Remember my preference


Table of Contents

  Chapter  1
  Chapter  2
  Chapter  3
  Chapter  4
  Chapter  5
  Chapter  6
  Appendix I
  Appendix II
  Appendix III
  Appendix IV
  Appendix V
  Appendix VI
  Appendix VII
  Appendix VIII
  Appendix IX
  Appendix X
  Appendix XI
  Appendix XII
  Appendix XIII
  Appendix XIV
  Appendix XV
  Appendix XVI
  Appendix XVII
  Appendix XVIII
  Appendix XIX
  Appendix XX
  Appendix XXI
  Biblical References
General Bibliography

Chapter 4.


The number of English translations of the New Testament increas-

es year by year.    We have Moffat's, Weymouth's, Williams',

Phillips', and many others. The number of translations of the Old

Testament is probably almost as great, and if we include the more

ancient versions, they may even exceed those of the New Testament.

Moreover, the Bible in whole or in part has been translated into

many hundreds of other languages, and the Jewish people themselves

have produced quite a few versions in their own vernacular.   It is

these versions as well as those in various languages other than

English-Aramaic, Greek, Latin, and Hebrew (New Testament) - with

which this chapter is chiefly concerned.

The best known among the earliest of such other-than-English

versions is that commonly referred to as the Septuagint.   This

Greek translation of the Old Testament was made, supposedly, by

some seventy Jewish scholars in the third century B.C. The origin

of the word "Septuagint" is to be found in the Epistle of Aristeas who

recorded that King Ptolemy Philadelphas (285 - 246 B.C.) at the

instigation of Demetrius of Phaleron, had determined to have a Greek


pg 1 of 19       

rendering of the Holy Scriptures for his library at Alexandria.   He

accordingly asked the High Priest Eleajar at Jerusalem to send a

commission of the most erudite Jewish scholars for the undertaking.

With alacrity, Eleajar dispatched 72 elders (six from each tribe) to

make this version.

It is considered unlikely that the whole of the Old Testament was

translated into Greek at one "sitting", but it is believed that at least

the Pentateuch was completed during Ptolemy Philadelphas' time and

that the remainder was completed later in Alexandria, probably

within 150 years.

Three subsequent Greek versions appeared.   One, a literal

translation of the Hebrew by Aquila is dated around 128 A.D.   A

second, by Theodotian is dated about 180 A.D., and a third of unknown

date was produced by Symmachus. These three were put into parallel

form by Origen along with the original Septuagint and accompanied

by a transliteration of the Hebrew text into Greek character s, to form

his great critical work, The Hexapla, only small fragments of which

now remain.

It is with the original Septuagint that we are chiefly concerned here

and primarily with its rendering of Genesis Chapter 1. There are

numerous copies of this available and these do not differ significantly

with respect to the information they supply relevant to the present

issue. Remembering that this text originated in Egypt in an atmos-

phere of broad educational interests where the best of the tradition

and folklore and philosophy of the ancient world was being recorded

and preserved and where a certain cosmology had already crystall-

ized in a form which saw the first stage of creation as a Chaos rather

than a Cosmos, what the Jewish scholars have and have not seen fit

to recognize of the precise structure of the Hebrew original will be

better under stood.   It is to be assumed that the translators them-

selves were scholars in the Hebrew of the Old Testament: but they

were also concerned to produce a rendering which would impress

their Greek readers with the "soundness" of the Mosaic Cosmology,

by which would be meant its essential concordance with the views of

the day though entirely free of any polytheistic element, as well as

the antiquity of their own history as a people to match that claimed

by the Egyptians for themselves.   These two facts are important:

first, because the version makes one odd exception in this first

chapter in the handling of the Hebrew verb  which is otherwise

not easily accounted for, an exception which allowed them to present

a cosmology that, like other pagan cosmologies, appeared to make

creation begin with a Chaos much as the Egyptian and Greek cosmog-


     pg.2 of 19      

onies did.   Secondly, as is well known, the Septuagint extends the

Hebrew chronology considerably, presumably in an attempt to give

a comparable antiquity to their own history, like that of the Egyptians.

Here, then, is a picture as it relates to their translation of this


Throughout the whole of Chapter 1, the Hebrew verb  occurs

27 times.   In verse 2 once, in verse 3 twice, in verse 5 twice, in

verse 6 twice, in verse 7 once, in verse 8 twice, in verse 9 once, in

verse 11 once, in verse 13 twice, in verse 14 twice, in verse 15

twice, in verse 19 twice, in verse 23 twice, in verse 24 once, in

verse 29 once, in verse 30 once, and in verse 31 twice.   In 22 of

these instances the Septuagint has employed some form of the Greek

verb  ie., "become".   Of the remaining 5 occurrences

of  , they have used some part of the Greek verb  ,  In four

of these 5 cases the verb   appears as an imperative directed

towards the future.   Thus in verse 6 where the Hebrew has, "And

let it be a divider between, etc....", the Greek has used the future

of  , ie.,   , "it shall be...." This seems quite proper.

