This is how the book of Genesis starts:

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ

There are two viable ways of reading this rather complicated verse.

  1. "In the beginning of god's creating [creation of] the heaven and earth." Alternatively: "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth." (NRSV)
  2. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."

The first one is popular among biblical scholars, partly because it makes the following verses subordinate upon the first and suggests that the chaotic abyss in verse 2 preceded god's act of creation (which fits well into the ANE cosmogonies). In any case, the second one is the most popular reading.

I read here that #2 is the traditional interpretation of the verse, since ברא is vowelized by the Masoretes "bara" (created) and not "b'ro" (to create) which would have been more natural in the #1.

My questions:

  1. Are there any arguments to counter the claim that according to Masoretic vowelization the verse necessarily reads like #2?
  2. since the LXX and the MT (accepted as prima facie) both choose to interpret like #2, does it prove without any doubt that this is how the verse was traditionally understood (in my view this would count as strong evidence for the accuracy of interpretation #2)?
  • The argument outlined (and questioned) in a prior Q&A accepts the Masoretic vocalization and translates something close to your first option. (As such, that question actually sort of provides an answer to this question by outlining just such an argument. Not sure if that is ground for "duplicate" status or not.)
    – Susan
    Feb 26, 2018 at 3:21
  • I misunderstood your question, so I deleted my answer.
    – user33515
    Feb 26, 2018 at 12:14
  • @Dɑvïd i am aware of that, and it doesn't answer my question!
    – bach
    Feb 26, 2018 at 14:46
  • @Susan i didn't see anything there that addresses my question (or anything about the Masoretic vowelization). Can you enlighten me?
    – bach
    Feb 26, 2018 at 14:51
  • 1
    Bach, despite your insistence that MT vocalization necessitates interpretation #2, it is without emendation of that vocalization that many scholars have seen warrant for alternatives closer to #1. One such argument is presented in the linked question. The cited VT paper transliterates the text and you can see that no emendation of MT is suggested. I'm not sure how to be clearer; please head to Biblical Hermeneutics Chat if needed.
    – Susan
    Feb 26, 2018 at 18:40


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