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The debate is well worn over how the verses of Gen 1.1-5 relate to one another,9 with vv. 1-2 being especially problematic. The business of this study is not to prove the unity of Gen 1.1-5. Rather, the modest goal for this study is to establish the possibility that Gen 1.1-5 can be seen as a unit by the reader, whether ancient or modern.

With the structure of MT Gen 1.1-5, two things are clear – the creative speech of God begins in vs. 3, when God speaks light into existence, and vv.4-5 continue the creative action of v.3. The unity of MT Gen 1.1-5, then, rests on the relationship of vv.1-3.

One argument for the unity of MT Gen 1.1-5 is based on a reading of the first letter of the text, :B, as 'when,'10 introducing a dependent clause (v.1) that moves into a parenthetic clause (v.2)11 with the thought completed by the main clause (v.3).12 The creative action of v.3 is extended by the creative actions in vv.4-5 and only concludes with the declaration of the day. Another vantage point on the unity of Gen 1.1-5 is from the wider literary structure of the First Creation Story (Gen 1.1-2.4a). MT Gen 1.5 concludes with the same formulaic declaration that is used to declare the end of each of the first six days.13 The literary pattern of the First Creation Story uses this declaration of the day as a full stop, a natural break in the narrative.14 From this it follows that Day Cf. J.E. Atwell, “An Egyptian Source for Genesis 1,” JTS 51 (2000) 451.

N.M. Sarna, Genesis, (JPS Torah Commentary; Philadelphia: JPS, 1989) notes that the creation texts in Gen 2.4, 5.1, begin with 'when'. (5) C. Westermann, Genesis 1-11: A Commentary, (trans. J.J. Scullion; London: SPCK, 1984) suggests that there is a traditional pattern for beginning ancient cosmologies in the ‘When not yet,’ a pattern that reappears in MT Gen 1.2 and is common specifically to the Babylonian Enuma Elish. (102) Also, B.S. Childs, Myth and Reality in the Old Testament, (2nd ed.; SBT 17; London: SCM, 1962)42. Atwell, “Egyptian Source,” concurring with Westermann's general observation, convincingly argues that the most pertinent parallel is not with Enuma Elish but with Egyptian cosmology attributable to the priestly cult at Hermopolis. (449-467) The connection with Hermopolis was previously noted by R. Kilian, “Gen. I 2 und die Urgötter von Hermopolis,” VT 16 (1966) 420-438, especially 429ff.

The varied arguments for the relationship of the first three verses of Genesis help to illustrate the impossibility in coming to any decisive conclusion. Arguments generally begin with the interpreter's understanding of v. 1. These can be separated into three general categories of interpretation: (1) v. 1 is an independent clause with v.2 and v.3 describing subsequent acts of creation – A. Caquot, “Brèves remarques exégétiques sur Genèse 1, 1-2,” in In Principio: Interprétations des premiers versets de la Genèse (Études Augustiniennes 8; Paris: Centre d'Études des Religions du Livre, 1973) 13-15; Childs, Myth and Reality, 31-43, G.J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, (WBC 1; Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987) 11-13; (2) v. 1 is an independent clause that functions as a title for the creation account of vv. 2-31 – Cassuto, Genesis, 20, S.R. Driver, The Book of Genesis, (London: Methuen & Co., 1904) 3, G. von Rad, Genesis: A Commentary, (trans. J.H. Marks; OTL; London: SCM, 1961) 51, Westermann, Genesis 1-11, 94, Atwell, “Egyptian Source,” 451; and (3) v. 1 is a temporal clause completed by v. 3 with v. 2 as a parenthetic clause – J.D.

Levenson, Creation and the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish Drama of Divine Omnipotence, (2nd revised ed.;

Princeton: Princeton University, 1988 & 1994), Sarna, Genesis, 5, J. Skinner, Genesis, (2nd ed.; ICC; Edinburgh: T.

& T. Clark, 1930) 12-14, E.A. Speiser, Genesis, (AB 1; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1964) 12-13.

;(number) {Oy reqob-yih:yaw bere(-yih:yaw F.H. Polak, “Poetic Style and Parallelism in the Creation Account (Genesis 1.1-2.3),” in Creation in Jewish and Christian Tradition (ed. H.G. Reventlow and Y. Hoffman; JSOTSS 319; London: Sheffield, 2002) in the midst of an argument for reading MT Gen 1.1-2.3 as a poetic ‘Hymn of Creation’ (5, 31) suggests that MT Gen 1.1-5 is the first ‘stanza’ of the creation poem. (11) – 13 –


One includes the material that precedes the declaration. Thus, the whole of the First Creation Story is divided into seven days with the first seventh of the whole occurring in MT Gen 1.1-5.15 The ambiguity of the relationship of MT Gen 1.1-2 to the subsequent verses likely will never be completely resolved. It is the position of this author that it is at least reasonable to think that an ancient reader (along with his/her 21st century counterparts) could read the Hebrew text of Gen 1.1-5 as a unit. Though the above points are far from conclusive, the unity of the first five verses of Genesis remains a viable enough possibility to move on to examining parts of the larger whole.