The sense in all four instances is "to serve as" or "to serve for",

and not simply "to become" and although the meaning is similar, it

is not precisely the same. We have here not a change in fact, only

in function, a circumstance which is recognized by Lexicographers.

In verse 14 the Hebrew has    (which even by the most

adverse of critics of the present thesis would be allowed to mean

"become" since the verb   is followed by the Hebrew lamedh), the

Septuagint has    which falls into the same class of verbal

forms as verse 6. The same is precisely true of verse 15 where, as

inverse 14, the    is accompanied by a lamedh and should certainly

have been rendered "Let them become as lights....", the Septuagint

again uses the form of command -  . In verse 29 there is

either a straightforward future sense or a form of command (once

again the    being followed by lamedh) and so the Greek employs a

simple future of the verb "to be", meaning either "let it be...." or

"it shall be...."

Now this, then, accounts for all the occurrences of the verb  

save one, and this exception occurs in verse 2. Here, for reasons

which are worth considering, they made an exception. But just to

show how really exceptional this case is, it may be well to note in

summary that, excluding these occurrences of the Hebrew verb  

which are strictly future or in the imperative mood, ie., verses

6, 14, 15, and 29 (all of which have been rendered in the Authorized

Version as "Let it be for", "Let them be for", "It shall be for...."),


     pg.3 of 19      



the Septuagint scholars uniformly rendered   by the Greek

verb   so showing that they viewed it in this context

as meaning "become" and not as a simple copula.    Thus there

is only one case out of 23 occurrences of the verb   which they

have made an exception and treated it as a copula, translating it in

verse 2 as   , thereby presenting the reader with the opening words

of Gen.1.2 as    : ie., "But the earth was...." a circum-

stance strongly influencing Jerome as he produced the Latin Vulgate

which in turn served as a basic guide in many cases to all the other

Western versions from the Authorized to the present day.   As a

consequence, the Universe appears to have begun as a Chaos.

Now the word Chaos had a rather special meaning in Greek thought.

It did not necessarily signify what we mean by a situation which has

become so badly disrupted that it is a ruin.   The Greek concept

tended rather to mean only the infinity of space: not an engineered

dis-order but an early stage of development before order had been

imposed on the Universe.   The opposite of Chaos is Cosmos.

The first stage in the development of the Cosmos was therefore

being presented as a stage of total emptiness - and this total empti-

ness was termed Chaos.   In Appendix II it will be seen that Ovid

defined it as, "Rudis indigestaque moles", ie., "A shapeless mass

unwrought and unordered".   Webster defines Chaos as, "The void

and form less infinite; the confused, unorganized state of primordial

matter before the creation of distinct or orderly forms". But this

interpretation of the word was a later one, held only by Roman authors

and not by the Greeks, and when the Septuagint was being written,

the word Chaos almost certainly still bore its more ancient meaning,

ie., the infinity of empty space.   In time it came to be viewed as

not so much empty space but as unorganized matter.

Thus it is not really too surprising that the Jews who formed

the translation Committee of the Septuagint and who knew too well

that the Version they produced was to take its place beside the lit-

erature of Greece in the great library at Alexandria, should seek, but

without actually distorting the Hebrew text, to make it possible to look

upon it as a reflection of the same basic cosmogony as was commonly

accepted at that time. Yet they did NOT, be it noted, actually use

the word Chaos as a translation of the Hebrew tohu where it might

have seemed the obvious thing to do if this is how they saw the earth's

condition in verse 2. I think their use of term s other than the Greek

word Chaos is a significant indicator of their view of Gen. 1.2.

That the words in Gen. 1.2, however, have a very different meaning

from the Greek Chaos or the modern "nebulus", is shown later (in


     pg.4 of 19      

Appendix XVI) and it seems likely to me that the Jews in Alexandria
were quite aware of this.   So they left the meaning “open” by a

transliteration which was true in part but not the whole truth and

could be interpreted by the reader with some freedom to adjust the

meaning to his own particular preconceptions. The earth was a

"chaos", whether initially or as a consequence of some intervening

event it is not specifically made clear in the Greek version, even

though they did as shown above, use   instead of   for the particle

between verse land verse 2. It may be argued that a Jewish reader

would not necessarily see such a significance in the use of   as

many commentators have done since, including Jerome.    Yet

Onkelos evidently did, for he viewed the situation as a Chaos, not in

the Greek sense but in the more modern sense, a destroyed rather

than a waiting-to-be-ordered world.   In conclusion, therefore, in

Genesis chapter 1, wherever  is clearly indicative of a change or

a becoming, the Septuagint has in all but one case (22 out of 23) used

the Greek   .   And, as Thayer has underscored, it is most

important to note that the verb  is not to be equated with

    .   The Septuagint were, it would appear, consciously depart-

ing from their normal practice in verse 2.

