Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

To the Praeter of this class he assigns the task of designating what is certain, or, if it be yet to happen, what is as good as completed, in the view of the speaker. Here then, as the use of such a Praeter is one of the most frequent of all the Hebrew forms in respect to the designation of actions that are future, it is evident we must have a large multitude of intensive declarations in the Scriptures. Every where certainty becomes the reigning order of the day. There is scarcely room left for opinion, or softened forms of speech, or conditionalities of things, but almost all is either certain, or looked upon as absolutely so.

My first remark on this view of the subject is, that no language abounds, or can abound, with such an unlimited mass of intensitives. Where all is intensive, nothing is so; and where such a vast proportion is intensive, as this form of the Praeter would constitute in Hebrew sentences, emphasis must be nearly out of question. So much of it - makes none.

But I have difficulties, also, with other views of Prof. Ewald, in relation to this form of the Praeter. He says (3 480), that when this relative Praeter is employed to designate a future sense, it is a more definite and decisive form than the relative Future. I do not understand him here. Does he mean that it designates the Future more decisively or definitely than the Future with Vav conversive designates it ? He cannot mean this, I think, because he does not assign a future sense to this relative Future, if I rightly apprehend him. He must mean, then, that the relative Praeter is more definite in the expression of the meaning which it designates, than is the relative Future. If this be the meaning, I am quite at a loss to know what can be said which will confirm such an assertion.

The fact, that the Praeter with Vav stands, in cases without number, to designate actions future, is so beyond all question, that neither Ewald nor any other Hebrew scholar will attempt to deny it. But the marked distinction of the future, when desig ted by this form of the verb, is what is peculiar to Ewald and his followers, and is what now claims our examination.

Let us begin with the very example which he adduces in order to confirm his statement, viz. Ons 72, he will go, and then he will fight. I ask now, whether it is more certain and definite that he will fight, than that he will go? Or is it certain at all events that he will fight, and yet uncertain whether he will go ? Open the Hebrew Bible any where, and examine the tenor of the discourse. E. g. Is. 1: 19, 'If ye shall be willing (13km ), and will hearken (ompraza), ye shall eat the good of the land. But if ye shall refuse (73877 5x), and shali be refractory (om"??), the sword shall devour, etc.' But it would be a waste of time to adduce evidence here, which every paragraph of the Hebrew Bible proffers to our view.

Once more ; Ewald says that this form of the Praeter designates in a peculiar and appropriate manner, and indeed that it is one of its principal offices to designate, actions which are repeated and continued, ($ 480. 2.) Let us take, then, the very example which he offers as confirming this, viz. “A mist

247 ! went up and then it watered the face of the ground, etc.,' Gen. 2: 6. Now here it is no more certain that the mist watered the ground, than it is that it went up ; and surely the action of watering was no more continued or habitual than the action of going up. The latter was the only ground and cause of the former. Yet the going up is expressed by the simple Future, used as a Praeterite, and the watering by a Praeter with Vav before it, and employed in its usual Praeterite

sense.

In the same manner, it would be easy to shew, are numberless cases of the Praeter with Vav construed; and the question, whether they are to have a praeterite sense or a future one, is decided, as seems plain to me, not by the fact of being prefixed by a Vav, but by the sense of the verb which precedes at the commencement of the sentence or the clause in which they stand. For illustration, I refer the reader to the cases just produced above, from Is. 1: 19, where the Future form with future sense precedes, and therefore the Praeter with Vav which follows has a future sense with a praeterite form. Long ago, indeed, was this remarked, and established, as one might think, by Hebrew grammarians; but Ewald bas strong desires to exhibit something new under the sun. Yet new things are not always true things; and most palpably, here his distinctions are made without a difference for their basis.

There is room for criticism, on nearly every position which he advances, that has any thing peculiar in it. Not that I dispute the fact, in any case, that the different forms of the tenses do in more or less instances designate ideas such as he assigns to them. This is not his error, It consists in making them mark peculiarly or exclusively such ideas, and the consequent (at least the implied) seclusion of other forms of the Hebrew verb from performing such an office.

How easy now to reverse the whole process, and throw back on him the burden of proof! If I should say, that the simple Future denotes appropriately such action as is habitual and often repeated, I could advert to numerous examples in the Hebrew Bible, as every critic knows, by which I could confirm my position. Suppose then I assume the position, that this is the distinguishing and characteristic trait of the Future, and aver that all other forms of verbs which designate the same sense, such as the simple Praeter, and the Praeter with Vav, do it accidentally and by a kind of enallage in usage, etc; why is not my ground in all respects as firm and tenable as that of Prof. Ewald ? I cannot see why it would not be so ; nor do. I apprehend that my error could be made more palpable than his.

