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

Paul Zellmer pzellmer at
Fri Mar 29 22:52:46 EST 2002

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Ian Hutchesson [mailto:mc2499 at]
> Sent: Friday, March 29, 2002 10:02 PM
> To: Biblical Hebrew
> Subject: Re: Is R)$YT even a "time" word?
> The simple understanding known from antiquity, ie that one
> should read br'$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.
Were this the "simple understanding known from antiquity", we would not see
the vast majority of those who even address the question, whether through
translations or through commentaries, take the interpretation that this is
*not* a construct here.  And even those that do choose to change BR) to an
infinitive rather than keeping it a perfect, which is different from your
stated view.  Furthermore, were this the "simple understanding known from
antiquity," its main and sole real proponent of this recent discussion would
not be one who has admitted a limited understanding of Biblical Hebrew, and
started the whole discussion asking if his proposition had any merit.

> 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.

So the Babylonians based their mythology on the true creation story that was
just as likely preserved orally and written down later in the Hebrew!  Is it
surprising that the Babylonians, which come from the same area as the
Hebrews originated, might have heard the same creation story, and worked
that story in to advocate their own gods?  And even if there is a common
source, how does the way that the Babylonian account starts have any impact
on how the Hebrew language puts it?

Ian, even though I returned on Wednesday as planned, I saw nothing new
concerning this thread and a lot of calls for it to stop, so I chose not to
even respond again to your question repeated last Saturday, the one about
whether BR)$YT "governs" clauses, whether simple or complex.  I have already
stated my position, that I see no support for it doing so, and I resented
your badgering on this issue.  But let me state one more time, so that you
are spared from looking back through old messages:  I find no other cases
where the head of any construct chain which starts with BR)$YT is ever
anything but an absolute noun, I reject your comparisons to the usages with
YWM and )T, so I see no possibility that the complex form can exist.  I
would grant the possibility, however slight, that the Masorites may have
gotten the pronunciation wrong and BR) was actually an infinitive complex.
But the LXX (and the Vulgate) translations speak against that possibility,
because those folk must have gotten it wrong as well.

Your arguments are mere repeats of arguments put forth on this list and
other forums in the past, and they have not succeeded in swaying the
scholars from the majority position.  And for the last few weeks, you've
even been repeating yourself, sir.  I really think we all know well by now
from where you are coming.  Why don't you let us decide if you've convinced
us or not.

Paul Zellmer

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