Genesis-Answers to Life’s Crucial Questions: Genesis 1:1 “In the Beginning God”
Monday, January 28, 2008- Here are my notes from Sunday School yesterday. I did not make it all the way through, I did not get to “the heavens and the earth”. Next week I will pick up where I left off and I will spend a lot of time discussing the classical proofs of God. Keep in mind- these are notes, not a finished Bible Study or sermon.
Redeemer Church Sunday School
Genesis: Finding Answers to Life’s Crucial Questions
Semester One: Genesis 1-11 “Beginnings”
Introduction: Good morning and welcome back to Genesis- Finding Answers to Life’s Crucial Questions. Let’s begin studying the beginning by reading John1:1-3 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
Last week I introduced myself to you and you introduced yourselves to me. Then we introduced ourselves to the study of Genesis. Today we are going to dive into the text of verse 1 and see first of all what the text says and what part of it means. I doubt we will get through all of it today except in a very abbreviated manner. Then we will start to ask the first of our crucial questions from this text: (1) Why is there something instead of nothing? (2) Why should I believe in God? (3) What was before the beginning? And (4) What is God like?
But before we jump into the text I do want to take a little bit of time to get to know each other, so each week I will ask a question based off of my testimony that I shared last week. I told you that I was born and raised a Southern Baptist.
QQ: What church background do y’all have?
Read Gen.1:1-2:3 While the scholars are not 100% united in this, it seems like the majority think that these verses I have read comprise the first literary segment of Genesis. Even though we will just be looking at 1:1 today I want us to always practice the principle of keeping a verse in its context. When you isolate a verse from its surrounding context you can pretty much bend and twist it any way you want, and that is not being true to the text. So as we go through Genesis we will at times, particularly in these first 3 chapters, focus on one verse at a time. But we will always take a step back and see how the verse relates to the immediate context, Genesis as a whole, the Pentateuch, the OT, and the NT. Here is a good example of how the guy who divided up the Bible into chapters and verses kind of messed up.
When the books of the Bible were originally written, they did not contain chapter or verse references. The Bible was divided into chapters and verses to help us find Scriptures more quickly and easily. It is much easier to find “John chapter 3, verse 16” than it is to find “for God so loved the world…” In a few places, chapter breaks are poorly placed and as a result divide content that should flow together. Overall, though, the chapter and verse divisions are very helpful.
The chapter divisions commonly used today were developed by Stephen Langton, an Archbishop of Canterbury. Langton put the modern chapter divisions into place in around A.D. 1227. The Wycliffe English Bible of 1382 was the first Bible to use this chapter pattern. Since the Wycliffe Bible, nearly all Bible translations have followed Langton’s chapter divisions.
The Hebrew Old Testament was divided into verses by a Jewish rabbi by the name of Nathan in A.D. 1448. Robert Estienne, who was also known as Stephanus, was the first to divide the New Testament into standard numbered verses, in 1555. Stephanus essentially used Nathan’s verse divisions for the Old Testament. Since that time, beginning with the Geneva Bible, the chapter and verse divisions employed by Stephanus have been accepted into nearly all the Bible versions.
Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
Overview: How this text relates to what follows.
Martin Luther’s commentary on Genesis, dating from the 1530’s, begins “The first chapter is written in the simplest language; yet it contains matters of the utmost importance and very difficult to understand. It was for this reason, as St. Jerome asserts, that among the Hebrews it was forbidden for anyone under thirty to read the chapter or to expound it for others. They wanted one to have a good knowledge of the entire Scripture before getting to this chapter…Until now there has not been anyone in the church either who has explained everything in the chapter with adequate skill. The commentators, with their sundry, different, and countless questions, have so confused everything in the chapter as to make it clear enough that God has reserved His exalted wisdom and the correct understanding of this chapter for Himself alone, although He has left with us this general knowledge that the world had a beginning and that it was created by God out of nothing. This general knowledge is clearly drawn from the text. As to particulars, however, there are differences of opinion about very many things, and countless questions are raised at one point or another.” (Luther’s Works, vol.1 Lectures on Genesis Chapters 1-5, Jaroslav Pelikan, ed. Concordia: St. Louis, 1958, p.3).
