- Parent Category: FAQs
- Category: Bible Questions about creation and science
- Published on Tuesday, 15 February 2011 10:36
Ought we to interpret Genesis 1:1 as referring to the original creation of the universe quite distinct from the rest of the chapter, or is it the summary of what follows?
I certainly believe it is the former. If it were the latter, should we not expect the creation of both the heavens and the earth to be enlarged upon in the rest of the chapter, whereas the “heavens” in the sense of v. i are not mentioned again, nor is it the creation of the earth which is brought before us after Genesis 1:2, but the refurbishing of its surface conditions to prepare it as a habitation for man. The verb, “to create,” occurs only twice in the body of the chapter, at the start of animal life and at the start of human life, vv. 21, 27. Does not the fact that the earth alone is described as “without form and void” (tohtI wãbhohü) indicate that something had happened to it, which had not happened to the uni.. verse at large? There is nothing in verse i to suggest that the original creation was not perfect. That the earth was created a scene of desolation, is distinctly negatived in Isaiah 45:18: “He created not the earth a waste” (tohü) (R.V.).
These Hebrew descriptive words for “without form and void” occur together in only two other places, i.e., Isaiah 34:11: “the line of confusion (tohü) and the stones of emptiness”(bohü) ; and Jeremiah 4:23 “I saw the earth and lo, without form and void” (tohü wabhohü), and both describe scenes induced by judgment. We are not called to speculate as to why the earth, created as we believe, so perfectly (Gen 1:1) that “the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7), became so imperfect. We cannot imagine them doing this, if the creation they witnessed was a waste of desolation, covered with waters and pitch darkness. Between verses i and 3 may occur a period of untold millions of years, sufficient for the laying down of the stratified, fossiliferous and cretaceous, rocks, the coal measures, etc.
But is this division of the chapter a mere arbitrary device, or is it justified by the form of the Hebrew employed? I will cite as a reliable witness Dr. E. B. Pusey, for many years Regius professor of Hebrew at Oxford. He discusses the question in the Preface to his “Lectures on Daniel the Prophet,” p.p. xvii.-xxiv. He writes, “Of the forms of speech which could have been chosen, to express past time, that has been chosen, which least connects the date, when the earth was one vast waste, with the time when God created it.” Both were in past time, but there is nothing to connect “those times together.” “Had Moses intended to say that the earth was waste and desolate when God created it, the idiom for this would have been “and the earth without form and void” (without the verb) (page xviii.)—What Moses does write “has no force at all, unless it be used to express what was the condition of the earth in a past time previous to the rest of the narrative, but in no connection in time whatever with what precedes.” Dr. Pusey also points out that the “and” by which verse z is also united to v. i, shows that v. i does not stand as a mere summary of what follows. There are two distinct facts—the primal creation in v. x, and a subsequent condition of the earth “without form and void.”