Reproduced with the kind permission of E.J. Brill. In the published version Hebrew is pointed and seyame are used for the Syriac plural. Their presence here can sometimes be detected by the lack of points above the letter rish. Wrap, joining and other aspects of fonts may not be correctly displayed on some browsers. Hebrew and Syriac have been retyped since the hard copy publication, but have not been thoroughly proof-read.







The conjunction waw in Hebrew and in Syriac, which most often means ‘and’, occurs very frequently in both languages. Yet, despite its frequency, little has been said about the distinctions in usage between the two languages.[1] One author who has written on the use of waw in the Peshitta as against its Vorlage is Maori. His approach is to look at the relationship between the addition of waw and Rabbinic exegesis. He concludes that in many examples the addition of waw is merely a stylistic matter, which is almost mechanical rather than exegetical.[2]

     Since generally so little has been written on the subject of waw, it is appropriate now to devote some attention to the differences between Hebrew and Syriac in their uses of waw, and the text-critical implications of these differences. We consider waw here because some of the principles we will observe are foundational to chapters six and seven. While most examples of waw in the Masoretic Text of 1 Kings have a corresponding waw in the Syriac translation, there are numerous exceptions to this. It has been difficult to count the total number of deviations between the two texts because the addition or omission of a whole clause sometimes occurs in the Syriac and may entail the presence or absence of a waw, but is in fact a purely text-critical question with no significance to this syntactic study. At any rate, a record of such statistics would not be as valuable as an explanation of the individual causes of the addition or omission of a waw. Here I will not deal with every difference between the Hebrew and Syriac, but rather note syntactic constructions that repeatedly involve the omission or addition of a waw. I will begin with Syriac constructions that add waw and then study Syriac constructions that omit waw, and finally consider the issue of verbal asyndeton.



There are a number of conditions under which waw is regularly added in the Syriac. These will each be considered in turn. In order to observe text-critical implications we will also note some cases when BHS suggests in its notes that the Syriac has read a Vorlage other than the Masoretic Text.

     i. The word ‘not’ is generally represented by )l in Hebrew and by )L in Syriac. There are several cases where a clause is introduced by )l in Hebrew, but by )Lw in Syriac. These clauses in the Hebrew often represent information that is not sequential to the previous clause, e.g. 22:43:

oYhNM )+S )Lw yhwB) )S)d htXr8w) oYhLKB kLhw

“And he walked in all the ways of Asa his father, and he did not turn from them.”

wnmm rs-)l wyb) )s) Krd-lkb Klyw

“And he walked in all the way of Asa his father. He did not turn from it.”

BHS at this point suggests that the Syriac has the variant Vorlage )lw. Now it is perfectly possible that the Peshitta was translated from a text with waw in it,[3] but this is an unnecessary hypothesis to explain the data, and waw is more often than not absent in analogous Hebrew phrases in the corpus. What makes BHS’s suggestion less plausible is that, if the explanation is used here it may have to be used in numerous other places because the addition of waw is such a regular feature of the Syriac text. Let us consider another example (15:29) given as a variant in BHS:

m(BrwY tYBL )M$N lK qB$ )Lw m(BrwY tYB hLKL )XM kLM) dKw

“And when he became king he struck all the house of Jeroboam, and he did not leave any living thing [lit. ‘breath’] to the house of Jeroboam.”

M(bryl hm#n-lk ry)#h-)l M(bry tyb-lk-t) hkh wklmk yhyw

“And it happened when he became king he struck all the house of Jeroboam. He did not leave any living thing [lit. ‘breath’] to Jeroboam.”

The only Hebrew support for a variant here is one manuscript. It seems likely that the addition of waw before )L is just a feature of Syriac translation. There are other similar cases where BHS suggests that the Syriac waw attests a variant,[4] or where it does not make that suggestion.[5] BHS does not show much consistency about which it records as variants since in 8:56, where it does not cite the Syriac as a witness, it still notes that a few Hebrew manuscripts have )lw. There are also some other examples as follows.

     Syriac has no obvious equivalent of the interrogative particle h. It is usually unrepresented in translation. It is likely therefore that 18:13 below is a case of a Syriac addition of waw (not the representation of he4 by waw):

tdB(d mdM yrML tYwX )Lw

And have I not shown my Lord what I did?”

yty#(-r#) t) ynd)l dgh-)lh

“Has it not been told my Lord what I did?”

We may also include in this category cases where a clause does not begin with waw and has Hebrew )l or -l) in non-initial position. These words occur later in the clause, immediately preceding the verb. However, in Syriac a waw is placed at the beginning of the clause, e.g. 18:40:

nwhNM =LPtN )L 4N)w )L(B yYB*NL nwN) wdwX)

“Seize the prophets of Baal and do not let any of them escape.”

Mhm +lmy-l) #y) l(bh y)ybn-t) w#pt

“Seize the prophets of Baal. Do not let any of them escape.”

Compare also 10:21. waw may even be added in the middle of a non-verbal phrase if it is negating an adjective not a verb, e.g. 7:31:

oYLYLG8 )Lw oY(B8DM )PBdG*w

“and rebatements foursquare and not rounded”

twlg( )l tw(brm Mhytrgsmw

“and their borders foursquare not rounded”

In 6:7 waw is added shortly before )L, but this should be considered as an addition of waw in a list.

     ii. A phenomenon very much related to the one above is the fact that Ny) introducing a circumstantial clause (i.e. a non-sequential clause) is translated on three occasions by Syriac tYLw, e.g. 3:18:

oM( )YrKwN 4N) tYLw )tYBB )dXK) oNX oNXw

“And we were together in the house, and there was no stranger with us.”

tybb wnt) rz-Ny) wdxy wnxn)w

“And we were together. There was no stranger with us in the house.”

Here BHS records that the Peshitta supports the variant Ny)w as it does in a similar case at 8:60, but not in the third case (15:22). If we recognize the addition of waw as a regular syntactic shift between the Hebrew and Syriac texts with certain circumstantial clauses, then there is no need to resort to explaining the Peshitta by a non-Masoretic Vorlage.[6]

     iii. waw is frequently added where Hebrew has a clause of the basic form subject / predicate but has no waw before the subject. Again this type of clause is non-sequential. Consider a few examples:


))GwS )MY tPS l(d )LX kY) oY)YGS8 lYrSY)w )dwhYw

And Judah and Israel were many as the sand which is on the shore of the sea in multitude.”

brl Myh-l(-r#) lwxk Mybr l)r#yw hdwhy

“Judah and Israel were many as the sand which is by the sea in multitude.”


)Bcd kY) )BhdBw )NYwr$d )SYQ8Bw )zr)d )SYQ8Bw nwMYL$L ySrt rwcd )KLM mrYXw

And Hiram king of Tyre supplied Solomon with cedar wood and with cypress wood and with gold as he wanted.”

wcpx-lkl bhzbw My#wrb yc(bw Myzr) yc(b hml#-t) )#n rc-Klm Mryx

“Hiram king of Tyre supplied Solomon with cedar wood and with cypress wood and with gold according to all his desire.”


)wh qLS oYrcMd )KLM nw(rPw

And Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up.”

hl( Myrcm-Klm h(rp

“Pharaoh king of Egypt went up.”


4Y$rtL )PL)8 dB( =P$wYw

And Jehoshaphat made ships for Tarshish.”

#y#rt twyn) [Qere] h#( +p#why

Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish.”

The Peshitta clearly tends not to connect clauses without waw. All the cases above are with proper nouns, but clauses of the same basic structure in Syriac could have been found with pronouns in the noun position,[7] or with common nouns in the noun position[8] with the same tendency on the part of the Peshitta.

     iv. Occasionally waw is added in Syriac before a note of time, as in 6:37:

rY) xrY)B )YrMd htYB tSt$) )tY(YBr )tN$Bw

And in the fourth year the house of the Lord was founded in the month Iyyar.”

wz xryb hwhy tyb dsy ty(ybrh hn#b

“In the fourth year the house of the Lord was founded in the month Ziv.”

The clause is again non-sequential. Similar are 8:66, 15:33, 16:34, and perhaps also bwtw (= dw() in 22:44.

     v. Often the Syriac will have a waw before a participle where there is none in the Hebrew. In this case the participle may be beginning an independent non-sequential clause, e.g. 5:1:


And they were bringing offerings and were serving Solomon.”

hml#-t) Mydb(w hxnm My#gm

“They were offering tribute and serving Solomon.”

A similar case is 7:25. The waw in Syriac may co-ordinate the participle with a preceding participle (10:22, 22:10) or main verb (14:15). Although they contain some change of meaning or text, we should also compare 8:5 and 9:23.

     vi. Sometimes a Hebrew non-sequential clause begins with a finite verb. In this case Syriac may prefix waw to the verb, e.g. 10:11:

b+d ))GwS )twSQd )SYQ8 rYPw) oM ytY)w

And he brought from Ophir sandal wood in great quantities.”

d)m hbrh Mygml) yc( ryp)m )ybh

“He brought from Ophir almug wood in great quantities.”

