January 3 In the beginning, God created [et] the heavens and [et] the earth Genesis 1:1 (Hebrew added)
Et – It’s there but you don’t see it. In Hebrew, this verse is Bere’shiyt bara’ Elohim et hashamayim ve et haarets. I have underlined the words translated “the heavens and the earth.” The first three words are “in the beginning created God.” But after elohim is a Hebrew particle, et. It also shows up before “the earth.” It is not translated. In fact, it is never translated in spite of more than 1000 occurrences in Scripture. Why? Well, the grammatical explanation is that et is just a marker, a kind of verbal signal, that the next word or words are the direct object of the sentence. And we don’t translate grammatical symbols. So, in English it disappears.
That is perfectly good English grammatical translation except for one amazing thing. Every Hebrew reader knows that et shows up in this verse and in hundreds of other verses. It’s all over the place. So, when Yeshua speaks in the book of Revelation, He refers to this odd phenomenon. In Hebrew, “I am the Alpha and Omega” becomes “I am the Aleph and the Taw.” And et is the two letters Aleph-Taw.
Now, it might just be accidental (are there really any accidents in Scripture?) but it seems to me that when Yeshua claims to be the beginning and the end, the Aleph-Taw, he claims something quite amazing about the first verse of Scripture. In fact, the apostle John endorsed this claim in his prologue (which we also need to read in Hebrew). What Yeshua says is that He was there as the active verb in the formation of the heavens and the earth. If Yeshua is the Aleph-Taw, then His signature is stamped on the opening line about the creation of everything. Through Him all things were created, says John. Maybe John was reading his Hebrew Bible too. Yeshua is the One responsible for transferring the action of creation into the form of heavens and earth. He is the connector between bara’ and all that comes into being. No wonder the men on the road to Emmaus felt their ears burning. It’s just too bad that our translation robs us of this amazing little particle. We don’t get to see the hand of the Messiah moving space in the beginning.
It’s truly unfortunate that contemporary Christianity converts God’s language into the parlance of the receiving culture. It’s like listening to your native tongue in the mouth of a tourist. Yes, most of the words are there, but often the idioms are lost, the nuances disappear and the whole communication is wooden. If you’ve ever heard broken English spoken by a native Japanese or broken Spanish spoken by a native American, you know just how much gets lost. If we wanted to really know what God said, our churches should be teaching His language, not converting the Hebrew culture into something that sounds like ours. That won’t happen today, but today we can start to appreciate just how amazingly complex and rich and revelatory God’s chosen language really is. Today we can offer up praise for His choice of Hebrew. It wasn’t an accident. It kind of makes you wonder what else we’re missing, doesn’t it?
Topical Index: et, translation, Hebrew