Now according to my count the Septuagint rendered   by  

some 146 times in Genesis alone: in Genesis and Exodus together, 201

times; in the Pentateuch, some 298 times; and in the whole of the

Old Testament, close to 1500 times. Since the Old Testament uses

the verb    approximately 3570 times, it appears that in nearly   

half its occurrences the Septuagint considered the correct sense to be

"become".   A very large number of the cases where  occurs

refer to the future as a changed circumstance where, as we have

seen, it is necessary to introduce it since it is no longer merely

copulative: quite properly this demanded in Greek the simple future

of the verb "to be".   On a fair number of occasions the Septuagint

has taken the Hebrew original and paraphrased it, rendering the verb

"to be" followed by some other verbal form as a single verb which

comprehends the composite of the Hebrew original. I do not know

exactly how often these two situations (future tenses and paraphrastic

renderings) occur, but it must account probably for a fair percentage

of the balance of appearances of the Hebrew verb   . When we add

'those instances in which the Hebrew verb appears as an imperative,

and those in which it has the meaning of "existing" (ie., living), we

shall not be far wrong if we conclude that in the great majority of

cases the Septuagint did not look upon the meaning of the Hebrew verb

as mere "being" in the copulative sense but as "becoming" or "coming


     pg.5 of 19      

to be".

In summary, I think it is safe to say that   is seldom considered

by the Septuagint as meaning "is" or "was", and that their rendering

of it in Gen. 1.2 as    was probably in order to avoid conflict with

the accepted cosmogony held in Alexandria and by the Greeks gen-

erally . For such a conflict would have appeared, had they translated

Gen. 1.2 as "But the earth had become unorganized....", since this

clearly implies that it had not been so in the beginning.

We have already made reference to the Targum of Onkelos, but in

order to make this Chapter more or less complete in itself, a brief

review of what this Targum represents may be in order.

The word Targum, (from Ragamu, "to speak", in certain Semitic

languages) is a term for the Aramaic versions or paraphrases of the

Old Testament which became necessary when, after or perhaps

during the Babylonian exile, Hebrew began to die out as the common

language of the people and was supplanted by Aramaic.   The first

evidence of a Targum as an already existing body of accepted Aramaic

paraphrase has been found by some authorities in Neh. 8.8. Accord-

ing to tradition, Ezra and his coadjutors were the original founders".

There grew up a certain accepted rendering into Aramaic of parts of

the Old Testament which assumed something of the status that the

Authorized Version did in the seventeenth century in England. The

Mishnah or official Commentary of the Jews on the Old Testament

soon contained a number of injunctions respecting the "Targum", but

for many centuries it was preserved orally and not written down.

All that is now extant of these traditional "renderings" are three

distinct "Targums" on the Pentateuch, a Targum on the Prophets,

Targum son the Hagiographa (Psalms, Job, Proverbs), and the five

Magilloth (Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Esther, and Ecc-

lesiastes), another Targum on Esther, one on Chronicles, one on

Daniel, and one on the Apocrypha.

The most important of the three Pentateuch Targums is named

after Onkelos, probably a corruption of Aquila, a proselyte and one

of Gamaliel's pupils.   Aquila's Greek version became so popular

that the Aramaic version current at the time was credited to him.

It appears that this Targum originated among the scholars of Rabbi

Akiba between 150 - 200 A.D. in Palestine.   It was later sent to

Babylonia where it was modified and edited and vowelled in the Baby-

lonian manner about 300 A. D. Hence arose the Babylonian Targum.

The oral tradition behind it may therefore be traced to about 150

A.D. , but it could in fact be considerably earlier.   Hence at or

about this time we have an Aramaic version of Gen. 1.2 which reads


     pg.6 of 19      

    meaning as we have already noted, "And (or but)

the earth was destroyed", where the Aramaic verb has the meaning

"to cut", "to lay waste", or "to destroy", a rendering reflected in

the traditional Midrash interpretation quoted from Ginsberg (see

page 14 above).

The next version to be examined is the Vulgate.   Jerome, or

more accurately, Sophronius Eusebius Hieronymous, its author, was

born in the city of Stridon on the borders of Dalmatia and Pannonia,

some time between 331 and 340 A.D. At about the age of 20, he was

sent to a Rom an school where he studied the classical authors under

Aclius Donatus.   He later attended the University at Trier and

Aquileia, where he studied theology. After a tour of the East which

ended in 373 and after a severe illness, he adopted the ascetic life

and spent four years in the desert near Antioch where he studied

Hebrew. He was ordained in 379 and three years later visited Rome

on official ecclesiastical business from Antioch. In Rome he began

his work on the translation of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures into

Latin. This great work was completed before he died in 420 A.D.

and since that time remained in use throughout the Roman Church.

Of chief concern here is his rendering of the verb    , especially

in the first chapter of Genesis.   In his translation he consistently

has factum (or facta) est (ie., "became") wherever the Septuagint

has   , and in verse 2 he has "Terra autem erat....", ie.,

"The earth, however, was....", thus faithfully reflecting the Greek

version. Whether he really was governed in this by what he found

in the Septuagint or was independently convinced that he was correctly

translating in each instance, we shall, of course, never know. But

this much at least can be said: once he had passed beyond verse 2,

he had no hesitation thereafter in equating the meaning of the Hebrew

verb     with the Latin for "became", and he adopted this rendering

in 13 occurrences in the first chapter of Genesis alone. His depart-

ure from this general principle in verse 2 thus seems odd and looks

suspiciously like a Septuagint influence.

