[b-hebrew] Genesis 1:2 - And the earth was without form, and void

Herman Meester crazymulgogi at gmail.com
Thu Apr 13 15:02:34 EDT 2006

2006/4/13, Harold R. Holmyard III <hholmyard at ont.com>:

> HH: Schmuel doesn't know Hebrew well, so I will interject that it
> seems misleading to say, as you seem to say, that a perfect cannot be
> the first predicate of the Tora. There's no requirement that the
> first predicate be in the imperfect consecutive. Actually, that seems
> less likely to me. Am I missing part of your argument? If you claim
> that many narrative books begin with an imperfect consecutive,
> therefore Genesis must, that's inadequate reasoning. There can be a
> first book of first events, so that an imperfect consecutive (which
> marks continuation) could be inappropriate. While the objection to
> the traditional view is that b-reshit cannot stand by itself as "in
> the beginning," the objection to the newer view you present is that
> bara would normally be expected to be an infinitive in the idea you
> present. Also, the whole construction seems very complicated and
> drawn out in Hebrew.
The view may be called "newer", but still Rashi and Ibn Ezra gave
their syntactic views hundreds of years ago. The fact "that the whole
construction seems very complicated and drawn out in Hebrew" as you
claim it, is unconvincing. Hebrew is capable of the same complexities
as any other language; it is simply our lack of knowledge of Biblical
Hebrew syntax. After all, the academic study of Biblical Hebrew
started relatively recently.
The idea that bara would be expected to be an infinitive is indeed an
objection, but it is not necessary. A verbal clause as the second part
of a construct is possible in Hebrew.
About the perfect tense: syntactic study has shown that the perfect
tense is quite often used in subordinate clauses in similar situations
as here in Gen 1,1-3. It is not misleading to say that we would here
expect an imperfect consecutive to be the first predicate.
The imperfect consecutive does not necessarily mark continuation,
because the "and" part here is not a temporal marker, it only plays a
syntactic role.
As I said, this discussion will not come to an end, but I do not think
I mislead Schmuel, in the same way that Rashi and Ibn Ezra don't
mislead Schmuel.
Herman, Rotterdam

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