Does Hebrew bara’ Mean “to Spatially Separate” Instead of “Create”?

Posted By on October 9, 2009

That’s the contention of Dr. Ellen van Wolde. The problems in translation and interpretation in Genesis 1:1-3 are well known to Hebraists, but it’s rare for any of them to claim that the Bible teaches that God did *not* create matter, which Dr. van Wolde claims as a necessary conclusion. The first thing I thought of was how odd Genesis 1:26 would sound: “And God said, ‘Let us spatially separate humankind in our image and in our likeness.” Huh? Actually, she’s just trying to argue that bara’ in Gen 1:1 doesn’t mean God created the earth (it’s already there in Gen 1:2). That view isn’t uncommon among Hebrew scholars and is syntactically plausible – but there’s more to consider than Gen 1:1-3 when articulating a full-orbed description of creation in OT theology, as this response from my fellow Hebraist and zealot blogger John Hobbins has written here.

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4 Responses to “Does Hebrew bara’ Mean “to Spatially Separate” Instead of “Create”?”

  1. Christopher Heard says:

    I had a similar reaction, Michael, and blogged about it as some length on Higgaion.

  2. MSH says:

    @Christopher Heard: liked it; nice job – and the hype truly is maddening.

  3. jeve says:

    Why add to the Bible, just to expand the arguments?
    Current science cannot even agree on what matter is, Standard Model or other; and ‘matter’ is not even mentioned in Genesis, much less significant.
    Simply state the codex used, and the translated ‘words’ and meanings ; then build from that. Otherwise all these peripheral ideas can expand geometrically.

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