Note: This article is the first section from my book series Everett’s Ultimate Commentary of the Bible, which is available for purchase on Amazon. If you enjoy this article, please consider buying a copy of the book.
In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth.
In the beginning… The Hebrew word for “in the beginning” is “bereshit,” which is also the name of Genesis in Hebrew. This opening set of words expresses the idea of the earliest time possible. The word “bereshit” occurs without the article, and so is a proper noun, so it means “absolute beginning.” The beginning really was the beginning. This is, paradoxically, such a simple concept that it has to be explained in detail. It is difficult (for most of us) to understand an absolute beginning because everything in our world was preceded by something else. To imagine a lack of anything before THE beginning is hard. We may be tempted to think “Before the beginning there was nothing.” But this is inaccurate, because there was no “before the beginning.” You couldn’t even say with truth that there was no “nothing” before the beginning. There was never a moment in time when the universe did not exist. The beginning of the universe was the beginning of existence—they are mutually co-determined.
Our current universe is not a “replacement” universe or some sort of final draft (see Revelations 21:1, see also Isaiah. 65:17, II Peter 3:10). The beginning of Heaven and Earth was THE beginning. This means that there was no “before-time.” God did not float around in an endless nothingness for a few days or a few millenia before deciding to create Heaven and Earth. That’s because there were no days or millenia before the beginning.
Now, because God is eternal, it is truthful to say that God existed before the beginning (see: John 17:24, Eph. 1:4, Col. 1:17, I Pet. 1:20); God has no beginning because He is eternal. For God, it was possible to exist in a “time” when there was no time. But this “no-time time” is only possible from God’s perspective. One cannot ask “When did God begin,” because He is eternal and timeless. (Infinity goes in both directions, after all.) Asking where God came from assumes that He needed creating. But any being that created God would by default become God, and then critics would ask where that one came from, and so on. There has to be an absolute beginning somewhere.
…God created… Everything that begins to exist must have a cause—the Second Law of Thermodynamics makes it impossible for the universe to be infinitely old. The universe began to exist at some point, so the universe had a cause. God is the cause. This is called the Cosmological Argument for God’s existence. Now, it was possible for God to cause the universe to have a beginning because He Himself has no beginning. His eternal existence is necessary. Although the Big Bang theory is scientifically impossible (this will be proved later), such an occurrence would not necessarily disprove God’s existence; it would only show that the universe could exist without His input. On the other hand, the impossibility of the Big Bang theory does necessitate God’s existence. Either way, God’s existence is indubitable.
It was God Himself who created the universe. This information is something that we take for granted. We seldom, if ever, think about the full meaning of the statement. But it is very important, partly because it tells us something of who the Creator is, and likewise what sort of creation He created.
We know that if God was around “before” time existed then He transcends time–and therefore He is eternal (See also Deut. 33:27, Isa. 57:15, Jer. 10:10). We know that He is the ultimate cause. The first existing thing is necessarily the cause of things that exist. Potentiality always comes before act in time, but act must come before potentiality in nature; for potentiality is not actualized unless it exists. Therefore God, who is truly act (for He has acted from the beginning), must be prior to all things, and therefore the cause of them.
We know that He is omnipotent (see Rev. 1:8) for He was able to create something out of nothing–an impossible feat for any ordinary creator, but no challenge to this extraordinary Creator. He must be omnipotent to create not only Earth, which is material, but also to create Heaven, which is immaterial. We should be well-convinced by the mere existence of the world to ascribe omnipotence to God; but to also have second-hand knowledge of the existence of Heaven can only further vindicate this fact. He did not “build” the Heaven and the Earth, nor did He “renovate” them. He created them, from nothing (see Heb. 11:3, see also Ps. 33:9).
