[b-hebrew] translations of important quotes using Rolf's ideas

Peter Kirk peter at qaya.org
Tue Apr 10 06:27:30 EDT 2007

On 10/04/2007 10:03, Rolf Furuli wrote:
> Dear Peter,
> My personal viewpoints regarding prophecies are linguistically irrelevant. 
> However, my observations are that some persons believe that real prophecies 
> can be uttered before the events come, and others believe that accurate 
> predictions before the events materialize are impossible. This last view was 
> the original reason for the hypothesis that the book of Isaiah has several 
> authors.
Thank you, Rolf. I agree with you here.

> ...
> The point is that when a prophet spoke words which is his mind referred to 
> the future, the reference of the verbs he used would be future. ...

But surely we see counter-examples to this in cases like Isaiah 8:23-9:1 
(which I think you take as prophetic, although I see the justification 
for Liz's different view), the passage from Enoch quoted in Jude 14-15, 
and Revelation 20 etc? Also in modern science fiction (not prophetic of 
course) and the "Left Behind" novels (which do make some claim to be 
prophetic)? The consistent usage in Hebrew, Greek, English and other 
languages is that authors use past tenses, or at least verb forms most 
commonly used to describe past events, for events which are actually 
understood to be future (whether certain, forecast, or fictional), with 
the "prophet" choosing his or her words as if she or he lived after the 
event. This is a literary device, certainly in modern times. Do you not 
accept that ancient authors could have used it?

> ... When a 
> prophet who had seen some events wanted to write about these for an 
> audience, and he would place his words in a prophetic setting, either to 
> deceive his audience, or because he believed this was legitimate, he would 
> still use verbs with future reference (there are examples of this in the 
> Ethiopic Enoch). In other words, the prophet would choose his verbs as if he 
> lived before the event. In this prophetic context only verbs with future 
> reference would be "relevant, informative and true".
> In my dissertation work I did an extensive linguistic research on verbs used 
> in prophetic settings, and the interesting picture that emerged was that if 
> the four-component model is followed strictly by the translators of 
> prophecies, the result is often a zig-zag text as far as time is concerned, 
> where past tense, present, present completed, and future tense are used, and 
> the readers are completely confused as to the real time reference. Jeremiah 
> 50 and 51 are examples of this.
This is interesting, and suggests that we don't have a full 
understanding of what is happening here. It would seem to me that in 
this kind of prophetic poetry the normal semantic distinctions between 
verb forms are cancelled, as a literary device perhaps intended to avoid 
specifying the real time reference.

Peter Kirk
E-mail:  peter at qaya.org
Blog:    http://www.qaya.org/blog/
Website: http://www.qaya.org/

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list