Gen. 1.1-3 And Discourse Grammar

A quick back up and very brief introduction to aspects of discourse grammar.


Gen. 1.1-3

1 ⇐בראשׁית ברא אלהים את השׁמים ואת הארץ

2a⇐⇐⇐ והארץ היתה תהו ובהו

2b⇐⇐⇐ וחשׁך על פני תהום

2c⇐⇐ ורוח אלהים מרחפת על פני האמים

 3a ויאמר אלהים

 3b יהי אור

3c⇐⇐⇐ ויהי אור

1 ⇒In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth

2a ⇒⇒⇒And the earth was formless and void

2b ⇒⇒⇒And darkness was upon the face of the deep

2c ⇒⇒And the spirit of God was hovering upon the face of the waters

3a And God said

3b Let there be light

3c ⇒⇒⇒And there was light

I have inserted arrows at the beginning of clauses to demonstrate tabs which I am not sure how to do on FB. What the tabs show is varying degrees of primacy in the text – i.e., mainline clause and supporting clauses. The clauses without tabs are the mainline clauses as shown by the specific Hebrew verb form. Clausal forms and elements are the grammatical clues to the hierarchy of the clauses in their relationship to each other and to the overall text. In this text we have a mainline narrative text and a mainline hortatory (imperatival) clause (3a, 3c); a background action clause (1), a back ground activities clause (2c) and three setting clauses (2a, 2b, 3c).

In evaluating a text I normally remove the verse markers to get rid of any influence of the versifier and evaluate the text as a literary block. When done this way it can be seen how the text was meant to be read.

The grammatical markers (clausal structure mainly) are the indicators that the author used to show how he wanted the text to flow and what the main point was and what was backgrounding and support structures. I find it useful to think of a stage or a movie scene. You have the background or setting of the stage or scene. Then you have the background activities-things movie around giving more contextual information. Then you have back ground action – things happening closer to the front of the stage but not quite the main action. Then, closest to the audience and in focus you have the main action. The author of a text sets the stage and demonstrates the action by his clausal elements and structures.

The creation at the beginning (1) sets up what is to follow but did it in such a way as to provide background action to the main action – the creation of light. 2a-c gives the state of the creation prior to the creation of light; it provides the setting and background activity to the stage structure before the main action.

The main action is God speaking light into existence. It is very distinct in the Hebrew text by virtue of the verb form and the fact that that form is always found at the front of the clause.

1-2 is all background and setting. Structured the way it is it can take up any amount of time – microseconds to billions of years. The grammar of the text allows that. Day 1 does not begin until 3a. If you look at the rest of Gen 1 each day begins the same – and God said . . . ; and ends the same – there was evening, there was morning, day umptifratz.

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