The Fiats of God – Genesis Re-punctuated

In the last post on this weeks Torah Portion I shared how the world was created by the very words of the Almighty. His words made things!

In fact the Hebrew word ‘Davar’ that has been translated as “word” here also means “thing”!  What an awesome synergy!  By words things were created. ‘Davar’ = word = thing

Words are the creative energy of the world. God spoke, and through words brought the universe into being!

I want to develop this concept a little more deeply now though. To do so it is important to appreciate that the writers of the Tanakh and even the NT, were much given to the use of parentheses. That is, they would often insert a secondary thought into the middle of their primary message. Here is an example from the Messianic Writings (New Testament):

“In those days Peter stood up among the brethren (the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty), and said, ‘Brethren …’” (Acts 1.15)

Observe how the main sentence makes perfect sense if we read it on its own, ignoring the bit in brackets. Afterwards we can usefully go back and read the words in the brackets, as a separate but related thought.

As Bullinger said of the first edition of the KJV: “The Edition of 1611 abounded in parentheses. In the subsequent editions there has been an increasing tendency to discard them; and to supply their place by commas; or to ignore them altogether.”

In the original texts of the Bible there were apparently a great many parentheses. Some are marked as such in many modern translations, but many others are not. These parentheses go right back to the creation narrative.

The earliest one marked in the RSV is in Genesis , where a pair of dashes encloses a lengthy parenthesis:
“In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up – for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground -then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2.4-7)

The NIV also has a parenthesis in Genesis 2:
“A river watering the garden flowed from Eden, and from there it divided; it had four headstreams. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush.” (Genesis 2.10-13.)

Genesis 1 Repunctuated:

Using this approach it is possible to re-punctuate Genesis 1 and perhaps gain a new perspective:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1.1.)

The next verse tells us to imagine the curtain rising on an already created planet, but a shapeless and empty one. God’s spirit is about to start fashioning it and then populating it:

The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Genesis 1.2)

So here is a repunctuated version of the whole passage up to Genesis 2.3, with the parentheses printed in brackets:

And God said, ‘Let there be light.’

(And there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.)

And there was evening and there was morning, one day. 

And God said, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’

(And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven.)

And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’

(And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. )

And God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth.’

(And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.)

And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.

And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth.’

(And it was so. And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.)

And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens.’

(So God created the great sea monsters 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. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”)

So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”;

(and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.)

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth,’

(So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them, And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘ Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ And God said, ‘ Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit,’ you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food,’ And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.) 

An there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation. – Genesis 1.3 -2.3

Now just go back and try re-reading the above verses and ignoring the sections in brackets. Does it read well; does it flow logically and effectively?

Another way of presenting this re-punctuation is as below:

God said: “Let there be light”:
Narrator said: ” and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”
God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
Narrator said: “And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”
God said, “Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear:”
Narrator said, “and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth:”
Narrator said, “and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day.”
God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years. And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth:”
Narrator said “and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.”
God said, “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.”
Narrator said, “And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.”
[Note that the narrator talks of God in the 3rd person]
God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind:”
Narrator said, “and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”
Narrator said, So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat:”
Narrator said, “and it was so. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day
[1].

Hopefully, a careful read and reflection on these verses with this approach should see that there is a proclamation or fiat announced by God, followed by a commentary on its impact and fulfilment.

With this approach the fulfilment need not be instant and certainly need not be on the same ‘day’ as the announcement.

If this approach and understanding is valid then who were the Fiats uttered to? Perhaps the Host of Heaven, that is the angels. Many passages such as Genesis 1:26 where the Creator speaks to those assembled before Him, ‘let us make man in our image’[2].

It would certainly appear from Job 38: 4-7 that it was the angels[3] (called ‘morning stars’ and ‘sons of God’) were present at the creation of the universe.

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
To what were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
[4] (Job 38:4-7)

This ‘fiat’ or ‘proclamation’ approach then is consistent with both the Hebraic principles (Hebraisms) of foreordaining and parenthesis. With this approach the ‘days’ of creation can be viewed as consecutive literal days (where their length is actually unimportant but could conceivably be 24 hour days).

