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THE

CALCUTTA CHRISTIAN OBSERVER.

February, 1834.

This was

I.-Theory of the Hebrew Verb, No. II. In a former paper an attempt was made to prove, that what in Hebrew have generally been denominated the past and future tenses of the verb are really indicative and potential moods, each of which has a present, past, and future signification. done by a reference to the authorised version of the Scriptures, that the fact being established upon undeniable evidence, it might not appear to be a visionary pursuit to attempt an investigation of the laws by which the precise time, intended by the sacred writer, is determined.

All grammatical rules are nothing more than so many observa- ! ? tions made on the language to which they apply: as far as they relate to language in general, they may be regarded as forming a fixed basis ; but as far as they refer to particular usages, in which one tongue differs from another, they must be considered as its peculiar structure. If any one desires therefore to be perfectly acquainted with a language, he must not only observe what is common to it with others, but must pay particular attention to what is peculiar.

The number of parts into which time is divided is conventional. In languages that are simple, they are fewer ; and in those highly cultivated, more numerous : in the Hebrew, the former, and in the Greek the latter, may be observed. But it is not our object to inquire how a nice sense of accuracy would lead men to divide present time into the definite and indefinite ; the past into the imperfect, the perfect, the perfect definite, the first and second aorists, and the pluperfect : and the future into the first future, and the second future, and the paulo-post futurum ; it is rather to ascertain by what methods they express these distinctions of time as far as they admit them.

The methods adopted in the formation of the tenses are three :first, by inflexions ; secondly, by auxiliaries ; and thirdly, by rules. In the Greek, Sanscrit, and many other languages, the tenses are

formed almost entirely by inflexions, as in tuttw to beat ; present τυπτω, imperfect ετυπτον, perfect τετυφα, pluperfect ετετυφειν, aorists stuya, ETUROV, futures tufw, Tufâ. In the English, Chinese, and some others by auxiliaries, as, present, love, am loving ; imperfect, loved, did love, was loving ; perfect, have loved ; pluperfect, had loved; future, shall love, shall have loved. In some there appears a great mixture of the two; as in the Persian, was

کرده ام perfect کردم aorist میکردم imperfect میکنم to do

; present The same may .بگذم خواهم کرد کرده باشم futures کرده بودم pluperfect

. be said of the Hindoostanee and Bengalee.

The Hebrew, with its cognate languages, has its tenses determined neither by inflexions nor by auxiliaries; but by certain rules which have been stated to be simple in their nature and easy in their application. It must be confessed, that the indicative mood is used more frequently in the past, than in the present and future tenses ; and that the potential appears to be more frequently used in the future, than in the present and past tenses. It was probably this that led to the error of considering them tenses and not moods; but that they are moods and not tenses we have shewn from their each being used in a present, past, and future sense. The following are the rules which may serve to guide us in ascertaining the time designed to be expressed by the Hebrew verb.

1. In the statement of universal propositions, or moral and religious truths, the verb, whether in the indicative or potential mood, must be considered as in the present tense; as, ' Every wise woman

buildeth her house ; but the foolish plucketh it down with her “hands.' Prov. xiv. 1. Here i7n2 and 13077n the former the indi

cative, and the latter the potential, are both of the present tense. • Blessed is the man that maketh the Lord his trust, and respecteth not the proud.' Psalm xl. 4. Here O' and 77JB are both indicative present. · Doth not Wisdom cry, and Understanding utter her voice?' Prov. viii. 1. In this example both the verbs XP and in are of the potential mood, present tense. It would be endless to multiply examples : let the reader compare the English translation with his Hebrew Bible, and he will find in the former abundant proofs of the accuracy of this rule, together with some unhappy violations.

2. In all historical relations, the time at which the historian lived and wrote is to be regarded as the present; and the verbs, whether in the indicative or potential mood, as of the present or past tense according to that period. Thus Jeremiah, describing what took place in his own time, says, ' Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us ; consider and behold our reproach. Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens. We are orphans and fatherless ; our mothers are as widows. We drink our

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water for money: our wood is sold unto us. Our necks are under persecution ; we labour and have no rest. We give the hand to the Egyptians and to the Assyrians to be satisfied with bread. Our fathers sinned and are not; and we bear their iniquities. Servants rule over us ; there is none that doth deliver out of their hand. We get our bread by the peril of our lives, because of the sword of the wilderness. Our skin is black like an oven, because of the terrible famine. They ravish the women in Zion, the maids in the cities of Judah ; princes are hanged by their hand; the faces of the elders are not honoured. They take the young men to grind, and the children fall under the wood. The elders cease from the gate, the young men from their music. The joy of our heart is ceased, our dance is turned into mourning. The crown is fallen from our head : woe unto us that we have sinned! For this our heart is faint ; for these things our eyes are dim. Because of the mountain of Zion which is desolate, the foxes walk upon it. Thou, O Lord, remainest for ever, thy throne from generation to generation. Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever, and forsake us so long a time? Turn thou unto us, O Lord, that we may be turned : renew our days as of old. But thou dost utterly reject us: thou art very wrath against us.'. Lam. v. By comparing this with the authorized version, it will be perceived, that considerable obscurity is there created by the perpetual changes which take place in the tenses throughout, and that many beauties are presented by rendering the whole, instead of only a part, according to the rule we have given.

