This year of 2018 will be my desire to share in 12 monthly parts my Reflections on the Bible. This first post is an Introduction to the whole, and to be followed monthly the Ten Parts, and a Conclusion at the end. Its been a long and precarious desire and plan over many years and several attempts. My hope and prayer is that others may find some light in the Reflections in the quest for truth and understanding as it is found in the Bible as God’s Word. I have reposted the Introduction along with the Genesis chapters 1-10, with minor additions and corrections. Since the blog pages are not designed for too many words and pages I will post them in increments or parts, about 10-20 pages at a time.
CHRISTIAN BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS
I am a Christian, now approaching 50 years in Christ, and now in my 65th year. I was 17 when a friend preached Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as Lord and Savior to me and I turned and believed and received new life in God. This conversion and rebirth immediately started me on a life long journey towards God and heaven, to good and better things, and continues still. My earliest memories of a desire to know God was when I was 11 in Sunday School, and reading a few pages of the Bible here and there, but without any understanding or deep impression. Then when I was 13 in a Jewish foster home in Los Angeles in southern California, I read Max Dimont’s “Jews, God, and History”, I asked serious searching questions of being, life and eternity; and I even desired to be a preacher. The Bible became my companion, and it was ‘guide to my feet and light to my path’. Along the way this Christian life involved me with many Protestant Churches, also with the Catholics and Orthodox, and the non-orthodox or heretical groups. Although my maternal grandfather was a Buddhist, being Chinese, yet I have no recollections of his Buddhism up to my 9th year; but my maternal grandmother, non-Chinese, was of some religious persuasion, 7th Day Adventist and perhaps of other Protestant persuasion, and there are faint memories in my mind. The Jewish faith of course I considered seriously from my 13th to 15th year, but rejected it, and soon religion and God. After my conversion I found myself always interacting with various religious adherents. I have had to consider and research Hinduism and Buddhism, and the Chinese doctrines of religion and philosophy; at least those represented in Max Mueller’s “Sacred Books of the East”. I have always continued to reflect on Islam and the Quran. Thus as a Christian, (and a Cobbler for some 45 years) after so many years with God’s Christ and His Book the Bible, I wish to share the fruit and result of my journey for others to benefit or at least consider and reflect for themselves.
The Bible is the Holy Book for Christians, it is the Holy Bible, the Sacred Scriptures, the Divine and Inspired Writings, and in a word the Word of God. Among Christians the Bible is a Library of many books and letters, in two parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament. It contains 39 Books in the Old and 27 in the New; the Old Testament or Covenant was in the original Hebrew and some Aramaic (Chaldean or Syriac). The New Testament or Covenant was originally in Greek. The Old Testament is called by the Hebrews or Jews, Israelites, the TaNaKh for the 3 parts it contains of the Law (Torah), the Prophets (Nebhiim), and the Writings (Khethubhim); they also call the Old Testament the Mikra, the Bible, the Scriptures and the Book or Scroll. The TaNak contains the 39 Books of the Christians but are arranged and numbered as 24 Books. Among the Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox Churches there are several Books or Additions that are called Deuterocanonical Books which were found in the LXX, Septuagint (70), Greek translation or version, which were treasured by Christians and preserved in the Canon, and then transmitted in the Latin (Jerome’s Vulgate) and Syriac (Peshitta), but rejected or abandoned by the Jews. Many of the versions of the early Reformation had the added Books, called the Apocryphal Books, in the Volume, but within a few centuries most Protestants also have excluded the Apocrypha from being bound and printed in the same volume of the official or authorized Canon or Inspired Books. The Catholics still print and use the Apocrypha as part of the Old Testament Canon.
The Bible as a Divine Library is a collection of many books, writings, of history, laws, chronologies, prophecies, biographies, poetry, sermons, and many other literary pieces. There were many writers or authors, scribes and prophets, apostles and teachers who were instrumental in the production and creation of the Sacred Volume. The Bible has come down to us in the Church and the Churches with many changes in form and dress, both the Text and the Edition have gone through many variations and alterations, some minor and others not, some orthodox and others heretical. Those who study these things in Biblical Criticism have constantly and regularly informed us of the many elements of the transmission of the Bible throughout the centuries. There are now hundreds and thousands of translations and versions of the Bible in hundreds of languages around the world. The original tongue of the Bible in Hebrew and Greek, with comparison to the ancient versions and the earliest modern versions will always help keep the more modern versions harnessed or bridled. The Bible is printed in many editions for reading, study, audio, and the like.
The Bible is a Mirror which reflects man in our human nature in relations to our divine nature. The Bible as God’s Word by the inspiration and operation of the Holy Spirit is Light that illumines our darkness as it enlightens our minds and hearts by its effects in our souls and spirits. Reflections are thoughts and views of understanding and interpretations in various ways and considerations. Biblical Reflections are those words and writings which help us hear and see the Bible as God’s Revelation and Communication to mankind as He has chosen to entertain us as His creatures and creation. The Bible is the Source and Resource of all our spiritual perceptions, and the Root and Core of all conceptions of eternal and divine things. Not the mere letter of Scripture, or the grammar of inspired writings, but what comes from God by His Spirit, and what is used by that same Spirit to help and guide us in the intended aim and goal of God, namely, to transform us to His image and likeness in all things. I am speaking here as a Christian who has occupied himself with the Holy Bible since 1969, and who with so many other Bible believers and lovers depend on the Book to lead us to life eternal in the Lord Jesus Christ according to the promises of God the Father.
Christian Biblical Reflections is filled with the treasury of Christians and others, who in writings or ministry have shared their great deposits of spiritual things to us all. In my own exploration of the Bible I have found help and insight in so many sources in as varied resources as may be found. Standard reference works of dictionaries and lexicons, commentaries and hermeneutical works, in essays and articles, in English original works and many more translated from other languages, and of course what little my skill in understanding those in other tongues. I never pursued or attained to professional scholarship or expertise in any specified Biblical Studies but have aimed to consult and benefit from those scholars which have contributed to various fields of study. In this regard it may be proper to lay before the reader those writings and works which have influenced my pursuit. In the Missionary Baptist Seminary (CMBI) I was introduced to basic and traditional study tools, including the Bible Languages of Hebrew and Greek, and to Baptist writers such as J.R. Graves, Ben M. Bogard, A.T. Robertson, and dozens of others. In the wider Christian world of scholarship or literature I was directed to scholars like: Bullinger, Darby, Schofield, Schaff, Edersheim, Ginsburg, Tregelles, Gesenius, Alford, Kalisch, Larkins, Rotherdam, Dake, and a host of others. Church History and the Church Fathers of the first seven centuries were emphasized. In time I continued to widen my knowledge of some of these writers and added many more as my interest grew as in the Bible commentators as Meyer, Delitzsch, and rabbinical or Jewish writers. In my studies I began from the first and the earliest to read the Bible daily, and to study it in English, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, with comparison of the text in Spanish, German, French, Italian, and later added a few more languages as I had time. This habit of reading continued to the present, now some 48 years, save over the past 30 years I slowly and regularly turned to audios in tapes, CDs, and mp3, or audio books as Audible and LibriVox to maintain a high repetition of going through the Bible some 200 times. As I got older, and my health more restricted I turned from the printed books and pages to the digital books and pages. I never intended to pursue such a strict and obsessive quest of learning, and in fact I on several occasions over the many years resisted and obstructed my own path and interest, which included getting rid of my library and starting over at least 5 times. Though my desire to know and learn, to explore and discover, to consider and reflect never abated or changed, I still found myself at odds with myself as a student and scholar. Even now it this last book I have now three times started and stopped, changed and altered both the way and content of this work.
