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Gen 1:1-3; *smikhut or not?
#11
(03-20-2019, 07:31 AM)Jason wrote:
(03-20-2019, 02:47 AM)Dana wrote: But what about consistency with the Hebrew grammar?  Bara, elsewhere, is a masculine, singular verb, not a noun. Genesis 2 verse 3, only one example and there are more,  bara is a verb, including on the Chabad website.  How can that word be rendered a noun in one place while a verb in the others?

It's really about the use of רֵאשִׁית rather than the use of בָּרָא. We can agree that if the real meaning is בָּרָא, then we are forced to read it as an independent verb, which leads to the idea of creatio ex nihilo in that verse alone. However, Rashi suggests that רֵאשִׁית is most naturally followed by a noun or by an infinitive absolute (which functions, like the gerund in English, similarly to a noun).

You can see all the 51 appearances of רֵאשִׁית here. There are some verses in which it functions as the absolute noun in a construct chain (such as קָרְבַּן רֵאשִׁית "offering of the first fruits," in which it represents the longer expression רֵאשִׁית קְצִירְכֶם "the first [fruits] of your harvest"). However, it is most naturally used in expressions like "the beginning of wisdom/knowledge" and "the beginning of someone's rulership" or "beginning of the year."

It's most natural to read the first verse of Genesis as in the beginning of God's creating.... That's just how we see the word used again and again, as the beginning of a construct chain.


Thank you for your contributions, Jason.  You have covered a great deal and I always learn something new or see something with the Hebrew language I overlooked or didn't think about. You are a joy!
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#12
(03-20-2019, 07:31 AM)Jason wrote: Because of the presence of the אֵת particle, I don't think that we should go with "creation of." This is expressed in Hebrew as בְּרִיאַת הָעוֹלָם. Avraham Ahuvya's translation of the Bible (תָּנָ״ךְ רָם),* which is a translation from classical Hebrew to modern Hebrew, the author phrases the first verse in this way:

בִּתְחִלַּת הַבְּרִיאָה, כְּשֶׁבָּרָא אֱלוֹהִים אֶת הָעוֹלָם...

He renders the second phrase, which is also temporal (since it is following כְּשֶׁ־ "when"), as something dependent. He renders it as: "In the beginning of the creation, when God created the world...." He then follows it with a comma. The main verb still appears in verse 3 with אָמַר אֱלוֹהִים, and verse 2 has commas that make it continue into verse 3.

Similarly, the Hadassah Magazine article Israeli Life: Translating the Bible into Hebrew, notes:

Quote:Take Genesis 1:1, which the King James version rendered “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” Ahuvia translates this as “At the beginning of creation, when God created the world,” ending with a comma leading into the next verse.

“I didn’t say ‘heaven and earth’ but ‘the world,’ because on the second day he created the firmament and called it heaven,” noted Ahuvia. “In the Bible, the phrase ha-shamayim ve-ha’aretz means ‘the world.’”

I'd be interested in seeing an English translation of Ahuvya's Gen. 1:1-3.

I'm also curious about the last sentence quoted above. I could understand treating אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ as a merism, but Ahuvia seems to be making a different claim. If, indeed, the BH phrase means "the world," I'm rather surprised that none of my commentaries seem to be aware of this fact. Perhaps I'ver overlooked something.
To be is to stand for. - Abraham Joshua Heschel
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#13
(03-20-2019, 07:19 AM)Jason wrote: ... the first verse of the three loses its independence. An infinitive absolute is necessarily dependent on another verb to complete its sense, since the infinitive absolute generally provides a temporal standpoint from to frame the main verb. ...

I would take verse 2, which has what we call a qāṭal verb form (as opposed to a wayyiqṭol). Such forms are normally used to provide background information and should not be taken as part of the story line. The story is carried forward with wayyiqṭol forms, which we have starting in verse 3. ...

it seems to me that both verse 1 and verse 2 provide background information for verse 3, which is the real beginning of the story. ...
Thank you, Jason. I have long favored this alternative translation of Gen 1,1-3. My grasp of Hebrew is rudimentary, but I wonder whether there might be an additional grammatical support for this interpretation.

I have the vague impression that the use of an initial noun or noun phrase preceding the verb (in both 1,1 & 1,2) in a narrative also may indicate that these are subordinate clauses preceding the main verb in 1,3. Is there any truth to this?
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#14
(05-06-2020, 09:53 PM)robrecht wrote: I have the vague impression that the use of an initial noun or noun phrase preceding the verb (in both 1,1 & 1,2) in a narrative also may indicate that these are subordinate clauses preceding the main verb in 1,3. Is there any truth to this?

All we can say is that narrative progresses with the vav-consecutive. That starts in 1:3, of course. I don't think you're off, but I wouldn't turn it into an argument.
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#15
Thank you, Jason. My objective is not really to argue for this particular interpretation, but to learn more about Hebrew narrative syntax. Are there other comparable examples of Biblical Hebrew narrative syntax where a waw-consecutive verbal phrase is preceded by an initial noun-phrase or phrases that are not subordinate to the waw-consecutive primary verbal clause?
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#16
(05-08-2020, 09:39 PM)robrecht wrote: Thank you, Jason. My objective is not really to argue for this particular interpretation, but to learn more about Hebrew narrative syntax. Are there other comparable examples of Biblical Hebrew narrative syntax where a waw-consecutive verbal phrase is preceded by an initial noun-phrase or phrases that are not subordinate to the waw-consecutive primary verbal clause?

