Tag Archives: Syntax

Syntax Confusion in the Dead Sea Scrolls

How would you break down the syntax of this sentence from 4Q397 ii 1:

אנחנו אומרים שהם שאין בהם טהרה

It seems to me we’re either missing a relative clause or we have an extra relative pronoun. Qumran syntax can get pretty hairy.


Infinitive Constructs in Qumran “Rule” Texts

I was talking with Martin Abegg today and I brought up a phenomenon I’ve noticed while syntactically tagging Cairo Damascus. I was having trouble finding verbs for a number of clauses that seemed only to be governed by an infinitive absolute with a lamed prefix. CD 1:14–18 provide some good examples. Here’s the Hebrew (according to the sentence divisions in Accordance):

בעמוד איש הלצון אשר הטיף לישראל
‭מימי כזב ויתעם בתוהו לא דרך להשח גבהות עולם ולסור
‭‬מנתיבות צדק ולסיע גבול אשר גבלו ראשנים בנחלתם למען
‭הדבק בהם את אלות בריתו להסגירם לחרב נקמת נקם

Wise, Abegg, and Cook provide the following translation (I’ve italicized the finite verbs):

When the Man of Mockery appeared, who sprayed on Israel lying waters, he led them to wander in the trackless wasteland. He brought down the lofty heights of old, turned aside from paths of righteousness, and shifted the boundary marks that the forefathers had set up to mark their inheritance, so that the curses of His covenant took hold on them. Because of this they were handed over to the sword that avenges the breach of His covenant.

All the other verbs, except for “avenges” at the end are infinitive constructs (“avenges” is a participle), and all but two have lamed prefixes. That’s quite a few infinitive constructs acting as finite verbs. Martin said he found the same phenomenon in 1QS and in one other text, and if we add CD to the list, it only appears consistently in the “rule” or “manual” documents, and nowhere else. Here are a few lines from 1QS:

ל[‏  ]שים לחיו‏ [ספר סר]כ היחד לדרושל[‏  ]שים לחיו‏ [ספר סר]כ היחד לדרוש
‭‬אל ב[כול לב ובכול נפש‏ ]לעשות הטוב והישר לפניו כאשר
‭‬צוה ביד מושה וביד כול עבדיו הנביאים ולאהוב כול
‭‬אשר בחר ולשנוא את כול אשר מאס לרחוק מכול רע
‬ולדבוק בכול מעשי טוב ולעשות אמת וצדקה ומשפט
‭   צראב

Here is the Wise, Abegg, and Cook translation, with finite verbs italicized:

A text belonging to [the Instructor, who is to teach the Ho]ly Ones how to live according to the book of the Yahad’s Rule. He is to teach them to seek God with all their heart and with all their soul, to do that which is good and upright before Him, just as He commanded through Moses and all His servants the prophets. He is to teach them to love everything He chose and to hate everything He rejected, to distance themselves from all evil and to hold fast to all good deeds; to practice truth, justice, and righteousness in the land.

Everything else is an infinitive construct with a lamed prefix. Is this indicative of some developing use of the infinitive construct within legal material?