Genesis 1:2

Fire and Water

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:2

The earth was

Dare I even walk into the controversy surrounding this verse? That little word “was” is a Hebrew multiple personality — it can mean either “to be” or “to become,” “to exist” or “to come to pass.”

In other words, the earth was created in verse 1 as being “without form and void,” or there was some unspecified event which took place between verses 1 and 2 which resulted in the earth becoming “without form and void.” The second idea is commonly called the Gap Theory, which states that an indeterminate amount of time passed; this idea is often (though not always) held by those who attempt to reconcile the Bible with the theories of geologists — if they say the earth is millions of years old, the Bible must be interpreted accordingly.

That’s a novel approach, and I do believe that if the Scriptures do not reflect reality, then they are worthless as a source of truth; however, I do not believe the Gap Theory is an adequate explanation of Genesis 1:1-2. Exodus 20:11, for instance, affirms that creation took place in just the span of six days. The first day of the creation week, then, began (fittingly enough) “in the beginning” with verse 1, and it continued through verse 5.

without form and void

But what about this “without form and void” business? The Hebrew word for “without form” can refer to a wasteland, a desert, or a desolation; the raw materials of the earth simply existed, having yet to be given any meaningful shape. The minerals swirled together with the waters, floating aimlessly in the emptiness of space.

Further, this desolate material was “void”: empty of all life, for man, beast, and plant had yet to be created.

Swirl together some sand and water in a bucket, and imagine the same thing on a scale billions of times greater and you’ll have a vague sense of what existed at this point in the creation week. ((Isaiah 45:18 states that God did not create the world “empty” (the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 1:2 for “without form”); this is taken to support the idea that something must have happened between the initial creative act in Genesis 1:1 and verse 2 to cause the earth to be “without form”; however, such speculation is unnecessary. The creative week is just getting started, and indeed, after the sixth day, you would be unable to accuse God of creating an “empty” world, and as Isaiah 45:18 states, Earth indeed was formed to be inhabited. There is no reason to resort to fanciful speculation of what, if anything, took place between the first two verses of Scripture.))

and darkness was over the face of the deep

Light had yet to shine upon the watery mass of Earth materials. The universe existed as a mind-bogglingly large empty space and a planet’s worth of waterlogged minerals and ores, yet within just a few (24-hour) days, God will have worked these raw materials into a beautiful, life-supporting sphere. ((Yes, I know that the earth is not a perfect sphere.))

And the Spirit of God

We are here introduced, however briefly, to He who is known theologically as the Third Person of the Trinity. He is the Holy Spirit (or, sometimes, Holy Ghost). The Nicene Creed ((As articulated at the First Council of Constantinople.)) says that we believe “in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.”

Much of what the creed says about the Spirit we do not here see exemplified; however, with the last part of Genesis 1:2, we see part of the Spirit’s role in the giving of life.

was hovering

I’m dissatisfied with this particular translation — and every other one I have in my collection, actually. When I look in my concordances for “was hovering,” I see that the Hebrew word is rachaph, which primarily means “to brood.”

In other words, the Spirit of God is seen here brooding, which can mean any of a variety of things, actually. Perhaps the Spirit was hovering over the waters as a hen broods over her eggs, warming the waters in preparation for them to spring forth with life. Or perhaps another definition of brood is meant, and the Spirit was hovering over the waters ((Remember that the waters in this case represents both the solids and liquids that the earth is made up of, as they are still a formless, swirling mass.)) in order to mature them; if that is the case, could this action on the part of the Spirit be the reason the earth seems so much older (read: mature) than it chronologically is?

Whatever the case may be, the Spirit was unquestionably active during the creation acts, and He has been active in the events of man ever since.

over the face of the waters

The Spirit was flitting about the surface of the formless earth, below Him a wishy-washy mass of unimaginably dark water and dirt. Assuming gravity was “active” at this point in history, it’s safe to assume that most of the solid matter of the formless Earth would have sunk to the center of the mass, creating a murky sea which covered the mass on all sides.

Perhaps the Spirit encircled the mass, hovering upon the waters as if the whole thing were an egg ready to spring forth with life. Or perhaps the Spirit was simply moving over the deep in appreciation of what has been created, glorifying the First & Second Persons of the Trinity for their work.

Much like the true number of licks for reaching the center of a Tootsie Pop, the question of what the Spirit was doing may linger on in mystery until all things are made clear to us in Heaven.

However, if you have any insights, I’d very much appreciate them!

Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures quoted within this post come from the English Standard Version of the Holy Bible.

32 thoughts on “Genesis 1:2”

  1. The ‘Gap Theory’ to which I used to subscribe, like the ‘Un-Gap Theory’ become a somewhat moot issue when we realize that the heaven’s and earth were created in their mass inside eternity. There was no day or night, no first day. On day one God brought this mass into time out of eternity. ‘The beginning’ must be separated in our minds from day one- for ‘the beginning’ is eternity.

  2. Can “eternity” be said to have (or be) a beginning at all, though? I’m not sure I understand what you’re proposing.

    The events of verses 1-4 could have easily taken place during the day which leads into the evening of verse 5. That there was not yet day or night during that time wouldn’t necessarily mean that the events didn’t occur in immediate succession.

  3. The Spirit of God was ‘brooding’ on the face of the waters. It tells me that the formless earth was in existence. But there was not yet a day and hence no time. Earth was thus, I take it, created in eternity and brought into the confines of time. If this is so, who is to say how eternity ‘dates’ matter? (Not that I am trying to apologize to unbelieving scientists.)

  4. I don’t know; I guess I’ll have to keep that in mind next time I revisit the passage. :)

    Is this idea of Earth being initially created in eternity (I guess in the same “realm” or dimension as the Third Heaven currently exists?) unique to you? Or is there someone else that I can lookup who has gone into further detail?

  5. Why do you think of the Universe creation as a real act of creation.
    It is not.
    It is not creation, but appearance.
    Like the dream appear in your consciousness the same way the Universe appeared in the thing which you call God.
    Seeing the dream, God made it alive and present.

    Psa 17:15 As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.

    In English the phrase is mixed. It is:

    Psa 17:15 As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied with thy likeness, when I awake.

  6. I’m unsure how you’re using Psalm 17:15 to support that the universe is a (if I’m understanding you correctly) dream of God’s.

    Psalm 17:15 poetically states that when David awakes (from natural sleep or, more likely, from the sleep of death) he will be satisfied with God, beholding His face in righteousness.

    Genesis 1:1 says that God created the heavens and the earth; that is why I believe it is the result of a, well, act of creation.

  7. No, that’s not poetical metaphor.
    Why do you suggest that someone can awake from a death?
    This is poetical suggestion, my friend :-)

    David clearly said: “When I awake”.
    In the church you take the metaphors for true and the true for metaphor.

    Jesus said:

    Joh 20:17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

    But the church still holds on to “the only Son of God”

  8. Okay, so Psalm 17:15 isn’t metaphorical of death (though I think it is, death being seen as “falling asleep” or similar throughout the Scriptures, including the New Testament)…

    I fail to see how David waking up from natural sleep and beholding the glory of God in any way means that the universe is somehow a dream, vision, or manifestation which existed in the subconscious of God rather than in an actual creation, as the Scriptures declare.

    Also, Jesus Christ is repeatedly called in Scriptures the only Son of God; He is uniquely the only begotten Son of God, though many have been and will be adopted as sons & daughters, they are not nor will they ever be the Only Begotten of the Father.

  9. Well, there is no way to prove that this world is not a dream.
    All evidences and proofs must be consciously verified.
    And no one can say that the consciousness is not verifying its dream ;)

    The consciousness works with the information of the five tools.
    There is no real link between the consciousness and the “real” object. All what we have is concepts.

    Jesus?
    In Greek and Bulgarian languages He is described with word which means “one and the same” with God. In the new Bulgarian translations they changed the word with “the only begotten”.

    It is said that God will judge, but it is also said:

    (1Co 6:2) Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?

    If the Son is one and the same with God it is normal the saints (brothers of Jesus) to be one and the same with God and to judge the world.

  10. j quiggle: Welcome to Kingdom Geek! A couple of good questions, there… Here’s what I believe.

    Job 38:4-7 states that the sons of God (a term used for angels which appears early in Job as well as in Genesis 6) were present when God laid the foundation of Earth, determined its measurements, and laid its cornerstone. It’s possible that this is a description of either the earliest creative act described in Genesis 1:1 or perhaps it refers to the unveiling of dry land on the third day.

    Whatever the case, angels were present either for all of Earth’s history or for all of it but two days. Perhaps they were included in the creation of the heavens in Genesis 1:1 or, if the Creation Week doesn’t refer to the Third Heaven, perhaps angels have existed for an indeterminately long time in the past with God in Heaven.

    Suffice it to say, I don’t know; I can only guess.

