[b-hebrew] Definite Article 7:14

JoeWallack at aol.com JoeWallack at aol.com
Tue Jul 10 13:44:39 EDT 2007

In a message dated 7/8/2007 7:09:23 PM Central Daylight Time,  
hholmyard3 at earthlink.net writes:

Dear  Joseph,
> HH: It can serve most of the examples  we've  discussed, theoretically all 
> of them, since it is a category of   usage for which these examples are 
> cited. And the thought could be  the  same in the reader's mind as in the 
> writer's. It does not  have to be, as  you suggest, definite for one and 
> indefinite for  the other. It is equally  definite and generic for both. 
> The one  who escapes, if we provisionally  accept that idea for Gen 14:13,  
> would be, in both writer and hearer, a  genus: "the one who  escaped," 
> used specifically of an otherwise  unidentified person  who came to 
> Abraham with news of  Sodom.
>  JW:
> This is non-responsive to my question above. If you are willing to  try  
> harder I suggest you try to answer my one important  question above:
> What examples would you give in the  Hebrew Bible of the Author being  
> Definite and the immediate  Hebrew hearer taking it as Indefinite?

HH: I  should have been clearer. If the context lacked a specific person 
that the  hearer could identify, he might have been able to understand 
that the  reference was generic and indefinite.
Genesis 14:13 is Narrative, not Dialogue. "If the context lacked a specific  
that the hearer could identify". The most likely explanation is that  the 
identity is known to the speaker and not the hearer and the hearer  understands 
this. You want the possibility that the identity is known to the  Speaker and 
the Hearer does not know that the identity is known to the speaker.  Even if 
this is possible, isn't it unlikely? And considering that the same  Author is 
writing the part for Speaker and Hearer isn't it more than unlikely  that there 
would be this type of misunderstanding? Still waiting for an example  of this 
in the Hebrew Bible.
I'm beginning to fear that at the present rate of discussion the Messiah  
could actually arrive before we determine his/her identity. In order to try and  
avoid this contingency let me try to speed things up here. Regarding the  
offending word of 7:14 and with Apologies to Isaac Fried, you and I agree that  
the Hebrew Definite article is used. My position is that for starters this  
indicates a defnite and therefore, known person to the Hebrew speaker, Isaiah.  At 
this point, whether or not this known person is known to the Hebrew hearer, I 
 say that "the" is the likely English translation. I'm guessing that your 
current  position is that you agree with me that this known person is likely 
known to  Isaiah. Yes or no? I understand you think it possible that this person 
is  unknown to the Hebrew hearer. Do you think that likely? Finally, if you 
agree  that the person is known to Isaiah but think this person is unknown to the 
 Hebrew hearer, do you think "a" is a possible translation or should be  

> JW:
> If I understand the category correctly  it is something definite to the  
> author that is indefinite to the  immediate Hebrew hearer. I don't think 
there is  
> any such category  of Hebrew as the previous sentence has a natural  
> contradiction.  If someone did accept such a category than they would have 
a huge  amount  
> of Uncertainty regarding whether any Author meant the Definite or   
> An uncertainty I have Faith you do not possess.

HH:  Context could give clarification. If no virgin has been mentioned or 
is ever  mentioned to the reader, he can gather that some other idea is 
in view than  a clearly identified individual.

Based on your qualifications above, in general I find this logical.
> JW:
> Well you might want to do a current survey of  translations. I believe that 
> now the majority of Christian  translations have "the". 

HH: True, but English  allows a somewhat similar idea to the Hebrew use 
of the article that I  learned. The reader can take "the virgin" as 
generic if he chooses to do so.  It is the typical young woman in Israel. 
She gets pregnant, bears a child,  and names him "Immanuel" because of 
the hope she has in God and his  protection of Israel.
Yes, this is a superior translation because it uses what's written in  Hebrew 
("the") and you present a possible understanding. But translations should  be 
based on probable and not possible. Same question as before though. Do you  
think the young woman was known to Isaiah? Do you think the young woman was  
known to Isaiah's immediate audience? If at least one of your answers is yes,  
can you avoid "the" being the likely translation?
Joseph Wallack

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