I am presenting in P19-225:
Hebrew and Greek Tenses in Isaiah
The ancient Greek translation of Isaiah is the locus of two debates among Septuagint scholars which verb tenses can help resolve. One of these is the extent to which Greek Isaiah should be considered relatively “free” translation rather than “literal” because of its numerous divergences from the Masoretic text. The other debate is the extent to which the translator of Isaiah infused his translation with his own ideological tendencies, especially a conviction that the prophet was speaking of the translator’s own time. In addition to these disputes regarding Isaiah, there is a broader question regarding the meaning of the Hebrew verb forms and how a reader from the second century would have understood their semantics. The Greek translation of Isaiah provides an example of just such a reader. This paper addresses the question of how the translator of Isaiah understood the Hebrew verb tenses by testing the following hypotheses: (1) If his “free” translation style led him to translate according to meaning and context rather than automatically mapping the formal features of Hebrew onto Greek, we should expect to find a tendency more varied than the usual qatal verbs translated into aorists and yiqtols to futures evident in the scriptures that were translated relatively late. (2) If his eschatology shaped his translation, we should expect to find Hebrew qatals and participles translated as futures even when the context does not demand it. (3) If Hebrew and Greek were both aspect-prominent languages, we should expect to find a statistical tendency for yiqtols and participles to be translated as Greek presents, imperfects, and participles; qatals should be translated as Greek aorists, futures, and perfects. Alternatively, if Hebrew was more modal than aspectual, yiqtols should become Greek subjunctives, optatives, and futures; and participles and qatals should be rendered as participles and indicatives. Finally, if Hebrew was a tense-prominent language, we should expect to find active qatals translated as aorists, imperfects, and pluperfects; stative qatals should be perfects and presents; active yiqtols should be futures; and stative yiqtols should be presents or futures. Recognizing the possibility of variant readings in the translator’s Hebrew parent text, this investigation takes into account verb form differences between the MT and the Qumran scrolls.
Ken M. Penner
St. Francis Xavier University