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According to Genesis 1:1:

בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ

I've read that this is a grammatically incorrect because b'reshit does not have a definite article and the word order is wrong. Literally translated, this would say:

In first/beginning created God, the heavens (et) and (et) the land

It seems as though this should be interpreted as:

In the first thing [was] created God [together] with the heavens and with the land

Afterwards, we are told the land is chaotic until God said "Let there be light". The only thing I can figure is that the first thing was chaotic matter that eventually brought about God. He then proceeded to bring order to this chaos with light.

This would also agree with the cosmologies of several early religions such as the Sumarians, Babylonians, and the Greeks- though they all made chaos out to be a conscious god rather than an unconscious, constant movement of matter.

According to Rabbi Adin Even-Israel's amalgamation of the medieval commentaries on Babylonian Talmud tractate Megilla 9a [William Davidson on-line English translation]1

And they wrote for him: God created in the beginning [bereshit], reversing the order of the words in the first phrase in the Torah that could be misinterpreted as: “Bereshit created God” (Genesis 1:1). They did so to negate those who believe in the preexistence of the world and those who maintain that there are two powers in the world: One is Bereshit, who created the second, God. And they wrote: I shall make man in image and in likeness, rather than: “Let us make man in our image and in our likeness” (Genesis 1:26), as from there too one could mistakenly conclude that there are multiple powers and that God has human form.

Is it true that the first words in Genesis could be interpreted to say that God was prepared in the first? Have any other commentators mentioned this?


1. The actual quotes from the Talmud are indicated here in italics. The rest is the amalgamation of the Rashi and Tosafot medieval commentaries, which each present different reasons for the word order switch, plus supplementary modern commentary by Rabbi Even-Israel

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    To translate as you suggest, the text would need to read something like בראשית בראה את האלוהים. Word order is not significant in Hebrew. Please go back to Hebrew 101. Voting to close, sorry. – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Aug 24 '17 at 7:27
  • @AbuMunirIbnIbrahim This author believes Biblical Hebrew word order does matter, and that it is SVO rather than VSO, which this article claims is the reason "‘beginning’ is the subject creating ‘gods,’" is wrong. – Cannabijoy Aug 24 '17 at 8:14
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Susan Aug 25 '17 at 19:18
  • Also, Genesis 1:17 - "וַיִּתֵּ֥ן אֹתָ֛ם אֱלֹהִ֖ים" I have been in many conversations about this, in Jewish and Christian Mysticism: "Hence ... the words "Brashith bara Alhim" is this: When rash the divine germ from which emanated and expanded the boundless ether appeared, and this ether became differentiated into form and color giving rise to the universe or palace of the great king, then was created alhim the great secret fructifying principle of nature, (Zohar)". In other words, there actually is merit to the question. – elika kohen Aug 26 '17 at 20:22
  • @anonymouswho - I suggested a change to the question's title - to be more searchable. Feel free to modify. I hope this accurately represents your question. Also, feel free to snag that quote from the Zohar - if it helps explain the basis for your question. Or perhaps, you might be asking: "In Genesis 1, Did 'The B'reishit / The Progenitor' Create Gods?" Or maybe, "In Genesis 1, Did 'The Most High' Create 'Gods'?" (It seems that answers, so far, might be tackling the second form of the question.) – elika kohen Aug 29 '17 at 4:00
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The word בראשית means "In the beginning" and you get it by combining the prepositional prefix ב with a noun form derived from the root ראש. This is not only the first word in the chapter, but also the Hebrew name for Genesis. The word ברא means "created" and אלהים means God.

Since אלהים is a definite noun, you would expect a direct object marker were it a direct object. It is not required, as Susan points out, but you would expect the author to add the marker if only for the sake of clarity. As far as word order goes, it is common to put the verb in front of the subject. Read further down and you will see this happen time and again, especially with vav-consecutive verbs that begin verses, e.g. Gn 1:3 ויאמר אלהים יהי אור ויהי אור And God said, "Let there be light." And there was light.

