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Friday, October 09, 2009

Genesis one: does ברא bara mean seperated?

Joel M. Hoffman, Phd on his blog takes issue with Ellen van Wolde

The Dutch Trouw has an article about Professor Ellen van Wolde’s notion that:

Zo stuitte ze op de openingsverzen van het bijbelboek waarop ze ooit promoveerde. Preciezer: Op het werkwoord bara. Dat betekent volgens iedereen ’scheppen’, maar voor Van Wolde voldeed die vertaling niet meer. “Het klópte gewoon niet.” Bij het werkwoord was God het onderwerp (God schiep…), gevolgd door ’steeds twee of meer lijdende voorwerpen’. Waarom schiep God niet één ding of dier, maar steeds meerdere? Omdat, stelde Van Wolde vast, God niet schiep, maar scheidde. De aarde van de hemel, het land van de zee, de zeemonsters van de vogels en het gekrioel op de grond. [Emphasis added.]

That is, according to Van Wolde, bara means “separated,” not “created.” Her evidence is that the verb applies to more than one thing at a time: “heaven” and “earth,” for example, which she takes as “separated heaven from earth.”

Here is a another Hebraist's look at the problem:
A Response to Ellen Van Wolde on Genesis 1. You will note that John Hobbin begins his remarks on the text of Genesis 1:1 "It’s complicated syntax ... ". I would be somewhat more inclined to say that it is ambiguous syntax. In my Hellenistic view of grammar, the Genesis opening isn't very complex but it is ambiguous which leads to serious complications in analysis which is reflected in the active and ongoing debate over how to parse the first two verses of Genesis.

I can recall decades ago talking with a Hebrew scholar about Waltke's fall 1974 lectureship, Creation and Chaos. My Hebrew scholar friend had been there to hear Waltke in '74. He told me that all through the presentation he was finding reasons to object to Waltke's analysis. I have lost my hard copy of the lectures, but I seem to reacall that much of the discussion had to do with one word being in the construct state, perhaps בראשת and an adverbial relative clause in verse one, but I will leave all that to the Hebrew scholars.

While the others argue about the Hebrew text, I have compiled some useful data on the translation equivalents for the verb bara from the Septuagint. Apparently the translator of Genesis along with the translators of all the other books in the what we refer to as the LXX (Septuagint) did not agree with Ellen van Wolde. Here is the evidence from E.Tov's MT/LXX database. What you see here is the Greek word(s) used to translate bara in the LXX.

The Parallel Aligned Text of the Greek and Hebrew Bible
Edited by Emanuel Tov

Genesis 1:1
‏ברא‎ ἐποίησεν
Genesis 1:21
‏ו/יברא‎ καὶ ἐποίησεν
Genesis 1:27
‏ו/יברא‎ καὶ ἐποίησεν
‏ברא‎ ἐποίησεν
‏ברא‎ ἐποίησεν
Genesis 2:3
‏ברא‎ ἤρξατο
Genesis 2:4
‏ב/הברא/ם‎ ὅτε ἐγένετο
Genesis 5:1
‏ברא‎ ἐποίησεν
Genesis 5:2
‏ברא/ם‎ ἐποίησεν αὐτοὺς
‏הברא/ם‎ ἐποίησεν αὐτούς

Genesis 6:7
‏בראתי‎ ἐποίησα
Exodus 34:10
‏נבראו‎ γέγονεν
Numbers 16:30
‏יברא‎ δείξει
Deuteronomy 4:32
‏ברא‎ ἔκτισεν
Joshua 17:15
‏ו/בראת‎ καὶ ἐκκάθαρον
Joshua 17:18
‏ו/בראת/ו‎ καὶ ἐκκαθαριεῖς αὐτὸν
1Samuel 2:29
‏ל/הבריא/כם‎ ἐνευλογεῖσθαι
Isaiah 4:5
‏ו/ברא‎ καὶ ἥξει
Isaiah 40:26
‏ברא‎ κατέδειξεν
Isaiah 40:28
‏בורא‎ ὁ κατασκευάσας
Isaiah 41:20
‏ברא/ה‎ κατέδειξεν

Isaiah 42:5
‏בורא‎ ὁ ποιήσας
Isaiah 43:1
‏ברא/ך‎ ὁ ποιήσας σε
Isaiah 43:7
‏בראתי/ו‎ κατεσκεύασα αὐτὸν
Isaiah 43:15
‏בורא‎ ὁ καταδείξας
Isaiah 45:7
‏ו/בורא‎ καὶ ποιήσας
‏ו/בורא‎ καὶ κτίζων
Isaiah 45:8
‏בראתי/ו‎ ὁ κτίσας σε

