Creation. So, this is how these posts are going to work: I’m going to liveblog while reading through the passage in the English Standard Version (ESV) quite quickly, and then go back through the passage again with the New English Translation (NET, link here), an open-source, always-free-online translation, which allows both side-by-side english and greek/hebrew with word highlighting (a useful feature for those of us who can’t read much of the ancient languages), and fully public translator’s notes. Seriously, everyone should be using this.
Along the way, I’ll talk about how I feel, things I’ve learned from various classes, and how I see this text influencing my theology. Now, let’s get started.
Genesis 1.1: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Bam. A couple things strike me right away. First, why didn’t God just create everything already in motion? I mena, it’s not like he had to come up with stuff on the fly. If he had wanted to, he could have snapped his Eternal Fingers and created a fully-formed Earth fully populated with everything.
This reminds me of an old Atheist mind game called Last Thursdayism. It’s the idea that an omnipotent being created the world last Thursday. Everything prior to last Thursday are memories created within our minds at the moment of creation. It’s very interesting that the Scripture does not speak about creation this way – or at least, doesn’t seem to.
Second, God was there. Right from the very beginning, God was there. He has always been connected with his Creation, and has never been distant from it. Awesome.
And now, with a little more in-depth analysis, using the NET as source.
1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
1:2 Now the earth was without shape and empty, and darkness was over the surface of the watery deep, but the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the water.
The first statement has been interpreted in two main ways. I’m not going to source a lot of stuff here, but if you’re interested ask in the comments and I’ll find sources for you. First, it could be ‘at the beginning of everything, God created everything’ – that is, all the raw matter that would be necessary to carry out the act of creation. The second way it could be read is as a summary statement of what will happen over the course of the creation event – ‘God created everything at the beginning’ – essentially a title for the creation narrative that follows. The nuance may be slight, and perhaps it doesn’t matter much. Personally I prefer the second reading, as it fits better with a narrative reading of Genesis, which I am personally more comfortable with. I’ll get into why later on when we deal with the six days of creation.
One final note on v.1 – the word ‘create’, bara, is often connected with renewing, restoring, or creating something right and good. Beautiful. Sometimes I wish I could read the nuances of Hebrew.
On to v.2. The phrase ‘without shape and empty’, tohu bohu, is fascinating. Later, the prophets (Jeremiah, I think) would use this construction to speak about judgement – perhaps they were evoking the imagery of the chaos prior to creation. Another interesting note is that the sea was often representative of the grave or of death for the Hebrew people. Darkness, throughout the OT, often represents evil, sin, or destruction. So, out of a chaos of destruction and death, God brings life. Beautiful. In the first two verses of the Bible, we have a God who has the power over the forces of death and destruction, and who is intimately connected with his creation.
There is always more that could be said, but let’s leave it there for now. Creation narrative coming up on Friday (hopefully) – tomorrow, we look at Matthew!