Thursday, August 3, 2017

21st Century Bible Hebrew -- confusing labels

Genesis 1:5
 
ה וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים לָאוֹר יוֹם וְלַחֹשֶׁךְ קָרָא לָיְלָה וַיְהִי־עֶרֶב וַיְהִי־בֹקֶר יוֹם אֶחָד:
 
Translation:     Gd named the light day and the darkness He named night; there must have been evening, there must have been morning, one day.
 
Last point, I promise.
 
Notice the l’, la-or, v’la-choshekh.
 
This is a preposition, which is usually translated “to” and therefore might be labeled “dative”. BUT in some contexts it means “for” which in most languages takes the genitive.
 
This is one of those reasons why BH should be treated stand-alone, not in terms of labels that work with other languages.  You can’t think of l’ as a dative preposition without forgetting that it also has genitive meaning. 
 
What’s more, l’ doesn’t just mean “to” as an indirect object. It also means “in order to, for the sake of, for the purpose of, with the result of.” In Arabic – and, coincidentally, in Classical Greek – such a structure uses a gerundive. Nevertheless, western grammarians have slapped on the Arabic structure the name “subjunctive”, which probably calls up all kinds of horrors in your memory if you have ever studied Latin or French. I know it sends a cold chill down my back.
 
If you are thinking about this, you are saying to yourself, but “to” plus a verb is an infinitive. It might be an infinitive in Latin or French, but it’s not in BH, or in Arabic, and the verb form in Classical Greek is not the same as the “infinitive” in that language.
 
So stop thinking about BH grammar in terms of what you were taught when you studied other languages, especially non-Semitic languages. In Semitic languages, it’s different, and in BH, it’s even more different.
 
BUT make sure to notice the qamats under the lamed. That means it’s “the light”, not just “light”. In the following word, it’s a patach. Hebrew prepositions that can combine with (“agglutinate to”) the substantive can take a qamats or patach to indicate that the word they are attached to a definite noun, “the” whatever. Also notice that the qamats is with alef and the patach is with chet.
 
While the alef and chet are both gutturals, the chet has a sound of its own, so it can take the short vowel patach. The alef doesn’t. The “a” has to cover both the lamed and the alef. So it’s a qamats, a long “a”.  I said some time back that the definite article can take either one of these vowels; now I’ve told you why I think that is.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

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