Ascent, Descent

See also Ascent

ASCENT, DESCENT. The trs. of two Heb. terms often applied to footpaths or roadways. It is the nature of the structure of Heb. that correlative terms and terms with similar semantic relationships cannot be simply developed by adding a suffix or prefix as in Eng. (e.g. “scent” to which are prefixed “a-” or “de-”). Hebrew uses two totally different and unrelated roots for the two ideas of direction. Hebrew עָלָה, H6590, “to go up,” “to ascend,” “to bring up” is common. Several nouns are developed from this verbal root, and these hiphil feminine participles are often combined to yield place names. These terms usually take the form “ascent of (place name),” as in 2 Samuel 15:30, where David goes up from Jerusalem on the “ascent of the Mount of Olives,” which is still a steep climb. The LXX uses the Gr. noun in a genitive construction, ἀνάβασις, “going up of (place name),” but such constructions are rare and the LXX is not at all consistent in the handling of this type of Heb. usage. Many such ascents and descents appear in the OT.

The Heb. root, מורד, is a similar form of a participial derivative from the common verbal root, ירד, “to go down,” “to descend,” but on rare occasions to “go up.” However, occurrences of the term “descents” as compounds of place names are much fewer than “ascents.” It is probable that in most cases the “ascent” served for both up and down traffic and only rarely, as along a stream bed, was the major impetus toward “descent.” The LXX uses another form of the same noun, κατάβασις, G2853, “going down of (place name),” and such a determination appears in the NT in Luke 19:37, “descent of the Mount of Olives.” This is quite prob. above the modern course of the Valley of Kidron, well within sight of the city and the Temple precinct. Since Pal. is broken by many ridges of hills and a number of mountains in both N to S and E to W array, it is not unusual for such terms as ascent and descent to become commonplace. A difficult text. reading is found in Joshua 8:14 where the MT reads “appointed time,” as read in KJV and JPS, while RSV follows a popular but gratuitous emendation and reads “descent.” It is unfortunate that the VSS are not consistent in treating these ancient place names uniformly, for often they are hidden by some inconsistent tr.