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    While I agree with your conclusion that OP's translation is not tenable, I don't think we can say, " it cannot be a direct object because it has no direct object marker." The DDO marker is far from required, even in prose -- see, e.g. (among many others), Gen 19:6 וְהַדֶּ֫לֶת סָגַר. – Susan Aug 24 '17 at 13:58
  • @Susan Thanks for the example. That's good to know. I suppose it is hard to come up with a rule that rules it out. I edited my answer to reflect your point. – ktm5124 Aug 24 '17 at 14:20
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    You would especially expect an et for clarity since it is used twice in this verse to mark the direct objects--"created et the heaven and et the earth". Further, since there would then be three things created, with God being the first in the list, "the heavens" should also be preceded by a waw as each item in a list except the first gets a waw. – Frank Luke Aug 24 '17 at 15:11
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    @FrankLuke Check out Genesis 5:32. There is a list of Noah's sons, and although each one has an et before it, only the et before Japheth has a waw. – Cannabijoy Aug 25 '17 at 7:37
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    @anonymouswho Hebrew is read right-to-left, thus ברא precedes אלהים, because it is to the right of it. In English it would be: "B'reshit bara Elohim." The verb precedes the subject. Also, B'reshit is not an object, but rather, a prepositional phrase. – ktm5124 Aug 26 '17 at 4:27
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I see Genesis 1:1 like this:

enter image description here

If it were suggested that בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים might be translated "In the beginning he created God, the heavens, and the earth.", then one would:

  • be left wondering who "he" could possibly refer to, since nothing precedes this text in the narrative; and

  • have to wonder why the mysterious "he" would create God again in verse 21 with the whales, other sea creatures, and birds, and then a third time in verse 27, given in those places the text begins: וַיִּבְרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֔ים (And he created God, ... ).

There is nothing mysterious about Genesis 1:1, where Elohim (God) is clearly being identified as the Creator, not the created.

  • The problem is the rest of the verse. The very suggestion ""In the beginning he created God..." begs the question of the placement of את. The assumed subject of ברא is a minor issue in comparison. Negating the suggested translation by explaining the placement of the את would make for a more defensible answer. – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Aug 24 '17 at 11:49
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    I think there is a simpler explanation. Since אלהים is a definite noun even without the ה prefix, it cannot be a direct object because it has no direct object marker. The same would be true if you were to construct a similar sentence with a name like אברהם. – ktm5124 Aug 24 '17 at 13:11
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    I would argue that the grammar is unambiguous and to say otherwise would be indefensible. – ktm5124 Aug 24 '17 at 13:12
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    @enegue - "have to wonder why the mysterious "he" would create God again". This argument is not valid. Having that ambiguity would actually explain the Exodus narrative - a lot. "they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?"There is a lot of reluctance by theologians to accept "ambiguities" in Scripture - even though God and the Prophets are intentionally ambiguous all over the place. Claiming that the inverse of an ambiguity must be true is an "ambiguity fallacy". Just because we don't understand something, doesn't mean the writer meant for the reader to understand. – elika kohen Aug 26 '17 at 19:52
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    @enegue - You are absolutely right about the idea of using an indirect proof in mathematics and logic, and I completely agree. However, in an intentionally ambiguous, poetic, passage - there is an "opportunity" here to reconcile any "so-called" consistencies with creative solutions. Don't get me wrong, the suggestion asked about here is incredibly shaky. However, it is also a very old idea, which I am hoping someone else - other than me - will post about, so I can upvote them. But, there is certainly a way to reconcile what you are calling "inconsistencies." – elika kohen Aug 27 '17 at 2:51
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אלהים is one of God's names used during the actualization of potential (or put differently, acting via the usual laws of nature he created, which is less relevant in this context).

ראשית means "The beginning of", and "ב" before a word means "in", so בראשית means "In the beginning of". Therefore, the translation of this first verse is "In the beginning of God's creating the heaven and the earth:". The bible then goes on to describe what the state of existence was at that beginning.

It is true that it is an odd phrasing from a grammatical point of view, but this phrasing sheds light on other aspects of what was happening during the creation (expounded upon by the mystics).

