Saturday, May 03, 2003

Tohu wa Bohu

Inanis et vacua is the phrase in St. Jerome’s Latin translation of the Bible that renders the "without form and void" of the first verse of Genesis. (When God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was without form and void…) The Hebrew original is "tohu wa bohu," a pair of words that always go together, something like "irrelevant and immaterial." I was going to write that Tohu wa Bohu recurs later on in the Bible, but that’s a little misleading since the first couple of verses of Genesis are from the Priestly source and were written after Jeremiah used tohu wa bohu to describe the moral condition of Jerusalem in his time. Like the prophet, I’m also using inanis et vacua to refer to a social and cultural situation: I don’t deal in the cosmic. I’m using the latin version because somebody got to the Hebrew first.

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