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.

Psalm 139

PS139For the music director, for David a song

 

You have searched me Lord,

and you know…[i]

You know when I sit and when I rise

From afar you understand my thoughts.

You know when I am wondering and when I am lying down[ii],

you are acquainted with all my ways.

Before there is even a word on my tongue,

O Lord, you already know everything.

The paths behind me and before me, you have chosen[iii].

You have put your hand on me.

This[iv] knowledge is too wonderful for me,

It is beyond my reach. I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from your spirit?

Where can I flee from your face?

If I ascend to the heavens, there you are.

And if I lie in the depths[v], behold you are there.

If I am carried[vi] by the wings of the dawn,

If I dwell at the ends of the sea.

Even there your hand guides me.

Your right hand takes hold of me.

And I say, “Surely the darkness will conceal[vii] me

but the night is light around me.”

Even the darkness is unable conceal anything from you

And the night will shine like the day,

The darkness will be as light.

 

For you created[viii] my inner most parts[ix],

You knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I will thank you because you[x] are awesome

and marvelous wonders are your works,

You know[xi] well my soul.

My frame[xii], which was made in secret, was not hidden from you

I was formed in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed being,

and in your book all of the days ordained for me have been written

and there is not one day missing[xiii].

 

How precious to me are your friends[xiv] God.

They have become strong.

I count them, they are more than grains of sand

I awake and still I am with you[xv].

Will you slay the wicked, God?

Will you turn violent men away from me?

They speak deceitfully about you

Your enemies[xvi] lie.

God, those you hate I will hate

And those who rebel against you I will loath.

With a complete hatred, I will hate them.

They will be my enemies.

Search me God and know my heart,

Examine me and know the thoughts that trouble[xvii] me.

See if there is an idolatrous way within me.

And lead me in the way of eternity.

 

 


 

[i] Lit “and you will know” (ותדע), many versions have supplied the object but it is not in the text itself.

[ii] Lit. “my wondering and my Lying down” (ארחי ורבעי)

[iii] The LXX reads “The end and the beginning, you formed me (τὰ ἔσχατα καὶ τὰ ἀρχαῖα σὺ ἔπλασάς με)” indicating that the translators under stood the root to be יצר (to form) rather than צור (to enclose). NIDOTTE states “In Ps. 139:5, God hems the psalmist in on every side. This could be read negatively as a lament, complaining at God’s oppressive constraint. However, it might also be a positive assurance of his comprehensive care, or simply an affirmation of absolute sovereignty.” The context of the Psalm strongly supports the idea of positive assurance rather than negative lament. In spite of the textual challenges of this verse, the overall intent seems to be to describe God’s sovereign control over a person’s whole life from its beginning to its end.

[iv] The demonstrative pronoun “this” is added for clarification but it is not in the original text (פליאה דעת ממני).

[v] Lit. Sheol.

[vi] The verb נשא ‘to carry’ is active in form but appears to be passive in meaning. The NET translates this similarly as “If I were to fly away on the wings of the dawn.”

[vii] The NET notes:  The Hebrew verb שׁוּף (shuf), which means “to crush; to wound,” in Gen 3:15 and Job 9:17, is problematic here. For a discussion of attempts to relate the verb to Arabic roots, see L. C. Allen, Psalms 101–150 (WBC), 251. Many emend the form to יְשׂוּכֵּנִי (yesukkeniy), from the root שׂכך (“to cover,” an alternate form of סכך), a reading assumed in the present translation. BHS, shows support for this emendation in Jerome’s, the Psalter according to the Hebrews.

[viii] NIDOTTE notes “The root קנה in the sense “create” is much disputed (Vawter; THAT, s.v.) but is to be maintained on the grounds of the comparative linguistic and religious evidence (De Moor for Ugartic; cf. KAI III 22a) and of its use and parallels in context (Ge. 14:19, 22; Deut 32:6; Ps 139:13; Prov 8:22; cf. Westermann on Ge. 4:1)

[ix] Lit. kidneys

[x] The MT reads “being feared (f. pl), I was wonderful”/“נוראות נפליתי”.  The feminine plural verb does not match the subject which is singular and makes the phrase ambiguous. In 11Qpsa this phrase reads “you are being feared”/ “אתה נורא” shifting the phrase to the 2nd person i.e. rather than speaking about me, this verse is speaking about God. This is echoed in the NET translation. The LXX and the Latin Vulgate both reflect an underlying Hebrew text that aligns to 11Qpsa. See “A favorite bible verse, misunderstood?

