Construct + Finite = Relative?

Ian Hutchesson mc2499 at
Mon Sep 11 22:28:28 EDT 2000

Dear Alviero,

You wrote:

>I do not see why the phrase "God created a raw reality" is not a suitable 
>interpretation of *weha'arec hayetâ tohû wabohû*--whatever the exact meaning 
>of the individual terms is. 

Firstly, no agent is indicated (and a status quo is stated, unless you can
see some definitive reason to believe that we should read hyth as
diventare); and secondly, there is nothing I can see to indicate that wh'rc
hyth thw wbhw is to be related temporally after 1:1. I cannot see any
reason from the text for getting to "God created a raw reality" nor have I
discerned any stated argument to support the idea.

You previously gave "When God began to create heaven and earth, the earth
was chaos and void,..." which suggests in itself that the circumstances of
the beginning of the creation involved the earth being chaos and void (not
that an earth whose creation was begun in v1 had become chaos and void by
v2). What was the earth like at the head of creation, ie before anything
had actually been done? (But more on the different significances of "earth"

>Anyhow, my point was the syntax of Gen 1:1-3.

If Gen1:1-2 is in fact a heading, it doesn't need to be syntactically
hooked onto Gen1:3. (I'm only proposing one possible understanding of
Gen1:1-2, not advocating it.) However, I think it is clear that the writer
intended v3 to be understood as the *first* act of creation.

>I do not see either how my interpretation, in your words, "nullifies the 
>notion of God creating the world in six days . . . Such a creation of 'raw 
>reality' would have taken place on day 0 -- a Sabbath." I would suggest not 
>to count what or where the text does not. The week structure is employed for 
>the adornment of heaven and earth rather than for their production, or pre-
>existence, if you prefer. 

But we are not -- as I understand it -- dealing with "the adornment of
heaven and earth", but with a blow-by-blow description of the creation of
the constituents, day & night, sky and sea, land, etc.

>...Besides, your observation, if valid, IMO applies to 
>whatever translation and interpretation of the passage one may choose.

If we in fact have a description of a creation in six days -- the first six
days -- as it would seem to me, any notion of actions happening before
those six days negates the cultic institution of week as found in
Gen1:1-2:4. The first thing God is described as doing in this creation is
bringing light into existence. At least that's the literary structure of
the passage, is it not?

>As for Wisdom of Solomon 11:17a, it affirms that God "created the world out 
>of formless matter" (RSV). Strictly speaking, it does not say anything 
>concerning the origin of the matter itself, does it. 

This is my understanding. I also understand that thw wbhw is the state of
the cosmos when the creation took place -- as is indicated by the Wisdom of
Solomon. Neither text says "anything concerning the origin of the matter
itself." The importance of thw wbhw is that explains what God actually did:
he gave form to the cosmos (days 1 - 3) and he populated it (days 4 - 6).
There is nothing to be found about creation of matter.

>On the contrary, in Gen 1:1-2, the earth, which was "without form and void" 
>(RSV), is said to have been created by God.

If you accept that the phrase "heaven and earth" means "universe", can you
separate the parts of the phrase and use each part such that they have
separate significance? If so, then it would seem you will also have to
argue that according to 1:10 the earth was created a second time. I take
v10 as intending that the actual creation of the earth (in the literal
sense of 'rc) took place on the third day (just as vv7-8 indicate the
actual creation of the heavens). 

I accept the notion that 't h$mym w't h'rc indicates "universe", but I
don't see that one can argue either that the 'rc of v2 represents an earth
created in v1 (which could merely be part of a general heading for which v2
is extra starting information), or that v1 is an antecedent of v2.

Con rispetto,


(Capisco mi trovo nelle acque un po' troppo profonde.)

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