Tenses and Clause Position in the Psalms – Diethelm Michel

Psalm 1, Verse 1 and 2 in Biblia Hebraica Stut...
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I have found it a joy to teach through the Psalter on several occasions as an English Bible elective. As I work through the psalms in the Hebrew text, like many I am unsure about the use of the tenses of Hebrew verbs. Thus, I have begun working through Diethelm Michel’s work, Tempora und Satzstellung in den Psalmen, which deals with how the psalmist uses the Hebrew verbs and derivatively with clause position. As Michel notes in the introduction, we are coming to terms with how the verb forms are used in narrative texts and the discourse sections of those texts. [In this regard, I have found Wolfgang Schneider’s summary of verbal syntax in his Grammatik des biblischen Hebräisch: Ein Lehrbuch extremely helpful. By the way, I have a translation of Schneider’s entire work that I would like to get published, so mention that to your favorite publishing representative :).] Yet, even though the use of the tenses (for lack of a better term) in narrative are pretty clear, the use of the tenses in poetry, particularly the psalms, doesn’t seem to match our conclusions and still leaves us with some questions. Schneider’s work does not go into great depth regarding the issue. Certainly much work continues to be done on these things, but the comprehensive nature of Michel’s work and the multitude of examples he provides, gives us something to work through in thinking about these issues.

My intention, then, is to work through Michel section by section, giving a summary and analysis of his conclusions, along with a few examples. My hope is that this will be beneficial to Hebrew students (including my own) and that it will engender discussion.

The first part deals with the imperfect consecutive (or wayyiqtol), which I will begin to summarize in the next post.


Author: Randy McKinion

Besides being a husband and father, I teach at Cedarville University in Cedarville, OH.

4 thoughts on “Tenses and Clause Position in the Psalms – Diethelm Michel”

  1. Randy,
    In Michel’s introduction how do you translate “Perfekt des Vollzugs?” I am still working on translating some sections of his work. I at least want to get the introduction finished and Chapters 28-32.

  2. I translate it as a “perfect of performance.” He talks about it a lot in Section 12. Schneider calls it a performative comment in his Section 48.3. “Performative perfect” may be better in that the perfect describes an act that is being carried out by the speech itself. “I call this meeting to order.”
    I have been working on Michel even this week. Section 28-32 are really helpful, in my opinion.

  3. Thanks, Randy. As weak as my German is maybe I can finish sections 28-32 within the next year. :) I would really like to see your translation of Schneider published sometime in the near future. Have you talked to any publishers. I wonder if Eisenbrauns would be interested in publishing it in their Linguistic Studies in Ancient West Semitic series. They did publish a translation of Joshua Blau’s “Phonology and Morphology of Biblical Hebrew” in the series. Then you could get Michel’s translated and published. As popular as Michel’s work is in the field I am surprised it has not been translated, and I have searched high and low for a translation. Thank you for answering my questions along the way. I hope to finish this dissertation soon.

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