Gen. 1:27

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Posted: Wed, Jan 11 2012 3:02 AM

In Gen. 1:27, the first "created" is imperfect in Hebrew and the second "created" is perfect. My question is, why is the imperfect verb translated "created" (past tense) if it is imperfect? Is there a grammatical reason? Nearly all English Bibles translate as "created", but I'm thinking it is for reasons other than strict translation.

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Fred Chapman | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 4:04 AM

imperfect The prefixed conjugation in Hebrew. The prefixed conjugation denotes the imperfective aspect of the verb. That is, it views the action of the verb from the "inside" or from the perspective of the action’s unfolding. This imperfective aspect can speak of (depending on context) habitual actions, actions in progress, or even completed actions that have unfolding, ongoing results. The term "imperfective" does not refer to tense, though. Biblical Hebrew does not have tense like English or Greek (time of action is conveyed by context). "Imperfective" refers to the kind of action being described, not the time of the action. An action can be viewed in process in the past ("was walking"), the present ("is walking"), or even the future ("will be walking"). When the context dictates, the prefixed conjugation also conveys the indicative mood, the mood of reality. This conjugation is often referred to as the yiqtol conjugation.

Heiser, Michael S. Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology. Logos Bible Software, 2005; 2005.

perfect The suffixed conjugation in Hebrew. The suffixed conjugation denotes the perfective aspect of the verb. That is, it views the action of the verb from an "outer" perspective, the perspective of seeing or thinking of the action of the verb as a whole and complete, without respect to the time of the action. The perfect conjugation conveys the totality of an action without dividing up its chronological processes. The Hebrew Perfect, then, is not a tense, a grammatical term that speaks of the time of the verb’s action (past, present, future, etc.). Biblical Hebrew does not have tense like English or Greek (time of action is conveyed by context). Perfective aspect refers to a kind of action, not the time of the action. An action in Hebrew may be viewed or conceived as entire even if that action has not yet taken place. When the context dictates, the suffix conjugation also conveys the indicative mood, the mood of reality. This conjugation is often referred to as the qatal conjugation.

Heiser, Michael S. Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology. Logos Bible Software, 2005; 2005.

 

1:27 "God created" There is a threefold use (Qal IMPERFECT followed by two Qal PERFECTS) of the term bara (BDB 127) in this verse, which functions as a summary statement as well as an emphasis on God’s creation of humanity as male and female. This is printed as poetry in NRSV, NJB and acknowledged so in NIV footnote. The term bara is only used in the OT for God’s creating.

Utley, Robert James Dr. Vol. Vol. 1A, How It All Began: Genesis 1-11. Study Guide Commentary Series. Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International, 2001.

 

 

 

 

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 4:12 AM

David Paul:
Nearly all English Bibles translate as "created", but I'm thinking it is for reasons other than strict translation.

I will happily abstain from the theological implications of what it means to be translated one way or the other.  

I will point out that some Bible students hold the text to be of divine authorship and the original is written that way by God for a purpose. While other Bible students hold that the text is nothing more than a fabrication of men. If the later is the case, it is probably a "boo-boo." If the former is the case, the Author probably said what He meant & meant what He said.

As for why English translators change what the original said;   Don't go there. I got in hot water for questioning their motives. Wink

If I can ever figure out the difference in meaning between the terms "Bible student" and "Bible Scholar" I will probably get along fine in this world. 

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 1:33 PM

To supplement what Fred said, note the use of the imperfect in English does not have a one-to-one relationship with the use of the imperfect in Hebrew.  From Wikipedia:

"The imperfect, often inaccurately called the imperfect tense in the classical grammars of several Indo-European languages, denotes a grammatical combination of past tense and imperfective aspect, and so may be more precisely called past imperfective. In English, the term refers a form of the verb that combines past tense with similar aspects, such as incomplete, continuous, habitual, or coincident with another action."

Unfortunately, I don't know how to create a morphological search that would tell be how often a Hebrew imperfect is translated as an English simple past ... but that would certainly be a fun feature. (hint, hint) Big Smile

Your question doesn't appear to be addressed by the commentaries in my library.

 

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Niko | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 1:39 PM

Wayyiqtol / consecutive imperfect is not the same as regular imperfect.

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 5:49 PM

For clarity's sake, I understand that there is not an equivalence between Hebrew perfect and English past.

The purpose of what I said was that Hebrew imperfect, as far as I know, DOESN'T translate as English past...and yet in this verse it is so translated in nearly every English version. As ST hinted at, the implications of this issue, if they go in the direction it seems to be moving, are massively profound from a theological perspective.

Niko may be able to provide the explanation I am seeking that settles things where they currently reside, but saying only

Niko:

Wayyiqtol / consecutive imperfect is not the same as regular imperfect.

doesn't really provide a satisfactory explanation. Maybe Vincent can weigh in on this?

