Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Translations of the Gen 1:2 Tōhû wābōhû

Tōhû wābōhû is one of my favorite words of the entire Bible. It is wrapped in the mystique of the ages.

The Earth was what???

Latin Versions and Derivatives:

inanis et vacua (Vulgate)
void and empty (Douay Rheims)
empty and unoccupied (CPDV)
idel ond æmti (AElfric, Old Anglo-Saxon)
idol and void (Wycliffe)

Greek Versions and Derivatives:

aoratoj kai akatskeuastoj --- invisible and unformed (LXX w/ literal Eng trans.)
kenwma kai ouqen --- empty and nothing (Aquila)
qen kai ouqen --- nothing and nothing (Theodotion)
argon kai adiakriton --- unproductive and indistinguishable (Symmachus)
unsightly and unfinished (Brenton's English Septuagint)

Hebrew Derivatives:

chaos and vacancy (Hebrew Interlinear CHES 2.0 Version)
formless and void (NASB)
formless void (NJB)
formless wasteland (NAB Vatican Version)
without shape and empty (NET)
waste and void (Young's Literal)
without form and void (KJV & RSV)
formless and empty (WEB)

Foreign Language Bibles:

desordenada y vacia (Spanish, La Santa Biblia)
vide et deserte (French, La Sainte Bible)
afluniaidd a gwag (Welsh Bible)


astonishingly empty (Rashi)
completely empty (Rashbam)
empty waste (Ibn Ezra)
completely prime matter (Ramban)
desert waste (Claude Westermann)
haltos et gestaltos (Gorg)
contingent potentiality in a potentiality of being (Fabre d'Olivet)
hodgepodge (Jack Sasson)
mish-mash (William P. Brown suggestion)
welter and waste (Robert Alter)
chaos and watery chaos (Albright)
uninhabitable and unproductive (absence of fauna and flora: Roberto Ouro)
desert-like and empty or desolate and uninhabited (Tsumura)

Scholarly Notes:

"barrenness of the earth before anything grew on it" (N.H. Tur Sinai)
"a state of confused matter ... with no differentiation or organization" (U. Cassuto)
Targum Neof according to G. Anderson: "This text first reproduces the Aramaic equivalent of the Hebrew pair tohu wabohu and then interprets them. The first term, tohu, is interpreted to mean absence of faunal life; the second term, bohu, the absence of floral life." (from 'The Interpretation of Genesis 1 in the Targums', CBQ, 1990 p. 23)

My Translation:

astonishing-desert or astonishing-wasteland

Some Remarks:

What a motley list of translations!!! I am against the gap theory so any translation and interpretation suggesting this line of thought I am against. I am against the interpretive notions of creation ex nihilo for this context. I am against the Big-Bang or any cosmological or philosophical system read into this text.

And I am in strong opposition to translation rendering 'formless' or 'without form' or 'shapeless' or 'without shape'. These translations are oxymora. They are influenced by outmoded Aristotelian and Scholastic philosophies.  They are fodder for troubled philosophers and opium induced drunks. The subject of the verse, the Earth, is a noun of reality. It is an object, an astronomical object. By definition it has form or shape. The Earth had a form long before the main light-event. The prophet looked at an object that has a form or shape. In this same vein I am opposed to the translations which include 'invisible' or 'nothing' or 'void'. Again the prophet saw an astronomical object so these would be non-nonsensical.

I am also opposed to the philosophical translations that suggest this verse refers to prime matter or any sort of philosophical translation. Sacred authors and prophets do not fop around with philosophy. A prime matter translation and interpretation destroys the context. What is prime matter? Define prime matter ________. Do you really think the ancient Hebrew had any notion of prime matter or saw prime matter??? Does prime matter have a surface of waters???

I am also strongly opposed to the 'chaos' or 'Chaoskampf" translations and interpretations. These associate Genesis 1 with the Ancient Near Eastern myths. They read a struggle against evil into the Text. Anyone who teaches Chaos in relation to Genesis 1 to unwitting students should be demoted to janitor so that they can struggle against the crap that they love.

And I am against the idea that this verse directly refers to Hell or fallen angels.

I tend to favor the abiotic translations and interpretations. The Earth that the sacred author describes is obviously without living entities whether fauna or flora or microorganisms. These are narrated as coming to be within the light-event. But this line of thought doesn't resolve the mystique of the word. What exactly did the sacred author see and then describe? How can one reconcile the notions of desert, desolation, aridity, idleness, emptiness, etc with that of a water covered surface? Can one make sense of this seeming contradiction? I think one can.

Earth was and still is a very old dark star or black dwarf that naturally transitioned for countless years prior to the main event prophetically recorded in Genesis 1.***  Planets are cooling and compressing stars with vast histories.  The object that the prophet looked at and later described was what can be called an 'ice planet' or 'ice world'. The Earth was slumbering in cold interstellar space away from newer active stars.  She was not far from the newer Sun and yet not yet orbiting the Sun. Her surface was icy H20 and volatiles with ancient subsurface liquid oceans (or abysses). The subsurface abysses were heated by her hot core that stimulated mantle and crust. Like Antarctica she was dry and arid yet still had an immense water supply. Her surface was idle and barren.  The Spirit was about to activate her surface in the light-event.  But upon first impression, the prophet was mystified by what he saw. This is what led him to trace and utter the Hebrew word wrapped in the mystique of the ages:

tōhû wābōhû

to be continued . . . 

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