Isaiah 45:12
‏בראתי‎ ---14
Isaiah 45:18
‏בורא‎ ὁ ποιήσας
‏ברא/ה‎ ἐποίησεν αὐτὴν
Isaiah 48:7
‏נבראו‎ γίνεται
Isaiah 54:16
‏בראתי‎ κτίζω
‏בראתי‎ ἔκτισά
Isaiah 57:19
‏בורא‎ ---14
Isaiah 65:17
‏בורא‎ {..~ἔσται}13
Isaiah 65:18
‏בורא‎ ---14
‏בורא‎ ποιῶ
Jeremiah 31:22
‏ברא‎ ἔκτισεν [38.22]06
Ezekiel 21:24
‏ברא‎ {d}17 ---14
‏ברא‎ ἐπ' ἀρχῆς

Ezekiel 21:35
‏נבראת‎ γεγέννησαι
Ezekiel 23:47
‏ו/ברא‎ καὶ κατακέντει
Ezekiel 28:13
‏הברא/ך‎ ἐκτίσθης σύ
Ezekiel 28:15
‏הברא/ך‎ σὺ ἐκτίσθης
Amos 4:13
‏ו/ברא‎ καὶ κτίζων
Malachi 2:10
~11 ‏ברא/נו‎ πάντων ὑμῶν
Psalms 51:12
‏ברא‎ κτίσον [50.12]06
Psalms 89:13
‏בראת/ם‎ ἔκτισας [88.13]06
Psalms 89:48
‏בראת‎ ἔκτισας [88.48]06
Psalms 102:19
‏נברא‎ ὁ κτιζόμενος [101.19]06
Psalms 104:30
‏יבראו/ן‎ καὶ κτισθήσονται [103.30]06
Psalms 148:5
‏ו/נבראו‎ καὶ ἐκτίσθησαν

Qoheleth 12:1
‏את בורא/יך‎ τοῦ κτίσαντός σε


Notice that nowhere in the translation equivalents shown above do we see bara translated with the relevant Greek verbs or nouns. The words we should have found are shown below. Listed here are the appropriate semantic domains from Louw&Nida* and follow after that from from LEH (LXX lexicon)

*Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains
Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, Editors
Copyright © 1988, 1989 by the United Bible Societies, New York, NY 10023
Second Edition.

F Divide (63.23–63.27)

63.23 μερίζωa; διαμερίζωc: to divide into separate parts — ‘to divide, to disunite, division, separation.’4
μερίζωa: μερίσασθαι μετ᾿ ἐμοῦ τὴν κληρονομίαν ‘to divide with me the inheritance’ Lk 12:13; μεμέρισται ὁ Χριστός; ‘has Christ been divided?’ 1Cor 1:13; πᾶσα βασιλεία μερισθεῖσα καθ᾿ ἑαυτῆς ‘every kingdom divided against itself’ Mt 12:25.
διαμερίζωc: διαμεριζόμεναι γλῶσσαι ὡσεὶ πυρός ‘divided tongues as of fire’ Ac 2:3. For another interpretation of διαμερίζω in Ac 2:3 (as middle, not passive), see 15.140.

63.24 μερισμόςa, οῦ m: the point at which parts divide or meet — ‘the point of division, the point of meeting.’ ἄχρι μερισμοῦ ψυχῆς καὶ πνεύματος ‘to the point where soul and spirit meet’ or ‘… come together’ He 4:12.

63.25 μεριστής, οῦ m: (derivative of μερίζωa ‘to divide,’ 63.23) one who divides — ‘divider.’ τίς με κατέστησεν κριτὴν ἢ μεριστήν; ‘who made me a judge or divider?’ Lk 12:14.

63.26 σχίζωb: to split or divide into two parts — ‘to divide, to split, to tear in two.’ αἱ πέτραι ἐσχίσθησαν ‘the rocks were split’ Mt 27:51; ἐσχίσθη δὲ τὸ καταπέτασμα τοῦ ναοῦ μέσον ‘the curtain of the sanctuary was split down the middle’ Lk 23:45.

63.27 αἵρεσιςc, εως f: a division of people into different and opposing sets — ‘division, separate group.’ δεῖ γὰρ καὶ αἱρέσεις ἐν ὑμῖν εἶναι ‘for it is necessary that divisions exist among you’ or ‘the existence of divisions among you is inevitable’ 1Cor 11:19.

