The Meaning of Genesis 1:1 Explained

Genesis 1:1

KJV: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

YLT: In the beginning of God's preparing the heavens and the earth

Darby: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

ASV: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Discover Genesis 1:1

What does Genesis 1:1 Mean?

Verse Meaning

There are three major views concerning the relationship of Genesis 1:1 to the rest of the creation account.
1. Genesis 1:1 describes an original creation of the universe. God began fashioning the earth as we know it in Genesis 1:2 or Genesis 1:3. This view may or may not involve a gap in time between Genesis 1:1-2. [1] Some advocates of this view believe that the original creation became chaotic as a result of divine judgment. More information on this theory follows in my comments on Genesis 1:2.
2. Genesis 1:1 describes part of what God did on the first day of creation ( Genesis 1:1-5). It is a general statement followed by specific details. [2]
3. Genesis 1:1 describes what God did on all six days of creation ( Genesis 1:2-31). It is a topic sentence that introduces the whole creation account that follows. [3] I prefer this view.
The "beginning" is the beginning of the creation of the cosmos, not the beginning of all things (cf. Mark 1:1; John 1:1). This appears to be clear from the context. Genesis has been called "the book of beginnings" because it records the beginning of so many things. Perhaps it would be more accurate to describe it as a book of foundations.
The Hebrew word translated "God" ("elohim) is a plural noun. The plurality simply adds intensification to the name El, as does the personal pronoun "us" in Genesis 1:26. Hebrew is the only ancient Semitic language that intensifies nouns and pronouns by making them plurals. The writers of Scripture used "elohim as a title of honor. Though it is a plural in form, it is singular in meaning when referring to the true God. This name represents the Creator"s transcendent relationship to His creation.
"The Hebrew word translated "God" ("elohim) may be used as a plural noun and be translated "gods." But when this word is used of true God, then it is not a plural but is an intensified noun, exhausting the meaning of the underlying root ("alah) which means "to be powerful." He "us." When used of God, this is not really a plural (despite the common translation); it is a similar intensification of the pronoun which describes God." [4]
The "heavens and earth" refer to the universe as we know it (i.e, the sky above with all that is in it and the earth below). There is no one word in Hebrew for "universe." This is a figure of speech (merism) for totality; God created everything. The translators often rendered the Hebrew word "eres (earth) as "land." By translating it this way here we can see that Moses wanted his readers to realize that God created and therefore owned all land (cf. Genesis 12:7 and all subsequent references to the Promised Land; Psalm 24:1). [5]
This verse is important because it contradicts six popular philosophies:
1.Atheism-God does exist.2.Pantheism-God is distinct from His creation.3.Polytheism-"Created" is singular in the text. An obvious difference between the biblical account of creation and those of other ancient Near Eastern cultures is that the biblical account is monotheistic.4.Radical materialism (matter is eternal)-Matter had a supernatural origin (emphasis on origin).5.Naturalism (evolutionism)-Creation took place when someone outside nature intervened (emphasis on process).6.Fatalism-A personal God freely chose to create.
God created the universe from nothing (Latin ex nihilo). While the text does not state this fact per se, the reader can deduce it from the following evidence. The phrase "in the beginning" implies it, as do the Hebrew word for "create" (bara) and the expression "formless and void." New Testament passages also support this conclusion (e.g, John 1:3; Romans 4:17; and Hebrews 11:3). [6]
The emphasis in this verse is on the origin of the universe. God created it. [2]4 He alone is eternal, and everything else owes its origin and existence to Him. [8]

Context Summary

Genesis 1:1-5 - Beginnings
All beginnings must begin with God. Always put God first. The first stone in every building, our first thought every morning, the first aim and purpose of all activity. Begin the book of the year with God, and you will end it with the glory of the New Jerusalem. At first, as in the physical creation, your heart and life may seem to be "without form and void." Do not be discouraged, the Spirit of God is within you, brooding amid the darkness, and presently His Light will shine through. It is the blessed presence of the Lord Jesus that stirs in your heart and will presently rule your life, John 1:4. His Presence divides between the good and evil. You must distinguish between Christ and self. Follow the gleam, and you shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life. God's days begin in evenings, and always end in mornings. [source]

Chapter Summary: Genesis 1

1  God creates heaven and earth;
3  the light;
6  the firmament;
9  separates the dry land;
14  forms the sun, moon, and stars;
20  fishes and fowls;
24  cattle, wild beasts, and creeping things;
26  creates man in his own image, blesses him;
29  grants the fruits of the earth for food

What do the individual words in Genesis 1:1 mean?

In the beginning created God - the heavens and the earth
בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ

בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית  In  the  beginning 
Parse: Preposition-b, Noun, feminine singular
Root: רֵאשִׁית  
Sense: first, beginning, best, chief.
בָּרָ֣א  created 
Parse: Verb, Qal, Perfect, third person masculine singular
Root: בָּרָא 
Sense: to create, shape, form.
אֱלֹהִ֑ים  God 
Parse: Noun, masculine plural
Root: אֱלֹהִים  
Sense: (plural).
אֵ֥ת  - 
Parse: Direct object marker
Root: אֹות 
Sense: sign of the definite direct object, not translated in English but generally preceding and indicating the accusative.
הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם  the  heavens 
Parse: Article, Noun, masculine plural
Root: שָׁמַיִם  
Sense: heaven, heavens, sky.
הָאָֽרֶץ  the  earth 
Parse: Article, Noun, feminine singular
Root: אֶרֶץ  
Sense: land, earth.

What are the major concepts related to Genesis 1:1?

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