Concordant Hebrew English Sublinear
© Copyright 2015 Menno Haaijman
This edition is still a work-in-progress,
with further revisions and editing forthcoming.
CHES : word choice
As mentioned in the Introduction, the CHES in
the ISA program is based on the vocabulary of the Concordant Version of the
Old Testament (CVOT).
The CVOT, in turn, is based on Wigram's Englishman's
Concordance. By a process of comparison and elimination, the translators of the
CVOT made an exhaustive investigation of the whole biblical Hebrew vocabulary
in order to find the single most exact English equivalent for each Hebrew word:
one which will not only fit each context in which the original word appears, but
one which is not needed for any other Hebrew word. This vocabulary method deals
with each word as having a definite province for the realm of its thought, and
the idiomatic variants chosen are carefully kept within this etymological and
This process of comparison and elimination was continued
with frequent changes and revisions, over a long period of time, until the words
in the divine vocabulary were given their nearest English equivalent.
an example, we will take the well-known stem
כפר [kphr], which sounds like our word 'cover',
and is generally given this meaning by scholars. This word is often translated
'atonement' in the Authorized Version.
It may help us to grasp the basic
meaning of this stem if we combine its renderings in the KJV. These are : appease,
atonement (make), bribe, camphire, cleanse, disannul, forgive, merciful (be),
mercy seat, pacify, pardon, pitch, purge, put off, ransom, reconcile, satisfaction,
sum of money, village; besides bason, hoarfrost, lion and young
It will be seen from these that the stem does convey the general idea of
a cover. But the examination of another stem, כסה
[kse], will show that this must be rendered 'cover'. It is almost always
so translated in the Authorized Version. Only occasionally we find : clad,
close, conceal, hide, overwhelm, raiment, vesture, all of which are closely
allied to 'cover'. No other English word will do as well as 'cover' for the Hebrew
But we should not use the same term, 'cover', for both
כפר [kphr] and
כסה [kse]. A closer examination of
כפר [kphr] will show that it always refers to a
protective cover, a 'shelter'. This will be found a far more satisfactory
The word 'atonement' in the KJV does not convey the full sense.
The Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the Septuagint, uses 'propitiation'.
To keep the connection between this and later revelation and, at the same time,
show the simple force of the stem, it should be rendered : 'propitiatory
Since the vocabulary was fixed by analysis prior
to translation, and because this analysis is based on concordances, it is called
the concordant method.
The CHES in the ISA program stays
as close as possible to the text of the CVOT, in its translation of the MT, but
differs in cases where the CVOT, in its translation, chooses a variant reading,
away from the MT, such as the LXX.
The ISA interlinear text, however, in
each case, follows the MT, and translates the Hebrew text consistently, even when
it makes no sense. It is left to the reader to extract a rational rendering.
The grammar of the CHES has been keyed to
the Westminster Hebrew Morphology (WHM), to meet the needs of Bible students to
follow intelligently the traditional interpretation of the MT.
introduction is not intended as a primer for Hebrew grammar, the attempts to maintain
grammatical literalness demands that the elements of Hebrew grammar be briefly
discussed in relation to the way they affect the translation.
The nominal system
Nouns. Hebrew nouns
are rendered as English nouns, unless the Hebrew nouns are also used as adjectives.
In the latter case they are rendered as adjectives. Only proper names (e.g., Jacob)
and place- names (e.g., Canaan) are capitalized.
singulars are rendered as singulars, Hebrew plurals as plurals.
Gender. In Hebrew gender will be seen consistently in the pronouns and the
verbal system, discussed below.
Absolute and construct structure.
Possession and other genitive functions are expressed by the construct structure.
The word in construct in Hebrew is indicated in the translation by the use of
the word of as a suffix (e.g., Gen. 12:15, בית
פרעה [bith phroe], 'house-of Pharao').