G Separate5 (63.28–63.31)

63.28 ἀφορίζωc: to separate into two or more parts or groups, often by some intervening space — ‘to separate, to set one apart from another.’ καὶ ἀφορίσει αὐτοὺς ἀπ᾿ ἀλλήλων, ὥσπερ ὁ ποιμὴν ἀφορίζει τὰ πρόβατα ἀπὸ τῶν ἐρίφων ‘and he set them apart from one another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats’ Mt 25:32.

63.29 χωρίζωa: to separate objects by introducing considerable space or isolation — ‘to separate, to isolate one from another.’ κεχωρισμένος ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτωλῶν ‘separated from sinners’ He 7:26. This phrase in He 7:26 may also imply the exultation of Christ to the heavenly world. τίς ἡμᾶς χωρίσει ἀπὸ τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ Χριστοῦ; ‘who will be able to separate us from the love of Christ?’ Ro 8:35.

63.30 ἀποχωρίζομαιb: to separate more or less definitively one from another (evidently somewhat more emphatic in meaning than χωρίζωa ‘to separate,’ 63.29) — ‘to separate definitely, to go one’s own way, to split up.’ ὥστε ἀποχωρισθῆναι αὐτοὺς ἀπ᾿ ἀλλήλων ‘so that they each went their own way one from another’ Ac 15:39; καὶ ὁ οὐρανὸς ἀπεχωρίσθη ‘and the heaven split open’ Re 6:14. For another interpretation of ἀποχωρίζομαι in Re 6:14, see 15.14.

63.31 χωρίςb: to something which occurs separately or by itself — ‘separately, by itself.’ οὐ μετὰ τῶν ὀθονίων κείμενον ἀλλὰ χωρίς ‘not lying with the linen cloths but lying off by itself’ Jn 20:7.

Here are some relevant words from LEH** (LXX lexicon)

**A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint, ed. by J. Lust, E. Eynikel, and K. Hauspie, in cooperation with G. Chamberlain.
© 1992, 1997 by Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.

ἀφορίζω+ V 31-42-10-2-2-87
Gn 2:10; 10:5; Ex 19:12,23; 29:24
A: to separate [τινα] Ex 19:12; to set apart [τι] Ex 45:1; to grant as a special gift to [τί τινι] Ps 67(68):10; M: to mark off by boundaries [τι] Ex 19:23; P: to be separated Ex 29:27; to be set apart Ez 45:4; to be divided from [ἔκ τινος] Gn 10:5; to divide oneself in [εἴς τι] Gn 2:10; ἀφορίζω τι ἀφόρισμα to separate as a separate offering, to set aside as a wave-offering Ex 29:26
Cf. LE BOULLUEC 1989, 44; —>TWNT

διαιρέω+ V 11-16-4-8-6-45
Gn 4:7; 15:10(bis); 32:8; Ex 21:35
A: to take apart, to divide Gn 15:10; to divide Gn 4:7; to separate Nm 31:42; to dispense Sir 27:25; M: to divide for oneself Ex 21:35; ἀριθμοὶ μνημῶν αὐτοῦ διηρέθεσαν his days were numbered Jb 21:21;
*Am 5:9 ὁ διαιρῶν -‏המפליג‎ who dispenses for MT ‏המבליג‎ who brightens up ?;
*Gn 4:7 ἐὰν ὀρθῶς δὲ μὴ διέλῃς -‏תיטיב‎ ‏לא‎ ‏אם‎ ‏לנתח‎ if you did not rightly divide for MT ‏לא‎ ‏אם‎ ‏לפתח‎ ‏תיטיב‎ if you did not act rightly, at the door
Cf. HARL 1986a12)=1992a, 114

διακόπτω V 1-7-4-1-4-17
Gn 38:29; 2 Sm 5:20(bis); 6:8; 1 Kgs 3:1
A: to cut in two, to cut through, to divide [τι] Ps 28(29):7; to break open [τι] 2 Mc 10:36; to cut through [abs.] 2 Kgs 3:26; to break through [τινα] 2 Sm 5:20; to destroy, to devastate [τι] Jdt 2:23; to cut through into [εἴς τι] Am 9:1; to make a breach upon [ἔν τινι] (of pers.) 1 Chr 15:3; P: to be cut through Gn 38:29; to be broken up (of a city) Jer 52:7; to be killed 2 Mc 10:30; to be dispersed (of water) 2 Sm 5:20; διακόπτω διακοπήν to inflict a deep wound (semit.) 2 Sm 6:8

