Please don’t create unnecessary division among believers over God’s creation!

A response to AiG’s article “Are There Gaps in the Genesis Genealogies?

ArgueThere is a huge cultural chasm between our culture and the cultures of the Old Testament and that chasm is often presents obstacles as we seek to understand the text of Scripture.  Translators of the OT face these obstacles in most passages of the OT as they try to communicate its words into English. To overcome these obstacle, translators look at ancient translations of the text, read ancient commentaries about the text, look at archeological evidence, look at variant texts, etc… to better understand the text they are trying to translate. And sometimes they are still left choosing between several possible alternatives. And even when meaning of a text is easily understood, it is still never as precise as our English translations of the text would make it appear. Biblical Hebrew uses a much smaller vocabulary (about 8000[i] words) than does English (about 1,000,000[ii] words). Furthermore, Old Testament Hebrew is a language that is rich with synonyms which further reduces its effective word count. To compensate for the much smaller vocabulary, most words in Biblical Hebrew have much broader ranges of meaning than do their English equivalents. For example, the same word in Hebrew can be translated “to carry, to lift, to support, to forgive, to marry, etc…” Additionally, there are far fewer verb tenses in Biblical Hebrew and they are much more fluid than they are in English. One of the challenges of Biblical Hebrew is trying to understand which verb tense was intended in a given text. For example, most translations of Hosea 1:10b read “And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God”.” Most people would be surprised to learn that the conjugated Hebrew verb for “it was said” and for “it shall be said” are identical in the Hebrew text. The change of tense was a choice made by the translator, and there is some debate about what tense was intended.[iii] The broad range of meaning of Hebrew words, and the fluid use of verb tenses are just a few of the challenges faced by biblical Hebrew scholars.

While Hebrew scholars often hold strong opinions about the intended meaning of the passages found in the Hebrew Scriptures, they also tend to approach scholarly debate with a lot of grace when challenging those who hold differing opinions because they also recognize how many questions are still unanswered. Understanding both the strengths and weaknesses of your own position is critical to honest debate. When looking at the Genesis account, these scholars recognize that many of the questions we have about how and when creation took place are simply not answered as neatly as we might desire and, while they often have strong opinions about how these passages should be understood, they recognize that there is room for an abundance of grace for those who have come to different conclusions. When Hebrew scholars, who have spent a lifetime studying the language of the OT, are unwilling to make the kind of dogmatic assertions that are being made by people who have not studied the language, it should be a red flag that something is wrong.

There are a many good questions that should be asked as we approach the biblical account of creation, and good arguments can be made for a number of answers to these questions. Unfortunately the goal of some “creation ministries” has not been to prove that their answers to these questions are the best answers, but rather to prove that they are the only answers. In pursuing this goal, these ministries have often presented extremely flawed arguments in an attempt to force the text of Scripture into their mold. The problem is not that their suggested interpretation of the biblical text is unreasonable; the problem is that far too much energy is being spent trying to prove that all other interpretations are unreasonable instead of honestly looking at the text itself and recognizing where there is room for honest disagreement. Sometimes these ministries have acted like an overzealous cop who so strongly believes his suspect is guilty that he is willing to cross ethical lines and manufacture evidence in order to gain a conviction of a man who may be innocent. When proving that all other explanations of the creation account are invalid becomes the goal, it can lead to an overzealous desire to convict those who interpret these passages differently of mishandling Scripture. Intentionally or not, their over zealousness has far too often been the catalyst for false accusations that have been leveled against brothers and sisters in Christ.

I would like to examine an article written by Answers in Genesis that demonstrates how easily ethical lines can be crossed when the goal becomes “proving” all other explanations are wrong. The primary question being raised in this article is “Are there gaps in the Genesis genealogies?” This is a good question and there are good biblical scholars who validly disagree on the answer to this question. Answers in Genesis takes the position that there are no gaps in the early genealogies of Genesis, and while their answer is an entirely reasonable explanation of the biblical text, it is not the only valid explanation of the text. Problems arise in their argument, not because of how they understand the text, but because they have over zealously tried to “prove” that all other explanations are invalid. The focus of AiG’s argument is based on how the Hebrew root ‘YaLaD’ (to begat) should be understood. Some Hebrew scholars do support AiG’s understanding of these early genealogies in Genesis, but none will support AiG’s suggestion about how the Hebrew root ‘YaLaD’ must be understood. While AiG’s proposal, if true, would preclude any other understanding of these genealogies, it is not a proposal supported by Hebrew scholarship and it marks the point where AiG has begun to cross an ethical line. In order to defend their position, AiG must move farther still beyond a line that they should have never crossed. Let’s take a look at AiG’s six arguments.

 

Arguments 1 and 3

The genealogical information given in Genesis 46 presents a serious problem for those who suggest that the Hebrew root ‘YaLaD’ (begat) can refer only to a direct descendant. In trying to defend this position, AiG tells us that “A person needs to read the quoted verse (Ge. 46:15) carefully to correctly understand its meaning. The begat (bare) refers to the sons born in Padanaram. Genesis 35:23 lists the six sons born in Padanaram (those whom Leah begat), who are listed as part of the total group of 33 children in Genesis 46:15. Thus, this passage confirms that begat points to the generation immediately following—a literal parent/child relationship.” There are several serious problems with this explanation.

First, no distinction is made between the six children that were direct descendants and the remaining twenty-seven given in the list. While the qualification “in Paddam-Aram” may indicate that, through the birth of these six children, ultimately Leah bore thirty three children, it is an inescapable conclusion that this usage of YaLaD (begat) refers to multiple generations. It is this kind of usage that many scholars believe may be intended in other early genealogies given in Genesis.

Second, this same pattern is repeated for Zipah (vs. 18), Rachel (vs. 22), and Bilah (vs. 25). In each of these for examples, a list of children and grandchildren is also provided, and then the total number is said to have been born to the woman whose name follows the list. However, in none of the remaining three examples is any qualifying location provided, further demonstrating the impossibility of the very imaginative interpretation suggested by AiG. AiG tells us that nowhere is it stated that these four wives physically bore the total number of sons listed for each” but the whole point is that scholars see these as examples where the text is speaking of generational gaps, where the text speaks of both children and grandchildren that are born to these women, and the text is very clear on that point. Genesis 46:18 states that “she [Zilpah] bore to Jacob these sixteen persons (NASB)[iv]” but only two were her biological children, the rest were grandchildren or great grandchildren.

Third, this is not the only passage that uses the root YaLad (begat) in a way that indicates multiple generations. Duet. 4:25 tells us that “you will beget sons and sons of sons,” and in Ruth 4:17 were are told that “A son has been born to Naomi.” This son, we know from the narrative, was the direct descendant of Ruth and Boaz. Not only is there a generational gap, there wasn’t even a direct biological relationship between Naomi and Ruth and only a distant relationship between Naomi and Boaz.

 

Argument 2

AiG’s recognizes that there are skipped generations found in Mt. 1:8 and Mt. 1:11, but AiG tells us that Here, the Greek word for begat is gennao, which shows flexibility not found in the Hebrew word and does allow for the possibility that a generation or more may be skipped. Where did the idea that the Hebrew word ‘YaLaD’ is less flexible than the Greek word ‘gennao’ originate? It appears that this idea came solely from AiG. This implied limit to the semantic range of meaning for ‘YaLaD’ is not supported by any Hebrew reference lexicon, and AiG has not referenced the work of any Hebrew scholar that would support such a conclusion.

The Greek NT has been translated into a number of Semitic languages, like Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic. These languages share many common roots, and one frequently shared root is ‘YaLaD’ (to beget). When we examine translations of Mt. 1 in every Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic translation, we find that ‘YaLaD’ is consistently used to translate the verses with their known genealogical gaps. Some examples are Shem-Tob ben-Isaac ben-Shaprut’s 14th century Hebrew translation[v], the Peshitta (an Aramaic 5th century translation)[vi], and the Van Dyke[vii]. If, as AiG contends, the root ‘YaLaD’ (begat) can never be used to refer to anyone other than a direct biological descendant, then we would expect that the translators of these Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic translations of this biblical text would have recognized the problem and chosen other words to express the non-direct relationships found in this genealogy; they did not. The universal usage of this root in every Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic translation alone demonstrates the fallacy of this argument.

 

Argument 4

AiG tells us that “The Hebrew word yalad for begat is not used in the 1 Chronicles passage (1 Chronicles 7:23–27);” however, it is present[viii] in the very first verse of this passage.

Argument 5

In Luke 3:36, and in most copies of the LXX (ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew text) we have an additional generation that is not present in the Hebrew genealogies found in Ge. 11:12 or 1 Chr. 1:24. AiG contends that this was an error introduced into both the LXX and the text of Luke 3:36. They point to an early manuscript (P75) of Luke which does not contain the additional generation, and suggest that this was the original text and that all other copies reflect a corrupted text. While this, unlike the other arguments, is a possible explanation, it is far from certain.

Most scholars believe the genealogies that include Cainan reflect the original text of Luke and that the basis for Luke’s genealogy is found in the LXX. P75 was found in 1952, and many new English translations of Scripture have been published since its discovery i.e. the NIV, NASB, ESV, NRSV, NLT, HCSB, etc…; to date, no translation committee has felt there was sufficient evidence to warrant changing our English translations and every new English translation still includes the name Cainan. Before the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, scholars often presumed that differences between the LXX and the Hebrew text reflected either corruption or mistranslation of an original Hebrew text; however, the DSS have demonstrated that many of these differences were actually a reflection of previously unknown Hebrew variants[ix]. For this reason, scholars today have much more respect for the translation quality of the LXX than did scholars of a generation past. Because this additional generation is found in so many ancient manuscripts[x], many scholars believe that copies of Luke that include Cainan are more likely to represent the original text.

Additionally, witnesses to this genealogy also exist in the Jewish Pseudepigrapha, and these witnesses add details that may provide grounds for understanding why Cainan was omitted from the Hebrew text. In the book of Jubilees[xi] we are told that Cainan the son of Arphaxad (and father of Shelah) found a cave with writings about astrology written by the “watchers who lived before the flood.” He copied the writing and then hid this from Noah because he was afraid of Noah’s response. This led to sin that apparently resulted Cainan being sent away. His involvement in astrology and subsequent expulsion may explain why his name was blotted out of the OT record. Additionally, mathematical analysis[xii] of both the Hebrew and Greek genealogies of the OT demonstrate that it is extremely unlikely that this additional generation was due to a simple transcription error because the numbers have been adjusted to provide the same numerical sums in the genealogies that contain this name as are provided in the genealogies that omit it. Whether the name Cainan was part of the original text of Luke is a much more difficult question to answer than AiG has suggested. Regardless of what one concludes regarding Luke’s genealogy, that decision should be made based solely on evaluating the evidences related to this passage. Attempting to use this passage to prove that the meaning of a Hebrew word should be limited is circular reasoning, and something to be avoided.

 

Argument 6

There is no reason to defend Harold Camping’s argument, so I will ignore it and focus on the errors in AiG’s response. AiG tells us that These verbs use the hiphil form of the verb” and that the “Hiphil usually expresses the causative action of qal.” While both statements are true, AiG then leaps to the unwarranted conclusion that “God chose this form to make it absolutely clear that we understand that there are no missing generations in chapters 5 and 11 of Genesis. Any other Hebrew verb form would not have been nearly as emphatic as the hiphil form.” This is stated without providing references to any Hebrew scholarship that would support this conclusion, and there is no Hebrew reference lexicon that would suggest the hiphil form would limit the semantic range of meaning for this root in this way. While it is true that the hiphil form USUALLY expresses causative action, they have failed to recognize that the meaning of a verb is not always derived from its form; common usage must always take precedence in determining meaning. For example, if I say “I speak Hebrew[xiii]”, the piel (intensive) form of the verb is used; however, the meaning of this verb is just simple active even though the piel construction is used. There are many Hebrew verbs that “break the rules” when one considers the meaning that “should” be derived from its form. When we look at the interchangeability of the qal (light, active) and hiphil (causative, active) for the root ‘YaLaD’ (to  begat) as it is used in the biblical text, we should recognize that caution must be exercised before deriving the meaning for this verb based on its form.

More importantly, AiG’s understanding of causative action is itself flawed. In biblical Hebrew, the causative form is frequently used to indicate the person who was the cause of an action even when that person was not the agent who did the action. When Scripture speaks of David bringing (hiphil) the shields of gold to Jerusalem (1 Chr. 18:7), it does not intend to convey the idea that David personally carried them to Jerusalem, but rather that he had his men bring them to Jerusalem. When it speaks of Solomon bringing (hiphil) the dedicated items into the Temple (2 Chr. 5:1), again the intent is not to convey the idea that Solomon literally carried these items himself, but rather that they were brought to the temple by others following his order. Similarly, when Scripture tells us that God brought disaster on Israel, most of the time that action was carried out by the men of other nations i.e. God was the cause of the action, but not the agent of that action. Additionally, it is clear that this verb can be used in the Hiphil form to indicate genealogical gaps. One of the best examples can be found in Duet. 4:25 which uses this exact form to say “for you will beget sons and sons of sons;” a statement that couldn’t more strongly indicate multiple generations.

 

Conclusion

Strong vigorous debate is an invaluable tool for learning only when we come to that debate willing to acknowledge the weakness of our own position and willing to hear the positions of those with whom we disagree. Some of the most valuable debates I have engaged in personally are the ones I have lost; they were valuable because loosing meant that I learned something that I had not known before. When we enter into a debate with the idea that winning is more important that learning, too often the result is that integrity is compromised in order to achieve that goal, and no one profits from that debate. It is time we stop coming to debates over Creation with the goal of winning, and start engaging in debates with the goal of truly learning from one another.

 


 

[i] Strong’s identifies 8674 Hebrew words, other sources vary slightly.

[ii] The number of words in the English language is: 1,025,109.8.   This is the estimate by the Global Language Monitor on January 1, 2014. The English Language passed the Million Word threshold on June 10, 2009 at 10:22 a.m. (GMT).  The Millionth Word was the controversial ‘Web 2.0′. Currently there is a new word created every 98 minutes or about 14.7 words per day. Though GLM’s analysis was the subject of much controversy at the time, the recent Google/Harvard Study of the Current Number of Words in the English Language is 1,022,000.   The number of words in the English language according to GLM now stands at:  1,025,109.8.  The difference between the two analyses is .0121%, which is widely considered statistically insignificant. Google’s number, which is based on the counting of the words in the 15,000,000 English language books it has scanned into the ‘Google Corpus,’ mirrors GLM’s Analysis.  GLM’s number is based upon its algorithmic methodologies, explication of which is available from its site.

[iii] Among Hebrew scholars there is a debate about whether the first instance should be translated as “it was said” or whether “it should be said” better communicates the intent of Hosea. The use of the perfect is primarily based on the translation of this text found in the LXX.

[iv] וַתֵּ֤לֶד אֶת־אֵ֙לֶּה֙ לְיַעֲקֹ֔ב שֵׁ֥שׁ עֶשְׂרֵ֖ה נָֽפֶשׁ (Gen. 46:18)

[v] Shem-Tob ben-Isaac ben-Shaprut  (14th Century)

אסא הוליד את יהושפט יהושפט הוליד את יורם יורם הוליד את עוזיה (Matt. 1:8)

יאשיה הוליד את יכניה ואחיו בגלות בבל (Matt. 1:11)

[vi] Peshitta (5th Century)

‎  אסא אולד ליהושׁפט יהושׁפט אולד ליורם יורם אולד לעוזיא (Matt. 1:8)

‎  יושׁיא אולד ליוכניא ולאחוהי בגלותא דבבל (Matt. 1:11)

[vii] Van Dyke

‎  وَآسَا وَلَدَ يَهُوشَافَاطَ. وَيَهُوشَافَاطُ وَلَدَ يُورَامَ. وَيُورَامُ وَلَدَ عُزِّيَّا.  (Matt. 1:8)

