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

Harold Holmyard hholmyard at ont.com
Thu Apr 13 16:55:08 EDT 2006

Dear Herman,

>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.

HH: But we've been reading the Bible a long time, and this sentence is 
the first one in the Bible. One does not expect any need for convolution 
in the first sentence.

>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.

HH: It's possible, but I don't see one like this. The rare cases can be 
translated according to a normal meaning for the verb. They don't 
require that one shift "he created" to "his creating." It does not even 
seem possible to render the words in Gen 1:1 using a normal sense for 
the perfect verb according to your model. Let me give some of the 
examples to show you what I mean, putting the relevant words in caps:

Lev 14:46: And the one entering into his house all THE DAYS HE HAS SHUT 
it UP will be unclean until evening.

HH: The same sort of thing occurs in 1 Sam 25:15.

Is. 15:1 The burden of Moab. Indeed in the NIGHT Ar of Moab IS LAID 
WASTE, it is ruined; indeed, in the NIGHT Kir of Moab IS LAID WASTE, it 
is ruined;

Is. 29:1 Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, THE CITY DAVID ENCAMPED. Add year to 
year. Let feasts come round.

Jer 48:6b because THE RICHES HE MADE have perished.

HH: Can you do something similar in Gen 1:1?

>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.

HH: But that's not what you said. Here's what you said:

The words "[b-reshit] bara" can't
really be the first predicate of the Tora, because it's a perfect (in
smichut), not an "imperfect consecutive"- form.

HH: Yes, they really can be the first predicate of the Torah. A perfect 
verb is the first predicate in Ezra.

>The imperfect consecutive does not necessarily mark continuation,
>because the "and" part here is not a temporal marker, it only plays a
>syntactic role.

HH: That's questionable. The syntactic function probably relates to the 
basic function of the imperfect consecutive, while involves consecution.

Harold Holmyard

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