[xi] The change from “my soul knows it” (NIV, NASB, ESV) to “You know my soul” (NET), does not reflect a textual variation but only a change in vocalization. If we accept the shift to the 2nd person found in 11Qpsa, the LXX, and the Vulgate then this change of vocalization would be expected.

[xii] Lit. my bone.

[xiii] There are several variants that are all equally difficult. The MT reads “ולא אחד בהם”  but offers a marginal correction of “ולו אחד בהם”. 11Qpsa reads “ולו אח מהמה”

[xiv] רע is commonly used to convey the idea of friend/companion and was understood as “friend” by the translators of the LXX. “Friends” seems to fit the context better than the traditional translation of “thoughts” because the passage appears to be contrasting those who stand with God against those who have rebelled against God. Similarly, in James 2:23 Abraham is called a “friend of God” (φίλος θεοῦ) in recognition of his trust and allegiance with God, and Jesus calls believers,  who follow his commands, “friends” (φίλους) in Jn. 15:13-15.

[xv] This phrase is grammatically difficult. The MT reads הקיצתי ועודי עמך, but 11Qpsa reads הקיצותי ועוד עמכה.

[xvi] The NET translators’ note that “Heb “lifted up for emptiness, your cities.” The Hebrew text as it stands makes no sense. The form נָשֻׂא (nasu’; a Qal passive participle) should be emended to נָשְׂאוּ (nos®u; a Qal perfect, third common plural, “[they] lift up”). Many emend עָרֶיךָ (‘arekha, “your cities”) to עָלֶיךָ (‘alekha, “against you”), but it is preferable to understand the noun as an Aramaism and translate “your enemies” (see Dan 4:16 and L. C. Allen, Psalms 101–150 [WBC], 253).“ The LXX translators understood this to mean cities. In this verse the idea of “carrying to nothing” נשאו לשוא is used idiomatically to describe dishonesty, in Ps. 24:4 we see a similar example but in the negative, לא נשא לשוא.

[xvii] While many translations translate שרעף as simply “thought” it is better understood as a disquieting or worrying thought. This nuance is communicated in the NASB and NIV as “anxious thoughts” and the NET as “concerns”

A favorite bible verse, misunderstood? It is not all about ME!

PS139-14As I was reading through Psalms 139, I realized that one of the verses I knew well in English didn’t quite read the same way in Hebrew. The Hebrew was a bit broken and the translators had to smooth it out a little in order for it to make sense in English. In the English of the KJV, and similar to most English translations, Psalms 139:14 reads I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” but the Hebrew text readsI will thank you because fearfully, I was wonderful. Wonderful [are] your works and my spirit knows [it] well (or “you know well my spirit”).” Sometimes, these kinds of textual difficulties are resolved when we look at another Hebrew text, like the text of the Dead Sea Scrolls, where a variant reading might read a little more smoothly, but in the case of Ps. 139:14 it only deepened the questions. In the primary Psalms scroll from the DSS (11Qpsa) there is a shift from the first person to the second person making this verse more about God and less about me. The text from the Dead Sea reads “I will thank you because you are magnificent. Wonderful and amazing [are] your works and you know well my spirit.” In my quest to understand which reading was original, I began by looking at some of the Ancient translations, beginning with the Greek Septuagint (2nd Century BC) and the Latin Vulgate (4th Century AD). These two texts were the primary texts used by the church during the first sixteen centuries and both texts followed the reading found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. In translations of the Psalms the current reading of Ps. 139:14 doesn’t seem to have appeared until the Reformation period.

So why did the text change?
For centuries leading up to the reformation period, the primary text used by the church was the Latin Vulgate (a text that few understood). Often even the priests who were teaching the text could not read the text of the bible themselves. This opened the door to serious abuses of Scripture because few could challenge the claims made about its contents. In the 16th century, some of the few men, like Luther, Calvin, etc…, who could read the Scriptures became increasingly concerned with the disparity between what the church was teaching and what the Scriptures really said. In their quest to truly understand the Scriptures they began looking at the original Hebrew and Greek texts as well as the Latin text of the Vulgate. And they began to produce new translations for the people from these Greek and Hebrew texts in much the same way as St. Jerome had produced a Latin version in the common language of the people many centuries earlier based on the Hebrew and Greek texts he had.

The Hebrew text
In the 16th century, the earliest Hebrew manuscripts came from the 9th century; however, because of the strict controls the Jewish scribes who were producing these scrolls had developed, copies of the Hebrew text were remarkably accurate. Scholars generally considered variant readings of the Hebrew text in Greek and Latin translations to reflect mistranslations by earlier translators and readings from the Greek or Latin were usually only considered when the Hebrew text was difficult or vague. The translations produced in the 16th century reflect a reasonably accurate translation of the Hebrew texts that scholars had access to at that time. For centuries, very little changed with respect to the Hebrew texts to which scholars had access and the opinion that the LXX was a poor translation of the Hebrew prevailed. As we entered the 20th century, we began to discover ancient texts, like those found near the Dead Sea but it was not until the late 20th before these new discoveries began having an impact on bible translations. As scholars began to examine the Dead Sea scrolls, they began to have a deeper respect for the translation work of translators of the LXX because these scrolls revealed a Hebrew base text for many of its variant readings, like those in Ps. 139:14. In many cases these were not mistranslations but accurate translations of a variant text.

Is it “My spirit knows” or “You know my Spirit”
One of the translation differences in this verse doesn’t reflect any “textual variant” but only a change in vocalization. Hebrew was originally written without vowels and vowels were added to the text many, many centuries later. These are the dots and dashes that can be seen in the text of the MT below. The Masorites (who added these vowels) did so in a way that kept the parallelism from the first half the verse i.e. “I have been fearfully and wonderfully made” and “My soul knows it.” However, if we accept the authenticity of the earlier text then we would expect the vocalization to reflect the 2nd person i.e. “You are fearful and your works are wonderful” and “You know my soul.” Letter for letter, the text of this ending phrase is the identical, it is only the pronunciation that changes.

Does this mean that our bibles are unreliable?
Sometimes it is claimed that our bibles today reflect a text that has been translated from a translation of a translation of a translation, etc… and that the texts we have today no longer reflect the writings of the original authors. However, despite the variant readings found in these ancient witnesses, the overall picture we see in these ancient texts demonstrates that the text of Scripture has been remarkably well preserved. In fact the text of Scripture has been so well preserved that many scholars doubted the authenticity of these ancient witnesses for decades. To accept the authenticity of these ancient manuscripts meant these scholars had to abandon their theories about how Scripture had developed because these ancient manuscripts demonstrated that the text was far better preserved than their theories would permit. While there are occasions, like this one, where we need to re-evaluate our understanding of a verse, these are the exceptions and not the rule. And while some variants like this one do introduce slight nuances into the text, the overall message of the whole passage remains unchanged.

PS139 Version Table

 

 


 

NET Notes (Psa 139:14)

22 tc Heb “because awesome things, I am distinct, amazing [are] your works.” The text as it stands is syntactically problematic and makes little, if any, sense. The Niphal of פָּלָה (pala’) occurs elsewhere only in Exod 33:16. Many take the form from פָלָא (pala’; see GKC 216 §75.qq), which in the Niphal perfect means “to be amazing” (see 2 Sam 1:26; Ps 118:23; Prov 30:18). Some, following the LXX and some other ancient witnesses, also prefer to emend the verb from first to second person, “you are amazing” (see L. C. Allen, Psalms 101–150 [WBC], 249, 251). The present translation assumes the text conflates two variants: נפלאים, the otherwise unattested masculine plural participle of פָלָא, and נִפְלָאוֹת (nifla’ot), the usual (feminine) plural form of the Niphal participle. The latter has been changed to a verb by later scribes in an attempt to accommodate it syntactically. The original text likely read, נפלאותים מעשׂיך נוראות (“your works [are] awesome [and] amazing”).
23 tc Heb “and my being knows very much.” Better parallelism is achieved (see v. 15a) if one emends יֹדַעַת (yoda’at), a Qal active participle, feminine singular form, to יָדַעְתָּ (yada’ta), a Qal perfect second masculine singular perfect. See L. C. Allen, Psalms 101–150 (WBC), 252.

Psalm 131

11QPs-a Col VA song of the ascent for David

O Lord, my heart is not proud[i] and my eyes do not show conceit[ii].

I do not delve into things too great or wonderful for me.

Rather I have soothed[iii] and quieted my soul.

My soul is like a toddler[iv] carried[v] by his mother, like a toddler carried by me.

Israel wait expectantly for the Lord now and forever more.

