Wednesday, July 11, 2012

When Genesis 1:3 and Culture Collide (Finally)

Okay, it appears that in order for me to keep up with my blog posts, I have to be free and clear of any grad school homework. I've decided to return to blogging, having just completed a big exegetical paper on Deuteronomy 27 for a class.

So in my last post, by "You will have to wait until tomorrow," I actually meant, "You will have to wait 5 months from now."

Not buying it? Good. That's how a good exegete operates. The word tomorrow in English NEVER means 5 months from now (it may mean "the future" generically in some sense, but not specifically "5 months from now"). What actually happened was that I really did mean to update things "tomorrow" (as in "the 24-hour day immediately following today"), but time got away from me, and grad school ate my life again. (Don't apply this to what I think about the Hebrew term יוֹם [yōm, the word for "day"]. In fact, I think  "Is this a literal 24 hours or not?" is actually the wrong question to ask of this text. If you comment, I'll spell out more what I mean by that.)

So now that I'm in a break from grad school, I can resume my posts. To hold myself accountable, I am going to post EVERY day, starting this morning (and continuing each consecutive morning thereafter). If I don't publish a post one day, I want someone to comment and say, "Anybody there?" (And I am serious about that.) I'm determined to nip this in the bud.

So this means you'll have to put up with all my sometimes nauseatingly lame jokes (well, you don't have to, but if you want to subject yourself to reading this blog, then you do indeed have to). Have I scared you away yet? (If so, I'm sorry. Please don't close your Internet browser. I'm done with this tangential rant now.)

So back to Genesis. Here's where we've been:

  1. We started with Genesis 1:1. We analyzed the grammar a bit, and we pondered what the most important theological thrust of this statement might be. 
  2. We moved on to Genesis 1:2 (looking at it in two separate posts), and we noticed some fascinating features of this text, notably the words that I translated as "formlessness" and "emptiness."

And now we're on to Genesis 1:3, which brings me to why I mentioned last time (if you can remember that far back--see the previous blog post, the one one before my "oops, something came up so you'll have to wait until tomorrow" excuse post) that I had "highlighted the term חֹשֶׁךְ ('darkness') for [a] reason." I said in that previous post that I would tell you in my next post (which happens to be TODAY's post!) what that reason is. So...

(Drum roll, please.)

Below is the reason! *Insert obnoxious, so-loud-it-hurts-your-eardrums fanfare here.*

The very next verse has the Hebrew word אוֹר ('ōr), meaning "light"! So "darkness" (חֹשֶׁךְ) in verse 2 is being contrasted with "light" (אוֹר)! See below:

Genesis 1:3: "Let Light Come About!"

וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֖ים יְהִ֣י אֹ֑ור וַֽיְהִי־אֹֽור׃

"And God said, 'Let light come about!' So light came about." 

It's here that you can see the contrast. In verse 2, we were told that חֹשֶׁךְ (khōshekh) was upon the surface of the watery depths in the beginning. But in verse 3, God initiates his first creative act, which is to make אוֹר ("light")!

This all the more poignant when we compare this text with John 1. The first chapter of John picks up this Genesis 1 language---not only with 
ἐν ἀρχῇ (en archē, "in [the] beginning," echoing בְּרֵאשִׁית) in verse 1, but also with the frequent use of the word φῶς (phōs, "light"), which John links to Jesus. :-)

It's interesting that the first thing God creates is light---illumination, turning off the darkness. And the first thing  the Gospel of John does is refer to Jesus using this language. When Jesus came, he was (and is) a light to shine forth into a world of darkness.

Lend Me Your Thoughts

  1. Did you ever notice the fact that verse 2 mentions "darkness" and therefore sets you up for verse 3, which mentions God creating "light" to deal with that darkness? Do you notice anything else here?
  2. Read Genesis 1 and John 1 side by side. Do you see anything else that I missed?

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