The Hebrew word for “to create,” bara, is only ever paired with God in scriptures, because it is only God who can create something from nothing. We learn quite a bit about God’s character by analyzing this creation, for God’s invisible qualities are seen through His visible creation (Rom. 1:20). We know that He created Heaven AND Earth in the beginning–not just one or the other. His ideal of creation includes not just the physical, but the mental and spiritual as well. There is nothing the body can gain from gazing upon the stars in the night sky, but their beauty enriches our minds. Because God is complete, His creation must necessarily serve all parts of a man, and not just the body. So moving further on from this, we can find many of God’s characteristics. In order to create, God must have power and will. In order to create Heaven and the Earth He must have wisdom and skill. The fact that the universe did not disintegrate at the subatomic level as soon as it was created speaks volumes of God’s mighty skill as an engineer and as a mathematician (and physicist, and chemist, and so on) (see Hebrews 1:3, see also Jeremiah 10:12). God is a being of freedom, for nothing constrained Him or prevented Him from creating (see Isaiah 14:27). Nor did anything compel Him to.
The theologian Thomas Aquinas wrote, “The virtue in every agent is determined by necessity of nature toward one effect. And thence the point that all natural things always occur in the same mode, unless there is an impediment: but not voluntary things. But the virtue of God is not so much ordered toward one effect…. Therefore God acts not by necessity of nature, but by will.” Because God exercised His freedom by creating, it must be true that He values freedom (see 2 Cor. 3:17). Because God created of His own free will, it must be that He is subservient to no one (see Deut. 10:17, 1 Tim. 6:15, Rev. 17:14). And because God continued to create for six days and not just one, it must be true that He is a continuous God–a God of commitment–, not a god of abandonment and neglect or fickle-mindedness (see also Num. 23:19, Isa. 40:26). He continued to improve His creation, from a shapeless mass of chaos all the way to a lush planet bearing the garden of Eden.
The account of creation in Genesis states that God molded and shaped the universe, causing the stars to give off light and the Earth to form solid land, etc. If we think about what this means for Genesis 1:1, we can see that God is a Creator who likes to work on His creation. First He created the Earth, then He improved it and shaped it just as a potter shapes His clay. Indeed, God is the Great Potter (see Isaiah 64:8). Even after creating great masses of waters, God still had work to do. And that brings us the question of why God created the universe. The verse merely states that He did–not why. But if we delve further into the scriptures, we can find many of the reasons. And it is important to ask why. Simply reading a Bible verse can only provide the most basic level of understanding, but to gain wisdom you must dwell on His word. After reading each verse of the Bible you must ask What, Where, When, How, and Why? (With most verses you must also ask their negatives: Why not, Where not, etc.) It is impossible for us humans to completely answer all of these questions, but it is nevertheless a good goal to reach for. We have already explored the Who, What, and When, so now we shall ask Why? of Genesis 1:1. Why did God create? There are three primary reasons which are easy to understand and easy to explain–they are as follows: It was good, it was action, and it was loving.
First, it was good: A perfect life is not one of idleness but of creation and improvement. Even when God gave Adam a garden, He set the man to work. He placed Adam into the garden to dress it and to keep it (Gen. 2:15). Because God is the one who created Adam AND is the one who placed him into the garden for these purposes, it must be said that this is what God wanted, and that this is good. If it is good, and God is good, then He must have created the universe out of goodness. Thus, God created the universe because it was a good thing to do.
It was action. The second reason is closely related to the first: Because a good thought is abstract but a good deed is concrete (see 1 John 3:18, James 1:22). When Jesus was hungry one day He came upon a certain fig tree that did not bear fruit. Jesus then cursed the tree for its inaction (Matt. 23:19). This teaches us an important lesson in lukewarm spirituality and shows us that goodness must bear fruit to be truly good. Merely thinking about doing something good is not good enough. We must put our thoughts into action. God is not only goodness but is also good. God is not only Word but also Deed. He isn’t just positive in His heart but also in action.
Incidentally, God created the universe with His words. We may like to say that “talk is cheap,” but talking itself is an action (see Matt. 12:37). And God is so genuine that the universe sprang into existence at His word itself. God created the universe because that creation was very good (Gen. 1:31). In so doing, He did something good. We can understand from this why God created the universe in the beginning. If He had waited around for any amount of “time” before springing into action then that would put a limit on how good God is. Could there be any moment in time when God is good only in thought but not in deed? Perish the thought. God would be of incomplete goodness if He did not create right away; in which case He could hardly be called God. Thus God created the universe in the beginning because a good Tree must bear good fruit.
Third, it was loving. We shall know by reading the Bible that God is a God of love (see 1 John 4:16); He loves the human race and desires companionship with us. The only way God could have companionship with us, though, is for us to exist. God created us (and the Earth for us to enjoy) because He loves us. Why does the painter paint? Is it because he hates art and despises its practice? No, it is because he loves art. Why does the builder build? Out of love. Why does the musician play? Out of love. Why do parents sire and keep their children? Out of love. Even though we know that our children will commit evils and fall victim to many more, we nevertheless desire their existence. Likewise God, even knowing that we would fall and suffer, still desired our existence.
But even before we existed, He created out of love for His Son. For scripture tells us, ”By Him (the Son) were all things created, that are in Heaven and that are in Earth, visible and invisible — all things were created by Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16). Dean Alford wrote,
“I hesitate not then in saying that all creation was the result of the love of the Father for the Son; the result of His Almighty will to carry forward, and to glorify, His Divine character of love, by the glorification of His beloved and only-begotten Son. This world is Christ’s world — made by and made for Christ — made as the theatre whereon, to all created beings, and even to the Father Himself, was to be shown forth the glorious self-denying love of the Son of God. … Thus creation is to [the Christian] part of redemption; the first free act of love of his God, which provided for his being called into existence, as the next free act of love provided for his being called to be a partaker of the Divine nature.”
When we consider these three causes, then the question ought not to be, “Why did God create the universe,” but rather, “How could He not?” The universe is an expression of God’s character. A good architect can design a hundred buildings, each a unique expression of his creativity and personal philosophy. God, too, has created an uncountable number of wonders throughout existence. Here on Earth He created sweet-smelling roses and sparkling water. He created a wide variety of furry creatures which give us different delights. He also created the wonders of the deep (see also Ps. 107:23–24), with groaning whales and glassy diatoms. If we look to the cosmos, we see still more wonders. He created the haunting, ethereal radio waves of Neptune. He created the tree-branch-like filaments of the Crab Nebula. He created pulsars, white dwarf-stars, planets made of diamond; trailing comets, and black holes.
And the universe continues to amaze us, no matter how far our technology progresses. We can see about 3,000 stars on a clear night with the naked eye, and we can see many thousands of galaxies with our telescopes and probes. In a photograph taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, a single pixel may be an entire galaxy containing 100 Billion stars. Yet, despite our advances, there is always more to discover. So too is the insurmountable infinity of God.
So you must be cautious to remember that there will be answers beyond what is written in this or any other commentary. No one understands scripture completely except God Himself. Above were listed three reasons for God creating the universe, but of course there are other reasons–some simple, and some not. A simple reason is that God created because this creation brought Him delight–He does that which is pleasing to Him (see Isa. 46:10, Matt. 11:26). A reason that is harder to understand fully is that He created the universe so that His plan could be carried out (see Isa. 25:1, Eph. 3:11). Of course, these other reasons may only be understood after a thorough reading of the rest of scripture, and therefore ought not to be further explained in a commentary on Genesis 1:1.
But who is this infinite God? In order to even more properly understand the meaning of Genesis 1:1, we must study the verse in its original tongue.
בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃
בְּ In רֵאשִׁ֖ית the beginning בָּרָ֣א created אֱלֹהִ֑ים God אֵ֥ת [accusative] הַ (with)
שָּׁמַ֖יִם Heaven וְאֵ֥ and אֵ֥ת [accusative] הָ (with) אָֽרֶץ׃ Earth.
[This author recommends listening to the spoken word as well as reading the word. To listen to audio of Genesis Chapter 1 in Hebrew, please visit the following link or scan the QR code.]
