bereshit

Ian Hutchesson mc2499 at mclink.it
Wed Mar 13 10:50:11 EST 2002


Peter

>Time only for a quick response here:
>
>Gen 1:1 seems to be a unique construction with no exact parallels. 

This needs to be established, not assumed, although 
you have attempted to show your assumed uniqueness.

>So we must allow something unusual to be happening. We can't be sure 
>of the construction, I realise. But here are some more points which seem to
>lean towards bereshit as an absolute followed by a main clause:
>
>1) BERESHIT as an absolute is syntactically quite normal, indeed very
>common. 

This is ideally the case based on your assumptions about 
the language. In fact as we both point out there is no 
direct evidence to support the assumption, which 
suggests that br'$yt can act as you want it to in Gen 1.

>It happens not to be attested elsewhere for this rare noun in a
>limited corpus. But there is no syntactic abnormality. 

There is no syntactic abnormality with bywm either, 
though it seems that the only time it apparently 
stands by itself is because it is an anaphorical 
reference. But again you will say that we have a 
limited corpus, and argue theoretically, without 
any evidence.

>The possible
>semantic abnormality is resolved if we realise that here, but nowhere
>else, the meaning is the beginning in an absolue sense, the beginning of
>all things, rather than the beginning of a sepcified period. Though I
>realise that one could object to that resolution as based
>anachronistically on later philosophy - which begs lots of questions
>about dating and about how little we know about ancient Hebrew
>philosophy.

This is as you realise a loaded interpretation and 
in no way reflects the text we have. All cases of 
br'$yt we have require qualification, but here you 
are arguing against the evidence on what is 
apparently an assumption without basis. When one 
starts a discourse one usually qualifies their 
initial considerations, which would seem from what 
we know of the usage of br'$yt the writer does in 
Gen 1:1. On the contrary, you are arguing that 
there is no need to qualify br'$yt, even though it 
is used at the very beginning of the text, assuming 
that the reader knows what the beginning refers to. 
You are not arguing based on the linguistic 
evidence, what there is is all contrary to your 
opinion, nor on any literary criterion.

>2) KIY is a subordinating conjunction which normally governs one clause
>and can (as you point out) govern a set of coordinated clauses. But this
>is syntactically quite different from B- plus a noun in the construct
>state, which normally governs a noun phrase i.e. an absolute noun or an
>extended construct chain. I accept that there are a few apparent cases
>of B- plus construct governing a single finite clause, and Numbers 7:1
>and 1 Kings 2:42 may be cases of it governing a series of coordinated
>clauses (with an infinitive in the first clause). But the evidence from
>KIY is irrelevant.

I think you are dismission ky without reason, making 
a modern separation based on Latin Grammar between 
nouns and verbs, a distinction which was not so clear 
in ancient Hebrew as indicated by the originally 
unpointed text. I would gather that when the Lord 
first spoke to Hosea, it is not the verb dbr 
underlying "spoke" but the noun in construct with 
txlh. But you acknowledge that there are a few (I 
supplied more than a few) apparent cases of b- plus 
construct governing single finite clauses. My 
original post gave 4 examples, but there are many 
more. Just do a search for bywm. You'll find for 
example, ones that I haven't mentioned before: 
Gen 5:2, Gen 21:8, Ex 6:28, Ex 32:34, Num 3:13, etc. 
Then again I could add l`t with more than a few 
examples, Gen 31:10, Deut 32:35, Josh 10:27, 
1 Sam 18:19, etc. There is no "few" about these 
"apparent" cases.

If bywm can so regularly govern subordinate clauses, 
then it is analogous to ky when it does so. I think 
my examples show that it can, so, ky is relevant as 
it shows that such structures can govern more than 
one clause in a way which is the same as that found 
in Gen 1:1-2. While 1 Kgs 2:42 shows the possibility 
of governing more than one clause it is not as close 
to what is happening in Gen 1 as ky in Gen 6:1. This 
verse shows a complex governed clause and complex 
governed verbs are what we are interested in judging 
here.


Ian










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