Hebrew grammar style in Genesis

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Lankford Oxendine | Forum Activity | Posted: Mon, Jun 4 2012 3:32 PM

I read that there are distinct grammar styles in Hebrew for literalism and allegory.  It's been said that the entire book of Genesis was written in a literal Hebrew grammar style, therefore this is a strong argument against an allegorical interpretation of the Genesis account of creation.  Anyone care to confirm or deny?  Thanks!

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George Somsel | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jun 4 2012 4:13 PM

Lankford Oxendine:

I read that there are distinct grammar styles in Hebrew for literalism and allegory.  It's been said that the entire book of Genesis was written in a literal Hebrew grammar style, therefore this is a strong argument against an allegorical interpretation of the Genesis account of creation.  Anyone care to confirm or deny?  Thanks!

I don't know about a "literal" style—perhaps a littoral style.

george
gfsomsel

יְמֵי־שְׁנוֹתֵינוּ בָהֶם שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה וְאִם בִּגְבוּרֹת שְׁמוֹנִים שָׁנָה וְרָהְבָּם עָמָל וָאָוֶן

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jun 4 2012 5:13 PM

Lankford Oxendine:
distinct grammar styles in Hebrew

The whole conept of a language's grammar having multiple "styles" is foreign to me almost to the point of being nonsensical. The words/sentences in a given piece of speech or writing has a style. Grammar deals with the language in abstract; style deals with language in the concrete. That's my view, at least.

gram·mar  (grmr)

n. 1. a. The study of how words and their component parts combine to form sentences. b. The study of structural relationships in language or in a language, sometimes including pronunciation, meaning, and linguistic history. 2. a. The system of inflections, syntax, and word formation of a language. b. The system of rules implicit in a language, viewed as a mechanism for generating all sentences possible in that language. 3. a. A normative or prescriptive set of rules setting forth the current standard of usage for pedagogical or reference purposes. b. Writing or speech judged with regard to such a set of rules. 4. A book containing the morphologic, syntactic, and semantic rules for a specific language.
=========
style  (stl)n. 1. The way in which something is said, done, expressed, or performed: a style of speech and writing. 2. The combination of distinctive features of literary or artistic expression, execution, or performance characterizing a particular person, group, school, or era.

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Ben | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jun 4 2012 6:12 PM

I'm going to say deny on this one. Though I've not heard this claim before (and by way of background, MA plus PhD work in Semitics), style and genre are two distinct things. You could tell a non-historical narrative in a variety of styles, and while style is often a clue, it's not determinative.

"The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected."- G.K. Chesterton

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tom | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jun 4 2012 6:21 PM

Ben:
I'm going to say deny on this one.
Yes

Posts 2174
Mark | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jun 4 2012 6:26 PM

Lankford Oxendine:
I read that there are distinct grammar styles in Hebrew for literalism and allegory.

Can you cite the author and the work where you read this?

Posts 11433
DMB | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jun 4 2012 7:38 PM

It's an interesting question; today as english speakers, we can easily detect 'allegory' versus 'literal' (or what we call 'historical'). In the Targums the style is easy to see (though I'm not sure about the use of the word 'grammar').

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Allen Browne | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jun 4 2012 7:41 PM

Lankford Oxendine:
I read that there are distinct grammar styles in Hebrew for literalism and allegory.  It's been said that the entire book of Genesis was written in a literal Hebrew grammar style, therefore this is a strong argument against an allegorical interpretation of the Genesis account of creation.  Anyone care to confirm or deny?  Thanks!

As others have said, the way you described this would not hold water.

There are different literary styles in different genres. For example, poetry (including Hebrew poetry) is not too hard to identify, and the early chapters of Genesis contain some poetic segments. In general, poetry and literal interpretation doen't fit together well. On the other hand, Genesis 5 and 11 contain genealogies which are characteristic of historic narrative than of myth or legend. So, even the first 11 chapters are not a single genre.

So, the issue is considerably more complex than your post imagines. Since these forums are really about discussing how to use Logos rather than specific views, can I suggest you get hold of anything by Gordon Wenham on this? The introduction in his Word Biblical Commentary series Volume 1 is one of the best I can suggest.