Such is the result of a brief examination of this celebrated Hebrew critic, in relation to this highly interesting and important topic of Hebrew Grammar. His views are novel, in some respects; not as to facts, but as to the alleged reasons or grounds of them. Every thing is reduced to theory; and theory has an all-pervading and overpowering influence. Hence the attraction which his Grammar possesses for a certain class of the German critics. The inclination of a large portion of literati in Germany is strongly set towards theory in every thing. Even when it degenerates into mere imagination and conceit, if it be ingenious, it does not seem to stand in the way of

many, nor to be the less acceptable. And so here, in the case of Ewald ; his Grammar is, in the eyes of many, an absolute nonpareil of perfection. Gesenius, and all who have preceded or followed him, with the exception of Ewald, are tame, dull, oldfashioned writers, who have advanced no further than agere actum. It is the theory of this new adventurer, which has become in grammar, what the Principia of Newton became in philosophy. When one contemplates facts like these, how can he help thinking of what Madame de Stael has so characteristically said of the Germans: “The Englishmen live on the water; the Frenchmen on the land ; but the Germans - in the air.

In our own country too, the same changes have been occasionally rung, and in quarters where the doctrines of past ages do not often meet with a ready abandonment. We have been told that “Gesenius has already become antiquated ;and when this has been doubted, and a venture made to call it in question, with an appeal to facts, then we have had an earnest and hearty defence of such a position. Yet after all, the arguments employed in this defence, have been deduced only from what was before conceded, viz., froin the favourable opinions of a certain class of critics in Germany in respect to Ewald ; and in this way a confirmation of the declaration respecting Gesenius has been attempted. "Si non Superos - Acheronta movebo.'

I grant that there are such critics. But are not the like things to be found in all-or nearly all-the other branches of literature in Germany. Where is Kant now? Or Fichte, or Jacobi ? And where will Schelling and Hegel be, the next generation ? It does not come with a very good grace from those, who keep on with such anxious solicitude in the paths of 1520–60, and hereticate all who take the liberty of retreating merely now and then into some small nook which diverges from the old road, either for the purpose of rest or refreshment under some inviting shade there, to strike off with such velocity into the mazes of a comet, which leads so far beyond the boundaries of our “ visible and diurnal sphere.”Sed — manum de tabula.

A few suggestions more, and I have done.

It has been often said, and with much truth, that it is easier to pull down a building than to erect one. It may seem to the reader, perhaps, that I have been merely engaged in the work of demolition, and that, even if I have succeeded, I have not proposed any other theory in the place of Ewald's. This is partly true. My positions have only been of such a nature, in general, as to shew that my views differ widely from his ; not as to simple facts, but as to the mode of accounting for them. But still, by all this the way has been prepared, as I would fain hope, for the introduction of a few remarks, which belong rather to the category of the thetic, than that of the antithetic.

I begin then by remarking, that an attentive examination of the actual use, (not the theory), of the Hebrew tenses has led me unavoidably to the conclusion, that while there are definite and distinct uses of the Praeter as such and of the Future as such—so definite in certain cases that no other form could be employed - yet there is a wide and broad ground in which the form of the verb, whether Praeter or Future, with Vav or without, is treated in a manner altogether aoristic, i. e. unlimited as to time, and the sense in this respect is to be gathered from the context and the strain of the discourse. Take the same narration, or the same strain of prediction, and you will find simple Praeter and Future, relative Praeter and Future, and

Participle also, all employed to express the very same relations as to time. This cannot be denied ; and no tenuous distinctions between the one and the other will abide the test of critical scrutiny. Theory may make distinctions ; but plain common-sense reasoning will not sanction them.

I would lay it down then as a rule of great extent, for the interpreter of the Hebrew, that he is to look to the context, and to that in connection with the nature of the case, in order to determine by what tense he shall render the Hebrew verb, when any doubt arises. I venture a remark, too, on this rule which some will be ready to assail as too indefinite ; and this is, that there is not one case in a hundred, where the reader of Hebrew will ever doubt for a moment by what tense he is to translate a verb, let the form of it be what it may.

I have tried the experiment many scores of times, even with tyros in Hebrew. I have asked them : Do you find any difficulty in knowing by what tense you must translate a Hebrew verb? The answer has nearly always been : None. And so it must be, in the great mass of cases which are presented in the Hebrew Scriptures.

If this is so easy, then, even for a foreigner and a comparative stranger to the Hebrew, how much easier must it have been for a native ? The doctrine of Greek quantity in the tragic poets, and even the epic, is difficult enough for a student of the present day ; but the great mass of an Athenian audience at the theatre, would detect in an instant the smallest errors in quantity or in accent. A native Hebrew would in like manner, when taught by practice, manage as well with his five forms of tenses, (if indeed there are so many), as a Greek would with his wonderful apparatus of tenses and modes.

The fact that there are but two substantially different forms of tense in Hebrew, (if we exclude the Participle from being ranked as a tense), does in itself offer evidence to the mind, that the Hebrews must have given these two different forms a great latitude of meaning. One cannot even imagine that there can be any great difference of conception in the human mind, or among different nations, about the modes of action. All nations must have verbs that designate, either by form or usage, positive and conditional action. They must in some way too be expressive of time past, present, or future. If they have not the forms adapted to express all this, then it must be left to the

« ForrigeFortsæt »