New Subscriber

Numberup at Numberup at
Fri Nov 26 11:34:27 EST 1999

Since the verb in question, hayetah, is the Qal perfective of hayah, and hayah means
both "to be" and "to become," then both "was" and "became" are, grammatically
speaking, acceptable translations at Genesis 1:2, as a process of development is

As Everett Fox notes in "The Five Books of Moses," what is being described here is not
creatio ex nihilo, but "God's bringing order out of chaos," as typified by tohu
va-bohu (Fox's "wild and waste," or "unformed and void," JPS), the "empty"  or not
fully realized condition of the earthly sphere as the home of life, at the beginning.

Solomon Landers
Memra Institute for Biblical Research

somi wrote:

> How amazing!  I am in the EXACT same boat (i.e. fairly new subscriber and
> slowly taking an hour a day to translate through the Hebrew Bible) ...and I
> ran into the EXACT same question as you did.  I am attempting to do a word
> study through my Evan-Shoshan Concordance (recently purchased so my handling
> of the book is a little slow as I get used to it).
> My question more tends towards a possible distinction between tohu and bohu
> and there is one, what sort of nuances do you suppose are being implied here
> in this passage.  Is this a "ex nilho" expression or are talking about a
> gap?
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Dr. Theodore H. Mann <thmann at>
> To: Biblical Hebrew <b-hebrew at>
> Date: Sunday, November 14, 1999 7:00 AM
> Subject: New Subscriber
> >Hello:
> >
> >I'm a new subscriber, and am pleased to be part of B-Hebrew.
> <snip>
> >I do happen to have a question at this time:
> >
> >I have a translation that renders Gen. 1:2 as:  "But the earth became waste
> >and emptiness, and darkness was on the surface of the deep."
> >No doubt this is an issue that has been dealt with extensively in the past.
> > If so, I would appreciate being directed to the appropriate entries in
> >your archives.
> >
> >My question is:  Is this a valid translation of the verse?  I notice that
> >the English translations I have consulted use the term "was," rather than
> >"became," and most of them use "without form," rather than "waste."
> >However, the NIV does include a footnote indicating that "was" could be
> >translated "became."
> >
> >Thanks for your help.
> >
> >Ted
> >
> >Dr. Theodore "Ted" H. Mann
> >thmann at

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