Saturday, 1 August 2009

Is יִשָּׂא in Ps 24:5 jussive?

I have wrestled a number of times with the syntax of the verb יִשָּׂ֣א in Psalm 24:5. Here's the full context:

מִי־יַעֲלֶה בְהַר־יהוה וּמִי־יָקוּם בִּמְקוֹם קָדְשֹׁו׃
4 נְקִי כַפַּיִם וּבַר־לֵבָב אֲשֶׁר לֹא־נָשָׂא לַשָּׁוְא נַפְשִׁי וְלֹא נִשְׁבַּע לְמִרְמָה׃
5 יִשָּׂא בְרָכָה מֵאֵת יהוה וּצְדָקָה מֵאֱלֹהֵי יִשְׁעֹו׃
6 זֶה דּוֹר דֹּרְשָׁו מְבַקְשֵׁי פָּנֶיךָ יַעֲקֹב סֶלָה׃
All translations that I am aware of, ancient and modern, take יִשָּׂ֣א to be a straightforward future, starting a new clause, i.e. "He will receive a blessing" (cf. Ps 15:5). Andersen and Forbes, however, have come up with a different solution. For them, יִשָּׂ֣א is the predicate of the entire of v. 4: i.e. "One clean of hands ... will receive ... ." For a discussion of the pros and cons of this view, see my post What is the syntax of Psalm 24:3-5?

While at SBL in Rome recently, John Hobbins made another suggestion that I find pretty exciting (given its possible interpretative implications). He feels that יִשָּׂ֣א is most likely to be a jussive. This accords with Niccacci's synchronic-discourse approach to the verb in poetry, which holds that clause initial yiqtol verbs, unless doing "double-duty," are always jussive. I guess if Niccacci's approach holds any water, the jussive interpretation is to be preferred, as long as one can prove that יִשָּׂ֣א really is clause initial (see my caveats in aforementioned post). Or are there other grounds for thinking that it is a jussive, beyond its placement in the verse?

Classifying this verb as a jussive, however, still leaves open a bunch of questions for me:
  1. What is the "force" of this jussive? Is it expressing a command, request, invitation, or a wish (cf. van der Merwe, §19.4)? The answer is difficult for two reasons: (i) it depends on context, and in Ps 24 the context is a string of discrete entities in juxtaposition, and (ii) according to Walkte-O'Connor, the "sense of a jussive in simple discourse usually follows from the status relations of the speaker and addressee" (§34.3). Yet the identity of the speakers is not given. If we strictly follow BHS an accept the first person suffix in v. 4 (נַפְשִׁי ), we could argue that Yhwh is speaking. In that case, it could express his wish, but it could also be a kind of command: "Let such a person receive a blessing" or even an invitation (cf. Waltke-O'Connor, §34.3). On the other hand, one could also argue that the speakers have switched, so that the person who posed the question in v. 3 is now responding to Yhwh. In that case, the only possibility would be that a wish is being expressed ("O that such a person would receive a blessing").
  2. To repeat: Who is expressing this desire/command? The same person who is giving the answer in v. 3 or the person who posed the question in v. 2?
  3. What is the function of this wish/command/invitation within the whole? It seems strange that there is a sudden jump to a volitional expression within this context. On the other hand, it contrasts nicely with the immediacy of the imperatives in vv. 7 and 9. Is a wish somehow being realized there?
  4. Does the presence of the jussive add to the overall "subjunctivity" of the passage, as I indicated in my post Is Psalm 24:3-6 subjunctive??
In short, my main problem with reading יִשָּׂ֣א as a jussive is semantic: I just don't know what it wants to communicate to us.

12 comments:

balshanut said...

I may not be certain about the use of tense-switching or foreground/background in the Psalms, but I am 99.9% certain that Niccacci is wrong about initial yiqtol always being jussive. There are about a million counter examples, and the invocation of "double-duty modifiers" is rather weak IMHO.

Of course, that doesn't mean it's not a jussive.

Pete

Phil Sumpter said...

Hi Pete,

thanks very much for your input. Now that I'm back from holiday I hope to find time to read through your verb-in-poetry series soon!

I went back to the article and he added an important caveat: this rule applies only to "direct speech in prose texts". He sees a direct parallel between direct discourse and poetry.

Do you have any examples of clearly non-jussive initial yiqtols in direct discourse? Perhaps Isa 3:7 would be an example.

What really bothers is what the verse would mean in context if it was a jussive.

And if it isn't a jussive, what is this verb? Does it really start a new clause (seems syntactically strange) or is it the predicate of v. 4?

In case you're interested, here's a bit of what he says: "According to the theory presented here, sentence-initial yiqtol is volitive, or jussive, even though its vocalization is not distinctively jussive or is not jussive at all. The problem is that a volitive meaning is not always clear--sometimes it may even appear excluded, e.g., when it refers to the past. Yet, the clear cases that are abundantly available and the consistency of the verbal system encourage us to consider this issue seriously because, of course, the exact intention of the texts is at stake. ... [Again:] ... sentence-initial position alone identifies a yiqtol as jussive, although second-place jussive x-yiqtol are also clearly attested. ... Jussive/volitive yiqtol ... mostly refers to the axis of the future, but occasionally is also found in the axis of the past, and in the latter case it signals finality." (´Verbal System in Poetry, 251-252). The details are on p.261ff.

balshanut said...

