I recently wrote to Carl Jonsson about his correspondence with the noted scholar and Hebraist, Professor Ernst Jenni, as he referenced in the 4th edition of The Gentile Times Reconsidered, pages 378-9. With his permission, herewith is Jonsson's reply to me in full, except that I've deleted items of a personal nature.
I noticed that the file with my correspondence with Ernst Jenni was not the best one. I'm sending a better one below, that may be easier for you to use. Below his answer in German I have added my English translation. I have also added some information on the qualifications of this scholar.
. . .
Here is my correspondence with Ernst Jenni:
THE HEBREW PREPOSITION l e AT JEREMIAH 29:10:
E.mail sent to Professor Emeritus Ernst Jenni in Basel on September 30, 2003:
Dear Professor Jenni,
I have been studying Biblical Hebrew for a few years and have recently bought a copy of your extensive and most valuable work, Die hebräischen Präpositionen. Band 3: Die Präposition Lamed (2000). I notice that you reject the local meaning as the basic sense of le (pp. 134-135). This is a most interesting conclusion in view of some statements in a recently published book I have been reading. The book, which is written by a lecturer in Semitic languages at the University of Oslo, Mr. Rolf Furuli, is actually a work on Biblical chronology: Persian Chronology and the Length of the Babylonian Exile of the Jews (Oslo: R. Furuli A/S, 2003). It is in connection with his discussion of the 70 years at Jeremiah 29:10 that the meaning of the preposition le in lebâbel becomes important for his chronology. Mr. Furuli argues that the 70 years here refer to 70 years of desolation of Judah, and that the common rendering "for Babylon", therefore, has to be rejected in favour of "in Babylon" or "at Babylon". He says on page 86:
"But what about the meaning of the Hebrew preposition le? Can it really be used in the local sense 'at'? It certainly can, and The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew lists about 30 examples of this meaning, one of which is Numbers 11:10, 'each man at (le) the entrance of his tent'. So, in each case when le is used, it is the context that must decide its meaning. For example, in Jeremiah 51:2 the phrase lebâbel means 'to Babylon', because the preceding verb is 'to send'. But lirûshâlâm [the letters li at the beginning of the word is a contraction of le+yod] in Jeremiah 3:17 in the clause, 'all the nations will gather in Jerusalem' has the local meaning 'in Jerusalem', and the same is true with the phrase lîhûdâ in Jeremiah 40:11 in the clause, 'the king of Babylon had left a remnant in Judah'."
My question is: Would you agree with his use of these examples for allowing lebâbel at Jer. 29:10 to be translated "in Babylon" or "at Babylon" ["seventy years at Babylon"]? Is this really a likely translation? Is it even a possible one?
In support of his translation, Furuli also refers to the renderings in some of the old versions of the Hebrew Bible. He says:
"Looking at the versions, both the Targum Jonathan and the Peshitta use the preposition le, which in both cases have about the same meaning as the Hebrew counterpart. However, the Septuagint has the dative form babylôni, the most natural meaning being 'at Babylon', and the Ge'ez version has westä babilon, which means 'in Babylon' or 'within Babylon'. The Latin Vulgate has in Babylone, the most natural meaning being 'in Babylon' or 'at Babylon' or 'within Babylon'. So the local meaning is the one extant in these versions."
As far as the Septuagint is concerned, it seems to me that Furuli is wrong in claiming that the most natural meaning of babylôni is "at Babylon". Wouldn't the dative here (without being preceded by en) mean "for Babylon" or "to Babylon"? As for the other versions quoted, they seem to give an interpretation of the text rather than a literal translation.
I would appreciate very much your comments on the above.
Carl Olof Jonsson
S-400 20 Göteborg
e.mail address: XXXXX
Phone and fax number: XXXXX
Answer received from Professor Ernst Jenni on October 1, 2003:
Sehr geehrter Herr Jonsson,
Da ich kürzlich schon eine Anfrage aus Deutschland betr. Jer 29,10 erhalten habe (ebenfalls im Zusammenhang mit einer Theorie der Zeugen Jehovas), kann ich Ihnen relativ rasch antworten.