Btw, Fred, I appreciate your quote from Utley. It at least speaks to the existence of this issue, though it doesn't really address its meaning and implications.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 6:53 PM

David Paul:
The purpose of what I said was that Hebrew imperfect, as far as I know, DOESN'T translate as English past...and yet in this verse it is so translated in nearly every English version.

Putting together what has been said by yourself, Fred, ST and myself, I'm still unclear as to what distinction you want in the English. It appears to me that the same consecutive imperfect is translated as a simple past "said" in Gen 1:3. Looking through the results of the search below, it appears that a simple past is a common translation for the consecutive imperfect. If I had more Jewish commentaries, this seems like the type of discrepancy they might address.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Vincent Setterholm | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 8:14 PM

David Paul:

Niko:

Wayyiqtol / consecutive imperfect is not the same as regular imperfect.

doesn't really provide a satisfactory explanation. Maybe Vincent can weigh in on this?

Niko's Laconic reply points in the right direction. The wayyiqtol is the default way of indicating a narrative sequence. In this case the sequence is "and God said..." [verse 26] "and God created..." [27] "and God blessed...and God said..." [28]. The other instances of 'create' in verse 27 are in apposition to the first - the text isn't indicating that first mankind was made THEN it was made in God's image and then finally it was made male and female, but rather describing a single act of creation wherein mankind is both in God's image and has two genders.

Super Tramp:
If the later is the case, it is probably a "boo-boo."

There's nothing actually unusual about the Hebrew here.

The quote from Mike's glossary was only attempting to define the yiqtol, not the wayyiqol (when a waw-consecutive is prefixed to the imperfect verb), so don't let that throw you.

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 8:40 PM

See, this is just one of those situations where beating around the bush doesn't flush the bird. The possible meaning that I perceive as coming out of this verse is rather straight forward, if it is plausible grammatically. So that is the issue. But the meaning would be, "God creates / is creating man in His own image [CONTINUING], in the image of God He created Him [FINISHED]; male and female he created them [FINISHED]."

In other words, the act of making man like God is an ON-GOING action, one that was understood as unfinished when Creation week was ended. Part of the "likeness" was completed and part was not. This obviously produces many implications.

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 8:52 PM

I understand waw consecutive as a rule, but can someone explain WHY one would choose the imperfect aspect to convey a perfect action?

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Vincent Setterholm | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 9:47 PM

David Paul:
WHY one would choose the imperfect aspect to convey a perfect action?

It can be helpful not to get too caught up on those labels. We could call them 'the blue tense/aspect' and 'the red tense/aspect' and then examine how they are actually used. Many modern grammars do exactly that when they define a conjugation as yiqtol or wayyiqtol (that is simply labeling according to the pattern of vowels and prefixes without ascribing a semantic value to the label itself) or Anglicizing with terms like 'prefixed conjugation', rather than using terms borrowed from classical (Greek and Latin) philology that can be misleading or even incorrect. All that is another way of saying that it is very unlikley that the decision process going through the head of the author of Genesis 1:27 was anything resembling "choosing the imperfect aspect", and much closer to intuitively (as a native speaker) picking the right (expected) tense/aspect for narrative storytelling.

I'd recommend running a search for wayyiqtols and just reading through as many as you need to until it becomes plain that this is the most common way to indicate a series of events happening more or less in sequence.

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jan 11 2012 11:04 PM

There may be no correlation between the Hebrew phenomenon we've been discussing and the Greek one presented below, but as the discussion developed, the concept of the Greek historical present came to mind.

Lk. 16      29     “But Abraham *said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’                  30     “But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’                  31     “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

* A star (*) is used to mark verbs that are historical presents in the Greek which have been translated with an English past tense in order to conform to modern usage. The translators recognized that in some contexts the present tense seems more unexpected and unjustified to the English reader than a past tense would have been. But Greek authors frequently used the present tense for the sake of heightened vividness, thereby transporting their readers in imagination to the actual scene at the time of occurence. However, the translators felt that it would be wise to change these historical presents to English past tenses. New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Lk 16:29-31). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

Literally, verse 29 should read "But Abraham says, 'They have Moses...

I personally think that there is more to this grammatical practice than what is mentioned in the note above. I think that in the cases where it is used, it usually calls upon the reader (regardless of when in the future they may later read) to prophetically (in a sense) envision placing themselves in that context. The language is thus intended to be in a sense "timeless". Rather than transporting the reader BACK, the language propells itself FORWARD to the reader.

It seems to me that someone could look at some of these Hebrew constructions in a similar fashion. In the Luke verses, the first "say" is "present" and the next two are "past", which is not unlike the pattern of "create" in Gen. 1:27. I realize there is more to grammar than just patterns, but for some reason these similarities grabbed my attention. Input?