The meaning of “beginning” and “created” have already been discussed in paragraphs above, so let us study the word אֱלֹהִ֑ים (Elohim). Perhaps the first thing to be noticed is the root wordאֵל (El). This primary root is most simply translated as “God,” and rightly so, but in Hebrew carries the meaning of “strong, binding; lasting, eternal; Lord.” The name “El” always speaks of immutable power. It is an awesome name which stands for an equally awesome God. We were not meant to think of the word “God” as referring to Yahuweh (Yahweh) and as a nonspecific noun meaning “some deity, or just the concept of a higher power if you prefer.” No, “El” originally meant just that– El. There was no “other,” there was no sense of ambiguity. Using “God” in a general sense diminishes our understanding of its true power. Many persons mention God in everyday conversation but do not think specifically of El; rather, they vaguely imagine some nondescript higher power. Many persons say “Thank God for that,” or “God only knows,” without thinking of El specifically.
And men may refer to false deities as “God” but this is only a necessary product of failing to appreciate His Infinity. Alfred Barnes explained well that “Many real or imaginary beings came to be regarded as possessed of the attributes, and therefore entitled to the reverence belonging to Deity, and were in consequence called gods by their mistaken votaries, and by others who had occasion to speak of them. This usage at once proves it to be a common noun, and corroborates its proper meaning. When thus employed, however, it immediately loses most of its inherent grandeur, and sometimes dwindles down to the bare notion of the supernatural or the extramundane.” Because of this shortcoming, we have many gods who lack omnipotence, or who make mistakes, etc. But those gods are only a reflection of our lack of godliness. El is hindered by nothing and His name is Powerful, Almighty. Of course, Genesis 1:1 doesn’t use only the name “El,” but “Elohim.” What does this mean?
The word Elohim contains the ending הִים (im) which is masculine plural. Beware those who try to recreate God in their own image. God is male; neither female, nor neuter, nor hermaphroditic. Lest the reader imagine that this commentary makes such a claim based on favoritism, let the reader be assured that even if this author were female, this commentary would still state that God is male. This author has a problem with the idea of God being female only because it is not true; not because the author feels threatened in some way. This author is only searching for the facts.
Some persons wish to attest that God is at least partially female because the Hebrew word for spirit or wind, ר֫וּחַ (ruach), is feminine, and so the Holy Spirit must also be feminine. We can easily discount this claim on the basis of four facts: One, “Elohim” is masculine plural, which implies that it refers to components that are unanimously male. Two, the New Testament was written in Greek and the Greek word for spirit, Πνεῦμα (pneuma), is neuter, but the Holy Spirit certainly can’t be female and neuter. Just because a common noun is feminine or neuter, that does not mean that the Proper Noun must also be. The Proper Noun Elohim is masculine plural, and such a distinction supersedes any distinction reserved for a common noun. Three, Mary was impregnated by the power of the Holy Spirit (see Matt. 1:18), which could not work in such a manner if the Spirit were also female. The male (who provides the seed) creates by means of a female who bears the seed and gestates the result of creation. If the Holy Spirit were female, it could not carry out God’s creative will but could only gestate the result of that creation. Yet throughout scripture we see the Holy Spirit carry out the work of God in every way deemed fit. And four: God’s true name is YHWH (יהוה). The Yod (י) at the beginning of the name means “He,” so the full name means “He who is.” (The commentary on Genesis 2:4 will explain this fully.)
But the most important part of this word is the “plural.” Elohim can be translated as “gods.” When the word refers to false gods (for example, the three brothers Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon) it is always preceded by a plural verb so that the two are in agreement. When Elohim is used to refer to Yahuweh, however, it is usually preceded by a singular verb. Such is the case in this verse, wherein בָּרָ֣א (created) is a singular verb in agreement with a plural noun. Notice, though, that Elohim when referring to Yahuweh does not always follow a singular verb; nor does the singular El always follow a singular verb. Genesis 35:7 states that El appeared to Abraham; in this verse El is singular and is in agreement with the plural verb נִגְל֤וּ (niglu– appeared). Therefore one cannot simply write off the word “Elohim” as being exceptional in Hebrew. It is not a singular noun that just so happens to be written in the plural–it is a plural noun that is written in the plural.
This, of course, does not mean that Yahuweh consists of multiple gods. If this were true then Yahuweh would not be referred to sometimes in the singular, and sometimes in the plural. He is referred to as El, Eloah, and Elohim throughout the Old Testament. Elohim is by far the most common, appearing almost 3,000 times in the Old Testament. He is called one and plural in a seemingly interchangeable fashion, joined with singular and plural verbs alike. The verse Deuteronomy 6:4 states “Hear, O Isreal! The Lord (Yahuweh) our God (Elohim) is one Lord (Yahuweh).” This explains that although Elohim is plural, He is nonetheless a single being. The word אֶחָֽד, used for “one” in that verse, refers to a unity comprised of parts (e.g. a bunch of bananas) as opposed to יָחִיד֙, a unity consisting only of itself. The word אֶחָֽד is also used to describe Adam and Eve becoming one in marriage. They were two persons who became one flesh. Deut. 6:4 leaves no room at all for ambiguity or disagreement on the matter. God is, indeed, comprised of several distinct Persons who form a single being. Parkhurst wrote,
“Let those who have any doubt whether אלהים Elohim, when meaning the true God, Jehovah, be plural or not, consult the following passages, where they will find it joined with adjectives, verbs, and pronouns plural. “Gen 1:26 Genesis 3:22 Genesis 11:7 Genesis 20:13 Genesis 31:7, Genesis 31:53 Genesis 35:7. “Deut 4:7 Deut 5:23; Joshua 24:19 1 Samuel 4:8; 2 Samuel 7:23; Psa 58:6; Isaiah 6:8;Jeremiah 10:10, Jeremiah 23:36. “See also Proverbs 9:10, Proverbs 30:3; Psalm 149:2;Ecclesiastes 5:7, Ecclesiastes 12:1; Job 5:1; Isaiah 6:3, Isaiah 54:5, Isaiah 62:5; Hosea 11:12, or Hosea 12:1; Malachi 1:6; Daniel 5:18, Daniel 5:20, and Daniel 7:18, Daniel 7:22.”
Elohim is not just plural, however, but is made up of Three. We know from the book of Isaiah and elsewhere that there are in total three Persons composing this unity. Consider that the Son of God spoke to Israel in Isaiah 48, saying “I am He; I am the First, I am also the Last. Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens […] And now the Lord GOD and His Spirit have sent Me.” Since the Son of God is “the First and the Last,” He is eternal–a descriptor that may only apply to God Himself. Because He created Heaven and Earth, He must be God. The Son is therefore God, and was sent by His Father and Spirit.
There are thus three Persons composing God. Nowhere in the scripture is a fourth person said to be divine (see Matt. 28:19). There are only three Persons who compose Yahuweh: The Lord GOD, His Spirit, and His Son, each having just as much divinity as the other. Although scholars Jewish or otherwise may wish to debate this, there is no sound argument supporting the claim that God is fewer than Three–every valid argument points to a trinity, whether in the Old Testament or the New. God was made of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the time of Moses and in the time of John. The sheer number of verses pointing to the divinity of the Son Jesus are as abundant as the number of verses pointing to the existence of the Trinity (see also Gen. 48:26 Mark 2:28, John 6:51, John 8:19, John 8:24–8:28, John 8:58, John 10:30–10:33, John 17:5, Philippians 2:6–7, Hebrews 1:6,2:14, 2:17). The evidence is unassailable for those to whom the truth is more important than personal opinions. We are blessed to have the benefit of learning wholesale from scripture what the prophets had to discover piecemeal. What Jacob saw indistinctly we can see distinctly.
