bereshit (still)

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at
Mon Mar 18 11:47:22 EST 2002

Ian, your understanding may be possible, but it is clearly not that of
(for example) the NRSV and JPS translators. In both of these
translations, "I swore to the offspring" or its equivalent is clearly a
main clause and "On the day when I chose Israel" is a subordinate clause
dependent on that main clause. Neither of them take "I swore..." as
dependent on "On the day", although there are many ways in which they
could have done that in English without making the sentence too long.
You have here yet another highly doubtful example. You can prove nothing
about Genesis 1:1 from such debatable parallels.

Peter Kirk

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Ian Hutchesson [mailto:mc2499 at]
> Sent: 18 March 2002 16:35
> To: Biblical Hebrew
> Subject: Re: bereshit (still)
> >Ezekiel 20:5, NRSV: "On the day when I chose Israel, I swore to the
> >offspring...". These translators have taken only the first clause as
> >dependent on BYOM and the following clauses as main clauses.
> Ezekiel 20:5-8 is the one sentence. English doesn't
> like long sentences, so the translators have broken
> it down.
> 5 On the day when I chose Israel,
>         and when I raised my hand to the seed of Jacob
>         and when I made myself known to them in the land of Egypt
>         and when I raised my hand, saying I am the Lord your God,
> 6 On that day,
>         I raised my hand to them, to bring them out of the land of
>             to the land I had sought for them flowing with milk and
>             the glory of all the lands
> 7       And I said to them, man, cause abominations of your eyes to be
>             thrown away
>           and on idols of Egypt do not defile yourselves
>           I am the Lord your God
> 8       And they rebelled on me...
> V.5 gives the context, vv.6-7 give the event, and v.8 gives
> the what followed -- all tied together in one sentence -- with
> bywm repeated, the first governing four clauses and the second
> for dramatic effect in anaphora, implying all that was
> previously said under the first.
> Now can you say it all in one sentence in English that would be
> acceptable to today's reader? I don't think so and neither did
> the translators.
> >So, at
> >least according to one respected translation team, there is no chain
> >coordinated clauses governed by b-noun.
> This is a translation aimed at modern English, where such a
> clause structure is difficult. You don't want to argue that
> the Hebrew reflects the English language structure, do you?
> It is the difficulty of understanding the complexity of
> Gen 1:1-2 that is under question, not what the translator
> does with it in another language.
> >I accept that the waw is
> >anomalous, and that according to this model Gen 1:1-2 could be
> >translated with verse 1 subordinate to verse 2: "At the beginning of
> >creating the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void..."
> >with a new sentence starting at verse 3. Actually this is close to
> >But this is different from what you have been arguing for, the
> >subordination of verse 2 to bereshit.
> >
> >Ezekiel 24:25: This is irrelevant as there is only one clause here.
> The verb has three objects. I took the third to be
> clause fragment, m$' from n$' (the same relationship
> as m`$h "that which is done" from `$h "do, make"),
> implying the underlying clause:
>   their souls bear their sons and their daughters
> becoming
>   that which is borne by their souls, their sons and their daughters
>   the burden of their souls, their sons and their daughters
> (Note the Vulgate:
> et tu fili hominis ecce in die quo tollam ab eis fortitudinem eorum
> et gaudium dignitatis et desiderium oculorum eorum
> super quo requiescunt animae eorum filios et filias eorum
> ... [that] on which your souls rest, your sons and daughters)
> It was the complexity that interested me. The arbitrary
> need for there to be more than one finite verb doesn't
> mean too much, for the problem is how much can one load
> into a time phrase governed clause structure.
> Hebrew supports complex sentence structures. Our problem
> is that we are bound by the variety displayed by the OT/HB
> which we all recognize is limited linguistically because
> it is a relatively small corpus.
> I have shown that time phrases such as bywm and l`t govern
> clauses as well as take nouns in constructs. As Hebrew has
> complex clauses, there is no reason to exclude the fact
> arbitrarily. I have shown ky with a complex clause, but for
> some unknown reason you dismiss the fact out of hand, though
> we are dealing with the same phenomenon, ie the subordination
> of clauses.
> >OK, maybe I misunderstood your original goalposts. But wherever they
> >used to be, they are in the wrong place now.
> Grin. When one is on the bench, one doesn't play the game.
> One just supports one's team and doesn't care if there are
> goalposts or not.
> Ian
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