[b-hebrew] Opinions on J. Wash Watts "A Survey of Syntax in the Hebrew Old Testament"

Kevin Buchs kevin.buchs at gmail.com
Wed Nov 30 08:34:48 EST 2011


Karl,

Thank you for sharing your comments.

You wrote:
It?s been a long time since I last looked at his work. I was taught
in class that the Qatal refers to past, the Yiqtal to future, and
participle to present. In Biblical Hebrew, that is clearly wrong. Is this
what you learned?

What I learned in class is that both perfects and imperfects can have a
past, present and future tense. That has troubled me ever since to the
extent that I wrote my own rule that perfects are almost always past and
imperfects are almost always future. That results in a few novel
translations compared to published English translations, especially when it
comes to prophetic or potentially prophetic statements. Watts' book
suggests the aspect notion over time/tense. He says perfects are completed
action and imperfects are continuous action. That seems to be what is
nominal teaching regarding tense in Greek. However, I learned Greek from
James Voelz and in his textbook/teaching he emphasizes aspect in an
entirely different way (present tense is actual focus on action, imperfect
tense is focus on connection, etc.). Watts seems to put the full time/tense
fully in control of context. That is unsatisfying to me. It seems to make
the language even less user friendly for native speakers and writers (of
old). In my beliefs regarding the origin of the text, it does not fit well
either. So, I don't really like the perfects and imperfects can be
past/present/future that I learned in class and read from Watts. Of course,
I'm an engineer in profession so I like things to be precise. I have to
laugh at my Hebrew teacher who said Hebrew was easy for engineers and
scientists to learn because it is so systematic and methodical. Without
specific tense and without vowels it seems to be more in the realm of
abstract art (that's a joke).

- Kevin Buchs


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