Noachide Bible Study No. 1 (Genesis 1:1-5)
Time: An hour depending on the kinds of questions you get. Try to limit questions to specifically the first day. I.E. if someone asks about dinosaurs tell them to hold that thought until lesson 2 when we discuss the third, fourth, and fifth days which may (tease them, may include dinosaurs – something to look forward to!)
In general since today's passage is short we will read through it several times in the (NRSV) and then examine other translations, while at the same time discussing several points of interest from the text.
We used the Wesley NRSV Study Bible Oxford Annotated NRSV bible, Zondervan NRSB Student Bible, and the Artscroll Stone Chumash to provide fill-in for our discussions. Notably the commentary in the Oxford Annotated bible was rejected for discussion because it uses the documentary hypothesis and undermines the scripture by claiming that the Babylonian creation story was used to write Genesis 1, and that the God mentioned in Genesis 1 was a derivative of (whichever) Babylonian god.
In general we take Genesis 1:1 to provide creation ex nihilo – that God created the universe. AMP states this explicitly as does the commentary in the ASC (Artscroll Stone Chumash), WSB (Wesley Study Bible) and some others.
The Wesley Study Bible (WSB) states, With Wesley, we acknowledge “there are secrets which cannot be fathomed, nor accounted for,” yet “from what we see of heaven and earth we may infer the eternal power and godhead of the great Creator” (Notes, 1:1). This is also stated by the Ramban (or Nachmanides), 'even after reading the account (of creation), we still do not understand the secret or even the process of creation.' Thus we note that such secrets are unknowable except through the traditions transmitted by God either directly, or to Moses and other prophets, and so forth.
In line with this is the idea from ASC notes that the name of God used here (Elohim) shows God's desire to do justice (which is how we see him in this passage). Contrast to 2:4 “Yaweh Elohim”; in English the difference is “God” and “LORD God”; the meaning is the same; that the LORD God is one who is merciful as a Lord is merciful, but also the executor of Justice (as a Lord) and not solely as “The God”. This meaning is carried over by the English study notes and translations in “LORD God” versus just saying “God”. I.E. the word “Lord” is important. Also see the notes from WSB regarding “imagio dei” in the next lesson. Also see RSV/NRSV notes and ASC re: alternate grammar/meaning of Genesis 1:1
A point in the NRSV is that it says “a wind from God”, while most other versions will have “Spirit” or for example “The Divine Presence” (ASC). This is apparently the same word and reflects the “wind from God” which dried the earth after Noah's flood. The ASC's use of “divine presence” is probably to divorce the text from the notion of a Trinity including a “Holy Spirit”, as this is usually translated as the spirit of God.
Some commentaries (notably the banal Oxford Annotated) suggest this means God did not create the waters and suggest the waters here represent some babylonian god or other. The response is simply that God must have created the waters because he created the heavens and the earth, the subject of which was locale (Gen 1:8 “And God called the firmament heaven…”).
In the Wesley Study Bible we read, this account does not focus on the how or why but rather the who and the what, which he writes “gives us a surer and better, a more satisfying and useful knowledge of the origin of the universe, than all the volumes of the philosophers.”
God spoke light into existence, which shows the fingertips of his power. We note that the mechanism by which light was created is not mentioned, so we do not consider it important in this particular discussion. However, we do note that when God spoke “Let there be light” it was an act of creation which was finalized in time; I.E. once light had been created, it was no longer being created – God had finished creating it (also see next).
First we note that God said the light was good. So at this point in creation there was nothing wrong with the world, everything was as God had set it in motion. Some commentaries will say 'fit for it's purpose'. The notion that the creation of light was good aids us in the doctrine that once the light had been created, it was finished being created in the sense that we exist in time.
The separation of light and darkness shows us that God created both the light and the darkness, and that God separates the darkness from the light, and that the light is preferable (the light is good). According to ASC (meaning probably Rashi, but need to check that), it is not good enough to assume this is only “light” and “darkness” since God said the light was “good”. This is then taken to mean good and evil or at least good and not good (or imperfection, or evil. What is “Evil”?). God created light and darkness by choosing (separating) it from the good; God prefers the good, separates the good from the evil, and prefers and preserves the good. It is also so noted that 'it was good' means the act of creation was finished. So for example although waters are created as early as the first day, they are not called 'good' until the third day when they are completed in their form and function.
