VSO in narrative

Alviero Niccacci sbfnet at netvision.net.il
Mon Sep 11 03:49:34 EDT 2000


On  9/9/00 (VSO in narrative) Liz Fried wrote:

	< snip >

>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
>etc."?
>
>> 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.
>
> > Lengthy 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.
>Best,
>Liz

Dear Liz Fried:

I do not think that you and I are not farway regarding the syntactic analysis and interpretation of Gen 1:1-3. Gen 1:1-2 comprises 4 sentences that depend on the following wayyiqtol in v. 3. The difference seems to be that I take vv. 1-2 as a complete structure that I called a "double sentence." Actually I prefer this analysis to the one underlying the JPS translation, "When God began to create heaven and earth ­ the earth being unformed and void, with darknes over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water ­ God said."

Maybe that Rashi's and Ibn exra's interpretation was different from mine although I do follow their syntactic analysis. Syntax and interpretation are separate things, aren't they.

Peace and all good.

Alviero Niccacci


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