Friday, October 28, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Septuagint and "and"

The 21st century way of looking at Biblical Hebrew has other important fallout besides identifying modality that Jewish Torah and Samaritan Pentateuch have in common, but which Septuagint never reflects.
First, it shows that Septuagint gets translations more wrong than anybody realized, even in the 20th century. The main fact in the proof of this is the simple word “and.”
Every time a vav shows up in Biblical Hebrew prefixed to a verb or any other word, Septuagint translates it as “and”. The habit has persisted ever since, and that’s why so many verses in your Bible start with “and.”
Dr. Cook shows in his 2002 dissertation that in most cases, the vav prefix does not mean “and”.
In a large number of cases, it’s a prefix for a grammatical form called “narrative past.” In Biblical Hebrew, the narrations have verbs in them that until now have mostly been classed as “aorist”. This comes from the model of Greek grammar, which uses the same stem for the aorist past tense and for the future tense. It was a convenient label for scholars in the Classics who turned their attention to Hebrew, but it has nothing to do with how Biblical Hebrew really works.
In Biblical Hebrew, what really happens is that the vav is attached to an imperfect aspect verb, not to a tense-conjugated verb. With a vav, and in verb-subject order, this narrative past reflects an action in a narrative before the narrative is over, but which happened in the past relative to the person telling the story.
The second largest number of situations where vav does not mean “and” is with a 2nd person verb, in either imperfect or perfect aspect, which indicates a commandment. It also shows up with a 3rd person verb, in either imperfect or perfect aspect, in descriptions of rituals which, therefore, turn out also to be commandmenets.
On the Hebrew blog I discuss why deontic imperatives are inappropriate in these situations, and also the difference that the verb aspect and person make in the significance of the commandment. I go into more detail in Narrating the Torah.
The next example of why Septuagint was wrong is that, with perfect aspect verbs, in verb-subject syntax, vav signals a subordinate clause of condition, purpose, result, cause or effect, called oblique modality.
And there are situations where the vav should be translated “but” or “[so] that,” or even “for” because it is the linchpin of a coordinate or relative clause or a subordinate clause that uses an imperfect aspect verb, not perfect aspect.
I know this is all very new to you. As I said, I discussed it all step by step on the Biblical Hebrew page. In Narrating the Torah I discuss examples in excruciating detail.
But what it means is that the habit of translating vav as “and”, which began in the Septuagint and has continued to the present, is proof that the translation of a word is not its definition. And that all translations which don’t take 21st century grammar into account, are wrong to some extent. Which is why I insist that you can’t understand work in translation, only in the source document for the translations. And for Torah, that’s in Biblical Hebrew.
Which had an effect on Hebrew in later times.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment