בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים

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nili95
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Joined: Wed Jan 27, 2016 3:24 pm

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים

Postby nili95 » Tue Feb 02, 2016 12:26 pm

Genesis begins ...

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים

Many translations render this as "In the beginning, God created ...,"

Others, such as the JPS and Alter, offer "When God began to create ..." or something similar, falling short of asserting creatio ex nihilo.

I'd appreciate your thoughts.
L'Shalom,
Jay Frank

kwrandolph
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Re: בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים

Postby kwrandolph » Tue Feb 02, 2016 8:24 pm

nili95 wrote:Genesis begins ...

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים

Many translations render this as "In the beginning, God created ...,"

Others, such as the JPS and Alter, offer "When God began to create ..." or something similar, falling short of asserting creatio ex nihilo.

I'd appreciate your thoughts.


In Hebrew, where the idea is at the beginning of a process, the word used is חלל which has the meaning of to bring into production, make common, often with the idea of initiating the action. A noun derivative is תחלה. This is where an action is initiated and continued.

ראשית has the idea of at first, beginning, at the head. It’s not the start of a process.

Further, when we look at the verbal forms used, verses 1 and 2 have the main verb a qatal qal. That indicates that the second verse starts a new section which is continued up through Genesis 2:3. From the context, the first verse merely states that the action was done, then the rest of the chapter gives a quick blow-by-blow account of the sequence of that creation mentioned in the first verse. Genesis 2:4 is the summary, or as some would put it, the title and author of the first chapter according to a very ancient literary practice.

Translation is a different art than understanding a language from within. So knowing the above, which translation sounds more accurate?

Karl W. Randolph.

nili95
Posts: 20
Joined: Wed Jan 27, 2016 3:24 pm

Re: בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים

Postby nili95 » Wed Feb 03, 2016 5:33 pm

kwrandolph wrote:In Hebrew, where the idea is at the beginning of a process, the word used is חלל which has the meaning of to bring into production, make common, often with the idea of initiating the action. A noun derivative is תחלה. This is where an action is initiated and continued.

ראשית has the idea of at first, beginning, at the head. It’s not the start of a process.

Further, when we look at the verbal forms used, verses 1 and 2 have the main verb a qatal qal. That indicates that the second verse starts a new section which is continued up through Genesis 2:3. From the context, the first verse merely states that the action was done, then the rest of the chapter gives a quick blow-by-blow account of the sequence of that creation mentioned in the first verse. Genesis 2:4 is the summary, or as some would put it, the title and author of the first chapter according to a very ancient literary practice.

Translation is a different art than understanding a language from within. So knowing the above, which translation sounds more accurate?

Karl W. Randolph.

I am really sorry, but I'm not at all sure that I understand what you're saying.

That said, if I look at Gen 1:1, Gen 1:2 ... 2:3, and Gen 2.4 as statement, explication, and summary respectively, I find myself preferring the first translation, or perhaps something like: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth thusly: ..."

One problem that I have with this is viewing Gen 2:4 as summarizing the previous text as opposed to introducing the following (second and distinct) creation narrative.

Thank you again for your patience.
L'Shalom,
Jay Frank

nili95
Posts: 20
Joined: Wed Jan 27, 2016 3:24 pm

Re: בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים

Postby nili95 » Wed Feb 03, 2016 8:34 pm

Also, where might I have gone to read about the difference in connotation between רֵאשִׁית and תְּחִיָּה ? My Israeli friends tell me that the terms are equivalent in modern-day Hebrew. Thank you.
L'Shalom,
Jay Frank

nili95
Posts: 20
Joined: Wed Jan 27, 2016 3:24 pm

Re: בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים

Postby nili95 » Thu Feb 04, 2016 9:37 am

By the way, Paul Jouon, while addressing "Noun constructed on a clause. ... With pure substantives ...," offers:

Possibly also Gn 1.1 At the beginning of God's creation of the heaven and the earth. (1)


He then notes:

1 So already Rashi, who, as supporting evidence, mentions e.g. Ho 1.2.


[See A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew; 129p3, pg 442.]
L'Shalom,
Jay Frank

S_Walch
Posts: 181
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Re: בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים

Postby S_Walch » Thu Feb 04, 2016 10:52 am

nili95 wrote:By the way, Paul Jouon, while addressing "Noun constructed on a clause. ... With pure substantives ...," offers:

Possibly also Gn 1.1 At the beginning of God's creation of the heaven and the earth. (1)


He then notes:

1 So already Rashi, who, as supporting evidence, mentions e.g. Ho 1.2.


[See A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew; 129p3, pg 442.]

