The real end of Genesis 1:1.
א בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ:
Translation: At the beginning Gd created the heaven and the earth
AT LAST I’m going to talk about the verb in this verse. First, here’s its classification.
Verb root class: lamed alef. So what are the root letters? Bet, resh, alef. This is important to know for using a dictionary. To avoid all the changes made in conjugation, dictionaries list verbs by the qal perfect aspect masculine 3rd person singular which has the spelling closest to the verb root. It’s not sexist, it’s simplicity.
Verb type: this verb is transitive. A lot of verbs either don’t have a qal, or use it intransitively.
Aspect: perfect. More on that in a moment.
This is a 3rd person masculine singular verb. When you have elohim in the Hebrew Bible, it almost always has 3rd person masculine singular verbs or adjectives with it. The exceptions are when it refers to mortals, and then it has to be translated “lords, masters, nobles,” or when it is rejecting polytheism. The Hebrew Bible not only always has a monotheistic viewpoint, it cannot conceive of Gd as a multiple being or of the possibility of multiple gods within Jewish culture.
If you don’t remember what the other aspects are in Biblical Hebrew, go back and review all the lessons up to this point.
How is perfect aspect used in Biblical Hebrew?
Many ways, depending on the context. The context always extends over more than one verse. That’s what makes it hard to understand Biblical Hebrew. If you try to point at one verse and say “that’s the meaning,” you will almost always find out another verse that shows you were wrong. Just like with elohim. I said what I said about that word because of the entire context of the Jewish Bible, not because of this one verse.
If it scares you to think that you will have to know the whole thing before you know any of it – well, that’s true of all great literature and not only that, but you have to take the culture of the period into consideration. One of the reasons we have so much trouble understanding Shakespeare, even if we have spoken English all our lives, is that he used contemporary slang which we don’t understand any more, and he spoke of contemporary concerns, which we don’t have any more. If you have never read Brave New World, do it, and pay attention to Lenina Crowne’s confusion about the central problem of Romeo and Juliet. That’s what I’m talking about.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved