In the beginning... God and time

(Jay Johnson) #21

Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You. Ps 139:12 KJV

What is lost in English translations is the dual meaning of John’s Greek katelaben. It can mean both that “the darkness could not understand it” and that “the darkness could not defeat it.” The NET Bible tries to capture this dual nuance with “master,” as in “the darkness could not master it,” which is a better attempt than most. Personally, I think the English “swallow” would work better, as in “the darkness could not swallow it,” meaning the darkness could neither overcome the light nor understand it (i.e., “I couldn’t swallow his story”).

(Jay Johnson) #22

Back to the OP. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…” could just as well be translated along the lines of “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,” which takes v. 2 (“the earth was formless and void”) as the main clause of the sentence. Does that affect anyone’s philosophical ruminations?

(Marvin Adams) #23

Hebrews 11:3—“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible”
which sounds indeed like pure energy.
However, even energy must obey the law, once created, so it can turn into matter and can only do so in a time space dependent manner. In loving the other like thyselves energy can sacrifice itself for matter to exist. Thus I look at creation as ex-deo and not ex nihilo.

where did you get that from, it is logically incoherent. Life is will executed. It existed as long as God existed as only in God you can have everlasting life.

(Marvin Adams) #24

sarcastically speaking your God is lame if he is not full of energy :slight_smile:
like a God is dead if he is not the source of life. The idea of life coming from not life is as coherent as something coming from nothing. The problem with materialists is the lack of the concept of emotional energy. All the hydrogen bombs on earth are lame compared to the chain reaction caused by love. It is a force physicists struggle with as, unlike the physical forces, which diminish over time space distance, this one increases with distance.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #25

I san understand you reluctance to accept creation ex nihilo, esp. if you consider nihilo as being, which it is not. Before the Beginning there was only YHWH. There was no mass, energy, time, or space, which came into existence with the Big Bang when YHWH spoke the universe into existence.

Now the question is: Did YHWH create from ex deo or ex nihilo? If YHWH created the universe from Godself, then it would seem to produce panentheism, because the universe must continue to be continue to be a part of God. On the other hand of YHWH made the universe out of nothing then YHWH would have perfect control over it, but it would not be a part of God.

YHWH is a mystery, not because we cannot know God , because we can, but because we cannot know how YHWH made the universe out of nothing. but we can know that YHWH did. We cannot not know what the Trinity did before the Beginning, nor does it matter! The only thing that really matters is God the Trinity cares. John 3:16

(Shawn T Murphy) #26

the Bible give us evidence how God is able to create matter out of divine energy, as He did when creating the Big Bang. After Jesus’ material body was placed in the tomb, the angels came and dissolved it, so as to not allow anyone to misuse it.

John 20:17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

Then, after His victory over Death, the same angels created a spiritual body for Jesus to use to interact with His disciples. These acts of creation and destruction of physical materials gives evidence as to how God can use His divine energy to create physical material. In John 20:17 Jesus warns Mary of the danger of touching Him until the materialization process is complete.

(Mitchell W McKain) #27

I get that from objective measurable reality and science rather than subjective imagined fantasy and religion.

It is only logically incoherent within the web of premises upon which you have constructed your theology. Which only tells us that your theology doesn’t match reality. Science demonstrates how something can come from nothing (vacuum fluctuations and vacuum decay) just as it is making rapid strides on working out the process by which life can come from non-life (the evidence for which is already overwhelming).

No, will-executed is a product of life, not life itself. This is just like the old biology idea that life is self-replication. But both of these things can be accomplished with machines. You can make a machine or a molecule that replicates itself, but that does not make the machine or molecule alive. Likewise you can make a machine or a molecule that executes your will but that does not make the machine or molecule alive – it just makes it a tool.

The most basic definitive essence of life is that the living thing does things for its own reasons, but that is ultimately only possible if it is what it is for its own reasons. And that means that both its actions and its own identity must be a product of its own choices. That in turn is only possible if it is a product of growth and learning and both of these are a special example of a class of physical phenomenon known as self-organization. Self-organizing phenomenon can be found in complex systems throughout the physical world in the whole spectrum from the non-living to the living. These organizations or organisms have rudimentary life when the following conditions apply.

  1. The organism maintains a structure apart from the environment
  2. The organism alters its structure in response to environmental changes by a process known as bifurcation which means that it makes choice between different possible structures.

These are the basic requirements of a self-organizing process to grow, learn, and adapt to a changing environment. However life is a highly quantitative characteristic which is enhanced, multiplied, or accelerated by a number of different things such as hierarchy, information acquisition, and information encoding in order to simultaneously increase independence from the environment (adaptability) and sensitivity to the environment (awareness).

No. Life is something which God created. Eternal life is the relationship between finite living beings which can become more through growth and learning and an infinite God who has no end to what He can give and teach.

God is certainly an infinite source of something like energy – not to confuse it with the physical quantity, but you can call it spiritual energy, pre-energy, or the potentiality of being itself. And God is certainly the source of life as its creator and as the source of that which needed for life to continue eternally.

