Stumbling openings 2: “In the beginning…”

The opening Hebrew words of the Bible read awkwardly, causing dispute as to how to understand (and translate) them. The form is not used again in the Tanach (the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament).

They can be read as the first statement in a sequence of events – God did this, then this, then this. Or they can be read as a construct form – “In the beginning of His creating…” – and could even imply “for the sake of the beginning, God created…”. So, for example, the great Hebrew scholar Ramban takes the statement as the opening of a sequence; Rashi takes it as the construct form.

If this is His book, couldn’t God have started – and stated – matters more clearly?
In the beginning of His creating
Unless the author begins with poor grammar, the wording draws attention to the very difficulty in the words concerned: how to describe the beginning of time with words that rely on the concept of time, that necessarily assume that time exists. When something begins, then previously in time it had not yet begun – the past differs from the present. But, there is no past before the beginning of Genesis 1:1; there is no before, and thus no beginning in a sense that we, as time bound creatures, can understand.

Genesis 1:1 reminds us of this. The beginning of time is beyond the rules of grammar. By separating the creation of time (“In the beginning of His creating”) from material creation, Genesis is well in advance of scientific thinking. We have all been told that Genesis is unscientific and outdated in terms of understanding the physical world. But, as we shall see in a later blog, science in the 21st C is only just arriving at the understanding of the beginning that is set out for the simplest peasant in the Hebrew of Genesis 1:1.

One Response to “Stumbling openings 2: “In the beginning…””

  1. Garthray1 Says:

    Assumptions or presumptions are the REAL battleground for all our thoughts about creation. A key issue is what we will ALLOW to even be considered as a valid option to life springing by random chance. Once we get by this pinch point we are free to dream about the way we want our creation and our Creator to be like. If there is any doubt about that concept try this question on for size: How do you know your thoughts are really YOUR thoughts?

    If you have excluded God as a valid OPTION for the existence of CREATION you are pursuing a flawed ANALYTICAL model regarding the absolute truth and could cause you to end up to be an eternal cynic. Instead of giving up when things get tough, keep the concept of a creator on the table. Pursue the truth, even if it be for a lifetime, and THE TRUTH shall set you free