As we begin this study of Genesis I think Luther’s words of caution are appropriate! There are way too many intramural wars fought within the Faith without the granting of mercy or any sign of humility. Here in the early chapters of Genesis we will find a lot of different views, interpretations and opinions, yet most are arrived at by faithful Christians trying to be true to the Word of God.
John Sailhamer, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol.2, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1990 writes (pp.19f): “These seven words are the foundation of all that is to follow in the Bible. The purpose of the statement is threefold: to identify the Creator, to explain the origin of the world, and to tie the work of God in the past to the work of God in the future…The proper context for understanding 1:1, in other words, is the whole of the book of Genesis and the Pentateuch.”
Keep in mind that we are considering Moses to be the author of Genesis even though he at least had the oral history of the patriarchs passed down to him and told to him, no doubt, by his mother whom the daughter of pharaoh hired to take care of him. Writing had been developed by that time and he could at least read Egyptian and Hebrew and very likely Sumerian. I am saying all this because Genesis was written while Moses and Israel were in the wilderness, and he wrote it for Israel in their situation. So it makes sense that Gen.1-2:3 serves as an introduction to the rest of the Pentateuch, the rest of the message Moses is leaving to Israel.
Now in this first verse we find the Bible’s cosmology (its view of the origins of the universe) is elegantly stated in this one beautiful sentence. This one verse speaks volumes both by what it says and by what it leaves out. It is a startling contrast to the myths and legends of creation of the peoples all around Israel.
David Wilkinson, The Bible Speaks Today series, The Message of Creation, IVP: Downers Grove, 2002 (p.18) writes of Gen. chapter 1: “Here we have the overture to the Bible. The scene is being set by introducing some of the fundamental themes that will feature in more detail later in the book. And this is an overture about the central character. It is about the character who is introduced in the first verse, and who is central to the close of this overture (Gen.2:1-2). This is not a passage about the ‘how’ of creation, nor even primarily about the ‘why’ of creation. Rather, it is a passage about the ‘who’ of creation, and is an overture that introduces us to the Creator God.”
Both Sailhamer and Wilkinson then, indicate that the first verse points us to what comes next, to what follows, back to the future even.
QQ: What is an overture? It is an introduction to a musical drama like an opera or oratorio that demonstrates the themes that will follow. There is another meaning to the word overture; it is a reaching out to someone, taking the initiative to help someone who is lonely or hurting, someone with whom your relationship is strained. Genesis 1:1 is God reaching out to us sinners, giving us the themes of His story that is to follow.
Read: Gordon J. Wenham, Word Biblical Commentary, vol.1 Genesis 1-15, Word Books: Waco, 1987 writes (p.7): “The correspondence of the first paragraph, 1:1-2, with 2:1-3 is underlined by the number of Hebrew words in both being multiples of 7. 1:1 consists of 7 words, 1:2 of 14 (7×2) words, 2:1-3 of 35 (7×5) words. The number seven dominates the opening chapter in a strange way, not only in the number of words in a particular section but in the number of times a specific word or phrase recurs. For example, “God” is mentioned 35 times, “earth” 21 times, “heaven/firmament” 21 times, while the phrases “and it was so” and “God saw that it was good” occur 7 times.”
Wenham, p.10 “In its present setting Gen.1:1-2:3 serves as a splendid introduction to the book of Genesis as a whole. It declares that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is no mere localized or tribal deity, but the sovereign LORD of the whole earth. The apparently petty and insignificant family stories that occupy the bulk of the book are in fact of cosmic consequence, for God has chosen these men so that through them all the nations of the earth should be blessed.”
“The careful symmetries and deliberate repetitiveness of the chapter reveal more than a carefully composed introit to the book of Genesis; they speak of a God who creates order by his very word of command. Gen.1 is more than a repudiation of contemporary oriental creation myths; it is a triumphant invocation of the God who has created all men and an invitation to all humanity to adore him who has made them in his own image.”
What does the first verse say: How are we going to approach this verse?
First we will examine each of the key words or phrases: 1) in the beginning; 2) God; 3) created; 4) the heavens and the earth.
QQ: What does “beginning” mean to you? What does the text mean “In the beginning?”
