From Feast upon the Word (http://feastupontheword.org). Copyright, Feast upon the Word.
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- Creation What does this term mean? What is really being "created" in this account? Is the purpose of this account to give us a scientific understanding of the origin of the universe or planet, or is there some other purpose? What is the value of this account given our modern scientific understanding?
- Spiritual then physical creation? With a similar account in Gen 2:1-5, is this speaking of a spiritual creation prior to the physical creation? Compare Abr 4:1-5 and Moses 2:1-5.
- Why is creation the first thing we read about in the Old Testament? Is it because that is what happened first, or is there some more important reason?
 Verse 1
- Why is the creation story such an important part of the LDS temple ritual?
- What does the phrase "in the beginning" mean? What does it mean that God created heaven and earth "in the beginning" but heaven wasn't created until the second day (vs. 8) and the earth wasn't created until the third day (vs. 9-10)?
- What is "the heaven" and what is "the earth"? Are we being told about the creation of what we would consider the planet earth, or is this something else?
- What is the significance of dividing creation into two parts, heaven and earth? Why not begin, instead, "God created everything"?
- Who is "God" of creation referred to here?
- What does it mean to create?
 Verse 2
- What does it mean that "the earth was without form, and void" if the earth wasn't created until the third day (vs. 9-10)?
- What is "the face of the deep"? Is this the same as "the face of the waters?"
- What is "the Spirit of God" and how does it move?
- Some say this verse should read: "And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. But the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters." If changing "and" to "but" is correct, what does this verse tell us?
 Verse 3
- What is the significance of God saying "let there be light"? Is he creating light, or somehow just allowing it to shine? Where was the light when his Spirit was moving upon the face of the waters?
- Notice how terse this sentence is in each version of the creation story. Does that terseness show us anything?
- How is light significant? Does D&C 88 help us understand the significance of light? What about John 1 and the numerous scriptures which speak of Christ as the light of the world?
 Verse 4
- Light and darkness. God calls the light "good." What does that mean. How can light be either good or bad?
- Why does he not call the darkness "good?"
- Moses 4:4 differs significantly from this verse. What does that difference tell us?
 Verse 5
- Among many ancient people, including those in the Near East, the name of a thing was identical to its essential nature and existence. As a result, to name a thing was to bring it into being. This may have a great deal to do with the emphasis on naming in this ancient account. How does understanding the significance of naming help us understand the significance of those related beliefs and practices?
- How does this verse differ from Moses 2:5? What does this verse teach that Moses does not? What does Moses teach that this verse does not?
- How does this verse differ from Abraham 4:5? What do those differences show us?
 Lexical notes
 Verse 1
- Elohim. The Hebrew word translated as "God" is elohim, which is plural in form (-im is a plural ending) but is followed here by a singular verb.
- Created. The Hebrew word translated as "created" is bara. Just as the English word, it can mean to fashion from something that already exists as well as to make something entirely new. The use of this word contradicts neither the Catholo-Protestant view of creation ex nihilo nor the Latter-day Saint view of creation from preexisting matter.
- Earth Translated from the Hebrew 'erets meaning earth, land, solid ground. Used over 2500 times in the Old Testament, most often translated land, earth, country, or ground. Here it seems to mean the dry land as separated from the heavens and seas.
- We can read the first verse as an introductory clause rather than as a separate sentence: "At the beginning of the creation of the heavens and the earth, the earth was without form, and void . . . ."
 Verse 2
- Was darkness caused? In Moses 2:2 the phrase "darkness was upon the face of the deep" is replaced with the phrase "I caused darkness to come up upon the face of the deep."
 Verse 5
- first day - The word "day" here comes from the Hebrew "yom" and need not refer to a 24-hour period.
 Verse 1: In the beginning of what?
