There are some questions about what exactly is meant by a particular Hebrew phrase in Genesis 4:1. Some of these questions are reasonable, and some of them are really wild. Here’s Genesis 4:1 in the KJV:
And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord.
So, if you’re an English Bible reader using the KJV, the storyline is pretty plausible: the man and the woman do that thing that men and women do, she has a baby, and she gives God credit for the birth. Maybe if you know a smidge of Hebrew you pick up that the verb “gotten,” qaniti, is being used as a pun on the name Cain (Hebrew qayin). Not so complicated, right?
A co-worker of mine has been listening to the eccentric Arnold Murray, and is convinced that Cain is actually a child of Satan. (more…)
Taken in its original context, the curse of the serpent in Genesis 3 describes how serpents got to be the way they are. Due to the serpent’s participation in the fruit-eating scandal, it is cursed with crawling on its belly, eating dust, and being in a state of perpetual enmity with humankind, the offspring of Eve.
Genesis 3:15, in its plainest, most straightforward sense, reads as it is in the NJPS Bible: (more…)
And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Whatever this “knowledge of good and evil” might be, the pursuit of it is what winds up getting humankind kicked out of paradise and killed that very same day. Or something. So what is this knowledge? (more…)
And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. (KJV)
Or, as John Hobbins translates it:
MT Gen 1:11 translated honestly looks something like this:
“Let the land turn green with green:
fruit-bearing fruit trees of every kind with the seed in it, on the land.”
And it was so.
According to John Hobbins, “The difficulties of Genesis 1:11 in the received text tend to be smoothed over in translation. . . ‘Let the land do such-and-such . . . on the land’ is harsh in any language. The diction is awkward rather than merely redundant . . . ‘Fruit-bearing fruit trees of every kind with the seed in it,’ per the Hebrew is also awkward. . . It seems best to admit that MT, as occasionally happens, is in some disarray.” To see the source of the quotes, as well as Hobbins’ proposal for what an earlier version of the text may have looked like, see here (PDF file, 4 pages).
“As is well-known, there are two alternative explanations of the syntax of Gen. 1 1 f., both of which were recognized by the Masoretes as valid, and indicated by them implicitly in the vocalization of the first two words. They thus left it open either to their successors either to read [bereshit bero elohim], ‘in the beginning of God’s creating,’ or [bareshit bara elohim], ‘in the beginning God created.’”
That’s from page 364, “Contributions to Biblical Archaeology and Philology,” by W. F. Albright in the Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 43, No. 3/4 (1924), pp. 363-393.
In other words, Albright sees the Masoretic pointing of the standard Hebrew vocalization bereshit bara as a deliberately ungrammatical blend between the readings bareshit bara and bereshit bero. My impression, based on Holmstedt and others, is that Albright’s understanding is not to be taken seriously.
Note: I am not claiming that Holmstedt has addressed Albright’s understanding of Genesis 1:1′s vocalization. If he has, I am unaware of it. What I am claiming is that, based on my reading of Holmstedt on Genesis 1:1-3, it seems that Albright’s reading is not even considered, which to my mind is significant, and indicates that Albright’s “blend” theory on bereshit bara, like his “blend” theory of tohu, has fallen by the wayside. If it was ever given serious attention, I think it’s probably safe to say it has since been set aside.
Genesis 1:2 depicts a disordered world. “And the earth was without form, and void” the KJV tells us. In Hebrew, we are told that the earth was tohu and bohu, two words which, charmingly, rhyme.
W. F. Albright renders the phrase “chaotic and empty” in “Contributions to Biblical Archaeology and Philology,” in the Journal of Biblical Literature, Volume 43, No. 3/4 (1924), p. 365. (more…)
“The creation account of the Priestly narrative is too closely articulated with the Babylonian cosmogony to permit any serious claim for a basic origin of Genesis 1 other than Babylonia. With almost equal unanimity, it is agreed that the Babylonian source materials now imbedded in Genesis 1 had traveled far and long before they reached the Priestly writer’s hands, and this too in spite of the fact that the possibility has to be reckoned with that the writer of the P document may have come into direct contact with the Babylonian myth in its native form and setting.”
So begins “Cosmogonic Affinities in Genesis 1:2,” by Leroy Waterman, of the University of Michigan, in The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Volume 43, No. 3 (April 1927), pp. 177-184. It’s worth a read, and walks through the state of scholarship on the words of Genesis 1:1-2 as of the 1920′s.
“The Epic of Creation as given by the Babylonian tablets describing the conflict between the god Marduk and Tiamat, the dragon of the ‘deep,’ begins with a dark, turbulent, watery abyss as already existing, and impersonated by this female monster. Marduk wages war against her, and after a terrible conflict succeeds in killing her. He then divides her body into two halves. Out of one he makes a dome-shaped covering for the heavens, with the evident idea that by this means the upper waters of the now divided ‘deep’ were to be kept from descending upon the lower waters. . . . The Hebrew record of the Creation similarly opens with an already existing dark, turbulent, watery abyss named tehom (Gen. 1:2), a Hebrew word, corresponding to the Babylonian Tiamat. After first creating light, Yahweh next proceeds to subdue, or bring under control, the surging waters of the turbulent abyss. He then divides it into two portions, making of the one the upper, and of the other the lower ocean. To keep the upper waters in their place, he creates a domelike support, rakia, correctly rendered in all our versions as “firmament,” since the original signifies something beaten out, hammered out of a hard substance.”
So begins A. E. Whatham’s “The Yahweh-Tehom Myth,” in The Biblical World, Vol. 36, No. 5 (Nov., 1910), pp. 290+329-333. If you’ve got a JPASS you can read it online here. You can also read it for free if you register.
TL;DR — The term tehom in Genesis 1:2 parallels the Tiamat of the Enuma Elish.