In The Beginning God Created
Copyright 2005 J. K. Phillips
Study notes for home group presentation.
What do you think of when you hear the word Mother? When we were little our concept of mother was that of the one we called mother. As we grew we added to this concept. Now the word may trigger many ideas. E.g. different types of mothers.
When we translate other languages it's sometimes difficult to convey all the meaning of a word. Sometimes we don't have a word to communicate what the word really means in a different culture. In the Hebrew language, different meanings can be inferred from the Hebrew letters. The translation that is chosen can depend on what God is saying at a particular time. I'm not suggesting we change the translation but deepen our understanding of the concepts in order to hear what God is saying today.
The text I want to elaborate is Genesis 1:1 "bereshiyt bara elohiym."
We have translated it as "In the beginning God created." The word bereshith is thought to be composed of a noun and preposition. Beth meaning 'in' or 'house' and reshith meaning 'first' as in first fruits, first things, first place, head, chief, principal. It comes from the word roshe which means to shake the head. We could have translated it: 'in the first things/place of the first house' or "in the foundation House"and maybe Jesus was thinking this when He said: "In my Fathers house there are many dwelling places ... I go to prepare a place for you"(John 14:2). If we look at other places in the bible where the word is used we can build up a better idea of the full meaning of the word beginning.
Proverbs 8:22 "the beginning (reshith) of His way,"
Proverbs 3: 9 "the first fruit (reshith) of all your increase.."
Deuteronomy 18:4, "The firstfruit of (reshith) thy corn."
Proverbs 4:7 "The first principle (reshith) of wisdom is ..."
Looking at these translations we could have translated it: 'In the firstfruits/head God created ...' and this is probably what John was alluding to when talking about the logos1 (reason, will, wisdom of God) not just being there in the beginning but in the word "Beginning"and Christ is that wisdom (John 1:1). Paul writes of Christ in a similar way saying that "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him were all things created . . . And he is the head of the body . . . he is the beginning and the firstborn ..."(I Cor.1:15-18) and "Christ the first fruits"(1 Corinthians 15:3). Unlike us, the Hebrews who heard what Paul wrote would have immediately thought back to Genesis when they heard Jesus spoken of as the firstfruits in this way and as the beginning and the end in Revelation 1:3.
The second word is Bara. If we look at other places where it has been used we find that it has been used to mean cut down (trees), fatten, feed and create2. In other words, preparing the way, clearing and filling (fattening).
Joshua17:15: Used by Joshua when commanding the people to go up to the forest and cut down (the forest) wood in order to make a place to live in the promised land (Preparing the way).
1 Samuel 2:29: fattening yourself with the choicest parts of every offering
Psalm 148:5: "He commanded and they were created"
Jeremiah 31:22: "The Lord will create a new thing on the earth"
The third word is Elohim which is plural meaning-God the Mighty Ones.
So for the three Hebrew words we have the fuller concept that could look something like this: In the beginning the will, reason and wisdom of God (the mighty ones including Christ the firstfruit, the head, the logos) were at work in, created a "full house"a satisfying place for us to live. He filled up (fattened up like a calf for a banquet) the heavens and the earth. He made a place that could abundantly satisfy / meet our needs.
These three words tell us a lot about God and as we read throughout the scriptures (Old and New) we will find that His character is still the same4. He is not stingy. His core business still involves the creative process - clearing out, filling up, and abundantly satisfying. He gave people a similar role when he said to be fruitful, multiply/abundantly replenish and fill up/satisfy the earth"(Genesis1:28)3. God prepared and is preparing a place for us and we fill it. Conversely we prepare a place for Him in our lives and He fills it. In contrast Hell and destruction are never full (Proverbs 27:20).
1 Moses Maimonides, a famous Jewish scholar of the tenth century: "Bereshith is feminine in gender and therefore according to typical cosmogony usage it is a process of the will. Creation is the result of a process of the Will of Elohim. A collaboration that the process of creation is the Will of God is found in the Psalms when the messiah says "I have come to do your will, like it is written of me in the head of the book" (which refers to the 'head' as the book of Bereshith). Bereshith, the first stage and principles of a process which is the Will of God to create."Accessed 1.5.05. http://www.thegenesisletters.com/FirstStoryPartTwo.htm
Psalm 40:7, Hebrews 10:7 "at the head of the book it is written of me."
2 "Bere is used when speaking of creating something-from-nothing ... as a first or chief principle in a foundational way. …"(Accessed 1.5.05 http://www.thegenesisletters.com/FirstStoryPartTwo.htm)
We could go a little further and add "a new and wonderful place", if we look at a noun taken from bara - b-ri'ah, which means "new" (Numbers 16:30).
3 The idea of multiplication was used in Acts when referring to the Holy Spirit: "And it filled all the house where they were sitting…. And they were all filled (abound multiply) with the Holy Ghost."
4 Concept of the Messiah
….when he came there would be an abundance of food and wine. He would satisfy / fill the desire of his people.
Isaiah 30:23-24; Ezekiel 34:25-30; 36:29-30; Joel 2:21-26; Zechariah 8:11-12.
John 6:5-14: After all these people were filled, there were twelve baskets of food left.
Joel 2:21-26; Amos 9:13: Jesus revealed who he was and His ability to fulfil this prophesy when He turned water into wine at the marriage in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11)
John 20:31 Miracles are "signs"pointing to Jesus' divinity and his ability to meet our needs.
Ephesians 4:10-13: "The one who went up above all the heavens to fill all things"
John 4:13-14 Woman at the well. "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give will never thirst again; the water will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life"(not a trickle but rivers of living water.)
John 6:35 "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst."
John the Baptist prepared the way
Luke 1:15 "He shall be great in the sight of the Lord…..and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb."
Acts 2:1-5 Day of Pentecost: "And it filled all the house where they were sitting…. And they were all filled (abound multiply) with the Holy Ghost."
Our role/ aim for us
Genesis1:28 Multiply replenish and fill up the earth.- satisfy it.
Ephesians1:23, 3:15-19 Pauls prayer for the church: "Filled with utter fullness of God”
Ephesians 4:13 "Fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself”
John15:11 Jesus prayer: "I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete (full).”
Acts 4:31 "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost"
Ephesians 5:18 "Be filled with the Spirit."
John 1:16 "Indeed from his fullness we have, all of us received – one gift replacing another ..."
5 "We tear down arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God" (2 Corinthians 10:5)