In the beginning– bereshith– Strong’s 7225 defines it as the first in place, time, order or rank (specially firstfruit) beginning, chiefest, principle thing. BDB says it can refer to the beginning of a kingdom, Gen.10:10; beginning of a year, Deut 11:12; beginning of a reign, Jer.26:1; 27:1; 28:1; 49:34; it is the first phase, element or step in the course of events, Isa.46:10. See Job 8:7.
The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament vol 2, by Harris, Archer and Waltke, Moody Press: Chicago, 1980 (p.826) “The most important use of reshit in the OT occurs in Gen.1:1…Many commentators both ancient and modern have tried to read the phrase as ‘when-‘ rather than ‘in the beginning’ as do several modern versions. The chief modern justification for this interpretation of the root is to relate it to the phrase ‘enuma elish’ which begins the Babylonian epic of creation. However, there is no evidence to connect the two different terms, the one in Hebrew and the other in Babylonian…The NT (in John1:1) translates the Hebrew and follows the LXX precisely in its reading of Gen.1:1 the first phrase of the OT. The use of this root leaves no doubt that Gen. 1:1 opens with the very first and initial act of the creation of the cosmos.”
New Revised Standard Version Gen.1:1 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 from God swept over the face of the waters.
Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, chapters 1-17, NICOT series, Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1990 writes (p.103ff), “…no small controversy among biblical scholars has swirled around both the translation and the meaning of the verse…”
The first word is bereshith and can be considered to be in the absolute state, functioning independently of any other word. This makes verse 1 to be a separate and complete sentence, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” But some consider the word to be in the construct state thus making the clause subordinate and you get this: “When God began to create the heavens and the earth- the earth being without form and void- God said…”
The significance of this difference is huge! In the first translation, God creates everything; in the second, God and pre-existent chaos matter both exist prior to creation. This makes some matter or chaos co-eternal with God. Scholars do have good grounds for the former translation however. Look at Isaiah 46:9-10. The word for beginning is used again and in the absolute state, thus making a link with the use of the word in Gen.1:1 using the same basic idea. Hamilton says that all the ancient translations of this verse make the word an absolute and the clause independent. This then points us to the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, creation out of nothing. Translating it this way also fulfills the numerical sequence I have already brought out, placing 7 words in the opening sentence.
Sailhamer, in Genesis Unbound, Multnomah Books, Sisters Oregon, 1996 writes about this opening word bereshith (p38) and says that the word is used in Scripture to refer to an extended, indeterminate period of time, not a specific moment. P.39 “It was common in ancient Israel to begin counting the years of a king’s reign from the first of the year- that is, the first day of the month of Nisan. If the king assumed office prior to that day, as was frequently the case, the time which preceded the first of the year was not reckoned as part of his reign. That time was called “the beginning” (reshith). In a few biblical cases “the beginning” of a king’s reign amounted to several years. According to Jeremiah 28:1, for example, the “beginning” of King Zedekiah’s reign included events which happened four years after he had assumed the throne. In this case the NIV translated the word “beginning” simply as ‘early in the reign of Zedekiah”. P.41 “The author could have used a Hebrew word for “beginning” similar to the English word ‘start’ or ‘initial point’. Had he used one of those words, we would have to translate Gen. 1:1 something like this: ‘the first thing God did was to create the universe.’
The bottom line then, with the first word in Scripture is that “in the beginning” could mean a long period of time, including billions of years. It is just an open ended word that means an undetermined length of time. It could refer to the creation week of 7 days. It is undetermined. Many other scholars, though, will disagree with Sailhamer and say that the beginning refers directly to the 7 days of creation. We will spend more time on this in a later lesson when we look at what Genesis has to say about the age of the universe, when was creation, etc.
But this word, bereshith, has another dimension that we need to examine right now, and that is that the word inherently also points to an end point, the end of time. To the Hebrews the concept of beginning includes the concept of an end. Thus this verse has an eschatological theme built in. For the Hebrews, time and history were not endless cycles of repetition; that is how other ancient peoples thought, but not the Hebrews. They had a unique linear view of history and time. If there is a beginning there will be a conclusion. Thus the author, Moses, establishes right away that God has a plan and purpose; God starts it so God will end it. Look at Isaiah 65:17 and Rev. 21:1 and 22. (read Sailhamer p.44)
Kenneth A. Matthews, in the NAC series, vol.1a Genesis 1-11:26, Broadman&Holman: Nashville, 1996 (p.23f) agrees with Sailhamer in saying that “In the beginning” also points to the end in Hebrew thought as demonstrated in Isa.65:17; 46:10; and Rev.21:1. “At the commencement of the creation story the passage declares that God as Sovereign knows and controls the ‘end from the beginning’.”