This is very important for understanding the creation of man, for God created man in His own image. Just as God has three parts, so do we. Each person consists of mind (rendered in older translations as “soul”), flesh, and spirit (I Thess. 5:23—πνεῦμα καὶ ἡ ψυχὴ καὶ τὸ σῶμα), just as the Lord consists of the Father (Mind), Son (Flesh), and Holy Spirit. Because we know from the Hebrew that God consists of Three, then we know from the creation account that we humans, being made in His image, have a special place in God’s creation. Note further that there is no introduction to God in Genesis 1:1. God needs no introduction, for the very concept of God is imprinted on the minds of all. All men of all civilizations have had some knowledge of God and godliness, and all have known that humans are the greatest of all the creations. This knowledge that we were created because we can perceive our design, order, and rank is called the Teleological Proof for God’s Existence. Even they who never heard God’s name had some vague notion of our special place and of creation’s intricate design.
But not only do we have a special place, we also a special responsibility. Although God is three distinct Persons, They all work together as one. Despite God being endlessly vast there is no disagreement between the Father and the Son. There is no war between the Flesh and the Spirit. This surely speaks to God’s expectation of us. We must do well without giving in to our carnal desires or neglecting our spiritual ones. If God is in agreement with Himself and fully dedicated in His Will, we must be as well. God did not create the Heaven and the Earth by being divided against Himself. And as God is the master of the universe, so are we to be masters of the Earth, having been made in His image (see Ps. 115:16). So we must not be stewards of strife and war but of peace and love.
…the… אֵ֥ת is untranslatable in English because we have no separate word denoting the direct object, but we often use articles “a” or “the” before direct objects. Thus the King James Version of the Bible reads, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Clarke’s Commentary offers the explanation:
“The particle את,” says Aben Ezra, “signifies the substance of the thing.” The like definition is given by Kimchi in his Book of Roots. “This particle,” says Mr. Ainsworth, “having the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet in it, is supposed to comprise the sum and substance of all things.” “The particle את eth (says Buxtorf, Talmudic Lexicon, sub voce) with the cabalists is often mystically put for the beginning and the end, as α alpha and ω omega are in the Apocalypse.” On this ground these words should be translated, “God in the beginning created the substance of the heaven and the substance of the earth,” i.e. the prima materia, or first elements, out of which the heavens and the earth were successively formed. The Syriac translator understood the word in this sense, and to express this meaning has used the word yoth, which has this signification, and is very properly translated in Walton’s Polyglot, Esse, caeli et Esse terrae, “the being or substance of the heaven, and the being or substance of the earth.”
This meaning of “substance” is complemented by the inclusion of the word הַ, which can mean “and” but in this case means “with,” and denotes the whole substance. The meaning of the verse can be rendered as “God created Heaven (and all substance therein) and Earth (and all substance therein). At the Earth’s creation it had neither the mass of a pair of socks, nor of Jupiter, but of Earth. As we shall see from Genesis 1:2, Earth was indeed far different from how it is today, but nonetheless contained the mass it does now. There may not have been any dry land, but the matter was still there. Heaven, likewise, at the moment of creation contained the equivalent of all it contains now. Now, we must be quite clear what is meant by “Heaven.”
…Heaven and the Earth. The Hebrew word שָׁמַ֫יִם (sham-mayim), is always plural in the Hebrew (note the masculine plural ending -im), but depending on context can be translated as either “heaven” or “heavens.” The word “heaven” refers to three different locations. It can refer first to the sky (Gen. 1:8), second to outer space (Nahum 3:16), and third to that which we call Heaven, wherein sits the throne of God (1 Kings 8:27, 2 Cor. 12:2). We have to use context to understand what is meant in this verse. The third Heaven was created at the very beginning, the second heaven (space) was created on the first day at the creation of light (and expanded on the fourth day), and the first heaven (the sky) was created on the second day. You may be tempted to say that space was there from the very beginning because it’s just nothingness. But if it was nothing, then how could it be created? How do you create nothing, anyway? Space isn’t nothing–even the “void” in between the stars contains a lot of stuff. There are dust clouds, gases, comets, cosmic radiation, etc. out there. But all of that stuff was created on the fourth day. Before that the second heaven only stretched out as far as the light had traveled, and before that there was no space at all.
