Genesis 1:1: independent clause or subordinate ph

Lewis Reich lewreich at javanet.com
Wed Dec 8 13:37:04 EST 1999



----- Original Message -----
From: <peter_kirk at sil.org>
To: Biblical Hebrew <b-hebrew at franklin.oit.unc.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, December 08, 1999 6:44 PM
Subject: Re[4]: Genesis 1:1: independent clause or subordinate ph


> To summarise again my argument: If Rashi is correct, we would have to
> translate as follows, complete with punctuation:
>
> "In the beginning of God creating the heavens and the earth. The earth
> was without form and void..."
>
> Unfortunately this is ungrammatical in English as a prepositional
> phrase cannot be a complete sentence. I believe the same to be true in
> Hebrew. I prefer a translation which is grammatical. Did Rashi answer
> this point?

True, but this probably wouldn't be the only verse in the Hebrew Bible that
wouldn't constitute a complete grammatical  sentence.  The way the
translation is made grammatical is by regarding the verse as a prepositional
phrase introducing verse 2, or verse 2 and three.

"In the beginning of God's creating the heavens and earth, the earth was
without form and void..."
or
"In the beginning of God's creating the heavens and earth, the earth then
being the without form and void, with the spirit of God hovering over the
waters , God said "Let there be light" and there was light."

I've always felt that Rashi never really answered the question he raised -
if I recall correctly he made the point that breishit requires that BR) be
vowelized as the gerund *bro)* rather than the past *bara)*, noting that if
you wanted to say "in the beginning God created..."   ("at first God
created..."),  as bara would imply, you'd have to say ba'rishonah rather
than b'reishit.  However, he does not answer the implicit question of why
the masoretic reading is nevertheless bara.  I'm sure there must be a
further discussion of this point somewhere in the sources.




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