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

Liz Fried lizfried at
Wed Aug 30 17:49:27 EDT 2000

Dear Dave,
You say that Rashi and Gesenius are faulty and
outdated. Please tell me what you base that on?

The translation and notes in the NRSV (1993) are as follows:
"In the beginning when God created the heavens and th earth, the earth was a
formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from
God swept over the face of the waters."
This translation says that at the time when God created the earth was
already covered with water, hence existing.
The note says:
Literally: In the beginning of God's creating," following Rashi.
Tho, he doesn't cite Rashi, he cites Enuma elish.
The notes are by Joel Rosenberg, a committee did the translation.
Rosenberg is at Tufts.
Neither the committee nor Rosenberg thinks that
Rashi and Gesenius are outdated. This new translation is
copyrighted 1993.
What is your evidence they are?

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Dave Washburn [mailto:dwashbur at]
> Sent: Wednesday, August 30, 2000 5:09 PM
> To: Biblical Hebrew
> Subject: RE: Gen 1:1 "When God began to create"?
> Liz,
> > 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
> wrong.
> > 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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