The Text of the Bible in English has been AKJV of 1611 and its various revisions, especially ASV of 1910, and the NASB of the Lockman Foundation. I have, and use, or consulted many other editions and versions. The Hebrew Text of the Old Testament I follow is mostly the Massoretic edition, and I use the Biblia Hebraica in several editions from 1900s to the present; and of course, the Jewish editions of Koren and Messorah ArtScroll publishers. The Greek Text of the New Testament I follow in the Byzantine tradition but not shunning the other textual traditions. I suppose I use most often the Nestle-Aland edition. For the Greek LXX I use Rahlf’s, and the Greek Orthodox Byzantine editions. (I here add, that when I was a young Christian, I think 1971, I had a Bookbinder rebound my Hebrew Kittel’s and Greek Nestle-Aland together as one volume. In 1975 I sold most of my library, this volume was hard to part with, as well as a 5 volume Polyglot Bible set, which left me with saddened memories for years. But God cheered my heart of late when I procured the new printed edition of The Complete Hebrew-Greek Bible of the Hendrickson Publishers, ©2001, -08, 2017. The digital Polyglot Bible of Stier & Thiele I located a decade ago on Google Books and Internet Archives, along with several other valuable Polyglot Bibles, which may be found also under mjmselim or mikemjmselim pages and uploads or bookmarks at archive.org.) The Latin Vulgate editions is that of the Protestants and Catholics. I consult various Study Bibles or special editions that have become popular as Bullinger’s Companion Bible, Darby’s Translations and his Greek New Testament, Knoch’s Concordant Greek New Testament, the Jerusalem or Jerome Bible, the Recovery Version of the Living Stream, the NET Bible, and such like. And a final note or notice of digital tools and programs, which I availed myself as needs arose; and though I use many very good programs and software as Bible Helps, I must here acknowledge my dependence above all to the digital texts of Bibloi 8 (formerly Bible Windows 7) as my favorite and daily utility, and the others, both Christian, Jewish, and Muslim, as secondary, whether as computer software or internet resources. (In review of my Bible Reflections, I treated 8 Study & Reference Bibles in detail: 1. Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible: 2. Darby’s Synopsis of the Books of Bible: 2. Variorum Bibles of Cross-References and Scholarly Notes with Study Aids: 4. Bullinger’s Companion Bible. 4. Scofield’s Reference Bible: 5. Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible: 6. Jerusalem Bible: (French and English) a Roman Catholic Study Bible: 7. Lee’s Living Stream Recovery Version Bible: 8. NET Bible: (New English Translation) of Bible.org and netbible.com
The Bible is the Book of God symbolized by the Hands of God. The Two Hands are the Old and New Testaments. The One Hand has 5 Fingers or Key Books, and the Other Hand has 5 Fingers or Key Books. The Hands viewed from the front or palms reads from the Right to the Left but viewed from the reverse with palms down they are read in relations and correspondence. The 5 Fingers consist of a Thumb and 4 Fingers of different sizes, and the Two Hands each have like form and features to answer each other. The Thumb is the Great Finger, and the Two Thumbs are the Two Books that Begin and End the Book. When the Bible is read from historically it begins with Genesis and ends with Revelation. The 8 Books or Fingers are determined by the Two Great Thumbs or Fingers. As the Fingers of the Hands are of different sizes, so too, the Books are of different key or core values as to the Great Thumbs or Genesis and Revelation. When the Hands are held together with the palms facing downwards or outwards or forwards, the Two Thumbs touch each other; thus, Genesis and Revelation are side by side and the entire Bible is complete in this view dispensationally and relationally. If we cannot see the uniqueness and greatness of the Thumbs we will not be able to rightly or properly or wisely to assign and determine the other Key Books. The Key Books are the essential Books by which the Bible unfolds properly and clearly, which is symbolized by the Hands and Fingers. The Five Books of the Old Testament are: Genesis, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Isaiah, and Daniel. The Five Books of the New Testament are: John, Romans, Ephesians, Hebrews, and Revelation. When the Hands are closed together as in Prayer, where each finger touches the matching fingers we have the relations and correspondence. Each Key Book is connected to those other Books in relations to God’s purpose and revelation as it is made known in the Volume and Text. When the Hands are held in different forms as Fists, or interlocked, or one covering the other, the symbol and relationship changes accordingly, and thus are views and interpretations are altered in those ways likewise. My reflections of the Bible will attempt to survey and display the Word of God as I have been led and influenced to see and understand in this Manual Form and Divine Symbol.
Within the Reflections of the Bible in Two Testaments or Covenants as the Hands of God and Word of God we will relate the Genesis or Generation with the Revelation not only as in the Ten Parts but will also view the whole in the figure of the Lampstand or Candlestick or Menorah. As with the Ten Words of the Decalogue on Two Tables, each Table contains 5 Words or Commands or Laws, so too the Bible. As in mathematics (and we may say in many primitive signs of expressions or communication, simple marks, dots, strokes, knots, notches, and wedges (as in Cuneiform writing or script), and our fingers) in the Roman Numeral signs of I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, and X, each having their own distinct symbol or character, so too the Bible Books. The V and the double V or X, like the Thumbs of the Hands, govern the other four numbers of each set. In like manner the Menorah of the Tabernacle reflects and relates to the Creation Week of the Seven Days, and these in turn symbolically and parabolically, in a dispensational way, picture the Divine Outline of the Divine Word as it is in the Bible. Further the Seven Dispensations or Lamps or Lights are governed in Three Dispensations or Streams of Creation and Judgment and Salvation, with Three Properties or Kingdom or Lots or Estates of the Land or Place, of the Man or People, and of the Book or Scroll or the Word as the Seed. With these many other details and elements will surface as we explore and research the Bible. (A note to my previous writings of Reflections, Christian Reflections, and Bible Reflections, which are not now consciously followed in this work; rather I have allowed the changes of my views and doctrine to surface and flow as they will. I have decided not to shun my prior labor and publishing of my understanding as a Christian, but to freely incorporate from those writings whatever might be useful and true that applies to this endeavor and ministry of the word. And though I have no plans to commercialize my work as the author (neither have I ever copyrighted any of my writings for the past 40 years; but I do not despise or resent those authors and publishers who do so, it is their right), since it was never pursued for monetary reasons, I therefore release and publish it as common and public domain, leaving it to God and everyone’s own conscience to use it without plagiarism or misrepresentations. (mjm, also pseudonym, mjmselim.)
