[b-hebrew] Tense and aspect, was "The use ..."

George Athas George.Athas at moore.edu.au
Wed Apr 22 06:27:47 EDT 2009

I'm always fascinated with your examples, Rolf. Thank you for raising them. They provoke good discussion and thought.

I think a major difference between us that I see Yiqtol and Wayyiqtol as fundamentally different conjugations. You're approach works on an equation between them, but I don't think the grounds you use to argue this are adequate. The language is more than the consonants written in antiquity.

I would argue that the Wayyiqtol forces the reader/listener to consider an action as though it's happening right in front of them, then and there. Hence, I tell my students that it's like looking at the action 'live'. That is how Hebrew conceives of Wayyiqtol. However, when we translate into English, we generally use a past tense because that's our convention for relaying 'information' (for want of a better word) in literary works.

I also take a different approach to the word order issue. When verbs are first in a clause, there is a smooth transition between clauses. Initial verbs, in other words, create conjunctive clauses. When verbs are not first, there is a feel of disjunction, perhaps because of contrast or momentous 'information'. Perhaps the best indication of this is when a verb is negated: Hebrew places the negation before the verb, not after it, and negations are, by nature, disjunctive.

There is certainly more to it than what I've just described, but that, I believe, is the heart of how Hebrew syntax works.


Moore Theological College (Sydney, Australia)

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