Biblical Cosmogony

BIB 6212: Biblical Cosmogony: Genesis Chapters 1 and 2

Bernard Revel Graduate School

Spring 2004: B. L. Eichler  

Original Syllabus


I. Text Tools




II. Commentaries





I. Ancient Near East

Texts in Translation:


II.   Literary Structure 

III. Modern Orthodox Jewish Thought 


I. Introductory Orientation

Goals and Scope of the Course:

Biblical and Mesopotamian Cosmogony:

II.   Close Reading of the Hebrew Text of Chapters 1-2

III.  Written Assignment One (due March 1) 

Other Biblical Creation Accounts:

IV.   Written Assignment Two (due March 29) 

V.    Written Assignment Three (due May 18) 


Chapter 1: 1

  1. 1. Syntax: What are the two positions regarding the syntactical relationship of the first verse to the other verses in the chapter?  

    1. Check the dictionaries for the different meanings of the term רֵאשִׁית.  

    2. Check the concordances for an understanding of the syntactical usage of the term רֵאשִׁית. Does it always appear in the construct state or are there examples of it appearing in an absolute state?

    3. If  רֵאשִׁית is a construct, to what is it constructed in our verse? 

  2. What are the semantic implications of the two different syntactic positions?

  3. Lexicography: Does the term בָּרָא have a special connotation?  

    1. Check the dictionaries for the meaning of the term בָּרָא in each of the stems (=binyanim) in which it occurs

    2. Check the concordances for the different usages of the related terms: בָּרָא, ysr, sh, by noting the direct objects of each of these verbal occurrences.

Chapter 1:2

  1. Lexicography: Determine the meaning of the following terms:  

    1. תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ

    2. תְהוֹם

    3. רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים

    4. מְרַחֶפֶת. 

After reviewing the commentaries, check dictionaries and concordances to see if you can further clarify their meaning.

Chapter 1:3-4

  1. Grammar: Consult the biblical grammars to discuss the morphology of the verbal forms:  

    1. וַיֹּאמֶר

    2. יְהִי

  2. Grammar: consult the biblical dictionaries and grammars to note the various meanings and usages of the particle כִּי in Biblical Hebrew. Determine the syntactical relationship of the particle כִּי within the verse.

    1. Read: A. Schoors, “The Particle כִּי,” Remembering all the way ... : A collection of Old Testament studies published on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the Oudtestamentisch Werkgezelschap in Nederland by B. Albrektson .et al., (Oudtestamentische studiën., 21) Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1981, 240-276

  3. Read the short note by J. Kugel, “The Adverbial Use of KI TOB,” Journal of Biblical Literature 99/3 (1980) 433-35. Do you agree with his translation of the verse?  

Chapter 1:5

  1. Lexicography: Consult the biblical dictionaries and concordances to understand the various meanings of the action קרא. 

  2. Syntax: Note the change in the verbal sequence in this verse. What does this syntactical change denote?

  3. Semantics: What does the clause וַיְהִי-עֶרֶב וַיְהִי-בֹקֶר denote? Read Stroes, “Does Day Begin in the Evening or in the Morning,” Vetus Testamentum 16 (1966) 460-75.  (Cassuto on verses 6-8)

  4. Lexicography: Is the term אֶחָד used only as a cardinal number or does it also function as an ordinal number?

Chapter 1: 6-8

  1. What does the term רָקִיעַ mean? First determine the basic semantic range of the verbal root רָקִיעַ; then determine the morphological pattern of the noun and the meaning of that nominal pattern (consult Jouon’s grammar, chapter 3 on noun patterns). 

  2. Is this conception of the creation of the heavens different from that found in Psalms 104:2 and Isaiah 40:22? 

  3. What is the contextual problem raised by the verb וַיַּעַשׂ? How is the problem answered by the commentaries?

  4. What is the meaning of the expression וַיְהִי-כֵן? 

  5. What does the term שָׁמָיִם connote?

Chapter 1:9-10