The Relation Of The First Verse Of Genesis One To Verses Two And Three -- By: Edward J. Young

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 21:2 (May 1959)
Article: The Relation Of The First Verse Of Genesis One To Verses Two And Three
Author: Edward J. Young


The Relation Of The First Verse Of Genesis One To Verses Two And Three

Edward J. Young

IF THE first chapter of Genesis presents an historical account of the creation, it follows that, for a proper understanding of the chapter, one must also apprehend the relationship in which the first verse stands to the following. If, on the other hand, the chapter contains mere mythology or untrustworthy tradition or is not to be regarded as historical, the exegetical questions which it raises are of comparatively minor importance. The following attempt to discuss the relationship in which the first verse of Genesis stands to the following is based upon the assumption that these verses present a factual account of what actually occurred.

Is Genesis 1:1 A Dependent Clause?

We may first note those interpretations which do not consider the verse an independent statement, but treat it as a dependent clause, with the principal or independent sentence following.

1. Ibn Ezra and others regarded the first verse as a dependent clause, the main statement appearing in verse two.1 The thought would then be, “When God began to create the heaven and the earth, the earth was without form and void”.

2. A second view finds the first verse to be a dependent statement, with verse two a parenthesis, the main thought

being expressed in the third verse.2 On this construction we may render, “When God began to create the heaven and the earth—and the earth was without form and void, etc.—then God said, ‘Let there be light’”. One of the first to propound this view was Rashi, and he has had many followers.

These two views are probably the most important of those which regard the first verse as a dependent statement. And of the two it is the latter which is by far the more widely accepted today.3 Each of these two interpretations constitutes a serious departure from the traditional position that the first verse is an independent statement. It must be clearly seen that if verse one is a dependent clause, the doctrine of absolute creation is then not taught in the first chapter of Genesis.4 On either of these constructions, when the work indicated by בָּרָא is begun, there is already in existence material which may be designated הָאָרָחּ, albeit that material was an uninhabitable mass. Pre-existing matter was there at hand, and, consequently, whatever else

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