See also 1:1, 8:57, 13:18 (quoted in BHS as a variant), and 14:24.

     vii. When dK precedes a verb, waw may be added before dK at the beginning of the clause. This construction may correspond to Hebrew b preceding an infinitive construct, or to yk with an imperfect. Either way the clause is not sequential to the preceding clause. Several occurrences are in Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple, as in 8:33:

)BBdL(B8d )BrQB lYrSY) kM( rBttN dKw

And when your people Israel is struck in battle with enemies …”

byw) ynpl l)r#y Km( Pgnhb

“When your people Israel is struck before an enemy …”

Other examples include 8:35 and 8:44. 8:37 in Syriac shows an added waw that does not immediately precede the dK:

)(r)B )whN dK )NPKw

And famine, when it comes on the land …”

Cr)b hyhy-yk b(r

“Famine, if it should come on the land …”

Also to be included in this category is 11:24 where we have:

qwSMrdL wLz) dYwd nwN) l+Q dKw

And when David killed them they went to Damascus.”

q#md wklyw Mt) dwd grhb

“When David killed them they went to Damascus.”

Here it can be argued that the Syriac waw corresponds to the Hebrew waw at the beginning of wklyw. For this notion see section C.

     viii. Sometimes Hebrew has two infinitives without waw between them, but Syriac uses a waw, e.g. 3:9:

)t$YBL )tB+ tYB wLKtSMLw kM(L ndML )(wM$ )BL kdB(L bh

“Give your servant a listening heart to judge your people and to discern between good and bad.”

(r lbw+-Nyb Nybhl Km(-t) +p#l (m# bl Kdb(l ttnw

“And you shall give your servant a listening heart to judge your people, to discern between good and bad.”

BHS notes that the Septuagint and Syriac have ‘and’ before their translation of Nybhl. Often in the Hebrew the second infinitive is governed by the first whereas in the Syriac, due to the presence of waw, the phrase will more readily be interpreted as presenting two separate actions, e.g. 8:11:

)NN( mdQ oM w$M$MLw mQML )Nh8K wXK$) )Lw

“And the priests were not able to stand and to serve because of the cloud.”

Nn(h ynpm tr#l dm(l Mynhkh wlky-)lw

“And the priests were not able to stand to serve because of the cloud.”

The Hebrew has “to stand in order to serve”, but the Syriac has “to stand and to serve”. Other examples of adding a waw between two infinitives in Syriac include 8:32 (2×), 16:33, and perhaps 10:24.

     ix. Very frequently waw is added between items or clauses when there is repetition of some element between the two items or clauses, e.g. 6:24:

yhw8PG 4YrL )Md(w yhw8PG 4Yr oM oYM8) D8S(w )NrX) )BwrKd hPNK oYM8) 4MXw dX )BwrKd hYtP oYM8) 4MXw

“And five cubits was the width of one cherub and five cubits the wing of the other cherub and ten cubits from the tip of its wings and until the tip of its wings.”

wypnk twcq-d(w wypnk twcqm twm) r#( tyn#h bwrkh Pnk twm) #mxw tx)h bwrkh Pnk twm) #mxw

“And five cubits was the one wing of the cherub and five cubits was the second wing of the cherub; ten cubits from the tip of its wings and until the tip of its wings.”

The word ‘cubits’ is repeated between clauses, just as in 6:3 (noted by BHS as a variant) and 7:16 where the Syriac similarly inserts waw. Other examples of waw used between items or clauses with common elements include 6:26, 7:17, 10:16, 10:17, and some cases attributed to variants in BHS: 5:28, 7:37, 8:38.

     x. A very important type of variation between Hebrew and Syriac, which is often[9] attributed in BHS to textual variation, is the addition of waw by the Syriac in representing a Hebrew list. Frequently Hebrew will only join the last members of a list by waw, where Syriac prefers to join all the members by waw, e.g. 18:36:

lYrSY)dw QXSY)dw mhrB)d hhL) )YrM

“Lord God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Israel”

l)r#yw qxcy Mhrb) yhl) hwhy

“Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel”

BHS suggests that both the Peshitta and Septuagint read qxcyw. The Peshitta of 2:3, 7:29, 7:36, and 9:20 also adds waw in earlier positions in a list. Sometimes the Hebrew will have a whole list of objects not joined by waw, whereas the Syriac will use waw. In one verse (8:37) the Syriac adds waw nine times, most of which are in a list:

