Saturday, December 28, 2013

Dialogues with Michael Coogan (Genesis 1:2)

Michael Coogan (The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures) makes another claim about the opening verses of Genesis, particularly, Genesis 1:2. He maintains that the word usually translated "deep" in that passage does not have the definite article in Hebrew, therefore, it should be rendered without the definite article in English.

"Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters" (Gen 1:2 NIV).

The Hebrew term that is rendered "the deep" is תְּהוֹם (tehom) which is also translated "the great deep" in Gen 7:11 (KJV), etc. Robert Alter also uses the definite article at Gen 1:2 in his translation: "and the earth then was welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God's breath hovering over the waters"

Many other examples could be given where a noun does not have the article in Hebrew or Greek, but it's still definite rather than indefinite or qualitative. A famous example we have from the LXX Greek text is Gen 1:1 which employs the anarthrous noun for "beginning" but should be understood as definite "the beginning."

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