The Interpretation of Genesis 1:2 -- By: Edward J. Young

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 23:2 (May 1961)
Article: The Interpretation of Genesis 1:2
Author: Edward J. Young


The Interpretation of Genesis 1:2

Edward J. Young

In the recent interest devoted to mythology and its relation to the Bible the first chapter of Genesis has not been neglected.1 In particular the second verse has received considerable attention. It will be our purpose in this article to ascertain what relationship, if any, the second verse of Genesis sustains to mythology and also to present a positive interpretation and explanation of the verse.

Recent Studies of Genesis 1:2

That we may arrive at the correct interpretation of Genesis 1:2 it will be well first of all to consider certain recent expositions in which attention is paid to mythology and its supposed relationship to the verse. As an introduction to the subject we may consider the remarks of Rabast.

Karlheinz Rabast, whose recent death is a severe blow to biblical scholarship, was a pastor at the Martin Luther Church in Dresden and the author of an excellent commentary on the first eleven chapters of Genesis. He wrote as a Bible believer, and rejected the documentary hypothesis in a very clear cut and decisive fashion.2 His work is filled with useful comments and he makes genuinely significant and useful contributions to the interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis.

Rabast rejects the “Restitution Hypothesis” which would posit a long interval of time between verses one and two, giving as his reason that it is unlikely that the Scripture would pass over such a great catastrophe in silence when it mentions in this context many comparatively less important

matters.3 According to Rabast, verse two does not describe any original or chaotic or raw material of the earth, but rather presents a background without existence, the indescribable Nothing. Nothing, however, asserts Rabast, cannot be described in words. In other[sic], therefore, to describe this Nothing, the writer of Genesis used old mythological formulations and expressions. Indeed, the verse itself may be characterized as a veritable mythological treasure house.4 According to differing conceptions of ancient mythology the world arose from a waste and desolation or from an original sea or from darkness or from an original egg. In Genesis these primitive and often conflicting representations could be employed because they no longer possessed their mythological character. We need not endeavor, therefore, to demythologize the Bible, because the Bible has already been demytholog...

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