MCo:Bereshith in construct form

From Reconciling understandings of Scripture and Science
(Redirected from Bereshith in construct form)
Jump to navigationJump to search

This page was originally copied from the old MCo:Many Counsellors wiki. Please sign if you edit it.

There is helpful discussion about what the Hebrew of Genesis 1:1 actually says in Orlinsky, Harry M., ed., Notes on the New Translation of the Torah, Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia, 5730-1969

A very brief summary appears below. (This is not verbatim - please see the original for more detail.) The upshot has to do with what was the first action - the Bible may start with either of these:

  • In the beginning, God created heaven and earth.
  • In the beginning ..., God said "Let there be light!"

(Note, November 2023: This ambiguity is inescapable because the first word is בראשית not בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית — the pointing came later, and narrows the meaning. For Genesis 1:1 to mean "In the beginning, God created ..." בראשית would have to start with בַּ not בְּ Compare Numbers, בְּמִדְבַּר סִינַ֖י, bəmiḏbar sinai, literally "in the desert [of]". — Bruce 26 November 2023)

Brief summary of Orlinsky's notes

Since the LXX was made translations have rendered bereshith bara elohim mechanically, "In the beginning God created." There are several cogent reasons, each independent of the others, for rejecting this, and for accepting the temporal ("When ...") construction.

The first vowel in bereshith indicates that it is in the construct (rather than in the absolute) state, and has the meaning "In the beginning of (God's creating ...)" rather than "In the beginning (God created ...)" Rashi wrote "But if you are going to interpret [this passage] in its plain sense, interpret it thus: At the beginning of the creation of heaven and earth, when the earth was (or the earth being) unformed and void ... God said, 'Let there be light.' For the passage does not intend to teach the order of creation, to say that these [namely, heaven and earth] came first; because if it had intended to teach this, it would have been necessary to use the form barishona ... " ... verse 2 describes the circumstances under which the action in verses 1 and 3 took place: " ... the earth being unformed and void," etc.

The Hebrew text tells us nothing about "creation out of nothing" or about the beginning of time. ... the first thing that God did when He created the universe, as ancient man knew it, was to create light. This conclusion is further supported by the fact that light was the first element to receive a name ...

The JPS translation reads --

When God began to create the heaven and the earth - the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water - God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.

MCo (talk)

See also:

As Rashi pointed out [1], Jeremiah 27:1, with the same construction, doesn't say "In the beginning, Jehoiakim reigned." Bruce (talk) 19:06, 24 March 2018 (UTC)