But It is only poetic license which describes life as some special kind of stuff and only magical systems of thinking take this literally to give rise to fantasies such as magically animated golems, life giving fruit or elixirs, fountains of youth, and ways of sucking life out of one creature and putting it into another. But once you start taking a closer look at living things you discover that there is no such stuff. There is no life-stuff. There is only very complex organizations of material with the capacity to make choices, grow and learn and these capabilities don’t come from any stuff added to the material but from the organization and interaction of the material itself. Thus “giving life” is only a metaphor for creating life by providing the right environment for this self-organizing process to begin and thrive and does not mean that there is some actual life-stuff which is inserted into things. And thus there is no reason to imagine that God has this stuff in order to give it. The metaphor works for an entirely different reason as I have explained, which is why I have made the distinction between a living spirit and a life-giving spirit. There is and always will be a fundamental difference between us and God.

(Michael Peterson) #28

“In the beginning” is a mistranslation. A grammatically correct translation of the first verse is:

When God first created the heavens and the earth.

But mine is not unique. A host of Hebrew scholars acknowledge this mistranslation and, like me, offer their version of Gen 1:1 correctly translated. For example, Robert Alter begins this way:

When God began to create the heaven and the earth…

I disagree with Alter grammatically (ever so slightly) since there is no infinitive verb in the text. But this is a translation afterall and the presence of the infinitive is perfectly fine as it does no damage to the meaning of the text.

Next, is Richard Elliott Friedmann’s translation. He gets around the “In the beginning” problem this way:

In the beginning of God’s creating the skies and the earth…

Written this way, the phrase “In the beginning of God’s” is a perfectly good synonym for ‘when’.

Nahum Sarna’s version follows Alter’s. He writes,

When God began to create

Just as an aside, I prefer my translation because the Hebrew word רֵאשִׁ֖ית (reisheet - the first word in the verse) has a rather wide semantic range, but generally means “head of” or “first”, etc. It derives from the Hebrew word for head. My translation seeks to preserve the idea that this was when …God first began…

So, you can help your atheist interlocutors understand that they’ve got it wrong and to go back to the drawing board.

Insofar as time is concerned, Genesis 1:5 reveals that time is not in view. Specifically, God names the light and the dark as day and night. The author carefully points out that durations of time that follow each other are not in view as God separates the light and the dark spatially. In this account light and dark exist side-by-side once created (much like the light and dark edges of a shadow).

The whole point of the first creation story is to be time-independent. The seven ‘days’ should be seen, not a intervals of time, but as events. We do this naturally, by the way, and looking at Genesis this way should not seem foreign to you. You should consider the ‘days’ of creation to be analogous to the innings of a baseball game, not the quarters of a football game. Innings, unlike quarters, are not limited by time but by whether the batting team makes three outs.

(Michael Peterson) #29

The grammar and context of Gen 1:1-2 are pretty clear. When God first began His creation, He began in the presence of a primordial substrate. His creation was unambiguously ex materia. Because of work done by Ziony Zevitt in 1995, we now know that these two verses constitute a past perfect (pluperfect) construction and should be translated as

When God first began to create the heavens and the earth, the earth had been formless and void.

Note the presence of the past perfect (bolded text). The author clearly meant to convey the idea that when God came along and began His creation, He did so in the presence of this primordial substrate. The past perfect construction is unambiguous in this regard.

(Michael Peterson) #30

Just a quick correction (and largely off-topic :grinning: ) on your understanding of E=mc(2), The equation has little to do with the interdependence of mass and time. Rather, for the first time, the equation provided a connection between mass and energy. Specifically, the equation reveals how much energy it would take to accelerate a mass to the speed of light. More practically, it is the basis for understanding and controlling nuclear fusion


(Shawn T Murphy) #31

Dear Michael,
What is the basis for you saying this is a mistranslation? The reformist Zwingli translated it as:

Im Anfang schuf Gott den Himmel und die Erde (Unterwelt). Die Erde war aber wüst und öde, und Finsternis lag auf der Urflut, und der Geist Gottes schwebte über den Wassern.

It is clearly the beginning, but the beginning of what? In this section of Genesis the writer is describing the creation of the underworld to hold the Fallen. You see this in the descriptions of the place, which is “wüst und öde” or a desolate wasteland. And in the metaphor of the fallen as an ocean with the spirit of God holding watch over it.

This is the beginning of the restoration of the Fallen.

(Michael Peterson) #32

You can read my translation commentary here. It’s technical but, if you’re serious about understanding the translation, I think you’ll find it worth your time. On the other hand, you might want to reflect on the other scholarly translations I provided in my response. They are typical of the current scholarship surrounding Genesis 1:1.

I have no knowledge of German so I cannot speak to Zwingli’s German rendition. On the other hand, I probably know biblical Hebrew as well as you know German (assuming English is your first native language, as is mine) having taught biblical Hebrew and translated it for almost two decades.