Adjectives. Adjectives are rendered in the same way as nouns in
regard to number and gender. Plurality is indicated by the addition of the word
'ones' (e.g., Gen. 1:16, המארת
הגדלים [e·marth e·gdlim], 'the·lights
Article. The Hebrew article is always translated
by the English definite article (see example of Gen. 1:16 above). It is translated
everywhere it appears, even when not needed in English (e.g., Gen. 22:9,
האלהים [e·aleim], 'the·God'). It is
never supplied in translation where it does not occur in Hebrew.
Pronouns are consistently rendered according to person, number, and gender. Since
Hebrew, unlike English, has no neuter gender, inanimate objects are referred to
as 'he', or 'she', not as 'it'. This gender distinction will often aid in the
identification of a subject with its verb or a noun with its modifier, as they
will share the same gender. In the translation, moreover, pronominal suffixes
are suffixed to the word they modify (e.g., Gen. 6:18 בריתי
Because no special pronouns are used
in Hebrew to refer to God and because such reference is often a matter of interpretation,
no pronouns are capitalized.
Although modern English does not distinguish
between second person masculine and feminine, singular and plural (using 'you'
for all the forms), or between third person plural, masculine and feminine (referring
to both as 'they'), the interlinear text makes a differentiation by adding the
sign '(p)', or '(f)', to draw attention to this matter.
The following chart shows
all the possible spellings of these pronouns, both independent and suffixed.
As interrogatives introduce a question, they are always followed by a question
mark, when they are independent words (e.g., Gen. 4:9, אי
[ai], 'where?'). The prefix ה
[e], (e.g., Gen 4:7, הלוא
[e·lua], '?·not') is rendered by placing the question mark first.
The verbal system
Stem. A characteristic
of Semitic languages is the verbal system. Unlike the Indo-European languages
known to most of us, Semitic languages do not have a three-tense system (past,
present, future). Rather, there is something like aspect, the verb-form describing
an act or a state that is complete or incomplete.
A second feature of the
verbal system is the use of derived stems (wrongly called 'conjugations', the
Hebrew term בונה [bune],
'building' is preferable), to indicate reflexation, causation etc. of the action.
Aspect and stem modification of the verb root are accomplished by alterations
of the consonantal and vowel pattern, usually along with the adition of certain
preformative (prefixed), sufformative (suffixed), and infixed elements.
follows closely the parsing provided by the WHM, so there is no need for memorization
of the basic vowel patterns of the verbal system, or consulting lexicons when
in doubt about the inflection of a verb. All the Hebrew stems have been distinguished
Person, number, and gender.
The person, number, and gender of all finite verbs are indicated by the use of
pronouns as subjects, even when the subject is expressed by means of a noun or
independent pronoun (e.g., Gen. 1:1 אלהים
aleim], 'he-created God'). The possibility of confusing the expressed subject
with the object of the verb is usually eliminated by pronouns or the definite
direct object indicator (see את
The problem of distinguishing second person, masculine and
feminine, singular and plural, as well as third person plural, masculine and feminine,
has been handled in the same way as the pronouns (see Pronouns above).
Most questions should be answered by consulting the WHM, (recommended!), or the
following chart, which lists all the
perfect and imperfect preformative indicators used consistently in all stems to
distinguish person, number, and gender.
or aspect, and mood. The two major tenses , or aspects - perfect and imperfect
- are carefully distinguished in the interlinear text. As mentioned above, the
Hebrew language, strictly speaking, has no verb forms which express either past
or future. When the verb inflections of person and number are indicated by postfixing
equivalent endings to the verb stem, the emphasis remains on the fact, for which
the stem stands. Such forms are rendered by the Indefinite (e.g., Gen. 37:19
בא [ba], 'he-comes'),
or the Past Tense ('he-came').
