Is R)$YT even a "time" word?

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at
Mon Mar 25 00:59:16 EST 2002

Ian, thanks for sharing the passage from Enuma Elish which makes clear
how irrelevant this is. There is a lot in it which is clearly not in
Genesis, and apparently vice versa. So why can they not differ also on
"in the beginning"?

B- in BERESHIT should be taken as a preposition, a separate word. As
such, we can generally presume initially that the meaning of B- plus
RESHIT is derived from those of B- and RESHIT separately. Of course
there may be special idiomatic usages where the meaning is not so simply
derived, but I have seen no evidence of such idiomatic usage. We just
need to take RESHIT in the sense "beginning" rather than the sense
"first-fruits", and we are there.

On what basis do you say that I am fudging anything with ellipsis at the
beginning of the book? I don't see any ellipsis in my interpretation,
just a use of unqualified RESHIT to mean "the very beginning of time"
just as in the MERESHIT example and in the LXX etc translation of
Genesis 1:1.

I still fail to see any objection to my interpretation other than one
based on a philosophical rejection of the concept of creation ex nihilo.

Peter Kirk

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Ian Hutchesson [mailto:mc2499 at]
> Sent: 23 March 2002 21:20
> To: Biblical Hebrew
> Subject: Re: Is R)$YT even a "time" word?
> >Ian, I wonder whether your refusal to deal with the evidence of R'$YT
> >without B- is that you already know that your argument would be
> >destroyed by the example MR'$YT which Moon offered and which you have
> >failed to deal with? So you arbitrarily restrict the evidence which
> >accept to rule out this example. But the point remains that R'$YT can
> >used in the absolute without further qualification, as Moon has
> >demonstrated and you have not attempted to refute, and B- can be
> >to any noun, so it is impossible to argued that BR'$YT cannot be
> >unqualified.
> mr'$yt is not a "time locative", while br'$yt is,
> ie it doesn't answer the question "when?". It is
> not at the beginning of a passage, while br'$yt is.
> Would you like to say that r'$yt without the b- has
> the same meaning as it would with the b- (excluding
> the b- as it were)?
> (Does the "feel" part of "feeling" mean the same as
> the free standing word? You can make a gerund of
> any verb.)
> r'$yt without the b- can have different meanings,
> but would you think for example of first-fruits
> with the b-? Is there any doubt about the
> significance or r'$yt when b- is present?
> You wonder if my case would be "destroyed" (sic)
> by Moon's example of mr'$yt. No, Peter, it would
> simply be less certain on a purely linguistic
> basis, but given 1) that it can explain the
> structure adequately without recourse to fudging
> with ellipsis at the beginning of a book, and
> 2) the fact that its implications are corroborated
> by both literary structure and literary parallel
> with the Enuma Elish (see below), it seems quite
> adequate.
> >I don't see the relvance of Enuma Elish to the question of
> >the Hebrew text. Once we decide what the Hebrew means, it is then an
> >interesting question of comparative religions to compare the texts.
> >it is simply illegitimate to presuppose at the stage of exegesis that
> >texts from very different cultures say the same thing.
> We deal with what can elucidate the passage. To
> understand an enigmatic text (or a text made
> enigmatic) one uses all the help available. The
> Babylonian text sheds light on what is actually
> going on in Gen 1:2 and shows when the creation
> began. This is in accord with the seven day
> structure of the narrative and with the control
> of the first clause(s) by br'$yt. Three very
> different sources of input point to the same
> conclusion: the first creative event in Genesis
> is in v.3, br'$yt because it governs the first
> clause.
> The relevance of the Enuma Elish is that it is
> "evidence" for understanding the text.
> (One could add that although the earth was thw
> wbhw in v.2 God says in Isa 45:18 of creating
> the earth, l'-thw br'h -- l$bt ycrh.)
> Ian
> "Face to face they came, Tiamat and Marduk, sage of the gods.
> They engaged in combat, they closed for battle.
> The Lord spread his net and made it encircle her,
> To her face he dispatched the imhullu-wind which had been behind:
> Tiamat opened her mouth to swallow it,
> And he forced in the imhullu-wind so that she could not close her
> Fierce winds distended her belly;
> Her insides were constipated and she stretched her mouth wide.
> He shot an arrow which pierced her belly,
> Split her down the middle and split her heart,
> Vanquishing her and extinguishing her life.
> He through down her corpse and stood on top of her.
> When he had slain Tiamat, the leader,
> He broke up her regiments; her assembly was scattered...
> ...He divided the monstrous shape and created marvels.
> He sliced her in half like a fish for drying:
> Half of her he put up to roof the sky,
> Drew a bolt acorss and made a guard hold it.
> Her waters he arranged so that they could not escape..."
>        -Stephanie Dalley, Myths of Mesopotamia
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