Note that this is still a work in progress.
Five different Hebrew verbs are used to describe the processes involved during the seven days of creation.
While they are translated into separate English verbs
to make, and
the deeper distinctions between the meanings of the original words is largely lost.
nephesh is also included, but for the opposite reason.
It is an important Hebrew word that is translated into many different English words, including "soul", "life", "person", "mind", "heart", "creature", "body", "dead", "will", "desire", and "man".
While it's important to understand that the Genesis verbs lose some meaning in translation, it's also important to understand that this word often unnecessarily gains meaning in translation.
to bewords that are simply English auxiliary verbs that do not have corresponding Hebrew words indicating existence; they are not the same as most of the other words that are translated as
were, and simply convey verbal tense.
In Hebrew, there are three words which have similar meaning. They are Bara, meaningto create, Yatzar, meaningto form, and Asah, meaningto make. According to the Kabbalists, Bara indicates creation ex nihilo,something from nothing. Yatzar denotes formation of something from a substance that already exists,something from something. Asah has the connotation of the completion of an action. — Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation in Theory and Practice
|Select a row to toggle highlighting.|
|H1254||בָּרָא||bara'||to create the essence from nothing||1, 21, 27, 2:3, 2:4|
|H1961||הָיְתָ֥ה||hayah||to transform or to have become||2, 3, 5, 6–9, 11, 13–15, 19, 23, 24, 29, 30, 31, 2:5|
|H335||יָצַר||yatsar||to form or shape||2:7|
|H6213||וַיַּעַשׂ||`asah||to complete||7, 11, 16, 25, 26, 31, 2:2, 2:3, 2:4|
|H1288||בָּרַךְ||barak||to bless||22, 28, 2:3|
|H5315||נֶפֶשׁ||nephesh||breathing creature = "soul"||20, 21, 24, 30, 2:7|
Let there be light: and there was light.
Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
Let the waters under the heavens: and it was so.
begathered together into one place, and let the dry landappear
Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb: and it was so.
thatyields seed, andthe fruit tree thatyields fruit according to its kind, whose seed isin itself, on the earth
Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years;
And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth: and it was so.
Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of heavens.
Befruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.
Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping things and beast of the earth,; and it was so.
eachaccording to its kind
Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
Be fruitful, and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.
See, I have given you every herb
thatyields seed which ison the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.
Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which; and it was so.
there islife, I have givenevery green herb for food
On the fith day, swimming and flying creatures were created from nothing and then blessed.
But on the sixth day, land animals were made complete, without creation.
In Isaiah 43:7, we can see the three words involved with human creation (
blessing is omitted; at this point God is not pleased with his people):
Everyone who is called by My name, Whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.
Notice that humans were created from nothing, formed into shape, completed in the image of God, and blessed by God, but they were never transformed from something else.
Isaiah 45:18 says:
… God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited ….
createdis the Hebrew word
bara'for creation from nothing.
in vainis the same Hebrew word
tohuwas in Genesis 1:2.
Isaiah says that God did not create the Earth as
The earth was without form, and void;
One can can conclude that, since Earth's creation from nothing was not in vain (tohuw), Genesis 1:2 must mean that the Earth became a wasteland (tohuw), implying that a long period of time could have elapsed between the first two verses.
Genesis 1:2 would be better translated as
the Earth became (hayah).
In fact, the NMV version does use this translation.
The idea of a potentially long time gap between the first two verses is not new:
Long before the modern study of geology, early church writers have examined the biblical text and considered the idea that between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2 was an indeterminate period when the created world fell into chaos. — Gap creationism — Wikipedia
The Targum of Onkelos
is an early second century Aramaic translation of the Hebrew scriptures, whose English translation is:
and the earth was devastated and empty (Wikipedia) or
and the earth was laid waste (Arthur Custance).
Third century theologian Origen, in De Principiis, Book III, Chapter 5.3 recognized that there was an age before Adam:
By these testimonies it is established both that there were ages before our own, and that there will be others after it.
In De Sacramentis Christianae Fidei, Book 1, part 1, chapter 6, twelfth century scholar Hugo St. Victor wrote:
Perhaps enough has already been debated about these matters thus far, if we add only this,how long did the world remain in this disorder before the regular re-ordering?
Much of the Bible reads better if
hayah is translated as a form of
to become rather than
Become light: and it became light.
The idea of something being changed, rather than created from nothing, is conveyed much more clearly.