 


[i] Lit. “my heart is not lifted up”

[ii] Lit. “my eyes are not raised”

[iii] שוה is used only 24 times in the OT and with a very wide semantic range of meaning i.e. “to compare, to make level, to smooth, to soothe, to conform.” The broad range of meaning accounts for the many variances in different translations.

[iv] Lit. “as one weaned;” children were weaned in the ANE at around the age of two. John Goldengay suggests that גמל might be better interpreted as not referring “to the actual weaning of a child but to its having come off the breast at the end of a feeding” but such an interpretation itself seems imaginative. Examples we have in Scripture (Ge. 21:8, 1 Sam 1:22, Ho. 1:8, etc…) use this word much as it is used in English thus suggesting a picture of a toddler rather than an infant as suggested by Goldengay.

[v] Lit. “on his mother;” the picture is that of a small child who is content in the arms of his mother. It is more than just being with his mother, but rather being held and comforted by her.

Psalm 129

11QPs-a Col VA song of the ascent

 

“Greatly they have oppressed me since my youth”

Surly Israel will say:

“Greatly they have oppressed me since my youth

but they were not able to prevail over[i] me.”

On my back the wicked[ii] plowed,

they made their furrows long.

 

The Lord is righteous.

He has cut the ropes of the wicked.

They will be shamed and they will retreat,

all those who hate Zion.

They will be like grass on the roof,

which, before it can be pulled, has already withered.

From which the reaper cannot fill his hand with grain[iii]

or the fold of his cloak with sheaves.

Those who pass by do not say,

“a[iv] blessing of the Lord to you,

We will bless you in the name of the Lord.”


[i] The Hebrew is very terse here, lit. “they were not able to me” (לא-יכלו לי)

[ii] The LXX and the 11Qpsa read “wicked” (הרשעים) but the MT reads “the ones plowing”  (חרשים); the difference is minor in Hebrew and could reflect either a misreading or an vorlage. The LXX includes the definite article, but the 11Qpsa does not.

[iii] Lit “cannot fill his hand”

[iv] Some versions read “the blessing” rather than “a blessing”; in Hebrew the “definiteness” of a construct phrase can sometimes be ambiguous because the definite article cannot be attached to a construct noun. In the absence of the particle, determination is made by context alone. Note: it was expected that people would offer a blessing for a good harvest to those they met during the harvest time, to withhold a blessing would have shown contempt or pity.

Psalm 130

11QPs-a Col VA song of the ascent

 

From the depths I call to you Lord.

my Lord[i] hear my voice,

let your ears be attentive to my pleading.

Lord, if you keep a record of iniquity,

who will be able to stand before you[ii], my Lord?

Because with you there is forgiveness,

for this reason you will be feared[iii].

I hope[iv] in the Lord,

My soul hopes in his word.

 

My soul, wait for my Lord[v],

much more than watchmen[vi] wait for the morning!

Israel wait for the Lord,

(because with the Lord there is compassion,

and even more, with him there is redemption[vii]),

and he will redeem Israel from her[viii] iniquity.


[i] ‘my Lord’ is אדוני (Adonai). Will it literally means ‘my Lord(s)’ it is frequently used as representative of יהוה (Yahweh). It is an established Jewish tradition to verbally substitute ‘Adonai’ for ‘Yahweh’ when reading biblical texts that contain the name of God.

[ii] Lit. ‘who will be able to stand’

[iii] We often associate God’s wrath with the fear of God but the psalmist here associates God’s forgiveness as a reason to fear him i.e. there is a sense of awe and wonder that would should feel because of God’s abounding love and forgiveness. Those who have truly begun to understand the magnitude of God’s love for us and the ransom he paid to redeem us, cannot ever again approach God irreverently.

[iv] The words קוה and יחל both have a sense of waiting with hopeful expectation. The meaning is so similar that some translations translate the first word as ‘hope’ and the latter as ‘wait’ while others reverse this. In English we often do not associate ‘waiting’ with ‘hopeful expectation’ but in Hebrew both of these words are inextricably tied to the idea of ‘hopeful expectation.’

[v] The text here follows 11Qpsa. There are some slight differences in this text that suggest different phrasing when compared to the MT. The MT reads ‘קותה נפשי ולדברו הוחלתי נפשי לאדני’ (My soul hopes, and for his word [is] my waiting, my soul for my Lord); the reading is a little difficult and seems to be much smoother in 11Qpswhich reads ‘קותה נפשי לדברו הוחילי נפשי לאדני’ (My soul hopes for his word, wait my soul for my Lord). The lack of the conjunction allows ‘for his word’ to be attach to the prior subject/verb and the change to the imperative allows the following verb to be begin the next phrase, giving each of the three phrases the same verb/subject/object structure.