‎  وَيُوشِيَّا وَلَدَ يَكُنْيَا وَإِخْوَتَهُ عِنْدَ سَبْيِ بَابِلَ (Matt. 1:11)

[viii] In 1 Chr. 7:23 (the very first verse from this passage) we read ‘‎וַתַּ֖הַר וַתֵּ֣לֶד בֵּ֑ן’ (and she conceived and begat a son). In Hebrew, letters like ה,ו,י,נ are weak letters, and it frequently dropped when verbs containing them are conjugated. In the text from 1 Chr. 7:23 that I provided, both verbs contain weak letters and both verbs have dropped a letter in their conjugated form in this text. The root for ‘to conceive’ is הרה and the final ה is dropped when conjugated as ותהר, the root for ‘to begat’ is ילד and the י is dropped when the verb is conjugated as ותלד. The prefixed ת simply indicates that this is the 3rd person feminine singular imperfect.

[ix] Because the DSS are very fragmentary, every passage found in the LXX cannot be compared to an original text from the DSS collection; this is one example where we our comparison is still limited only to Hebrew manuscripts that centuries newer than the Greek texts of the LXX to which they are being compared.

[x] The NET bible notes that “the witnesses with this reading (or a variation of it( are substantial: א B L ¦1 33 )Καϊνάμ(, A Θ Ψ 0102 ¦13 Û (Καϊνάν, Kainan)”

[xi] Jubilees. 8:1-5

[xii] Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2009 18: 207, The Curse of Cainan (Jub. 8.1-5): Genealogies in Genesis 5 and Genesis 11, and a Mathematical Pattern., Helen R. Jacobus

[xiii] “אני מדבר עברית”

 

 

Why did God reject Cain’s Sacrifice?

Cain's offeringWhen trying to understand why God rejected Cain’s offering, commentators have made a number of suggestions. Some suggest that because Cain’s offering was not a blood offering that it was rejected, some suggest that this is an example of God’s divine sovereignty and predestination, some have even suggested that God chose Abel’s offering because it had a better aroma. The most common suggestion, and I believe the best, is that Abel, with a thankful heart, gave from the very best that he had but Cain gave only from his leftovers. Here are some things to consider when trying to understand why God rejected Cain’s gift.

1) The Structure of the language in the passage implies that Cain’s gift was careless. Hebrew tends to be very terse and when additional adjectives are used to describe something, it usually is significant. I have broken apart the two parallel portions from this passage regarding the gifts so that it is a little easier to see how they compare one to another. (Note: Hebrew is read from right to left).

מנחה מפרי האדמה ויבא קין
a gift From the crops And Cain brought
ומחלבהן צאנו מבכרות גם הוא והבל הביא
and from their fat of his flocks from the firstborn also he And Abel brought

 

2) The possessive “his” is used in describing Abel’s offering but absent in the description of Cain’s offering suggesting that Abel’s offering may have been more personal.

3) The term Firstborn/Firstfruit can be used to speak both of animal and grain offerings (Lev. 2:14). Similarly, “fat,” meaning the best part, was also used in reference to grain offerings. While these terms are translated differently into English they are the same in Hebrew and their absence in the description of Cain’s offering is a strong indication that Cain’s offering was less than satisfactory.

4) Cain’s response to the rejection of his offering is a strong indication that his heart was not right before God.

5) The texts states that Cain and Abel brought a “gift” and never suggests that either gift was a “sacrifice.” In the Levitical law an offering ( מנחה ) almost universally refers to a grain offering. While this word can occasionally refer to a “gift” in a more general sense (like it does in this passage), as a technical term of the Levitical law it never refers to an animal sacrifice. If the intent was to imply that a blood sacrifice was required, one would expect the vocabulary of a blood sacrifice to be used; it is not.

6) Ancient Rabbinic tradition suggests that Cain brought from the refuse. (Ge. Rab. 22.5) and Philo (1st century philosopher) saw Cain as an example of a “self-loving man” who showed his gratitude to God too slowly and then not from the first of his fruits.

7) Commentators, both modern and ancient, have frequently noted that the rejection of Cain’s offering was not based on the kind of offering but of its quality and his heart attitude in bringing it to the Lord.

“The passage is intent on showing the contrast between the two men. Also interpreting Cain as stingy conforms with the narrative’s depiction of his self-absorbed attitude (4:7) and his absence of conscience (4:13).” K. Mathews, The New American Commentary, Vol 1 – Genesis 1-11.

“The ground of the difference is not stated, and it can only therefore be inferred. But it can hardly have lain in anything except the different spirit and temper actuating the two brothers. Cain, it is to be noticed, as soon as he perceives that his offering has not been accepted, becomes angry and discontented – in itself a sufficient indication that his frame of mind was not what it should have been.” S. R. Driver, Westminster Commentaries – The book of Genesis.

“Contrary to the popular opinion that Cain’s offering was not accepted because it was not a blood sacrifice, it seems clear from the narrative that both offerings, in themselves, were acceptable — they are both described as “offerings” (מנחה) and not “sacrifices” (זבח). J. Sailhamer, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 2

“Abel said: “My sacrifice was accepted because my good deeds exceeded yours.” Cain answered: “There is no justice and there is no judge, there is no world to come and no reward or punishment for the righteous and wicked.” About this the brothers quarreled. Cain set upon his brother Abel and killed him with a stone.” Jonathan ben Uzziel, 1st Century B.C.

