Genesis 1:1: independent clause or subordinate ph

Lewis Reich lewreich at
Thu Dec 9 16:40:56 EST 1999

----- Original Message -----
From: <peter_kirk at>
To: Biblical Hebrew <b-hebrew at>
Sent: Thursday, December 09, 1999 7:23 PM
Subject: Re[6]: Genesis 1:1: independent clause or subordinate ph

> 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.

The problem is, that the vocal emendation is necessitated by the word
translated as "in the beginning", or really "at the beginning of" -
b'reishit.  That word seems to demand the vocal emendation of bara to bro.
The alternative would be to change b'reishit to ba'rishonah.  Changing the
vowel pointing of BR) is a much smaller change.

> It is not only Jewish translations which have translated this verse in
> non-traditional ways.

I didn't mean to imply that only Jewish translations had done so;  the JPS
happened to be the one I had at hand.

Lewis Reich

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