Thursday, January 2, 2014

Bit at a time Bible Hebrew -- Genesis 1:3

Genesis 1:3

ג וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי־אוֹר וַיְהִי־אוֹר:

Transliteration: Va-yomer elohim y’hi or va-y’hi or.
Translation:    Gd said Let light exist and light existed.
Letters in this lesson: 
Vocabulary in this lesson:

he said
Let X exist

 Pop quiz:  what gender is or, light?

Right, and this was not a trick quiz.   

Get to know this first vocabulary word.  Tattoo it on your mind.  You will see it over and over.   

The root is alef mem resh.  The binyan is paal.  Normally this form would be taken as a masculine third person singular future tense. 

BUT  Biblical Hebrew is also one of those languages that has a form called the aorist.  That’s a past tense that looks as if it’s a future tense.  You will see the normal future tense, and I will point it out when we get there.  There is no more aorist in modern Hebrew. 

So now we have two types of past tense and why use one or the other?  Well, I’m never going to teach you to write Biblical Hebrew, but I will tell you what to watch out for.  

The normal past tense is used for things a long time ago or things so conclusively over that you might as well call it a perfect tense.  That’s why bara is in the past tense in the first verse.  

The aorist is for things that happened in the past, but it often gives the idea of something done immediately in the past, or quickly.  When you read about the Binding of Yitschaq (Isaac to you), you will see that when Avraham and Yitschaq get to the place, the sequence of events is all in the aorist.  It’s as if Avraham took a deep breath and did it all in a rush so he would get it over without stopping to think about it.  I can’t think of any sequence of events like that, which ISN’T in the aorist but if I’m wrong, I’ll point it out when we get there.

Now let me point something out that is probably going to scramble your brains unless you’ve had a good Jewish education, just all in English.  This is the first time Gd has said “Let X exist.”  All this other stuff exists already, but Gd didn’t say “Let them exist.”  I don’t know why that is, but what I do know is that Jews do not believe that this first story in Genesis is about the order in which the world came into existence.  They don’t believe that’s the point of the story.  The point of the story is not that it says there were six days and this happened one day and that happened the other.   

Somebody on an Internet discussion group where I hang out said a really sharp thing and I think he said where he got it but I don’t remember now.  What you have to understand about creation isn’t how long it took.  That’s irrelevant.  Most of all, it’s irrelevant to Gd.  Gd is eternal.  Our lives blink out before you would think He would notice.  At the same time, He has infinite knowledge.  He does know who we are and what we’re going through, down to the last detail.  Our lives are over so quickly from His point of view, that it’s the same thing as if He knows exactly what we’re going to do next, because we’ve already done it from His point of view.  The same thing is true for the universe.  It will blink out of existence so quickly, from Gd’s point of view, that He knows exactly what is going to happen when it is still a year, a decade, a century, a millennium in our future. 

So from Gd’s point of view, it’s pointless to argue whether there were six 24-hour periods or 14.5 billion years until the universe got to where you and I exist.  But I’ll have something to say about those six days in a future lesson.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved 

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