    As for the war in Heaven, I assume you are referring to Revelation 12:7. This either took place during the days of the early church, after the “male child” Christ was “caught up to God and to his throne” or it will take place in the future during the seven year “Tribualtion” period. It all depends on how you want to look at Revelation.

    I want to believe that the passage is future; that’s how I’ve always heard the passage taught, anyway. Either verses 1-7+ refer to the literal birth of Christ by way of Israel* or it refers to a future symbolic representation of such.

    Either Satan is cast down now, knowing that his time is short (and that fits with the description Paul gives him as a roaring lion walking to and fro) or he will be cast down in the future.

    Whatever the case, we are to be assured that Christ has won the victory and that Satan is defeated forever.

    * It’s interesting here that the focus of this whole passage about Christ’s birth refers to the nation of Israel rather than to Mary specifically. I find that the Scriptures repeatedly reveal the misplaced priorities of certain groups…

  11. Truden: If the sons of God are not angels, it can at least be deduced they are a higher or at least more ancient being than we are — they were present at the earth’s formation whereas we came a few days later.

    Likewise, the sons of God were able to present themselves to God in the court of Heaven according to Job 1 & 2. Similarly, the coupling of the sons of God with the daughters of men produced extraordinary offspring.

    The best definition I have heard of “a son of God” is that it refers to someone whom God creates in sinless perfection. Jesus is eternally begotten of the Father in sinlessness, thus He is the Son of God; Adam & Eve were created in perfection, thus they were sons of God. Angels too. Ditto those who have received the new birth in Christ and the recreation into a new creature that goes along with it.

    The term “angel” may simply point out their function as messengers; “sons of God” refers to their state; “morning stars” to their glorification by the Father (such glorification would seem to await all the elect as well, according to Romans 8:30).

    In the Scriptures which ascribe a great many names to God, it shouldn’t be surprising that His creatures may be known by numerous names.

  12. Rick, how do you assume that “sons of god” is term for “angels”!?
    All texts in the Bible’s books clearly distinguish God’s Sons from angels.

    Here is one example,
    Jesus praying to God and angel comes to comfort Him:

    Luk 22:42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
    Luk 22:43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.

  13. Rick, the problem with the angels and the sons of God comes when the church insist that those who observed the creation of the Universe were not sons of God, because He has ONLY one Son.

    This argument proves that Jesus is not the only begotten Son of God.
    There are many more Sons of God.

    The angels…
    They are something that is not that simple to describe as entities.
    The most easy way to do it is:
    The Son is not different than the Father.
    The Angel is the one who helps the Son to returns to the Father as one who is not different than Him.

  14. Walt Dickinson

    My question is:

    How can Jesus in any way be “begotten” if he has eternally existed with the Father?

    Now, the whole “begotten” thing may be resolved if this is in reference to his virgin birth. But if indeed that is what we are talking about, there are more problems.

    Who “begat” Jesus? To “beget” roughly means, “To father,” or to provide the semen in order for conception to occur. This would lead us to believe that it was God the Father who “begat” Jesus. But time and time again, we are told in the Bible that it was the God the Holy Spirit who begat Jesus. Even the Apostle’s Creed states, “I believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who was conceived (or begat) by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary…”

    Classic trinitarian theology, to the best of my knowledge, states that the Spirit and the Father are not the same People. So, who fathered Jesus?

    If it was God the Father, then why does the Bible say it was the Holy Spirit?

    If it was God the Spirit, then why doesn’t Jesus call the Spirit his Father?

  15. There is confusion in the “begotten” translation.
    It comes from “the only born” (from God) which is also not precise translation of the word which means “one and the same” (with God) – единосъщен (Bulgarian).

    So the right term for Jesus is “one and the same” (with God).

    That term was used in the early Bulgarian translations but was changed in the new Bible translations.

    Jesus is begotten and born as normal human, but Christ is born from water (matter) and spirit.

    Joh 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

    So, knowing and being the flesh you are only human.
    But knowing the true essence of your nature, which is Spirit, you know the Source and you are the Source (who get to know itself).

  16. Jesus Christ is indeed the “only begotten” of the Father (John 1:14). He is the “only Son from the Father” (ESV) in that He is the only Son who shares in the Father’s substance. Angels are sons in the sense of sinless creation; the elect are sons in the sense of adoption. Only of Christ can it be said that He shares the same nature of the Father.

    Walt: In the incarnation, the Father fathered Jesus by (or through the power of) the Spirit. Likewise the Father created by (or through the power of) the Son.

  17. Truden: Just because something is in parentheses does not mean the text is added. For example, the KJV uses italicized words to indicate added words, yet it still renders that phrase in John 1 in parentheses.