Gordon Wenham gives an excellent study of the 4 main ways this word can be translated and the significance of each way. That argument would be way too technical and boring to deliver here in a SS class! Basically there is excellent cause to translate it the standard way, “In the beginning God created…” and this clearly makes the doctrinal point which we shall study later, that God created all that is from nothing. The Latin phrase is creatio ex nihilo. Wenham says that the period of time for “the beginning” is left unspecified.
John H. Walton, The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2001, (pp.68f) agrees with Sailhamer that In the beginning refers to an undetermined period of time, but he thinks it refers to the 1st week of creation while Sailhamer views it as the time prior to creation week. Walton mentions that those scholars who make the first sentence a dependent clause ultimately have to emend the masoretic vocalization to achieve their goal. This means that the standard translation and interpretation the God created everything ex nihilo is again the best interpretation. Walton’s disagreement with Sailhamer about whether this opening sentence deals with the 7 days or a prior period rests to a large extent on the habit of Moses using some form of an introduction to the various sections of Genesis where the introductory verse clearly pertains to what follows. In this manner “In the beginning…” clearly pertains to the following discussion of the 7 days of creation, instead of to a prior time of creating the universe. He points to the toledoth formula, “These are the generations of…” as being a sign that “In the beginning…is also an introduction to what follows. Sailhamer basically has that opening sentence as a stand alone summary of the past up to that point.
Arthur W. Pink writes in his book Gleanings In Genesis, Moody Press: Chicago, 1922 (p.9) “the manner in which the Holy Scriptures open is worthy of their Divine Author. ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.’ And that is all that is here recorded concerning the original creation. Nothing is said which enables us to fix the date of their creation; nothing is revealed concerning their appearance or inhabitants; nothing is told us about the modus operandi of their Divine Architect. We do not know whether the primitive heaven and earth were created a few thousands, or many millions of years ago. We are not informed as to whether they were called into existence in a moment of time, or whether the process of their formation covered an interval of long ages. The bare fact is stated: ‘in the beginning God created,’ and nothing is added to gratify the curious.”
QQ: What word for God is used here and what does it mean?
In the beginning God… Elohim–
Introduction: First impressions can be very important. On a job interview it is crucial to present yourself as confident, capable and sincere. Many people form lasting impressions the first time they meet you and if that impression is wrong you may never be able to change their opinion. When you meet people here in church, a visitor, it is important to get their name and use it in your conversation with them. If you forget someone’s name right after you meet them, ask them to repeat it, then use it in your conversation.
In the Bible, God reveals his name right in the first verse, “in the beginning, God…” Tonight we will look at the Hebrew name for God that is used in this verse, and used about 2,300 times for God throughout the Scriptures. This name for God is Elohim and it is the most general name for God and is combined with many other names that we will study. Tonight we will see that this name indicates God’s divine power and creativity but it also points us to the key doctrine of the Trinity.
I. Elohim- God’s Signature At The Beginning
Dr. Herbert Lockyer writes, (p.5) “The fourth word in the opening of the Bible is the first mentioned name in the Bible- GOD! This verse is His signature, as if to suggest that the book holy men would write under His inspiration would be His book….God’s name stamped at the beginning declares him to be the author.”
When we read through the first two chapters of Genesis, the story of creation, we see this name for God used 35 times, is a pretty good indicator that God is the subject! This is not man’s book about God, it is God’s book to man.
Notice that God is not explained, there are no proofs for God given, he is already there, he is assumed from the start. Everything goes back to God as the uncaused Cause, the uncreated Creator, the Prime Mover. We know that philosophically and scientifically, we cannot have a series of infinite causes. An infinite regression is impossible because if you went back in time infinitely you could never reach the present moment. Why? Because you can never reach the end of infinity, you could never reach the middle of infinity, there would be no beginning point from which you could arrive in the here and now. So this simple first sentence of scripture says a whole lot! There was a beginning. There was a time when time was not! There was a time when there was only God, existing in timeless eternity.
Here we find the answer to the basic question of “Why is there something instead of nothing?” In the beginning, God! Scientists point back in time to the Big Bang as a theory of how the universe came to be. At the big bang space and time and all the matter of the universe exploded into existence from the point of singularity. But science cannot say where that point of singularity came from, what made it explode, or why it exploded in just the right way to produce this universe that is able to sustain life on our small planet. In the beginning, God. The Bible doesn’t give much in the way of how or when, that is the domain of science. But the Bible does give us the who and the why! That is the domain of metaphysics, religion and philosophy.
The context of this name, Elohim is within the context of Creation. Elohim is the God of Creation, he created all that is. It is one of the top 3-4 doctrines that are in great trouble in these enlightened days. To go on a college campus today or even in a High School classroom, and proclaim that you believe in the biblical doctrine of creation is draw the wrath of all the academics, multiculturalists, and pluralists; it is one of the highest “sins” in the eyes of the world. RC Sproul says that it is this point of Creation that is in the sights of all the big guns of the atheistic, materialistic scientists and philosophers because if you can do away with the need for a Creator, then you can do away with God and all of his moral demands and judgments. Sproul is so confident, however, in the doctrine of creation and in the classical proofs for God that he says bring it on!
The secular dogma of evolution allows man to get off the accountability hook, it takes man away from being a sinner, away from being a moral creature, away from being under God’s authority. Elohim as Creator is a threat to man who wants to be autonomous.
Quote Hemphill, p.10.Ken Hemphill, The Names of God, Broadman&Holman: Nashville, 2001, (p.10) “The name used in Genesis 1:1 is Elohim. In its context, it is a declaration that God alone is eternal. We can thus declare that nature is not eternal. It did not exist until God declared that it would exist. The evangelical church has long proclaimed its conviction that God created out of nothing (ex nihilo) everything that is. This critical and fundamental premise of Scripture stands in sharp contrast to a humanistic evolutionary model, which ultimately ends up claiming that matter or the universe is infinitely old. In a humanistic system, the universe becomes god-like, creating life out of lifeless matter through some mindless, random system. In affirming that God alone is eternal and is the creator of all that exists, we find that Scripture gives ultimate dignity and meaning to human life and existence. We can know that life has meaning and purpose. If we are to discover that purpose, we must know the one who alone is eternal, our Creator.”
Because we are created by God and are not merely animals, not an accident of blind chance, we are created for a purpose. We have a reason for being here because Elohim created us. Having a purpose for living is pretty much an essential for being a stable and productive, emotionally whole person. One of the biggest reasons for the lack of discipline and real education in our public schools today is the godless philosophy of evolution being forced on our kids.
This last week there is a tragic story of a suicide epidemic in a town in South Wales, Britain. Last week 7 young people, some teenagers, all a part of some website suicide pact killed themselves. Six other young people had suicided in that town in the past year. Folks when you believe that you have come from nowhere, that you will go to the grave and be annihilated, you cannot in all sincerity believe that this present life holds any true or lasting meaning or purpose. This leads to despair, or nausea, as the existentialist Jean Paul Sartre would say. The only real question according to the existentialist is that of suicide.
II. Elohim- God’s Might Proclaimed
The root of the word Elohim is El which is often used for God and is most commonly affixed to other names for God. El and Elohim basically mean powerful one, mighty one, creative, governing, omnipotent and sovereign one. It is by God’s mighty power that he creates ex nihilo, out of nothing. Nathan Stone, Names of God, Moody Press: Chicago, 1944, writes, p.12,” It is most appropriate that by this name God should reveal himself- bringing cosmos out of chaos, light out of darkness, habitation out of desolation, and life in His image.”
God’s might proclaimed in his name Elohim also relates to his salvation of his people. Psalm 68:19f.
Herman Bavinck writes that Elohim comes from the same root as El and that it means to be smitten with fear, “and therefore points to God as the Strong and Mighty One, or as the object of fear.” (p.100, The Doctrine of God, 1918).