In reckoning from our own time, instead of the time of the writer, much confusion necessarily arises, because that which is past to us was present to him. To enter into his descriptions, we must place ourselves by his side in regard to time, and make that the present period from which we view every previous historical event. As this is directly contrary to the method of calculating from our own time, to which we are so accustomed, it needs to be the more powerfully impressed on the mind.

Again, when a relation of events prior to the time of the writer is given, it is to be translated in the past tense, whether in the indicative or potential mood, as in the following. • Israel came into Egypt, and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham. And he increased his people greatly; and made them stronger than their enemies. He turned their hearts to hate his people, to deal subtilely with his servants. He sent Moses his servant, and Aaron whom he had chosen. They shewed his signs among them, and wonders in the land of Ham. He sent darkness and made it dark, and they rebelled not against his word. He turned their water into blood, and slew their fish. Their land brought forth frogs in abundance, in the chambers of their kings. He spake, and there came divers

sorts of flies and lice in all their coasts. He gave them hail for rain, and flaming fire in their land. He smote their vines also and their fig-trees; and brake the trees of their coasts. He spake, and the locusts came and caterpillars, and that without number; and did eat up all their herbs in their land, and devoured the fruit of their ground. He smote also the first-born in their land, the chief of all their strength. He brought them forth also with silver and gold, and there was not one feeble among all their tribes. Egypt was glad when they departed; for the fear of them fell upon them. Ps. cv. 23 to 39.

3. In historical relations, the sacred writers interchange the moods; but this interchange, while it varies the style, makes no difference in the time; the two modes connected together by a copulative conjunction, whether in the same sentence or in different sentences, must be understood as relating to the same period of time; as, • Thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore.' Psalm xxxviii. 2. Here inn? and On being coupled together by a conjunction, the different moods are the same in point of time. It will be observed, that nearly the whole of this Xxxviii. Psalm is rendered in the present tense, according to Rule 2; -whereas, according to those who regard the moods as past and future tenses, and the :1 as conversive, it should have

been partly past and partly future. In the first two verses of Genesis, the verbs are in the indicative mood and past tense, according to Rule 2;- in the succeeding ones, in the potential mood past tense, according to rule third ; so that 17 and I though different moods, are both in the past tense. It is very common for the sacred writers in historical relations, after having used the indicative a time or two, to turn to the potential, and continue the narrative in that form.

But granting that the potential, when it is united with the indicative, is the same as to time, how will the case stand if the indicative is united with the potential? The reply is, precisely the same, the rule still applies, and no change is produced in the tense by the alteration of the mood, whether the potential follows the indicative or the indicative the potential, any more than in English when we say, I do and can love him, or I could and did love him. For an example of this in different sentences, see Genesis xxi. 21, 25,

• And Abraham said, I will swear. And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech's servants had violently taken away.' In this example the indicative noi follows the potential 72 and both are in the past tense. For an example in the same sentence, see Gen. xli. 12. ' And he interpreted to us our dreams ; to each man according to his dream did he interpret., Here the indicative na follows the potential ma but both are in the same tense.

ואמר

Ifthe rules require the first verb to be in the future tense, the one that is connected with it will be the same, as in the examples we have given above of the present and past tenses. Viewing the subject in this light, then, it is evident, that there is no conversion made in the tenses by the vaw, but that it simply connects two moods, each of which has a present, past, and future tense ;-and by thus connecting them makes them alike as to time.

In regard to past time there are no distinctions in Hebrew, so + that when a verb has been determined to be in the past tense by rule second, it must be rendered into another language in the imperfect, perfect, or pluperfect, as the idiom of that language may require." The following examples will elucidate this in English: And he did right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David did.' 2 Kings xviii. 3. Here 'wy i and 1.pny are indefiniteorimperfect. · And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why hare ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive?' Ex. i. 18. Here in ny and main are what we denominate perfect. And Noah awoke from his sleep, and knew what his younger son had done to him.' Gen. ix. 24. Here the word ovy is rendered in the pluperfect. These three examples on the same verb, while they illustrate the truth of this remark, shew also, that in translating from the Hebrew into another language, the person ought not only to have a competent knowledge of the Hebrew tongue, but a very accurate acquaintance with the tenses of the one into which he translates. Since the Hebrew has no distinctions of past tense, a translator could not be denominated unfaithful, if he rendered all the above examples in the same past tense; yet any one can perceive, where distinctions of past time exist, as in English, how awkwardly the passages would read if all were rendered in the same manner. The like remarks might be applied to the present and present definite, and the first and second futures. The idiom of the language into which the translation is made must determine which tense is most proper to be employed.

4. The indicative is employed with a future signification to express what is about certainly or quickly to be done; the potential to express any event, whether certain or uncertain, near or remote.

The following are instances of the indicative future. In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abraham, saying, Unto thy seed I will give the land from the river Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.' Gen. xv. 18. • There shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Seth. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for bis enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly.' Num. xxiv. 17, 18.

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