Thursday, February 23, 2012

When Genesis 1:2 and Culture Collide (Part One)

As per yesterday’s post, below is the Hebrew text and translation, color-coded for your enjoyment! (I’m going without vowel points today because I’m using a different computer tonight, and certain Hebrew fonts are not available to me right now. But that’s how the original text looked anyway, so consider this a treat!)

והארץ היתה תהו ובהו וחשך על פני תהום ורוח אלהים מרחפת על פני המים

“Now the land was a shapelessness and emptiness, and darkness was on the surface of the watery depths, and the breath of God was fluttering over the surface of the waters.”

Those of you who know Greek might recall that πνευμα (pneuma), which means “spirit,” can also mean “breath” or “wind.” Similarly, the Hebrew term רוח (ruakh) can mean “spirit,” “breath,” or “wind.” Most translations stick with “spirit” here, but I find that “breath” suggests the concrete presence of God better.

It also highlights the contrast between the “shapelessness and emptiness” and the order that God is about to effect simply by speaking things into being. תהו (tohu), meaning “wasteland” or “formlessness,” and בהו (bohu), meaning “emptiness,” aside from the obvious fact that they rhyme, together highlight the lack of substance and order in the primeval universe before God gives things shape and fills things up.

There are more things to say about this verse, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Lend Me Your Insights

  1. Looking at this passage in the context of the rest of Genesis 1, do you think we can get away with describing God’s creation as ex nihilo (a fancy Latin theological term meaning “from nothing”)? If so, why? If not, why not?

  1. Is there anything in this passage that makes you feel uncomfortable? If so, why? If you don’t feel uncomfortable by anything this passage, note some things about it that you may not have noticed before.

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