The Creation of Language and Language without Time: Metaphysics and Metapragmatics in Genesis

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This essay makes two related arguments regarding the relation of the performative language of creation in Genesis 1 to temporality and to existence. The first explores how Biblical Hebrew constructs atemporal language in order to designate divine action that does not presuppose temporality through an under-researched device known as grammatical aspect. The second offers a new explanation of why language was the instrument of creation ex nihilo to begin with. It argues that fiat lux should be understood as the instant of the metalinguistic creation of language itself. Together these claims suggest that standard readings of the biblical creation narrative, especially when relying on translations that presuppose temporal categories in their grammatical forms and thus in their metaphysical commitments (as Germanic languages, such as English, do), fail to express the radical nature of the creation narrative-placing divine creation in time and telling, in essence, a flawed story. While offering primarily a linguistic argument, this essay also adds to the discussion of the relations between language and the metaphysical commitments of mimesis in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-225
Number of pages21
JournalBiblical Interpretation
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2012


  • Bible translations
  • Biblical Hebrew
  • Genesis
  • aorist aspect
  • atemporality
  • grammatical aspect
  • hermeneutics
  • linguistic performativity
  • metalanguage
  • metapragmatics
  • mimesis
  • perfective aspect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies


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