[b-hebrew] Question about Gen 1:1-2

Harold Holmyard hholmyard3 at earthlink.net
Wed Jul 22 23:40:11 EDT 2009

> Greetings to the members:
> I am new to B-Hebrew and have joined you to ask a question.
> I have been studying the Gap Theory which says there are billions of years of time inserted in between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. At the end of these billions of years, the earth suffered a great cataclysm (due to Satan's rebellion and fall) that left the earth without form and void.  They say the word WAS in verse 2 could be translated BECAME.  Thus the earth BECAME without form and void.  It was not originally created that way.
> Do you use the same Hebrew word 'hayah' to mean both 'was' and 'became' and have to figure out which one should be there by the context of the sentence?  Or does the word 'hayah' have to have a 'le' with it in order for it to mean 'became'?  Can we KNOW whether the word in Gen 1:2 is definitely 'was' or 'became'?
> Hope you can shed some light on this because I have read several on-line articles and nothing I have read seems give a definite answer either way.

HH: Yes, the verb can mean "was" or "became," but the best current 
scholarly thinking discounts the Gap Theory. One reason for this is that 
the sentence starts with the noun subject, which suggests that the 
statement is giving attendant circumstances. The second clause seems 
clearly to be doing this. It is verbless, implying "and darkness was 
over the surface of the deep." The third clause is the same way. It, 
too, is verbless, except for a participle, saying that "the Spirit of 
God was hovering over the surface of the water." In Hebrew when the 
clause starts with a noun and is verbless, it often is giving attendant 
circumstance. Here the attendant circumstances are to the fact that God 
created the heavens and earth. Since the last two clauses seem to be 
circumstantial, it is natural if the first clause is also 
circumstantial: "the earth was empty and void." This general description 
shows the starting point from which God's actions will develop the 
world. Other scholars may take a different position, but that is what I 
understand it to be saying.

HH: Some people are so far from the Gap Theory that they make verses 1-3 
a single sentence. Robert Alter (/The Five Books of Moses/) does this, 
starting out, "When God began to create heaven and earth, and the earth 
then was welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God's breath 
hovering over the waters, God said, "let there be light."

Harold Holmyard

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