VSO in narrative

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at sil.org
Sat Sep 9 23:41:56 EDT 2000

Liz, let me teach you a little of the translation theory which I have
recently been teaching to new SIL colleagues. In general, in translating
from one language to another, it is simply not possible always to translate
nouns with nouns and verbs with verbs. Languages differ dramatically in how
far they use nouns for intrinsically verbal ideas, i.e. "abstract nouns",
and verbs for ideas.

In this case Prof. Niccacci has made a perfectly proper translation
adjustment in changing the two nouns of his understanding of the Hebrew into
two verbs in English: "When God began to create heaven and earth". He could
have kept the nouns by writing "At the beginning of God's creation of heaven
and earth", which is synonymous if "creation" is understood in the verbal
sense "activity of creation" rather than in the passive sense "created
things". But these two translations do not have a different sense just
because they use different parts of speech.

But, to me, "At the beginning of a God-created universe" has a different
meaning as it links the beginning with the created things rather than the
divine activity.

Peter Kirk

----- Original Message -----
From: "Liz Fried" <lizfried at umich.edu>
To: "Biblical Hebrew" <b-hebrew at franklin.oit.unc.edu>
Sent: Saturday, September 09, 2000 1:37 PM
Subject: VSO in narrative

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Alviero Niccacci [mailto:sbfnet at netvision.net.il]

> 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.


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