This actually proves what Karl says about ראשית and תחיה, as Hos 1:2 uses תחיה to indicate "At the beginning when...":

Hos 1:2:
תחלת דבר יהוה בהושע ויאמר יהוה אל הושע לך קח לך אשת זנונים וילדי זנונים כי זנה תזנה הארץ מ‍אחרי יהוה
Ste Walch

nili95
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Joined: Wed Jan 27, 2016 3:24 pm

Re: בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים

Postby nili95 » Thu Feb 04, 2016 10:18 pm

S_Walch wrote:
nili95 wrote:By the way, Paul Jouon, while addressing "Noun constructed on a clause. ... With pure substantives ...," offers:

Possibly also Gn 1.1 At the beginning of God's creation of the heaven and the earth. (1)


He then notes:

1 So already Rashi, who, as supporting evidence, mentions e.g. Ho 1.2.


[See A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew; 129p3, pg 442.]

This actually proves what Karl says about ראשית and תחיה, as Hos 1:2 uses תחיה to indicate "At the beginning when...":

Hos 1:2:
תחלת דבר יהוה בהושע ויאמר יהוה אל הושע לך קח לך אשת זנונים וילדי זנונים כי זנה תזנה הארץ מ‍אחרי יהוה

Perhaps, but that is not the sense I get from reading Rashi as found at The Complete Jewish Bible With Rashi Commentary ...

In the beginning of God’s creation of: Heb. בְּרֵאשִית בָּרָא. This verse calls for a midrashic interpretation [because according to its simple interpretation, the vowelization of the word בָּרָא, should be different, as Rashi explains further]. It teaches us that the sequence of the Creation as written is impossible, as is written immediately below] as our Rabbis stated (Letters of R. Akiva , letter “beth” ; Gen. Rabbah 1:6; Lev. Rabbah 36:4): [God created the world] for the sake of the Torah, which is called (Prov. 8:22): “the beginning of His way,” and for the sake of Israel, who are called (Jer. 2:3) “the first of His grain.” But if you wish to explain it according to its simple meaning, explain it thus: “At the beginning of the creation of heaven and earth, the earth was astonishing with emptiness, and darkness…and God said, ‘Let there be light.’” But Scripture did not come to teach the sequence of the Creation, to say that these came first, for if it came to teach this, it should have written:“At first (בָּרִאשׁוֹנָה) He created the heavens and the earth,” for there is no רֵאשִׁית in Scripture that is not connected to the following word, [i.e., in the construct state] like (ibid. 27:1):“In the beginning of (בְּרֵאשִית) the reign of Jehoiakim” ; (below 10:10)“the beginning of (רֵאשִׁית) his reign” ; (Deut. 18:4)“the first (רֵאשִׁית) of your corn.” Here too, you say בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אלֹהִים, like בְּרֵאשִׁית בְּרֹא, in the beginning of creating. And similar to this is,“At the beginning of the Lord’s speaking (דִּבֶּר) to Hosea,” (Hos. 1:2), i.e., at the beginning of the speaking (דִּבּוּרוֹ) of the Holy One, Blessed be He, to Hosea, “the Lord said to Hosea, etc.” [emphasis added - jf]


It seems to me that Rashi is speaking of a commonality between Gen. 1:1 and Hos 1:2 (i.e., both being in the construct state) that transcends any difference between ראשית and תחיה. No?
L'Shalom,
Jay Frank

S_Walch
Posts: 181
Joined: Fri May 23, 2014 4:41 pm

Re: בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים

Postby S_Walch » Thu Feb 04, 2016 11:28 pm

I'm afraid I have no idea who Rashi is, and it seems that his entire argument falls on the way the Hebrew consonants are vowel pointed, which are not more than Masoretic guesswork.

If we read Gen 1:1 without the vowel points: בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ - there is nothing that indicates that ראשית should be considered construct rather than absolute. Even so, it should also be noted that even in the construct state, ראשית isn't used to indicate the start of a process, but really does just mean "at the start, beginning, head, the first", which doesn't correlate to Hosea 1:2 which is indicating the start of the process of Yahweh speaking to Hosea.

Further evidence is that the LXX, the Greek translation of Genesis 1:1, done nearly 1000 years prior to the Masoretes vowel-points, reads: Εν αρχη εποιησεν ο Θεος τον ουρανον και την γην / "In [the] beginning, God made the heaven and the earth". This shows that even in the 3rd Century BCE, ראשית was understood in Gen 1:1 to mean "In the beginning", and not "When God started" etc., etc.
Ste Walch

kwrandolph
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Re: בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים

Postby kwrandolph » Fri Feb 05, 2016 9:05 am

nili95 wrote:Also, where might I have gone to read about the difference in connotation between רֵאשִׁית and תְּחִיָּה ? My Israeli friends tell me that the terms are equivalent in modern-day Hebrew. Thank you.


Jay:

Biblical Hebrew and modern Israeli Hebrew are two different languages. They have different grammars, different pronunciations, different vocabularies. Yes, one comes from the other, but the changes over the millennia have made it so different that if Elijah were to come back tomorrow, and speak Biblical Hebrew, no one would understand him, and he would understand no one.

When modern Israeli Hebrew was invented, it was based not on Biblical Hebrew, but on the latest version of Hebrew as it was spoken as a second language in the diaspora.

Therefore, modern Israelis often have difficulty understanding Tanakh, unless it’s translated, and what they say concerning Hebrew language often incorrect when applied to Biblical Hebrew.

nili95 wrote:One problem that I have with this is viewing Gen 2:4 as summarizing the previous text as opposed to introducing the following (second and distinct) creation narrative.


This is evidence that when Moses “authored” Genesis, he basically compiled it from older texts. The literary practice of having the title and author at the tail end of a document, instead of at the beginning as is modern practice, was one that fell out of use about 1500 BC, or about the time of Moses’ birth. Therefore, to view Genesis 2:4 as the title for the previous is in accordance with ancient literary practice.

As for Rashi, he was a late medieval German rabbi whose understanding of Hebrew was medieval, not Biblical. As such, we take his commentaries with a grain of salt, preferring to use the method derived from the Reformation, of going directly to the source, the text of Tanakh itself, rather than to commentary. (The practice of going to the source itself, is what gave birth to modern science. Medieval “science” was studying the works of Aristotle, Ptolemy and other commentators, but modern science went to the source itself, observing nature, to study nature.)

Karl W. Randolph.

nili95
Posts: 20
Joined: Wed Jan 27, 2016 3:24 pm

Re: בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים

Postby nili95 » Fri Feb 05, 2016 11:24 am

kwrandolph wrote:
nili95 wrote:Also, where might I have gone to read about the difference in connotation between רֵאשִׁית and תְּחִיָּה ? My Israeli friends tell me that the terms are equivalent in modern-day Hebrew. Thank you.


Jay:

Biblical Hebrew and modern Israeli Hebrew are two different languages. They have different grammars, different pronunciations, different vocabularies. Yes, one comes from the other, but the changes over the millennia have made it so different that if Elijah were to come back tomorrow, and speak Biblical Hebrew, no one would understand him, and he would understand no one.

When modern Israeli Hebrew was invented, it was based not on Biblical Hebrew, but on the latest version of Hebrew as it was spoken as a second language in the diaspora.

Therefore, modern Israelis often have difficulty understanding Tanakh, unless it’s translated, and what they say concerning Hebrew language often incorrect when applied to Biblical Hebrew.

I understand -- certainly neither as deeply nor as extensively as you, but I do understand. But, with all due respect, I also understand that you did not address the question. I was hoping to get a recommendation for a dictionary of Biblical Hebrew that might address such differences in similar terms, and I was hoping to discover such a resource precisely because I recognize that my Hebrew-English dictionaries are inadequate.

kwrandolph wrote:
nili95 wrote:One problem that I have with this is viewing Gen 2:4 as summarizing the previous text as opposed to introducing the following (second and distinct) creation narrative.


This is evidence that when Moses “authored” Genesis, he basically compiled it from older texts. The literary practice of having the title and author at the tail end of a document, instead of at the beginning as is modern practice, was one that fell out of use about 1500 BC, or about the time of Moses’ birth. Therefore, to view Genesis 2:4 as the title for the previous is in accordance with ancient literary practice.

It seems that we may differ on the historicity of Moses and the Exodus narrative. That aside, thank you for addressing this literary practice.

But this raises a question similar to that concerning Biblical History dictionaries. I have behind me a number of Genesis translations and commentaries: Stone, Hertz, R.E. Friedman, Alter, Fox, JPS: Sarna, JPS: Plaut, JPS Etz Hayim, JPS: Jewish Study Bible, NRSV: New Oxford, and NICOT, and yet, to the best of my knowledge, none of them address the points raised here. You caution above about the "difficulty understanding Tanakh, unless it’s translated." Is there a translation that you feel is superior to the ones listed?

kwrandolph wrote:As for Rashi, he was a late medieval German rabbi whose understanding of Hebrew was medieval, not Biblical. As such, we take his commentaries with a grain of salt, preferring to use the method derived from the Reformation, of going directly to the source, the text of Tanakh itself, rather than to commentary. (The practice of going to the source itself, is what gave birth to modern science. Medieval “science” was studying the works of Aristotle, Ptolemy and other commentators, but modern science went to the source itself, observing nature, to study nature.)

Karl W. Randolph.

Agreed. Thank you.
L'Shalom,
Jay Frank


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