In our day we have a dreadful tendency to downplay the whole concept of fearing the Lord. We have made God “the man upstairs”, we have brought God down to our level, we have created a god (little g) in our own image whom we can control and pull out when we are in trouble or need something. god in a box like a genie in a bottle. Look at Deut6:13; 10:12; 31:12; Psalm111:10; Prov.9:10. The very Name of God, Elohim, is a command to fear and worship and serve Him who is mighty and eternal and powerful.
III. Elohim- The Trinity
The most curious thing about this name for God is that in the Heb. it is a plural. God refers to himself in the plural. According to Mathews, p.127f, Elohim is a general word for deity along with El or Eloah and can be used for pagan gods as well. As to why the name is in the plural, Mathews says we cannot be certain but it would be too strong to say that this word means that the Trinity was taught in the OT. He believes it is a literary convention to portray special reverence to God. “it is fair to say, however, that the creation account … implies that there is a plurality within God….The regular appearance of Elohim in 1:1-2:3 rather than Yahweh is due to the theological emphasis of the section. Creation extols God’s transcendence and the power of his spoken word; thus Elohim is preferred, whereas Yahweh commonly is associated with the particular covenant agreement between God and Israel… The general name Elohim is appropriate for the creation account’s universal framework and in effect repudiates the cosmogonies of the pagan world, where the origins and biography of their ‘gods’ are paramount.”
Calvin also says that to attribute Elohim with a teaching of the Trinity is going too far: “God, Moses has it Elohim, a noun of the plural number. Whence the inference is drawn, that the three Persons of the Godhead are here noted; but since, as a proof of so great a matter, it appears to me to have little solidity, I will not insist upon the word; but rather caution readers to beware of violent glosses of this kind.” (John Calvin, Geneva Commentary Series, Genesis, Banner of Truth Trust: Edinburgh, 1847, originally in Latin in 1554, pp.70-71.)
QQ: What does it mean when it says, “God created”?
In the beginning God created- bara– “is used in the Old Testament consistently in reference to a new activity. It forms a sound play with the previous ‘in the beginning’ where the three initial letters are the same…The striking feature of the word is that its subject is always God. It therefore conveys the idea of a special activity accomplished only by deity that results in newness or a renewing. Also bara always refers to the product created and does not refer to the material of which it is made. For these reasons commentators have traditionally interpreted the verb as a technical term for creatio ex nihilo….In doing so it is often contrasted with the verb asa, meaning to make or do, which may have as its subject human activity (as well as divine). In particular asa is used where ‘making’ involves existing materials.” Mathews, p.128.
However, bara and asa are used so much together in Genesis 1-2 that you cannot make a case for creatio ex nihilo just from this word alone. Vs.1:3 makes a better case for that when God simply speaks light into existence. Then when we see John 1:1-3 the idea gets further reinforcement.
Bara, created, occurs most frequently in the book of Isaiah where God is contrasting himself with the false gods and idols. Isa. 40:26; 42:5; 43:1,7,15. Bara as a new thing in delivering his people see 43:15-19; 48:6-8. Mathews says, p.129, “God then begins history at creation but continues to create history through his sovereign lordship among the nations. Since God is Creator of all that exists, he is antecedent to it, distinct from it, while yet intimately involved with it. According to ancient near-eastern lore, gods abounded in heaven, and deities were the forces of land and sea. The ancient myths did not adequately distinguish between the creator and the creature, but Israel declares that the universe is no more than a creature. In Israel’s view there was no divine heaven or earth. It was this view that freed the heavens and the earth from superstition and provided an ideological basis for the emergence of modern science.”
David Atkinson, writing in the Bible Speaks Today series, The Message of Genesis 1-11, IVP: Downers Grove, 1990 (pp.20-21) “The Hebrew word bara, translated ‘create’, always has God as its subject when it occurs in the Old Testament. The writer of Genesis 1 sometimes uses a different word (translated ‘made’). Thus God ‘made’ (asa) the firmament (1:7); God made the two great lights (1:16); God made the beasts of the earth (1:25). But alongside this there is the more special word reserved for the sort of creating God does- the word bara. In this chapter it is used six times: God created the heavens and the earth (1:1); God created the great sea monsters (1:21); and (three times) God created man as male and female (1:27).”
QQ: What does “heavens and the earth” mean?
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.- hassamayim weet haares
Finally, what is meant by the phrase heavens and the earth? Sailhamer, (EBC vol2, p.23) says it “is a figure of speech (merism) for the expression of ‘totality’. Its use in the Bible appears to be restricted to the totality of the present world order and is equivalent to the all things of Isa. 44:24 (Psa.103:19; Jer.10:16). Particularly important to notice is that its use elsewhere in Scripture suggests that the phrase includes the sun and the moon as well as the stars (joel 3:15-16).
Sailhamer, Genesis Unbound, pp. 106-107 makes the case for Exodus 20:11 referring not to Gen.1 but, rather, to Gen.1:2ff. Ex.20:11 uses the word asa not bara, and it says that God made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them in six days. “In other words, this passage in Exodus does not use the merism ‘heavens and earth’ to describe God’s work in six days. Rather, it gives us a list of God’s distinct works during the six days. …Exodus 20:11 does not say God created ‘the heavens and the earth’ in six days; it says God made three things is six days- the sky, th eland, and the seas- and then filled them during that same period.”
What Kind of God Creates a Universe Like This?
Let us consider “What kind of God would and could create a universe like this?”
I. What Kind of God Creates a Universe Like This?
In Gen.1:1-2:23 the major point is the who of creation, not the how or even the why. It’s all about God. Gen.1:1 assumes the prior existence of God and the sovereign power of God. Here is where our prior study of the doctrine and attributes of God comes in handy.
1)The independence of God- “God does not need us or the rest of creation for anything, yet we and the rest of creation can glorify him and bring him joy.” (Grudem p.160). If prior to creation there was nothing but God, it follows that God alone is truly and absolutely independent. Look at Acts 17:24f; Job 41:11 and Psa.50:10ff. Because God has eternally existed as the Trinity there was always love and communication and fellowship, therefore God did not create us because he was lonely (as I heard some preacher somewhere in my youth explain). God is self-existent, not self created. We also saw this idea in the study of the names of God when we looked at Ex.3:14 “I AM WHO I AM”, the Heb. verb for being. God is above and beyond his creation.
2)This all of course points to the eternality of God. Psalm 90:2; Job 36:26; Rev.1:8. We do not have a good grasp of what eternity past means. We can sort of grasp the idea of an eternal future, time without end, no growing old. But eternity past is a different thing entirely because time itself began with the creation of the universe. God is essentially timeless, outside of time, unaffected by time.
3) Creation out of nothing also shows us the sovereign power of God. When you look at the size and power of this universe that has at least a billion galaxies, with an average of 200 million stars per galaxy and that God spoke it all into existence, that is unfathomable power. Jer.32:17,27; Gen18:14; Rev.1:8; Matt19:26
4) Creation of the universe by God simply speaking also shows us that God is not made of anything, he is immaterial, God is Spirit. John 4:24. This also leads us to
5) God is everywhere present, Psalm 139:7-10; “God does not have size or spatial dimensions and is present at every point of space with his whole being” (Grudem, 173). Jer23.23f; 1Kings 8:27.
6) God is all-knowing and wise. When we look at the complexity and beauty of the universe we see that the Creator must have been highly intelligent and wise. A lessor being cannot create something bigger and better than himself. God is smarter than all, he is omniscient and wise. Job 37:16; 1John 3:20; 1John 1:5; Heb.4:13; Matt 6:8; 10:30.
For God’s wisdom see Rom.11:33;16:27; Psa104:24;
7) In Gen.1:31 we see that all the creation of God was evaluated by him as very good. Here we see the perfection and holiness of God. Matt.5:48 “You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” And Isaiah 6:3 “Holy, holy holy is the Lord of hosts” This calls into question the nature of the fish and animals and birds that are carnivorous, and the natural processes of the earth in volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes and tornados, droughts and floods, etc.
II. Worshipping the God of Creation
According to Romans 1:18-23 men are quick to exchange the worship of God for the worship of creation. When Moses went up Mt Sinai and stayed too long for the impatient people, they fashioned golden calves to worship, even while their leader was receiving the 10 commandments on the stone tablets directly from the hand of God.
