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

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at
Sat Mar 30 14:35:16 EST 2002

Ian, I am unable to date LXX, just as you are, because I do not rely on
the letter of Aristeas and the dating implied there. I quite
deliberately avoided stating a date for LXX and carefully referred to
the view of the majority of scholars. I accept that there is no
conclusive proof that this LXX reading is pre-Christian. But that is
actually quite irrelevant to my argument.

I note that there is good evidence (which was sent to me off list) for a
similar understanding of the text by the translators/authors of the
Targums. Again the date is uncertain, I suppose.

My point in quoting translations is that translations are good evidence
for how the translators understood their Vorlage. Full stop.

Ian, you wrote "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,...". What is your
evidence that this understanding was known from antiquity, by which I
understand you as referring to before the time of Rashi? What securely
dateable documents can you quote? I have several documents, including
the Vulgate which is securely dated to the 4th century CE and LXX which
must be older, which witness that my understanding was known from
antiquity. (Would you like me to start researching the Church Fathers
for their understandings and their early quotes from LXX, old Latin,
Syriac etc etc?) And that is all I am trying to argue at this stage of
the discussion (having realised that it is pointless, and annoying to
other list members, to repeat my earlier points despite you continuing
to bring up these issues).

And in all of this I have made no reference to my personal views on
creation, and certainly not to any theories of the world being returned
to chaos after and initial creation.

Peter Kirk

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Ian Hutchesson [mailto:mc2499 at]
> Sent: 30 March 2002 06:02
> To: Biblical Hebrew
> Subject: Re: Is R)$YT even a "time" word?
> >Thanks to all who sent me the Vulgate text. I think this demonstrates
> >(for what it's worth) that the Hebrew was understood in the 4th
> >CE, by Jerome and the Jews of Bethlehem who helped him, in the sense
> >the beginning God created..."
> Peter doesn't seem to me to be interested in the Hebrew
> text or its background. He somehow imagines that the world
> was created out of nothing and either created as chaos or
> returned to chaos.
> It is a little difficult to understand anyone wanting to
> assume God create chaos, especially when Isa 45:18 says
> specifically that God did not create the world as chaos.
> One then has to postulate that something must have happened
> between vv 1 & 2 to transform God's creation into chaos and
> we have all sorts of weird and wonderful speculations.
> Just because some early fathers were also trained in Greek
> philosophy doesn't mean that we must necessarily transform
> a relatively straight-forward text into a piece of Greek
> sophistry.
> Peter is unable to date the translation of the LXX Genesis
> text. He seems to believe those who make a tendentious
> reading of Aristeas, who only talks about the law. He should
> note that there were no text tradition variations of Genesis
> from Qumran, while there were for the other pentateuchal
> books, ie there are LXX Hebrew versions of the others but
> not for Genesis. There is no Hebrew Vorlage for LXX Genesis,
> while there is for the other four pentateuchal books. There
> is in fact nothing to support a LXX translation of Genesis
> before the beginning of Christianity. So relying on LXX (or
> Vulgate) is interesting but irrelevant to the Hebrew text of
> Genesis 1:1-3.
> The simple understanding known from antiquity, ie that one
> should read br'$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.
> Ian

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