Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at
Sat Mar 16 17:38:55 EST 2002

No, Ian, my silence does not imply consent. You may well be right that
the first creative act was "Let there be light!". The problem is that
that begs the question of the origin of the formless earth and waters.
Of course you can argue that the author of Genesis had nothing to say
about this.

I accept that if you look at verse 1 alone bereshit could mean what you
say, but in my opinion that causes so many problems when the context is
widened that an alternative understanding has to be preferred.

Ecclesiastes 12:3 is an interesting case, but differs from Genesis 1:1-2
in that there is a relative pronoun she-. You might be able to argue
that there is an implicit or elided relative pronoun in Genesis 1:1,
which would at least regularise the syntax.

You seem to have moved the goalposts by demanding that a parallel must
be not just b- plus a syntactically absolute noun but that it must also
be semantically unqualified. But barishona is used in this sense,
absolute and unqualified e.g. Gen 13:4.

Peter Kirk

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Ian Hutchesson [mailto:mc2499 at]
> Sent: 16 March 2002 20:57
> To: Biblical Hebrew
> Subject: Re: bereshit
> >You looked at bereshit in isolation first, and I didn't contest your
> >results.
> This is something I needed to hear, if it means
> that you grant that the relationship I proposed
> between br'$yt and the following clause is an
> acceptable interpretation -- at least before
> looking at a wider context.
> Another thing which I have put forward a number
> of times is that the first act of creation in
> the six days is the creation of light which
> started the first day, as anything created
> before would nullify the six days of creation
> with the seventh of rest. Should I take your not
> contesting this as tacit acceptance?
> >We then both started looking at the context, which is quite
> >proper. Only later did you start complaining about me looking at the
> >context. Could it be that you realised that I understood it better
> >you?
> Grin. (Or groan!)
> I have no doubt that you do, but that was
> not the reason: I needed something tangible
> about the reasonability of the reading of
> Gen 1:1 I put to you.
> You merely pass over all the more complex
> subordinate clauses, because you require
> that the complex subordinate clause in this
> case must be governed by a time phrase of
> the type b-noun, when you have already
> argued that the corpus is not necessarily
> very wide. When I pointed out that ky
> subordinates complex clauses, for some
> reason you thought that irrelevant, but
> what interests us is the subordination of
> complex clause structures, so it is still
> relevant in my eyes and I'm at loss to
> understand why you exclude it.
> However, I did note that bywm governed many
> subordinate clauses in Ecc 12:3, so
> complexity of the subordination is not a
> problem either, so while you could point to
> another translation of Num 7:1, what about
> Ecc 12:3?
> >If you can demonstrate that construct + sequence of clauses is
> >by looking at other time nouns, I can equally demonstrate that
> >can be an absolute by looking at other time nouns. As you pointed
> >BARISHONA is common as "first" in an absolute sense.
> >BAYYOM alone is actually rare but is found at Judges 13:10,
> And this is an anaphoric reference, of which I talked
> about in a previous post, indicating a qualification
> already implied. It goes back to the day when the
> angel visited her, when her husband wasn't present.
> (There is no possibility of an anaphora at the
> beginning of a book.)
> >but BEYOM AXER "on another
> >day" is common, and so are phrases like BAYYOM HAXAMISHI and BAYYOM
> >HAHU' - these are all absolute nouns.
> These are qualified, not by a clause, but by 'xr or
> h-xmy$y.
> >Similarly with SHANA "year" and
> >XODESH "month". A lot more examples than you can1 find, I'm sure.
> Perhaps I wasn't clear at the start, but I was
> talking about unqualified time phrases as you
> would in Gen 1:1, not simply the fact that you
> can find time phrases in the absolute.
> Rashi's argument was that the term br'$yt needed
> qualification and I have shown that these time
> phrases are qualified either with a subordinate
> clause, as is most of the examples with bywm, or
> genitives, or adjectives, or anaphora. None of
> these categories applies to your interpretation
> of br'$yt in Gen 1:1. There can be no ellipsis
> for the same reason.
> >Both constructions are common (one more than the other) with time
> >other than RESHIT. Neither is found with RESHIT except in Gen 1:1.
> >decision between the two needs to be taken on other grounds.
> When you accept that all examples of br'$yt are
> qualified, and that the majority of exemplars of
> bywm, an analogous structure, govern subordinate
> clauses and the rest are qualified in other ways,
> as is the case with l`t, at the time,
> Ian
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