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created the heavens and the earth, and puts the beginning that tyi$)"r:B signals in context – it is a creative beginning.

While there are other words used to explain God's creative action,19 within the Hebrew Bible )rb (qal) is only used with God as the subject and God's creative work as the object.20 The object(s) of this first creative verb is the merism, jerf)fh t"):w {iyamfah t"). Forming two halves of the cosmos, the circumlocution of the heavens and the earth describe the overarching totality of God's creative venture – a totality that is fleshed out throughout the rest of the First Creation Story.21 The function of jerf)fh is drawn out in Wenham's paraphrase of Gen 1.1, ‘In t"):w {iyamfah t") the beginning God created everything,’22 though I would temper this by understanding MT Gen 1.1 as, ‘When God began to create everything…,’ in line with reading :B as ‘when.’ To translate as Wenham is to misplace the genesis of creatio ex nihilo.

Cassuto, Genesis, has documented ‘numerical harmony’ based on the use of the number seven that permeates the First Creation Story. (12-15) Cassuto, though he sees Gen 1.1 as an introductory verse, also notes that the Masoretes placed the first paragraph marker after v.5. (13) For a mapping of the usage and contextuality of each IM, see Appendix A.

Origen's Greek transliteration being just one example.

BDB, s.v. When considering occurrences of tyi$)"r in the intertexts of MT Gen 1.1-5, I also strongly consider $)or"m, in line with W. Eichrodt, “In the Beginning,” in Israel's Prophetic Heritage: Essays in Honor of James Muilenburg (ed. B.W. Anderson and W. Harrelson; New York: Harper and Row, 1962) 3f.

E.g., h+n,hnq,rcy,h#(,ldb W.R. Garr, “God's Creation: )rb in the Priestly Source,” HTR 97 (2004) attempts to define God's creative action as described by )rb in the Priestly Source as both constructive of the good and counteractive of the 'turbulent land' and 'sea monsters'. (88) Cassuto, Genesis, 20.

Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 15. Also, M. DeRoche, “Isaiah XLV 7 and the Creation of Chaos?,” VT 42 (1992).

Against this position, Cassuto, Genesis, is of the opinion that the concept of the totality of the universe was not known to the Hebrews at the origin of Genesis 1, only entering the Hebrew worldview in a later period. (20)

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pair mean is unclear, though either ‘chaos’24 or ‘desert/emptiness’25 seem sufficient guesses. Whichever meaning is in MT Gen 1.2,26 it seems clear that this ambiguous pair describe the proto-earth as present yet ascribed to Uhobfw Uhot

–  –  –

begins forming everything else.27 Westermann makes an opposite and sweeping judgment about the occurrence of in MT Gen 1.2, to which I cannot subscribe based on the ambiguity of |e$ox throughout the Hebrew Bible. He |e$ox

–  –  –

describe the presence of the divine.29 And, the three other occurrences of |e$ox in the First Creation Story are similar in that they do not invoke a good/evil metaphor but rather matter-of-factly contrast the basic elements of light and dark, day and night (MT Gen 1.4, 5, 18). Given the consistent juxtaposition of light and darkness, day and night in these three occurrences, it seems reasonable to assert that throughout the First Creation Story simply means |e$ox darkness, nighttime, or the absence of light, acknowledging, as does Driver, that light and darkness each have their place in the ordering of the cosmos.30 Childs, Myth and Reality, notes the superfluous nature of hft:yfh since it is assumed in a nominal clause. (33) Cassuto, Genesis, ‘…that is to say, the unformed material from which the earth was to be fashioned was at the beginning of its creation in a state of tōhū and bōhū, to wit, water above and solid matter beneath, and the whole, a chaotic mess, without order or life.’ (23) Westermann, Genesis 1-11, translates ‘a desert waste.’ (76) D.T. Tsumura, The Earth and the Waters in Genesis 1 and 2: A Linguistic Definition, (JSOTSup 83; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1989), elaborates: ‘…the phrase tōhû wā bōhû in Gen 1.2 has nothing to do with 'chaos' and simply means 'emptiness' and refers to the earth which is an empty place, i.e., 'an unproductive and uninhabited place.' Thus the main reason for mentioning the earth as tōhû wā bōhû in this setting is to inform the audience that the earth is 'not yet' the earth as it is known to them.’ (43) Atwell, “Egyptian Source,” based on his observation that Gen 1.2 is a description 'in toto' of the primordial world suggests that Tsumura's (and Westermann's) reading of Uhobfw Uhot misses the immediate ‘not yet’ context of Gen 1.2. (452)

Childs, Myth and Reality, suggests an appealing hypothesis for understanding the relationship of this word pair:

‘The root of the word is uncertain, but the tōhû seems to be a many-sided bōhû…’ (33) Such an explanation is a sufficiently vague description of this ambiguous pair.

