Sunday, June 15, 2008

In the Hebrew ...

For about two years now, painstakingly, I have been trying to learn Hebrew, to understand the Tanakh (the "Old Testament") in the original tongue.

It has not been easy, of course. No language ever is. But I am enjoying the process.

Of course, the Bible begins with a beginning, the famous "In the beginning."

Transliterates to "bereshit." I'd love to reproduce the letters here but blogger doesn't seem to have the Hebrew font.

In his own studies of Hebrew, the Prophet Joseph Smith at one point suggested that the "be" was unnecessary and that the "resh" or "rosh" meant "head," as in head God, which he expanded to "the head God of the Gods brought forth/called together the Gods."

However, he never offered up this suggestion to be canonized as revelation and in the parallel accounts in the Pearl of Great Price, the closest to it is this:

Abraham 4:1: At the beginning, they, the Gods organized/formed the earth.

The JPS Tanakh translates "bereshit" as "When [God] began ..."

Strong's Concordance seems to agree with the Prophet at least as far as in deriving "bereshit" from "rosh," to which the "be" is a prefix.

Linguistics aside, it is when we consider the concept of time, beginnings and endings, that we become most conscious of our mortal state, even of our nothingness in this vast universe. We can dam up the biggest rivers on the planet. We can prevent polio. We can walk on the moon. But no man can call back one measly minute of time or speed it forward or hold to life after the sands of his hourglass have run out.

Look out upon the vast universe and contemplate how long it would take even the fastest spacecraft simply to reach the nearest star to our own.

Consider that paradox that Einstein suggested about the twin who hypothetically travels at the speed of light somewhere into space and comes back to find that on Earth, a completely different measure of time has elapsed.

Bereshit. The beginning. Before which was nothing but God, in traditional Jewish/Christian theology. Before which, were we, with Him, according to LDS doctrine, spirit children, in time indefinite.

Bereshit. And the super-dense marble-sized lump that contained all the matter in the universe exploded, the Big Bang, and creation began.

1 comment:

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

Very interesting stuff. My Gospel Doctrine teacher also included "bereshit" in one of his recent lessons. Thank you for sharing your research and insights.