Re: John 1:1 EN ARQH

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Mar 16 1998 - 15:36:13 EST

At 9:54 AM -0600 3/16/98, wrote:
>List Members ~
>This opening to the Book of John has been on my 'back burner' for a
>long time now. Our English 'In the beginning...' carries a vastness
>of feeling in connotation that can, I believe, be very directly
>attributed to to the KJV translation of EN ARQH, and perhaps as a
>consequence I have been very hesitant to hurry past it in
>understanding its meaning. Every so often, I see new aspects that had
>not occurred to me before, and now is one of those times.
>Three things stand out here ~
>1 ~ ARQH is feminine
>2 ~ ARQH has no article
>3 ~ The obvious relationship of this passage to Genesis 1.
>It would seem that by ARQH being in the feminine, without an article,
>it has an encompassing quality ~ "...And the earth was without form
>and void...", which then gives EN the meaning of "Within" [as 'within'
>the anarthous feminine encompassment].

This appears to be more a question of how the KJV relates to the GNT than a
question of what the GNT means in and of itself. Let me just say off the

(1) I think the fact that ARCH (normally we use Q for theta, and we agree
to disagree over chi, some of us--most of us?--preferring to use C for chi,
while others prefer to use X for chi--see the transliteration suggestions
that came out with the FAQ to subscribers)--backing up, I think the fact
that ARCH is feminine bears no relationship to anything in the meaning; it
is an "accident," if you will, of morphology; it means that ARCH will take
feminine adjectives but tells us nothing about the gender-propensities of
the IDEA of "beginning."

(2/3) I think these are related: I think most interpreters would agree that
the Johannine EN ARCHi that opens the prologue is a deliberate echo of
B'RSHITH in the Hebrew of Genesis 1:1 and of EN ARCHi of the LXX of Genesis
1:1. But I don't think the fact that there's no article relates at all to
the TOHU W'BOHU description of chaos that follows in Genesis 1:1. The
linkage to Genesis 1:1 is deliberate, but I don't think that there's any
interpretative secret lying in the fact that ARCH is feminine and appears
without article, beyond the very fact that it deliberatley imitates Genesis

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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