A quick Hebrew grammar note on Genesis 1:1, regarding Part 2’s Beginnings post.
The God’s Bridge series is related to a spiritual call (started in the early 90s) for me to walk a bridge—from the Judaic camp reaching out to the Messianic/Christian camp and then vice versa—crisscrossing it, realizing and later sharing who and what the real bridge is. Walk with me to discover God’s revelations and passionate plan for our souls.
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READING TIME: 2 MINUTES.
In Part 2 of the Beginning Within Beginnings series, there’s a mention of Hebrew grammar related to Genesis 1:1. Here’s a quick 4-1-1 on that.
First: two brief, need-to-know points.
#1. The Tanakh—”Old Testament”—is written in Hebrew, a consonantal language, read right to left. Meaning that it’s written without vowels. Spoken with vowels, yes, of course. And initially learned using a vowelized version.
But early biblical writings had no vowels—and no word or paragraph spacings. So it’s ironic that the spiritual clues to this universe’s beginnings in Genesis 1 lie in the vowel usage.
Here’s how Genesis 1:1 looks without vowels:
בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ
Here’s how Genesis 1:1 looks with vowels:
בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ
#2. The Masoretes—scribes and scholars in the 7th century CE/AD—created a vowel marking system and a grammatical guide (with word/paragraph spacing and punctuation) using an oral tradition from a millennium earlier.
Their work culminated in what’s known as the Masoretic Text, which preserved the Hebrew Bible and became the authoritative text for rabbinic Judaism.
EXPLORING THE TRANSLATION
Discussions—heated or otherwise—span the ages regarding the Genesis 1:1 wording, which is often translated “In the beginning, God created.”
Is that correct—given the Hebraic grammar?
Depends who you ask. Some scholars and/or grammarians say no. Their translation: “In a beginning.”
That always wows me. On like a gazillion or so levels.
And as I mention in Beginnings Part 2 of the God’s Bridge series, it’s a view that’s been discussed many times over the years at Torah study tables.
But let’s look at the vowel in question—a sh’va, two vertical dots under the first letter, which is a bet.
Simply put, that vowel gives us the word b’reishit in a grammatical construct state. In other words, a construction that’s lacking something: a noun.
There are four other biblical occurrences of this voweled wording (b’reishit) that are in the same construction as Genesis 1:1—and all are translated with a preposition:
Genesis 10:10.The beginning of his kingdom
Proverbs 8:22.The beginning of His way
Jeremiah 2:3.The beginning of His increase
Jeremiah 26:1. In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim
And this . . . Deuteronomy 18:4. In the first fruit/beginning of your corn
In other words, the translation “In the beginning of” or “In a beginning of”demands a noun to follow—but in the conventional translation, we only have a verb (created). “In the beginning, God created.”
Based on biblical consistency (shown in the first four scriptures above), the construct in Genesis 1:1 would be translated with a preposition and a gerund (verb+ing, forming a noun) . . .
“In the beginning of God’s creating.”
Hop back to the God’s Story Threads series [Part 2] to see how all that just might create a stairway to some intriguing connections to your redemption.
PHOTO CREDITS for this grammar note:
team Punk Minister w/Bible by Nathan Bingle on Unsplash.com