“And Cain brought from the crops an offering for the Lord – from the refuge. An evil tenant, he was eating the first-fruits and from the wealth for the King.”
Berashit Rabbah 22:5

 

Genesis 1:1-2:3 (A Study Translation)

IMG_0291The goal of this translation is to provide a text that enables the bible student to more easily identify places in the text where significant interpretive choice have been made by the translators of other versions. For this reason, some of the English readings are purposely awkward where the corresponding Hebrew text itself is also awkward and in a few places an alternate translation has been offered where the interpretation of a specific phrase is more open in the original text.

 


 

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth[i]. And the earth was formless and empty and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was blowing[ii] on the surface of the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God divided between the light and between the darkness. And God called the light “day” and the darkness he called “night.” And it was evening and it was morning, one day[iii].

And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters and it will divide the waters.” And God made the expanse and it divided between the waters which were under the expanse and the waters that were above the expanse and it was so. And God called the expanse “sky.” And it was evening and it was morning, a second day[iv].

And God said, “let the waters under the sky be gathered to one place and let dry land appear” and it was so. And God called the dry land “earth” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. And God said, “Let the earth sprout grass, plants producing seed, fruit trees producing fruit according to their kind which has its seed in it” and it was so. And the land brought forth grass, plants producing seed according to their kind and trees producing fruit with seed in it according to their kind. And God saw that it was good. And it was evening and it was morning a third day.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to divide between day and night and to be signs for the seasons, days, and years and let there be lights in the expanse of heaven to shine on the earth” and it was so. And God made two great lights, the greater light to rule over the day and the lesser light to rule over the night and the stars[v]. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to shine on the earth and to govern the day and the night and to divide between the light and the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And it was evening and it was morning, a fourth day.

And God said, “the waters will swarm with living creatures and birds will fly above the earth on the face of the expanse of the heavens” and God created the great sea creatures and all the living creatures that swarm in the waters according to their kind and all the winged birds according to their kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them saying, “be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters of the seas and the birds will multiply on the land.” And it was an evening and it was a morning, a fifth day.

And God said, “the land will bring forth living creatures according to their kind, livestock, and creeping things, and wild animals according to their kind” and it was so. And God made the wild animals according to their kind and the livestock according to their kind, and all which creeps along the ground according to their kind and God saw that it was good. And God said, “We will make man[vi] in Our[vii] image and according to Our likeness and they[viii] will rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and the livestock and everything that is in the land and all that creeps upon the land.” And God created man in his image, in the image of God he created him. Male and female he created them. And God blessed them and God said to them, “be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it and rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every animal that creeps on the land.” And God said, “behold, I have given you every plant producing seed which is on the face of the earth and every fruit tree which produces fruit with its seed in it, for you it will be for food. And for every land animal and for every bird of the air and for every creeping animal on the land which has a living soul, every green plant will be food” and it was so. And God saw everything which he had made and behold it was very good. And it was evening and it was morning, the sixth day[ix].

And the earth and all their hosts were finished. And God finished on the seventh day from his work which he did and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he did. And God blessed the seventh day and he sanctified it because on it he rested from all his work which God created to make[x].

 


 

[i] The words שמים (Shamayim) and ארץ (Eretz) when used individually typically refer to “sky” and “land” but when used together refer to the entire universe i.e. “heavens and the earth.”

[ii] The Hebrew word רוח (ruach) means either “spirit” or “wind” and the Hebrew word מרחפת (m’rachephet) can mean “hovering” or “blowing,” thus this phrase could alternatively be translated “and the Spirit/wind of God was blowing on the waters”

[iii] In Hebrew adjectives follow the noun but in English they proceed the noun, so a literal translation יום אחד (yom echad) would be “one day” rather than “day one.” The same phrase is almost always translated as “one day” when used in other places in Scripture i.e. Ge. 27:45, Ge. 33:13, Nu. 11:19, Is. 9:13. Translations that use “first day” as the translation for this phrase have made a highly interpretive choice to harmonize this day with the ordinal days that follow. In Hebrew “first day” is יום ראשון (yom rishon) not יום אחד (yom echad). The NASB is one of the few translations that has translated this phrase as “one day”

[iv] Days 1-5 do not contain the definite article i.e. “the” but it is included with the 6th and 7th days. Many translations have added the definite article despite its absence in every known Hebrew text. The NASB is one of the few translations that has not added the article where it is absent in the Hebrew text.

[v] The Hebrew texts reads simply “and the stars” but many translations have amended the text to convey the idea that “he also made the stars;” however, the original thought may have been that the “lesser light” ruled both the night and the stars.

[vi] There are two common words form “man” in Hebrew, the most common word is איש (ish), but the word used exclusively, except in the phrase “from man she was taken” (Ge 2:23), in the first two chapters is אדם (adam) which is related to the word for “ground” אדמה(adamah) from which man was taken. This is sometimes translated as “man” and sometimes as the proper name “Adam.” The word play between man, Adam, and ground is lost in English.

[vii] The use of the plural reference to God is unique to this passage in Scripture.

[viii] Note the switch to the plural form when referring to man. An identical move between the singular and plural is also found in vs. 1:27

[ix] The sixth day is the first day that includes the definite article although both vs .1:31 and 2:3 are in the construct form and would literally translate as “day of the sixth” and “day of the seventh.” Only in vs. 2:3 do we have the literal Hebrew text for “the seventh day.”