(Shawn T Murphy) #33

Thank you Michael, The Hebrew version (MT) is not the best version of the OT to use to draw from. It is very distant from the original text from the Yahwehist’s 10th century BC version. The most accurate version is that which was used by Zwingli - the LXX corrected by Origen in his Hexapla.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #34

Would one more likely way to understand this, then, be “At the beginning of our account here …God began working with the chaotic mess and formed …”

I don’t put this forward as any accurate translation in a word-for-word sense of course. I’m just going for the thought - mainly to give a possible answer @Shawn_Murphy’s question: “the beginning of what?” It sounds to me like Michael’s corrected translation pretty unambiguously sounds a lot like its the ancient Hebrew equivalent of “Once upon a time…”

(Mitchell W McKain) #35

To be sure, your contribution is a valuable addition to everyone’s understanding of Genesis 1:1, but I did want to make it clear that the OP and the title of the thread is not referencing Genesis 1:1, but rather John 1:1, and the claim that Jesus (the Word made flesh) was with God in the beginning. And thus the language in question is not Hebrew but Greek and the words in this case are “En arche” which quite unambiguously means “in the beginning.”

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #36

Michael, thank you for the comment. However we now know because of Einstein that mass bends time and space to create gravity. Which equation governs this?

Thank you also for the translation of Gen. 1. As has been noted by others there are two version of Gen. 1, the Hebrew and the LXX Greek translation. Hebrew is a poetic language, rather than a scientific language so it is hard to translate precisely. The LXX is a Greek translation by Jewish scholars in Egypt before the Time of Christ.

I prefer this translation, When God (Elohim) began to create, [meaning the first step or beginning of Creation was to create mass or matter.] Mass without energy is chaos, so the second step was to create energy, or Let there be Light, which brought expansion and order through the Logos.

This brings us into line with the Big Bang Theory where God create mass first (matter and anti-matter0 and then energy, and then space and time all in the space of a nanosecond. Is this exact? Probably not, but it seems the best way to understand what happened.

(Michael Peterson) #37

Yours seems to be a reasonably good paraphrase. I have no problem with it and I suspect Eugene Peterson (no relation) wouldn’t either.


(Michael Peterson) #38

Einstein’s General theory explains how the curvature of space around a dense mass curves photons giving the illusion of gravitational attraction. Now, since you asked, the General Theory holds that space-time Lorentzian 4-manifold space whose metric satisfies Einstein’s set of field equations That came from one of my dusty old textbooks which I refuse to give away). In any case, my quantum physics understanding only goes as far as 4 years of college so while I understand the gist of the General theory please, if you have any pity at all, do not ask me more. I’ll simply refer you to Wikipedia.


(Michael Peterson) #39

You wrote:

I did want to make it clear that the OP and the title of the thread is not
referencing Genesis 1:1, but rather John 1:1, and the claim that Jesus
(the Word made flesh) was with God in the beginning.

Fair enough. But the opening question of the OP’s (your?) post is exactly this, and I quote:

> So the first question here is whether the phrase “in the beginning” means anything if God has no beginning (in particular what does it mean to say that Jesus was with the Father in the beginning)

I do not address (and am not particularly interested in) whether God had a beginning. It’s an Angels on the Head of a Pin discussion. My point was that the portion of text you quoted, “In the beginning” is no longer regarded as correct. That’s it. I meant nothing more. Mine was a nano-nit among nits.

Now, insofar as the existence of Jesus during creation, I have a small contribution to make, but am not familar enough with existing research to engage very deeply. I would only offer that the best answer, in my opinion, comes from Michael Heiser, a scholar whose study of God’s Divine Council is illuminating. A hundred years ago, Jesus’s presence was thought to be a reasonble theory. Today, however, most scholars led by Heiser among others do not support this idea for a number of contextual, anthropological, and linguistic reasons. On the latter I can speak with some authority when I point out that in the very next verse the author writes, “So God created mankind in His own image…”. An unambiguously singular. construct.


(Mitchell W McKain) #40

Incorrect. You seem to be incapable of reading the words you quote. The place where it says Jesus was with the Father in the beginning is John chapter 1. That your mind automatically jumps to Genesis chapter 1 is not my problem.

That God is singular is the essence of the doctrine of the Trinity. And yet… mankind who Genesis 1 says is made in God’s image is not singular – something which is also made explicitly clear in the text of Genesis 1. And then God speaks of Himself as plural… “Let us make man in our image.” And then there is the fact that “elohim” although understood by the Hebrews to be singular is nevertheless etymologically plural. Hmmm… Singular and plural at the same time… just like the doctrine of the Trinity. At the very least, things are not as simple as you wish to whitewash them. And to make this more clear so you do not force more of misinterpretations of my words, all I am saying is that there is more ambiguity in this than you are trying pass off on us and not that this requires us to accept the doctrine of the Trinity.