Better Bibles Blog has moved. Read our last post, below, and then
click here if you are not redirected to our new location within 60 seconds.
Please Bookmark our new location and update blogrolls.

Monday, August 21, 2006

״הם היחיד״ מן התורה מנין؟ (Where do we find a Torah source for "Singular They"?)

Today linguist Mark Liberman asks in a blog post: Is "singular they" verbally and plenarily inspired of God? Mark's question was inspired(?!) by yesterday's post by Steg, Where do we find a Torah source for "Singular They".

It's an interesting question to ponder, especially given the attacks by those who believe in verbal, plenary inspiration upon the TNIV for using singular "they."

I have found a number of instances in the original biblical languages where a grammatical plural has singular reference. That is a kind of singular "they" found in original biblical texts themselves. Unfortunately, my work load is so great right now that I cannot list those verses and blog about them But maybe this much will whet your appetite to come back and keep checking for when I might have time to work in a post on singular "they" in the biblical languages.

Hmm, should we ask if there was a feminist agenda at work that caused those grammatical plurals with singular reference to occur in the original biblical texts? Nah, I don't think so! Not even when we know that the spirit mentioned in the Hebrew Bible who inspired the biblical authors to write was grammatically feminine.


At Mon Aug 21, 07:06:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Tue Aug 22, 01:55:00 AM, Blogger DavidR said...

Anon wrote: Understanding these apparent "grammatical errors" is the beginning of an important form of exegesis.

So while we're on grammar and Deuteronomy 17:5....

MT: אֶל־שְׁעָרֶיךָ
KJV: unto thy gates
NIV: to your city gate (sg)
ESV: to your gates

So does that mean the unfortunate idolater gets quartered before they :) are stoned with stones?

On the construction in question in v. 5, however, cf. also 17:2.

Joüon-Muraoka §§ 148-152 is worth meditating on in this connection. The candor at § 150b is noteworthy: "In the 3d person, the agreement of the verb presents a very large number of anomalies." :)

There is much of grammatical interest in the Deut 17:2-5 pericope. The various handlings of וְהֻגַּד־לְךָ וְשָׁמָעְתָּ וְדָרַשְׁתָּ in v. 4 caught my eye:

NIV: and this has been brought to your attention, then you must investigate...
KJV: And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and enquired...
ESV: and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire...

NIV blends the first two verbs -- but should it, in a legal formulation? The implication in the KJV/ESV is that the hearing is simply consequent on the telling. Both NIV and ESV make the subsequent investigation an outcome, not simply the next phase of a sequence (as in KJV). The NJPS Tanak catches (what to my mind are) the appropriate nuances here:

"and you have been informed or have learned of it, then you shall make ... inquiry".

[emphasis added] That is, the first two verbs are alternate scenarios, thus the waw here carries the sense of "or" (cf. the comments of Waltke-O'Connor, p. 648 n. 2 on ו [waw] v. אֹו in BH), while the next waw is rightly rendered as "then".

Anyway, interesting stuff!

David Reimer

At Tue Aug 22, 10:23:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Tue Aug 29, 02:53:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

Singular 'they' in the newer dialects of English that have it as a regular feature nowadays, does not take a 'has' but a 'have'. It's a singular 'have' as well. So why couldn't we expect the same thing in the KJV?


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home