Genesis 1:1

ESV In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
NIV In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
NASB In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
CSB In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
NLT In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
KJV In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

What does Genesis 1:1 mean?

The very first book of the Bible begins with two equally enormous claims: There was a "beginning," and God created everything. This immediately contradicts the view of an eternal or cyclical universe, and any religious view which takes the universe to be an accident, the product of many gods, or part of some other process. History shows that the idea of a "beginning" is so theologically loaded that secular science resisted it until it literally became impossible to deny.

Genesis 1 is a controversial chapter. Debates rage about the meanings and implications of many words. How long ago did God create? How exactly did He create? What were His methods? Much has been written to discuss, debate, and illuminate those questions. The primary debate is over the extent to which Genesis 1 is meant to be read as symbolism and poetry, versus being read as unvarnished narrative. To some extent, such arguments are beside the point of this passage.

Those who take the Scriptures as inspired must agree that God means for us to understand Him first and foremost as the Creator. Of course, everyone does not agree that the Bible is the authoritative and inspired Word of God. This then produces even more controversies regarding Genesis. That, as well, is beyond the scope of this commentary.

For the most part, we will stick to the core, crucial, clear ideas. What's beyond debate is that the opening words of the Bible clearly claim that God—who we will come to know as the God of Israel—created the heavens and the earth. That is, He created everything in the natural world from the heavens, the sky, and space, to our planet and everything on it.

The text begins by saying that God created "in the beginning." Even conservative, Christian scholars come to slightly different conclusions based on that verse, depending on how they understand the original Hebrew language was intended to be read. Was this beginning the instant of "time zero," when there was no "before?" Or, is this a reference to "the beginning [of God's creative work]," or the "season of creation"?

However we answer that question, it is an awesome thought that one being created all of our universe. Only God could do such a thing. The following verses will add details to God's work as Creator, crediting Him with forming various aspects of the universe. This is crucial not only as a means of giving God due credit, but also for dispelling suggestions that God was uninvolved or disinterested in these creations. And, these words will counter claims that the stars, planets, or plants or animals, are themselves divine and worthy of worship.
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