Understanding Genesis 1, the importance of the word "bara" (create)

I wonder if this has been discussed here in this forum. I have read some books about Genesis1. One particular insight is the word “bara” (create) that is used in OT.

  • “bara” is exclusively used to the attribute to the work of God.
  • “bara” is always creation ex nihilo. Something out of nothing.

If we check Genesis 1, this particular word was used only 3 times. In the 7th day of creation, the real creation (bara) is only 3 times. The rest is only forming, managing, changing something from something else.

Genesis 1:1
The Creation of the World
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 1:21
So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1:27
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

Except, of course, if it isn’t. There is nothing in these verses which demands ex nihilo.

Even AiG does not agree that “bara” is always creation ex nihilo. What books have you been reading?

This short study shows that there is no basis for saying that bara only means an instantaneous, out-of-nothing, supernatural creative action

AiG - Understanding Genesis 1 Hebrew: Create (bara) & Make (asah)

Given that man was formed from dust and woman was fashioned from Adam’s rib or side, it is plain that bara is applied here to creation from prior material.

Conspicuously absent is any qualification or extended verbiage of ex nihilo or out of nothing in the Hebrew text.

Genesis 1:27 - Hebrew text


Hi Ron,

I think we need to be more discerning toward the word used in Gen 1. There is a purpose why the writer used the word “bara” instead of “asah”. If you look at more carefully, you can discern that there is something new out of nothing that always accompany the word bara.

As for Adam and Eve, you are quite correct to point out that the physical make up of their bodies was nothing new. Basically, the composition of our bodies is not that different from animals. Nothing unique there. So, what’s new? “God created man in his own image” We are the spirit animal. it was something out of nothing. it was the image of God in us.

check the book by Dr Michael G. Strauss and also by Gerald Schoeder.

The NET Bible notes, from the 5 Hebrew scholars who translated the Torah, are helpful on this topic:

tn The English verb “create” captures well the meaning of the Hebrew term in this context. The verb בָּרָא (baraʾ) always describes the divine activity of fashioning something new, fresh, and perfect. The verb does not necessarily describe creation out of nothing (see, for example, v. 27, where it refers to the creation of man); it often stresses forming anew, reforming, renewing (see Ps 51:10; Isa 43:15; 65:17).

Edit: I added a link to the NET Bible Genesis 1, but I don’t know why the link includes that particular quote in the box. Please ignore it.

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I would not rule out an exegetical case that this is the intention, but I remain unconvinced that bara is lexically restricted to out of nothing. Come to think of it, there is not really a word in the expansive English vocabulary which in and of itself always means creation out of nothing. Why would there be? It is not like that is a part of everyday experience, and so there is no need of a word for it. I expect that the focus of verbs for creation in all languages is on the object and not the prior state. A word is more general than a phrase, which by subject, preposition, and predicate convey a much more particular meaning.

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The creation account in Genesis is most definitely not out of nothing. The idea of creatio ex nihilo first shows up in the apocryphal/deuterocanonical book of 1 Maccabees.


I believe in the creatio ex nihilo of the whole universe, because everything is energy and energy dissolves the distinction between substance and action, so God action of creation is sufficient to provide all the substance of the universe. What I do not believe in is the creation of everything in the universe by magic like in a dream where God does whatever people say in whatever nonsensical way they declare. Instead we see new things created all the time and they are not created from nothing by magic but according to the natural laws which are part of the very structure and nature of the universe and everything in it. This is the difference between omnipotence of a dreamer and a creator of things which are real – according to which the results are not independent of the means and God does so many great things because He knows how they can be done when we do not.

And I understand the doctrine of creation ex nihilo comes more from John 1:3 than Genesis.


But there is nothing like that in John 1:3 either.

The original teaching of creation ex-nihilo is more likely from philosophy like Aristotle’s uncaused cause and other developments in theology which sees God as the origin of all things and not dependent on some eternally existing matter for creation.

But the real problem here is not the original creation ex-nihilo idea but twisting this into the more incoherent notion of creation by puff magic which makes God only the creator of things in some fairy tale beginning, while the rest of us and things in the universe are all clearly a product of natural law. The result is an idea of creation so divorced from reality as experienced, that like cessationism, you are effectively teaching that God is dead and Christianity an obsolete understanding of reality to be discarded along with alchemy, shamanism, flat earth, geocentrism, and bleeding the sick with leeches.

Yes there is.

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I am not an expert in Hebrew language, so you might be right. However, it is interesting to see that when “bara” is used, we might find something extraordinary new that was out of nothing. If it is not, Oh well then you are right.

I think the Big bang event is something out of nothing. no one still know what was that singularity event that caused big bang and perhaps will never know.

Creation of life (for me) could be in the category ex nihilo. Animal with brain. That is new even if the material composition is not. What makes them alive? a soul perhaps. that soul is definitely ex nihilo.

Creation of human is also ex nihilo. Not with the material composition, but the spirit that lives in humans that give them morality and the imago dei. that is ex nihilo event for me.

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I agree with your point. Even my pastor is in that category. I found that the majority of the evangelical churches are actually YEC. Their ignorance is what caused the churches labeled as anti intellectual. It is hard to see our own presumption. Many people are not open to new things or new approaches. They made up their minds already.

Mark 6:40-42. Jesus didn’t use smoke effects though, did he.

He also sustains its existence.

…and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.
Hebrews 1:3

Now, if we see the word “Asah” in the Gen 1, it always referred to the work of God in doing something with the available material already. Now, though i believe that God is directly involved in all things, he used the natural laws to govern things to happen to His intended result.

The simplest and most likely explanation is that some people in the crowd had food to share and many added what they had to the basket while those with nothing took what they needed. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t a miracle. On the contrary, which is harder – to make more food or to change the human heart?

Actually, I do believe that Jesus was performing true miracle in this passage. He just transformed the available energy (which was plenty) to bread and fish. a child play for God.

This was just a lucky coincidence too: Matthew 8:26

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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