Part I: GENESIS – DEUTERONOMY:
GENESIS: 1-2: Creation Week
The Bible begins with Genesis relating and reporting that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” These Ten Words in our English Bible (AKJV, etc) reveal to us the Creation and the Creator. In the Hebrew Bible the Jews call this book Bereshith (Bereseis) after the first word of the first verse: “Bereshith bara Elohim eth hashammayim weth haaretz,” which are seven words which extend to 11 words or elements. Our knowledge of the authorship of the Book of Genesis comes to us from the Christian and Jewish tradition, which we see attested to in the Bible as we read in later books. The testimony of Scripture is that Moses wrote or authored Five Books, which the Greeks called the Pentateuch which are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Genesis never records Moses authorship, or anything of Moses personally, which first comes to our attention in Exodus. What we read in Genesis is the origin of the world from its creation to the Israelites migrating to and residing in Egypt. This story of Creation and the Hebrew People or Nation of Israel is one connected whole, or a continuum and connectivity, that is, interconnected and related to each person, place, and thing. The Mosaic authorship is suppressed to magnify the Divine Author, Who reveals His Version and Story of the Divine Origins and History of His Creation, Judgment, and Salvation. How do we know this? The first two verses of Genesis reveal this to us, which after revealing the Creation, it says: “and the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” We see besides creation the condition or state of imperfection or incompleteness, be it embryonic or catastrophic, it is visually a contrast to what it will be and of what it was. But we must not move too quickly ahead of the Text.
The Creation Week consists of 7 Days in chapter 1 and beginning of chapter 2, the details of each day given in such a way that we see order and progression. We cannot understand verses 1 & 2 in chapter 1 if we do not consider the entire creation week, and by extension the entire Book of Genesis and the Old Testament and the Bible. As we have the Bible in the form that has come down to us, we have it so interdependent that if we unweave it too much we lose the garment and have only threads. Of course, it was weaved with threads and design, but we are not to value the manufacturing process to the lost or disregard of the end product. The Creator as God does not appear to us as the Author or Writer externally, for the author and writer, namely Moses, quotes or cites God as speaking and doing. The 7 days are numbered and detailed as: Day One of the 1st Day: Light and Darkness or Day and Night; Day Two: Waters Divided or Firmament or Expanse or Heaven; Day Three: Dry Land or Earth and Gathered Waters or Seas with Vegetation of Seeds; Day Four: Lights in the Heavens to light the Earth; the Greater Light or Sun to govern the Day, and the Lesser Light or Moon to govern the Night; and the Stars; Day Five: Fishes and Birds, Creatures or Animals in the waters and the air; Day Six: Land Animals or Creatures; Man or Adam in God’s image and likeness, male and female, to dominate animals all living creatures; and Day Seven, the Sabbath or God’s Day of Rest. Each and all the days were good and blessed in their own peculiar way. The Creation Work was finished and ready for something new and other. The first day answers to the seventh, the middle day is the 4th, and the other days correspond to their mate accordingly; that is, day two answers to day six, and day three to day five. In like manner many have ignored the 7th Day and only compared the 6 Days to discover some relations and mystery. Each Bible reader as student or scholar will find hidden things that answers to their own quest.
