Re: John 1:1a - in *the* beginning

From: David L. Moore (
Date: Tue Oct 28 1997 - 12:40:52 EST

Rolf Furuli <> wrote:

>Carl W. Conrad wrote:
><I've always assumed that this was directly in imitation of the Hebrew of
><Genesis 1:1 -- B'RESHITH BARA' . . . If there's a better reason for the
><absence of an article there, I'd like to hear it.
>Dear Carl,
>It is quite possible that John had Genesis 1:1 in mind, but the parallel is
>not as clearcut as it appears to be. The phrase B'RESHITH BARA' may be
>understood in three ways. Lexically speaking BE is a preposition which
>includes the meanings of EV but has a much wider range, including the
>temporal meaning "at the time of" ("when"), RESHITH is an anarthrous noun
>with the meaning "beginning", "first part of", "principal part of". BARA=B4
>is a verb in the perfect conjugation, meaning "created".
>Most translators take the verse as an independent sentence: "In the
>beginning God created.." The reason for the lack of Hebrew article from
>this point of view is that RESHITH never takes the article except in Neh
>12:44 where it means "firstfruits". Some Hebrew words do not take the
>article but we don`t know why. The reason for the English definite article
>in this case is not syntactical but contextual. RESHITH must be the
>beginning of something, namely of what follows, the existence of the heaven
>and the earth. Because the reference is specific an "a" would not fit.
>Gen 1:1 may also be viewed as a protasis, and v 2 as an apodosis. This
>gives: "When God began to create (..),the earth was (..)." In this case BE
>is translated "when" and RESHITH is taken as a genitive construct of the
>following clause. Such a construct never takes the article, but as
>mentioned, the very word itself does not take the article. A New
>Translation of The Holy Scriptires, 1962, published by The Jewish
>Publication Society of America takes v 1 as a protasis, v 2 as a
>parenthesis, and v 3 as an apodosis: "When God began to create the heaven
>and the earth - the earth being unformed and void (..) God said "Let there
>be light". Both cases are grammatically possible and imply that BERESHITH
>is indefinite rather than definite.

        Some time ago, there was a discussion on b-hebrew of the
interpretation of Gen. 1:1. I found it especially interesting, and have
saved the thread at the following URL:

Of special interest is the post by Joe Abrahamson on introductory temporal
clauses which describe the background information for a narrative episode.

David Moore

David L. Moore
Miami, Florida, USA
Southeastern Spanish District of the A/G Dept. of Education
Home Page:


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