“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
It was neat when my son memorized his first scripture. It happened to be the first verse of the first chapter of the first book of the Bible. First things first, I guess.
I studied Genesis 1:1 for a while using Henry Morris’ The Genesis Record. It was an insightful look into the science of creation by way of biblical commentary. Admittedly, this doesn’t appear to be the author’s intent in writing Genesis, but you can’t help but draw some of these inferences from the text.
Contemporary Americans are scientific people. We want facts and statements. Give us good ole’ dry data and we’re happy. This is where Morris’ writings really struck me. Genesis is a truthful narrative aimed at developing the identity of the Israelite nation. But the divinely inspired words do more than that.
Among the other pagan traditions of creation, the Genesis account stands alone in a supreme, eternal God who created all things from nothing. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). There were no gods who toiled and fought, spilled blood forming humanity, and separated spoils forming the waters. There was only One who eternally existed before all things that exist. He competes with no one. “In the beginning, God.”
This was the biggest shock to the ancient world.
However, it is the other words that lend such a great family discussion in American settings. Today, science teaches us that there are three elements that must continually co-exist in order for all things that exist to exist—minus the pre-existent God. (Say that to your kids three times fast!) These things are what we call the time-space-matter continuum. Without any of these things, nothing can exist.
Simply put, time (the measurement of change) cannot exist without space (the measurement of distance). Space cannot exist without matter (the measurement of substance). Matter cannot exist without time and space. Or, to put differently, stuff must exist in space that is ever changing or stuff is not stuff at all. That was easy, yeah?
With a little bit of thinking, even the youngest lad can get it. How do you tell time without the change of stuff? How do you see stuff if there is no room for it to occupy? And so forth. We could carry on and on.
God decided not to. The ancient world thought it foolish that there was no being who created everything. There was no reason for the writer of Genesis to prove the existence of one who is obvious. (It’s only in these modern times that we think foolishness is intelligence.) Instead of stating the obvious, the writer tells us what the obvious God did. Simply put, He created the time-space-matter continuum.
I’ll spare you the evidence for this and cut to the explanation. (Grab a copy of Morris’ book if you want to dive head first into the details.)
God created time.
“In the beginning,” the text says. This is the idea of when. It is a reference of time—the start of time, to be exact. Before time started, there was no time. Duh. As simple as it is to see, the implication is enormous. God created the beginning. God created time. To my children, “God created a cosmic clock. We hear it ticking and say, ‘Oh, that is time.’”
God created space.
Time is worthless if there is nothing in which time may be measured. God made that, too. “God created the heavens,” to be exact. We often point to the sky at night when referring to the heavens and imply the final frontier in the best Captain Kirk impression we can conjure. But the Hebrew word indicates a three-dimensional plane. It suggests the X-Y-Z axis that we slept on during school. This is space. To my children, “God created a cosmic playing board.”
God created matter.
The three-part continuum would not be complete without matter. “God created … the earth.” Again, with our index finger, we point to the ground below us. But the original language suggests everything that takes up space and changes over time. “Earth” is a reference to all the stuff in God’s creation. To my children, “God created the cosmic playing pieces.” He made all the atomic elements that make up the things we see, touch, hear, and taste, as well as those “things” we don’t.
Genesis 1:1 truly is the first of the first. And by the way, God was already there.