I'm not sure what you're asking. I would assume that the beginning of Ruth would meet your criteria, but I'm not certain.

וַיְהִ֗י בִּימֵי֙ שְׁפֹ֣ט הַשֹּֽׁפְטִ֔ים וַיְהִ֥י רָעָ֖ב בָּאָ֑רֶץ וַיֵּ֨לֶךְ אִ֜ישׁ מִבֵּ֧ית לֶ֣חֶם יְהוּדָ֗ה לָגוּר֙ בִּשְׂדֵ֣י מוֹאָ֔ב ה֥וּא וְאִשְׁתּ֖וֹ וּשְׁנֵ֥י בָנָֽיו׃

The beginning of the expression establishes a time, and the story actually begins with the vav-consecutive וַיֵּ֫לֶךְ. Is this what you're talking about?

וַיְהִ֗י בְּהַֽעֲל֤וֹת יְהוָה֙ אֶת־אֵ֣לִיָּ֔הוּ בַּֽסְעָרָ֖ה הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם וַיֵּ֧לֶךְ אֵֽלִיָּ֛הוּ וֶֽאֱלִישָׁ֖ע מִן־הַגִּלְגָּֽל׃

Here, the וַיְהְי phrase establishes time also and the narrative begins with the vav-consecutive וַיֵּ֫לֶךְ.

וַיְהִ֗י כִּשְׁמֹ֨עַ֙ הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ חִזְקִיָּ֔הוּ וַיִּקְרַ֖ע אֶת־בְּגָדָ֑יו וַיִּתְכַּ֣ס בַּשָּׂ֔ק וַיָּבֹ֖א בֵּ֥ית יְהוָֽה׃

Vav-consecutive following an infinitive construct with a prefixed kaf.

It isn't odd for the vav-consecutive to follow a temporal marker like this.
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#17
Thanks, Jason. Sorry if I'm not being very clear. These three examples all begin with וַיְהִ֗י. I'm looking for narrative examples that are more comparable to what we find in Gen 1,1-3, where the main verbal clause (... וַיֹּ֥אמֶר) is preceded by an initial noun clause or clauses, eg, (... בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית) and (... וְהָאָ֗רֶץ). I've found a few somewhat comparable examples in the past, but I don't really know how common such syntax is in biblical Hebrew. 
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#18
(05-12-2020, 01:37 PM)robrecht wrote: Thanks, Jason. Sorry if I'm not being very clear. These three examples all begin with וַיְהִ֗י. I'm looking for narrative examples that are more comparable to what we find in Gen 1,1-3, where the main verbal clause (... וַיֹּ֥אמֶר) is preceded by an initial noun clause or clauses, eg, (... בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית) and (... וְהָאָ֗רֶץ). I've found a few somewhat comparable examples in the past, but I don't really know how common such syntax is in biblical Hebrew. 

The ויהי element really is redundant in these passages, but I see what you mean.

How about this one?

בְּתִשְׁעָ֣ה לַחֹ֔דֶשׁ וַיֶּֽחֱזַ֥ק הָֽרָעָ֖ב בָּעִ֑יר

You have a prepositional phrase establishing time, followed by a vav-consecutive. I think this is exactly what you're asking for, but I also think the ויהי passages above qualify—you can see in their context that ויהי is irrelevant, as you compare the following:

וַֽיְהִי֙ בִּשְׁנַ֣ת שָׁלֹ֔שׁ לְהוֹשֵׁ֥עַ בֶּן־אֵלָ֖ה מֶ֣לֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל מָלַ֛ךְ חִזְקִיָּ֥ה בֶן־אָחָ֖ז מֶ֥לֶךְ יְהוּדָֽה׃
בִּשְׁנַת֙ שְׁתֵּ֣ים עֶשְׂרֵ֔ה לְאָחָ֖ז מֶ֣לֶךְ יְהוּדָ֑ה מָ֠לַךְ הוֹשֵׁ֨עַ בֶּן־אֵלָ֧ה בְשֹֽׁמְר֛וֹן עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל תֵּ֥שַׁע שָׁנִֽים׃

The first has ויהי and the second doesn't, but they are exactly the same structure.
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#19
Thank you, Jason! Would you characterize the presence or absence of וַֽיְהִי֙ as a stylistic difference, as opposed to a grammatical difference? Perhaps related to various authors having their own style. Or perhaps more of an historical evolution of the grammar over time? Or maybe something else?
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#20
I think it's just chance, whatever the author seemed to have in his mind. Why? Because in one chapter it's there, and in the next chapter it's missing. The same author (presumably) writing both chapters. It's just that ויהי is such an insignificant conjoiner of narrative that sometimes its lack cannot be felt. Think of English: "And it happened on the second night that he arrived at the house" and "And on the second night he arrived at the house." This is especially interchangeable given the weakness of the conjunction of the vav-consecutive forms in Hebrew. The conjunction can mean "and" or "now" or "that" or nothing at all (in English translation).
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