Fox's first two days

Bryan Rocine 596547 at
Tue Oct 27 21:31:23 EST 1998

Dear Ian,

Are you new to b-hebrew?  a hearty welcome.  hope you enjoy the list and
find it useful!  thanks for your response!

You wrote:

> From: Ian Hutchesson <mc2499 at>
> To: Biblical Hebrew <b-hebrew at>
> Subject: Re: Fox's first two days
> Date: Tuesday, October 27, 1998 12:52 PM
> >> 2  when the earth was wild and waste,
> Though poetic, doesn't the "waste" take away from the meaning here? The
> wildness gives cause for the events of the first three days: order is
> over the chaos, while the following three days populates the emptiness.
> Waste doesn't seem to be as apt as the AV "void" or "emptiness", does it?

I think your obsevation on Fox's treatment of _tohu vabohu_ is an important
case in point when considring the Fox translation.

first, about the phrase's meaning:  compare Isa 34:11 where it is predicted
that the judgment in Zion, symbolized by the plumbline and its bob will be
turned to _tohu vabohu_ when the holy mount becomes the habitation of
unclean creatures.   apparently _bohu_ does not necessitate literal
emptiness as much as absence of order or rule.  How about this for _tohu
vabohu_: "purposeless and patternless"?  _tohu vabohu_ seems to be an
expression of utter, hopeless confusion.  After all, the greater the
confusion in Gen 1:2, the greater the glory of the Lord in overcoming it by
His omni-creativity.

second, about the translation:  I can't exactly blame Fox for going the
route of euphony when translating _tohu vabohu_ since a precise meaning for
the phrase is somewhat elusive.  i.e., his guess is as good as anyone's.   
he is clearly trying to imitate the euphony of the Hebrew.  and yeah, we
may like the substitution of alliteration: "wild and waste" for rhyme:
_tohu vabohu_,  but we have to wonder if the impulse to be euphonic(as the
Hebrew writers most certainly are) or, in other places, concrete in
diction(as the Hebrew writers most certainly are) sometimes leads Fox from
semantic accuracy.  When I first began reading the Fox, knowing that it is
an attempt to capture a sound, cadence, and concreteness of figure which
imitate the Hebrew, I suspected that semantic accuracy might be
compromised.  The prospect was dangerous to me because, as most of us I
think would agree, semantics is the top priority.  when a translator can
capture the 'feel' of an original language as well as its notion, the
'feel' part is icing on the cake.  So I think Fox simply was not willing to
settle for cake without icing.   And I have to say that I think his
translation usually does a remarkable job juggling all the concerns.

hope you respond  :-)


B. M. Rocine
Associate Pastor
Living Word Church
6101 Court St. Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13208


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