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Genesis 1:1

January 9, 2012

Now I’d like to start some commenting on the book of Genesis. My knowledge of this book is mostly limited to my own readings. I haven’t read any scholarship on when it may have been written or which parts may make up separate layers from other parts. I don’t know if I even should expend the time to find out, depending on whether there are strong theories with good evidence to support their respective claims. I can assuredly say that there is no Biblical statement of Moses’s authorship, despite what is commonly believed. Whether or not Mark 12:26, Luke 20:37, Luke 24:27, and perhaps other passages refer to Mosaic authorship of Exodus and other books of the Mosaic narrative, that still doesn’t identify the author of Genesis, which comes before that narrative. I also know of no internal text of Genesis that argues for giving the book a date earlier than—really, the Babylonian captivity, although an earlier date for the foundational Hebrew traditions is often postulated. I can’t speak toward the evidence on which such hypotheses may be based, or how much they apply to Genesis’s primary material or the majority of its text.

The first controversial area of Biblical interpretation is, no surprise, found in the first verse of Genesis. What is the time correlation between Genesis 1:1 and the following verses of the 1:1-2:3 passage? Is 1:1 just a summary of this passage? Does it speak of the origin of the already-extant earth of 1:2, or of the fashioning of the expanse and the dry land in 1:6-1:10? Should “heaven” be rendered singular in 1:1 and 1:8 (and Exodus 20:11), but translated as plural in Genesis 2:1, 4? (The Hebrew shameh/shamayim must be ambiguous.) Is there a difference between the Hebrew words bara’ and asah? Why is bara’ used in 1:1 (“created”) and asah used (“made”) in 1:7, 16, 25, 31, and also in 2:2-4 (as well as in Exodus 20:11)?

Yeah, that’s pretty much how it all begins in Biblical studies. So now you want my opinion on the verse? Well, the term “the beginning” (Hebrew re’shiyth) isn’t used again in these passages after 1:1, but both interpretations of the time relationship of the aforementioned verses take that into account. The specific naming of the “heaven(s)” and the “earth” in 1:8, 10, however, does make me think verse 1 is just a summary. On the other hand, the NIV and the HCSB use “heaven” for the first instance and “sky” for the second. The inconsistent translation of shameh/shamayim by these versions is puzzling, but I’m only basing my Hebrew analysis here off of Strong’s Concordance and Lexicon

In the case of my interpretation, why is the earth already in existence by 1:2? I would say that it really isn’t. I think—notice that choice of words—that “the earth” of 1:2 is just a reference to the substance that would become the earth in 1:9-10. As to the rest, I have no claim to being a Hebrew scholar.

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