Now, if we allow that the term "Version" really means nothing

more than "Translation into a different language", we have another

non-English "Version" that may be allowed to bear its independent

witness - and this is the New Testament wherever it quotes the

Old Testament.   For here the Hebrew original is translated by

inspiration (I believe) into Greek.

According to the Oxford Cyclopedic Concordance, there are 277

quotations from the Old Testament in the New, which are more or

less exact.   There are, of course, many inexact quotations or


     pg.7 of 19      

allusions and many incidents referred to, but these are not sufficient-

ly exact as to wording to allow the drawing of any conclusions about

equivalent verbal meanings within the two languages.

Of these 277 quotations, only 29 are of such a form that the verb

"to be" is an essential part of the English rendering in the Authorized

Version.   In one case (No. 5 in the list below) the situation is

confused by the fact that the New Testament uses a different sentence


Of the 28 quotations remaining, the Old Testament in 20 cases

omits the verb    entirely, its use being not required since the

meaning is copulative. This leaves us with only 9 clearcut examples

upon which to attempt the formulation of some kind of guiding prin-

ciple. The number is far too small to allow of any certainty - yet

there seems to be some measure of consistency.

To begin with, here are the 29 quotations.

(1) Matt.23.39 (Mk. 11.9): "Blessed is He...."

 Psa.118.26: identical -is is omitted in Hebrew.

(2) Mk.10.8: "They shall be into one flesh" (   ).

  So also LXX.

 Gen. 2.24:" They shall become....",   with   .

(3) Mk.12.29: "The Lord our God is one Lord...." (    ).

  So also the LXX

 Deut.6.4: In Hebrew, is is omitted.

(4) Lu.4.18: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me...."

 Isa.61.1: In Hebrew, is is omitted.

(5) Lu.19.46: "My house is the house of prayer...." (    ,

  "shall be").

 Isa.56.7: "My house shall be called...." (different verb


(6) Lu.20.17 (Matt. 21.42): "The same has become the Head of

  the corner", ie,   ,

  so also the LXX.

  Psa.118.22,23: "Has become, as it were, the head....",


(7) Jn.10.34: "I said ye are gods...."(   ), so also LXX.

 Psa.82.6: "I said, gods (are) ye....", no verb in Hebrew.

(8) Acts 13.33: "Thou art My Son" (   ).

 Psa.2.7: "Thou, My Son", no verb in Hebrew.

(9) Rom. 3.10: "There is none that...." (   occurs through-


 Psa.14.1,3: "There, no God.....", Hebrew omits verb



     pg.8 of 19      

(10) Acts 1.20: " And let his... become....(   ); neither

  shall there be.... (   ).

Psa.69.25: "Let it become that their habitation be a deso-

  lated one.... and no one shall become a dweller in

  their tents...."   ... 


(11) Acts 7.32, 33: I am the God of your fathers....,

  holy ground...."

Exod.3.6: verb omitted in both clauses.

 (12) Acts7.49.50: "Heaven is my throne...."

 Isa.66.1: verb omitted throughout.

 (13) Rom. 3.13-16: Verb is is omitted throughout.

 Psa. 5. 9 and 36.1: verb omitted throughout.

 (14) Rom.4. 7, 8: "Blessed are they whose sins are forgiven...


 Psa. 32.1,2: verb omitted in both cases.

 (15) Rom.4.18: "So shall thy seed be...."


 Gen. 15.5: "So shall thy seed become...."


 (16) Rom. 11. 9, 10: "Let their table be as a snare....


 Psa. 69.22: ".... become before them as a snare...."


(17) I Cor. 6.16: "They shall be (   )..... (   ) into


 Gen. 2. 24: ...   "They shall become as it were...."

(18) I Cor. 10.26: "The earth is the Lord s...."

Psa. 24.1: Hebrew verb omitted,

(19) I Cor. 15.54: "Death is swallowed up... where is thy vict-


Isa. 25. 8: Verb omitted in Hebrew.   The quotation reads

  slightly differently in Hos.13.14:   I will become

  thy (   ).... plague, oh death....   I will become

   ) thy destruction, O grave". This is not an exact

  quote from the Old Testament to the New Testament:

  where the Greek has  ....

  "Where, oh death, is your victory?"

 (20) Gal. 3.13: "Cursed is every one that hangeth...."

 Deut.21.23: Verb omitted in Hebrew.

 (21) Heb.1.5: "Son of Mine, art Thou..."(   ....)

 Psa. 2.7: Verb omitted in Hebrew ("My Son, Thou....").


     pg.9 of 19      

(22) II Tim.2.19: "Those being of Him...."(    ).

Num. 16.5: Hebrew omits verb.