[vi] The phrase ‘שומרים לבקר’ (watchmen [wait] for the morning] is repeated twice. In Hebrew, repetition is a common way to demonstrate emphasis, much like we use an exclamation point in English. While many translations include the repeated phrase here, repetition is a frequent feature of Hebrew that is commonly not translated into English.

[vii] והרבה עמו פדות, lit. ‘and more with him [is] redemption’

[viii] The pronoun is masculine because nations are typically masculine in Hebrew; however, in English we use feminine pronouns when referring to nations.

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.

 

Who’s my grandfather?

“And the people of Dan set up the carved image for themselves, and Jonathan the son of Gershom, son of Moses, and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land.” (Jdg 18:30 ESV)

“Then the children of Dan set up for themselves the carved image; and Jonathan the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land.” (Jdg 18:30 NKJV)

In Judges 18:30, bible versions are divided on the question of the identity of Jonathan’s grandfather. Many versions, like the ESV, NIV, NLT, NRSV, HCSB, and others have translated this as Moses but a few versions, like the NJKV, KJV, JPS, Geneva, have translated this as Manasseh. When we look at the Hebrew text, the question becomes more perplexing because the Hebrew text clearly says Manasseh but the majority of translations say Moses. What’s going on?

Moses_Manasseh

Figure 1

In order to understand what is happening here, it will be helpful to look at the Hebrew text. While these names are spelled very differently in English, in Hebrew there is only a one letter difference between these names. This can clearly be seen in Figure 1. There are several theories about why the nun might have been inserted into the name. Tov, in “Textual Criticism, 57” suggests that “the insertion of the nun not only resolves a difficult theological issue but also links this account specifically with the name of a person who, more than any other, sponsored and promoted apostasy in Israel/Judah (c.f. 2 Kgs 21:1-18).” While this is a creative resolution, I do not think it is the best resolution to this problem.

 

Where do we begin?

When we seek to resolve textual questions like this, the first question we must ask is “Is there evidence to support the idea that the spelling has changed?” In this case we have several pieces of evidence that suggest that that the nun is likely an addition to the text. Let’s take a look at some of those pieces of evidence.

  1. In two other genealogies (Exodus 2 and 18) we are told that Moses is the father of Gershom.
  2. fig. 2

    fig. 2

    In several Hebrew Manuscripts, including the Leningrad Codex, the nun is super-scripted. This is reproduced in the text of the BHS which uses the Leningrad codex as its base text. (Here is the a photo of this portion of the BHS text). Super-scripting letters (fig. 2), like was done here, is very unusual and indicates that there was some doubt about the legitimacy of the nun in this name.

  3. While most ancient manuscripts have the name Manasseh, the BHS identifies a copy of the LXX and a copy of the Vulgate that that use the name Moses rather than Manasseh, indicating that questions about the spelling of this name have a very early origin.

 

A possible resolution to this problem.

Hebrew originally had almost no indication of vowels (and even today it is most frequently written without vowels). Without vowels, correctly pronouncing Hebrew words requires one to understand the grammar and context so that the reader can insert the correct vowel sounds when reading aloud. The pronunciation of a Hebrew word does affect its meaning. After the captivity, the Jewish people began to adopt Aramaic as their primary spoken language and the knowledge of correct Hebrew pronunciation began to be lost. To help resolve this issue, two Hebrew letters that frequently double as vowels, i.e. yohd for ‘ee’ sounds, and vav for the long ‘o’ sound, began to be inserted into words to aid in their pronunciation. It is common to see two different manuscripts where the insertion of these letters is present in one manuscript and absent in another (or even in different instances of the same word in the same manuscript). The addition of these letters into the spelling of a word does not change its meaning or pronunciation but it does enable the reader to more easily identify the correct pronunciation.

figure 3

figure 3

In Ecclesiastes, we have an example that demonstrates this kind of spelling change. Looking at figure 3, we can see that in vs. 8:5 shomer (in red) is spelled with addition of the vav, and in Eccl. 11:4 we see shomer spelled without the vav. Both of these words are pronounced identically but the long ‘o’ sound is much more easily identified by the presence of the vav in vs. 8:5. Expanding the spelling of words in Hebrew to aid in their pronunciation is a very common feature of the language.

