SPAM: FW: Ex nihilo? Was Raqiyah

Dave Washburn dwashbur at
Wed Jul 24 18:32:54 EDT 2002

Just to follow up on this (I was a Greek geek before I became a 
Hebrew geek), the "aorist" is the "simple" past tense without 
reference to duration, repetition or anything else.  It is customary to 
speak of it in a "punctiliar" sense, but it is necessary to stretch the 
meaning of "punctiliar" to make it stick.  the word "aorist" itself 
means "undefined," i.e. it is an unspecific past tense.  Thus one 
could say "I went to the store" with the aorist, but one could also say 
"I read the same paragraph six times [before I gave up and put the 
book down]" with the aorist as well.  The only factor that determines 
whether an aorist is ingressive, gnomic, punctiliar, or whatever, is 
context.  The terms ingressive, gnomic etc. are constructs created 
by us linguists to pidgeon-hole the various contexts in which the 
undefined aorist is used.  The definitive work on this subject is Frank 
Stagg, "The Abused Aorist," JBL 91 (1972) 222-231.

The upshot of all this, as Stagg points out, is that *absence* of the 
aorist is much more likely to have linguistic significance than 
*presence* of the aorist.  In the case of Gen 1:1, the aorist says 
"God created."  Nothing more.  It might be possible to understand it 
in an ingressive sense, but nothing in the context requires, or even 
suggests, such a reading.
> Ian asserted that the Greek aorist in Genesis 1:1 LXX must be "inceptive
> aorist or overview" - see below. I asked a friend who is a Greek scholar
> to comment. Following my comments is the reply, forwarded with
> permission and slightly edited to conceal my friend's identity.
> It seems that I am justified in my claim that this aorist is much more
> simply understood as a simple punctiliar aorist, one of a series of past
> events. This leaves open the question of whether the following verses
> refer to subsequent states and events or give internal details of what
> is initially presented as an event with no internal structure: compare:
> "I went to the town today. It was a nice warm day. First I walked down
> the road, then I caught the bus..." Perhaps this is what Ian meant by
> "overview", and this is certainly a possible interpretation of both the
> Hebrew and the Greek. But there is certainly no support in the Greek for
> the inceptive idea.
> Peter Kirk
> -----Original Message-----
> From: ... 
> Sent: 24 July 2002 12:46
> To: Peter Kirk
> Subject: Re: Ex nihilo? Was Raqiyah
> Inceptive aorist is used with verbs whose present denotes a state or
> condition. E. de W. Burton, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in NT Greek,
> #41;
> C.F.D. Moule, An Idiom Book of N.T. Greek, p. 10;W.W. Goodwin, Syntax of
> the
> Moods and Tenses of the Greek Verb, #55. (Goodwin is a classical one,
> the
> use was the same from the Ionic dialect to the Koine.)
> By "overview" (which I have never heard of) I assume he means a gnomic
> aorist. A gnomic aorist expresses a general truth (e.g. they impose a
> penalty on everyone who commits a crime) clearly absolutely impossible
> here!
> By the way, I have looked through every single reference work I have
> that
> mentions the LXX, and not one comments on Genesis 1:1, as they would if
> there was anything remotely interesting there. It is obviously a simple
> aorist.
> Hope this helps!
> ...
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Peter Kirk" <Peter_Kirk at>
> ...
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Ian Hutchesson [mailto:mc2499 at]
> > Sent: 23 July 2002 02:20
> > To: Biblical Hebrew
> > Subject: Re: Ex nihilo? Was Raqiyah
> >
> > >I see creation ex nihilo in verse 1, which I still interpret as an
> > >independent sentence - don't let's get back into discussing the
> syntax
> > >again.
> >
> > You still haven't explained the relationship of the
> > first two verses with the rest of the creation story,
> > given that the first creative act according to the
> > imposition of the seven day week was that the first
> > act of creation begain on day one when God said, Let
> > there be light.
> >
> > >On my interpretation, which is certainly a very ancient one going
> > >back at least to the LXX, there is no mention of preexisting matter,
> > >just that God created the heavens and the earth.
> >
> > The aorist form of the verb indicates that the LXX
> > does not in fact support the position you claim. My
> > reaction was that it had to be an inceptive aorist
> > ie we are looking at the start of the creation in v1,
> > though another approach was also outlined on this
> > list was that the aorist gave an overview of the
> > whole story which followed. It certainly is not a
> > punctiliar aorist -- as it's not a punctiliar action.
> >
> > >This interpretation
> > >takes v.2 as a description of the state of the earth just after it
> had
> > >been created.
> >
> > Either way, inceptive aorist or overview, such an
> > interpretation doesn't seem available.
> >
> >
> > Ian
> >
> ---
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Dave Washburn
You know you're a lousy artist when you can't
draw a straight line on an Etch-a-Sketch.

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