[x] This last phrase is difficult in the Hebrew. Most translations attempt to smooth out the translation in English.

A review of “In the Beginings” by Steven E. Dill

In_the_beginningsIn his book “In The Beginnings” Steven E. Dill presents his arguments for adopting the “Gap theory” interpretation of the Creation account given in Geneses 1. While I personally do not see the “Gap theory” as the best explanation for the account given in Genesis 1, my criticisms of Dill’s books are unrelated to my rejection of the Gap theory. There are good scholars that present reasonable arguments for the “Gap Theory” and while I would also disagree with their conclusions, I do respect their work. On the other hand, Dill’s book is one that I could not recommend. Dill rarely provides references for the claims he makes, some of which are quite absurd. He often tries to bolster his position by claiming that Hebrew scholars (frequently unidentified) do agree with him and yet he subsequently spends four pages (pages 128-131) trying to explain why all of the leading Hebrew scholars have misunderstood the text of Genesis 1 and why he (without any knowledge of the Hebrew language) was able to determine what they had failed to see. The suggestion is clear, if Hebrew scholars disagree with him, it is because they just didn’t understand the text, but if they do agree with his position then their status as Hebrew scholars adds credibility to his argument. It is a “heads I win, tails you lose” kind of argument. There are many factual errors in the text of this book (both scientific and linguistic). I have highlighted a few of the linguistic errors below.

Let’s take a look at some of the claims Dill makes:

Dill claims that some Hebrew scholars believe that “yom” when modified by a number ALWAYS refers to a literal day. The truth is that Hebrew scholars are divided on the question about whether the word “yom” in Genesis 1 refers to a literal 24 hour day or something else; however, no legitimate scholar would make the claim that every instance of “yom” when combined with a numerical modifier ALWAYS refers to a literal 24 hour day. They don’t make this claim because there are existent texts in both the OT and other Hebrew literature that demonstrate the fallacy of this claim.

Dill says:

“In my studies of the biblical account of creation, I have discovered that it doesn’t take much effort to find conflicting opinions among the scholars. There are Hebrew scholars who will agree with what I just said. They agree that when one of these numerical modifiers is added to YOWM, it always refers to a literal day.”  pg 67

And he then continues with:

“How do I explain the fact that I think they [Hebrew scholars] are absolutely wonderful but absolutely wrong? I can only assume that they base their opinion on extra-biblical Hebrew writings. Apparently YOWM plus a number doesn’t have to mean a twenty-four hour day when you look at the entire history of the Hebrew language. While this may be true in other writings, I still insist that in the bible, YOWM plus a number always refers to a literal day”, pg 67

On page page 68 lists a number of verses beginning  in which a number and the word ‘yom’ are used where he claims the meaning is a literal 24 hour day. A quick glance at his list revealed that he had included Zach. 14:7. However, Zach. 14:7 refers to an eschatological day that is unending i.e. this verse actually disproves the very thing he is trying to prove. I did not bother to check the rest of the list, so there may be other equally inaccurate citations included. Included below is the verse in question, in context, and a couple of other biblical references that refer to this same day. Additionally, I have included part of the description of this day given in the New American Commentary on Zachariah.

“On that day there will be no light, no cold or frost. It will be a unique day without daytime or nighttime–a day known to the LORD. When evening comes, there will be light. On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter. The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name”. Zec 14:6-9 NIV (a “unique day” is Lit. “yom echad” exactly as it is in Genesis 1:5)

“The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. Then will all your people be righteous and they will possess the land forever. They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor.” Isa 60:19-21 NIV

“There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever” Rev 22:5 NIV

 

“The statement that this unique day will know neither “daytime nor nighttime” continues the thought from v.6 that there will no longer be any light. This absence of light, as stated above, does not necessarily suggest darkness. Rather, any light visible to the people would emanate from the Lord himself. More to the point, no longer would people mark time by the movement of the earth around d various heavenly bodies. The changes in physical phenomena that have delineated days since the very beginning of time could not possibly describe the scope of the changes the Lord will accomplish in his new creation.” New American Commentary, Zachariah.

When trying to describe the function of the conjunctive vav, Dill says that

“Genesis 1:2 begins with the Hebrew word WAW (Sometimes written as VAV)”, In The Beginnings, Steven E. Dill, pg 134.

Here, he did not even get the facts about the conjunction itself correct. The “vav” is a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, it is not a Hebrew word and the letter itself is used many different ways. In its use as a prefixed conjunction it most commonly carries a sense of “and”, but it can carry a sense of “or,” “but.” Additionally, it can mean “now” in a stylistic sense but not in a sense of immediacy i.e. in English we prefer not to begin sentences with the word “and” but this is quite common in Hebrew. English stylists will often exchange “and” for “now” in English translations to reflect better English style. Below I have included the Hebrew text of Ge. 1:2., beginning right to left, the first letter of the first word is the conjunctive vav, the second letter (also a prefix) is the definite article, and the last three letters form the word “eretz” (land, or earth). In other words, the first “word” of the text doesn’t read “and” it reads “and the earth”

והארץ היתה תהו ובהו וחשׁך על־פני תהום ורוח אלהים מרחפת על־פני המים

On page 133 Dills states that:

“”The earth” pretty much means “the earth” as far as I can tell from the scholars.”

