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Bob MacDonald

All good advice - and I am happy to receive it from you! I am as you may know immersed in the psalms for at least another 6 months. How I miss my reading partner who disappeared! His Hebrew, Greek, Italian, and English all excellent and Hungarian his mother tongue - that explains it!

As far as Genesis is concerned is there a case for a Janus join in 2.4b? It closes the opening 1:1 and also perhaps looks forward. I don't know, I've never read past Gen 2:4 in Hebrew!


Hi Bob,

I trust you will find a new reading partner. That is another excellent approach; it is always better to learn with someone else rather than on one's own.

I think the best explanation is that Gen 2:4a is a colophon to the preceding. Elsewhere in the book of Genesis, something like 2:4a (without בהבראם, a tipoff if you will) appears as a superscript to a unit.

So yes, it is natural enough to think of 2:4a as a Janus join. But I can't think of any way to prove or disprove of the idea.

Brian Mitchell

“As far as Genesis is concerned is there a case for a Janus join in 2.4b? “

Bob, if you take it that way you certainly won't be alone in that understanding. And, it does make a lot of sense.

However, some also divide the text at verse 2:3. Recall that Long before there were verse numbers, there were Petuhah and Setumah sections.

Here are the first seven Petuhah markers (notice any interesting coincidences here?):

1:1-5 Petuhah marker(1)
1:6-8 Petuhah marker(2)
1:9-13 Petuhah maker(3)
1:14-19 Petuhah marker(4)
1:20-23 Petuhah marker(5)
1:25-31 Petuhah marker(6)
2:1-3 Petuhah marker(7)

Thus according to the Massorah (or my understanding of it) 2:4 starts a new section or maybe it is a subheading for the next section? This section that also happens to be a Tolodeth section as well.

Going back to 2.3
we notice that the Masorah Parva of the BHS alerts us that the phrase
ברא אלהים
appears three times in the Pentateuch. The Massorah Magna then informs of the three verse:

בראשית ברא אלהים Gen 1:1
אשר ברא אלהים לעשות Gen 2:3
[למן היום אשר ברא] Deut 4:2
That really doesn't have anything to do with the question, but it is fun.

John, I really like the suggestion of reading the Bible without vowel points! The resources you have freely provided to do that are nice!

However, if reading on a computer screen tires your eyes or if you just enjoy reading from a physical book I highly recommend getting a 'Tikkun Korim'. Basically it is the Pentateuch in Hebrew with parallel texts one with accents and vowel points, and the other without accents and vowel points.

Here are two popular editions with page samples as well:

Ktav's Tikkun Korim


Mishor Sifrei Kodesh's Tikkun Korim


Hi Brian,

Another paratextual feature of MT is the break at half-verse in Genesis 2:4.

For a defense of Gen 2:4a as, on the contrary, an introduction to Gen 2:4b and following, see Andreas Schuele's recent commentary in the Herder series. I'm not convinced but Schuele makes a careful argument.

It's possible to take Gen 2:4a in syntactic isolation from the 2:4b and following. But it is not possible to take 2:4b as the syntactic continuation of 2:4a.

BTW, if you don't like staring at computer screens, you can print out my pdfs.

Brian Mitchell

Hello again John,

"see Andreas Schuele's recent commentary in the Herder series."

would, the commentary referred to above happen to be: Der Prolog der hebräischen Bibel?
Everything, good is written in German! I am going to start studying German seriously.

“It's possible to take Gen 2:4a in syntactic isolation from the 2:4b and following.

Eißfeldt the editior of Gen in the BHS seem to agree with that point of view as
אֵ֣לֶּה תוֹלְד֧וֹת הַשָּׁמַ֛יִם וְהָאָ֖רֶץ בְּהִבָּֽרְאָ֑ם
is seperated as a line unto it's self
and I think I am now convinced that this makes sense

Jerusalem crown 2nd edition 2004 arranges the text like this
אֵ֣לֶּה תוֹלְד֧וֹת הַשָּׁמַ֛יִם וְהָאָ֖רֶץ
בְּהִבָּֽרְאָ֑ם בְּי֗וֹם עֲשׂ֛וֹת יְהוָ֥ה
and so does the Leningard Codex (see: )

As for PC screens. I do not mind reading on computer screens, but I personally love the aesthetic experience of reading a well typeset Hebrew Bible.(I'm ranting of topic sorry) In general the HB is rarely typeset the same way in an electronic version. Electronic version do not usually present the (הִ minusculum) in the word ( בְּהִבָּֽרְאָ֑ם ) at Gensis 2:4.