So if the first and second heavens didn’t exist in the beginning, then that leaves only the highest Heaven. This Heaven was created at the beginning along with the chaotic mass of water that became the Earth. Many English translations today read “heavens” in Genesis 1:1 but this is simply not correct. The earliest English appearance of the plural “heavens” in 1:1 was the 1901 American Standard Version which was based on the 1881 perversion of the Bible by two cultists named Westcott and Hort. Every good and valid translation for thousands of years has made the heaven singular in 1:1. Even the Latin Vulgate, which is notorious for its many errors, managed to get it right in 1:1. In principio creavit Deus caelum et terram. This may seem like nitpicking over an inconsequential detail, but God’s word is extremely important. Getting it right is imperative.
The highest Heaven must have been in the same shape that it is now (or very similar), for there is no indication in the Scriptures of God fine-tuning Heaven. Since it is God’s Kingdom, there is no reason to think that it was not completed from the start (see Ps. 93:2). Because Heaven was completed the instant it came into being, then, its residents must also have been. Angels, God’s ministering spirits, were created at the beginning, for there is no other time when they could have been created. The book of Job 38:7 says that angels shouted joyously when God laid the foundations of the Earth, so they were made either prior to the Earth or simultaneously (and the Earth was created in the beginning, so they were too). No verse before that mentions angels being created, so angels had to have been created in the beginning. If not for this time, then when?
You may say that they were brought into existence on the first or second day, but that would contradict the meaning conveyed by the particle את discussed in the previous section. (Besides, when on the first or second day did God say, “Let there be angels?” Can you point to that verse?) Either way, angels were certainly created (Col. 1:16). Gnostics (they who believe that Good and Evil are both eternal and equally powerful) should be quite dismayed by the discovery that Satan, being a fallen angel, did not co-exist with God before the beginning but was indeed created by God along with Michael and all the other angels.
Finally for this verse, let’s note that Genesis 1:1 does not say that God spoke Heaven and Earth into existence. Why is this? He spoke everything into existence, from light on the first day to Adam on the sixth. Why didn’t God say “Let there be Heaven and a body of water?” Or even “Let there be angels,” as discussed above? The answer is likely a very simple one. Whenever anyone speaks, time passes. Before the universe existed there was no time, so there could be no time for a sentence to be spoken. God may indeed have “spoken” in a certain manner, but not as we understand the concept of speech. His words would have had to be instantaneous, and so to human understanding nonexistent. It seems unlikely that any book could explain God speaking Heaven and Earth into existence, so 1:1 suffices to say that He created them in the beginning. At the initial creation of water, there was then matter, energy, and time, and so God’s subsequent words could be conventionally temporal.
All of the words in this verse have now been explained, but there is even more to realize beyond the words themselves. Each verse of the Bible is rich in meaning not only because of its content, but also its context. Yes, Genesis 1:1 says all of this, but why? If we look outside the scripture itself and into the modern day world we can see the use of such detailed scripture. Empiricism can only offer knowledge of the world as it exists now (and some clues to the past). We may know that Argon is a noble gas or that the Earth’s crust contains many layers, but all of these things avail little understanding of why the world exists or for what reason it came to be as it is (and archaeology, although offering many clues about Earth’s past, cannot tell us its beginning). And if we know not where we came from, we certainly can’t fully understand where we are now or whither we should go.
Having an account at our disposal of the Earth’s beginning offers invaluable perspective for our benefit. It reminds us of life’s impermanence and the need to live a life that is godly rather than mundane. For if we know that the Earth is not eternal then we know that we ought not to value it higher than the One who is eternal. We know where we stand as entities, for we were made with purpose; and did not come about as cosmological accidents. Not only was Jesus present with the Lord at the point of creation, but all things were created by Jesus and through Jesus (John 1:3, Heb. 1:2,). It was not only in love that He became a sacrifice, but also in love that He made us to begin with. He did not create us impulsively, for He had a plan from the beginning to save us when we sinned. Thus the first verse of the Bible offers not only a satisfactory account of the world’s beginning, but also enables a proper cognizance of the context for that which came after.