Update:

To explain the section of Talmud you quoted: it is saying that it could be misinterpreted because without the word את the subject and object can be reversed, grammatically speaking. (In hebrew, the word את makes the order unambiguous, and without it the phrase needs to be understood in context or using other cues.) However, as explained above and by others, a basic familiarity with hebrew makes it clear that it is not a correct understanding. Basically, what it's saying is that God is allowing room for someone who is not intellectually honest and has an agenda to misunderstand it this way, to do so.

  • Nothing odd about the phrasing from any point of view. Happens again in Genesis 2:3, which I presume you recite every Sabbath as do I. This is common Hebrew style. And how exactly does this phrasing shed light on other aspects of what was happening? I think it sheds fog on what was happening. – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Aug 24 '17 at 11:47
  • Dovev - Could you please provide any other reference, other than Genesis 1:1, where "בראשית" is used - to confirm the meaning you are attributing to it? What does the suffix "ית" of "בראשית" actually mean? And, how does a reader tell if "בראשית" is from the root word for "Head | ראש" or "Create | ברא"? – elika kohen Aug 29 '17 at 3:48
  • It appears in a number of places without the prefix ב, e.g. Deut. 18:4. It is the only place where it appears with the prefix, which is what I meant by "odd phrasing". There are a number of indications that ברא is not the root, but the clearest is that the letter ש is always part of a root, unless it is the prefix meaning "that", and never added as a result of conjugation. – Dovev Hefetz Aug 30 '17 at 8:39
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Peace.

The following is not necessarily my “answer” to the question but instead a possible interpretation of the verse when Elohim is considered the object rather than the subject.

Genesis 1:1 In beginning He created Elohim the heavens and the earth.

In the beginning, (the “He” …as in God and not the “beginning”) created Elohim the heavens and the earth. The beginning itself did not create the Elohim.

It is possible that the heavens and the earth are the created “Elohim” so to speak as they are all created visible representations/manifestations of the invisible attributes of the invisible God (the mysterious “He” who is the subject). The visible heavens and earth show forth His invisible qualities from A to Z.

Here in Romans 1, it is stated that the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen (by mankind) being understood by the things that are made (the visible heavens and the earth).

The visible creation shows forth even His eternal power and His divine nature. Think how old this universe is. Some say it is 13+ billion years old….and I don’t doubt that for it surely shows forth His eternal power and everlasting status. The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalms 19:1)

Romans 1:19-22 KJV (19) Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. (20) For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse**:**

Genesis 1:1 is the only verse that represents the creation of the literal, visible universe in my opinion and the rest of the Genesis chapter 1 creation account is a parable of the recreation of man whose foolish heart was darkened (darkness was upon the face of the deep) from the clear, visible evidence that there is a God that was created by Him. Mankind is without excuse as His invisible attributes are clearly seen by those things that He made/created in Genesis 1:1.

The earth became without form (without His righteousness) and void (void of the knowledge of God even though mankind is without excuse as His invisible attributes are on display in the visible universe).

(21) Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Mankind has the visible evidence that there is a God right before his very literal eyes and yet turns away from it and goes off in his own way in his own empty imagination.

Now mankind needs the Light of the knowledge of God (let there be Light) so that the eyes of his understanding maybe opened in order to know Him.

(22) Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

In Him we live and move and have our being in this visible creation. The visible evidence that there is a God (I AM) is readily seen, but now the darkened heart of mankind needs the "Unknown God" explained to him in knowledge.

Acts 17:28-29 KJV (28) For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.

We are His offspring. Yet, mankind vainly worships the “Unknown God” through their respective handwritings of ordinances (dogmas) graven by “art and man’s device” in the foolishness of his heart (yet man professes himself as “wise” with his own written representations of God) so that he may worship and serve them more than the Creator.

(29) Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.

Thanks for reading and considering.

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The original sequence with God being created was the intent of the writers. The translators try to change it, but the truth emerges. The first prime beginning created God heaven and earth. Pretty simple except for the devil. The beginning is the author of the creation. I am the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. The Elohim are created by the beginning, a concept that requires more knowledge. Tie in the firmament and now we see a finite earth and heaven, alpha and omega. Sorry dudes your entire concept of god earth and space is wrong.

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