When the pronoun part of the verb is prefixed,
the emphasis shifts to the subject pronoun, thus indicating that it is in the
process of carrying through an action. These forms are rendered by the Present
Tense (e.g. Ex. 18:15 יבא
[iba], 'he-is-coming') or the Future Tense ('he-shall-come').
are indicated by an exclamation mark (e.g., Gen. 12:1,
לך [lk], 'go!'), and are distinguished to number. As the imperative
uses the same afformatives as the perfect, the chart above, or the WHM parsing,
will serve to make the necessary distinctions as to gender.
The infinitives, absolute and construct, are always prefixed with 'to' in translation,
(e.g., Gen. 2:17 מות
[muth], 'to-die'). The preposition ל
[l], often prefixed to the infinitive construct, receives an additional 'to' in
translation (e.g., Gen. 25:32 למות
Participles. Participles are translated
by English participles that end in -ing (e.g., Gen 1:2, מרפת[mrchphth],
'vibrating'). However, in the case of most passive participles and of words that
do not have a participle form in English, the word being is used as a
helper (e.g., Ex. 39:9, כפול
[kphul], 'being-doubled'). Gender is not indicated, but plurals are rendered with
the addition of the word ones (e.g., Ex. 25:20,
סככים [skkim], 'ones-overshadowing').
Many participal forms in Hebrew have become fixed as substantives (e.g., Gen.
14:18 כהן [ken],
'priest') and are therefore rendered as nouns, though they could have been rendered
as participles. As always, the CHES translates the Hebrew according to the WHM.
Prepositions. Prepositions - prefixed
or independent - are always translated, whether or not they are necessary in English
(e.g., Gen.27:27 וישק־לו
[u·ishq-l·u], 'and·he-is-kissing to·him').
All prefixed prepositions have
been separated from the verb for identification, in accordance with the WHM parsing.
Conjunctions. As in the case of prepositions, the conjunction
ו [u], 'and', when prefixed,
has been separated from the verb for identification, in accordance with the WHM
Other particles and parts of speech. The following
deserve attention :
[ath], the definite direct object indicator, is never translated. When standing
independently, it is rendered with two arrows (»). When prefixed or suffixed,
the direct object indicator is also rendered (e.g. Gen. 1:1 ואת
[u·ath], 'and·»'; Gen. 2:3, אתו [ath·u],
ה, the directive
suffix, is translated as a preposition (e.., Gen. 12:10, מצרימה
(4) The Divine Name and
The three different forms of the principal Divine
Title are usually rendered, indicriminately, 'God' in the popular versions. The
concordant interlinear text CHES consistently preserves all the minute distinctions
of these forms. Thus אלהים
[aleim], becomes 'Elohim', אלה [ale],
or אלוה [alue],
becomes 'Eloah', and אל [al],
These titles are also used of foreign deities. To avoid interpretation
these 'elohim' are consistently rendered 'Elohim' with a capital 'E'.
Name of the Deity, יהוה
[ieue], is rendered with the commonly accepted 'Yahweh'.
III, John R., The Interlinear NIV Hebrew-English Old Testament; Zondervan
Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A., 1987
Clayton, E.H., et
al., The Concordant Hebrew-English Sublinear; Concordant Publishing Concern,
Santa Clarita, California, U.S.A. (unpublished)
Westminster Hebrew Morphology Database Version 4.4, 2005, Westminister
Hebrew Institute, Westminster Theological Seminary. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Kohlenberger III, John R., The Interlinear NIV Hebrew-English
Old Testament (Introduction); Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan,
LaSor, William.S., Handbook of Biblical Hebrew; Wm.B.
Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A., 1978
Introduction on the Concordant Version of the Hebrew and Chaldee Scriptures;
Concordant Publishing Concern, Santa Clarita, California, U.S.A., 1957
Wigram, George V., The Enlishman's Hebrew Concordance
of the Old Testament; Hendricksons Publishers, Inc., Peabody, Massachusets,
Hough, Dean et al., The Concordant Vocabulary
of the Old Testament, Concordant Publishing Concern, Santa Clarita, California,