The Genesis account continues to cause faith problems for many people. Christians often attack other Christians who differ from their understanding. We see labels like “Young Earth Creationists” (YEC), “Old Earth Creationist” (OEC), “Theistic Evolutionists,” “Progressive Evolutionists,” and others. Our plea is for all sides to look at the primary message of Genesis 1:1 and the literal meaning of the key words in the Genesis account.
The primary message of Genesis 1 is that God created everything and that He created humans in His own image. A careful study of the Hebrew words and their context in the first verse removes most of the room for argument. Genesis 1:1 says, “Reshith Elohim bara shamayim Erets.” Each of these words is loaded with meaning to simplify the understanding of Genesis:
RESHITH – The word is used to describe a beginning, Matter is not eternal, and there was a beginning to space, time, and matter/energy.
ELOHIM – There are many Hebrew words to refer to God, such as Yahweh, Adonai, and El, but those refer to specific activities of God in human affairs. Elohim is used to refer to the power and creative strength of God.
BARA – This word is uniquely applied to something only God can do. There are other words, such as “asah,” that describe making something from existing materials. The term “bara” is expressly understood to refer to God’s creation of something new. It is not used again until verse 27, where the reference is to man’s soul, which God created in His image.
SHAMAYIM – This is a clear reference to everything “up there.” From our standpoint on Earth, that is galactic space and everything in it – not just the air we breathe.
ERETS – This refers to planet Earth and not any other celestial body.
It is essential to understand the primary message of Genesis 1:1. We must also realize what Genesis 1:1 does not say. Genesis 1:1 doesn’t say what method God used to create heaven and earth. Denominational preachers are fond of saying, “He spoke it into existence.” The Bible doesn’t say anything like that until verse 3. God’s voice is not the creative device.
Genesis 1:1 contains no reference to time. The words do not tell us how long it took God to do what the verse describes. God created as a being outside of space and time. To make a dogmatic statement about when this happened or how long it took is to add a human opinion and complicate the verse. People usually do that to defend a denominational creed, but that is not the primary message of Genesis 1:1. As human understanding of quantum mechanics has grown, we are beginning to glimpse how creation from a higher dimension is possible.
So the primary message of Genesis 1:1 is that God created everything that exists. One more thing that the first chapter of Genesis does not say is that Earth is the only place where God created life. God may have created life elsewhere, but we know that God is the creator of all we see and that our own existence is a special and unique creation of Elohim. Adding to what the Bible says brings confusion and division.
— John N. Clayton © 2020