Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at
Tue Mar 12 16:16:14 EST 2002

Ian, the problem with the analysis of bereshit as a construct is that it
seems either to leave verse 1 as a verbless fragment followed by a full
sentence in verse 2, or to require all three clauses of verse 2 as well
as the remainder of verse 1 to be dependent on bereshit. You seem to
prefer the latter of these options. But Paul pointed out the problem,
that you require a unique (as far as he and I know) construction in
which four whole clauses fill the place in a construct chain where a
noun is expected. So Paul is right to ask you to find an unambiguous
similar construction. You mentioned Numbers 7:1, and I agree that this
could be understood as a string of clauses dependent on B:YOM, as in
NRSV, but it can also be understood differently as in the JPS Tanakh and
NIV and so this is not a strong argument. Also Numbers 7:1 is
structurally different from Genesis 1:2: the former is a sequence of
WAYYIQTOL clauses, but the latter has X-QATAL and stative clauses.

Peter Kirk

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Ian Hutchesson [mailto:mc2499 at]
> Sent: 06 March 2002 16:35
> To: Biblical Hebrew
> Subject: Re: bereshit
> Paul wrote:
> >Why is WH'RC HYTH THW WBHW at the first of verse 2 not an independent
> >clause?  It has subject and verb, and the waw in such cases generally
> marks
> >an independent clause.  I would agree that the SV order would tie it
> >closely to what precedes in the development of the thought, but that
> >not require it to be either dependent or not a clause.
> Do people consider SV able to stand alone? I would have
> thought by necessity it belongs to a more complex
> syntactic structure.
> >I would agree if you said that the clause you called out was the
> that
> >advanced the development of the thought or storyline.
> >
> >Your concentration on BR'$YT is admirable,
> Thanks, Paul!
> >but to make the point of your
> >original posting on this thread, do you not need to show cases where
> entire
> >clauses such as BR' 'LHYM 'T H$.MYM W'T H'RC, which have the form of
> >complete independent clauses, can be subordinated to fill slots
> >held by nouns?
> I think nearly all the examples I've already given
> of inseparable preposition and time noun forming a
> composite preposition such as bywm, b`t and btxlt
> each have the same structure but I don't think you
> would want to call them independent clauses.
> >I haven't seen you do that yet.  And to make the point that
> >you seem to be trying to put forward here, you would need to
> not
> >one but *four* clauses in compound form filling such a slot!
> Perhaps ky in Gen 6:1 might be illustrative
> wyhy ky-hxl h'dm lrb `l-pny h'dmh wbnwt yldw lhm
> When man began to be many on the face of the earth
> and daughters were born to them,
> with the principle clause in the following verse.
> After ky we have the expected word-order from
> Gen 1:1-2. It's just that it has only one other
> clause attached, ie we have a conjunction with
> a subordinate clause having the normal word order
> followed by a second with SV.
> >Even then, I'm
> >not sure that the logic of what is being said flows:  In the
beginning of
> >God's creating(?) and the earth being(?) empty and void and darkness
> >being(?) upon the face of the deep and the spirit of God hovering(?)
> >the face of the waters.  The last three do not go with "In the
> >of".  Yet they must if verse 3 gives the first independent clause.
> It might be better to try in English something like
> "in the beginning when God created ... and the earth
> was ..., darkness ... and the wind hovered, God
> said...
> One example I gave:
>   Gen 31:10  at the time
>   whyh b`t yxm hc'n w'$' `yny
> And it was that at the time when cattle conceive, I
> lifted up my eyes...
> It's not too strange to find such a structure as
> br'$yt subordinating a string of clauses, at least
> one can see something similar with bywm in Num 7:1.
> The only difference is that Moses is the subject
> of each subordinate clause and so we lack the
> syntactic marker due to the omission of the
> subject in the subsequent clauses. However, the
> Gen 6:1 example shows that the word order is
> appropriate.
> >Given no recallable instances of an entire independent clause which
> not a
> >quotation filling a slot normally held by a noun, I would still see
> most
> >reasonable explanation of what is going on in verse one to be a
> >after the BR$T.
> I think you are arguing against one proposition by
> questioning another, ie you seem to be changing the
> subject. My first proposition is that br'$yt appears
> to be like other "composite preposition/conjunctions"
> in its syntax. Then I hazarded a second: "Incidentally
> it looks like the first independent clause" was at
> verse 3, which I think has a case going for it -- as
> I attempt to outline above.
> The only times you find an ellipsis is when what is
> omitted is easily understood, but this is not likely
> at the opening of a book where there is no shared
> knowledge to build on.
> Is there anything wrong with the analysis I've put
> forward? I'm the first to admit that I have limited
> knowledge of Hebrew, so I will happily bow to a good
> argument.
> Ian
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