This approach also then pre-shadows and even foreordains the ‘divine’ week of 7 days with every 7th day (Shabbat/Sabbath) being a day of ‘rest’ or ‘ceasing’.

The Hebrew Bible is also very poetic and intended to be sung or at least spoken out loud in a rhythmic manner (i.e. chanted).

Again, this is also consistent with God speaking his proclamations out loud and using some form of melody in the process. The table below may help visualise the poetic structure contained in Genesis 1:

Day 1  Light appears

Day 2                                     Waters are divided

Day 3                                                      Land appears, with vegetation

Day 4                  Lights appear

Day 5                                    Waters bring forth living creatures,

Day 6                                                      Land is populated

This structure also makes use of Hebraic parallelism, that is, repetition at measured intervals. For example, consider Psalm 38:22 Don’t forsake me, Yahweh. My God, don’t be far from me. (WEB). This repetition or parallelism is extremely common and is evident in many ways such as in the Shema (Deut 6:4. 11:13-21) where we are called to love God with all (1) our heart, (2) our soul and (3) our might.

This is Hebrew parallelism as the Hebrew understand man to be a single entity and therefore the words heart, soul and might here are just a way to emphasise, by repeating three times, the call to love call with all of your being.

Like all theories that attempt to reconcile the Biblical creation accounts with our modern understanding it does still leave some questions unanswered but overall seems to satisfactorily answer the greatest number and to fit so well with the Hebraic mindset, approach and understanding of God’s ‘modus operandi’.

Given this repetition then, coupled with the prospect that this ‘days’ were all prior to the actual creation itself, we can view the creation of the sun on Day 4 as a reiteration but with more detail of the creation of light on Day 1. This repetition with further detail is used for all three days.

In the next post I will look at some of the issues with the more traditional interpretations and how this approach and Dr Schroeder’s approach address these issues.

[I am indebted to Physicists Alan Hayward and Hill Roberts for this understanding and re-punctuation]


[1] This arrangement courtesy of G.R. Morton –  http://home.entouch.net/dmd/daysofproclamation.htm

[2] The best commentary of the ‘us’ texts such as in Gen 1:26 that I have ever heard is a talk given by Sean Finnegan. The Podcast is available from Christianmonothesism.com and a pdf version at http://www.christianmonotheism.com/media/text/Let%20Us%20make%20man.pdf
Update: May 2015:  Uriel Ben Mordechai in his book ‘If: The End of a Messianic Lie’ gives, what I now believe to be, the best answer, and that is in summary, that the ‘us’ is the actual Creation which has a physical component (the Earth, etc.) and a spiritual component (the Heavens, etc.). I think, you really need to read his complete commentary on Gen 1:26 to appreciate this perspective though.

“In Breishit [Genesis] 1:26, the US, the OUR, and the OURSELVES refer to none other than the Heavens and Earth, for from both realms (His own and that of the Earth) did HaShem take, in order to create man. Man’s flesh He created from the dust of the earth, the “Adamah” and for man’s soul, HaShem took the elements found only in the realm of the Heavens of G-d, even from the breath of the Almighty. For this reason, HaShem says, “Let US, in the respective image and likeness of all of US present, the celestial and the terrestrial, each of them separately give their portion, so that in combination, the creation of man emerges from the image of both, and from the likeness of both.” For this is what sets man apart from the rest of creation. If he were to have been created with only the celestial elements, he would have lived forever, and would not have died – forever locked into a condition of impurity. If he were to have been created with only terrestrial elements, he would have been unable to inherit eternal live, for eventually this Earth is destined to pass away.”
Also see Deut 4:26, 30:19, 31:28 where God calls upon the Heavens and the Earth as witnesses as well.

[3] FF Bruce, New International Bible Commentary p546.

[4] When God or man lays the cornerstone to a ‘building’ of God there is always great rejoicing. For example see Ezra 3:10-11

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