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The "Waw" Conjunctions of Genesis 1 - Textual support against Gap and Day-Age theories

I received the following request around September 2009.


Brother Frazier, This grammar stuff is a little over my head, can you explain this in more simpler, understandable language. Part of it I understand, it's the grammar that has me confused.

2.‘Waw’ is the name of the Hebrew letter which is used as a conjunction. It can mean ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘now’, ‘then’, and several other things depending upon the context and type of waw involved.’ It occurs at the beginning of Genesis 1:2 and is translated in the KJV, ‘And [waw] the earth was without form, and void.’ Gappists use this translation to support the gap theory. However, the most straightforward reading of the text sees verse 1 of Genesis 1 as the principal subject-and-verb clause, with verse 2 containing three ‘circumstantial clauses’. ‘This is what [Hebrew grammarian] Gesenius terms a ‘waw explicativum’ [also called waw copulative or waw disjunctive] or explanatory waw, and compares it to the English ‘to wit’.’

Such a waw disjunctive is easy to tell from the Hebrew, because it is formed by waw followed by a non-verb. It introduces a parenthetic statement, that is, it’s alerting the reader to put the following passage in brackets, as it were—a descriptive phrase about the previous noun. It does not indicate something following in a time sequence—this would have been indicated by a different Hebrew construction called the waw consecutive, where waw is followed by a verb [the waw consecutive is in fact used before the different days of creation (see Creation at the academy (Dr Doug Kelly interview)]. Thus the Hebrew grammar shows that a better translation of Genesis 1:2 would be, ‘Now the earth …’, and it could be paraphrased, ‘Now as far as the earth was concerned …’.

It is as if the author of Genesis (under God’s direction), by the use of such a joining word, is going out of his way to stress that there is no break between the two verses.

The information presented came from an article written by Russell M. Grigg titled "From the Beginning of Creation. Does Creation Have a Gap?" published in Creation magazine, Vol. 19(2), Mar. 1997, pp. 35-38. It's a good article with lots of great information.

In the article, Grigg is describing the various arguments that Gap Theorists use to support their theory. One argument is the use of and (Hebrew waw) at the beginning of Genesis 1:2, "And the earth was without form, and void . . . ." In their opinion, the use of and in the flow of the text from verse 1 to verse 2 signifies a sequence of time—verse 2 occuring at an unknown period of time after verse 1. If this idea is true, then a "gap" between verses 1 and 2 of millions/billions of years could be justified. But is this idea really true?

Using and to begin sentences in English is thought to be a bit awkward, but we must always remember that any English Bible is ultimately a translation from Hebrew, Chaldean (Babylonian), or Greek. In the case of the book of Genesis the text was Hebrew, and in Hebrew the use of the conjunction and is quite common.

Conjunctions in Hebrew are commonly formed by the attachment of the letter waw (the Hebrew letter W or V) [also commonly written as vav] to the beginning of the next Hebrew word. In Hebrew there are various names given to the different ways the waw is connected. To give a sequence of timed events, the waw is attached to the beginning of a Hebrew imperfect verb. (Don't let the grammar terms throw you. In Biblical Hebrew, the imperfect verb form was used for actions that were not fully completed, and thus could imply present or future time.) Attached to an imperfect verb, we call this the "waw consecutive" because it denotes actions occurring one after another in sequence (consecutively).

The "waw consecutive" form is used throughout Genesis 1, which shows us that the events described between the days were occurring in sequence. For example, in verse 6, at the beginning of Day 2, waw is connected to the imperfect verb said: literally, "And said God," as also in vv. 9, 14, 20, and 24. This means that the author intended the reader to understand that the events described were genuine, occurring one after another—real history. This severely weakens the Progressive Creation theory which teaches the days of Genesis were only allegorical and denoted long "ages." Quite the contrary, these were real days, in a commonly understood manner (one rotation of the earth), that occurred as genuine history.

However, what happens when the waw is connected to a word that isn't a verb? This is the case with Genesis 1:2. Here, waw is connected to the earth. In this form, consecutive events are not implied at all. Instead, the Hebrew text is attempting to explain something already stated. In the case of verse 2, the reference is back to verse 1. Verse 2, therefore, isn't something that is occurring after verse 1; rather, verse 2 is a more detailed explanation of things already described in verse 1.

Wilhelm Gesenius (1786-1842) was a very prominent Hebrew scholar who is perhaps most noted for the publication of his Hebrew Grammar dictionary in 1910. Gesenius called this Hebrew conjunction form the "waw explicativum," but you can also find it called "waw copulative" or "waw disjunctive." Genesius' term explicativum is taken from the word explicative, which simply means "serving to explain." Thus, this particular Hebrew conjunction form is commonly called the "explanatory waw."

Verse 2 explains more of verse 1 in regards to the Earth that God created. The physical matter that God created in verse 1 was still unformed and unfilled (without form and void). The "waw disjunctive" form severely weakens the Gap Theory position because the Hebrew text does not allow for any "gap" of time between verses 1 and 2.

There is a waw consecutive in verse 2, but it begins the formation of Light: "Then [waw] said God, Let there be light. And [waw] saw God the light that good (it was) and [waw] separated God between the light and the darkness. And [waw] called God the light Day, and the darkness He called Night." These denote consecutive events; the beginning of verse 2 with "And [waw] the earth" does not denote a sequence of time. The beginning of verse 2 is a reference back to the condition of the earth in verse 1.

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