The Fallacy of Prophetic Perfect

Classical Hebrew morphology and syntax, aspect, linguistics, discourse analysis, and related topics
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R.J. Furuli
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The Fallacy of Prophetic Perfect

Post by R.J. Furuli »

Dear list-members.

I ask permission to present my new book. It is entitled, The Fallacy of Prophetic Perfect With Translations of Verses From the Prophets. Paperback, 363 pages, printed in 130 g Silk paper, with many illustrations.

The biggest problem in grammatical studies of Hebrew is the failure to distinguish between semantics and pragmatics, that is, to distinguish between meaning that is an intrinsic part of a form and meaning that are caused by the context and can change.

This first chapter shows that there are only two verb conjugations in Classical Hebrew and not four, 1) Imperfect (imperfect, imperfect consecutive, imperfect conjunctive) and, 2) perfect (perfect and perfect consecutive). The phonological rules show that the way-element in imperfect consecutive is the conjunction we.

Imperfective consecutive is the narrative verb, and if this verb form is imperfective, we have the strange situation of imperfective and not perfective verbs as narrative verbs. It is demonstrated that Ugaritic also has imperfective verbs as narrative verbs, and Phoenician has infinitive absolute as narrative verbs. So imperfective narrative verbs in Hebrew are not strange.

The chapter demonstrates that the four groups of verbs that we see in the MT was made on the basis of the recitation of the Hebrew text in the synagogue. Different parts of speech were recited and stressed differently, and that is the reason for the four different groups. Grammar was unknown in Masoretic times. This means that the four groups are pragmatic and not semantic.

After the Masorets, different sages tried to form grammatical rules on the basis of the MT and the Massora. And these sages at the time of David Kimhi interpreted the four pragmatic groups in a semantic way, as four grammatical groups, and the four conjugations of Hebrew were born.

Chapter 2 discusses the meaning of the verb conjugations in Hebrew. There are no tenses, but only two aspects and a detailed definition of the aspects is given.

Chapter 3 shows that the 200-year-old theory of Prophetic perfect is wrong. And it demonstrates by numerous examples that imperfect consecutive is imperfective and not perfective.

The last half of the book contains a translation of verses from 115 chapters in the prophets. The verses have 691 perfects and 84 imperfect consecutives that are translated with English future tense. Almost no Bible translation marks stress and emphasis on the basis of word order and syntax. This is done in my translation, and the translated text is very different from other translations.


Best regards,


Rolf J. Furuli
Stavern
Norway
Lostntym8
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Re: The Fallacy of Prophetic Perfect

Post by Lostntym8 »

Rolf et al,

How do you all read Isaiah 9:6?

כִּי־יֶ֣לֶד יֻלַּד־לָ֗נוּ בֵּ֚ן נִתַּן־לָ֔נוּ וַתְּהִ֥י הַמִּשְׂרָ֖ה עַל־שִׁכְמ֑וֹ וַיִּקְרָ֨א שְׁמ֜וֹ פֶּ֠לֶא יוֹעֵץ֙ אֵ֣ל גִּבּ֔וֹר אֲבִיעַ֖ד שַׂר־שָׁלֽוֹם׃
T. Scott Lawson
R.J. Furuli
Posts: 158
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Re: The Fallacy of Prophetic Perfect

Post by R.J. Furuli »

Dear Scotty,

Rolf et al,
How do you all read Isaiah 9:6?

כִּי־יֶ֣לֶד יֻלַּד־לָ֗נוּ בֵּ֚ן נִתַּן־לָ֔נוּ וַתְּהִ֥י הַמִּשְׂרָ֖ה עַל־שִׁכְמ֑וֹ וַיִּקְרָ֨א שְׁמ֜וֹ פֶּ֠לֶא יוֹעֵץ֙ אֵ֣ל גִּבּ֔וֹר אֲבִיעַ֖ד שַׂר־שָׁלֽוֹם׃
My translation is:

For a child will be born (יֻלַּד ) for us, a son will be given (נִתַּן) to us, and the rulership will be ( וַתְּהִ֥י) on his shoulder; and his name will be called (i וַיִּקְרָ֨א) Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince-of-Peace.

The reference is clearly future, and therefore, I translate the two perfects and the two imperfect consecutives with English future.


Best regards,

Rolf J. Furuli
Stavern
Norway
Jason Hare
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Re: The Fallacy of Prophetic Perfect

Post by Jason Hare »

R.J. Furuli wrote:The reference is clearly future, and therefore, I translate the two perfects and the two imperfect consecutives with English future.
In your estimation, what keeps the perfects from referring to an event in the past from the reference of the speaker? Could it not be a child who had already been born and had not yet ascended to his throne?
R.J. Furuli wrote:My translation is:

For a child will be born (יֻלַּד ) for us, a son will be given (נִתַּן) to us, and the rulership will be ( וַתְּהִ֥י) on his shoulder; and his name will be called (i וַיִּקְרָ֨א) Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince-of-Peace.
Do you see no distinction between a possible וַיִּקָּרֵא שְׁמוֹ and the actual וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ? I'd actually read this verb with a present-tense force.