We return to reflect on the first two verses of Genesis. We read of new things in words that will create a Divine Dictionary or Vocabulary composed of a Divine Alphabet of spiritual things which answer to, and in contrast to, natural things as from one Creator and Author. Words as beginning, God, created, heaven(s), earth, form, void, darkness, deep, God’s Spirit and spirit (Wind or wind), water(s), light, and all the words that follow. We are not given the meanings and definitions beforehand, but rather the use and sense are developed in the story or account as it develops and evolves. We are not instructed about many things which naturally and spiritually relate to the things written and read. Grammar is not explained, chronologies not interpreted, and all kinds of literary devices and departments of knowledge and science not differentiated and categorized; but instead we learn as we go and live. This feature or property of Divine Inspiration allows and demands hearts to seek and explore the Word in the words to understand the facts and its truth. Thus we, as so many others before us and around us, are all related and dependent in this great pursuit of Divine Knowledge. So too, our need to consider always what the Synagogue or Church in their traditions have taught us in the hermeneutics or interpretations of the Scriptures. In like manner we must never reject or despise wisdom and insight in our biblical studies and reflections.
Genesis 1: 1-2 declares a Creation and its Creator. In Hebrew the verse commences with ‘Bereshith’ or ‘be-reshith’ or ‘b’reshith’ (I use the pronunciation as academic, and not a colloquial variant of German or Spanish influence, or others), which is translated usually with a preposition, ‘in’. But because the Hebrew text has no definite article (ha, the) prefixed to the word ‘reshith’ (beginning, starting, commencing, at-head-of) we are told that some understand the Text to mean something other than what it as been commonly understood. The Hebrew grammarians tell us that there is a feature and form in Hebrew that is called a construct state which alters the sense and interpretation in syntax or usage, but then there are other grammarians who reject this novelty. As an example of this recurrent problem in biblical hermeneutics we will consider Kalisch, in agreement with Gesenius grammatical rules and views, on the passage:
(From: Kalisch’s Historical Critical Commentary, Old Testament, New Translation, Genesis, 1879, p.55-56):
“Philological Remarks. — Although the two first verses must not be separated, too close a connection between them is not intended; it is not necessary to translate— “In the beginning, when God created heaven and earth, the earth was,” etc., and to read with Rashi (‘bero’) instead of (‘bara’). For it is an erroneous opinion of ancient interpreters that the noun (‘reshith’) is only used in the status constructus. It matters little that it indeed occurs forty-three times in that form; for “the beginning” is a relative notion, and requires generally a complement, as we have, in fact, in our instance to supply — ” in the beginning of all things;” or that our text reads (‘bereshith’) not (‘barashith’, ‘borashith’), for it is here intended to express the unlimited, indefinite commencement of matter; (‘reshith’) is here the reverse of (‘echrith’), in the current phrase, (‘beachrith haiyamim’) (49:1; Isa.2:2, etc.; Aquila (‘enkephalaiö’); and it occurs several times in the status absolutus, for instance, (‘qorban reshith’) (Lev.2:12); (‘waiyr reshith lo’) (Deut.33:21; see also Ps. 105:36; Neh.12:44; Isa.46:10). Ebn Ezra, in, order to explain the finite verb (‘bara’) after the supposed status constructus (‘bereshith’), quotes two instances which he considers analogous—
1. (‘techillath dibber YY”) (Hos.1:2); but this phrase is rather parallel with Job 18:21, and Ps.81:.6, where the stat. constr. is to be accounted for by the omission of the demonstrative pronoun,” the beginning of that which the Lord spoke,” an ellipsis perfectly inapplicable here; and
2. (‘qiryath chanah dawidh’) (Isa.29:1); but here the relative pronoun is omitted before the verb, “the city which David inhabited;’ and in such cases the stat. constr. is by no means of rare occurrence (Lev.4:24; Ezek.21:30, etc.; Gesenius, Lehrgeb., p. 679).—God first called matter into existence, and then, by the commands of His power, organized and arranged it for the purposes of His wisdom; but this idea is implied in the tenor of the whole verse, rather than either in the particle (‘eth’), which some have understood to describe the substance or matter of heaven and earth (like the “alpha and omega” in the Revelation of St. John, (‘eth’) consisting, also, of the first and last letter of the alphabet ((Alpha-Omega, Aleph-Tau, A-Z)), esse coeli et esse terrae ((‘this heaven and this earth’))), whereas it is merely the sign of the accusative; or in the word (‘bara’), which has very generally been conceived to mean “creating out of nothing,” whilst the verb (‘asah’) (in vers. 7,16, etc.) is considered to signify “to arrange,” or to produce out of existing matter. But both verbs are, in vers. 7, 16, and 21, used promiscuously,”
(From: Gesenius Hebrew Grammar. Kautzsch-Mitchell-Price, 1898; and -Cowley, 1909-1910):
“§ 89. The Genitive and the Construct State.
