For me, the Bible is as deep as it is wide. It is a collection of sixty-six books that tells the story of all of humanity through characters, nations and a whole lot of poetry, prophecy and prose that meets its climax in the person of Jesus and the New Testament. The Scriptures are complex, sometimes confusing, but life-changing and immensely profound if you give it the time it deserves. The reason why the Bible can be hard to understand that it was written at the least two thousand years ago in a country and culture far removed from the West by at least forty different people who are poets, mystics, prophets, historians, fisherman, religious leaders and scribes. In the Western 21st Century world we have to work hard to understand the world, culture and context each work was written in so that we can appreciate and understand the meaning of the text.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. – Genesis 1:1-3
One of the more famous passages of Scripture, Genesis 1 has had its fair share of debate throughout the history of the Church. Let me assure you, the debate has been hot. However, I’m not going to get into the debate. I’m simply going to give my perspective on any text I end up doing and have you discuss it in the comments in whatever platform you desire. So I’ll be upfront, I believe Genesis 1-11 should be understood and read literarily and theologically not necessarily literally. This does not mean that the events in Genesis 1-11 didn’t happen, it just means that what we should be drawing from these chapters isn’t primarily literal historical accounts of times gone by, but rather a theological point that reveals something about God and the story of humanity. This means that chapters 1-11 and perhaps all of Scripture in a general sense is what is known as a theological narrative which means that something about God or humanity is revealed to the reader through story (as many of the best things are i.e. Lord of the Rings)
Genesis 1:1-2 sets the tone for the rest of the Biblical narrative. Five things are happening here that should immediately jump out to the reader:
- There exists a supernatural deity (the word for god in Hebrew is אֱלֹהִים ‘elohiym).
- This deity created the sky, moon and stars and the earth (שָׁמַיִם shamayim = sky).
- The earth began as a formless, chaotic wasteland shrouded in darkness (בֹּהוּ תֹּהוּ tohu vabohu literally means wild and waste).
- This deity had a spirit (רוּחַ ruwach = breath) that dwelt among the watery chaotic and darkened state of cosmic existence.
- God overcomes the chaotic darkened state of existence by speaking light into the world.
These themes are constant throughout the biblical narrative. They’re thrust from the Torah through the Prophets and the Psalms and into the New Testament. In many ways, we almost have the whole Biblical story here. This god (we’re yet to determine which god in the narrative) dwells among the chaotic state of our world and brings light into the midst of it. One could argue that the rest of the Bible is really just fleshing this out and telling the story of how this particular elohiym actually does this. To say the least, there’s more happening here than simply a raging debate over the age of the Earth and the literal nature of the text.
All that to say this, as we read through the story of Genesis let us remember that this god (later to be identified as Yahweh of course) sees a chaotic and dark world and is about bringing light into it. This is just the beginning, a foretaste of what is to come.