What's your interpretation of Genesis 1:2?

"And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."

I always found this verse very interesting. What’s your interpretation?

Here you have mine:
People back then did not know as much as we do today about the universe. Their cosmology was reduced to our planet.

The earth had no form (today we know that it didn’t even exist!) back then. What about the waters? People tend to think water=sea.

So, we have nothing (the vacuum) and a sea. The vacuum is described as a “sea” of energy. My conclusion is that the Spirit of God moved upon the vacuum until the Big Bang happened.

Yeah, I know it may not be the best thing I’ve done up to now, but I tried my best. What do you think?

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See Jeremiah’s use of the same phrase for a relevant Hebrew perspective on the meaning. He uses it to describe the land of Israel subsequent to the Babylonian invasion.

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I think Jon is on the right track here. Even for folks like me who think Genesis is not literal but spiritual in meaning, it is hard to separate physicality from the text, having been taught that for a lifetime, as well as having a scientific bent, which is heavy on physicality, to say the least.

Some past posts have discussions about the sea as symbolizing chaos and disorder, and God bringing order to the universe, with the aid of humanity in his image to carry it a bit further. And perhaps in the new creation to have that order perfected, to look yet further. In any case, the words have a deep beauty, and it is good to contemplate.


Maybe the verse is talking about more than the earth. I believe the words form and void rhyme in the Hebrew – like boho and toho or something like that. Thus it was poetic and is descriptive. They may not have known–way back then-- what we know about the universe. But what WE today know about the universe is still not a lot. They, like you and me, were describing as best they could that the Universe had a beginning. And “In the beginning…” God was there.

Well, their cosmology was reduced to our planet. You can perfectly google “ancient cosmology” and see what it was.

What they got right is that time, space and matter had a beginning.



1) In the Beginning [that is when time and space came into being out of nothing} _

when God began to create the heavens and earth,_ 2) the earth was a formless and empty_ [ the emphasis here is Chaos. The Creation as Big Bang began as small super compact ball of particles which was the universe. It was formless chaos very close to what Gen 1:2 depicts. God created the content of the universe.] _

darkness was over the surface of the deep,_ [darkness symbolized chaos as does the ocean or deep] _

and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters._ {The Spirit of God gives form to chaos.]

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. [God first created matter, then come energy (light or the Big Bang,) which generated time and space.]

For some reason people are BioLogos does not want to acknowledge that Gen 1:1- 3 depicts the Big Bang. However this is @DeborahHaarsma 's field and I invite her to discuss it.

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Well, that’s an interesting interpretation.

Roger, I think the reluctance to identify the first of Genesis as the Big Bang, is the desire to be consistent with the idea that Genesis is not describing scientific ideas of cosmology and biology, but rather is telling us about who God is and how we relate to him, and things of that sort. I have a hard time also in not looking at the verses following where the earth “brings forth” life as not being related to evolution, but in the interest of consistency and intellectual honesty must restrain myself. Certainly, I marvel at the imagery that may have a shadow of those ideas within them, but ultimately must say that that is not the lesson God has for me in those verses.


According to OT scholar Denis Lamoureux, Genesis isn’t so much about the creation of stuff ex nihlio as it is about arranging pre-existing stuff. There is a pre-existing watery, chaotic world and God imposes order on it. You see, the precise translation of Genesis 1:1 is up in the air. Read Lamoureux’s book “Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution” for more information. I hasten to point out that creation ex nihlio is part of Christian orthodoxy and I believe in it. It’s just that it’s not there in the beginning of Genesis.

(And for heaven’s sake, do no miss Haydn’s marvelous oratorio, “The Creation.”)

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Thanks, I’ll try to get it.

I’ll definitely check it out!

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@archicastor1 Juan and beagle lady

I found a shortened version of Denis’ book on line, but did not find the section cited, however the issue is clear.

First of all, it does not say God created the universe ex nihilo in the Bible. That is an interpretation that theologians have made down through the ages. It is implied, I would and many others would say, but not stated. On the other hand just because something is not clearly explicit in the the Bible, does not mean that it is not true.

Second, Genesis says that the initial form of the “world” was formless, void, the deep, and without light. The watery deep was a Hebrew metaphor for Chaos, not a worldly ocean, therefore one cannot say that God just rearranged somethings to convert Chaos into order. In a true sense Chaos is Nothing. Order is something.

It is Light which represents energy that begins to produce order. If God gave order to the chaotic world that God did not create, then Who created that matter? No one could but God.

The Big Bang theory clarifies this. The first step of creation was the creation of the singularity, which IS chaotic, because it has no energy. God created energy to make the Big Bang and give the universe form and matter/energy, time and space.

To understand life and reality we need to how the Bible and Science interpret each other. This is an important point which Denis Lamoureaux make in this interesting book.

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Creation ex nihilo actually is first taught in 2 Maccabees 7:28:

28 I beg you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed.

The books of the Maccabees are apocryphal books (which are considered deutero-canonical if you’re Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox)

Well, since I am not a Roman Catholic, I don’t consider that book part of the Bible, but I think that Hebrews 11:3 DOES teach creation ex nihilo.

“By faith we understand that the universe was formed by God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

I find it intriguing that in the early stages of the universe, from 10 seconds after the Big Bang until 379,000 years, all of the energy existed as photons (light.) This makes God’s first command, “let there be light,” literally true. It also explains how light could have been created three days before the sun, a question William Jennings Bryane couldn’t answer in "Inherit the Wind."
Since the rest of Genesis 1 does not match the order of the development of life on earth as discovered by science, we shouldn’t make too much of this concordance. The order of creation in Genesis makes a lot of sense if someone looks at the world with no scientific knowledge and thinks very hard about how it might have come into existence. Light and darkness are the most basic divisions we see around us, let us see everything else, and form the most basic division of time into nights and days. We see land animals eating fish but not vise versa, so life must have appeared first in the sea. We see animals eating grass, and plants growing by themselves, so grass must have been the first life on dry land. Humans depend on other animals for food, leather, and transportation, so humans must have been the last animal created.
I saw on a Jewish website that nightfall symbolized chaos to the ancient Jews, as things could no longer be seen, and morning symbolized order as the world came back into view. This made the “evening and morning” phrase at the end of each day of creation a definite statement that God was making order out of chaos.

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Are you aware that at one time it was part of the Protestant Bible?

I didn’t. Thanks for the information.


I think you have that wrong, Roger. I don’t detect any resistance to Genesis 1:1-3 referring to the Big Bang. Do you have a quote or article where you think you see this resistance?

The apocryphal books were once included in the King James Bible, but they weren’t considered to be canonical.

In my opinion, any interpretation of Genesis 1:2 as referring to anything but water is taking the passage out of it’s historical context. In Egyptian mythology there is likewise a watery chaos at the start of creation. In the Babylonian Enuma Elish the two primordial gods Apsu and Tiamat are both water gods. The name ‘Tiamat’ is cognate with the Hebrew word ‘Tehom’, and both are split in half.

Didn’t say they were canonical. But there had to be a reason they were included in Protestant Bible translations up to and including the Authorized Version.

“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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