Genesis 1:1 Commentary

I’ve thought about doing this for quite some time, but for various reasons–mostly laziness–I have kept putting it off. In an effort to more regularly study the Bible, I want to study through the Bible as regularly as possible here. In each post in this ongoing series, I’ll look at one or more subsequent verses and sharing my study as I go. On many points, I will of necessity be vague; some things will only be mentioned in passing while others will be looked at in more detail. However, any ambiguity or roads less traveled that I leave I hope will serve to prompt conversation surrounding the verses studied!

And because it makes the most sense, I’ll start at Genesis 1:1.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1, NKJV

Fewer things have been written which have been so wholeheartedly agreed with by some and wholeheartedly derided by others. In ten short words, the Bible begins by contradicting the claims of countless worldviews, both secular and religious:

  • Atheism because God created. Atheism claims there is no deity.
  • The big bang theory because God created the heavens and the earth. The big bang theory begins with an infinitesimal particle of matter which, after a very long, chaotic period eventually leads to the formation of Earth.
  • Pantheism because God created the heavens and the earth and is distinct from them. Pantheism identifies deity with creation.
  • Agnosticism because God created. Agnosticism claims there are no knowable absolutes and that we cannot be sure of God’s existence.
  • Nihilism because God created the heavens and the earth. Nihilism denies all existence.

The list could easily go on.

What can we learn, then, from this opening verse? It should come as no surprise that in the very first sentence of Genesis several fundamental truths are set forth for us:

In the beginning… Time is not eternal, nor is the universe. We are very plainly told that there was a beginning. In contrast, God is eternal. He created all else at the point we now know simply as being “in the beginning.”

God is primal, the Beginning.

In the beginning God… No lengthy dissertations on the existence of God are given. Not only is His existence here taken for granted, but so to is His ability to act as He desires to do so. It has often been said that all of history is “His-story”; to recount the history of the earth by beginning with anything other than God, the truth will be at best skewed and at worst lost completely. God is primal, the Beginning.

…God… Here is used the majestic plural, the Hebrew ‘ĕloÌ‚hiÌ‚ym.:”(More commonly seen as the transliterated “Elohim.”)”: The singular noun from which Elohim is derived is El, which carries with it the idea of exceeding strength, might, and power. This sense is compounded by the use of the plural Elohim, and from this we get the first hint that God is the Almighty, possessing all power that can be possessed, all strength, all ability.

Additionally, the title Elohim leaves wide open the fact that God is triune, existing as what we know as the Trinity. The plural Elohim is an apt title for He who possesses only one divine Substance and yet is three distinct, yet equally divine, Persons.:”(No, I’m really not sure if I’m using my pronouns and verbs correctly here, insofar as whether they should be plural or singular. However, I hope that I am getting across my point clearly. If you have any, I welcome questions!)”: Scripture was given to us progressively, a bit at a time, and some of the most interesting truths are only made completely clear in the latter books.:”(Much like high school math books which place really interesting subjects–like fractals–at the back of the book. However, unlike a math class which follows a defined curriculum, we are free to examine any part of the Bible at any time, leaving us without excuse to know and understand truths expressed throughout.)”: As the commentary progresses, I’ll share with you those areas where the Trinity is expressed. With numerous groups denying the plurality of God aggressively promoting their teachings, it is vital to know that from its very first verse, the Bible tells of a God who is both singular (in Substance) and plural (in Persons).

…God created… We have seen that all there was in the beginning was God, and we now are told what it is God did in the beginning: He created. It has been well stated by others that this action of creation was ex nihilo, a Latin phrase meaning “from nothing.” The creation was not an act of restructuring extant material into something else; God’s act of creation involved the bringing forth into existence of matter in already defined order. Nothing existed for God to make something with, so He created. What did God create?

The creation was not an act of restructuring extant material into something else…

…created the heavens… We are first told that God created the heavens. By “heavens” here is not meant the sky, for it is not formed until the second day of Creation. The heavens here created may refer to the universe as a whole–that is, the space in which it occupies–as well as the Heaven of heavens, the abode of God Himself.

It is this act of creation which the broadest stage of history is formed: Heaven, in which God and His angels abide, as well as what we may call “space” within which the earth will be placed.

…created…the earth. And here God brings into existence what would one day become our home: Earth.

Those who hold to what is called the Gap Theory believe that the earth as created in this verse was fully ready to support life–and that it did support all manner of life, perhaps even men–but that something happened and God judged it, throwing it into the condition we see in verse 2.

However, that theory is unnecessary and reads too much into the words of Scripture than I am comfortable doing here. Suffice it to say that here we are told God created the earth. It isn’t until a little bit later, throughout the rest of chapter 1, that we are told of God customizing:”(For lack of a better word.)”: the earth which He had made.

There are two things which we should understand from verse 1:

  1. God exists. Because this is so overwhelmingly clear, no attempt is made to prove His existence. Mankind often strives to prove that alternatives to God exist, but it is to no avail.
  2. The earth was created by a direct act of God. Random processes are not the reason the earth existed, neither did God create the earth by guiding random processes. The planet we inhabit exists solely because of an act of God–nothing more and certainly nothing less.

And there you have Genesis 1:1. Let me know what you think so that I may improve my studies for future commentaries. I had fun doing this one, and I pray that it is edifying to as many as possible.

Original post. I’m going to start migrating some of my old stuff over to here because I disabled comments on the archive site.

2 thoughts on “Genesis 1:1 Commentary”

  1. Great stuff Rick. We need more of this keep it up.

    I was interested to see what you would do with “In the beginning the gods created the heavens and the earth.” So often it’s just ignore but I like the idea of the “majestic plural”.

    It’s great that you are willing to raise such things. So often Bible studies avoid the potentially difficult bits because maybe it doesn’t fit our idea of God or it may raise some difficult questions. Let’s embrace it!

    Great stuff. Can’t wait for more.

  2. Rob: I could have gone into my speculation that “the gods” refers both to the Trinity as well as His angels (who are elsewhere called little “g” gods, if I’m not mistaken), but that created interesting difficulties within the text. However, I’m fairly certain that when the majestic plural is used, the associated verbs are still singular; that isn’t the case where plurality is actually meant.

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