Rosmari Lillas has investigated the applications of the term hendiadys on constructions in biblical Hebrew. The word itself is a Latin form of a Greek phrase meaning “one through two”. The first known use of the term appears in comments on Latin poetry from approximately 200-500 CE. The term has gradually been adopted by researchers in linguistics and exegesis, and is applied on a number of constructions found in the Hebrew Bible.
“The impact that this term has had on linguistic, semantic and exegetical analyses of biblical Hebrew is surprising,” says Rosmari Lillas. She adds: “It’s important to remember that simply because this term is used to describe certain constructions in Latin or other Indo-European languages, does not mean that what may seem as similar constructions in biblical Hebrew, or other Semitic languages, automatically are of the same kind or exist for the same reasons.”
She has investigated this more closely by collecting and analysing more than 1,700 examples of claimed hendiadyses in biblical Hebrew. The results show that the term is unfortunately used for practically any kind of word combinations. There already exist accepted terminology for most of these constructions but some are difficult to interpret. Rosmari Lillas turned her attention to some of the latter and their specific characteristics, and discovered something that no-one has noticed – that many of the combinations commonly labelled hendiadys often occur in direct speech in the Hebrew Bible.
Rosmari Lillas believes, however, that this must be investigated more closely:
“Although it may appear that the biblical authors are trying to reproduce direct speech with the aid of these word combinations, it is not recommendable to instantly draw this conclusion. We have no idea how people spoke at the time when these texts were written, and the constructions must be investigated in more detail in their contexts.”
She has concluded that since hendiadys is applied to practically any kind of word combinations in biblical Hebrew, this term is not sufficiently specific or well defined to be used as a tool in analysis. Many of the fascinating phenomena in biblical Hebrew and in other Semitic languages that are denoted hendiadys are in need of further research and adequate terminology.