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Gen 1:1-3; *smikhut or not?
#1
So, how would you translate Genesis 1:1-3? Does it make a difference?

* fyi see, e.g., smikhut
To be is to stand for. - Abraham Joshua Heschel
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#2
My translation for Genesis 1: 1-3

In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth: And the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the spirit of the L-rd was hovering upon the face of the water.
And the L-rd said, Let it be light and there was light.

I am unable to make the maqqef symbol on my keyboard.

I see two construct relationships.   עַל-פְּנֵי תהוֺם Upon the face of the deep.  I don't know why there isn't a definite article over the noun (deep), which is in the absolute state,  as there is for water, another noun in the absolute state.  PeNay, for face, פְּנֵי is in the plural construct form.  

The word for, in the beginning, בְּראשִׁית, comes from rosh, for head, a masculine word. רָאשֵׁי in the plural construct. Is it acting as an irregular noun, with the tav ending?  Smikhut? I don't know.
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#3
(03-19-2019, 02:57 PM)Dana wrote: My translation for Genesis 1: 1-3

In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth: And the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the spirit of the L-rd was hovering upon the face of the water.
And the L-rd said, Let it be light and there was light.

...

This is the 'standard' translation that one might find in a Christian "Old Testament" such as the KJV. It is not, however, what one will find in translations such as those offered by Robert Alter, Everett Fox, Richard Elliot Friedman, the Jewish Publication Society (NJPS), and Chabad's Complete Jewish Bible With Rashi Commentary.
To be is to stand for. - Abraham Joshua Heschel
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#4
(03-19-2019, 03:28 PM)nili wrote:
(03-19-2019, 02:57 PM)Dana wrote: My translation for Genesis 1: 1-3

In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth: And the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the spirit of the L-rd was hovering upon the face of the water.
And the L-rd said, Let it be light and there was light.

...

This is the 'standard' translation that one might find in a Christian "Old Testament" such as the KJV. It is not, however, what one will find in translations such as those offered by Robert Alter, Everett Fox, Richard Elliot Friedman, the Jewish Publication Society (NJPS), and Chabad's Complete Jewish Bible With Rashi Commentary.

Really?  That's interesting, because Dana knows Hebrew and I'm willing to bet that she translated that passage straight from the Hebrew.  The translation that Dana gave also seems strikingly similar to that found on Chabad's online Tanakh.

I'm sorry, but I don't understand what point you are trying to make, other than perhaps translations tend to vary.
Heart !לחיים

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#5
(03-19-2019, 05:12 PM)Channalee wrote:
(03-19-2019, 03:28 PM)nili wrote:
(03-19-2019, 02:57 PM)Dana wrote: My translation for Genesis 1: 1-3

In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth: And the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the spirit of the L-rd was hovering upon the face of the water.
And the L-rd said, Let it be light and there was light.

...

This is the 'standard' translation that one might find in a Christian "Old Testament" such as the KJV. It is not, however, what one will find in translations such as those offered by Robert Alter, Everett Fox, Richard Elliot Friedman, the Jewish Publication Society (NJPS), and Chabad's Complete Jewish Bible With Rashi Commentary.

Really?  That's interesting, because Dana knows Hebrew and I'm willing to bet that she translated that passage straight from the Hebrew.  The translation that Dana gave also seems strikingly similar to that found on Chabad's online Tanakh.

I'm sorry, but I don't understand what point you are trying to make, other than perhaps translations tend to vary.

I would suggest that it is not at all "strikingly similar." On the contrary, the Chabad translation renders בְּרֵאשִׂית בָּרָא as being in the construct state (which was, by the way, the position of both Rashi and Ibn Ezra).

The difference is between
  • In the beginning, God created ...
and
  • In the beginning of God's creation of ...

In my opinion, the former suggests creation ex nihilo while the latter does not, and I find it interesting that this latter rendering seems to be the one preferred by what might be termed "Jewish sources" across a broad spectrum, from Reform (JPS/Plaut Commentary) and Conservative (JPS/Etz Hayim) to Orthodox (Chabad, Stone).
To be is to stand for. - Abraham Joshua Heschel
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#6
(03-19-2019, 07:31 PM)nili wrote:
(03-19-2019, 05:12 PM)Channalee wrote:
(03-19-2019, 03:28 PM)nili wrote:
(03-19-2019, 02:57 PM)Dana wrote: My translation for Genesis 1: 1-3

In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth: And the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the spirit of the L-rd was hovering upon the face of the water.
And the L-rd said, Let it be light and there was light.

...

This is the 'standard' translation that one might find in a Christian "Old Testament" such as the KJV. It is not, however, what one will find in translations such as those offered by Robert Alter, Everett Fox, Richard Elliot Friedman, the Jewish Publication Society (NJPS), and Chabad's Complete Jewish Bible With Rashi Commentary.

Really?  That's interesting, because Dana knows Hebrew and I'm willing to bet that she translated that passage straight from the Hebrew.  The translation that Dana gave also seems strikingly similar to that found on Chabad's online Tanakh.

I'm sorry, but I don't understand what point you are trying to make, other than perhaps translations tend to vary.

I would suggest that it is not at all "strikingly similar." On the contrary, the Chabad translation renders בְּרֵאשִׂית בָּרָא as being in the construct state (which was, by the way, the position of both Rashi and Ibn Ezra).