(23) Heb.1.5: "I will be to him as a Father...."


II Sam. 7.14: "I will become to him as a Father...."


(24) Heb. 1. 8: "Thy throne is forever...."

Psa. 45.6: Hebrew omits the verb.

(25) Heb.2.6: "What is man that..."(   ..)

Psa.8.4: verb omitted.

(26) Heb.5.6: "You, a priest..." (   ..)

Psa.110.4: Hebrew omits verb.

(27) Heb. 9.20: "This is the blood of the Covenant...."

Exod.24.8: Hebrew omits the verb.

(28) I Pet.1.16: "Be ye holy...." (   -imperative)

Lev. 11.44: "Become ye holy (imperative) for I am holy..."


  This is an important illustration of the prin-

  ciple.   The people were to become what God is.

  Thus the verb   is proper in the first but not in the

  second case.

(29) I Pet.1.24: "All flesh is grass".

Isa.40.6: Hebrew omits the verb.

Of these examples as already observed, nine only [ie. , Nos. (2)

(6), (10), (15), (16), (17), (19), (23), and (28)] involve the verb   

in the Hebrew of the text of the Old Testament.   From this small

body of information the following "rules"* seem to appear:

   RULE N0.1.  From the five references numbered as (2), (6),

(16), (17), and (23) it appears that where in the Hebrew the verb   

is employed followed by  , the New Testament writers were led to

use either the simple future of the verb "to be" [in (2)   , and

in (23)   ] or the verb "became" [in (6) and (16) -   ,

   ] followed by the preposition   ("into").     It would

seem that the best English literal rendering for both the Hebrew and

the Greek, where   appears in the latter and   in the former,



* It is virtually certain that these rules will prove to

be totally inadequate but at feast they make a starting point,

and nothing more is claimed for them than just that.


     pg.10 of 19      

would be "as it were" or "in effect".   Thus:

(2) and (17): "They shall become, as it were, one flesh".

(6): "He shall become, as it were, the head of the corner".

(16): "Their table, let it become, as it were, a snare".

(17): "They shall become, as it were, one body".

(23): "I will become to Him, as it were, a Father".

In each instance the thought expressed is that the end result shall

be analogously such-and-such.    Thus in (2) and (17) the man and

wife do not literally become one body but only analogously. It cannot

have reference to the fact that children are to be born who will bodily

sum up the parents because many couples are childless and yet are

so united as to fulfill the real conditions of "oneness" which is to be

the hallmark of a true marriage.   In (6) a man shall become in

effect a stone, the stone which is the key to the stability and com-

pleteness of the rest of the building; meaning surely that the Lord

will analogously be a corner stone - not in actual fact: and in (16)

a table is to become a snare, but only in a manner of speaking.   And

in (23): "I will become, as it were, Father to Him" is a very signif-

icant statement for it implies that there is a special meaning to this

Father-Son relationship, and that this relationship cannot be precise-

ly spelled out in reference to the merely human situation.    No

human son exists until he is begotten of his father, whereas the Lord's

relationship to His Father was something far more than this.

Thus, in each of these cases, there would seem to be an important

reason for using the verb  followed by    .   In each case, more-

over, there is a change involved.   In many instances in the Old

Testament there is a change of state, and in many there is a change

of status. Stars are to become time-setters, a woman is to become

a man's wife (cf. Gen. 20.12), a river is to become blood.... , and so

on. The rule here, then, seems to be that   is required when the

change is more analogous than real. The stars remained stars, the

woman a woman, the river a river: each achieved a new significance.

RULE NO.2.      In three cases, (10), (15), and (19), the Old

Testament uses    without the  and one must therefore assume that

analogy is not in view, but a real "conversion" into something diff-

erent.   Thus:

in (10), a habitation will literally become a desolation.

in (15), Abram's seed (singular) literally becomes a great

host (plural).

in (19), God the Creator will become a Destroyer, of Death.


     pg.11 of 19      

These passages lend weight to the contention that while    con-

sistently implies a change of state (or status), the addition of    adds

a distinct nuance to the sense in which the "becoming" takes place.

That is, it takes place only in an analogous sense, whereas without

the following    the verb may still be properly rendered "become" but

it is "becoming" in a more literal sense, a transformation of one

thing into another, not "as it were" but absolutely.

We have now accounted for 8 out of the 9 occurrences marked off

for consideration.   The ninth case (28) is readily disposed of, the

clear intent of the text being to indicate a command and the verb in

both the Hebrew and the Greek being required to make the Imperative


Thus it seems reasonably certain that whenever the simple cop-

ulative use of the verb "to be" is involved, the Hebrew omits   ,

though the Greek does not always follow the same rule. However,

the Greek does show that if  appears in the Old Testament in any

of the passages quoted in the New Testament, some specific method

must be adopted to convey a precise meaning which is always more

than the mere copula.   We may observe that either a future is

involved, or a command, or the sense of "becoming", which thus

demands the use of the verb    .   These conclusions are

borne out even in those indirect quotations so far examined. Thus

in Rom. 9.29 for example: "(Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left

us a seed) we also had become (  ), as Sod-

om...."   The original, Isa.1.9, has:    ie.,

"We would have become as Gomorrah (as to) our likeness".

