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The Grammar behind the Genesis Gap.

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Question #1:   Dear Dr. Robert D. Luginbill.  I found your paper in defense of the Genesis Gap to be straightforward and excellent, and, if I may say so, I concur. You have answered all arguments against the Genesis Gap to the letter. I would like to know though more about how to you refute the three circumstantial clause argument. Young (Introduction to the Old Testament) believes that there are three circumstantial clauses in Genesis 1:2 and connects them to Genesis 1:3, not Genesis 1:1 . This separates them from Genesis 1:1. In his famous article, M.F. Unger saw the three circumstantial clauses as placed in the gap before Genesis 1:1. ALL the late Hebrew scholars who held for the Genesis Gap either saw another clause beginning Genesis 1:2a, such as an adversative clause, or believed that the circumstantial clauses had no change of subject.

Response #1:  Thanks for your kind comments. As to your questions, I am familiar with Unger's article and believe that its point of view is quite telling (see also his comments in his Commentary on the Old Testament in. loc.). Unger has it all correct - except for the grammar, in my view. Finding a pre-gap, as Unger does, solves the problem of a universe created by a perfect God yet somehow in a state of chaos, of problems with the geological record, and of the problem of the time necessary for angelic revolt, but it requires us to dilute the meaning of bara` (“created”) in Genesis 1:1, and overlooks the essential points of grammar, especially the strong adversative force of the first clause at the start of Genesis 1:2 (with waw plus a noun, rather than a verb). Unger draws upon John 1:1 as a parallel, but it seems to me clear that John's en arche (“in the beginning”) is being there used as the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew bereshith in Genesis 1:1 (they are identical prepositional phrases, after all). If so, both phrases should pre-date or signal the absolute beginning of creation (the most natural way to take these words in any case, even in an English translation).

Young's connecting of the "three clauses" to Genesis 1:3 is not in itself grammatically wrong (although Biblical Hebrew is very linear in its syntax, and while it often summarizes and looks forward logically, does not generally anticipate future syntax the way we sometimes see in Greek with, for example, a long deferred de following an original men). Young of course does not see a gap, but by his connecting of Genesis 1:2 and its clauses (however we are to count them) with Genesis 1:3, it seems to me that ipso facto he saw and was pointing out the fact that there was both a logical and a grammatical separation between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. But Young doesn't take the next step of adequately explaining why separation is there and what it might mean.

Unger realized that what Young said about the conditions in Genesis 1:2 (i.e., that these conditions "had existed from the point of absolute creation") could not be theologically accurate. In a way, I suppose if one combines Young's grasp of the grammar with Unger's grasp of the theology, one comes to the conclusions advanced in part 2 of Satanic Rebellion: the Genesis Gap, namely, that between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 falls all of unrecorded pre-history, and that the Hebrew is signaling this loud and clear to anyone willing to pay attention.

In our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #2: 

Would you conclude that the first clause of Genesis 1:2 is that of a adversative clause?

Response #2:  I would prefer to call it a disjunctive clause (see T.O. Lambdin, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew, para. 132-136). One may call it adversative - I don't really have a problem with that as long the interpretation which follows is correct (cf. 1Kng.22:38 for a particularly clear example, whatever the name). But in Hebrew one can understand a clause as adversative even with a waw consecutive (or “conversive”). The term "disjunctive" makes it clear that there is a clear grammatical indicator right in front of here clearly showing that we are not to take the clause as a continuation of the narrative. It also is, to my view, not so much a function of whether the clauses in Gen.1:2 are adding circumstantial information, but the time frame of the application of that information. I have tried to make the point in this study that - short of spelling out here in a detailed prose description the specifics of the angelic rebellion that resulted in the divine judgment we see in Gen.1:2 - there is no more clear way of indicating a change of the prior circumstances and a break in the narrative than the disjunctive construction used at the beginning of Gen.1:2: weha`arets / “BUT the earth [had become]”. . . The grammatical schemata used by scholars for discussing Latin and Greek is, it is fair to say, more highly evolved than that used for Biblical Hebrew, and there are many reasons for that. What each has in common, however, is the fact that often the true meaning of a passage is impossible to discern merely by application of grammatical canons (which, after all, represent a model of normal usage that is only of value when one applies and compares said model with a certain measure of art to difficult situations like we have here). This is a long way of saying that I try to avoid getting "married" to particular grammatical theories, especially in Hebrew, when it is the text itself in toto which has produced the (necessarily less than perfect) theories of grammar in the first place. In other words, what we are doing here is understanding the text - the grammatical explanations we use are the way we explain our understanding of that text (rather than the sole basis of that explanation). If our understanding of the text is reasonable and correct, then it will likely fit at least broadly into accepted ways of talking about the text grammatically - unless, as is sometimes the case, especially in Hebrew, the grammatical theory still needs to be refined. I like Lambdin's way of thinking about these constructions because it is helpful for seeing, understanding, and explaining what is really there (here in Gen.1:2 and in other similar instances). After all, there was a time when readers of the original could understand exactly what the Hebrew meant in all its implications and they like native speakers of ancient Greek and Latin did not, for the most part, bother about assigning grammatical names anymore than we generally do when we scratch our heads when trying to understand a particularly complicated English paragraph. Rather, we, like they before, apply the native fund of our understanding of that language in all its particulars that as educated native speakers we have at our almost subconscious mental disposal. So when we approximate this in Biblical Hebrew millennia after the fact, we are forced to employ the philological methodology discussed above (and I am strong supporter of it), but we should never lose sight of what the objective is: complete understanding of the text as Hebrew in Hebrew (in order to make it accessible to non-Hebrew speakers). Grammatical explanations can inform this process (and are helpful after the fact to explain to ourselves and others exactly how we justify our translations/interpretations), but they should not be allowed to dominate it. 

Please also see the following links:

The Genesis Gap.

The Shape of the Universe, Hominids, and the Genesis Gap.

Questioning the Genesis Gap

Whatever Happened to the Genesis Gap?

Where Can I Find More Information on the Genesis Gap?

Ex Nihilo Creation

Tohu in Genesis 1:2

In our Lord.

Bob L.


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