I. Blythin, “A Note on Genesis I 2,” VT 12 (1962): ‘In Gen i 2 it has perhaps been too lightly assumed that [|$x] is parallel in meaning to [whbw wht], for if there is reasonable certainty that [{yhl) xwr] means the spirit of God, a power 'extension' of the Godhead, then it is possible that [|$x] is parallel to this phrase.’ (121) Westermann, Genesis 1-11, 104. Also, Childs, Myth and Reality, makes a similarly sweeping judgment about darkness in the Hebrew Bible saying that it is ‘closely related to death’ and ‘remains a sphere opposed to life, and land of non-being.’ (34) See MT Exod 14.20; 4.11, 5.23; 2 Sam 22.12; Isa 45.3; Ps 18.12(11), 139.12.

Driver, Genesis, 5-6. On this point Cassuto, Genesis, wants it both ways – darkness as bad and darkness as an integral part of creation. Commenting on MT Gen 1.4: ‘This verse, unlike the corresponding verses, specifies the thing that is good – the light – to prevent the misconception that darkness is also good… It was not the Creator's intention that there should be perpetual light and no darkness at all, but that the light and the darkness should operate consecutively for given periods and in unchanging order.’ (26)

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especially in arguments for or against echoes of ancient Near Eastern myth, is whether or not the lack of a definite article with {Oh:T is cause for reading it as a proper name.32 It has been pointed out that the lack of a definite article is more likely in poetry rather than prose,33 though given that the First Creation Story is prose, this observation is of little value here. More noteworthy is the fact that {Oh:T occurs without a definte article in 33 of 35 occurrences in the MT,34 suggesting at least the quality of a proper noun, and other significant nouns, notably |e$ox, are used throughout MT Genesis 1 without the definite article.35 The final phrase of MT Gen 1.2 includes axUr. While the choice of ‘breath’ in the above translation is not widely supported by modern scholars,36 my aim in translating it thusly is to highlight the ambiguity of axUr in MT

–  –  –

Tsumura, The Earth and the Waters, argues that while {Oh:T may have common linguistic roots with the Akkadian Tiamat, there is no proof that {Oh:T in MT Gen 1.2 is a demythologisation of the same. (158-159) Also, R.J.

Clifford, Creation Accounts in the Ancient Near East and in the Bible, (CBQMS 26; Washington, DC: Catholic Biblical Assocation of America, 1994) 140-141.

Gunkel began this speculation, perpetuated by Skinner, Genesis, with his comment, ‘The invariable absence of the art[icle] (except with pl. in MT Ps 106:9, Isa 63:13) proves that it is a proper name, but not that it is a personification.’ (17) Skinner's emphasis.

A. Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis: The Story of Creation, (2nd ed.; Chicago: University of Chicago, 1942 & 1951) 99.

The exceptions are tOmoh:TaB in MT Isa 63.13 and Ps 106.9.

Westermann, Genesis 1-11, 104-105; Tsumura, The Earth and the Waters, 57-58.

For a rendering of axUr as ‘breath’, see N.H. Ridderbos, “Genesis I 1 und 2,” OtSt 12 (1958). Also, O.H. Steck, Der Schöpfungsbericht der Priestershrift, (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1975). For ‘spirit,’ see Cassuto, Genesis, 24. For ‘wind,’ see H.M. Orlinsky, “The Plain Meaning of Ruah in Gen. 1.2,” JQR 48 (1957): 174-182;

von Rad, Genesis, 47; Speiser, Genesis, 5; Westermann, Genesis 1-11, 107f, Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 16f; Sarna, Genesis, 6. There has been some notable, though not persuasive, inquiry into the possibility that {yiholE) functions as a superlative in MT Gen 1.2, rendering an English translation as ‘a mighty wind.’ This notion was first suggested by J.M.P. Smith, “Use of Divine Names as Superlatives,” AJSL 45 (1928/1929), and adopted by such notable commentators as von Rad, Genesis, 47-48, and Speiser, Genesis, 5. Westermann, Genesis 1-11, while acknowledging the possibility that {yiholE) can be used as a superlative, does not concur with this opinion (107-108).

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