However, most scholars translate this as “the earth” not because the word generally means “the earth” (it doesn’t) but because it is part of the complete phrase “את השׁמים ואת הארץ” (the heavens and the earth). In this context it refers to the whole earth i.e. the globe on which we live. When these Hebrew words appear alone they are typically translated as “sky” and “land” and take on the expanded meaning of “the whole earth” only when the context itself demands.

 

On page 75 Dill states that:

“The creation account in Genesis cannot be subjected to twisted interpretations. “Night” always means “night.” “Morning” always means “morning.” “Evening” always means “evening”. All of these words refer to portions of the normal twenty-four [hour?] day.”

Unfortunately Dill didn’t bother even looking at a Hebrew lexicon before making this absurd claim. Even my pocket lexicon includes several definitions for בקר (translated as morning in Genesis 1) i.e. morning, morning-time, dawn; the next morning, tomorrow, early, soon, etc…, and a reference like HALOT provide a great deal more. In Hebrew, context and grammar must drive meaning because most Hebrew roots have a much broader semantic range than do the words used in English translation.

On page 184, he states that:

“Often a special Hebrew construction using the imperfect form of the verb asserts that something came to pass (cf. Gen. 1:7, 9). Less often, the construction is used with the perfect form of the verb to refer to something coming to pass in the future. (Isa. 7:18, 21; Hos. 2:16).”

The “special Hebrew construction” to which Dill refers is called a “vav consecutive” or “vav conversive” and it is frequently used (i.e. thousands of times) in OT narratives with both perfect and imperfect verb forms. When a conjunctive vav is prefixed to a verb (any verb not just HYH) in ancient Hebrew narratives, it changes the sense of that verb from the perfect to the imperfect or from the imperfect to the perfect. The vav consecutive demonstrates a continuance in the flow of the narrative rather and not a change to the action of the verb aside from the shift between perfect/imperfect or imperfect/perfect. The perfect and imperfect sense of Biblical Hebrew verbs very loosely correlates to our past and future verb tenses but should be thought of as complete (perfect) or incomplete (imperfect) actions rather than simple “past” and “future” actions. With or without the prefixed conjunction, biblical Hebrew verbs may be used to communicate a variety of perfect/imperfect tenses and context alone is what determines which tense is best used in translation.

The foundation of Dill’s argument is based on his interpretation of the Hebrew language of Genesis 1. However, Dill clearly does not read Hebrew and, throughout his book, he repeatedly demonstrates very significant misunderstandings of the Hebrew language. Unfortunately his misunderstandings of the Hebrew language frequently lead to grossly inaccurate conclusions. For those who do read Hebrew, this book will often leave you cringing. For example, the section headings for the days of Genesis (in great big bold letters) read “ECHAD YOM,” “SHENI YOM,” etc… (OUCH!). For those who don’t read Hebrew, these should have been “YOM ECHAD,” “YOM SHENI,” etc…  This is the equivalent of writing Daymon, Daytues, etc… instead of Monday, Tuesday. If we saw this in a text, we would be pretty sure that the author didn’t speak English. There is very little that is said about the language that can be trusted. This is a book that provides very little value to anyone trying to understand the text of Genesis 1.

What is a “day” in Genesis one?

earth In Hebrew, like in English, the meaning of the word ‘day’ is dependent on the context in which it is used. It can refer to a 24 hour period of time, it can refer to a period of daylight, or it can refer to a long undefined period of time. In English here are some examples: “There are 30 days (24 hour periods) in June,” “The park is open only during the day (period of daylight),” “They didn’t use computers in his day (an undefined period of time).” The word ‘yom/day’ in Hebrew is used with the same broad range of meaning and in Genesis 1:1-2:4 we have all three different meanings for the word ‘day’ being used. Genesis 1:5 “God called the light, ‘day’ and Genesis 1:14 “let there be lights in the firmament of heaven to divide between the day and the night” are both clearly references to daylight; also in vs. 14 we also have a reference to 24 hour periods of time “they will be signs for the seasons, and for the days, and for the years.” In Genesis 2:4 “in the day the Lord God made the earth and the heavens” is clearly a reference to a period of time longer than 24 hours. The question that remains is what was the intended in remaining eight occurrences? There are significant textual issues that make the interpretation of these remaining ‘days’ in Genesis 1 difficult. While some of these issues are glossed over in our English translations, they shouldn’t be ignored by those trying to understand the meaning of the ‘days’ in Genesis 1. These issues have always been a factor in interpreting this text and are some of the reasons that questions about the proper understanding of the ‘days’ of creation have always been a point of contention. Let’s take a look at a few of the textual issues found in this text that have puzzled people for thousands of years.

יום אחד – one day

While most translations translate ‘yom echad’ as “the first day,” there are several significant issues with this translation. First, “first day” in Hebrew is “יום ראשון” (yom rishon) and not “יום אחד” (yom echad). In every other place, except one, we find that “יום אחד” has been translated into English with phrases like “one day,” “a single day,” etc…, the other exception is a reference to “the first day of the first month” in Ezra.  Second, while the definite article (the) is included in most English translations, it is not included in the Hebrew text of the first five days.

Note: For those who would like to see how “יום אחד” is translated in other places in the bible, here is a list of the other places where this phrase appears: Gen. 1:5, Gen. 27:45, Gen. 33:13, Num. 11:19, 1 Sam. 9:15, 1 Sam. 27:1, Ezr. 10:17, Isa. 9:13, Jon. 3:4, Zech. 14:7.

