How did the original readers understand Gen 1:1?

One pro Gap position suggests Gen 1:1 is a summary statement of the whole chapter.  While we read heavens and earth as meaning the universe and the planet, possibly the verse should be understood as meaning the sky and the land since the terms heaven and earth are used later in chapter 1.  We can test this suggestion by reviewing the chapter and context.

When we look at the Hebrew there is nothing particularly to affirm or deny the suggestion.  The word ‘heaven’ has a wide range of uses from the universe through to the sky and air.  Similarly, the word for ‘earth’ is extremely broad.  So we must go to the context of Gen1 and see how the expressions are used.

Heaven

  • Used in v1
  • V6 the firmament is defined as heaven (with waters above and below it)
  • V14 the sun, moon & stars are set/placed in the firmament of heaven
  • V15 the lights are in the firmament of heaven
  • V17 the lights are set in the firmament of heaven
  • V20 the birds fly across the face of the firmament of heaven
  • V26 & 29 God puts the fowls of heaven (the air) under man’s dominion

It is hard to see how the word ‘Heaven’ in v1 can be defined as other than the universe for the OEC reader.  The heavens in Gen1 is where the stars are.  Therefore Gen 1:1 must be including the creation of the stars/universe rather than just the local atmosphere.

Earth:

  • Used in v1
  • V2 the earth was without form and void
  • V10 the dry land appeared and is named earth
  • V11 & 12 the earth brings forth grass and fruit trees
  • V14 & 17 the sun etc give light to the earth
  • V24 onwards referenced in passing with the fowls and animals

‘The earth’ is not therefore just the dry land in contrast to the sea.  V10-12 may suggest dry land however the earth was initially under water.  The usage in v2 is more akin to what we would call the planet/world – a use found in Scripture (eg “the earth is the Lord’s” Psa24v1) and this is consistent with the light of the sun and moon falling on the planet, versus just dry land in v14 and 17.

Consequently, the wording and context of Genesis 1 speak against reading a gap into Gen1 and putting the creation of the universe and planet into some separate earlier event.

Other passages in Scripture pose more challenges to this reading of Gen 1:1-2.  They provide further evidence of how we should literally understand the record.

Exod 20:11 is quoted in these discussions to support a literal 6 day reading of Gen1.  The passage raises problems for the OEC viewpoint:

For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.

So Moses takes Gen1:1 and includes it within the 6 days of activity which follow.  This is consistent with the actual reading of Gen1:3.  God made the heaven and the earth in Gen1:1.  It was all in darkness v2.  Then God created light & divided it from the darkness v3-4.  The evening and the morning were day 1 v5.  I suggest the natural reading of Gen 1 is the evening/darkness was identified in v2 and the morning came with the creation of light in v3.  Hence Moses words in Exod20 reconcile with Gen 1 and the heavens and earth being created as part of the 6 days.

The same form of words is repeated by Moses in Exod 31:17, ie this is not just a one verse problem (and it is also in Neh9:6).  Similarly, Psa33:6 (used by OEC brethren to demand instant creation and deny natural processes) says

By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.”

The OEC believer suggests dry land existed before Genesis 1, as did the sun moon and stars.  However, the simple and consistent testimony of Scripture contradicts this attempt to reconcile with science.   Once again in Psa33 the language naturally includes the stars within the operation of Day4 and therefore undermines an old earth model.

Consequently, I suggest viewing v1 as a summary heading of what follows is not readily supported given the use of the two words in the chapter and the commentary on Genesis 1 by other Scriptures.  Ie the OEC understanding of a gap is not consistent with the context of Gen1 and other related scriptures.

 

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2 thoughts on “How did the original readers understand Gen 1:1?

  1. Christadelphians

    We are limiting the meaning of the text of the first two chapters of Genesis when we would only consider earth to be our globe. From the whole Biblical contexts we may assume that we must see the difference between eretz (earth or land) and haaretz (earth or ground) and aphar ha’aretz (dust of the earth or the sand or grains of earth) having also the globe and other planets around in the universe with their suns and stars.

    When Jehovah created the universe, he created so many stars and planets that we could never count them all.

    Problem with man is that they always think they know exactly how something is. But man’s knowledge is much more limited than God’s knowledge so often scientific results first taken as the answer seem some years later not true. As such we had one time the newspaper, the Houston, Texas Chronicle, reported that “after a recent study, scientists now think that there are 300 sextillion stars in the universe.” That is a 3 followed by 23 zeros! But we should know it could be many more and we should see that somehow they are all organized. Yes, groups of stars are organized into galaxies. Each galaxy contains many planets and billions or even trillions of stars. Most galaxies are then organized into groups called clusters, and these clusters are organized into larger groups called superclusters.

    The first chapter of Moshe’s book does not want to bring a scientific report on how everything is placed and structured but only wants to give a short review in a way which is easy to tell to others so that they can easily remember. for that reason the story-telling is the easiest form for oral tradition, for which it was provided. As such we should not take the story to be taken literally but figuratively. Also not considering the 6 days as literally six 24 hours but more as periods of development or if you wish ‘evolution’ Today we still evolve and we should see how our own children and grandchildren are already so much different than us (see their body build). Those who want to see the first man as our contemporary man from Europe or the United states of America (the Caucasian type) mostly have a superiority feeling of their own race and are ashamed to have come from living souls (Leneʹfesj chai·jahʹh) who walked on their four limbs. (If you look at the body perhaps it was even not being made to walk on two limbs.)

    Those who want to adhere to creationist views show they are missing many points of later books which form together the library of Book of books we call the Bible.

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  2. Christadelphians

    Reblogged this on Jeshua-ists and commented:
    We are limiting the meaning of the text of the first two chapters of Genesis when we would only consider earth to be our globe. From the whole Biblical contexts we may assume that we must see the difference between eretz (earth or land) and haaretz (earth or ground) and aphar ha’aretz (dust of the earth or the sand or grains of earth) having also the globe and other planets around in the universe with their suns and stars.

    When Jehovah created the universe, he created so many stars and planets that we could never count them all.

    Problem with man is that they always think they know exactly how something is. But man’s knowledge is much more limited than God’s knowledge so often scientific results first taken as the answer seem some years later not true. As such we had one time the newspaper, the Houston, Texas Chronicle, reported that “after a recent study, scientists now think that there are 300 sextillion stars in the universe.” That is a 3 followed by 23 zeros! But we should know it could be many more and we should see that somehow they are all organized. Yes, groups of stars are organized into galaxies. Each galaxy contains many planets and billions or even trillions of stars. Most galaxies are then organized into groups called clusters, and these clusters are organized into larger groups called superclusters.

    The first chapter of Moshe’s book does not want to bring a scientific report on how everything is placed and structured but only wants to give a short review in a way which is easy to tell to others so that they can easily remember. for that reason the story-telling is the easiest form for oral tradition, for which it was provided. As such we should not take the story to be taken literally but figuratively. Also not considering the 6 days as literally six 24 hours but more as periods of development or if you wish ‘evolution’ Today we still evolve and we should see how our own children and grandchildren are already so much different than us (see their body build). Those who want to see the first man as our contemporary man from Europe or the United states of America (the Caucasian type) mostly have a superiority feeling of their own race and are ashamed to have come from living souls (Leneʹfesj chai·jahʹh) who walked on their four limbs. (If you look at the body perhaps it was even not being made to walk on two limbs.)

    Those who want to adhere to creationist views show they are missing many points of later books which form together the library of Book of books we call the Bible.

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    Reply

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