Genesis 1:1–3 And The Literary Boundary Of Day One -- By: Jeremy D. Lyon

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 62:2 (Jun 2019)
Article: Genesis 1:1–3 And The Literary Boundary Of Day One
Author: Jeremy D. Lyon


Genesis 1:1–3 And The Literary Boundary
Of Day One

Jeremy D. Lyon*

* Jeremy D. Lyon is Associate Professor of OT and Hebrew at Truett-McConnell University, 100 Alumni Dr., Cleveland, GA 30528. He may be contacted at [email protected]

Abstract: While Gen 1:5 clearly marks the end of day one, questions persist concerning whether day one begins in verse one (1:1–5), two (1:2–5), or three (1:3–5). The traditional interpretation of Gen 1:1–3—that day one begins in verse one—reflects the grammar and syntax in the most straightforward manner. This is confirmed by the inner-textual commentary in Exod 20:11 and 31:17. Further support can be found in ancient paragraph divisions (Qumran and later MT) and ancient Jewish literature. According to this view, Gen 1:1 is an independent clause depicting God’s initial creative act (creatio ex nihilo) on day one. Genesis 1:2 is a description of the condition of the earth as it was initially created. Genesis 1:3 then moves the narration forward. Thus, the first five verses (1:1–5) constitute the creative acts of day one. The text does not allow for the possibility of preexistent matter or an undisclosed period of time prior to day one.

Key Words: Genesis 1:1–3, literary boundary, day one, creation week, Hebrew grammar, Hebrew syntax, interpretation, preexistent matter, undisclosed period of time, Exodus 20:11, Exodus 31:17

The Genesis creation account (1:1–2:3) is structured according to days which consist of God’s creative acts in six days and his Sabbath rest on the seventh day. Each of the six days of creation week are clearly marked off by the formula, “Then it was evening, then it was morning, day one/second day/third day/fourth day/fifth day/the sixth day.”1 The paragraph sense divisions following the end of each day, attested in several ancient Qumran Genesis texts and preserved by the later medieval Masoretic Text, confirm this understanding of the structure of the creation account according to days. Due t...

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