Wednesday, January 27, 2016

“Bereshit bara Elohiym eth hashamayim w’et ha’eretz” (Genesis 1:1)

1:1 “In beginning God created the heavens and the earth”

The five words in verse one (sans the articles and the conjunction) are tricky to read. Well, the basic idea is clear—God made everything that exists. But there is so much more to be speculated about here:

First, we can ask ourselves, “Is this a standalone statement, a title, or a temporal clause tied into the following verses?” Maybe it is a little of everything.

If it is a title, then the creative action begins in verse 3. Heavens and Earth is a formulation that conveys our modern concept of “universe,” but the heavens are created on day two and earth on day three, so it can be read as a title statement. Then again, it can be read as a declaration that God created everything, and then what follows is a description of His action ordering and structuring creation.

The main idea here is that the biblical account of creation is that God did it. He did it alone. He did it in power and starting from nothing. There is no realm already in existence. There are no other gods in cahoots nor in opposition. God works with intention and not out of caprice. And all of that is wholly and utterly different from every other account of creation in the ancient world.

And perhaps more than anything else, that is the purpose of the prologue to Genesis. And more than a detailed technical schematic or how God created the universe, the theological points that will be made in comparison to other worldview of the time will be what is important going forward…

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