)wXM lKw nhrwK lKw nwhtNYdM8 oM )dXB )BBdL(B8 nwhL nwQY(N dKw )whN dK )LXz )cMQw )NQrYw )PQw$w )NtwMw )(r)B )whN dK )NPKw

And famine, when it comes on the land, and pestilence, and shaking, and mildew, and the locust, and creeping locust, when it should come, and when enemies grieve them in one of their cities, and every illness, and every plague …”

hlxm-lk (gn-lk wyr(# Cr)b wby) wl-rcy yk hyhy yk lysx hbr) Nwqry Nwpd# hyhy-yk rbd Cr)b hyhy-yk b(r

“Famine, if it should come on the land, pestilence if there be, blasting, mildew, locust, consuming locust if there be, if his enemy afflicts him in the land of his gates, every blow, every illness …”

It is particularly surprising that we are told in the BHS notes that the Peshitta reads hlxm-lkw when no variants are recorded for the other occurrences of waw in the sentence. The tendencies of the Peshitta are very easy to document. Quite simply it tends not to list items together without waw,[10] although of course it is not compelled to use waw, as can be seen from some items in the list of names in 1 Kings chapter 4. This habit of adding waw may have semantic consequences, and may result in titles which are meant to be in apposition to each other (and therefore having the same referent) being taken as designations of different people,[11] e.g. 8:1:

)thB8)d )NBrwD8w )+B8$d )$YD8 nwhLKLw lY)rSY)d )+B8$ nwhLKL nwMYL$ 4NK oYdYh

“Then Solomon gathered all the tribes of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, and the nobles of the fathers’ houses.”

l)r#y ynbl twb)h y)y#n tw+mh y#)r-lk-t) l)r#y ynqz-t) hml# lhqy z)

“Then Solomon gathered the elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes, the princes of the fathers’ houses for the children of Israel.”

This is a similar feature to the interpretation of the masculine construct plural ending y '- (see below).

     xi. While we are dealing with the addition of waw generally we will deal with a non-syntactic issue involving waw. On occasions a pair of nouns in a construct relationship in the Masoretic Text with the first noun ending in y '- becomes a pair of nouns joined by waw in Syriac, e.g. 20:14:

)tNYdMd )NBrwD8Bw )MYL(8B

“by the young men and by the nobles of the city”

twnydmh yr# yr(nb

“by the young men of the nobles of the provinces”

Almost the same phrase occurs in 20:15, 20:17, and 20:19. All these are noted as variants in BHS at 20:14. A similar case is 14:27:

)+hD8dw )NBrwD8d )dY)B oYN)8 mL$)w

“And he gave them into the hands of the captains and the runners.”

Mycrh yr# dy-l( dyqphw

“And he gave them into the hands of the captains of the runners.”

The following collection of sentences are more difficult cases:


)N$w$8w )L+B8w )QLh8 )wh PYLGw

“And it was engraved with twisted designs, and ornaments,[12] and lilies.”

Mycc yrw+pw My(qp t(lqm

“carved work of knops and open flowers

6:32 (cf. 6:35)

)N$w$8w )LQ8dw )L+B8w )BwD8K

“cherubim, and ornaments, and palms, and lilies”

Mycc yrw+pw twrmtw Mybwrk

“cherubim, and palm trees, and open flowers”

6:32 and 6:35 are identical except that in 6:35 we have yr+pw (i.e. defective spelling) and in that verse 9a1fam also inverts the order of )L+B8° and )LQ8d. If 9a1fam often alone represents the oldest form of the Peshitta text then it may do so in 6:35. In fact we may conjecture that both 6:32 and 6:35 originally read: )N$w$8w )L+B8w )LQ8dw )BwD8K. This order was then changed in order to put the two names of flora )LQ8d and )N$w$8 together.[13] If this is so then three times Mycc yrw+pw (or a defectively spelled equivalent) is translated by )N$w$8w )L+B8w. This would parallel the cases above. Of course, the reason for the insertion of waw in the Syriac of the verses above may be a textual confusion in the square Aramaic script of the Hebrew Vorlage in which waw and yodh could look very similar. Perhaps by a dittography a waw could have been prefixed to the second word, which ultimately led to a construction which was interpreted as two separate figures.

     xii. On a couple of occasions the Hebrew has a noun followed by two adjectives not joined by waw. The adjectives are translated into Syriac with waw in between, e.g. 6:4:

)tMY+)8w )tPY+$8 )wK8

“windows broad [outside] and narrow [inside]”

Mym+) Mypq# ynwlx

“windows of narrowing frames”

BHS records a variant here with one Hebrew manuscript, the Peshitta, and the Targum supporting the insertion of waw. We have already seen this type of addition combined with the use of )L in 7:31 above.

