org
> Blog:    http://speakertruth.blogspot.com/
> Website: http://www.qaya.org/
> _______________________________________________
> b-hebrew mailing list
> b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
> http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/b-hebrew

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list