Esther 3:8-15

And here is the second half of Esther 3. I’m still considering whether I will post further in Esther. Even if I do, it won’t be until the end of the month, though.

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Esther 3:1-7

This and the next section, together accounting for all of Esther 3, will be my last two posts in this aborted series. Lack of interaction suggests that there is little advantage in posting the rest of our commentary here.

But later in the spring I’ll add a few posts about some of my recent linguistic studies.

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Esther 2:21-23

Below is our commentary on the final scene of the first major part of the book of Esther.

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Hebrew verb theory . . . ten years gone

The relief of having finally gotten my work on the Hebrew verb into print is finally sinking in (available here). I reflected towards the end of this ten-year-long project of revising, expanding, and reinventing parts of it that it is a project (due to the nature of the topic) about which one has to pronounce a stopping point not a finishing point (Those familiar with Vendler’s situation aspect categories will get the allusion). I honestly thought I’d tire of the whole topic once finished, and admittedly I am weary of the theoretical discussion and eager to spend the next ten years or more applying the theory to the text in a way that will merge directly into more far-reaching exegetical issues. I have in mind work like my forthcoming article on the verb in Qoheleth or my work on the Qohelet volume for the Baylor Handbook of the Hebrew Bible, co-authored with my co-blogger Robert Holmstedt and Phillip Marshall. Of course, teaching language and exegesis classes in addition to ongoing work on the Accordance syntax project has given me ample opportunity to see how my theory works out in practice.

However, in this post I want to briefly step back into the fray of the discussion. For a while it was a quiet scene, other than the periodic discussion on another blog (see the discussion on John Hobbin’s blog) or the requisite bi-yearly flare up on the b-hebrew list (yes, I confess I’m a lurker there). I say “flare up” because usually it ends with the same folks talking past each other followed by a moderator shutting it down (and rightly so).

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Genesis 1.1 and Topic-fronting before a Wayyiqtol

Robert Holmstedt and John Cook

In a previous post, I (RDH) partially based my analysis of the syntax of Gen 1.1 within the larger structure of Gen 1.1-3 on the existence of examples where a wayyiqtol clause has a Topic-fronted Prepositional Phrase that is located before the wayyiqtol, such as Gen 22.4 (1).

(1) Gen 22:4 בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֗י וַיִּשָּׂ֨א אַבְרָהָ֧ם אֶת־עֵינָ֛יו וַיַּ֥רְא אֶת־הַמָּק֖וֹם מֵרָחֹֽק׃
‘On the third day, Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from afar.’

In this post, we follow that description of Gen 1.1-3 with additional supporting data and analysis.

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Genesis 1.1-3, Hebrew Grammar, and Translation

*(revised after the clarification given in the initial comment)*

Introduction 

Genesis 1.1 is one of the most discussed verses in the Hebrew Bible. It is the first verse of the first book, initiates the Hebrews’ grand cosmology, and … contains an apparent grammatical crux. Phooey! You would think that one could get further than one word into the Hebrew Bible without a grammatical problem.

In fact, there is no problem, only a long-term misunderstanding of Hebrew grammar. In a 2008 article appearing in Vetus Testamentum (which revised a sub-section taken from my 2002 thesis), I argued for an analysis of the first verse that is grounded both in my long-term research on the Hebrew relative clause and comparative Semitic grammar. You can find the article linked here.

But recently I was criticized (on a blog), for failing to explain how my analysis of 1.1 fit into an interpretation of 1.1-3. So, although my argument for Gen 1.1 stands ably on its own, I will take the opportunity presented by the recent criticism to summarize my argument for 1.1 and provide my analysis of vv. 1-3.

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Biblical Hebrew Diachrony (continued, again)

In two previous posts (1, 2) we discussed our position in the current debate over whether we can date linguistic features found in Biblical Hebrew texts. In a nutshell, while we agree with the weaker hypothesis that texts cannot be dated absolutely by linguistic means, we disagree with the stronger hypotheses is that no dating at all is possible and argue that the relative dating of features, and the texts in which they cluster, is possible if the analysis is carried out with a sound linguistic and philological methodology. To assert otherwise, to put it bluntly, represents an extreme historical and linguistic skepticism that we find hard to justify.

In our first post we provided links to our two articles (Cook’s, Holmstedt’s), which are forthcoming in a volume titled Diachrony in Biblical Hebrew (edited by Ziony Zevit and Cynthia Naudé-Miller; Eisenbrauns). These articles are revisions of papers given at the 2009 NAPH meeting at the annual SBL meeting. The keynote speaker at the meeting was the linguist B. Elan Dresher (University of Toronto), who masterfully discussed methodological issues in working with the linguistic features of “old” texts. Elan is a colleague of mine at Toronto and has graciously allowed us to post his revised paper (which will also be included in the Diachrony volume).

The decision to post this paper comes on the heals of a rather energetic exchange between Ronald Hendel and Rezetko, Young, and Ehrensvärd at the Bible and Interpretation site: see here for Hendel’s criticism and here for Rezetko et al’s response. Note also the vigorous and often pointed exchange in the comment sections of both posts!

As I (RDH) indicated in my comments (##4, 12) on Rezetko’s response at the B&I site, it is deeply troubling that Young, Rezetko, and Ehrensvärd are following up their first work, which contains methodological flaws and a tremendous amount of circular chop logic, with a second volume that will supposedly focus on language. (They repeatedly claim that their first volume was focused only on texts, not language, but the very fact that they propose to replace the ancient-standard-late BH chronological model with a concurrent dialects model indicates very clearly that they make just as large claims about language as they do about texts).

YRE’s responses to the linguists and Hebraists who have interacted with their Linguistic Dating of Biblical Texts show that rather than take the opportunity to learn from those who have been trained in linguistics, they are merely adding a linguistic sheen to their rhetoric and repeating the same claims.

Hence, the addition of Dresher’s article to our part of the exchange. Click here for the PDF.

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