    A parenthetical phrase is not necessarily a later addition.

  18. All additional texts in the bible are marked with ( ) [ ] or italic.
    In the new Bible translation they don’t even bother to do it anymore but still:

    Joh 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

    As you can see and check in your Bible the “only begotten” place is added later in the Bible.

    Be careful, Rick, for you deceive yourself and the people around you.

  19. Rick,

    ALL [(parentheticals)] are later additions which are not found in the scriptures from which the translations are made.
    The italic texts are later added descriptive texts which are supposed to bring sense to the original text.

    That’s it.
    We can not argue about it.
    It is well known fact and rule in reading the Bible and you should be informed about it by the one who put the Bible in your hands.

  20. Truden: I hope you don’t mind my asking, but as I’ve never heard of this before (and I’m by no means a neophyte when it comes to these things) could you point me to some references?

    I’m making note that there are 223 verses with parentheses in the KJV, 269 in the ESV, 189 in the LITV, 240 in Darby’s Translation, and 240 in the NASB (which 3 less than the ’77 NASB).

    Can you really be sure that all parenthetical comments are added later and are (presumably) not to be considered inspired? If they are to be considered inspired, that they are added later is irrelevant.

    Likewise, if we are to be cautious of them, what one single translation should we look to as the definitive source of parenthetical additions? The translations vary wildly in the amount of parenthetical phrases they include.

    If you’re telling people to discount what amounts to about 200 words, phrases, or entire verses as being simply uninspired additions, then you are carrying a rather large burden of proof.

  21. Can you really be sure that all parenthetical comments are added later

    No.
    I am sure in one only thing, that God exists.

    The thing with the brackets is a little confusing.
    The round brackets ( ) used to show that these words were not found in any earlier scriptures. Later on some of the translators started to use them in common way as separating one phrase from another in long sentences, thus making difficult to know which places are added later.

    The [ ] brackets are to show that the text is not present in the earliest scriptures but present in later such.

    Since the Bible is self explanatory (for those who know it well) it is easy to find out which places are added later.
    Yet, even not being absolutely sure about the text, one can know the meaning if is guided by God.

    Do not read the Bible as source of information.
    Read it as you would read the book written by your dearest beloved person.
    Try to get inside.
    Try to clean your mind and be not bias in your faith.
    Do not defend doctrines and understanding given to you by church authorities.
    Try to be silent and tender when you have The Book in your hands.
    Do not argue about it.
    Do not make it leather for the heights of your EGO, but use it for reaching the heights of Love.

    That’s all I can say, my friend.
    I can not give you references from English sources, because I am Bulgarian.
    Try to find them yourself.

    If you’re telling people to discount what amounts to about 200 words, phrases, or entire verses as being simply uninspired additions, then you are carrying a rather large burden of proof.

    Why!?
    Did I say that there is no God?
    Did I say that Jesus is not Sun of God?
    Did I use it to teach you not to believe in God?
    I’m simply pointing out wrong interpretations of the Bible.

  22. Truden: The burden of proof is large because you are telling us that we essentially cannot trust portions of the Scriptures; is Jesus the only begotten of the Father or isn’t He? That deals with the nature of God and is therefore no small detail.

    You tell us not to read the Bible as information, but the Apostle Paul tells us that all of the Scriptures are profitable for teaching, for correction, for doctrine. The Bible is information; if we allow a heart- or emotion-based interpretation to overrule the information presented in the Scriptures, we are being deceived, for the heart is deceitful.

    I have only ever seen square brackets ([]) used in one translation of the Bible that comes to mind: the Analytical-Literal Translation. In it, they are used to designate explanatory text or other possible translations, as in this translation of John 1:14: “And the Word [or, the Expression of [divine] Logic] became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of an only-begotten [or, uniquely-begotten] from [the] Father, full of grace and truth.”

    In a previous comment, you said that all parenthetical text was added at a later time and was not part of the Scriptures as originally written. In your latest comment, you are now saying that you are only certain of one thing, that God exists, and that the parentheses issue is a bit confusing.

    All I’m asking for is something to backup your claim that parenthetical text was added in later. I have searched a bit on Google for information about that but have come up empty. Likewise, I have checked commentator John Gill — whose commentary is loaded with information about the earliest Bible translations and other translational issues — and I haven’t found anyplace where he points out that these texts are added.

  23. All I’m asking for is something to backup your claim

    I don’t have to backup my self, just because you assume that I’m wrong.