1. (a) The Hebrew language no longer makes a living use of case-endings, but either has no external indication of case (this is so for the nominative, generally also for the accusative) or expresses the relation by means of prepositions (§ 119), while the genitive is mostly indicated by a close connexion (or interdependence) of the Nomen regens and the Nomen rectum. That is to say, the noun which as genitive serves to define more particularly an immediately preceding Nomen regens, remains entirely unchanged in its form. The close combination, however, of the governing with the governed noun causes the tone first of all to be forced on to the latter, and the consequently weakened tone of the former word then usually involves further changes in it. These changes to some extent affect the consonants, but more especially the vocalization, since vowels which had been lengthened by their position in or before the tone-syllable necessarily become shortened, or are reduced to Shewa (cf. § 9 a, c, k ; § 27 e-m) ; e. g. (‘dabhar’) word, (‘Elohim debhor) word of God (a sort of compound, as with us in inverted order, God’s-word, housetop), landlord) ; (‘yadh’) hand, (‘yadh hammelek’) the hand of the king; (‘debharim’) words, (‘dibhrey haam’) the words of the people. Thus, in Hebrew only the noun which stands before a genitive suffers a change, and in grammatical language is said to be dependent, or in the construct state, while a noun which has not a genitive after it is said to be in the absolute state. It is sufficiently evident from the above that the construct state is not strictly to be regarded as a syntactical and logical phenomenon, but rather as simply phonetic and rhythmical, depending on the circumstances of the tone.
§ 119. The Subordination of Nouns to the Verb by means of Prepositions.
1. In general. As is the case with regard to the looser subordination of nouns to the verbal idea (§ 118), so also their subordination by means of prepositions is used to represent the more immediate circumstances (of place, time, cause, purpose, measure,
association, or separation) under which an action or event is accomplished. In the case
of most prepositions some idea of a relation of space underlies the construction, which then, in a wider sense, is extended to the ideas of time, motive, or other relations conceived by the mind.
(b) 1.(‘be’) Underlying the very various uses of this preposition is either the idea of being or moving within some definite region, or some sphere of space or time (with the infinitive, a simultaneous action, &c.), or else the idea of fastening on something, close connexion withsomething (also in a metaphorical sense, following some kind of pattern, e.g. the advice or command of someone (‘p’ bidbar, p’ aath ba’) , or in a comparison, as in Gen 1:26 (‘betsalmenu kidmuthnu’) in our image, after our likeness; cf. 1:27, 5:1, 3), or finally the idea of relying or depending upon…, or even of merely striking or touching something.”
The word ‘reshith’, as we were saying, comes from the primitive root ‘rosh’ which means ‘head, start, first, chief, primary, beginning’, etc. Reshith is feminine and Rosh is masculine. So, we find among certain Jews, both Rabbinical and Apocryphal, certain views or doctrines or principles developed from the words of the Creation, at times the novel or variant view is suggested or inferred or imagined from a grammatical form or possibility, at times its relation or association to another word or usage or syntax. Some have labored to collect these views from Jewish and Christian and even Muslim sources and compiled them in volumes. The collections of Hershon (Rabbinical & Talmudical Commentary on Genesis) in the 19th century, and of Ginzberg (Bible Myths and Legends of the Jews in the 20th century is very useful. There are many other references in many works which are readily found, and of those Mesorah ArtScroll Tanach Series (Ashkenazic), and Maznaim Torah Anthology MeAm Lo’ez (Sephardic) are most valuable. We cite just a few examples here to help us in our own reflections of Scripture.
1. (From: Hershon’s Talmudic Commentary of Genesis and the Pentateuch, 1883):
I. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Tradition records: It happened that Ptolemy the king had brought together seventy-two elders and put them into seventy-two chambers; he did not disclose to them the reason why he had brought them together, but subsequently he went in to every one of them and said: Write me out a copy of the Law of Moses, your Rabbi. The Holy One, blessed be He! suggested His counsel to the heart of every one of them, so that all concurred in the same opinion, and wrote: —
1. “God created in the beginning,” etc. (Without this transposition, the word (‘bereshith’), “In the beginning,” might be taken for the name of the first Deity, who created a second. Rashi—who evidently supposes that a Hebrew copy was demanded in Greek letters in addition to a translation.)
