When did God begin to create? | Jesus’ Creed

Genesis 1: 1-3. We all know that – and it’s crystal clear, isn’t it?

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was formless and empty; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said: Let there be light; And there was light. (KJV)

Now, there just happens to be some uncertainty in the translation of these verses. We don’t have the original text. Hebrew does not make vowels explicit, and there are several plausible ways to place the vowel in text. These change the nuanced meaning of the text. It is also not clear whether the first verse is a stand-alone sentence and the following is a description of creation in the rest of the chapter, or whether the first clause leads to the second and third verses. The NRSV translates this section as:

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void, and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind of God swept across the face of the waters. So God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

This translation emphasizes the initial obscurity and lack of form. The story of creation begins as God brings light to the face of the earth. The VIN is slightly different, verses 1 and 2 set the scene, with verse 1 perhaps a title.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Whatever the best translation, one thing is crystal clear. God alone is present at the beginning of human history and the world is shaped and formed according to his will and plan. Denis Lamoureux (The Bible and ancient science) emphasizes this point. The message of faith in this text does not rely on creation from scratch (this can be supported by other parts of scripture). It is based on the sole primacy of the God of the Bible, the God who called Abraham and established Israel, in creation.

Denis uses these verses to emphasize another important point.

Second, I realized that Bible interpretation always begins with submission to the very words of God’s Word. We may not like the idea that we don’t know with absolute certainty how to translate the first verse of the Bible, but it is the Bible evidence that exists so far. And although we are troubled by this evidence, we must accept it despite our assumptions and expectations about how we think the Holy Spirit is supposed to have revealed Himself in the scriptures. (p. 79)

We are not called to put the scriptures in the mold we desire, but to read them for the message about God and his work in his world and through his people. The most accurate interpretation of Genesis, based on the best information we have today, is that it describes creation from a pre-creative state. Whether God is responsible for this precreative state can be learned from other passages, but it is not important for the message of Genesis 1. As Christians, Hebrews 11: 3 gives us a start for creation to begin with. You’re welcome. “By faith we understand that the universe was formed (or the worlds were formed) by command of God, so that what is seen was not made from what was seen.“Colossians 1: 15-16 is even more explicit.

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things stand.

But here the focus is on Jesus as the One in whom everything was created. The revelation is progressive. Genesis 1 focuses on the order and function of creation, setting up the story. It assumes a kind of pre-creative state, but this is incidental to the intention of the passage. He is shapeless and empty. And God said: Let there be light.

Is the idea that Genesis 1 describes the order and creation of function rather than the creation of matter troubling?

What does it mean to submit to the Bible as the Word of God?

If you want to contact me directly, you can do so on rjs4mail[at]att.net

If you would like to comment on this article, you can do so at Reflections on Science and Theology.


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