    Joh 8:14 Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.

  24. Walt Dickinson

    You don’t have to, of course. No one is saying you do. But it would certainly be nice if you did.

  25. Walt, it would be nice of me to do it if somehow my statement about Jesus not being the only begotten appears to be wrong.
    But if you read my comments from the beginning you’ll see that the other side must provide some proves, not me.

    I “backed up” myself with the words of Jesus against the words of John put in brackets.

    What logic are you following to tell me that I’m wrong and I hold the burden of proof !?

  26. Truden: You claim that parts of the Scripture are untrustworthy or do not belong or are not original.

    Jesus said that the Scriptures are sound, unbreakable, and are more permanent than the Heavens and the Earth.

    I believe Jesus, and I humbly request that you give some reason why I should disregard certain portions of the Scripture based upon nothing more than your statement that I should do so.

    Quoting John 8:14 does nothing to help your case; Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and He owes no man anything. You are no more or less than I am, so if you are wanting to teach, be big enough to be thorough and provide evidences for your teaching.

    Until then, you are no more credible than those who claim the Bible condones & endorses homosexuality, and what you are suggesting may even be worse: the removal of words from the Scriptures (Revelation 22).

    If you do not at least provide a link to some scholarly work somewhere that demonstrates why parenthetical phrases are not original Scriptures, then I will be deleting any future comments you make here, leaving you to use your own (or at least not mine) websites to spread your baseless ideas.

    Thank you.

  27. Rick, you behave as a little angry boy.
    That is not the way to talk about God.

    As I said, I’m Bulgarian and it is difficult for me to find English references.
    It is difficult to find reading of what are and why are brackets used in the Bible.
    Why it is so difficult I can only guess.

    Yet I found one English page where they mention the brackets in the Bible:
    http://www.exorthodoxforchrist.com/2003_holman_christian_standard_bible.htm

    About the “only begotten” term used in John:
    In Greek it is “monogenous”, which means asexual reproduction, not “begotten” neither “born by”. Therefore it can not be “the only”, because that would limit the power of God to asexually reproduce Itself.

    Why did I quote John 8:14?
    Because they also wanted from Jesus to provide proof and “references”.
    John 8:14 was His answer.
    That is my answer too.

    Farewell, my friend.

  28. Truden: I’m not angry; I find your distrust of certain portions of Scripture to be a dangerous teaching which you have still not managed to back up. I choose not to spend my time going back and forth with you about the issue, so I simply asked that you, to put it bluntly, “put up or shut up.”

    I’d prefer even a Bulgarian source as to none at all. The link you provided seems to be some whack-job claiming every Bible he gets his hands on is an unreliable translation for whatever reasons. Yes, the article points out that bracketed portions are possibly added in, and I agree with that; those portions of Scripture are the reason why the KJV has more verses than some of the newer versions.

    However, that has nothing to do with parenthetical phrases like in John 1; parentheses are a grammatical notation, not an editorial one. They do not denote added verses, they denote explanatory text (just like if I were to use them in my own writing).

    Thanks for visiting.

  29. kinda interesting even that i find god hard to believe in.
    with all the destruction and suffering humans had to go through in the near history, god if existed should have clearly get involved.

  30. The above comment, from “Free Movies,” was clearly posted as spam; however, it’s an interesting kind of spam in that while the name & website clearly gave the comment away as spam, the content of the comment itself, I feel, is worthwhile. As a result, I have allowed the comment; however, I have removed the website address.

    To reply to the question, which is essentially the famed “Problem of Evil” that objectors of Theism like to throw around, I say this:

    God allows humanity to have exactly what it wants. From the beginning, mankind has actively rejected God, His laws, and His wisdom. We have chosen defiant, willful disobedience, and God has allowed us to have what we have chosen. The natural outcome of going against God is the destruction and suffering mentioned in the above comment.

    There is a subset of humanity that does not get what they want, however; these are the elect who are dragged against their will to the Savior Jesus Christ, and it is in the incarnation of Jesus Christ that God involved Himself most in the affairs of man — almost, if not totally, to the point of interrupting our willful rebellion.

    Prior to the First Advent of Christ, God was still plenty involved in the affairs of men, and for those who have had their eyes opened, God’s activity in our world is often quite plain to see.

    Perhaps most of all, were God not active in our world, mankind likely would have wiped itself out already. The poor would be trampled over, the old would be forgotten, the sick would receive no care, and whoever is left would fight everyone else for riches and power… Until no one is left.

    It is the Spirit of God which restrains us, which causes there to be good in the world.

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