Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 8 (2008) - Review

KUSATU (Kleine Untersuchungen zur Sprache des Alten Testaments und seiner Umwelt; ed. Reinhard Lehmann) 6 (2006).

For a description of this series from the University of Mainz, see the review of Vols. 2-3 at: Volume 6 of KUSATU comprises six articles, five of which target a linguistic audience. Of these five, the first three are in German (the first of which includes a summary in English) and treat issues of structure and grammar. The following two articles pertaining to semantics are in English. The sixth and last article, also in English, addresses issues related to assessing the authenticity of unprovenanced seals.

The table of contents contains a typographical error in the title of the first article by Achim Behrens (pp. 1-32) that alters the intended focus. It reads: “Die ‘syntaktische Wiederaufnahme’ als textgrammatisches Problem im Biblischen Hebräisch.” The title appearing on the first page of the article itself reads “Phänomen” instead of “Problem.” Indeed, Behrens treats syntaktische Wiederaufnahme as a phenomenon to be investigated, rather than a problem to be solved. Behrens investigates the role of syntactic resumption “as a stylistic feature” that is “a useful tool for biblical exegesis.” He illustrates the phenomenon as it occurs in five examples from the Hebrew Bible: Amos 7-8, Jeremiah 24, Isaiah 6, 1 Kings 22, Ezekiel 37. Behrens places quotation marks around the designation of the phenomenon—“syntaktische Wiederaufnahme”—as though he has coined the term. However, the expression was in use even before his 1997 article on the feature in Amos. The term “Wiederaufnahme” (translated into English as “repetitive resumption” by most writers, or occasionally “resumptive repetition”), was introduced by Curt Kuhl in his 1952 article “Die ‘Wiederaufnahme’—ein literarisches Prinzip?” (ZAW 64, 1-11). Kuhl’s article is, surprisingly, not cited by Behrens, even though his bibliography contains works exclusively in German. Kuhl investigated a certain type of repetition that is often considered either a later addition or dittography. It occurs frequently in the Hebrew Bible—he counted 150 cases, mostly in the major prophets, especially Ezekiel. Its function is to resume the thread of a previous topic which was interrupted by other content. The resumption is carried out by repeating the last words, sentence, or section of the original thread, and then moving forward with the original topic (hence the English, “repetitive resumption”). In the present article, Behrens has observed that the form of the Wiederaufnahme sometimes involves repetition, not of the precise words of the original thread, but rather of syntactic and morphological components. So his topic focuses not so much on Wiederaufnahme per se as it does specifically on “syntaktische” Wiederaufnahme, though again, even this specific form of Wiederaufnahme was observed earlier by modern linguists (see, e.g. Anne Betten, “Fehler und Kommunikationsstrategien. Zur funktionalen Erklärung einiger häufig vorkommender syntaktischer Wiederaufnahme-Formen in der gesprochenen deutschen Gegenwartssprache,” in: D. Cherubim (Hg.), Fehlerlinguistik. Beiträge zum Problem der sprachlichen Abweichung, Tübingen 1980, S. 188-208).

Behrens’ main argument is summarized in English at the end of the article, which I quote here in part: “Texts or several parts of one text can be joined together not only by use of connecting key words, but also by use of the reiteration of certain syntax constructions … this kind of textual grammar opens up a fresh look at form criticism and may prompt scholars to a new interest in text types which eventually may have a close resemblance to Gunkel’s ‘Gattungen’.”

Behrens finds that syntaktische Wiederaufnahme sometimes serves to further develop a theme. In his example from Amos 7, he notes that syntaktische Wiederaufnahme serves to inform the reader of the dramatic change from avoidable to unavoidable calamity within the four visions. In 1 Kings 22 the feature serves to bring two scenes together in contrast to each other. Whatever functions may be served by syntaktische or other forms of Wiederaufnahme, Behrens rightly draws attention to a compositional feature that is operative over large blocks of content. His main contribution here lies in the detailed analysis of his examples, which form a virtual methodological guide that the reader can in turn employ, with the goal of gaining additional insights into the form and function of biblical Hebrew composition.

In the second article, “Grammatik und Bedeutung: Die Rolle des weqatál in Jer 31,31-34” (pp. 33-60), Bernardeth Carmen Caero Bustillos shows the significance of the “Assertiv” (asseverative) sense of the weqatál forms in Jer 31,31-34, which serve to emphasize future certainty. Bustillos identifies a progression of three asseverative verbs, framed by the outer two true weqatál verbs: (1) Jer 31:31c (“I will certainly make a covenant…”), (2) Jer 31:32e (“I will certainly enter into marriage with them.”) (3) Jer 31:33e (“I will certainly be their God.”). Bustillos argues that the structure of Jer 31:32e is the equivalent of a weqatál form (by eliminating the first person pronoun and joining the conjunctive waw with the following qatal verb). These three asseverative verbs form the crucial structural elements of the pericope. While Bustillos’ analysis and exegetical strategy “works” for the pericope in question, it is not clear that other interpretative strategies are thereby excluded. The case would have been strengthened by additional examples.

