« ForrigeFortsæt »
surrounding context to point out such an interpretation of the verb. And this, in most cases, is a thing so obvious, that many of the Greek tenses seem to be almost superfluous. In fact actual usage made them so. In the active and middle voices, for example, we have never but one future which is actually employed; comparatively seldom is it in the Passive, that more than one Future is actually in use; and of the Aorists scarcely ever more than one is employed as belonging to one and the same voice. Even the use of the second Aorist in the passive voice, renders it decisive that no second Aorist active is or can be employed of that same verb; and the remark is altogether common among grammarians that no Greek verb, or at most, scarcely any one, in the whole language, ever employs all its modes and tenses.
Yet all the various significations that needed to be expressed were expressed by the few tenses only, which are in many instances employed. So true is this, that the verbs mostly in common use, such as οίδα, γίνομαι, έρχομαι. είμι, γινώσκω, etc., are almost without exception those which are most defective, and have the fewest forms. This is demonstration that the want of the power of expression was not felt, when the number of forms employed was quite small.
Thus also was it, doubtless, with the Hebrews. They had but two distinct forms of tense ; and in this respect we may say their verbs were inferior in their structure to those of the occidental languages. But then, before we pass sentence upon them as a whole, we must take into view the Piel and Pual, the Hiphil, Hophal, and Hithpael forms of the verb, which gave variety and intensity of signification to it such as our language cannot at all reach with their verbal forms, and scarcely attain with our ample apparatus of adverbs.
In respect to these various methods and ways of conveying significations, different languages throughout the world vary from each other. Yet after all, the essential and substantial part of verbal significations must be alike in all languages, be their forms more or less in respect to number.
As a further proof how little of absolute necessity there is of so many variations as the Greek (for example) employs, consider for a moment the variety of meanings attached, as all now concede, to the Infinitive absolute of the Hebrew. Here one form only may designate every mood, tense, number, gender, and person. Did the Hebrews feel any embarrassment or uncertainty in thus employing it? None whatever, I apprehend; for we feel none now in thus interpreting it.
But I shall be inquired of here, no doubt, by such as may hesitate respecting some of these positions, how it coines about, that the Praeter and Future could sometimes be distinctively, appropriately, and even antithetically used, and yet at other times merged as it were in one common and indefinite usage, and appropriated to designate the sense of all the tenses? How, it will be said, can any reader know when one of these usages is to be adopted, and when another ?
The answer is easy. How can any one know when an, for example, has (in Kal) an active sense, and when a passive one? In other words, how can he know when to translate it to eralt, and when to be eralted? The form is identical, the conjugation the same, in both cases. Yet the reader has no difficulty in either case. The context and the exigency of the passage always give him the obvious clue to the meaning in any particular instance,
So was and is it with the Hebrew tenses. The context, the relation of the clause, the exigency of the passage, point us at once to the sense ; just as when the Infinitive absolute is employed, the question how it is to be understood is solved at once by the circumstances in which it is employed.
Nor is this usage singular or strange, which gives to the Praeter and Future at times a sense wholly diverse, and in some respects even opposite, while at other times and in other circumstances their meanings are identical, or at any rate so nearly so that no specific difference can be fairly pointed out. We may take, as an exhibition of the like principles, some of the Greek particles; e. g. xai and dé. Both are often employed as particles of transition from one sentence and subject to another, in the thread of discourse, and yet of connection between the same. Both indicate continuity of thought and representation in some respects, while they point out diversity or separation in some others. Yet dé is never employed as a copula in connecting several Nominatives, for example, or subjects of a verb together; here the office of xal or some equivalent (as 78) is exclusive ; nor is dé employed in connecting the predicates of a sentence together, or the objects which follow a transitive verb. While these two particles, then, occasionally, and even oftenVOL. XI. No. 29.
times, occupy common ground, they differ widely in many respects.
So it is also with many other words ; e. g. dé' and yáo, etc. So is it, too, with many nouns, verbs, and adjectives. In some one of their meanings they become synonymous with some other words ; in other meanings they are widely discrepant. If you ask, how then can they be distinguished? I answer, by the tenor of the discourse and the nature of the case where they are employed.
I can therefore imagine no serious difficulty in the way of the supposition that has been made, viz., that the Hebrew forms of tenses could be employed, as occasion required, in every sense as it regards the expression of time. The very
fact that the Hebrew had so few forms of tense, obliged bim thus to do. Just as the imperfect verbs of the reek obliged him to use the Imperfect, or the Perfect, or the Aorist, as the case might be, for all the Praeterites ; and the second Future Middle for all the active Futures. Was his discourse rendered obscure by this? I trust not.
Our subject should not be dismissed, however, without some remarks on that “ Proteus” Vav, which so commonly designates a Praeterite sense by a Future form, and gives to the Praeter a Future sense.
The common theory in respect to the ? prefixed to the Future, is detailed in all the recent Grammars. The substance of it is, that this is a relic of -1,7 to be, and that the Future is in reality constituted, when .? is prefixed, by two forms of verbs ; so that 07:1=27: 1777. i. e. it was [that] he would kill.