I haven't had a chance to use the Andersen-Forbes database, but I do own a license to an edition of WIVU syntactical database and it was worth every penny.

Once again, your suggestions are great! I own a set of the audio CD of the Tanakh read by actor Shlomo Bertonov, and they are great.

גולת הכותרת היתה: הקלטת התנ"ך בקריאתו של השחקן שלמה ברטונוב ז"ל

I am happy to see that you advise your students to listen audio and to read orally without vowel points! The first Hebrew Bible printed in America was done so entirely without vowels. So, you are inline with the great American tradition.



The Leningrad codex and the Jerusalem Keter edition arrange the text as they do, not because of an imputed sense division, but because they are following column widths stipulated by halachah. The neumes (accents) instantiate a syntactic parse of the text; the atnach or half-verse division is fixed on בְּהִבָּֽרְאָ֑ם.

Brian Mitchell

I am always happy to meet anyone interested in the טַעֲמֵי הַמִּקְרָא!

“Many verses in the Bible are divided into two independent clauses-parallel “halves.” is marked with the ta'am ethnahta(אֶתְנַחְתָּא). This Aramaic word, related to the Hebrew word מְנוּחָה . Means a ‘resting point.’ The ethnahta was originally written in the shape of an upside-down “v”. The modern symbol, used in most printed Bibles, resembles a vertical line resting on top of a convex semicircle. The ethnahta is placed under the first letter of stressed syllable.” (Chanting the Hebrew Bible; the complete guide to the Art of Cantillation, Joshua R. Jacobson pg.35)

אֶתְנַחְתָּא" functions as the main separator within a verse of Torah, very much like a comma or semicolon. It divides the verse into two parts and is found in nearly every verse of the Torah.” (The Art of Torah Cantillation; Ta-amei Hamikra, Cantor Marshall Portnoy & Cabtor Josee Wolff pg. 11)

If, by 'Halachah you meant Rambam Hilkhot Sefer Torah then, I then this in this case practice preceded Halachah. The Karaites are claimed to be responsible for the writing of the codices and they certiantly were not following the halachah of nominative/Rabbinic Judaism. So, what became Halachah was first the textual practices of the Karaites if they were in 'fact' the Masoretes?

But, yes I agree that most printed editions of the Hebrew Bible follow Halachah in some form or another.

Nathan Bierma

Hi John,

Thanks as always for your insights and guidance. I recall you've written before about good pedagogy for teaching Hebrew in seminaries, but remind me where to get a good overview from you. What's the best way to avoid the problems I describe (& complain about) here:


Hi Nathan,

Check the sidebar to the left for a long - and incomplete - list of posts I have done on the topic, under "Learning Ancient Hebrew."

I agree with a point you make in your post, that emphasis on "linguistic correctness" in elementary textbooks of ancient Hebrew is beside the point of learning the language.

Of course I want textbooks that are not naive from the linguistic point of view. But if the choice is between a textbook and teacher that eschew linguistics but succeed in imparting the language, and a textbook and teacher that split linguistic hairs and leave one with little or no Hebrew in one's bones. I'll take the former every time.

The best advice I can give is simple: with tapes and text, listen, read; read, listen; drill, baby drill with the paradigms; parse until your head spins. Get to the point in which you can compose in biblical Hebrew with some confidence.

A tall order, I know. It is a worthy, lifelong project.

Bob MacDonald

Given your detailed awareness of the markings in the MT, John, I forget if I ever asked you about Suzanne Haik Vantoura and her decoding of the te'amim as musical notation. There was a presentation on her work at the psalms conference, and it was more or less taken for granted that her work was a legitimate set of inferences. I have several examples linked to my psalter page. and there is a brief overview here on what was presented at the Oxford Psalms Conference. I did look t her book in the University Library but there was insufficient time to learn to read the te'amim. I wonder if anyone is publishing a transcription to modern notation.


So far as I know, Bob, Vantoura's work is not taken seriously by musicologists in the field. I am not in a position to judge myself, except that I will assume that the musical traditions that have come down to us have ancient roots. I believe she makes the opposite assumption.

Bob MacDonald

Her assumption is that the te-amim are chironomy writ small - ancient roots in Egypt but without the need for a conductor for each instrument. I'll try and find a musicologist. My daughter will know one.


That assumption is not controversial. It's where she goes from there that is the problem,

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