The “Wayyiqtol” As ‘Pluperfect’: When And Why -- By: C. John Collins

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 46:1 (NA 1995)
Article: The “Wayyiqtol” As ‘Pluperfect’: When And Why
Author: C. John Collins

The “Wayyiqtol” As ‘Pluperfect’:
When And Why

C. John Collins


This article examines the possibility that the Hebrew wayyiqtol verb form itself, without a previous perfect, may denote what in Western languages would be expressed by a pluperfect tense, and attempts to articulate how we might discern it in a given passage, and the communicative effect of such a usage. The article concludes that there is an unmarked pluperfect usage of the wayyiqtol verb form; and that it may be detected when one of three conditions is met. Application of these results demonstrates that this usage is not present in 1 Samuel 14:24, while it is present in Genesis 2:19.

I. Introduction

There is no need to defend the statement of Gesenius that in Classical Hebrew narrative the wayyiqtol verb form (commonly called ‘the waw consecutive with “imperfect”’) ‘serves to express actions, events, or states, which are to be regarded as the temporal or logical sequel of actions, events, or states mentioned immediately before.’1 More recently, practitioners of textlinguistics have referred to the wayyiqtol verb form as ‘the backbone or storyline tense of Biblical Hebrew narrative discourse.’2 In general, orderly narrative involves a story in the past tense, about discrete and basically sequential events.3 In

Biblical Hebrew, the wayyiqtol verb form is grammatically marked as conveying this information.4

There is also little need to discuss the proposition that the normal way to express a pluperfect idea (also called a ‘flashback’5 ) in Classical Hebrew narrative is by the use of the perfect verb form (also called the qatal form), commonly introduced in a narrative with a subordinating conjunction such as ’ăšer or , or with some sentence element preposed to the verb. This verb form in narrative is grammatically marked for off-the-main-storyline events. It may introduce an imbedded storyline of time prior to the main storyline, whose backbone sequence will be conveyed by wayyiqtol forms.

Difficulties arise when it appears that the wayyiqtol verb form is used to denote an event prior to the previous verb,

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