We must always be on the watch for our own hearts to stray from the God who created us as we get beguiled by the things of this world. We can even love the things of God more than God himself. We need to be able to look at the beauty of creation and point ourselves and others to the beauty of God in worship.
Look at Hymn#27; 36; 40; 43; 44; 47, 48,50,51,
Understanding that creation belongs first and foremost for God and that creation reflects the attributes of God, and that man’s original job was to take care of the garden and rule over the earth and animals, we need a Christian environmentalism that is God centered but also realistic and loving towards man. When you look at the Christian West you will see the ravages of the industrial revolution but you will also see the flowering of the environmental movement. Currently the environmental movement is largely controlled by people who are not God centered, but who are, to an extent, nature worshippers. Conservative, Bible believing Christians ought to be environmentalists and make a positive impact for the gospel in that movement while avoiding the foolishness that abounds in the environmentalist movement.
Now that we have studied what the text says and what some of the implications from the text are, let us start to ask the crucial questions. Today I will merely introduce these questions and then perhaps next week deal with them a bit more in depth.
#1- Why is there something instead of nothing. We have been talking about creation, and I keep bringing up the idea of creatio ex nihilo, creation out of nothing. But, if there was ever a time when there really was absolutely nothing, then that is all there would be today. In fact using the word “today” would not be appropriate if there was absolutely nothing for time itself would not even exist because science tells us that space, time and matter all depend upon each other.
The philosopher Rene Descartes 1596-1650, France, “Dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum” (Latin: “I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am”). Therefore, Descartes concluded, if he doubted, then something or someone must be doing the doubting, therefore the very fact that he doubted proved his existence.
Because we can think, even if our thoughts are nothing but doubts, we can reach the conclusion that we exist. But, even though I do exist, do I necessarily exist? NO! In fact, everything I see around me, though it exists, exists contingently, not necessarily. But, you can only trace back our contingent existing things so far, because you cannot have an infinite number of regressions backward in time. If there were an infinite number of things or events or time prior to our contingent existence, you could never reach the present. Therefore, the list of contingent events and beings ends at some point in the past. That leaves us with something or someone who necessarily exists and is eternal.
You can say it this way, Every Effect Must Have a Sufficient Cause, but you eventually reach a point where you must have something or someone that is the First Cause who is by nature and uncaused being, not an effect.
If something exists today, there must be a something that is eternal and uncaused, it has being for its essence, it is the ground of being. In Exodus 3:14 God reveals his covenant name, YHWH, I Am Who I Am. This is the Hebrew root word for To Be. God’s name curiously meets the definition of the necessary being, the uncaused cause.
When you try to explain the existence of the universe you get three or four basic explanations: 1) Everything is an illusion. But, if I am having an illusion, I must exist in order to have an illusion. If I am a part of someone else’s illusion, that someone must exist in order to have an illusion. And if I or someone else exists, then someone or something must exist necessarily.
2) The universe is self-created. You actually hear this a lot from scientists who say things like with the Big Bang the universe popped into existence as the point of singularity exploded. But they do not explain how a body at rest, the point of singularity, could suddenly explode or change. Every effect must have a sufficient cause. Plus, when they say the universe is self-caused, they are speaking in contradictory terms. In order for the universe to be self caused, it would have to exist and not exist at the same time and in the same relationship which violates the Law of Non-contradiction.
3) The universe is eternal. But we have already explained that is a mathematical and logical impossibility. In order for us to have a today, there cannot have been an infinite amount of time in the past. There had to be a beginning for time. That means something or someone outside of time must necessarily exist.
4) The material universe must have been created by something or someone non-material who is eternal, outside of time and space, and powerful enough to create this big, beautiful, complex universe.
I believe the only answer that fits this criterion is the God of Genesis 1:1.
Crucial Question #2: Can you prove God exists?
Genesis does not open with an overview of apologetics and a list of proofs for the existence of God. God is the central character in verse 1 and all that follows. Some have taken the idea that since the Scriptures do not seek to prove God exists, we should not try either. I would severely disagree!
QQ: What do you think? Can we prove God exists or can we only give some probabilities? Is it even a good thing to do or try to do? What proofs of God are there?