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Home :: Archive :: 2012 :: April ::
Hebrew Verbs

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.144  Monday, 2 April 2012

 

From:        Hannibal Hamlin < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         March 31, 2012 2:41:42 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: Hebrew Verbs

 

Others on the list with Hebrew less rudimentary than mine will no doubt be able to answer with more precision, but, yes, it is my understanding that Hebrew does not have tense in the same way European languages do. Hebrew verbs have forms designating complete or incomplete action. In terms of Exodus 3:14, the result is that while the Geneva translation is correct, it is also reductive, since one might translate equally accurately using different English tenses—I am be what I will be, etc. One implication is that God’s self-description—not really one, let alone a name—includes eternal immutability—was, is, will be.

 

My point in the Blackwell’s “Shakespeare and the Bible” piece was that Iago’s “I am not what I am” is a demonic parody of Exod. 3:14, an expression of utter vacuity in contrast to God’s eternal plenitude.

 

If I’ve erred or muddled, expert Hebraists please clarify.

 

Hannibal

 

Associate Professor of English

Editor, Reformation

Co-curator, Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible

http://www.manifoldgreatness.org/

The Ohio State University

164 West 17th Ave., 421 Denney Hall

Columbus, OH 43210-1340

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