In respect to the Vav before the Praeter, this origin is not pretended by Gesenius and others who follow him. Here ? is the proper conjunction; while still a change is wrought in the verb, both as to the place of its tone, and as to the time which it designates.
Ewald, as stated above on p. 147, derives them of the Future relative from 77. Still neither this method, nor that of Gesenius, accounts for all the phenomena. When Gesenius refers us to the kindred languages (Lehrgeb. p. 293), viz. the Syriac and Arabic, for examples of Futures with a Praeterite sense formed by the help of the verb to be, he does not account for all the difficulty of the matter in Hebrew. How comes it, I ask, that Vav before both the Praeter and Future always bears the signification of and, or at any rate of the Hebrew con
junction? There is no difference, moreover, in this respect between the Praeterite and the Future, in regard to the Vav before them. But in the kindred languages, the verb to be does not, when employed in a composite tense, convey a copulative meaning. The analogy then fails here, in an essential point.
I am inclined therefore to the opinion, that neither Gesenius por Ewald has hit upon the true theory. I must, on the whole, regard as a copulative, both before the Praeter and the Future. And this I must believe, with my present views, notwithstanding the difference in punctuation or vowels. Before the Praeter, the first letter of which has a broad vowel belonging to it, there is no occasion usually to alter the Sheva under copula. Before the Future the case is different. Many Futures begin with a Sheva under the Praeformatives, e. g. in Piel and Pual. In others the vowel is only factitious, and in Kal, etc., it is short Hhireq which is not well adapted to follow Vav prefix with Sheva. Here then the Vav adapts its punctuation to the nature of the case, as prescribed by the laws of euphony. Nor is this strange. Before Gutturals with composite Sheva, ? copula takes the corresponding short vowel, as jas?. Before a letter which must retain a Sheva vocal, ? copula goes into 1. Why not then, as euphony would demand, suppose that ? copula before the or the of the Future, goes into 9, i. ė. Vav with Pattahh and Daghesh, merely to facilitate the pronunciation of these two very feeble letters, which so often are thrown together? I do not vouch for the certainty of this ; but when we consider that the meaning (and) is retained in all such uses of the Vav, both before the Praeter and the Future, I can account for this in no satisfactory way, without supposing the Vav to be a copula in all these cases.
If any one should be disposed to urge the difficulty of the Daghesh forte which appears after Vav in the Future, I would ask him, whether he is a stranger to the frequent employment of Daghesh forte euphonic in the Hebrew language.
Be this speculation however as it may, whether well or ill grounded, the fact of an alteration of tense in the Praeter and Future by means of Vav, lies wide and broad, and plain to our view, over the whole extent of the Hebrew Scriptures. In this simple and easy way did the Hebrew increase the variety of his forms of verbs—a variety with which declension would not furnish him. In this way, viz. by choosing between four different forms for a past tense, and four for a future one, he could maintain a greater variety in the mode of expressing the past or the future, than either we, or even the Geeeks, have ever been able to reach.
Let me not be understood to say, that all these forms are employed promiscuously or ad libitum. By no means. Delicacy and propriety of expression did not at all admit of this ; nor can I doubt in the least, that there was some definite reason in the mind of the Hebrew, whenever he employed one form rather than another, arising either out of the agreeableness of variety, or out of the circumstances of the case, the mode and form of the expression, the antecedence of adverbs, subjects to verbs, qualifying clauses, particles, or something of the like nature, which always rendered it a matter of propriety and elegance to choose this and reluse that. But how far these matters went, and where they reached the metes and bounds which limited good usage, has not yet been sufficiently investigated, certainly not disclosed. Ewald has given some fine hints in respect to many particulars. I wish most sincerely that such a writer as Gesenius would pursue the subject, and give us something more definite, palpable, intelligible, and well-grounded.
But there may be some of my readers, who will be disposed to say,
that 'my view of the Hebrew tenses is too much like Father Simon's picture of the Hebrew language;' who in order to give the mother-church at Rome the right of making her own interpretation of the Scriptures, maintained, that because the Hebrew language every where presents words which have several different meanings, there never can be any certainty as to any one of these. The church therefore must decide which of these meanings shall be adopted. So here ; if the Hebrew Future may become a Praeterite and a Present, and so mutatis mutandis of the Praeter, then he will exclaim,' we have a nodus deo vindice dignus,—and to which of all the powers above or below shall we make the appeal ?'
Such, 1 say, may be the views of some; for such views have been often presented to the public. Yet a little experience in Hebrew and some tolerable knowledge of other languages, will soon quiet any apprehensions in relation to this difficulty. I have already remarked, that in translating the Hebrew the difficulty is scarcely felt, even by a tyro; so easily does the context determine what must be the tense by which we should translate the verb. But if there be a difficulty still, it belongs also in no small degree to the other sacred language, viz. the Greek, as well as to the Hebrew,