Genesis 1:1: independent clause or subordinate ph

peter_kirk at sil.org peter_kirk at sil.org
Thu Dec 9 19:23:36 EST 1999


This one makes me think that Rashi supports me rather than opposes me! 
It seems that he accepted that the text as we have it could only mean:

"In the beginning God created the heavens and earth. The earth was 
without form and void..."

and that to make it mean what he (for some reason) felt that it ought 
to mean, i.e.

"In the beginning of God's creating the heavens and earth, the earth 
was without form and void..."

he had to amend the text. True, he would suggest a different word for 
"In the beginning", but then the Hebrew language had changed since the 
text was originally written. So it seems he supports my understanding 
of the text as we have it - against the modern Jewish translators, who 
have accepted a conjectural emendation to the vocalisation, against 
their normal principles*, because it came from Rashi.

It is not only Jewish translations which have translated this verse in 
non-traditional ways. NRSV offers "In the beginning when God 
created...", with the footnote alternatives "When God began to 
create..." and "In the beginning God created..." The text and footnote 
in TEV are very similar: text: "In the beginning, when God created the 
universe,", footnote: "In the beginning God created the universe;" or 
"When God began to create the universe". (But the newer CEV has 
reverted to "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." 
with no footnoted alternatives!)

Peter Kirk

* From the preface to "Tanakh", the JPS 1985 translation: the 
translation "would make critical use of the early rabbinic and 
medieval Jewish commentators, grammarians and philologians and would 
rely on the traditional Hebrew text, avoiding emendations."


______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re[5]: Genesis 1:1: independent clause or subordinate ph
Author:  <lewreich at javanet.com> at Internet
Date:    08/12/1999 13:37


----- 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.


---
You are currently subscribed to b-hebrew as: Peter_Kirk at sil.org 
To unsubscribe, forward this message to 
$subst('Email.Unsub')
To subscribe, send an email to join-b-hebrew at franklin.oit.unc.edu.




More information about the b-hebrew mailing list