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Syntax of Genesis 3:5

Posted: Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:50 pm
by rbgrice
I was wondering why וִהְיִיתֶם֙ "you will be" is translated as a future even though it is in the perfect. I thought maybe it is somehow a waw consecutive but I do not understand why there is a hireq underneath the waw. Does anyone know why the verb looks like this? Or why the verb is translated as future?

Thanks,
Ryan

Re: Syntax of Genesis 3:5

Posted: Sat Mar 10, 2018 9:59 am
by Kirk Lowery
Ryan,

וִהְיִיתֶם֙ is from the verb הָיָה he was. The first yodh is a "root" vowel. The second yodh is part of the hireq-yodh combination of the long-i vowel, written plene. הָיָה is an irregular verb (middle-weak or middle-yodh class) and this is the normal form.

But your main question is more vexed: why is a perfect verb form translation/understood to be in the future tense? This gets into the still not resolved question of what do the verbal "tenses" actually represent. The traditional 19th explanation has been that this is a consecutive perfect, in parallel with the consecutive imperfect. The difference is that the consecutive imperfect has a unique morphological form, [i]wayyiqtol[/], while the consecutive perfect is indistinguishable from a regular perfect. From a modern linguistic perspective, this is not an adequate explanation.

So do the conjugations represent time/tense, or perhaps just aspect/kind of action that can occur in any time reference? The scholarly debate rages, and there is no consensus. There are some, myself among them, who believe that tense in ancient Hebrew was not encoded or "marked" at the morphological level at all, but is determined by the foregoing verbs in the sequence of text. Sometimes this is explained (poorly) by saying the time of the verb is determined by "context", whatever that means.

Here is what I mean:

The time reference is set by the first verb in the verse: ‎בְּיוֹם֙ אֲכָלְכֶ֣ם sets the time into a (conditional?) future. It is in the perfect. The following two verbs are all perfects and continue to be in that future time.

What do the perfects themselves represent? I'd say completed action, like any other perfect. But not all would agree with me.

Hope that helps, and that I haven't muddied the waters more! ;-)

Re: Syntax of Genesis 3:5

Posted: Sat Mar 10, 2018 2:25 pm
by rbgrice
Dr. Lowery,

Thanks so much. This makes a lot of sense. So if I am understanding correctly there is a hireq under the conjunctive waw because yodh is the root vowel? Also, if the author would have used the imperfect or a waw consecutive it would make the וִהְיִיתֶם֙ happen at a future time from ‎בְּיוֹם֙ אֲכָלְכֶ֣ם?

Re: Syntax of Genesis 3:5

Posted: Sat Mar 10, 2018 9:29 pm
by Jemoh66
RBG,
No. There is nothing in the form of the verb itself that makes it future. It may not even have carried a future meaning to the Hebrew speaker. But the sentence as a whole has a future implied because it starts with "in the day you eat". Since they haven't eaten of the fruit yet it obviously has a future implied. For this reason the use of future in English is really idiomatic. A conditional followed by a future is natural to the English ear. Notice also even the opening phrase "in the day you eat" there is no grammatical marker for the conditional. We just know it's conditional at the syntactic level because of the semantic notion of "in the day". The verbal form אכלכמ (sorry no sofit on my iPhone) is just a present.

Re: Syntax of Genesis 3:5

Posted: Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:46 am
by S_Walch
FWIW, the Septuagint also translates the verb as future-tense:

ᾔδει γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ὅτι ἐν ᾗ ἂν ἡμὲρᾳ φάγησθε ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ, διανοιχθήσονται ὑμῶν οἱ ὀφθαλμοί, καὶ ἔσεσθε ὡς θεοί, γινώσκοντες καλὸν καὶ πονηρόν.

"...and you shall exist like gods..." etc.

Re: Syntax of Genesis 3:5

Posted: Mon Mar 12, 2018 12:39 am
by kwrandolph
rbgrice wrote:I was wondering why וִהְיִיתֶם֙ "you will be" is translated as a future even though it is in the perfect. I thought maybe it is somehow a waw consecutive but I do not understand why there is a hireq underneath the waw. Does anyone know why the verb looks like this? Or why the verb is translated as future?

Thanks,
Ryan


Dear Ryan:

Just as Kirk Lowery wrote, there’s no consensus on the meanings of the Hebrew conjugations of Qatal and Yiqtol.

Most modern students of Biblical Hebrew are from western languages that conjugate for tense, some for aspect as well. That includes modern Israeli Hebrew. As a result, they can’t conceive of a language that doesn’t conjugate for some measure of time. Therefore one often sees the Qatal called “perfect” or “perfective”, and Yiqtol as “imperfect”, “imperfective” or “future”.

Previously we had a member active on this list whose PhD dissertation was that Biblical Hebrew didn’t conjugate for tense. Therefore, according to his research, the terms “past” or “perfect” are incorrect when referring to Qatal forms of verbs.

Looking at Genesis 3:5, therefore, the context, not the verbal conjugation, is what determines where on the time-line an action is found.

There are some non-Indo-European languages that don’t conjugate for tense, rather the time when an action takes place is determined by context, so Biblical Hebrew is not unique in that sense.

The context of Genesis 3:5 is of a future action.

As for the hireq, you can ignore it. I have found that the Masoretic points are not trustworthy, so I ignore them.

Just my 2¢.

Karl W. Randolph.

Re: Syntax of Genesis 3:5

Posted: Thu Mar 22, 2018 10:15 pm
by SteveMiller
Kirk Lowery wrote: The traditional 19th explanation has been that this is a consecutive perfect, in parallel with the consecutive imperfect. The difference is that the consecutive imperfect has a unique morphological form, [i]wayyiqtol[/], while the consecutive perfect is indistinguishable from a regular perfect. From a modern linguistic perspective, this is not an adequate explanation.

I thought if a perfect verb started with waw, it is consecutive, so the tense or aspect is reversed. So in this case it would be future.

Kirk Lowery wrote: The time reference is set by the first verb in the verse: ‎בְּיוֹם֙ אֲכָלְכֶ֣ם sets the time into a (conditional?) future. It is in the perfect. The following two verbs are all perfects and continue to be in that future time.

What do the perfects themselves represent? I'd say completed action, like any other perfect. But not all would agree with me.

BibleWorks says that ‎אֲכָלְכֶ֣ם is a qal infinitive construct with a 2mp suffix, so it would be translated literally as 'in the day of your eating them', which I would call tenseless, but is future by context. The next verb, "will be opened" is also consecutive perfect, so it would be future like "you will be".

Re: Syntax of Genesis 3:5

Posted: Wed May 23, 2018 6:34 pm
by Mark Lightman
S_Walch wrote:FWIW, the Septuagint also translates the verb as future-tense: ...καὶ ἔσεσθε ὡς θεοί, γινώσκοντες καλὸν καὶ πονηρόν.

As does the Graecus Venetus: καὶ τελέσετον ὡς θεώ, εἰδότε χρηστὸν καὶ πονηρόν.

Yes, that is a dual future, with τελέω having its epic sense of εἰμί.