Gen 1:1 "When God began to create"?

Dave Washburn dwashbur at
Wed Aug 30 09:47:03 EDT 2000

> > Here is an attempt to recreate the Hebrew ambiguity in English, in an
> > over-simplified way. A ridiculously over-literal translation of
> > 1:1-2 could
> > go something like:
> >
> > In the beginning of God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth
> > was/became formless and void...
> >
> May I suggest:
> At the beginning of God's creating skies and land the land was unpopulated
> and a wind from God soared over the ocean.
> I'd like to point out (tho no one has disputed this as yet) that the land
> and sea were already there prior to the beginning of God's creative
> activity.

I'll be glad to dispute it :-)

> The phrase "veha(aretz hayita tohu ve bohu" is in the pluperfect.

Nope.  There's no solid linguistic way to demonstrate this.  In fact, 
in my own view, it's adversative: "In the beginning, God created the 
heavens and the earth, but the earth was unformed and void and 
there was darkness etc."  We begin with creation of two things, 
then zoom in and focus on the latter of them.

> In narrative Hebrew, if the verb comes before the subject (VSO), the
> narration is moved along. If the subject comes first (SVO), then the action
> of that clause comes *before*
> the action of the main clause. This was pointed out by Rashi and also
> Gesenius.

And both are wrong, IMO.  Also, I think you've rather 
misunderstood a feature of discourse analysis here.  According to 
most discourse grammarians, if the subject comes first the action 
is backgrounded, i.e. it's off the main line of narrative.  That does 
not make is before the main clause temporally, it simply makes it 
an explanatory aside.  There is no indication of temporal relation 
between clauses indicated by this sort of word order.

Dave Washburn
"Éist le glór Dé."

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