Constructs with finite verb.

Dave Washburn dwashbur at
Fri Sep 8 11:55:23 EDT 2000

> Dave, you have slipped from one understanding to another by adding a comma.

Actually, no.  I did not intend to present two understandings, one 
with a comma and one without.  IMO they both say the same 
thing, I merely put the commas in for clarification.  I'm sorry if that 
wasn't clear, but the analysis of the two below has no resemblance 
to what I intended to convey.

> You started by quoting Gesenius (as translatedby Cowley presumably):
> "the city where David encamped"
> To me that is good English. You then went on to:
> * "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth etc."
> I have added the * because to me (by British standards) this is not
> acceptable English. "City where" is OK, meaning the same as "city at/in
> which". But "beginning when" is not. 

My goal was not to produce "acceptable English" (and American 
English is somewhat different in this case, I tend to suspect).  I 
was simply trying to convey the general idea presented by 
Gesenius' approach.

I assume that you are taking the
> meaning analogously as something like "beginning at which", with "at" in it
> temporal sense. But in any case you are taking this as a construct chain and
> so taking "when God created..." as in some sense dependent on "beginning",
> i.e. you would parse "beginning when God created..." as a noun phrase and
> divide it first into "beginning" as a noun and "when God created..." as an
> adjective phrase describing "beginning". But then you rewrite your
> interpretation as:

No.  If I'm reading Gesenius right about the other passages, 
application of his principle to this verse would produce a relative, or 
possibly an apposition, between "beginning" and "when God 

> "In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth..."
> Now this I accept as good English. But it has a different sense. The comma
> forces an alternative parse which is acceptable, as two separate
> prepositional phrases, one "In the beginning" and the other "when God
> created...", which are presumably to be taken as parallel, the second
> explaining the first. 

Exactly.  And this is the same idea that I meant in the one without 
the comma.

Unfortunately this sense cannot be the meaning of the
> Hebrew text as there is nothing to signal the "when". 

But there's nothing to signal the "where in the Samuel quote above, 
either.  That's precisely the point.  It seems to me that Gesenius is 
saying that a construct ruling a finite verb clause produces some 
sort of relativization.  Whether this relativization is realized in 
English as "where," "when" or "which" would depend on the 
semantics involved.  In the statement about David's city, we're 
dealing with semantics of locale, hence "where."  In this verse, 
we're dealing with semantics of time, hence "when."  I'm not saying 
that I accept this analysis, I'm merely trying to apply Gesenius' 
principle to Gen 1:1, sort of a playing-devil's-advocate approach.  
Perhaps you might help me understand why you can accept 
"where" in the Samuel passage but not "when" here?

Also it does not solve
> either of the problems which have been identified with this verse, for
> RESHIT must be absolute again with this parsing, and you have not explained
> the unique WAW at the start of verse 2.

Actually, under this analysis RESHIT doesn't have to be absolute.  
That's the whole point.  Using Gesenius' approach to these other 
passages that have a construct ruling a finite verb, we get a relative 
clause.  The waw at the beginning of verse 2 is, of course, a 
problem for his approach, because there doesn't seem to be a 
good explanation for it under this model.  This is why I'm not 
convinced about Gesenius' approach as an explanation for this 
verse.  But I thought, since we were discussing the various 
grammars and the way they deal with a construct-finite verb chain, 
that it deserved a hearing and at least a test run.

Dave Washburn
"Éist le glór Dé."

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