Thursday, May 5, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- the goodness of creation

I said the chaser lamed heh or ”certainty/evidentiary epistemic” is used by a narrator who is certain that what he is telling is true, and he can prove it, because the audience knows that it had a result with permanent consequences to them.  What’s more, they all know that the result would not have come about if the story hadn’t happened exactly as narrated. 
I used the tabernacle as an example. The material about its creation may seem incredible, but the original narrator and his audience all saw it, so when the narrator tells about B’tsalel making it, he can use the certainty epistemic.  That epistemic survived through Jewish history into the Babylonian Captivity when the oral tradition was put into writing. 
Notice that this is similar to using a 2nd person perfect aspect verb to command the creation of these things; everybody had obvious evidence of their roles in Jewish culture at the time the grammar crystallized, just like the commandments about Passover.
I have another example.  First, notice that in the creation story, you see va-y’hi a lot, also va-ya’as and va-yar.  Here’s how it plays.
An episode opens with y’hi X.  Normally, Bibles translate that as “let there be X”, a jussive. 
Then it says va-y’hi X.  That’s the credibility localization: the light certainly was there somewhere.  It had to be, because it’s still around.  That’s the evidence.
Then it says va-yar X.  Most translations say “Gd saw the light, that it was good.”  What really happened is that Gd manifested the light; the verb is hifil causative, not qal. Using a certainty epistemic shows that the audience had visual proof that the narrative is correct; lots of us can see the light. 
Now notice this.  On the second day, Gd says y’hi raqia.  But the Bible does NOT say va-yar about the raqia.  Why not?  Because it’s not a visible thing, in and of itself, to mortals.  We know it’s there because that’s where the lights are set (4th day).  And about the lights, it says va-ya’as and va-yar.
Now notice this.  After the making of the raqia, it not only doesn’t say va-yar, it doesn’t say ki-tov.  There’s no sense saying the raqia is good because you can’t va-yar it.  The audience has no visible evidence that it’s there.  There’s no sense in calling it good because it’s not evidence of that day’s work.
The same analysis of the certainty epistemics in the making of the tabernacle, allows the conclusion that its results were visible to both narrator and audience, so the narrator uses the certainty epistemic in telling about B’tsalel making the tabernacle.  And it shows why the narrators wound up wording the creation story the way they did -- and where some midrash comes from.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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