In summary, then, on the basis of this admittedly meagre sample,

it appears that wherever in the Old Testament no change of state or

status is intended or implied or commanded or predicted, the verb

   is entirely absent.   But whenever a change is intended or

implied or commanded or predicted, the verb is expressed by some

form of   - either with or without lamedh following, depending

upon whether the transformation is viewed as analogous or real.

The New Testament in rendering the Old Testament quotations into

Greek seems to have followed this rule. It is also clear that in the

20 cases where the verb  omitted, the meaning is purely cop-

ulative, a fact borne out by the New Testament Greek which either

follows suite and omits any verb or uses the simple present tense

of the verb "to be", ie. always   but never  . When

the present tense is not used but some other tense or mood is called

for, the future involving a real change from the present, as for

example in (2), (15), (17), and (23), or the imperative as in (28), the


     pg.12 of 19    

Hebrew requires the appropriate form of the verb     to be express-

ed.   It is, in short, a rule according to the testimony of these 29

quotations that Hebrew does not employ the verb    copulatively:

and that whenever it does employ it, it is to convey the future, a

command, or the sense of "becoming".

Finally, we may turn to one further form of evidence, namely, the

translations which have been made of the New Testament into Hebrew.

Of those made by Ginsberg and Delitzsch, Heward observed:

"It is important to see that the Kal or simple conjugation

of the verb     does have the force of 'become'.   In the

standard Hebrew translations of the New Testament the Kal

is employed by the Greek     (to become) in more than

half the occurrences in Ephesians and Colossians - and no

other conjugation."

Such modern versions of the New Testament do not, of course,

carry the weight of inspiration, so that the usage in each particular

instance has been determined purely by human judgment. Yet it is

important to see that here, too,    has in the majority of cases been

taken as a proper verb for the sense of "becoming". To attach this

meaning to it most assuredly does not impose a strain upon it. It is

its most common, not its least common, sense.   I do not have a

Ginsberg or a Delitzsch rendering into Hebrew of the New Testament.

The version in my possession was published by the Trinitarian Bible

Society (London) with no specific authorship ascribed to it. However,

it is most probably based on Ginsberg. Almost all English versions

stem ultimately from the Authorized Version which formed their

starting point, although the "Modern English" versions owe perhaps

least in this regard - and a paraphrase such as Phillips' or The

Amplified Version owe even less, of course.

But assuming that the New Testament I have is the work of Hebrew

scholars, we may examine it with benefit in order to see to what

extent the Greek "became" is rendered back into Hebrew by use of

the verb    .   For this purpose, I began with the Student's Con-

cordance to the Revised Version (not the Revised Standard Version,

note) and from it was led to the following passages, in all of which

the Hebrew translation has     where both the Greek and the English

have "become".

Matt. 18.3; "Except ye be converted and become as little

children....."   Of which the Greek is "....   

    ...."which is rendered into Hebrew "to become as (little).


     pg.13 of 19      





children", ie.,    .

John 1.12: "To them gave He power to become the sons of

God.....", "....   .....", which in

Hebrew is rendered:    , ie., "to become sons

with respect to God".

John 9.39: ".... the seeing shall become blind, and the blind

shall become seeing....", which appears in the Greek as   

    ", that is to

say, "those not seeing, seeing, and those seeing becoming blind".

The verb    is perhaps intended to serve both clauses though

being introduced but once at the end of the sentence.   The Hebrew

translation is:    , ie., "the

blind shall become see-ers and the see-ers shall become blind".  It

is quite true that if the present thesis is incorrect, this could just

as well have been rendered, "the blind shall be see-ers and the

see-ers be blind", but we have the New Testament as a guide here -

indicating that what is intended is "shall become" not merely "shall

be".   And it is therefore to be noted that Hebrew simply has no

other way of expressing the sense of "becoming" - nor is it required

that the verb  be followed by   in order to convey this meaning, as

is so often argued. On the other hand, when a change of status IS

involved,   is followed by   : as in Acts 1.22 when a believer

becomes also an apostle.    "One must be ordained to become a

witness....", is in the Greek,  

    literally, "a witness of the resurrection of Him

with us to become").   In the Hebrew this has been rendered thus:

.....    ie., "He was taken

from among us, one who shall become with us a witness...."   Thus

was Matthias ordained and numbered among the twelve.

In the sense of "happening to" someone, the verb   is used in

the Hebrew New Testament in Acts 7.40, "We know not what has

become of him....", ie.,  , ie., "We do not

know what has happened to him".