2. “Let Me make man according to an image and a likeness” (for it is on the plural number, let Us make, etc., that those who maintained the existence of two principles, based their heresy.
8. “And on the sixth (not seventh) day God ended His works, and He rested on the seventh day ” (Ge. 2:2, that it should not appear, that God worked on the seventh day. Rashi).
T. N. a. Here we have a Talmudic account of the origin of the Septuagint Version, which is evidently derived from the same source as those furnished by Aristeas, Philo, Josephus, and the early Christian Fathers. If the above alterations and interpolations ever existed in any Greek Version, they may have been taken from that by Aquila, who renounced the Christian profession for that of Judaism in the reign of Hadrian and executed his translation under the auspices of Rabbi Akiva ben Yoseph. The latter was resolved to get rid of the Septuagint Version, which till then was in use among the Hellenist Jews, and which was effectually pressed against them by Hebrew Christians. He would have abolished the use of any other but the Hebrew Scriptures, which in his time were not generally understood by the masses. But such a sweeping innovation was stoutly resisted; and, therefore, Aquila’s, or some other, Version was for the present substituted in the place of the Septuagint. The Rabbis, however, like the Church of Rome, had no intention of yielding to the multitude, and the conflict was ultimately decided in their favour by the decree of Justinian, still extant in the Novel Contitutions, permitting the Jews to read the Scriptures in the language of the country where they resided. From that time the Hebrew Scriptures have been exclusively read in public worship, and the only other version allowed for private use is that of Onkelos, in the Chaldean dialect.
b. The introduction of Aquila’s Version must have been effected in a guarded manner, since the alterations made in it are quietly attributed to the Septuagint; and Rashi, who flourished in France about ten centuries later, talks of the belief in two first principles having been derived from the Scripture application of the plural number to God.
c. The phrase: “Write me out a copy of the Law,” and the fear of offending Ptolemy by the use of the word “Arneveth” if any conclusion may be based upon them, favours the presumption, that a Hebrew copy of the Scriptures was written out in Greek letters. If so, and if other copies existed besides the one that had been lost through the destruction of the Alexandrian Library, Origen might have transcribed it for his Hexapla. (Vide, ch. xi. 9, Note 84.)
II. Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav: Ten things were created on the first day, viz.: —heaven and earth, chaos and confusion, light and darkness, wind and water, the measure of day and the measure of night. Heaven and earth; for it is written: “In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth.” Chaos and confusion; for it is written: “And the earth was chaos and confusion.” Light and darkness; for it is written: “And darkness was upon the face of the abyss.” Wind and water; for it is written: “The wind of God hovered over the face of the waters.” The measure of day and the measure of night; for it is written: “Morning and evening were one day.”
III. Tradition teaches: Chaos is a green line surrounding the whole world, from which darkness proceeds; as it is written (Ps. 18:11): “He made (for) darkness its hiding place roundabout it. “Confusion issues from those spouting stones (Pulamouth, (‘plëmë’) that are sunk in the abyss, from which water gushes forth; as it is said (Is. 34:11): “And He stretcheth over it the line of chaos, and the stones of confusion.”
IV. And was light created on the first day? Is it not written (Gen. 1:17-19): “And God set them (the lights) in the firmament of heaven,” etc. “And the morning and the evening were the fourth day”? The answer to this question is given by Rabbi Elazar, who said: By the light which the Holy One, blessed be He! created on the first day, a man might have seen from one end of the world to the other; but when God observed the generation of the deluge, and that of the confusion of tongues, and saw that their deeds would be depraved, He stood up and hid it from them, as it is said (Job 38:15): “He withheld from the wicked their light. “He reserved it, however, for the righteous in the world to come. The Mishnic Rabbis, however, maintain, that the lights were created on the first day, but were not suspended (in the sky) till the fourth day. Chaguigah, fol. 12, col. 1.
V. The Post-Mishnic Rabbis have recorded: The school of Shamai maintain, that the heavens were created first, and then the earth; for it is said: “In the beginning God created the
heavens and the earth. “But the school of Hillel say, that the earth was created first, and then the heavens; for it is said (Gen. 2:4): “On the day that the Lord God made the earth and the
heavens.” The school of Hillel said to the school of Shamai: According to your assertion, a man must first build the upper and then the lower part of a house! For that such is the relation of the heavens to the earth, is clear from Am. 9:6, where it is said: “Who builds his upper chambers in the heavens and founded the ligature (support) thereof upon the earth.” The school of Shamai replied: According to your assertion, a man would make the foot-stool first and then the throne! For that such is the relation between earth and heaven, is evident from Is. 66:1, where it says: ” Thus saith the Lord, the heavens are my throne, and the earth is my foot-stool. “The Mishnic Rabbis have, however, decided, that they were made at the same time; for it is said (Is. 48:18): “My hand founded the earth, and my right hand measured the heavens: I call them, they stood together.”