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Vincent Setterholm | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jan 12 2012 9:29 AM

David Paul:
There may be no correlation between the Hebrew phenomenon we've been discussing and the Greek one presented below

I think that's true. In Greek, the aorist tense is the default 'unmarked' way of telling a narrative sequence of events. If you look at the whole parable starting in verse 19, the stage is set using a variety of tenses (imperfect, pluperfect, participles in other tenses) - these aren't 'events' in a narrative sequence, but rather describing the conditions at the beginning of the story. Then the narrative proceeds from verse 22 using mainly* the aorist tense to describe the sequential events. So the isolated historical present in verse 29 stands out as a way of signaling to the hearer/reader 'pay attention, the punch line is coming'. (* The one other present tense 'sequential' verb in this parable is in verse 23, signaling the start of the what the man in Hades sees - another 'pay attention' moment. I note with curiosity that Dr. Runge didn't tag this instance as a historical present in LDGNT, as he does the present tense verb in verse 29 - perhaps that is to do with the way the present tense in 23 relates to the preceding participles, but I'll have to ask him.)

Contrasting with the Hebrew passage: in Luke 16:29, we do have a sequence of events: Abraham said X, then he [the rich man] said Y, then he [Abraham] said Z, and the first verb is 'marked' by using a different tense than expected. However, in the Hebrew example, the first verb is unmarked, using the expected form for narrative events in sequence, and the following verbs are outside of the sequence. So I can't see any connection here.

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Ruminator | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jan 12 2012 4:59 PM

"Created" is a bogus word. Nothing is "created", only "made" or "formed" (in scripture). In philosophy, yes, but in scripture no.

If you replace "created" (which suggests instant fiat) with "made" you can simply use the imperfect: "the god was forming man into a statue of himself.."

He was clearly *sculpting*. He bent his knee (god is a manlike deity who lives in the sky), not uttering commands from the sky.

The "original languages" rarely resolve problems, they just seem to introduce new ones (in the hands of most).

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jan 12 2012 5:27 PM

Vincent Setterholm:
 
Super Tramp:
If the later is the case, it is probably a "boo-boo."
 There's nothing actually unusual about the Hebrew here. The quote from Mike's glossary was only attempting to define the yiqtol, not the wayyiqol (when a waw-consecutive is prefixed to the imperfect verb), so don't let that throw you. 

Thank you for caring enough to share. But I an not only NOT a Hebrew scholar, I am not even a novice. Big Smile I was just assuming that if Hebrew had a differentiation, there had to be a reason one was used rather than the other.  I enjoy reading these threads because those who do spend time reading the Hebrew find so many nuances in meaning that translators never get into the English

I am sure my application of English, Japanese or Greek grammar to the Hebrew probably distorts more than it helps. Pay no real attention to my mumblings about Hebrew. I'm just a beginner. Wink

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Lynden Williams | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jan 12 2012 6:37 PM

Super Tramp:
Pay no real attention to my mumblings about Hebrew. I'm just a beginner. Wink

At least you are a beginner, I have not started creeping as yet.

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Josh | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jan 12 2012 9:30 PM

WoundedEgo:

"Created" is a bogus word. Nothing is "created", only "made" or "formed" (in scripture). In philosophy, yes, but in scripture no.

If you replace "created" (which suggests instant fiat) with "made" you can simply use the imperfect: "the god was forming man into a statue of himself.."

He was clearly *sculpting*. He bent his knee (god is a manlike deity who lives in the sky), not uttering commands from the sky.

The "original languages" rarely resolve problems, they just seem to introduce new ones (in the hands of most).

I have always had a philosophical issue with the idea of fiat creation. Please point out where my thinking is flawed. In my mind, true "absolute nothingness" and "non-existence" are the same thing. However, since God is omnipresent and eternal - there has always been existence. Therefore, non-existence (or absolute nothingness) is a non-reality. There has never been "nothing". How can God create from nothing if there is no such thing as nothing?

 

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jan 12 2012 10:35 PM

Joshua G:

WoundedEgo:

"Created" is a bogus word. Nothing is "created", only "made" or "formed" (in scripture). In philosophy, yes, but in scripture no.

If you replace "created" (which suggests instant fiat) with "made" you can simply use the imperfect: "the god was forming man into a statue of himself.."

He was clearly *sculpting*. He bent his knee (god is a manlike deity who lives in the sky), not uttering commands from the sky.

The "original languages" rarely resolve problems, they just seem to introduce new ones (in the hands of most).

There has never been "nothing". How can God create from nothing if there is no such thing as nothing?

I like your thinking! Question the status quo...it is ALWAYS wrong.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jan 12 2012 11:14 PM

Joshua G:
There has never been "nothing". How can God create from nothing if there is no such thing as nothing?

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex_nihilo

The wikipedia article gives you the 3 major alternatives:

  • creatio ex nihilo
  • creatio ex deo
  • creatio ex materia

You will see your particular logic path is not uncommon.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Ruminator | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jan 13 2012 4:45 AM

The scriptural term, though (if we accept "Peter" as scripture) is a different term altogether:

2Pe 3:5

 

 

For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth [dry land] standing out of the water [EX nHUDATOS] and in the water [DI hUDATOS] 
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