The third article by Achim Müller is entitled, “Tiefenstrukturell nebensätzliche Parataxen: Einige Überlegungen zur Klassifikation und übersetzung ‘impliziter Hypotaxe’ im biblischen Hebräisch am Beispiel der Fortführung des Imperativ” (pp. 61-86). Müller draws on recent studies by Johannes Friedrich Diehl and Ernst Jenni on the use of the imperative in biblical Hebrew. A central issue involves determining whether or not a construction with two infinitives, or with an infinitive followed by a verb, (with or without a conjunctive waw before the second element in either case), is syntactically paratactic or hypotactic. The problem may be one of our own grammatical taxonomy. For it seems that in biblical Hebrew the line is not always clear: The construction appears to vacillate between parataxis and hypotaxis. What appear to be paratactic constructions often embed “implicit hypotaxis” in the sense. Müller seeks criteria beyond mere intuition in order to differentiate more convincingly between simple parataxis and implicit hypotaxis. Gen 42:18 illustrates the approach, where Joseph directs his brothers, “Do this and live!” Here two infinitives are joined by a conjunctive waw. The structure appears paratactic: (1) Do this! (2) Live! Yet the sense seems conditional: “If you do this, then you will live.” Why is this the case? Müller argues that, while the first action is something that the brothers themselves can do, the second action actually lies in the hand of Joseph, i.e. “live” means “I will let you live.” Thus, the second imperative is not an independent action of the same subject as the subject connected with the first imperative. The structure, imperative  + we + imperative, appears to be paratactic only superficially. On the basis of similar examples, Müller summarizes (which I translate into English): “On the grammatical surface, both imperatives are directed toward the same subject, but in the logical deep structure, different subjects act” (p. 73). Müller calls this circumstance “Kasusrollendifferenz,” since the nominative subject (“der Nominativ [grammatischer Kasus]”) is not identical to the acting subject (“das handelnde Subjekt [logische Kasusrolle]”).

In the article “Biblical Hebrew Lexicology: A Cognitive Linguistic Perspective” (pp. 87-112), Christo H J van der Merwe succinctly states the thesis: “The primary aim of this paper is to explain why I find a cognitive approach to BH lexicography promising.” Van der Merwe finds that current BH lexica lack clarity in the purposes they are to serve from theoretical perspectives of modern linguistics. After providing helpful definitions of technical terms for those who are less informed in the field of Cognitive Linguistics, he outlines basic assumptions of Cognitive Linguistics in respect to the role they can play in constructing a more adequate model for the BH lexicon. What is needed is a large-scale working model to assess the real contribution that Cognitive Linguistics can provide future users of a BH lexicon utilizing its principles. Van der Merwe refers to such a project: The Semantic Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew project undertaken in connection with the United Bible Societies (web site: One can look forward to future reviews of this project as it moves beyond the initial stages.

The fifth article by Francesco Zanella is entitled “Could Componential Analysis be more than a heuristic tool? Examples from Ancient Hebrew” (pp. 113-137). It is the only article in the series to begin with a formal Abstract, which states the thesis: “Specifically, this paper will try to demonstrate how CA [Componential Analysis] could deal and interact with a wider concept of meaning that entails references to cultural and cognitive aspects, without consequently being removed from its theoretical constraints.” While much of the article will be of interest primarily to specialists in linguistics, Zanella makes fundamental issues of semantic meaning accessible to non-specialists as well.

In his article “A Critical Assessment of Unprovenanced Seals and other Artifacts Known since 1968 and Characterized by a ‘Lame Bet’” (pp. 139-188; I note that the header to the article has “Ciritcal” for “Critical.”), Leonard Wolfe has provided an exceptionally useful discussion of the criteria one uses to determine the authenticity of artifacts (seals in particular), a topic that continues to receive a great deal of media attention, and one that has also generated sometimes heated scholarly debate. Wolfe lists 13 criteria and demonstrates how he applies them, which makes the article especially accessible even to the non-specialist. Wolfe identifies a number of areas which cause concern. Especially suspect are items that (1) “reach the market within a short space of time,” and (2) “share characteristic peculiarities which were hitherto unknown.”  Wolfe’s article can be profitably incorporated in a course on inscriptions. Students who are typically given only a typeset version of an inscription to decipher need to be introduced to the issues covered in this article. One looks forward with eagerness to Wolfe’s forthcoming book on controversies and forgeries in Biblical archaeology.

Gary Martin, University of Washington, Seattle, WA