In Acts 7.52 there is an interesting illustration of the difference

between the merely copulative use of the verb "to be" and that use

which signifies a changed status.   The English reads: "Of whom

ye have been now the betrayers and murderers".   The Hebrew

translation omits the verb before the word "betrayers" but inserts

it before "murderers":   ie.,

"Whom you (are) the betrayers and have become, with respect to

Him, as murderers".  It may be that the verb is intended to serve

for both clauses.... but it may also be that a mere betrayer remains


     pg.14 of 19      

as he was vis-a-vis society, whereas a murderer certainly does not,

for his status has definitely changed.   At any rate, the associated

lamedh (     ) appears only before the word "murderers" as though to

signify the special sense in which they had become murderers - not

by them selves laying hands on Him but by having others perform the

deed with their authorization.

In Acts 12.18 we have an excellent example of the pluperfect use, in

which the subject precedes the verb. The English reads: "As soon

as it was day, then a great stir was there among the soldiers to see

what was become of Peter".   In Hebrew this passage becomes:


which, rendered literally, would be: "(Came) the morning light and

a great stir had there come about among the men of war saying,

What has become of (ie., happened to) Peter?".     The dramatic

effect of this sentence is evident enough. Certainly the sense here

is "to happen" or "come about", and by paying attention to the word

order one observes the use of the pluperfect which adds to the vivid-

ness of the whole situation.

In Rom. 2.25 the verb     appears in the niphal or passive voice

and has the meaning of "be made into" or "turned into", followed by

    and the sense is thus: "thy circumcision is made into no circum-

cision at all", ie., "thy circumcision is converted into un-circum-

cision in reality".   This is a meaning found in the Old Testament

also, as in Exod.38.24, for example.

In I Cor. 9.22 and 23 the Greek has  


    ..... : ie., "to the weak I became weak.... to all I became

all things.... in order that I might become a partaker of it".   In

Hebrew,    is here consistently replaced by   : the verbal

forms appearing as "   twice, and   once.

In I Cor. 13.11, "when I became a man", ie.,    ,

in Hebrew appears as    , ie., "and when I became

as a man" and thus achieved the status of manhood,    again being

followed by     signifying this change of status.

In II Cor. 5.21, speaking of "achieving" the righteousness of God

in Christ Jesus, the Hebrew is  ,

meaning "In order that we might become in Him as the righteousness

of God". The lamedh signifies a change of status once again. The

Hebrew    is for the Greek  .

In Gal. 3.13: "(Christ) hath redeemed us from the curse of the

law) becoming on our behalf a curse...." appears in the Greek as

    .   In the Hebrew translation this is


     pg.15 of 19      

written as     , ie., "in which he became on

our behalf a cursed thing".   Lamedh follows     since this was

indeed a change of status for the Holy One of God.

In Rev. 11.15 appear the words, ".... saying, The kingdoms of

this world have become (the kingdoms) of our Lord". Here the Greek


and the Hebrew has:    or literally,

"saying, The kingdoms of the earth have become, our Lord's".

Now in the light of Thayer's conclusion that   is never

to be confused with    in Greek since its proper meaning is

"becoming", not "being", it is a little surprising to discover that in

the Authorized Version (as indexed by Young's Concordance) the

Greek verb    is translated "to be" some 250 times and "to

become" only 42 times. However, an examination of those instances

where the sense "to be" has been given to this verb in the Authorized

Version will soon reveal that the rendering "become" would be equally

valid, if not to be preferred, in the great majority of cases. Indeed

at the heading of this list, Young himself gives the true meaning of

the Greek verb as "to become"!   A few random cases will reveal

the validity of the above observation.

Matt. 5.45 (Young's first entry) is given as "That ye may be the

children of your Father", which is clearly more correctly to be read

as, "That ye may become the children of your Father....", a state-

ment exactly in accord with Jon. 1.12. In Mark 6.26, "the king was

exceedingly sorry", means in point of fact that he became exceeding-

ly sorry", for this is what we really mean in such a context since it

was a consequence of what preceded.

Luke 2.13, "Suddenly there was with the angel...." is clearly a

change, more expressively, "suddenly there came to be with the

angel...." John 4.14, ".... shall be in him a well of water...."

is clearly, ".... shall always be in him a well of water...."   And

so forth.   I do not say that it must always be so rendered, for

sometimes the sense involves an imperative, for example. But in

the majority of cases it should be.   In a number of instances the

range of meanings of the Hebrew verb     is found here in this Greek

verb    by much the same processes of idea-extension.   It

may mean "to happen", "to come about", "to live" or "exist" (as in

I Cor. 2.3 for example), and so forth. It has occasionally the mean-

ing of "counting for" or "amounting to". But it is very, very seldom

indeed that    is employed as a mere copulative.   I think

it possible that it is so employed more frequently than the Hebrew

   is since the latter almost certainly never is, but its normal


     pg.16 of 19      

meaning is "to become" just as by contrast the normal meaning of

   is "to be".

This is quite clearly borne out by the lexicographers.    Thus

Thayer gives its meanings as: (1) "to become", "to come into exist-

ence", "to begin to be", "to receive being"; (2) "to become", ie., "to

come to pass", "to happen"; (3) "to arise" in the sense of "appearing

in History"; (4) "to be made", "to be done", "to be finished"; and

(5) "to become" or "to be made" in situations where a new rank, or

character, etc. , is involved.   This last is analogous to the force

of   where a change of status is in view, as when a woman becomes

a wife.

