Gen 1:1. Kermess

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at
Thu Aug 31 09:24:40 EDT 2000

See comments below.

Peter Kirk

----- Original Message -----
From: "Liz Fried" <lizfried at>
To: "Biblical Hebrew" <b-hebrew at>
Sent: Thursday, August 31, 2000 4:15 AM
Subject: RE: Gen 1:1. Kermess

> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Peter Kirk
> >
> > PK: Here you seem to be raising a textual issue. The unpointed text is
> > ambiguous, it could be a QATAL form, an infinitive, or various other
> > of the verb. But I note that the LXX and (I think) Vulgate translators
> > understood the Hebrew (and so translated) along the lines of "In the
> > beginning God created...". It is only in the modern period (which
> > would just
> > include Rashi), after the pointed Masoretic text was in general use,
> > anyone has suggested that this text means anything else. So you cannot
> > attribute alternative interpretations to use of unpointed or otherwise
> > variant texts.
> If you refer here to the pointing under the bet in bereshit, the LXX and
> NT,
> GJohn 1:1 have en arxh, so the pointing under the b is a schwah. There is
> *the*. Therefore it seems it ought to be translated as "when" or "at

PK: Hold on, what are you arguing here? The LXX translators understood the
Hebrew to mean something like "In a beginning". Or perhaps it is simply a
regular Greek idiom to leave ARXH unpointed in this case - can anyone
comment on this? So you cannot use that as an argument for the Hebrew
meaning something different. There is also evidence in the Samaritan
tradition for an original qamets pointing, from how I understand the note in

> Quoting Rashi again, he argues that every case where you have breshit, or
> betehillat, it is in the construct. Jer. 26:1; Gen 10:1; Deut. 18:4;
> Hos.1:2, but
> he states that bara must be read brw(.

PK: But he doesn't give any evidence for this latter point. Is he claiming
that brw( is correct on textual grounds or making a correction based on his
grammatical arguments? As I and others have argued, his grammatical
arguments are weak in the light of modern understandings. I am prepared to
accept Rashi as a great scholar but not as an infallible authority.
> > >
> > > >have
> > > >dropped the "and" at the start of verse 2.
> > >
> > > Do you translate every w- you find in the OT/HB?
> >
> > PK: I don't translate it on a word for word basis (note that I was
> > about a ridiculously over-literal translation). But I do take
> > every w- into
> > account when deciding on the exegesis of difficult passages. If
> > there is an
> > unexpected w-, or absence of w-, I don't ignore it.
> I think you had a but, a but implies "at the time when".

PK: I don't think I ever suggested a translation "but" here. Of course this
would be equally valid as "and".

> I think you said "in the beginning God created heaven and earth,
> but the earth was ...." The but implies, at the time when God began
> to creat the earth was ...and water was ....
> So even this translation implies that earth and water existed perhaps as
> chaos
> (but I don't picture it that way, I picture it as the text says, the earth
> dark and
> completely covered with water) prior to God's creative activity.
> >
> Liz
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