Meine Behandlung der Stelle findet sich im Lamed-Buch S.109 (Rubrik 4363). Die Übersetzung ist in allen modernen Kommentaren und Übersetzungen "für Babel" (Babel als Weltmacht, nicht Stadt oder Land); sie ergibt sich sowohl von der Sprache als auch vom Kontext.
Bei der 'lokalen Bedeutung' ist zu unterscheiden zwischen wo? ("in, bei") und wohin? (lokal terminativ "zu, nach"). Die Grundbedeutung von l ist "in bezug auf" und kann mit einer folgenden Orstbestimmung nur in gewissen adverbiellen Wendungen lokal oder lokal-terminativ verstanden werden (z.B. Num 11,10 [Clines, DCH IV, 481b] "am Eingang", vgl. Lamed S.256.260, Rubrik 8151). Jer 51,2 ist l ein Dativ der Person ("und sende Babel [als personifizierter Weltmacht] Worfler, die es worfeln und sein Land [das Land dieser Babylonier] ausräumen" ((Lamed S.84f.94). Zu Jer 3,17 "nach Jerusalem" (lokal terminativ) alles Nötige in Lamed S.256.270 und ZAH 1,1988, 107-111.
Zu den Versionen: Die LXX hat mit babylôni eindeutig einen Dativ ("für Babylon"). Nur die Vulgata hat allerdings in Babylone "in Babylon", danach die King James Version "at Babylon" und so wahrscheinlich auch die New World Translation.
Ich hoffe, Ihnen mit diesen Informationen gedient zu haben und verbleibe mit freundlichen Grüssen
Prof. Dr. Ernst Jenni
CH-4054 Basel (Schweiz)
[Communication E. Jenni - C. O. Jonsson, dated 1 October, 2003:]
Dear Mr. Jonsson,
As I recently have received an inquiry from Germany concerning Jer 29,10 (likewise in connection with a theory of Jehovah?s Witnesses), I can answer you relatively quickly.
My treatment of this passage is found in the Lamed-book p. 109 (heading 4363). The rendering in all modern commentaries and translations is "for Babel" (Babel as world power, not city or land); this is clear from the language as well as also from the context.
By the "local meaning" a distinction is to be made between where? ("in, at") and where to? (local directional "to, towards"). The basic meaning of l is "with reference to", and with a following local specification it can be understood as local or local-directional only in certain adverbial expressions (e.g., Num. 11,10 [Clines DCH IV, 481b] "at the entrance", cf. Lamed pp. 256, 260, heading 8151). At Jer. 51,2 l is a personal dative ("and send to Babel [as personified world power] winnowers, who will winnow it and empty its land" (Lamed pp. 84f., 94). On Jer. 3,17 "to Jerusalem" (local directional), everything necessary is in Lamed pp. 256, 270 and ZAH 1, 1988, 107-111.
On the translations: LXX has with babylôni unambiguously a dative ("for Babylon"). Only Vulgata has, to be sure, in Babylone, "in Babylon", thus King James Version "at Babylon", and so probably also the New World Translaton. I hope to have served you with these informations and remain,
with kind regards,
Prof. Dr. Ernst Jenni
CH-4054 Basel (Schweiz)
Who is Professor Emeritus Ernst Jenni?
In 1958 Ernst Jenni succeeded the renowned Semitist and Hebraist Professor Walter Baumgartner as Professor of the faculty of theology at the University of Basel, Switzerland, a position he held until his retirement in 1997. With Professor Claus Westermann Professor Jenni is editor of the indispensible and incomparable reference work, Theologisches Handwörterbuch zum Alten Testament (Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament). He also serves on the editorial committee of the Theologische Zeitschrift. And he is a leading ? if not the leading ? expert on the Hebrew prepositions, having so far written three works in the series Die hebräischen Prepositionen: Band 1: Die Präposition Beth (1992), 400 pages; Band 2: Die Präposition Kaph (1994), 196 pages; and Band 3: Die Präposition Lamed (2000), 350 pages.