Diachronic change and synchronic readings: Midrashim on stative verbs and participles.
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Because of the different verbal systems in the Hebrew of the Bible and the Hebrew of the Mishnah, reading the Bible as if written in Mishnaic Hebrew can produce interesting results. This paper analyses rabbinic comments on stative verbs and participles. The uses of both differ significantly in the Mishnah from the uses in the Bible. In the Mishnah, but not in the Bible, the participle participates in a full-blown tense system. Numerous midrashim rely on reading biblical participles as they would have been used in later Hebrew, as a present or future tense verb. Many verbs which were morphologically and syntactically stative in Biblical Hebrew have been ‘normalized’ by Mishnaic Hebrew, and this, too, created opportunities for midrash. In conclusion, the paper offers some thoughts on the rabbinic conceptions of language that allowed for such midrashim, suggesting that although the Rabbis were aware of diachronic linguistic change, they believed that multiple readings were simultaneously possible for the biblical text. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
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