It seems ironic that the opening words of Genesis could also be among the most theologically significant, yet also among the most ambiguous passages in the Bible. There are four generally accepted ways to interpret the Bible's first few verses. Translating verse one with the King James Version, it could be the title of what follows, or it could be the first act of creation itself. The latter interpretation means God created the world from nothing, whereas the former has no such implication. Others translate the first verse as a temporal clause ("In the beginning, when God created the heaven and earth . . ." or "When God began to create . . . "). In either of these cases, the earth already existed as a vast wasteland of chaotic matter.
All these interpretations have their academic defenders, though admittedly creation ex nihilo is the traditional Christian interpretation of the first verse of Genesis. It should also be noted that, though the Hebrews probably did not think in such terms, they probably would say God had the power to create the world from nothing. Nevertheless, as Joseph Smith indicated, defending ex nihilo on the basis of the Hebrew word translated "created" cannot be sustained. The word is only used for acts of creation by God, and seems applicable to something only God can do. Beyond that, little else can be said.
The strength of creation from pre-existing matter comes from parallels in Israel's cultural background at the time the account took its final shape. Genesis 2:5-9 is similarly constructed, and there is no doubt matter already existed when God created the world. Isaiah 45 refers to God's creative action in a way that is foreign neither to the pagan tales of creation nor to Genesis 1. It should be noted that Moses 2:1-2 seems to favor the idea God created the heaven and earth from nothing. However, Moses 1:35 introduces a certain amount of ambiguity on the issue. If Moses is ambiguous when it comes to creation ex nihilo, then the Book of Abraham certainly is not.
 Verses 2-4: "God saw the light, that it was good"
There is a general pattern that the verses in this chapter follow. First God says "let" followed by some creative act and then later we see the phrase "and God saw that it was good." In this pattern, the "it" in the phrase "it was good" doesn't clearly refer to any specific item. Instead, it refers more generally to the results of the creation at that stage. This is clear in verses 10, 12, 18, 21, and 25.
It is often noted that God's last creation, the creation of man, is different from God's other creations in that this creation is not followed with the statement "and God saw that it was good." Interestingly, God's first creation also doesn't quite fit the pattern. In this first case only is the reader told specifically what is good. "God saw the light, that it was good." Further, in this case only, the "it was good" is moved up so that it immediately follows the "let there be" statement. If it were to fall in its normal spot, the statement would fall at the end of verse 5.
It may be that the reason for these differences is similar to the reason for treating the last creative act differently. Man, collectively, is both good and bad. It is not right to say man is good. In the same way light and darkness are not both good. Light is good, darkness is not.
 Verse 1: In the beginning
- Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith's comments on the first word of the Bible are here.
- Ex nihilo creation. Blake Ostler has written about ex nihilo creation from a Mormon perspective in a response to Copan and Craig in The New Mormon Challenge. Ostler's essay, "The Doctrine of Creation Ex Nihilo was Created out of Nothing: A Response to Copan and Craig, Part 1: The Scriptural Argument, argues that ex nihilo creation is not consistent with scripture or science.
- The construct form. Rav Micahel Hattin describes in his essay "In the Beginning" discusses a grammatical problem with the traditional translation of verse 1. A more correct translation might be "In the beginning of the Lord's creating of heaven and earth". Theological implications are also considered.
- With wisdom. The Targum Yerushalmi translates "In the beginning" as "With wisdom". Implications of this reading can be found here.
- Analysis of other scriptures. See the thread Targum: Genesis 1:1 at et-ha'adam's blog for alternate texts and scriptures talking about the beginning of creation.
- Bet before aleph. See RobertC's creation subpage for a discussion of Jewish lore on why the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, bet, is the first letter of Genesis, as opposed to the first letter, aleph.
 Heaven and Earth
- See Seely, Paul H., The Geographical Meaning of Earth and Seas in Genesis 1:10, Westminster Theological Journal 59: 231-55.
 Verse 5
- first day Rodney Whitefield, Ph.D., "The Hebrew Word “Yom” Used with a Number in Genesis 1" an essay on how the Hebrew word for "day" is used and its ability to refer to an unspecific time period.
 Verses 1-31
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