διαμερίζω+ V 3-5-4-6-2-20
Gn 10:25; 49:7; Dt 32:8; Jos 21:42a; JgsA 5:30
A: to divide Gn 10:25; to distribute 2 Sm 6:19; M: to divide, to part Ps 21(22):19;
*Ps 16(17):14 διαμέρισον αὐτούς -‏הלקם‎ divide them for MT ‏הלקם‎ their part

διαστέλλω+ V 18-9-16-8-7-58
Gn 25:23; 30:28,35,40; Lv 5:4
A: to put asunder from, to separate from [τινα ἔκ τινος] Nm 8:14; to set aside [τι] Lv 16:26; to separate out [abs.] Mi 5:7; to separate, to distinguish [τι] (animals) Gn 30:35; to draw aside (a curtain) Jdt 14:15; to split up, to divide (people) [τινα] SusLXX 48; to define precisely [τι] Gn 30:28; to define, to teach [abs.] Neh 8:8; to discharge (a vow) [τι] Lv 22:21; to pay (for food) [τινι εἴς τι] Mal 3:11; to assign, to appoint [τι] Sir 16:26; to give charge [τινι] Ezr 8:24; to assign, to appoint [τι] Sir 16:26; M: to command (expressly), to give express orders to [τινι] Jdt 11:12; to warn [τινι] Ez 3:21; P: to be separated from [ἔκ τινος] Gn 25:23; to be sent away Na 1:12; to be set apart Lv 16:26; to be divided, to be structured [τινι] (in architecture) Jer 22:14; διαστέλλω ἀνὰ μέσον τινός to distinguish between Lv 11:47; to intrude, to come between, to separate 2 Kgs 2:11; τὰ διεσταλμένα the agreements 2 Mc 14:28; ὅρασις διαστέλλουσα distinct vision 1 Sm 3:1; διαστέλλω τοῖς χείλεσι to pronounce, to make an explicit statement Lv 5:4;
*Jgs 1:19 διεστείλατο -‏הבדיל‎ he set apart for MT ‏ברזל‎ iron ;
*Hos 13:15 διαστελεῖ -‏יפריד‎? he will divide for MT ‏יפריא‎ he shall be fruitful ;
*Ez 24:14 οὐ διαστελῶ -‏אפרץ‎ ‏לא‎? I will not make distinctions ? for MT ‏אפרע‎ ‏לא‎ I will not neglect it ?, cpr. 1 Sm 3:1
Cf. CAIRD 1968b, 124-125; HARL 1986a12)=1992a, 208-209 (Gn 25:23); HELBING 1928, 165.210; —>KIESSLING

διαχωρίζω+ V 11-4-1-1-10-27
Gn 1:4,6,7,14,18
A: to separate [τι] Gn 30:32; to separate from [τινα ἀπό τινος] Sus 51; [τί τινος] 1 Mc 12:36; to distinguish [τινα] Sir 33:11; to decide for sb that [τινι +inf.] 2 Chr 25:10; P: to be separated SusLXX 52; to be separated from [ἀπό τινος] Gn 13:11; to be divided (of more pers.) 2 Sm 1:23; to set oneself apart from, to go away from [ἀπό τινος] Gn 13:9; to go away, to depart Sir 12:9; to be distinguished Sir 33:8; διαχωρίζω ἀνὰ μέσον τινός to divide between Gn 1:4;
*Nm 32:12 ὁ διακεχωρισμένος -‏הנזיר‎? set apart for MT ‏הקנזי‎ the Kennizite Nm 32:12;
*JgsB 13:9 διεχώρισε -‏מפלא‎ (Aram.) separating for MT ‏מפלא‎ (Hebr.) acting wonderfully
Cf. HELBING 1928, 164

διχοτόμημα,-ατος N3N 5-0-2-0-0-7
Gn 15:11,17; Ex 29:17; Lv 1:8; Ez 24:4
divided part, divided piece ; neol.
Cf. HELBING 1907, 115

ἐπιδιαιρέω V 1-0-0-0-0-1
Gn 33:1
to divide, to distribute
Cf. HARL 1986a12)=1992a, 244-245

κρεανομέω V 1-0-0-0-0-1
Lv 8:20
to divide the meat of [τινα]; neol.

