Preface Introduction Chapters Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Appendices Appendix I Appendix II Appendix III Appendix IV Appendix V Appendix VI Appendix VII Appendix VIII Appendix IX Appendix X Appendix XI Appendix XII Appendix XIII Appendix XIV Appendix XV Appendix XVI Appendix XVII Appendix XVIII Appendix XIX Appendix XX Appendix XXI Indexes References Names Biblical References General Bibliography
The Existential Sense of the Verb Hayah.
The existential sense might be argued here as an explanation for
the introduction of the verb, making the sense to read, "And the
earth existed chaotically". But the existential use requires not a
simple predicate but a clause such as would be introduced by the
preposition "in" or "as", as when Joseph lived (Authorized Version:
"was") in his master's house (Gen. 39.2) or when we are told "that
there lived (Authorized Version "was") a man in the land of Uz whose
name (was) Job" (Job 1.1). In the purest existential sense the verb
will have no predicate at all nor any other clause following. The
paramount example is to be found in the title of the Almighty, the
great "I am", the One Who always exists.
It might also be argued that Gen. 2.25 is a parallel of the use of
the verb  in its existential sense ("They lived, naked....") and
that here we do have a predicate in the presence of the word "naked".
But this word is an adjective, not a noun like tohu (  ) in Gen. 1.2.
The sentence reads "They lived naked" not "were a nakedness".
It is true that a noun can upon occasion be used adverbially so
that the translation of Isa.45.18 has been rendered, "He created it
not in vain", the words "in vain" being for the Hebrew tohu (  )
which is therefore treated as an adverb just as it seems to be also in
Isa.45.19. The latter reads (correctly, I feel sure), "I said not
unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye Me IN VAIN...." Since tohu is
here rendered as an adverb, why should it not also be read as an
adverb in Gen. 1.2? Thus verse 2 is taken to read, "And the
earth existed formlessly or chaotically". In which case the render-
ing might justly account for the introduction of  into the sentence
on the grounds that this is a parallel to Gen. 2.25 which could then
be rendered, "And they both existed (lived) nakedly and were not
ashamed, etc.". In this case a noun (in verse 2) and an adjective
(in verse 25) are similarly treated as adverbs and the verb  is
allowed its existential meaning. By this method one might justify
the traditional translation of Gen. 1.2.
That an adjective can be treated as an adverb is a well established
fact in Hebrew, though normally only in poetry. Yet it is still to
one passage and possibly in two as an adverb, this cannot actually
be said of the second descriptive term in Gen. 1.2, namely, bohu
(  ) rendered "void". It is further to be admitted that the copu-
lative sense of the verb "to be" might allow one to interpolate it
before bohu so that the sentence would then read, "And the earth
existed chaotically and (was) a void". This, however, requires
some rather special manoeuvering. Yet such an alternative must
be allowed as a possibility pending further investigation and we shall
not progress towards the truth unless we test out all possibilities.
It is not yet time to assert or deny either alternative dogmatically.
Although such a possibility must therefore be admitted, it must
be underscored that the alternative can only be justified by a process
of "special pleading" which is far less substantiated from Hebrew
literature than the alternative we are proposing. And indeed in
the present state of my knowledge, it cannot actually be substantiated
at all. Thus if it is once agreed, on the basis of the information
brought to light in this volume, that the verb   is not used copulat-
ively and that therefore the rendering was in Gen.1.2 is not strictly
correct so that it should be revised to read "became", the alternative
requires no special pleading, for there is plenty of substantiating
support from the rest of the Old Testament.
It has been customary to say that those who argue for the trans-
lation, "And the earth became a chaos", can only press their point
by appealing to exceptional Hebrew usage. The fact is really quite
otherwise as the evidence shows. And the case becomes even
stronger when the unusual word order involved here is given due
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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved