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

Dave Washburn dwashbur at
Wed Aug 30 17:09:07 EDT 2000

> According to Rashi and the Rabbis:
> "If you wish to explain it in its plain sense, explain it thus:
> "At the beginning of the creation of heaven and earth when the earth was
> without form and void and there was darkness, God said, "Let there be
> light."
> According to the rabbis and Rashi, bereshit is in the construct state, and
> the verb bara must be translated as if it were baro (creating). They give
> reasons by citing similar
> constructions from the rest of the bible.

Could you offer a few examples?  I'm not convinced that bereshit is 
in the construct.  According to the vowel pointing it doesn't have 
the definite article, but that does not by default make it construct.  I 
also have more than a sneaking suspicion that the pointing is 

> Rashi then says:
> "IF it is so (that you assert that this verse intends to point out that
> heaven and earth were created first) you should be astonished at yourself,
> because as a matter of fact the waters were created before heaven and earth,
> for, lo, it is written (vs2) The Spirit of God was hovering on the face of
> the waters, and scripture had nt yet disclosed when the creation of the
> waters took place -- consequently you must learn from this that the creation
> of the waters preceded that of the earth. ... Therefore you must needs admit
> that the text teaches nothing about the earlier or later sequence of the
> acts of Creation."
> Rashi concludes that the water had already been created based on the
> syntatical rule that when, in a narrative, an imperfect with vau conversive
> is followed by a perfect, it has a pluperfect sense,t he action it describes
> having taken place previous to the event mentioned immediately before it.
> IF the water already existed, then too the earth which it covered.

Unfortunately, since the time of Rashi we have discovered that this 
syntactic rule of his was wrong.  He can be cited ad infinitum, but it 
still won't make his rule correct.  Our knowledge of Hebrew 
grammar has taken a few steps since then.

> So Rashi. I learned that when the perfect is SVO, you should say
> "meanwhile," or "at that time."  This is also Gesenius.
> I didn't make this up, folks.

I don't recall anyone saying you did, and speaking only for myself, 
if I even implied such a thing it was unintentional and I apologize.  
However, Gesenius is about as outdated as Rashi is, so it seems 
to me that you need some newer sources.  We now know that 
temporal indications between clauses are not in view in such 
cases.  As for the waters, it should be clear that creation of these 
waters was part of the creation of the earth.  It seems to me that, 
in this instance, Rashi has created a cure for which there is no 
known disease.  I can respect his deep scholarship and his 
devotion, but his grammar was faulty.  He can't be taken to task for 
that; he was doing the best he could with the information he had at 
the time.  However, we need to move on from there, and we have.

> The NT writers, including the author of Hebrews, read the OT in the LXX.
> According to the Greek, you have creatio ex nihilo. The Greek is different.

Different from Rashi, yes.  Different from the Hebrew text, no.

Dave Washburn
"Éist le glór Dé."

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