μερίζω+ V 6-7-4-8-10-35
Ex 15:9; Nm 26:53,55,56; Dt 18:8
A: to divide, to distribute [τι] Ex 15:9; id. [τί τινι] 1 Kgs 18:6; id. [τινι] Neh 13:13; to assign a part of, to allot (an inheritance) [τι] Nm 26:56 M: to divide among themselves [τι] Prv 14:18; to share with [τινι] Prv 29:24; to tear asunder [τινα] Jer 28(51):34 P: to be divided, to be split up 1 Kgs 16:21; to be reckoned as part of [εἴς τι] Sir 41:9 μερίζω τι μερίδας to divide into parts Jos 18:6
(—>ἀπο-, δια-, κατα-)

περισχίζω+ V 0-0-2-0-0-2
Ez 47:15; 48:1
to divide, to draw a line

ῥήγνυμι/ῥήσσω+ V 4-10-13-11-2-40
Gn 7:11; Ex 14:16; 28:32; Nm 16:31; Jos 9:13
A: to break [τι] Jb 17:11; to rend [τι] Ex 28:32; to split, to divide [τι] Ex 14:16; to rend from, to withdraw from [τι ἔκ τινος] 1 Kgs 11:31; to let break loose, to vent [τι] Jb 15:13; to cause to break or burst forth [τι] Jb 28:10; to hatch (eggs) [τι] Is 59:5 P: to burst, to cleave asunder Nm 16:31; to be broken up 2 Kgs 25:4; to burst or break forth Gn 7:11 ρῆξον καὶ βόησον break into shouting and cry aloud Is 54:1; ῥήγνυμι εὐνροσύνην to burst into joy (metaph.) Is 49:13; ῥήγνυμι νωνήν to let loose the voice, to break into lowing (of an ox) Jb 6:5
Cf. LARCHER 1984, 348; —>LSJ SUPPL(Jb 15:13)
(—>ἀνα-, ἀπο-, δια-, ἐκ-, κατα-, περι-)

σχίζω+ V 2-1-4-1-4-12
Gn 22:3; Ex 14:21; 1 Sm 6:14; Is 36:22; 37:1
A: to split, to cleave (wood) [τι] Gn 22:3; to part, to separate, to divide [τι] Ex 14:21; to tear (garments) [τι] Is 36:22; to split, to cleave asunder [τι] Zech 14:4; to cut in two [τινα] Sus 55 P: to be divided, to part (of soldiers in a battle field) 1 Mc 6:45
Cf. WEVERS 1990, 220; —>NIDNTT; TWNT
(—>ἀνα-, ἀπο-, δια-, κατα-, περι-)

τριμερίζω V 1-0-0-0-0-1
Dt 19:3
to divide into three parts, to apportion in thirds [τι]; neol.
Cf. DOGNIEZ 1992, 64.232; WALTERS 1973, 121

The data from the LXX renderings of bara do not support Ellen van Wolde's thesis.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...


You may wish to consider verses such as Joshua 17:15 and 17:18 Clearly, Joshua wants the people to "cut" down the forest. They are not creating anything. Or are they? The implication is that by "cutting" down the forest they are creating something for themselves. Bara, as used in Genesis 1, implies the same understanding, which is that by cutting (seperating), something new is created. A near perfect recapitulation of the creation is found in Numbers 16:30 when the Lord makes a "new thing" in the earth. At that time the earth divided (was cut), gaped open and swallowed Korah and his followers. The Hebrew for "new thing" is from bara and a noun formed from bara, which is beriah. Regardless of how the septuagint might render the Hebrew here, the events themselves unmistakenly define the Hebrew words used to express the events.
In fact, Korah is a covenant breaker. His fate is a play on the origin of the Hebrew word for covenant, berith, which also comes from bara - both of which connote a cutting or seperating (dividing).
Think of what a covenant is and anciently how a covenant was made -the cutting of the animal (Gen 15), or the cutting of circumcision, which is a token of the covenant. By means of a covenant, man is spiritually created, he is seperated from the world and divided from evil by divine covenant promises(fufilled in Christ who was cut, divided as a sacrificial animal, for us.)

Indeed, bara has many meanings. But, we cannot say that it simply means creation ex-nihilo (though in fact it may be the case). That exclusive definition cannot be justified by its later and varied uses. What occurred when God spoke and creation happened, we simply don't entirely know. But, the fact that creation from Gen 1:2 forward is a clear process of division seems to indicate that Gen 1:1 begins (is the genesis) of that process, captured in the Hebrew word bara.

10:24 AM  

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