     xiii. On eight occasions d( in Hebrew corresponds to Syriac l )Md(w,[14] e.g. 6:15:

yhw8M$L )Md(w yhw8S)t$ oM

“from its foundations and until its ceiling”

Npsh twryq-d( tybh (qrqm

“from the floor of the house until the walls of the ceiling”

BHS suggests only sporadically that the Peshitta read d(w,[15] but the fact that waw is present so frequently before )Md( in contrast to the Masoretic Text raises a question about the appeal to a variant Vorlage to explain the Syriac.



i. A waw at the beginning of an apodosis, i.e. a clause that answers a protasis, is the type of waw most frequently omitted in Syriac, e.g. 1:52:

twMN hB xKt$t )t$YB n)w

“But if evil be found in him he shall die.”

tmw wb-)cmt h(r-M)w

“But if evil be found in him he shall die.”

The weqāt@al form tmw is represented by an imperfect in Syriac. Exactly the same sequence of tenses with the omission of waw occurs with n) as the initial Syriac conjunction in 3:14, 9:6–7, 11:38, and 12:7. Of course the n) does not have to be at the beginning of the sentence, e.g. 6:12 and 9:4–5. While the same tense is used in the Hebrew apodosis in 12:27 the Syriac represents it by a participle and yet omits the waw. But this omission of waw in the apodosis does not only occur with n), it may occur also with d( as in 20:40:

yhwtYL wh )KLw )KL )NPtM d( kdB(w

“And your servant, while he was still turning here and there, he [the captive] was no more.”

wnny) )whw hnhw hnh h#( Kdb( yhyw

“And your servant was occupied here and there and he [the captive] was no more.”

Something similar occurs in 1:14, 1:42, and 18:45. However, in 1:14 and 1:42 a compensatory waw is added before d(. We cannot therefore see this as a strict case of the omission or addition of waw, but rather as the insistence that d( be preceded by waw and that the following apodosis does not begin with waw. Most frequently omission of waw in the apodosis occurs with protases introduced by dK.[16]

     This observation may have consequences when we analyse an example of translation as in 22:32:

lYrSY)d wh )KLMd wrBS +P$wYL )tBKD8M yNBrwD8 wzX dKw

“And when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat they thought that he was the king of Israel.”

)wh l)r#y-Klm K) wrm) hmhw +p#why-t) bkrh yr# tw)rk yhyw

“And it happened when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat and they said, ‘Surely he is the king of Israel.’”

The waw of hmhw is not represented in Syriac because it begins an apodosis. The non-representation of hmh in the Peshitta may be explained because, as in Hebrew, it is informationally redundant (‘they’ being included in the verb). The Syriac is then a fairly direct translation of the Hebrew. In addition to protases beginning with dK, the omission of waw in the apodosis may occur with any protasis which expresses time ‘when’, e.g. d )M (1:21, 13:31, 14:5), d rtB oM followed by a verb (13:23, 13:31), simple rtB oM with a time reference (2:39, 17:7), rtB oM with a time reference followed by a dK clause (3:18), and another miscellaneous example (20:26). The same omission of waw occurs after protases introduced by conjunctions meaning ‘because’ such as d l+M (10:9) or d l( (13:26, 20:28, 20:42).

     ii. Another situation in which waw is omitted is when the object is extraposed and resumed by a waw-consecutive, e.g. 13:11:

nwhwB)L yhwNB8 wY(t$) )KLML rM)d )MGtPw

“And the word that he said to the king his sons told their father.”

Mhyb)l Mwrpsyw Klmh-l) rbd r#) Myrbdh-t)

“The words that he said to the king they told their father.”

The omission of waw before wY(t$), however, may be related to the addition of waw at the beginning of the sentence (despite the fact that BHS suggests that the Peshitta read Myrbdh-t)w). The same omission of waw occurs in 9:20–21 and 15:13. In 9:20–21 one could argue that the waw has been transferred to precede “the people” in 9:20.

     iii. In 1 Kings chapter 12 there is a whole sequence of omitted waws where the second of two clauses begins with a pronoun which is contrasted with the subject of the first clause (which happens to be ‘father’ with a suffix), e.g. 12:4:

)Y$Q kwB)d hdB(w$ oM lQ) )$h tN) nrYN y$Q) kwB)

“Your father made our yoke hard. You now lighten from the hard labour of your father.”

h#qh Kyb) tdb( lqh ht( ht)w wnl(-t) h#qh Kyb)

“Your father made our yoke hard. But you now lighten from the hard labour of your father.”

