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

Herman Meester crazymulgogi at gmail.com
Thu Apr 13 19:02:57 EDT 2006

> 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?

Thank you for these examples.
First of all, I may have said a little too strongly, and shouldn't
have, that the perfect tense "can't" be the first predicate. This was
not my intention. Anyway I think it is not likely here.
Down to the real issues.

Your approach above confuses me a little, because I think clauses like
"In the beginning of Gods creating..." or "When God started to
create..." are all attempts to translate the Hebrew into a language
that has different syntactic mechanisms. If those translations don't
look similar to other translations of comparable phenomena in Hebrew,
because of the fact that English can't translate both cases similarly
due to its own syntax, this means nothing. In Arabic or Korean as far
as I know, for example, both examples (i.e. Gen 1,1-3 and clauses like
Is. 15,1) could (or even should) indeed be translated into the same
syntactic pattern. So this is merely an English thing.

In fact, the pattern b'reshit bara... fits perfectly on the patterns
you were so kind to mention, like "the days he has shut it up". It's
consistently [construct noun] - [perfect tense]. The problem of how we
are going to translate such a thing has nothing to do with that,
because in Hebrew it's just the same. Actually, both "reshit" and
"y'mey" are markers of time. As is "leyl".

We've been there before, but it's just that I really think "my"
proposed reading of Gen 1,1-3 approaches Hebrew syntax in a more
mature way. It's true, BHebrew has been studied for centuries, but
BHebrew syntax has been studied only for decades. There are more
syntactical complexities of the kind I see in Gen1, than is usually
recognised. The abundance of the seemingly simple word "and" in Hebrew
does not mean that Hebrew makes less use of subordination than, say,
English or Greek. This is only given a different form than we are used
to. Cf. Gen. 14, which is full of subordination, if only we recognise
the significance of things like perfect vs. impf. cons., or word

best regards,
Herman Meester

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