"For a child has been born to us, a son has been given to us! And the rule will be upon his shoulders; he calls his name Pele-Yo'ets-El-Gibbor-Avi-Ad-Sar-Shalom."

Just as we transliterate the name of Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, so we should transliterate this name and then comment about its meaning. That is, the name is a sign of the newly born king's relationship to God and the signs that God is to perform through his life.

Sar-Shalom indicates that God would deliver this king from war with the Assyrians and give the kingdom peace during his lifetime.

Avi-Ad indicates that God would extend this king's life miraculously.

Pele-Yo'ets-El-Gibbor indicates that this king would depend on God as his adviser beyond the counsel of his court.

Whereas Ahaz had put God to the test and refused to take the word of Isaiah seriously, Hezekiah would be obedient to the prophet's words and would trust in the warnings and admonitions of Yahweh. This passage serves as a birth announcement for the one who was to become king. The perfects here refer to a child that had already been born and given to the people, and whose symbolic name was already decided by the word of the prophet (the "he" who would designate him in such a way).

That's how I read the passage, anyway.

Regards,
Jason
Jason Hare
Tel Aviv, Israel
www.thehebrewcafe.com
Nihil est peius iis, qui paulum aliquid ultra primas litteras
progressi falsam sibi scientiæ persusionem induerunt.

— Quintilian
R.J. Furuli
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Re: The Fallacy of Prophetic Perfect

Post by R.J. Furuli »

Jason Hare wrote:
R.J. Furuli wrote:
The reference is clearly future, and therefore, I translate the two perfects and the two imperfect consecutives with English future.

In your estimation, what keeps the perfects from referring to an event in the past from the reference of the speaker? Could it not be a child who had already been born and had not yet ascended to his throne?
Yes, at the outset. the reference could be to a child who had been born, and the perfects could have past reference.

I will refer to two principles where I think we agree, 1) The Hebrew text must be understood in its own right; we cannot look to the New Testament or to Christian interpreetations, and 2) The conjugations does not tell us anything about the reference time; only the context can help us to find whether the refernece is past or future.

The general trend in the writings of the prophets is that their words condemn wrong actions among the people, or they tell about events that will come in the future. The last point does not prove that Isaiah 9:6 refers to the future; it only shows that statements of facts in most instances in the prophets refer to the future.

Let us look at the context: (NB, the English translation lies one verse behind the Hebree text.)

Verse 8:23 has a contrast between the past and the future, and both past and future are expressed by perfects ( הֵקַ֞ל and הִכְבִּ֑יד) The use of future reference shows what will happen, and therefore, I take the two perfects ( רָא֖וּ and נָגַ֥הּ) in 9:1 as having future reference as well. I also view verses 2,3 and 4 as having future reference, but that is more uncertain.

Then we have the birth of the child in verse 5. Because of the meaning of the words, the two imperfect consecutives ( וַתְּהִ֥י and וַיִּקְרָ֨א) must have future reference. Also, 9:7-13 is a prophetic message about the future. So, both before and after the words about the birth of the child, we find prophecies about the future. This could, but need not, show that the birth of the child is a prophecy about the future.

However, Isaiah has prophecies about the fall of Jerusalem, when the last king in the line of David ceased to rule. He has also prophecies about the return of the Jews from Babel to their land. In view of this, words about a child who has been born, but who will rule on the throne of David to time indefinite (עַד־עוֹלָ֔ם) (verse 6) simply does not fit. Particularly the prophecies about the fall of Jerusalem contradict the view of a child that has been born and would sit on the throne of David to time indefinite. In view of this, I take the two perfects in verse 5 as having future reference—a child will be born.

One assumption of mine is that Isaiah does not contradict himself. When he speaks about the end of the throne of David, he will not at the same speak of a child who already has been born and who will rule on David's throne.

Do you see no distinction between a possible וַיִּקָּרֵא שְׁמוֹ and the actual וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ? I'd actually read this verb with a present-tense force.
In my translation I always try to distinguish between the stems. I use the word "try" because the lexical meaning of a word and its aktionsart may prevent the marking the differences between the stems in English. When I taught Hebrew at the University of Oslo I made a test for two months. A common force of the Piel stem is resultativity, the action goes through the end and the stress is on the resultant state. During these two months I cosidered all the Piels that we met in the reading of the text. And in almost all cases a resultative meaning was possible. Therefore, I expect a resultative force when I see a Piel, and I express this in my English translation when the context allows.

Whether to transcribe names or to translate them may be viewed differently. But in either case the meaning of each word is there.


