How should Genesis 1:1 be translated?


(RiderOnTheClouds) #1

Traditionally, Beresit Bara Elohim et HaSemayim wa-et Haares has been translated as ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’. Yet modern scholars tend to argue that it is more correctly translated without the absolute temporal clause as ‘When God began to create the heavens and the earth’. Who is correct here? The latter have provided a great amount of Semitic parallels (see here), but it is hard to explain away how Genesis 1:1 has been translated with an absolute temporal clause for thousands of years consistently. Even early second temple Jewish texts such as the Book of Jubilees seem to state that it was an absolute beginning:

For on the first day He created the heavens which are above and the earth and the waters and all the spirits which serve before Him–the angels 2 of the presence, and the angels of sanctification, 3 and the angels [of the spirit of fire and the angels] of the spirit of the winds, 4 and the angels of the spirit of the clouds, and of darkness, and of snow and of hail and of hoar frost, 5 and the angels of the voices 6 and of the thunder and of the lightning, 7 and the angels of the spirits of cold and of heat, and of winter and of spring and of autumn and of summer, 8 and of all the spirits of His creatures which are in the heavens and on the earth, (He created) the abysses and the darkness, eventide (and night), and the light, dawn and day, which He hath prepared in the knowledge of His heart. 3. And thereupon we saw His works, and praised Him, and lauded before Him on account of all His works; for seven great works did He create on the first day.

So which view is correct?


(system) #2

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