This happens also in 12:10, 12:11, and 12:14.

     iv. Twice the Masoretic Text has “and why” where the Peshitta simply has ‘why’.


)YNwd)L )tYMwLY$ g$YB) ytL)$ )NML hM)L rM)w nwMYL$ )KLM )N(w

“And King Solomon answered and said to his mother, ‘Why have you requested Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah?’”

whynd)l tymn#h g#yb)-t) tl)# t) hmlw wm)l rm)yw hml# Klmh N(yw

“And King Solomon answered and said to his mother, ‘And why are you requesting Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah?’”

Similarly in 2:43 )NM l+M translates (wdmw. Another fact that may be comparable to this is that twice (1:12, 2:9) the Masoretic Text has ht(w “and now” where the Peshitta simply has )$h ‘now’. The cases are similar in that they are both sentence-initial particles.




D1. Introduction

Asyndeton means “lack of joining”. In Syriac it usually refers to the lack of waw joining two items. Here we consider the phenomenon where two different[17] verbs which are in agreement as to their subject and tense, occur consecutively without waw between them. For example, in yt$)w s(L qS “go up, eat, and drink” (18:41) the former two verbs are asyndetic, while the latter two are joined by waw. The Peshitta’s use of waw is exactly paralleled in the English translation. Joosten has investigated the phenomenon within his own corpus and found that


… the first verb is usually a verb of motion … or a verb indicating change of position … However, other verbs are sufficiently frequent to show that they are not irregular in this construction.[18]


There are 38 asyndetic pairs of verbs in the Edition of 1 Kings. Of these the vast majority are imperatives (26[19]), some are perfects (10[20]) and only very few are imperfects (2[21]). Another observation one may make is that, as with Joosten’s corpus the first of the two verbs tends to be a verb of motion. This is the case in every example except 20:22 which reads:[22] yzX (dw. Perhaps here the brevity of the first imperative (it is monosyllabic) has encouraged the use of asyndeton. There are only seven different verbs that occur in first position. Two of these only occur once in asyndeton,[23] and three occur three or four times,[24] while lz) and mQ occur thirteen times each.[25] Verbs in second position are much more varied. There are twenty-two different verbs that occur in second position. Most only occur once, though lK) and rM) occur four times each, and lz) occurs seven times. This seems to demonstrate that the verb in second position is not important in influencing whether waw occurs or not. The reasons for the high occurrence of lz) may simply be its own meaning and the tendency for two verbs of motion to occur side by side.


D2. Relationship to Hebrew

We must now consider the relationship between asyndetic constructions and the Hebrew Vorlage. Six out of twenty-six Syriac pairs of imperatives have asyndeton, despite the fact that this is not the construction of the Masoretic Text. Two[26] of these have an extra verb in the Syriac, and four[27] have waw in the Masoretic Text. It is hardly surprising that none of the ten cases of asyndeton with the perfect in Syriac were representing asyndetic con­structions in past Hebrew narrative. They translate the waw-consecutive, which is the most distinctive feature of Hebrew narrative. On each of the ten occasions two waw-consecutives were translated by Syriac waqt@al qt@al. One of the two pairs of asyndetic imperfects in Syriac represented a pair of Hebrew weqāt@al forms,[28] while the other occurred when the Syriac added a verb. It seems then that there can only be a question of imitation of the Hebrew in the case of asyndetic imperatives.

     The fact that there are some cases of asyndeton in the Peshitta in addition to those already in the Masoretic Text might suggest that there is a greater tendency to asyndeton in Syriac. While this is certainly the case with the Syriac perfect, we should note that in three cases where there is a pair of feminine imperatives (the first of each pair being mwQ or lz)) a waw is added in the Syriac.[29] This suggests that the Peshitta may also join by waw what are originally asyndetic feminine imperatives. However, it would be incorrect to think that this is a one-way process. Two of the three cases of pairs of imperatives asyndetized in the Syriac are in fact feminine imperatives (the first being mwQ or lz)).[30] From this we may conclude that there is a greater degree of fluctuation between asyndeton and the con­struction with waw in feminine imperatives.

     There are also cases where the Syriac adds a waw against the Hebrew, as in 8:47:

oYL()w oLKS)w oY+X

“We have sinned, and we have been foolish, and we have done wickedly.”

wn(#r wnyw(hw wn)+x

“We have sinned and done perversely. We have done wickedly.”

