In the beginning of the Almighty’s creating of the heavens and the earth, when the earth had been unformed and nothing, and darkness was over the face of the deep, and the Spirit of the Almighty was making a fluttering over the face of the waters, then the Almighty said, ‘Let there be light.’ Then there was light. Then the Almighty saw the light, that it was good. Then the Almighty made a separating between the light and between the darkness. Then the Almighty called the light ‘day’ (and darkness he has been calling ‘night’): Then there was setting. Then there was daybreak. | one day.
The first word of the Scripture is normally construct, in the beginning of creating. The Masoretes accented the text around AD 1000 to give the absolute sense, in the beginning God created. They also pointed the second word in the perfect, which strictly speaking indicates a completed point of view: had created. These mistakes caused Gen. 1:1 to become an introductory summary statement of the whole of creation rather than simply the introduction and setting to the first act of creation: light.
The reason for the traditional mistake is reliance on tradition as a means of finding things out rather than linguistic observation, and sticking to normal sense and normal grammer. Theologians have tried to find an absolute beginning to time itself in Genesis 1:1. Such a notion simply is not there, and leads to senseless philosophical notions such as God being outside of time.
Vs. 2 is introduced with a waw conjunctive, which is simultaneous in time with the first verse. Vs. 2 is simply adding more details to the setting. The perfect verb “had been” emphasizes the state of things at the beginning of God’s creating. In fact, nothing is actually created until light in vs. 3. It is possible for the verb to mean “had become” and this notion is the source of the gap theory also called the “ruin and reconstruction theory”. However, this sense has to be rejected because it requires the mistaken traditional translation of vs. 1 as a precursor to a ruin theory. Since nothing was created until the light, there is nothing to ruin.
The only elements present in the setting of vs. 2 are God himself taking a pure Spirit form, and water. All the other parts of the setting are negative. Darkness is the abscence of any light, and is not a substance itself. Darkness is not something that is created. Where Scripture says that God creates darkness, it is being used in a metaphorical sense for calamity or the visitation of spiritual blinding to the wicked, and not the literal absence of light. The earth is only mentioned in a negative sense, that is to say, it had been unformed at this stage. It was nothing, a nothingness, in whatever empty space amid the waters that God was planning to form it. The only thing that existed besides God was the waters, which see has a surface, or surfaces, and God is making the waters to move, to flutter, as if the rapid movement of wings were causing the surface to vibrate. This energizing is the preparation for the creation of light. There is no physical earth at this stage. To give an analogy: At the start of my making my house, when the house was without form and empty space, and I was looking over a pile of lumber, then I said to the carpenters start building..... There is no room for a gap theory, because no earth existed.
To draw an analogy here, the situation is like a carpenter who says when he began to build his house, the house was unformed (unmade) and he was looking over a pile of lumber, getting ready to select the first pieces.
We may only speculate as to the origin of the water. Scripture does not mention its being created, or whether God brought the water from another universe or not, or whether water is a substance that God has kept around from eternity past. At some point water may have been created, at some other time, or place, but Scripture does not tell. I would guess that even if water was kept around from eternity past, that God can, and does certainly create more of it.
Genesis 1:3 begins with the first waw consecutive in Scripture. This is translated Then. It tells what comes next after the setting described in vss. 1-2. Story narrators in English use the word and to tell what comes next, but when they do, they emphasize the and, i.e. John hit the ball, |AND| he ran to first base, |AND| he tried to make second base, |AND| he was tagged out. Hebrew does this also by shifting the accent foward. Here it is marked in bold yō. The Hebrew waw is also used in concluding as in “if then” or “so then”. This sense is sometimes combined with the consecutive sense, and sometimes not. The consecutive sense takes priority so long as context does not forbid it. Also, the consecutive waw is attached to verbs in Hebrew and the conjuctive waw is attached to nouns. The verbs with the consecutive waw are often shortened because of the accent shifting. This is called apocopation. For these reasons the contrast between a mere conjunctive waw, and a consecutive waw is greater in Hebrew. The Hebrew consecutive waw nearly, but not quite matches the English word then in all of its glorious uses. The English then is a bit stiff when used in a series. The Hebrew consecutive waw is more flexible and can be used as a concluding “Then” wherever the context allows, though it does not automatically lose its consecutive sense. The consecutive sense is simply that the conclusion comes next after the reasons for it are stated.
First Elohim speaks and commands the light to be. This follows in sequence after Gen. 1:1-2. Then next the light comes to be.
Next the Almighty sees the light he created, and also sees that it is good. Apparently, the first light was a mixture of light and darkness, a dawning, so next the Almighty separates the light from the darkness. This separating is a temporal separation. At first the light is barely perceived, but then as it grows in intensity the darkness is banished altogether.
