SPAM: FW: Ex nihilo? Was Raqiyah

Richard Burks rwburks at
Wed Jul 24 19:36:13 EDT 2002


Since the discussion is really about Gen. 1:1 I won't dwell on the finer
points of Greek.  And some real Greek scholar might correct me. And this
comment does not really deal with the use of aorist in Gen. 1:1.  However as
far as Greek tenses are concerned they are less time specific than aspect
specific.  In other words the Greek writter used aorist in some cases
because it was "punctiliar" rather than because it represented a "past"
event.  The use of the present tense in Greek more often meant an act in the
present time that is in process. I believe there are cases in the New
Testament at least where the writer used the aorist to express an event in
"present time (at least to the mind of the English speaker)" with
"punctilar" action.

Bill Burks

On 7/24/02 5:32 PM, "Dave Washburn" <dwashbur at> wrote:

> 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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