A New Methodology for Ascertaining the Semantic Potential of Biblical Hebrew Prepositions

By Lyle, Kristopher A. | Hebrew Studies Journal, Annual 2013 | Go to article overview

A New Methodology for Ascertaining the Semantic Potential of Biblical Hebrew Prepositions


Lyle, Kristopher A., Hebrew Studies Journal


1. INTRODUCTION

1.1. Acknowledging Some Well-Established Inadequacies

When a reader of Biblical Hebrew consults a lexicon or grammar in order to identify the particular meaning a preposition may convey in a specific text, it is likely that this reader will be confronted with a lexical entry comprised of various uses represented in a list format. For instance, consider two different uses of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (with) in the verses below, accompanied by a condensed version of its entry in the Koehler-Baumgartner lexicon (boldface in the original): (1)

(1)[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]   If you see the donkey of one
                                      who hates you lying under its
                                      load, you shall refrain from
                                      leaving it to him--you shall
                                      surely release it together with
                                      him. (Exod 23:5)

(2)[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]   But my servant Caleb, because a
                                      different spirit has been
                                      together with him, and he has
                                      followed mefully.... (Num 14:24)

[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 1) in company with, together with

a) with all words: expresses communal action or action in company

b) formula to express the divine presence

i) as a promise and pledge

ii) in the mouth of people as a promise, pledge, wish or question

iii) ... [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in retrospect

c) [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as a statement of communality

d) adversative

2) a) together with, as good as

b) together with, even as

c) in comparison with

3) simultaneously with

4) with [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

a) from having a connection with

b) comparative

Given the uses of DP in (1) and (2), and in light of the taxonomy of construals suggested by Koehler and Baumgartner, it would seem that bolded glosses lure the user of the lexicon into believing that the decision with regard to the sense of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is largely determined by whatever translation value best fits the text under consideration. Unfortunately, however, there is a considerable overlap of semantic values in the entry (e.g., "together with"), complicating the selection of meaning. For instance, in example (1) it is quite conceivable that a person is instructed to free a fallen donkey from its load either "in company with," "together with," or "simultaneously with" his or her respective opponent. Such an appropriation of the posited meanings of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]provided by Koehler and Baumgartner could then span the numeral sections 1-3. Clearly, such a wide array of application was not intended by this entry's composers, yet their presentation of the preposition's identified uses is not very conducive to convenient application. (2)

An attempt to interpret example (2) makes this predicament even more apparent. While a certain actional sense was present in Exod 23:5 (viz., the activity of lifting a donkey and its load with another), Num 14:24 is void of this nuance and actually describes Caleb as displaying a different spirit (viz., attitude) than the others who went to scout out the land of Canaan. In this sense, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] relates one entity to another in such a way that if "X is with Y" then Y is understood as possessing X, namely, Caleb (Y) has a different attitude (X). (3) This particular sense is not even accounted for in Koehler and Baumgartner's representation of the preposition's range of meaning. That said, whether the usages of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] are ambiguously identified, represented through a simple taxonomy, or simply not referenced at all, such shortcomings are characteristic of many traditional Biblical Hebrew lexical assessments. …

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