Best regards,


Rolf J. Furuli
Stavern
Norway
ralph
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Re: The Fallacy of Prophetic Perfect

Post by ralph »

R.J. Furuli wrote: Mon Jan 20, 2020 11:37 am This first chapter shows that there are only two verb conjugations in Classical Hebrew and not four, 1) Imperfect (imperfect, imperfect consecutive, imperfect conjunctive) and, 2) perfect (perfect and perfect consecutive). The phonological rules show that the way-element in imperfect consecutive is the conjunction we.
Within each of the stems - Paal niphal piel e.t.c., there are various general forms - perfect, imperfect, cohortative, jussive, imperative, participle,

You can have perfect with vav prefix and perfect without vav prefix. And you can have imperfect with vav prefix and imperfect without vav prefix. So that's 4. You seem to have 4 or 5- imperfect, imperfect conjunctive, imperfect consecutive, perfect, perfect consecutive

And you say imperfect consecutive is conjunctive. What do the difference between conjunctive and consecutive ?

Do you agree that a prophet could speak in the past tense, of the future, because in his mind, it has happened. Rather like if two people are about to drop off a cliff and see their own demise and that they can't do anything about it, and they say "we're dead". They aren't yet but they will be.
Ralph Zak
Jason Hare
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Re: The Fallacy of Prophetic Perfect

Post by Jason Hare »

ralph wrote: Fri Sep 25, 2020 4:12 am Do you agree that a prophet could speak in the past tense, of the future, because in his mind, it has happened. Rather like if two people are about to drop off a cliff and see their own demise and that they can't do anything about it, and they say "we're dead". They aren't yet but they will be.
Or like יאללה היינו פה while you're still sitting on the sofa. ;)
Jason Hare
Tel Aviv, Israel
www.thehebrewcafe.com
Nihil est peius iis, qui paulum aliquid ultra primas litteras
progressi falsam sibi scientiæ persusionem induerunt.

— Quintilian
ralph
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Re: The Fallacy of Prophetic Perfect

Post by ralph »

Jason Hare wrote: Fri Sep 25, 2020 6:17 am
ralph wrote: Fri Sep 25, 2020 4:12 am Do you agree that a prophet could speak in the past tense, of the future, because in his mind, it has happened. Rather like if two people are about to drop off a cliff and see their own demise and that they can't do anything about it, and they say "we're dead". They aren't yet but they will be.
Or like יאללה היינו פה while you're still sitting on the sofa. ;)
i'm quite ignorant of modern hebrew and for biblical hebrew I rely on lexicons and many translations and analysis and being given a chapter and verse.. so I can't parse that.. Google says יאללה היינו פה means "Come on we were here" ah I see as in Yaalah - what israelis say when driving honking their horn saying "yaalah yallah". "come on/ move it"). I don't see a prophetic past there. Prophetic past is where something is written in the past tense, but it means that it will happen. yaalah is an instruction to move it / come in. That's not perfect tense. And "we were here" is just a statement that we were here. If you can say yallah in a more contemplative way and to mean in the future, then yeah I suppose that'd be prophetic perfect.. with hayeenu.. In the future, they were still there. I think that's what you mean. I think it's not prophetic perfect there..

I think it's not prophetic perfect there because you'er making a statement for "in the future".. Whereas for a prophet the future is so real and vivid to him he doesn't or often doesn't, or wouldn't need to say "in the future". He is speaking what is in his mind, what he has seen. Without even thinking that it's in the future, because for him, having the vision or having had the vision, the future has happened already and he is speaking as if it already happened.
Ralph Zak
Jason Hare
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Re: The Fallacy of Prophetic Perfect

Post by Jason Hare »

The phrase יאללה היינו פה is an Israeli way of saying, "All right, we've been here long enough already. We're leaving." I just thought it was funny because we use the past tense, not to say that we are no longer there, but to say that we're ready to go. I wasn't suggesting it was a prophetic past... just that the past can show urgency, immediacy, or that you're finished with something.

I wasn't trying to make a relevant point about biblical Hebrew from that. I just thought that you would recognize the reference.
Jason Hare
Tel Aviv, Israel
www.thehebrewcafe.com
Nihil est peius iis, qui paulum aliquid ultra primas litteras
progressi falsam sibi scientiæ persusionem induerunt.

— Quintilian
kwrandolph
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Re: The Fallacy of Prophetic Perfect

Post by kwrandolph »

ralph wrote: Fri Sep 25, 2020 4:12 amDo you agree that a prophet could speak in the past tense, of the future, because in his mind, it has happened.
No. The reason for the “No” answer is Biblical Hebrew grammar.

The conclusion of Rolf Furuli’s research for his dissertation is that Biblical Hebrew conjugations did not code for tense. The so-called “perfect” is used not only for past actions, but present actions and future actions as well. The so-called “imperfect” or “future” is used for present and past actions. So the use of the “perfect” is not “past tense” and can refer to future events.

It’s for that reason I call those conjugations “Qatal” and “Yiqtol” so there’ll be no misunderstanding that tense is meant.

Karl W. Randolph.
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