Being given this verse, we also are given a true understanding of creation and hence cannot be led astray by false teachings. With only the first verse of the Bible, already every false account is done away with. The pseudo-scientific belief that the universe created itself in a big bang can confidently be brushed aside by the scripture-abiding Christian. All religions including Atheism, by the knowledge of this verse, can be dismissed as the nonsense that they are. Furthermore, all Christian-derived cults are instantly proven false. Because God is the source of all things, Gnostic Christianity has no legs to stand on. Because God is neither hermaphroditic nor female, there is no hope for Christian Science. Because God is a Triune, there is no basis for Islam, Mormonism, or any others. This is no coincidence. God is not stupid, and He did not write the Bible without due diligence.
Every word transcribed by Moses and the prophets was carefully selected by a God with immense foresight and discretion. God knew that false prophets would arise who would twist His Word while claiming to be true believers. But lo! Witness the swift victory of scripture which, in its very first verse, immediately discredits all who wish to distort it for their evil purposes! How remarkable it is to have a scripture which is so strong that it needs no defense. Its first verse preemptively and indiscriminately destroys all ignorant arguments against it. God’s Word is like a voracious lion–you needn’t defend it; you need only to set it loose.
The revelation of Genesis 1:1 is the keystone of the scripture. It has stood the test of time as a challenge against the myriad beliefs of the heathen nations. It sweeps away every pantheon from the heavens and from the Earth, as one sweeps away dusty cobwebs, and enshrines the One above on His grand throne, who is the Chief Operative and Architect of all things. We can scarcely understand the true grandeur and arresting power of this verse. As a product of superficial listening, it has become a tired saying to us, worn down to the status of a truism; but we must reevaluate it and find the exciting boldness of this great account. The verse was a thrilling and peculiar truth to almost all who heard it throughout human history. Thousands of years ago it challenged beliefs in gods who have long since been tossed aside, but still today it protests the religious claims of the modern heathens. In an age where we are expected to believe that the universe accidentally came to be by itself, this verse refuses to allow any wiggle room or any concession. Either it is entirely true and is a forceful and fearful truth, or else it is a curious and novel falsehood—but there can be no middle ground. But no matter what existential question may be posed by mankind, there is but one account that takes us back to the beginning and then carries us through the history of the world, and that one account is the bold proclamation of the prophet, that in the beginning Elohim—and Elohim only—created the Heaven and the Earth.
And so with all of these things having been known, we can arrive at a fairly detailed picture of the creation, even with just a single sentence. We can now read Genesis 1:1 with the following understanding: An eternal, infinite God created an existence both physical and spiritual in a single instant at the beginning of time. He did this out of love and goodness even knowing (especially knowing) what course of events should happen afterwards. He is a Trinity consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a single God who encompasses all aspects of creation in His composition. In order to serve all aspects He created works pleasing not only to the body but also to the mind and spirit. He is a God of liberty, intellect, imagination and creativity, goodness, action, word and deed. And the Earth He created was not abandoned by its Creator but was attended to as a mother attends her children.
 The meaning of this excerpt can be rephrased as such: “Things which act according to the laws of nature only have one effect. A rock may only rest on the ground because it is compelled by the natural necessity of gravity. Likewise, a rock in midair may only fall to the ground for the same reason; unless its fall is broken. God, on the other hand, is not compelled to always do one thing and one thing only, so He acts by will, not by natural necessity.”
Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 2: Creation. Caput 23: Quod Deus non agat ex necessitate naturæ. ¶ 2.
Commentary shows this author’s translation.
Known as the Hubble Deep Field, an area of space that appeared empty was found to contain about 1,500 new galaxies when revealed by long exposure.
Above: a small section of the Hubble Deep Field. Even the tiny dots are galaxies.