Gen 1:1, Rashi

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at
Sun Sep 10 21:17:43 EDT 2000

Thanks for the clarification. So what you are saying is not so different
from Rashi after all, with verses 1-3 as background, but without the formal
syntactic dependence which Rashi seems to have seen there.

But we are then left with the question of how you parse verse 1, at a purely
syntactic level. You seem to reject syntactic dependence on any other
clause. So are you taking it as a verbless clause? If so, it would
apparently be a clause consisting of only a prepositional phrase "In the
beginning of..." I suppose that is just possible as the copula is not always
expressed in Hebrew, but it seems improbable. Can you, or anyone else, give
any other example of a clause in Hebrew consisting of only a prepositional
phrase? Of course we already have this as a possible analysis of the first
part of Isaiah 6:1, and by allowing these two examples we can allow Rolf to
keep his hypothesis. I suppose we would have to assume that in both cases
something like WAY:HIY has been elided, or possibly even lost in
transmission. But are others as uncomfortable as I am with this suggestion?

Peter Kirk

----- Original Message -----
From: "Bryan Rocine" <brocine at>
To: "Biblical Hebrew" <b-hebrew at>
Sent: Sunday, September 10, 2000 10:25 AM
Subject: Re: Gen 1:1, Rashi

> Hi Peter, you wrote:
> >
> > OK, maybe not so rare. But your analysis is a quite
> different one, nothing
> > like Rashi's which had verses 1-2 as clauses dependent on
> verse 3 as a main
> > verb.
> IMHO, I find identifying inter-clausal dependencies to be
> rather tenuous when a relative such as 'asher or ki, etc.  I
> think the recent work of Eep Talstra largely confirms this.
> So I usually allow clauses to stand by themselves unless
> there is a clear relative present.  In the case Gen 1:1-2, I
> think we are agreed in terms of the discourse that the
> section preceding the first wayyiqtol is introductory,
> scene-setting material.  So the introductory material is
> supportive of the wayyiqtol.  I think some are mis-labeling
> this *discourse* relationship of support or background as
> some sort of dependence.
> But you are taking verse 1 as an independent sentence. In
> fact what
> > you come up with is not very different from the
> "traditional" understanding
> > by which I mean "In the beginning God created...",
> especially since you are
> > making your regular change of qatal forms to "was a doer".
> >
> > But how are you actually parsing this sentence? Do you see
> BARA) as a verb
> > or as a noun?
> I'll take the unit bara' 'elohim as a substantive.  I think
> this is what Rashi, Gesenius, Jouon-Muraoka, and our list
> friend Niccacci are saying about this and the numerous other
> passages in which a finite verb is in the role of nomens
> rectum.  The question is how we should interpret the
> substantive.  I think the majority view is that the
> substantive is part of a relative that has the relative
> pronoun ('asher) elided, something like "(of what or that)
> Elohim created," i.e. "It was in the beginning of what
> Elohim created" or "It was in the beginning that Elohim
> created."  I would, of course, also like to entertain
> "Elohim (is/was) a Creator."
> Shalom,
> Bryan
> B. M. Rocine
> Associate Pastor
> Living Word Church
> 6101 Court St. Rd.
> Syracuse, NY 13206
> (office) 315-437-6744
> (home) 315-479-8267
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