Posts 2313
David Thomas | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jun 5 2012 8:14 AM

Lankford Oxendine:
It's been said that the entire book of Genesis was written in a literal Hebrew grammar style

There are differences of "style" within the book. for example. The predominant names used for God are different in chapters 1 and 2.Without getting into the meaning/purpose behind these differences (the Forums are not a place to discuss particular theology), it is too naive to assign one "style" to the whole book and make a blanket statement as in your original question.

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Posts 242
Lankford Oxendine | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jun 5 2012 9:16 AM

Mark:

Lankford Oxendine:
I read that there are distinct grammar styles in Hebrew for literalism and allegory.

Can you cite the author and the work where you read this?

I believe (not sure) it was from an AiG article in response to the PBS-TV series Evolution but those articles are no longer on their site.  I did come across this statement though:

"Genesis 1–11 uses what is known in Hebrew as the waw consecutive. That is to say normal, sequential, historical meaning [see aside below]. There is no indication within the text that an allegorical or non-literal, non-historical, non-chronological meaning is intended anywhere in Genesis 1–11  …  Hence this construction is called the waw consecutive.1 In context, this is conclusive proof that Genesis should be read as a straightforward historical account of real events happening in a definite order."

http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/cm/v22/n2/interview-creation-at-the-academy

I'm assuming many would disagree with the above assessment.

In Logos, can one search for the waw consecutive with this morph tag @Cc?

 

 

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David Thomas | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jun 5 2012 11:31 AM

Lankford Oxendine:
In Logos, can one search for the waw consecutive with this morph tag @Cc?

in our Hebrew class we applied a visual filter to the AFAT using Logos Morphology of @V??[cm] to identify all the wayyiqtol verbs

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Ben | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jun 5 2012 11:41 AM

That has no meaning. The waw-consecutive is a syntactic/grammatical construction used to indicate various things like consecution (A happened, then B). But things happen in consecutive fashion in fiction, non-fiction, and just about any genre. The presence of waw-consecutives says nothing about historical vs. non-historical.

"The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected."- G.K. Chesterton

Posts 2174
Mark | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jun 5 2012 11:46 AM

A resource in Logos http://www.logos.com/product/4741/magnes-press-hebrew-bible-collection may help you.  U Cassuto's commentary on the book of Genesis part one from Adam to Noah.  From my understanding, Cassuto is revered in Hasidic circles for his commentaries, especially on Genesis.

To wet your appetite of the richness of this commentary:

(a). After the introductory verse (1:1), the section is divided into seven paragraphs, each of which appertains to one of the seven days. An obvious indication of this division is to be seen in the recurring sentence, And there was evening and there was morning, such-and-such a day. Hence the Masoretes were right in placing an open paragraph [i.e. one that begins on a new line] after each of these verses. Other ways of dividing the section suggested by some modern scholars are unsatisfactory.
(b–d). Each of the three nouns that occur in the first verse and express the basic concepts of the section, viz God [אֱלֹהִים ʾElōhīm] heavens [שָׁמַיִם šāmayim], earth [אֶרֶץ ʾereṣ], are repeated in the section a given number of times that is a multiple of seven: thus the name of God occurs thirty-five times, that is, five times seven (on the fact that the Divine Name, in one of its forms, occurs seventy times in the first four chapters, see below); earth is found twenty-one times, that is, three times seven; similarly heavens (or firmament, רָקִיעַ rāqīaʿ) appears twenty-one times.
(e). The ten sayings with which, according to the Talmud, the world was created (Aboth v 1; in B. Rosh Hashana 32a and B. Megilla 21b only nine of them are enumerated, the one in 1:29, apparently, being omitted)—that is, the ten utterances of God beginning with the words, and … said—are clearly divisible into two groups: the first group contains seven Divine fiats enjoining the creation of the creatures, to wit, ‛Let there be light’, ‘Let there be a firmament’, ‘Let the waters be gathered together’, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation’, ‘Let there be lights’, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms’, ‘Let the earth bring forth’; the second group comprises three pronouncements that emphasize God’s concern for man’s welfare (three being the number of emphasis), namely, ‘Let us make man’ (not a command but an expression of the will to create man), ‘Be fruitful and multiply’, ‘Behold I have given unto you every plant yielding seed’. Thus we have here, too, a series of seven corresponding dicta.
(f). The terms light and day are found, in all, seven times in the first paragraph, and there are seven references to light in the fourth paragraph.
(g). Water is mentioned seven times in the course of paragraphs two and three.
(h). In the fifth and sixth paragraphs forms of the word חַיָּה ḥayyā [rendered ‘living’ or ‘beasts’] occur seven times.
(i). The expression it was good appears seven times (the seventh time—very good).
(j). The first verse has seven words.
(k). The second verse contains fourteen words—twice seven.
(l). In the seventh paragraph, which deals with the seventh day, there occur the following three consecutive sentences (three for emphasis), each of which consists of seven words and contains in the middle the expression the seventh day:
And on THE SEVENTH DAY God finished His work which He had done, and He rested on THE SEVENTH DAY from all His work which
He had done.
So God blessed THE SEVENTH DAY and hallowed it.
(m). The words in the seventh paragraph total thirty-five—five times seven.
To suppose that all this is a mere coincidence is not possible.
§ 6. This numerical symmetry is, as it were, the golden thread that binds together all the parts of the section and serves as a convincing proof of its unity against the view of those—and they comprise the majority of modern commentators
—who consider that our section is not a unity but was formed by the fusion of two different accounts, or as the result of the adaptation and elaboration of a shorter earlier version. According to the prevailing view, the division of the work of creation in the original text differed from that found in the present recension, eight—or ten—creative acts, or seven days of work (man being formed on the seventh), or some other scheme being envisaged; only in the last redaction, it is assumed, was the division into six days of work introduced and the idea of the Sabbath added. The final edition is attributed by most scholars to the source P; the different theories concerning the source of the first version need not detain us here. I have already dealt with this matter fully in the second part of my essay, ‘La creazione del mondo nella Genesi’ (the creation of the world according to the Book of Genesis), published in Annuario di Studi Ebraici, Vol. i (1934) pp. 47–49. The reader who wishes to delve more deeply into the subject will find there the requisite details as well as a bibliography; here a summary account of the position must suffice. Following are the main arguments advanced by the scholars referred to:
(1). Internal contradictions: the existence of day and night before the creation of the luminaries; the presence of plants before the sun came into being.
(2). Signs of inconsistency and the absence of a unified system in the phrasing and formulation of the account: sometimes the expression and it was so is used, sometimes a different wording; on most of the days we are told it was good, but not on the second day; the acts of creation are described in different ways (at times God issues an order and His order is carried out; at other times it is He who creates or makes; on other occasions still He commands the elements to form the creatures).
(3). The distribution of the acts of creation over six days is not balanced, for the works of the first three days do not properly correspond to those of the last three days. Thus we have:

1. Light
2. Heavens
3. Earth (including vegetation) and sea
4. Luminaries
5. Fish and birds
6. Living creatures on land, and man


Cassuto, U. (1998). A Commentary on the Book of Genesis: Part I, From Adam to Noah (Genesis I–VI 8) (I. Abrahams, Trans.) (13–16). Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University.

Posts 2313
David Thomas | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jun 5 2012 11:49 AM

This video will show you how the Moody Theological Seminary does visual filters for Hebrew morphology. http://youtu.be/pZz_cMKkjvw which will render a result of

 

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Posts 9947
George Somsel | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jun 5 2012 12:54 PM

Lankford Oxendine:

Mark:

Lankford Oxendine:
I read that there are distinct grammar styles in Hebrew for literalism and allegory.

Can you cite the author and the work where you read this?

I believe (not sure) it was from an AiG article in response to the PBS-TV series Evolution but those articles are no longer on their site.  I did come across this statement though:

"Genesis 1–11 uses what is known in Hebrew as the waw consecutive. That is to say normal, sequential, historical meaning [see aside below]. There is no indication within the text that an allegorical or non-literal, non-historical, non-chronological meaning is intended anywhere in Genesis 1–11  …  Hence this construction is called the waw consecutive.1 In context, this is conclusive proof that Genesis should be read as a straightforward historical account of real events happening in a definite order."

http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/cm/v22/n2/interview-creation-at-the-academy

I'm assuming many would disagree with the above assessment.

