To Create Or To Form: What Is The Fundamental Difference? -- By: Leander S. Keyser

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 083:329 (Jan 1926)
Article: To Create Or To Form: What Is The Fundamental Difference?
Author: Leander S. Keyser


To Create Or To Form: What Is The Fundamental Difference?

Leander S. Keyser

In his so-called translation of the Bible, recently issued, Dr. James Moffatt renders Gen. 1:1, 2 in this way: “When God began to form the universe, the world was void and vacant, darkness lay over the abyss.” But the Hebrew of the first verse, literally translated, is as follows: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Yet there are people who declare that they can see no difference in the meaning of the two statements. This is surprising. Surely there is a fundamental difference between “create” and “form.” To create means to bring something into existence—something that had no prior existence. To form means to mold something already existing into a desired shape. To illustrate: if a vase were to be made of clay, and there were no clay in existence, God would first have to create the clay; then He would fashion it into the form of a vase. Thus the creating and the forming would not be the same act nor the same kind of an act.

The Hebrew verb used in Gen. 1:1 is bara, which means to create, to bring something new into existence. Had the inspired writer desired to teach that God in the beginning only “formed” the universe, he should have used the verb yatsar, which means to form, to mold, to fashion. This is the verb employed in Gen. 2:7, which says that God “formed” (yatsar) man’s body from the dust of the ground. In Gen. 1:27, depicting the creation of man in the divine image, the Hebrew writer used the verb bara (create) three times; yet in each case Dr. Moffatt translates it “formed.” Then in Gen. 2:7 he translates the verb yatsar by the same word, “formed.” Why was the Hebrew thus manipulated? Was it done to obliterate the distinction between creating and forming? If there was any other reason, we should like to know what it was. There certainly was no philological reason.

We give the following authorities that translate bara by the verb “create” in Gen. 1: and 27: The Authorized

Version, the English Version, the English Revised Version, the American Revised Version, Keil’s Commentary on the Pentateuch, Young’s Analytical Concordance, Charles Foster Kent’s “The Shorter Bible,” R. G. Moul-ton’s “The Modern Read...

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