Moses_Manasseh2

Figure 4

Hebrew was not always written in the script that is used today. Prior to the captivity, Hebrew was written in a Paleo Hebraic script, but after the captivity the Jewish people adopted both the language and the script that had been used by their captors. It is very possible that the same scribes who were transcribing Hebrew from its original script to the Aramaic script used today, were the same scribes that were also expanding the spellings of words to aid in their pronunciation. It just so happens that the shape of vav that is frequently inserted into words to indicate the long ‘o’ sound is very similar to the shape of nun that is questioned in the spelling of this name. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how a transcription error, or just the slightest slip of the pen, could create the spelling error that we see in the text today (see figure 4).

Psalm 128

11QPs-a Col VA song of the ascent

 

Happy is everyone who fears the Lord,

who walks according to his ways.

It is by the work of your hands that you eat,

and are happy and prosper.[i]

Your wife is like a vine,

producing her fruit[ii] in the privacy[iii] of your home.

Your children are like shoots around an olive tree,

they will gather around your table.

Certainly he will bless the man who fears the Lord

 

The Lord[iv] has blessed[v] you from Zion,

See how Jerusalem has prospered all of the days of your life.

Look at your grandchildren[vi].

Peace on Israel.

 

 


[i] Psalm 127 drives home the point that prosperity and security come from God alone and now the psalmist reminds us that we are to enjoy the fruit of our labor while never forgetting that it is ultimately God who provides.  Knowing that it is God who ultimately provides does not excuse us from our obligation to work for our reward.

[ii] Psalm 127 declares that “the fruit of the belly is his reward” and this imagery is continued here in this verse where the reference to fruit is meant to invoke the image of children.

[iii] The phrase “בירכתי בביתך”   lit. “in the innermost places of your house” carries subtle sexual overtones that are lost in most English translations. The word ‘ירכה’ refers to the innermost recesses when in reference to places and to the loins (or groin) when referring to people. In Ex. 1:5 this is the word used for ‘loins’ in the phrase “these are all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob.”

[iv] The MT reads ‘YHWH’ (יהוה) but 11QPsa reads ‘Adonai’ (אדוני). The MT is likely the original reading and 11QPsa likely reflects the Jewish practice of verbally substituting ‘Adonai’ when reading ‘YHWH.’

[v] The tense is imperfect, but there is a sense of past blessing that continues into the future. This is punctuated by the command that follows “to see” God’s blessing that is already taken place.

[vi] Lit. ‘children of your children’

They found King David’s Palace! (Maybe)

mideast_israel_king_d_joneIn the last few weeks there have been a number of articles written about the discovery of King David’s palace and John D. Currid has added one more to the mix. He has written a short article about this discovery that highlights some common realities of archeology itself. In the world of archeology, it is common for archeologists to engage in speculation about the significance of a new discovery when there is very little physical evidence to support those speculations. Most archeologists make it clear when they have entered the realm of speculation but because their speculations often embody the most spectacular aspects of their discovery, it is the speculation that is most frequently reported. Often by the time these speculations have made it through a reporter’s filter, they often taken on the allure of true fact. When new discoveries are announced, we also hear from the critics in the field who raise their doubts about the legitimacy of any speculation, and sometimes even the legitimacy of the physical evidence itself. Frequently, the most ardent opposition comes from those automatically reject any claim that appears to support the narrative of Scripture. Some who work in the field of Ancient Near Eastern archeology have developed a strong an anti-Bible bias that colors almost everything they publish. For these scholars, overwhelming evidence is required before any discovery that supports the narrative of Scripture is acknowledged; and even in the light of overwhelming evidence they sometimes still refuse to acknowledge discoveries that give support to the biblical narrative. When a news of a new archeological discovery breaks, we are often find ourselves trying to filter between fact and fiction that comes to us from two opposing sources. Some of it is overly optimistic and some of it is overly pessimistic but rarely do we hear much about the middle ground and usually it is upon that middle ground where the truth can be found. John D. Currid’s article is one of the few that tries to find that middle ground and is worth a look.

 

Addendum:

Here is a good article written by Luke Chandler, one of the members of the excavation team at Khirbet Qeiyafa. It includes many of the details that are not covered in recent news articles and is a good source for those who want to know more about this particular discovery.