VI. Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said: At their creation, the heavens had the priority, but at their stretching out the earth came in first.
VII. What is the meaning of the word ” Shamaim,” heavens? Rabbi Yosi ben Chanena said: Sham-mayim, water-is-there.
VIII. A tradition says, that it is compounded of the words
Aysh-mayim, fire and water. It teaches, that the Holy One, blessed be He! mingled these two elements together, and made the firmament out of them. (Chaguigah, fol. 12, col. 1.)
IX. Alexander of Macedon proposed ten questions to the elders of the South: Which is farther removed from the other, the heavens from the earth, or the East from the West? They replied: The East from the West; for when the sun is either in the East or in the West, all can gaze at him; but when the sun is in mid-heaven (i.e. nearer to the earth and, therefore, too dazzling) none can gaze at him. The Mishnic Rabbis say, that the distances are equal, for it is said (Ps. 103:11,12): “As the heavens are from the earth … so is the East removed from the West.” Alexander then asked: Were the heavens made first, or the earth? They replied, the heavens; for it is said: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” He asked again, was light first created, or darkness? They replied: This is an insoluble problem. They should have said, that darkness was created first, for it is said: “And the earth was void, and empty, and darkness,” etc.; and then: “And God said: Let there be light, and there was light.” (Tamid, fol. 81, col. 2.)
Heaven and Earth.
1. Since the Temple was destroyed, the firmament has not been seen in its former purity; for it is said (Is. 50:3): “I will clothe the heavens with blackness and make their covering a sack.” (Berachoth, fol. 59, col. 1.)
2. Rava said: The world is six thousand miles in extent, and the thickness of the firmament is one thousand miles. (Psachim, fol. 94, col. 1.)
3. Rav Yehudah said: There are two firmaments; for it is said (De. 10:14): ” Behold, the heavens and the heavens of heavens belong to the Lord thy God.” Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said: Seven viz.: —Vilon (velum), Rakia, Shechakim, Zevul, Maon, Machon, Aravoth…….Rashi. (Chaguigah, fol. 12, col. 2.)
T. N. St. Paul, in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, refers to the third heaven, which he seems to identify with paradise, where he heard unspeakable words, which it is unlawful for a man to utter. It is, therefore, remarkable that Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, who lived in the third century, should, leaving out Vilon, which is not easily defined, speak of Zevul the third heaven, where the heavenly Jerusalem, the Temple, and the altar are erected; and where Michael (who is like unto God?), the Great Prince, stands and offers a sacrifice (singular) upon it. Here we are undoubtedly upon one of the many traces left by Apostolic Christianity upon Judaism.
And the earth was empty and void.
I. Whilst walking together, Rabbi Ishmael asked Rabbi Akiva: Thou hast waited for twenty-two years upon Nahum Ish-gam-zu (the resigned), who had something to say in connection with the particle (Aleph-Thau) Eth, wherever it occurs in the Pentateuch; what did he make of those which precede “the heavens and the earth “? Rabbi Akiva replied: But for this particle [‘eth’] (which governs the accusative) heaven might be construed nominatively, as one of the names of God. (Chaguigah, fol. 12, col. 1, 2.)
And the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.
II. The Post-Mishnic Rabbis related of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananyah, that he was once standing on a ridge of the temple mount. Ben Zoma happened to see him, but did not rise before him; Rabbi Yehoshua asked him: Whence and whither, Ben Zoma? He replied: I have been considering the distance between the upper and lower waters, and it is no more than the measure of three fingers; for it is said (Ge. 1:2): “The Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters,”like a dove hovering over her young without touching them. Rabbi Yehoshua then observed to his disciples: Ben Zoma is still out of his mind; for was it not on the first day that the Spirit of God is said to have hovered over the face of the waters, whereas the separation of the upper from the lower waters did not take place till the second day?
2. (From Ginzberg’s Legends of the Jews, vol. 1, 1912):
I. The Creation of the World.