“Do You Understand What You Are Reading?”

Biblical Languages and Bible Interpretation

Biblical Hebrew is a delightful language! However, western-oriented students generally get frustrated by some of its characteristics: triconsonantal roots, right-to-left reading, fluctuations of vowels, expansive of word meanings, syntax, ancient idioms, the strangely fluid nature of verbal time (past, present, future), etc. These and other matters may be difficult for the student but they also challenge scholars who in turn influence Bible translators. To be crystal clear:Β How the Hebrew text is understood and the English Bible subsequently translated determines what we understand in our reading of the Old Testament.

This brief posting focuses on the issue of verbal time. Scholars do not always agree as to whether a particular verb in a specific context speaks of the past, present or future since time is mostly a contextual matter in Hebrew verbs (Arnold and Choi,A guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, 36). This results in different English translations and…

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