Genesis 1 is a doozy. It’s hard to get more epic than “In the beginning…”, i.e., Bereshit, the first words of the Hebrew text.
Some notes from our discussion:
- There’s no introduction of God; no paratext; no named narrator. We’re just plunged into a world in which God, the God, is assumed to exist. There’s no theogony here. (And to be clear, this is the Elohim-God.)
- There are two versions of Creation. In this one, the Elohim-God does the epic seven-day thing.
- Is there a “logic” to creating, say, land before creating objects on that land? Worth noting some interesting scientific parallels: the water predates everything, just as in the scientific worldview, life indeed came from the water. Indeed, the water seems to exist in the pre-creation time, when God is alone with the deep.
- As Christine Hayes points out, the idea of a God interacting with the deep would have been familiar to the Ancient Near Eastern audience, as a parallel to the story of Marduk and Tiamat from the Enuma Elish. Marduk, the male “wind”-god, battles with the female Tiamat, or deep; deep might also be a proper noun—(a) God’s breath on Deep, the great goddess of infinite space.
- the Hebrew ruach, translated in many of our editions as “wind,” is more akin to a “breath,” similar to the “breath of life” that God will later bestow upon His human creations.
- Unlike previous iterations of the Marduk/Tiamat story, the agent here is not a great battle, nor an explicit copulation, but the Word: God says or commands the world into being.
- Or… God’s heavy breathing creates the world… 😉
- God’s position as a Judge is also established here: and He saw that it was good. Does the idea of “good” predate God? Or is God the ultimate good?
- The good here is not necessarily a moral one, but refers more closely to the idea of craftsmanship: this world is well-made.
- Would God have made a shoddy world? Or are we to take it that God is essentially improvising as He goes along?
- Relatedly, can time exist before light?
- God creates not just the heavens and earth, but also the great whales, also tr. the sea monsters. As @Abdiel mentions: “God didn’t have to create whales.” But He did.
- There are some interesting architectural connotations to the vault (also tr. firmament, dome).
- Voice vs. thought: God exists in time, just as the paratactic style of this chapter—and, arguably, much of Genesis and certainly the KJV—emphasizes the sequential, timely order in which events and Creations occur.
- “God was basically doing jazz.”
- “God paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.”
- Where is the Bad News Bible?
Image credit: NASA.