The difference is between
  • In the beginning, God created ...
and
  • In the beginning of God's creation of ...

In my opinion, the former suggests creation ex nihilo while the latter does not, and I find it interesting that this latter rendering seems to be the one preferred by what might be termed "Jewish sources" across a broad spectrum, from Reform (JPS/Plaut Commentary) and Conservative (JPS/Etz Hayim) to Orthodox (Chabad, Stone).

@Channalee, that would be true, I was looking at the Hebrew language and looking back on my biblical Hebrew notebook, on this chapter.   There is always something more to learn, and I could be overlooking the rules on the smikhut. 



I see the verse from the Stone's Edition Tanach,  translate it as, In the beginning of G-d's creating...Okay, a participle. The commentary follows Rashi, saying the verse cannot be chronological because it would indicate that the Torah is giving the sequence of Creation - that G-d created the heaven, the earth, darkness, water, light, and so on.

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?
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#7
I tend to go with Rashi's comment that it should be pointed בְּרֹא, which is an infinite construct. I'd read the passage (if I were not forced to do otherwise) as:

בְּרֵאשִׁית בְּרֹא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַ֫יִם וְאֵת הָאָ֫רֶץ...

What I mean by "if I were not forced to" is that the text is traditionally pointed as בָּרָא, which means that I am compelled to read it this way for public readings and for discussion in regular settings.

The difference here is that 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.

In this case, I would translate it as:

In the beginning of God's creating the heavens and the earth...

of:

When God began to create the heavens and the earth...

Both of these would be temporal introductions to what follows. 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.

We could take verse 1 as giving a temporal setting for verse 2, thus:

When God began to create the heavens and the earth, the earth was formless and void [giving a gloss for tohu va-vohu] et cetera...

However, 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. If that's the case, then I would take verse 2 as parenthetical, having the temporal phrase dependent most directly on the first main verb וַיֹּ֫אמֶר in verse 3.

That being the case, I would render the complete three verses as:

When God began to create the heavens and the earth—and the earth was tohu and bohu [without getting into the direct meaning of that], and darkness [was] on the surface of the abyss, and a powerful wind [was] hovering on the surface of the waters—God said, "Let there be light." And there was light.

Notice that I render רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים as "a powerful wind," taking ʾɛ̆lōhîm as a description and not as the base noun "God." The term doesn't have to refer to God at all.

Also, the word תְּהוֹם would be, in my opinion, naturally definite. It referred only to one thing, and it was related directly to the word tamtu in Akkadian and to the name of a deity in Sumerian theology Ti(h)amat. There may be relations to the Sumerian myth (Enuma Elish) that speaks of the creation of the world, in which Ti(h)amat plays an important role. In that sense, it may have been included in the Hebrew myth as a way of saying that God (Elohim) had ultimate power over Tiamat (the Abyss) and the other chaotic gods of the well-known Mesopotamian mythology.
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#8
(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.
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#9
(03-19-2019, 07:31 PM)nili wrote: The difference is between
  • In the beginning, God created ...
and
  • In the beginning of God's creation of ...

In my opinion, the former suggests creation ex nihilo while the latter does not, and I find it interesting that this latter rendering seems to be the one preferred by what might be termed "Jewish sources" across a broad spectrum, from Reform (JPS/Plaut Commentary) and Conservative (JPS/Etz Hayim) to Orthodox (Chabad, Stone).

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.

That's exactly how I would understand it.

Biblical Hebrew is a bit more limited regarding the passive sense of verbs in certain syntactic constraints. So, "the beginning of the creation of the world by God" is a little difficult. Only in rabbinic Hebrew (from the period of the Second Temple) do we see the emergence of a word "by" (עַל־יְדֵי "on the hands of") for agents with passive verbs!

In modern Hebrew, we can express בְּרִיאַת הָעוֹלָם עַל־יְדֵי אֱלוֹהִים "the creation of the word by God." Biblical Hebrew would force us to use an infinitive construct with God as the "subjective genitive" (to steal a grammatical category from Greek) and אֵת to mark the direct object of the verbal form. Taking בְּרֹא as the pointing of the first verb is certainly representing Hebrew syntax at its best.

* אהוביה, אברהם. (2010). תנ״ך רם: תורה. הרצלייה, ישראל: רם – הוצאה לאור בע״ם.
Ahuvia, Avraham. (2010). Ram Tanach: Torah. Herzliya, Israel: Ram – Publishing House, LTD.

** By the way, the font we use on the forum for Hebrew (and Greek) is called SBL BibLit. For transliteration of Hebrew, we use Gentium Plus. You can stylize your Hebrew with [‎he‎] and [‎/he‎] surrounding your Hebrew text (like [‎he‎]שלום[/‎he‎], which yields שלום). Transliteration can be surrounded with [‎tr‎] tags in the same way. Greek can be surrounded with the tag [‎gr‎].
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#10
(03-20-2019, 07:31 AM)Jason wrote: ... 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. ...

(03-20-2019, 08:01 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.

That's exactly how I would understand it. ...

I really appreciate your input, Jason. Thank you.
To be is to stand for. - Abraham Joshua Heschel
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