[b-hebrew] Question about Gen 1:1-2
J.Read-2 at sms.ed.ac.uk
Thu Jul 23 18:23:01 EDT 2009
Rolf would probably explain this better but as he has explained on
many occasion each word has a semantic domain. The problem with
translation is that there is very rarely a 1:1 complete mapping
between the semantic domain of a source word and the semantic domain
of a target word. When there is a sufficiently great overlap in the
semantic domain of a source word with a target word this becomes its
default translation but by no means the only translation.
Of course, there are many passages where we see hyh best understood as
'was' and many passages where best understood as 'become' and many
passages where both would fit the context quite nicely. This is
because, in English, there is quite a divide between the two concepts
but not the case in Hebrew.
A modern day example of this phenomenon which people may be able to
relate to are the English verbs 'make' and 'do' which we consider to
have quite separate semantic domains such that the phrases 'to do
dinner' and 'to make dinner' have quite different meanings. However,
in most languages 'do' and 'make' are generally translated by one
corresponding verb occupying the semantic domains of both 'do' and
'make' such that it is not uncommon for learners of English to come
out with phrases of the type 'The carpenter was did a table' or 'I
have to make an exam tomorrow' on contexts where the other verb is
clearly the sense they intended.
In this way Genesis 1:1-2 is a context which could be understood
either way. Elohim make the land and the skies and the land came to be
... or the land was ...
Translators of the Greek OT and the Latin vulgate both seem to prefer
a 'was' translation:
? ?? ?? ?? ??????? ??? ?????????????? (?? = was)
terra autem erat inanis et vacua (erat = was)
In any case, it really doesn't make that much of a difference. The
intention of the text is quite plain. It presents a simple series of
events which show how the land changed and became filled with life.
There is clearly no other agenda.
A discussion of the meaning of THW and BHW could be interesting but
whatever they mean the agenda of the Genesis1:1,2 is quite clearly to
show that when Elohim created the skies and the land the land was or
came to be THW and BHW. Nothing more. And nothing less.
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