Vs.5 tells us what comes next in the time sequence. First he calls the light day. Then the text switches to a conjunctive waw, “and the darkness” followed by a switch in verbal tense to “he has been calling night”. Then narrator is adding background information here on the new word for darkness, be he does not want to interrupt the sequence in giving the detail. So it is not introduced with a consecutive waw, so as to say, “then he called the darkness night”! Because that would make it hard to say “then there was setting” right afterward. English does not use a perfect for this purpose. English uses a gnomic present tense, “he calls” and then in written prose we put it in parenthesis.
There are two other possibilities here. First the Hebrew could be understood as future perfect: he will have called. Or the next waw consecutive is also a summarizing waw, “so then” and tells us what happened before he called it night. I think the most likely use is that the perfect is being used to give a background detail. The perfect tense is from the narrators time frame, and not from the time frame of the narrative itself. The narrator has translated God into his own time frame to make the background statement. Only he makes it perfect with respect to himself and God in his present. English, on the other hand, makes the statement into the present, yet it is a historical present, because the info stated in the present is meant to apply to the past.
The Hebrew student, therefore, should think of the Hebrew perfect popping up in the midst of a string of imperfects as likened to an English present tense popping up in the middle of a string of past tenses, e.g. “Jack woke up, and Jack got dressed, and Jack does not like eggs; he calls them rubber; but his mother served him eggs anyway.” I have underlined the present tenses that only give information and do not move the narrative forward in time. Now in Hebrew this would be “Jack has called them rubber”. It is not meant to state the time of Jack’s habitual utterance relative to the story time frame. It is only meant to say that Jack’s said that by habit prior to the telling of the story. English can indeed get away with this, but this requires present perfect continuous, which looks like a passive, but is not a passive, i.e. “Jack has been calling them rubber”. So our little story goes “Jack woke up, and Jack got dressed, and Jack has not been liking eggs; he has been calling them rubber; but his mother served him eggs anyway.” It is not clear that he called them rubber on that occassion. But he did so more than a few times in the narrator’s past.
Proving the Points
Gen 1:1 starts,
In the beginning of [...] The first word in the bible is the first word that is mistranslated in most bibles! That is incredible. More careful scholars have it right, for example, Robert Young,
In the beginning of [...] (YLT). The first word is construct, and not the absolute form. Construct looks like “in the beginning of”, but the absolute state is “in the beginning”. The JPS Tanakh, 1985, renders
When God began to create heaven and earth. This is a rather loose translation, but the translators clearly recognized the first word of the bible as construct, and the second word as infinitive construct. What we must do is look at the usage of the noun translated “beginning of” in the rest of Scripture, and see if this is the primary sense.
|רֵאשִׁית||the beginning of||Gen. 10:10||noun construct|
|וְרֵאשִׁית||and the beginning of||Gen. 49:3||conj., noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the beginning of||Exo. 12:19||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the beginning of||Exo. 34:26||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the first fruit||Lev. 2:12||noun absolute|
|רֵאשִׁית||the beginning of||Lev. 23:10||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the beginning of||Num. 15:20||noun construct|
|מֵרֵאשִׁית||from the beginning of||Num. 15:21||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁיתָם||the first fruits of them||Num. 15:21||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the first of||Num. 24:20||noun construct|
|מֵרֵשִׁית||from the beginning of||Deut. 11:12||noun construct|
|מֵרֵשִׁית||from the beginning of||Deut. 11:12||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the first of||Deut. 18:4a||noun construct|
|וְרֵאשִׁית||and the first of||Deut. 18:4b||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||from the beginning of||Deut. 21:17||noun construct|
|מֵרֵאשִׁית||from the first of||Deut. 26:2||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the first of||Deut. 26:10||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the first||Deut. 33:21||noun absolute|
|מֵרֵאשִׁית||from the first of||1 Samuel 2:29||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the first of||1 Samuel 15:21||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the first fruit of||2 Chronicles 31:5||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the first of||Neh. 10:38||noun construct|
|לָרֵאשִׁית||for the first fruit||Neh. 12:44||noun absolute|
|רֵאשִׁיתְךָ||the beginning of you||Job 8:7||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the first of||Job 40:19||noun construct|
|מֵרֵאשִׁתוֹ||more than the beginning of him||Job 42:12||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the first of||Psa. 71:85||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the first fruit of||Psa. 105:36||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the beginning of||Psa. 111:10||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the beginning of||Prov. 1:7||noun construct|
