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In Gen 1:1, some translation say 'heavens' and others say 'heaven.' Which one is correct?

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    הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם (hassamayim) is the dual of an unused singular from an unused root meaning 'to be lofty'. see Strong 8064.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jan 3 at 19:46
  • @Awo Amo since the process is just beginning there is little information at the point of the first verse. My KJV says heaven ( singular ) as the creation continues in the following days more information is given. Since heaven or heavens are infinite your question is not easily answered based on the first verse only. You may have to be more specific on when.
    – RHPclass79
    Commented Jan 3 at 19:49
  • Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Jan 3 at 19:50
  • Paul in 2 Cor 12:2 alluded to idea of multiple heavens(1st, 2nd and 3rd heaven). And in other passages of scripture(2 Chr 6:18, Ps 115:16, Duet 10:14), same idea is also suggested. As I understand the creation account in Genesis 1:1-, the first verse is a grand summary of what's decscribed in subsequest verses and continuing in Ch.2. Here's my question: Which heaven did God create in Gen 1:1 - the first or the second or all of them(however many there are)? Hope this clarifies the question.
    – Awo Amo
    Commented Jan 4 at 2:47
  • This is like asking what Clint Eastwood said to the helpless man lying on the ground before him, was it either "Do you feel lucky, punk? or was it Do you feel lucky punk? " Commented Jan 4 at 22:05

3 Answers 3

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Actually, in Hebrew, nouns have three forms of number - singular, dual and plural. English only has singular and plural. [Side note: classical Greek had singular, dual and plural but by the time of the NT Koine Greek, it only had singular and plural.]

The word in Hebrew for "heavens" in Gen 1:1, as in all places throughout the OT, is the dual form, הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם (shamayim), literally "two heavens". [It never occurs in the singular form.] This noun can refer to any of the following:

  1. the atmosphere or air where birds fly, Gen 1:20, 2:19, Deut 4:17, etc.
  2. the starry heavens, Gen 15:5, Deut 4:19, etc.
  3. the abode of God, 1 Kings 8:30, Ps 2:4, etc.

Note that the Hebrews made no distinction between these three ideas as we do today.

[Side note: In the NT the equivalent word is οὐρανός (ouranos) which can occur in both singular (eg, Matt 5:18, 34, 6:10, 20, etc.), or plural (the most common, eg, Matt 3:2, 16, 17, 4:17, 5:3, 10, 12, 16, 19, 20, etc. Indeed, the NT writers appear to make no difference between the singular and plural form of οὐρανός]

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  • A rabbi I knew in my grad school days, commenting on the idea of "the third heaven" (mentioned by Paul), said that in second temple Judaism the tripartite heaven as you indicated above was standard.
    – Traildude
    Commented Jan 15 at 23:43
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In English, the word heaven can be pluralized, but in Hebrew, there is only one form, and this form ends with the morpheme that generally marks the plural in the Hebrew language. So the Hebrew word שָׁמַיִם does not have a singular form, it only exists in this form, which is why most translators translate "heavens". ׁׁׁׁׁ

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It is heavens, plural. Except the original word was one which doesnt have a singular and plural version. Almost like how we use the word deer. There is only the one word by which we change its meaning thru context. That's the best example I could think of sorry.

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    Commented Jan 5 at 13:55

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