Phil,

First, what he means by direct discourse is basically non-narrative discourse, not necessarily speech. In this he follows Weinrich which I try to explain in my series, but Niccacci doesn't quite explain it as well. However, neither Weinrich or Wagner link "tense-switching" to foregrounding/backgrounding in non-narrative contexts, this is because narrative is the special case. In fact, where it seems to work mostly is narrative that is embedded within speech. Weinrich includes lyrical poetry in his category of discourse.

Second, I suppose a future can always be construed as a modal depending on how loose your definition of modality is, but I don't understand what he means by "finality" in respect to a past-tense modal, and there are a lot of examples of clause initial yiqtols that refer to past tense.

Is 3:7 is a good example. Here's another example I found that I can't see as modal, Ps 69:13a:

‏ יָשִׂ֣יחוּ בִ֭י יֹ֣שְׁבֵי שָׁ֑עַר
Those who dwell at the gate speak against me...

This may be an imperfect (would speak, were speaking) that follows a series of wayyiqtols (a la Niccacci), but it has an implicit subject so I don't see any way to argue that the clause-initial element has dropped due to ellipsis.

In short, I think word-order has to do primarily with pragmatics (information structure) and sometimes style (ie chiasm), but any connection with verbal semantics is merely coincidental.

Pete

balshanut said...

Actually, I guess yiqtol as past habitual could be a modal (I changed my mind from simple past to habitual in the middle of the post). Funny that Niccacci never argues that. Still, there are enough examples of clause-initial yiqtol as simple past or gnomic present to rule out a modal reading. Look at Ps 44:11-15 where there is a list of past events all using clause-initial yiqtol.

Pete

Phil Sumpter said...

Hi Pete,

thanks for clarifying that Niccacci's talking about "non-narrative discourse."

For the purposes of my interpretation of Ps 24:5, I'm thinking of modality in the sense that the speaker is wishing that such a person would actually receive the blessing: e.g. "May he receive ... ." It's an expression of a wish (this is the only sense in which I think such a jussive makes sense in this context, I can't imagine it is a command: "Let him receive a blessing ... ." Yet even an interpretation of yissa as wish seems odd in context.

Do you think that a straight future indicative is OK here? I'm becoming more convinced that perhaps the majority opinion is right after all. There are a number of other cases in Isaiah where a sentence (and not just a clause) begins with a yiqtol, in which the subject is not stated and in which the yiqtol is not jussive (Isa 13:12;18:6).

But then what led Andersen and Forbes to see it as the predicate of the whole of v. 4?

Thanks for your Ps 69:13a example. According to Niccacci's logic, you'd have to translate a past jussive as "volitive consequence," i.e. it would have to express purpose, or possibly function as a protasis. I don't see this happening in this Psalm. Interestingly, the two verbs directly before the yiqtol have a paragogic he and an apocapated ending respectively.

You said that "has an implicit subject so I don't see any way to argue that the clause-initial element has dropped due to ellipsis," but the subject is surely explicit: yoshvey sha´ar.

Thanks too for the Ps 44:11-15 reference. Odd that Niccacci doesn't deal with that example.

I think word-order has to do primarily with pragmatics (information structure) and sometimes style (ie chiasm), but any connection with verbal semantics is merely coincidental.

I'm beginning to see this too. Which syntax or grammar would you recommend to me that embodies this approach?

Now I'm off to read your thread!

Phil Sumpter said...

By the way, you mention in your post "Beyond Narrative" that " a prophetic text is similar to a narrative, only with a future orientation."

Doesn't this mean that Isa 3:7 doesn't work against Niccacci's theory that clause initial yiqtols are always jussive in non-narrative discourse. Isa 3:7 is kind of narrative, so it doesn't count.

John Hobbins said...

Hi Phil and Pete,

The issue we are running up against is grammatical homonymy, the penchant of languages to use the same phonological shape for functions that are nevertheless discrete from a point of view within the language itself. Whether or not a yiqtol is a jussive or something else is one example. Whether or not a yiqtol is modal in some sense or an old preterite or in any case a poetic stand-in, if clause-initial, for a wayyiqtol, or for a qatal, if clause-non-initial, is another example.

The tense-switching (as I would call it, with Niccacci and others: tense in the sense of "relative tense") in Psalm 44 is instructive.

The discourse-initial qatal followed by wayyiqtol followed by a yiqtol which enlarges the temporal frame to include the present in 44:10 is standard fare. It sets the stage for the yiqtols in 44:11-15, but notice the switch back to qatal in 44:16, an inclusio of sorts with the opening qatal in 44:10, in terms of English categories, a present perfect in both cases "you have repudiated" and "shame has covered my face," respectively.