יום שׁני – a second day

The definite article (the) is absent in the Hebrew text but included in many English translations.

יום שׁלישׁי – a third day

The definite article (the) is absent in the Hebrew text but included in many English translations.

יום רביעי – a forth day

The definite article (the) is absent in the Hebrew text but included in many English translations.

יום חמישׁי – a fifth day

The definite article (the) is absent in the Hebrew text but included in many English translations.

יום השׁשׁי – day of the sixth

This is the first time that the definite article (the) was included in the Hebrew text. This difference shows that the author understood how to use the definite article and raises many questions about its absence in the first five days. One must wonder why the author chose to use a construct form only in this verse i.e. “day of the sixth” rather than “the sixth day.”

ויכל אלהים ביום השׁביעי מלאכתו – In the seventh day, God finish his work.

וישׁבת ביום השׁביעי מכל־מלאכתו – And he rested in the seventh day from all his work.

Twice we have the phrase “in the seventh day,” a phrase that includes both the definite article (the) and the preposition “in”; glaringly absent is any reference to the phrase “there was an evening and there was a morning” that closed each of the prior days. Both the author of the book of Hebrews and leaders of the early church recognized that these grammatical features implied that the seventh day has not yet ended.

ביום עשׂות יהוה אלהים ארץ ושׁמים – in the day the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

Here the text implies that God made the heavens and earth in a single day (note the exact same word ‘yom’ is used). If ‘yom’ should only be understood as a only a literal 24 hour period of time, then we have a significant conflict with the account of creation given in the prior 6 days.


Questions: 

  1. Why is the first day called “one day” and not “the first day?” Is this a clue that another day may have proceeded this day? Could there have been a “gap” between the real first day and the first day described in the account given in Genesis 1?
  2. Why is the definite article missing in the account of the first five days? Is this a clue that these days were not consecutive?
  3. If the missing definite article is insignificant then why is it included in the account of the last two days?
  4. What was the author trying to communicate by using the construct form in day 6?
  5. Does the lack of the closing phrase “there was an evening and there was a morning” in the account of the “seventh day” imply that day has not yet ended?
  6. If the all days in Genesis 1:1-2:3 are literal 24 hour days, why would the ‘day’ in Genesis 2:4 be figurative?

Interpreting the length and sequence of the days in Genesis 1 is not nearly as easy as some believe. There are many more issues involved than the few I have mentioned here. There is room for a number of different interpretations but no single interpretation is entirely without difficulties. It is important to remember that questions about the length of days in Genesis 1 have been raised long before questions about geology, evolution, or modern science ever entered this debate.Those who insist that the text of Genesis 1 clearly supports their view to the exclusion of all others, whether literal or figurative, have simply not done their homework.

 

Does the use of ברא (bara) in Genesis 1 prove ex-nihilo creation?

While I firmly believe that Scripture and science both support the idea of “ex nihilo” creation, I must reject the suggestion that the use of the Hebrew verb “bara” alone proves “ex nihilo” creation because the arguments advanced to support this proposal can be easily shown to be inaccurate. The arguments are:

1) “bara” is used only when God is creating something out of nothing.

2) “bara” is only used when God himself is the subject of the verb.

One of the strongest arguments against the idea that the Hebrew verb “bara” only conveys the idea of creating something “ex nihilo” can be found in the creation account of Genesis 1 and 2. In Genesis 1:27 the verb “bara” is used both to describe God’s creation of man in his image and to describe God’s creation of man as both male and female and this use of “bara” is repeated identically in Ge. 5:1-2 and Duet. 4:32. However, in Ge. 2:7 we are told that God created man, not “ex nihilo”, but from the dust of the earth, and in Ge. 2:21-22 we are told that God created woman, not “ex nihilo”, but from the rib of the man. Van Leeuwen notes that “The root br’, Genesis 1, or creation by the word cannot explicitly communicate a doctrine of creation ex nihilo” (Ref. NIDOTTE vol 1, page 732).

The strongest argument against the idea that “bara” is only used when God is the subject of the verb is seen in the verses in Scripture where a subject other than God is used with this verb. One could possibly make the argument that the verb is always used with God as the subject in the Old Testament Scriptures with a sense of “to create” as English speakers would understand that concept, but even this argument breaks down when we examine the relationship between usages where the verb is used with God as the subject and usages where men are the subject from a Semitic perspective. Westermann and F. Delitzsch note that “the semantic development from “cut” to “create” is a natural one. By “cutting,” a particular shape is given to an object, as it were, comes into being.” This kind of semantic development of Semitic roots is quite common and similar patterns of development can be seen a great number of Hebrew verbs. The following is one example where this verb is used in the OT and God is not the subject of the verb.

 

And Joshua said to them, “If you are a numerous people, go up by yourselves to the forest, and there clear ground for yourselves in the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim, since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.” (Jos 17:15 ESV)

  (Joshua 17:15) וַיֹּ֙אמֶר אֲלֵיהֶ֜ם יְהוֹשֻׁ֗עַ אִם־עַם־רַ֤ב אַתָּה֙ עֲלֵ֣ה לְךָ֣ הַיַּ֔עְרָה  וּבֵרֵאתָ֤ לְךָ֙ שָׁ֔ם בְּאֶ֥רֶץ הַפְּרִזִּ֖י וְהָֽרְפָאִ֑ים כִּֽי־אָ֥ץ לְךָ֖ הַר־אֶפְרָֽיִם׃