BHS ascribes a variant Vorlage to the Peshitta. This is a mistake because, as we have already seen, Syriac only tends to use asyndeton when the first verb is a verb of motion. The addition of the waw is something entirely internal to Syriac. A similar case occurs in 9:3.[31]


D3. Textual Variants

There is, however, another factor to be taken into account: that of inner-Syriac variant readings. 10[32] of the 38 pairs of verbs have variants in the apparatus of the Edition. In 8[33] of these instances 9a1fam is one of the witnesses against the asyndeton. These variants cannot be lightly dismissed. For instance, in 18:8, 18:11, and 18:14 we have the text: krML rM) lz “go, say to your master”. In 18:8, but not in 18:11 and 18:14, the corrected apparatus marks:[34]

rM)] pr waw 6ph2 7h10 8a1 9a1fam 9l1 13l3 15a2* (vid) 15l5 19g4.7

The witnesses for the inclusion of waw are considerable. What is more, it is easier to explain the Edition text in 18:8 as an assimilation to 18:11 and 18:14, than to explain how the variant could occur in 18:8 in such varied witnesses, and yet not in 18:11 and 18:14. One cannot be certain that the variant is original, but we can be certain that it goes back to a very early stage in the transmission of the Peshitta. On the other hand, in 15:19 9a1fam presents a variant which is probably best attributed to scribal corruption. Not all the variants have as wide a testimony as in 18:8 above. If we were to accept the validity of all ten variants, it would simply reduce in the figures above the number of occurrences of lz) and mQ in first position to nine each, remove the occurrence of (dY in first position, and remove one example of qLs in first position. These general conclusions would still stand firm:

     i. Asyndeton rarely occurs when the first verb is not a verb of motion.

     ii. Asyndeton occurs most frequently when the two verbs are imperatives.

     iii. Asyndeton occurs particularly often when the first verb is lz) or mQ.

     We must also consider the cases where variants in the apparatus of the Edition create an asyndetic construction. There are eleven of these.[35] Although this is slightly more than the contrary type of variant, they do not show the systematic allegiance of any one family like 9a1fam. 9a1fam or 9a1 is one of the witnesses for variants in five cases.[36] One interesting instance is 19:11. Here the Edition reads: mwQw qwP while 9a1 reads: qwP mwQ. This is interesting because it illustrates the tendency, noted already, for con­structions where the first verb is mwQ to be asyndetic. The omission or in­clusion of waw is therefore directly connected to the change of order of the verbs. We are not dealing with two variants (a change in word order and the loss or gain of waw), but one.

     Let us consider the word mwQ. It can mean ‘arise’ — a verb of motion, or ‘stand’ — a verb of non-motion. Thus, it may represent both Mwq and dm( in Hebrew. In considering the conditions under which it is used in asyndeton we will first discount all occurrences where it is not a verb of motion. We are then left (ignoring variants) with eight cases joined by waw[37] and thirteen of asyndeton.[38] In every case of asyndeton the two verbs occur immediately next to each other. In all but two cases[39] where waw occurs there are also other words which separate the two verbs. It seems then safe to conclude that mwQ will generally, though not invariably, be asyndetic if it is a verb of motion, and occurs immediately before another verb.



One must avoid assuming that the Vorlage of the Peshitta varied from the Masoretic Text every time that the Peshitta contains or omits waw in contrast to the Masoretic Text. The Peshitta frequently adds waw at the beginning of a clause that is not sequential to the preceding clause, and in cases where there is a list. The Peshitta omits waw in fewer situations than it adds it, but waw is noticeably absent at the beginning of an apodosis. If two imperatives follow each other immediately and the former is a verb of motion they tend not to have waw joining them, particularly if the former is lz) or mwQ.

[1]   E. Beck, “Grammatisch-syntaktische Studien zur Sprache Ephraems des Syrers”, OrChr 68, 1–26, has an important section (18–26) on the use of waw in apodoses in Ephrem’s works. Since Beck is considering another author and does not deal with translation there is little overlap between his presentation and this study. The conjunction waw in Egyptian Aramaic is also considered by Muraoka and Porten, A Grammar of Egyptian Aramaic, 316–21, 334–36.

[2]   Y. Maori, The Peshitta Version of the Pentateuch and Early Jewish Exegesis, 40–46, esp. 42.

[3]   The BHS note itself states that there are Hebrew witnesses for the presence of waw.

[4]   3:7, 5:7, 12:20, 13:17, 16:11. 16:11 and 15:29 display close structural similarity.

[5]   8:56, 10:10.

[6]   The addition of waw is clearly not demanded in such a circumstantial clause (see, for instance, 1 Sam 3:1).

[7]   7:14, 8:13, and 14:3 (in BHS as a variant). These do not all have subject / predicate order in the Hebrew, though in the Hebrew of each the waw of the Syriac is lacking. Possibly we should also include 8:43.

[8]   2:37, 7:33, 7:35 (2×).

[9]   2:3, 4:3, 7:29, 7:36, 7:50, 8:37, 8:38, 10:25, 14:10, 18:36.

[10] See also the addition of waw in 4:10, 5:3, 6:29, 11:1, 11:33.

[11] This is, of course, on the assumption that waw does not mean ‘even’, i.e. is identificatory. Similar examples are 7:10, 14:10, and 14:22.

[12] The meaning of the word )L+B8 is altogether obscure.

[13] Possibly a similar change may have taken place in 6:29, but moving )L+B8 to a different place. The textual issue here is, however, even more complicated.

[14] 4:12 (2×), 6:15, 6:16, 7:7, 7:9 (2×), 7:23.

[15] 6:15, 6:16, 7:23.

[16] 5:21, 8:10, 12:20, 13:4, 13:20, 14:6, 15:21, 18:4, 18:12, 18:13, 18:36, 19:13, 21:15, 21:16, 21:27.

[17] This criterion excludes an example such as yNYN( )YrM yNYN( (18:37) from consideration.

[18] Joosten,  Syriac Language, 133–34.

[19] 1:13, 1:33, 2:29, 14:2, 15:19, 17:9, 18:1, 18:5, 18:8, 18:11, 18:14, 18:19, 18:41, 18:43, 18:44, 19:5, 19:7, 19:15 (2×), 19:20, 20:22 (2×), 20:33, 21:7, 21:15, 21:18.

[20] 1:50, 2:36, 2:42, 2:46, 17:10, 19:3, 19:6, 19:7, 19:8, 19:21.

[21] 17:12, 19:20.

[22] Though 9a1fam puts waw before the second verb.

[23] 2:46 and 20:22 have qPN and (dY respectively.

[24] These are qLS (3×), rd$ (3×), and kPh (4×).

[25] It is noted in W. Gesenius, Hebräische Grammatik, §120g, that in Hebrew the most frequent first verbs in asyndeton are Mwq and Klh. Thus there is some correspondence between Hebrew and Syriac (since lz) is roughly equivalent to Klh).

[26] 1:33, 18:5.

[27] 1:13 (feminine), 14:2 (feminine), 19:15 (second time), 20:22.

[28] 17:12.

[29] 14:7, 14:12, 17:13 (with a variant suggested by BHS).

[30] 1:13, 14:2.

[31] BHS also makes a mistake by a similar suggestion in 11:27. Although the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th edn, is normally more reliable, or at least less unreliable, than BHS in its text-critical notes as regards Syriac evidence, it seems to have made exactly the same mistake as BHS frequently does. If, as it seems we should, we suppose that similar tendencies with asyndeton can be shown for Old and New Testament Peshitta then the Novum Testamentum Graece is wrong in supposing that the New Testament Peshitta supports καί before e1dwken in Ephesians 4:8: a)naba\j ei0j u3yoj h)|xmalw/teusen ai0xmalwsi/an, e1dwken δόματα toi=j a)nqrw&poij. Since the verb immediately preceding e1dwken is not a verb of motion, the Peshitta must use ‘and’. We simply have no way of knowing whether or not the New Testament Peshitta’s Vorlage in this situation had καί.

[32] 1:33, 1:50, 14:2, 15:19, 17:10, 17:12, 18:8, 18:44, 20:22 (2×).

[33] In 17:10 and 17:12 9a1fam is not a witness. The variants show no systematic signs of being closer to the Masoretic Text. For instance, 15:19, 18:8, 18:44, 20:22 (first time) all have Hebrew imperatives in asyndeton.

[34] I am grateful to Dr Jenner of the Peshitta Institute for supplying me with a list of the corrections.

[35] 1:49, 2:40, 13:7, 13:11, 13:22, 13:24, 13:25, 13:28, 14:12, 19:11, 19:13.

[36] 13:7, 13:11, 13:25, 13:28, 19:11. 9l6 also counts for several variants.

[37] 1:49, 2:19, 2:40, 3:20, 11:18, 11:40, 14:12, 14:17.

[38] 1:33, 1:50, 14:2, 17:9, 17:10, 19:3, 19:5, 19:7, 19:8, 19:21, 21:7, 21:15, 21:18; with variants in 1:33, 1:50, 14:2, and 17:10.

[39] These are 1:49 and 14:12, which contain variants, though the witnesses are not strong.