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

Ian Hutchesson mc2499 at
Fri Mar 29 22:02:10 EST 2002

>Thanks to all who sent me the Vulgate text. I think this demonstrates
>(for what it's worth) that the Hebrew was understood in the 4th century
>CE, by Jerome and the Jews of Bethlehem who helped him, in the sense "In
>the beginning God created..."

Peter doesn't seem to me to be interested in the Hebrew 
text or its background. He somehow imagines that the world 
was created out of nothing and either created as chaos or 
returned to chaos. 

It is a little difficult to understand anyone wanting to 
assume God create chaos, especially when Isa 45:18 says 
specifically that God did not create the world as chaos.

One then has to postulate that something must have happened 
between vv 1 & 2 to transform God's creation into chaos and 
we have all sorts of weird and wonderful speculations. 

Just because some early fathers were also trained in Greek 
philosophy doesn't mean that we must necessarily transform 
a relatively straight-forward text into a piece of Greek 

Peter is unable to date the translation of the LXX Genesis 
text. He seems to believe those who make a tendentious 
reading of Aristeas, who only talks about the law. He should 
note that there were no text tradition variations of Genesis 
from Qumran, while there were for the other pentateuchal 
books, ie there are LXX Hebrew versions of the others but 
not for Genesis. There is no Hebrew Vorlage for LXX Genesis, 
while there is for the other four pentateuchal books. There 
is in fact nothing to support a LXX translation of Genesis 
before the beginning of Christianity. So relying on LXX (or 
Vulgate) is interesting but irrelevant to the Hebrew text of 
Genesis 1:1-3.

The simple understanding known from antiquity, ie that one 
should read br'$yt in Genesis 1:1 as "at the beginning of" 
with a following clause being related in the construct 
state, does not create any need for fiddling the text to 
explain the creation by God of chaos. It was just there as 
was darkness and the waters and God's first act in his 
creation was the creation of light.

This "at the beginning of" is reflective of all known uses 
of br'$yt in the OT/HB. I have shown that there are 
numerous examples of time phrases such as bywm and b`t which 
"govern" clauses, so there is nothing strange in the syntax 
of the reading. In fact there are no precedents to suggest 
that br'$yt could be read as anything else. One does not 
expect to find an ellipsis at the beginning of a book. (Only 
when one doesn't fully understand does one get a suggestion 
of ellipsis, as in the LXX translation.)

The literary creation is based on the institution of the 
sabbath day of rest. There are six days of creation at the 
end of which God rests. Putting something before the first 
day entails rendering the literary structure of the creation 
useless. Each day starts with God saying something as part 
of a structural formula for the day. Day one starts with God 
saying "Let there be light!" To place any creation before 
that point seems not to understand what is going on in the 
account as a whole. Peter has consistently refused to deal 
with the literary structure of Genesis 1.

The refusal to see the similarities between the Babylonian 
creation account, Enuma Elish, and Genesis 1 does not 
reflect a lack of relationship between them, merely that the 
refusal is unwarranted. There are linguistic connections as 
well as story elements that make the similarities evident. 
(This is not to say in any way what the relationship between 
the accounts is.) I have posted a translation of some of the 
relevant material earlier.

To impose creatio ex nihilo on the creation in Gen 1, is to 
decide that the obvious reading cannot be correct. It is to 
decide that a grammatical analysis of the structure not 
requiring ellipsis must be overlooked. It is to decide that 
the comparable literature cannot be looked at. It is to 
decide that the literary structure of Gen 1 must not have 
relevance. Finally it is to decide that when Isaiah has God 
say that he didn't create a chaotic world, that God didn't 
really mean it.


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