VSO in narrative

Liz Fried lizfried at umich.edu
Sat Sep 9 12:37:27 EDT 2000

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Alviero Niccacci [mailto:sbfnet at netvision.net.il]
> Dear list mmbers:
> 	The syntax of Gen 1:1-3 was discussed at length in this
> forum (October - December, 1999) but of course this passage
> continues to raise problems.
> 	Dave Washburn's quotation from Waltke - O'Connor's grammar
> is appropriate. Indeed, "Relative clauses after prepositionally
> used constructs are found" in several cases. Besides Gen 39:20,
> the phrase *meqôm [in the construct state] + 'a$er* + qatal or
> yiqtol is found in, e.g., Gen 40:3; Lev 4:24, 33; 7:2; 14:13; Num
> 9:17; 2 Sam 15:21; 1 Kgs 21:19.
> 	However, also the case of a noun in construct state + qatal
> or yiqtol without a preceding 'a$er is well attested; see the
> following texts (some already mentioned in this forum): Exod
> 6:28; Lev 7:35; 25:48; 1 Sam 25:15; Psa 65:5; 81:6; Isa 15:1;
> 29:1; Jer 2:8; 6:15; Hos 1:2--and the list is not complete.
> 	This means that in these cases a finite verb (qatal or
> yiqtol) is used as a noun equivalent even though it is
> explicitely nominalized by 'a$er. Compare, e.g., *bere'$ît bara'
> [QATAL] 'elohîm* and *beyôm bero' [INFINITIVE] 'elohîm* (Gen
> 5:1), or *be`et peqadtîm [QATAL]* (Jer 2:8) and *be`et pequddatam
> [NOUN]* (Jer 8:12).
> 	This fact is not suprising for those who  believe, as I do,
> that qatal and yiqtol (differently from wayyiqtol, weqatal and
> weyiqtol--NOTA BENE!) can be used as a noun equivalent.
> 	If Rashi's authority and the examples just quoted are not
> enough to convince you, the following comment on Gen 1:1 by Ibn
> Ezra can be added: "According to my opinion, [the Beth] is joined
> [*smwk*] as in *bere'$ît mamleket yehoyaqim [Jer 27:1]*. And do
> not be astonished that it is connected with a past tense [pw`l
> `br] because this is the case with *texillat dibber Y* (Hos 1:2),
> *qiryat xanâ dawid* [Isa 29:1]."
> 	If the above analysis is correct, then a translation like
> "In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth. .
> ." is excluded.
> 	I analyze Gen 1:1-3 as follows: "In the beginning of (the
> fact that) God created heaven and earth,
You have argued that bara) must be treated as a noun but this translation
doesn't do it for me. This translation is no different (for me) from
the one you excluded.
Perhaps you mean "In (or At) the beginning of *a* God-created universe...."

 i.e. When God began to
> create heaven and earth [sentence 1],
All your excellen arguments above contradict this
translation to my way of thinking. You have now
made "beginning" a finite verb. A translation is needed in which both
"beginning" and "create" are nouns.

 the earth was chaos and
> void [sentence 2],
I don't agree with this translation at all.
Jeremiah refers (somewhere) to the midbar being tohu and bohu.
It simply means devoid of life.

darkness was on the surface of the abyss
Not an abyss, just ocean, tehom.

> [sentence 3], and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface
> of the water [sentence 4]. Then God said [sentence 5] etc."

I don't see these as separate sentences.
They are all clauses dependent on verse 1.

> 	Sentences 2-4 are coordinated one to the other; they are
> main with regard to sentence 1, which depends on them.  Taken
> together, sentences 1-4 constitute a syntactic unit that depends
> on sentence 5, which contains narrative wayyiqtol, "Then God
> said." This wayyiqtol begins the mainline of the narrative. What
> precedes gives the setting of the story.

Yes, these all present the setting of the story *prior* to
God's first action.

> 	Semantically, Gen 1:1-2 means that when God created the
> universe (this is the meaning of "heaven and earth"), He
> proceeded step by step.
Yes, but as you yourself have said, the first step is not taken until
he speaks. Everything else is setting.

He first created a raw reality (if I can
> put it this way), then He adorned it in its various parts. There
> are of course similarities with the ANE creation stories, not the
> least in the opening sentence: "When God began to create . . ." A
But see, you are translating "reshit" as if it were a verb.
I see you do this in order to have creatio ex nihilo.
But that is not in the text, as you have shown.
HOw about "At the beginning of God's creating the universe, it was barren

> major difference is that the *creatio ex nihilo* seems to me
> clearly indicated in the Biblical text--the creation was first
> chaotic, then God ornamented it in different steps.
This is not Rashi's interpretation.
You quote him and Eban Ezra so willingly above, then you disagree
with their conclusions.

> discussions on the *creatio ex nihilo* weere conducted mainly on
> a philosophical basis by both Jewish and Christian scholars, esp.
> in Medieval times. See, e.g., S. Kamin in _Scripta
> Hierosolymitana_ 31 (1986) 91-132.
Yes, on the basis of Greek philosophy.
> 	Peace and all good.
> Alviero Niccacci
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