|וּמֵרֵאשִׁית||and from the first of||Prov. 3:9||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the first of||Prov 4:7||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the beginning of||Prov 8:22||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the beginning of||Prov. 17:14||noun construct|
|מֵרֵאשִׁיתוֹ||that the beginning of it||Eccl. 7:8||noun construct|
|מֵרֵאשִׁית||from the beginning||Isa. 46:10||noun absolute|
|רֵאשִׁית||the first of||Jer. 2:3||noun construct|
|בְּרֵאשִׁית||in the beginning of||**Jer. 26:1||noun construct|
|בְּרֵאשִׁית||in the beginning of||**Jer. 27:1||noun construct|
|בְּרֵאשִׁית||in the beginning of||**Jer. 28:1||noun construct|
|בְּרֵאשִׁית||in the beginning of||**Jer. 49:34||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the first of||Jer. 49:35||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the first of||Ezek. 20:40||noun construct|
|וְרֵאשִׁית||and the first of||Ezek 44:30||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the first of||Ezek. 48:14||noun construct|
|וְרֵאשִׁית||and the first of||Dan. 11:41||noun construct|
|בּרֵאשִׁיתָהּ||in the first of it||Hos 9:10||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the first of||Amos 6:1||noun construct|
|וְרֵאשִׁית||and the first of||Amos 6:6||noun construct|
|רֵאשִׁית||the beginning of||Micah 1:13||noun construct|
This is an exhaustive listing of the use of the word רֵאשִׁית: beginning, first fruit, first in Scripture. Only 4x does the word appear in the absolute out of 51x. Also the form בְּרֵאשִׁית is always construct, five out of five times. The four exceptions are not among these, and do not occur at the beginning of a sentence.
The opening words of the second account of creation echo the same sense as 1:1:
When being created them, in the day of making Yahweh earth and heavens.... (Gen. 2:4) Again, we see an introductory clause setting a setting. The passage starts out with the verb for “create” as an infinitive construct ( בְּהִבָּרְאָם בְּיוֹם עֲשׂוֹת יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶרֶץ וְשָׁמָיִם). Gen 5:1b also expresses the same thought,
In the day of creating of the Almighty: Adam, in the likeness of the Almighty he had made him. Again, the infinitive construct is used: בְּיוֹם בְּרֹא אֱלֹהִים אָדָם בִּדְמוּת אֱלֹהִים עָשָׂה אֹתוֹ.
The style is clearly to start the account with a temporal phrase in the construct followed by an infinitive construct: Gen. 1:1, “In the beginning of...”; Gen 2:4, “In being created of them, in day of making..”; Gen 5:1b, “In day of creating of....” The reason that Gen. 1:1 cannot be refered in the traditional sense is that pointing the word “create” as a perfect tense requires the sense “has created”. The perfect means the action was completed. This is like saying “At 12 noon I have eaten my lunch.” It means the eating was completed before the time stated. It does not matter which form of perfect is used: at 12 noon I had eaten my lunch; at 12 noon, I will have eaten my lunch. Was creation done with before the beginning? Even perfect continuous does not work: At 12 noon I have been eating my lunch. This implies some of the lunch was eaten before the time stated. The only way to satisfy a perfect is to have direct discourse, “God said, in the beginning I had created...” This way the perfect is completed with respect to the time of speaking. If there be any exception, I have stated the normal sense of the language.
Gen 1:2 starts with a perfect verb: “when the earth had been”; The “when” translates the waw conjunctive to show that it does not move time forward. This in itself is deadly to the gap theory because the gap theory argues that Gen. 1:2 happened in time after vs. 1. If that were the case we would expect the verse to open with a waw consecutive attached to the verb, “Then becomes the earth...”; The conjunctive waw is often translated “and”, “now”, “when”. Usually you can impute a sense to it down the lines of “and also at the same time”, or at least note that time progression is not being noted or considered by the narrative. The next issue is whether the verb means “had been” or “had become”? In the first instance a state of being is been equated to the earth. In the second a change of state is being ascribed to the earth. Now the verb in the first verse “In the beginning of creating of Almighty...” is locked into a time frame relative to the introductory time, “the beginning of”; in the second verse, since it is more remote from the temporal phrase of vs. 1, we have the option of taking the narrator’s timeframe as the temporal reference point. Time has not really moved forward in the narrative, but the perfect verb is completed from the narrator’s view point. As an example, “In the beginning of building the house, when it had been a pile of lumber...” vs. “In the beginning Dad had built the house, when it had been a pile of lumber.” In the last case, we question why a perfect tense is used to describe a situation in which the house was still a pile of lumber. Something seems out of order. The same problem ensues with “became”: “In the beginning Dad had built the house, when it became a pile of lumber”; Now the project seems to be going backwards. He built the house before the time specified by “beginning”, then at the beginning it becomes a pile of lumber.