It will be observed that Thayer does not list in his five classes of

meanings the simple copulative idea -is, was, shall be, etc. On

the other hand, he expressly states that this is the prime significance

of the Greek verb     ,"to be".   It would seem, therefore, that

the scholars who translated the New Testament of the Authorized

Version either were not aware of the true distinction between    

and    OR did not themselves distinguish between "being" and

"becoming" in English.   If one examines Young's list of occurr-

ences under the word "to be" as an English translation of the verb

    (the 3rd column of page 73 in my edition of that Concord-

ance) one finds that almost always the verb   is rendered

in the Hebrew version of the New Testament by  and the sense is

strictly "became". There are occasional exceptions. In Matt. 9.2 9

an entirely different Hebrew verb is used (   ) which means "let it

be established for you....", which is surely most appropriate.

Another exception is in Matt .16.2 where the translator of the Hebrew

version must have considered the word is in this verse ("when it is

evening") as purely copulative, for he has decided to omit the verb

entirely.  This could possibly be a case where    is used

copulatively.    But certainly such occasions do not seem very

frequent. Indeed, even in Greek, the simple copulative verb is apt

to be omitted where one might expect to find it according to English

modes of expression.   When it is omitted, the Hebrew version

follows suite - as in Matt. 24.32 for example, "Ye know that summer

is nigh....", or in Matt. 24.37, "But as the days of Noah were...."

In Matt.26.5 and 27.45 the Hebrew translator took the sense as simply

copulative and omitted the verb  , though  appears in

the Greek.

One must clearly bear in mind that the Hebrew version of the New

Testament is not an inspired one.   It constantly involved human

judgment. And although perhaps the translator worked prayerfully


     pg.17 of 19      

at his task, we cannot expect of it the same inerrancy that we may

expect to find in the original Scriptures.   I think we must either

assume that in such seemingly copulative uses in the New Testament

Greek we have in reality something more than appears to the casual

reader (in which case the Hebrew version is not accurately interpret-

ing the text) or we have some cases where the normal verb "to

become" is for some reason being used exceptionally. It is possible

of course, that our Greek New Testament is itself a version, a

translation of an original Aramaic, at least where the Gospels are

concerned, as Lamsda would argue.

From such examples* it would appear that whereas in moving from

Greek to Hebrew the Greek may be viewed as copulative and will not

be represented by any corresponding verb, in moving from Hebrew

to any other language it is safe to interpret the absence of the verb

   as prima facie evidence that the sense of the original is cop-

ulative. In short, in so far as arguments have validity when based

on a study of an uninspired Hebrew version of the Greek New Test-

ament, there is evidence enough that the verb     is virtually always

employed in Hebrew when the meaning is something other than the

simple one of "being". Thus    is not the normal word for "being"

even in the minds of modern translators, but it is the normal word

for "becoming" and there is, in fact, no other way in which a Hebrew

writer can express the idea of becoming except by its use.

Thus, in considering the meaning of Gen. 1.2, we have two factors

to take note of. If the verb is merely copulative, the writer could

have made this quite clear by omitting it entirely. Then there would

have be en no doubt about it. But he did NOT omit the verb. On the

contrary, there was no other way in which he could have expressed

the idea of "becoming" and the presence of the verb should therefore

be taken as having this significance.   It is no longer sufficient to

appeal to the old clich  that     means "become" only when followed

by lamedh. The many versions in English do not support this argu-

ment at all. A quite cursory examination of the Authorized Version

shows 30 or more passages in which    without the lamedh is rend-

ered "became" or "become". Indeed, in more than one third of the

occurrences of     in the original text, this is the case. A similar

examination of the Revised Standard Version shows about the same

number of occasions, actually about 25% of all occurrences of   


* Further examples will be found in Appendix XVII.

     pg.18 of 19      

 in the original. And the even more recent Berkeley Version reveals

ten cases in Genesis alone.* Such lists do not include the numerous

occasions where   is followed, not by lamedh, but by some other

preposition, such as    , etc. ,# where it is still rendered as 'became'

in the English versions.   Nor do these lists include numerous

occasions where the meaning is clearly "became" in spite of the fact

that no English version currently available has indicated the fact:

such passages, for example, as Exod.23.29, "Lest the land become

desolate......", or Ezek.26.5, "It shall become a place for the

spreading of nets...."

Thus, no special pleading is required to establish the fact that

the verb in Gen. 1.2 is most unlikely to be a mere copula.   Those

who decline to adopt this principle of rendering  as became rather

than  was are surely far more in danger of attempting to "explain

away" the original text than are those of us who do accept it, for we

are being guided by what certainly seems from the evidence to be the

rule rather than the exception.



* See Appendix XVIII for lists of references to these



# See Appendix X for references.


     pg.19 of 19      


Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved  


Previous Chapter                                                                      Next Chapter