With the onset of new discourse unit in 44:18 [44:2-17 contains exactly 18 lines; 18-27, 10 more lines, for a total of 28 lines, per my length rule, but I digress], there is pure past-presentation through v. 23 except for the conditional in vv. 21-22.

For the rest, the reason why I tend to see yissa as jussive in 24:5 has to do with an understanding of all of vv.5-6 as Anrede to YHWH, first 3rd person indirect to begin with, a form of polite speech if you will [for another example of enallage in this sense, bewildering to English-only folks, see the opening of Song of Songs], and then direct, "your face."

"May he carry away a blessing from YHWH," on this reading, is a polite way of saying: "May you bless such a one, YHWH," followed up by "Such is the circle/ generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, Jacob."

"Your," on this understanding references YHWH, "Jacob' is in apposition to the seekers of your face." There would be an example of enallage in which courteous 3rd person address culminates in direct 2nd person reference. The Psalms, on a close reading, are replete with enallage of this kind.

Phil will remember discussing v. 6 in the sense suggested above with Michael Fox in Rome.

Are there other arguments in favor of a jussive understanding of yissa in this locus? I think there are.

Ps 44, which is full of oral narration, is not as relevant, genre-wise, as is a psalm like Psalm 20. Note how Ps 20 moves from indirect (via jussives in vv. 2-6.7.10 [divide against MT] to direct address - the rhetorical peak of the prayer - in v. 10: "O YHWH, save the king" - the Israelite version of "God save the King."

The past-tense presentation of present and future occurrences in Ps 22:7 is glorious, I think, however difficult it may be to transfer it into English, a language that prefers to use the simple present in such pragmatic situations. But here goes:

"I have come to know that YHWH has delivered his Anointed."

I've tried to give some account of these things in a series of recent posts in review of an essay by Matthew Anstey, as you may have noticed. In any case, I do not pretend to have done anything but offer possibilities worth exploring further.

John Hobbins said...

I meant Ps 20:7, of course.

John Hobbins said...

Note that the LOGOS pop-ups follow English versification, not Hebrew versification. Understandable, but unfortunate for Hebraists.

balshanut said...

Phil

First, you are right, I meant explicit subject not implicit.

Second, prophetic discourse as parallel to narrative is a genre distinction made by Longacre. I think this is a weakness of Niccacci that he doesn't differentiate genre's beyond narrative and discourse (non-narrative). So no, it doesn't work against Niccacci since AFAIK he doesn't recognize the prophetic genre as narrative.

Third, I have no idea if this is a jussive or not. I have been conveniently ignoring the main point of your question :).

Pete

Phil Sumpter said...

Hi John,

thank you for your detailed comments. I hadn't thought of panekha as being a reason for reading yissa' as a jussive. Here are some questions/thoughts that occur to me:

- I didn't realise how pervasive the switch from 3rd person to 2nd person (enallage, as you put it) was. Thanks for the tips from Song of Songs and Ps 20. I find that helpful and it strengthens seeing panekha as referring to God (though I still find the syntax and "phoney parallelism" hard to digest!).

- If yissa' is jussive, I wonder how vv. 5-6 relate to vv. 3-4. If God is being spoken to in vv. 5-6, who is being spoken to in vv. 3 and 4 respectively? On your interpretation, wouldn't it imply that God is doing the questioning and that an anonymous person is answering God? This would reverse the pattern in Ps 15, Ps 24's "twin psalm." It would also call for emending the first person suffix in v. 4: his soul and not my soul. I'm pretty sure one would have to then go back and read the Psalm from the beginning to figure out what's going on in this dialogue, because up until this sudden appearance of -kha, one has no other grounds for thinking that it is God who posed the question. In Ps 20, the imperative is directly followed by God's name in the vocative. This doesn't occur here, instead we have the oddly placed "Jacob."

Another possibility would be to see an anonymous person posing the question in v. 3, God answering in v. 4 - in line with the Hebrew of MT (my soul) - and then the anonymous person responding again to God. I.e., the dialogue would go: Person (v. 3) - God (v. 4) - Person (vv. 5-6). But then I wonder if this is all getting a bit too intricate, given that the Psalm gives us so little interpretative framework.

- My initial response was to see the jussive, not as expressing a wish to God (which would mean that panekha refers to Jacob after all), but rather the desire that such a person would indeed be blessed. This could be expressed by either God or the anonymous person. For me, this would highlight the contrast between the "subjunctivity" of vv. 3-6 and the "real-time reference" of vv. 7-10.

The more I read this Psalm, the more hidden its meaning becomes to me!

Phil Sumpter said...

John, I've just realized that this verb is discussed by Walkte-O'Connor at §31.6.2. They see it as an indicative, parallel to Ps 15:5, expressing "dependency," i.e. this future event is a consequence of something else. Here's their translation:

"Who does not swear by what is false, he will (must) receive blessing from Yhwh."

(p. 512).