[b-hebrew] Genesis 1:2 - reading of tohu wavohu

Vadim Cherny VadimCherny at mail.ru
Thu Apr 13 13:47:22 EDT 2006

Both readings, "and" and "now/when" are not far apart semantically. Sort of 
deictic shift. When the author says, "and," he means sequence of events, not 
simply their conjunction. That could be paraphrased, "It was the beginning, 
and then the earth was such-and-such."

The question of tohu and vohu is actually more interesting. All attempts to 
trace their etymology are tentative at best and rely on non-standard 
contraction, and their meaning only relies on the Tanakhic tradition.

A question to learned scholars: how implausible would be to read Gen1:2, 
"And the earth was [there], you will live also in it." That is, assuming 
bohu is bhu, presumably an ancient form of bo.

Vadim Cherny

> Genesis 1:1-2 (KJB)
> In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
> ** And the earth was without form, and void;  **
> and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
> And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
> There are two controversies on the phrase with the asterisks above.
> #1
> The conjunction 'and' is not in the Hebrew coming from verse one,
> and some folks claim it really should be the adverb
>     'now' -  (At this point in the series of events; then)
> Honestly, I don't have the gist of why they think this 'now' 'is 
> significant,
> I think it has something to do with a pre-Adamic race, or a gap theory
> (although how it helps those theories I haven't yet figgered out)
> but that is not the issue anyway.
> Could our Hebrew grammarians tell us what translations (and/now/other)
> would be appropriate or inappropriate.  It may relate to the ...
> #2
> Second question which is, I believe, more substantive ..
> A controversy between "was without form" or "became without form".
> The late Arthur Custance insisted on "became"
> <http://custance.org/old/time/3ch2.html>http://custance.org/old/time/3ch2.html
> The Hebrew verb hayah, i.e., "to be" here translated "was," signifies not 
> only "to be" but also "to become," "to take place," "to come to pass." 
> When a Hebrew writer makes a simple affirmation, or merely predicates the 
> existence of anything, the verb hayah is never expressed. Where it is 
> expressed it must always be translated by our verb "to become," never by 
> the verb "to be," if we desire to convey the exact shade of the meaning of 
> the original...
> The Hebrew of Gen. 1:2 requires the rendering of Hayah by the word 
> "became," instead of the word "was" or better still "had become," the 
> separation of the Waw from the verb being the Hebrew method of indicating 
> the pluperfect tense.
> Another view is taken by in this article....
> http://cdelph.org/was.html
> Should was be became in Genesis 1:2? - By John W Adey
> Linguistics of become / became
> [8] hyth becomes became only when it is accompanied (more often 
> followed) at some point within the sentence by an additional linguistic 
> component, like the Hebrew letter l (lamed). Without this additional 
> (prepositional) l component hyth could not have the sense of became, 
> it would remain was.
> This additional l element acts as a preposition: to (sometimes there 
> may be another preposition. See [11](a), and n.5). In became 
> translations this Hebrew l (lamed), in English to, is rarely 
> apparent. This is because became is a composite of l (or some other 
> preposition) combined with the verb to be (e.g., was). It could be put 
> literally as: it was to = became.
> =====
> Then he continues with Genesis 2:10 and Genesis 2:7 and 1 Kings 2:15 and 
> Psalm 118:22 and other verses.
> =====
> Two sophisticated viewpoints, diametrically opposed, giving arguments that 
> appear to be like trains passing in the night.
> So we wonder the view of our Hebrew-savvy folks here.
> Is one of the above 'right' ... and the other 'wrong' ?
> Or is there a third person in the wings ready to give the most insight.
> Shalom,
> Steven Avery
> Queens, NY
> http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Messianic_Apologetic
> http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Messianic_Apologetic

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