In Logos, can one search for the waw consecutive with this morph tag @Cc?

 

 

So, apparently the argument is that the use of the waw-consecutive precludes that some text can be an allegory.  Consider Jdg 9.8-15

7       וַיַּגִּדוּ   לְיוֹתָם   וַיֵּלֶךְ   וַיַּעֲמֹד   בְּרֹאשׁ   הַר־ גְּרִזִים   וַיִּשָּׂא   קוֹלֹו  
וַיִּקְרָא   וַיֹּאמֶר   לָהֶם   שִׁמְעוּ   אֵלַי   בַּעֲלֵי   שְׁכֶם   וְיִשְׁמַע   אֲלֵיכֶם  
אֱלֹהִים ׃
8       הָלוֹךְ   הָלְכוּ   הָעֵצִים   לִמְשֹׁחַ   עֲלֵיהֶם   מֶלֶךְ   וַיֹּאמְרוּ   לַזַּיִת  
מָלְו֯כָה   עָלֵינוּ ׃
9       וַיֹּאמֶר   לָהֶם   הַזַּיִת   הֶחֳדַלְתִּי   אֶת־ דִּשְׁנִי   אֲשֶׁר־ בִּי   יְכַבְּדוּ  
אֱלֹהִים   וַאֲנָשִׁים   וְהָלַכְתִּי   לָנוּעַ   עַל־ הָעֵצִים ׃
10       וַיֹּאמְרוּ   הָעֵצִים   לַתְּאֵנָה   לְכִי־ אַתְּ   מָלְכִי   עָלֵינוּ ׃
11       וַתֹּאמֶר   לָהֶם   הַתְּאֵנָה   הֶחֳדַלְתִּי   אֶת־ מָתְקִי   וְאֶת־ תְּנוּבָתִי  
הַטּוֹבָה   וְהָלַכְתִּי   לָנוּעַ   עַל־ הָעֵצִים ׃
12       וַיֹּאמְר֥וּ   הָעֵצִ֖ים   לַגָּ֑פֶן   לְכִי־ אַ֖תְּ   מָלְו֯כִ֥י   עָלֵֽינוּ ׃
13       וַתֹּאמֶר   לָהֶם   הַגֶּפֶן   הֶחֳדַלְתִּי   אֶת־ תִּירוֹשִׁי   הַמְשַׂמֵּחַ  
אֱלֹהִים   וַאֲנָשִׁים   וְהָלַכְתִּי   לָנוּעַ   עַל־ הָעֵצִים ׃
14       וַיֹּאמְרוּ   כָל־ הָעֵצִים   אֶל־ הָאָטָד   לֵךְ   אַתָּה   מְלָךְ־ עָלֵינוּ ׃
15       וַיֹּאמֶר   הָאָטָד   אֶל־ הָעֵצִים   אִם   בֶּאֱמֶת   אַתֶּם   מֹשְׁחִים   אֹתִי
  לְמֶלֶךְ   עֲלֵיכֶם   בֹּאוּ   חֲסוּ   בְצִלִּי

The conjunctions in red are waw consecutive.  The letters in green are omitted in the qere.  Other conjunctions are waw conjunctives.

Since this is an allegory (which sounds somewhat like one of Aesop's Fables), it would be counterintuitive to consider this as literal.

george
gfsomsel

יְמֵי־שְׁנוֹתֵינוּ בָהֶם שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה וְאִם בִּגְבוּרֹת שְׁמוֹנִים שָׁנָה וְרָהְבָּם עָמָל וָאָוֶן

Posts 1795
Ken McGuire | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jun 5 2012 1:55 PM

George Somsel:

So, apparently the argument is that the use of the waw-consecutive precludes that some text can be an allegory.  Consider Jdg 9.8-15


YesYes

Thank you for the very constructive post (and counter-example), George.

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tom | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jun 5 2012 2:12 PM

Kenneth McGuire:

YesYes

Thank you for the very constructive post (and counter-example), George.

Yes

Posts 242
Lankford Oxendine | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jun 5 2012 8:50 PM

Thanks for the information!

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