So let us focus on whether the verb “hayah” means “had become” or not. Does the verb necesitate a change of state or does it usually just describe a past condition? In the following concordance of the verb, the places where it does not mean a change of state are in bold green. Where it may imply a change of state or focus on a change of state I have added “become” in bold font. Did the serpent become crafty? Probably not. More likely the serpent was crafty by nature, and decided to use his crafitiness for evil. Gen. 3:20 and 22 are clear cases of “had become”, but Gen. 4:2 is a clear case of “had been”. In Gen. 6:4 the Nephilim had not become on the earth. They came from elsewhere. They themselves did not go through a change of state. In each case the question is asked if the subject of the verb went through a change of state. I underline the subjects.
|Gen 3:1||Now the serpent had been more crafty|
|Gen 3:20||For she has become mother of all the living|
|Gen 3:22||The man has become like one from us|
|Gen 4:2||And Cain had been working the ground|
|Gen 4:20||He has become father of tent dwellers|
|Gen 4:21||He has become father of all playing the harp|
|Gen 6:4||The Nephilim had been on the earth|
|Gen 6:9||perfect he had been in his generation|
|Gen 7:6||when the flood had been waters on the earth|
|Gen 7:10||and waters of the deluge had been upon the earth|
|Gen 8:5||And the waters had been going and slacking|
|Gen 10:9||He had become a mighty hunter|
|Gen 11:3||And the asphalt had been for them for mortar|
|Gen 13:3||where his tent had been|
|Gen 13:5||Also for Lot there had been|
|Gen 13:6||Because their possessions had been great|
|Gen 15:1||had been the word of Yahweh to Abram|
|Gen 15:17||thick darkness had been|
|Gen 18:12||After being worn me, will have been for me pleasure?|
|Gen 25:3||And the sons of Dedan had become Asshurites|
|Gen 26:1||the famine which had been in the days of Abraham|
|Gen 26:28||Seeing we have seen that has been Yahweh with you|
|Gen 27:23||For his hands had been like the hands of Esau|
|Gen 29:17||And Rachel had been beautiful of form|
|Gen 30:30||For a little which had been to me before|
|Gen 31:5||but the Almighty of my father has been with me|
|Gen 31:42||If had not been with me|
|Gen 34:5||and his sons had been with his cattle|
|Gen 36:7||for their possessions had become too great|
|Gen 36:12||And Timnah had become a concubine to Eliphaz|
|Gen. 36:13||they had been sons of Basemath|
|Gen. 37:2||he had been pasturing in the flocks with his brothers|
|Exo 10:23||and to all the sons of Israel had been light in their dwellings|
|Judges 8:11||when the camp had been secure|
|1Kings 22:35||And the king had been made to be standing in the chariot|
|2Kings 5:1||And the man had been mighty|
The concordance above is not exhaustive, but it is sufficent to show both meanings. Particularly appliccable is Judges 8:11,
And the camp had been secure. The camp cannot have become secure, because then the attack would have failed. The camp had been secure, and it became insecure as soon as Gideon attacked it. This single example has the same syntax as Gen. 1:2, and therefore confirms the legitimacy of the translation “had been”.
Another point I should make is that “earth” is not defined until Gen. 1:10,
Then the Almighty called the dry ground ‘earth.’ Earth is only mentioned in vs. 1 to immediately be called without form and nothing in vs. 2. The point is that it was so early in the beginning of creation that not even the earth was made.
There is much effort on the part of gap theorists to impart more meaning to tohu wavohu than there really is using other texts not carefully translated. For example, Jer. 4:23:
I have looked at the land, and behold it was emptiness and nothing, and at the heavens, and there is no light of them. I have looked at the mountains, and behold quaking, and all the hills have been shaking. I have looked, and behold not mankind, and all the birds of the heavens have fled. I have looked, and behold the fruitful place of the wilderness, and all its cities have been pulled down from the face of Yahweh, from the face of his burning anger.
Now looking at two kernals, 1. the land was emptiness, 2. the land was nothing. The first statement means that it was emptied of people because of divine judgment. The second means that it was reduced to nothing, stripped of all life. There is no sense of waste or wild in the words “tohu” and “vohu”. That the terms denote empty space is shown in Isa. 34:11:
Then the hawk and the porcupine will have possessed it. The owl and raven then will dwell in her. Also, he will have stretched out over her a line without form, and stones of nothingness.
He stretches out the north over void, hanging the earth upon nothing.