“And God Saw,” also implies that God himself is of the light in terms of light and darkness when such is considered in a spiritual sense. God's nature is to be in-the-light (to see, to understand, to know, i.e. knowledge, wisdom, clarity, understanding, perfection). Good is assigned to the active portion, the day, and the absence of this to the inactive portion (the night). There is much rich analogy here, but it's not important to try and delve too deeply here. There's an entire bible waiting for us to help us understand what God wants us to do with this light and darkness. Plus at this point in creation humans haven't been put on stage yet, so lets see what happens in the next lesson.
The Wesley Study Bible tells us that Light (etc) was “good” because it was as God has planned it to be; i.e. that God was “good”. According to Rashi, God intended that the light was good and thus that it should be separated from the darkness, which was not good. So he decreed it should not be mingled with the darkness and should function independently during the day (during (our) activities).
In both cases the notion that it is “good” implies that the act of creation has been completed, that the created object is finished (perfect) and requires no further finishing (perfecting).
Also as a final note or as an aside this demonstrates thad God retains full power and control over the darkness as well as the light; it is not capable of opposing his power, it is not capable of opposing his will.
From Rashi in the ASC we also learn the actual grammar of “the first day” was “the one day”, i.e. the cardinal number in Hebrew was intentionally not used in contrast to the other days. The implication here is that this was the day of one – I.E. at this point God is still the only created being, and Angels could not have been created until the second day. This is in accord with the WSB which states “God alone, with no helper,…” such that Angels would not have been created by this day in contrast to by the time of the creation of Man.
From a scientific standpoint this 'day' seems to be in general accord with our scientific discoveries regarding the big bang. Or, should it be more proper to say, that our scientific studies are in general accord with Genesis 1? The problem with Science is that because it approaches things from a standpoint of not knowing, they cannot admit the existence of God. So in the big bang theory scientists have so far (at least by 2016) been able to determine close to the point of creation time in the big bang theory, but of course cannot go past that moment with any sort of empirical analysis. Further, they can determine the general structure of how things must have been organized in terms of physical reality and structure, yet they cannot account for a first cause. This is rather important to the theologian so please allow me to explain.
Imagine the big bang is like a bomb or grenade. In the beginning it is packed, full of energy, and the precise arrangement of it's internal and external structure will determine the pattern of debris which exists after the pin is pulled or the fuse is lit. Even the tiniest difference in the positioning of the shot, any variance in the strength of gunpowder within the mixture, anything at all, will affect where debris ends up after the explosion. In the same way, once the big bang occurred, there was a debris field which eventually expanded and cooled to form the universe we know today. Looking at these pieces, our brilliant scientists have been able to piece together a pretty good picture of the bomb, save one small detail: Who pulled the pin? Who lit the fuse?
The problem is they can never discover this via science because God exists outside of our physical universe and indeed outside of time. As close as science gets they can never figure out who pulled the pin, and the only way they could ever figure out “Why?” – the eternal question – “Why are we here? For what purpose?” would be to ask this person, why did you do it? Why did you make the universe?
In some ways the answer should be obvious. We are here, and since we have dominion over the earth it makes a sort of sense to understand we are the shepherds of the earth. Therefore because we are here it is our job to be good; that is the minimum of our responsibility. After all if we were not here it would not matter and we were certainly not created in order to go against the natural order; that flies in the face of the natural order itself (entropy, natural selection, after-it's-kind/attraction, and so forth).
Notes from study bibles and other accepted or approved church commentary. This section is intended to display (for discussion) general Christian doctrine. There will always be some disagreements but more often than not the commentaries here were chosen specifically because of their weight of authority as well as common appeal.
The content of this commentary is incredibly offensive. It tries to frame everything into the long-discredited documentary hypothesis (which states that Moses didn't write the first five books of the bible), and then it very quickly suggests that the creation story was likely copied from Babylonian myths while the Jews were captive in Egypt. Further it suggests that God (here “Yaweh”) was copied from or subservient to the babylonian goddess Tiamat. This is to bring about the point that the bible does not say specifically that God created the waters – it eventually brings out the point that God did not create the waters but was a later invention by the Israelites to explain the formation of Israel. In other words the commentary is garbage. I only present this here to clue people in why we won't often be presenting commentary from this book; it's almost useless.
Where the OACE does hit the mark, it does so in a way that other study bibles do also. Therefore while we will this once present opinions from the OACE, we will also note that they appear in other study bibles, and we will present those commentaries as well. We only hope to illustrate why we don't recommend this edition for study in-the-light versus some other study bibles.
(for next lesson) The OACE notes this is royal language used to address the heavenly court and gives cross references at 1 Kings 22:19
"19 And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left." (KJV)
and Job 1:6;
6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. (KJV)
Any questions or comments left until the end can be asked here.