God as Creator of All Things — Including the Material Already Present at Genesis 1:1

Posted By on August 21, 2010

For this post (and the next one) to make sense, you need to recall the initial post on Genesis 1. The conclusion of that post (and the powerpoint video) was that, according to the Hebrew syntax of Genesis 1:1-3, Genesis 1:1 (“when God began to create…”) was NOT the first creative act of God. Rather, Genesis 1:3 was His first creative act — and it was the initial act of re-creating or re-ordering the material described in Genesis 1:1-2.

With this in mind, I need to post briefly on passages pertaining to the fact that the Bible credits God with creating ALL things — which logically (and naturally in the mind of the biblical writer) would include the pre-existing material noted above. This understanding is important since it will help me establish that the conditions present at Genesis 1:1 –the material already extant before Genesis 1:1– is not construed in biblical theology as evil or sinister.  That in turn will be germane to the ensuing post.

In other words, I need to establish that the chaotic condition of the material (“heaven and earth”) described in Genesis 1:1-2 that God would begin to bring into order in Gen 1:3 should not be viewed as evil. Nature does not sin. It just is. Genesis 1:1-2 simply describes conditions as they were when God began ordering the heavens and earth. That God would create material (the material of Gen 1:1-2) that needed “more work” is no more of a theological problem than the notion that it took God six days (no matter the actual time elapsed) to create / bring the material into order.  Put another way, it is a fallacy to say “a perfect God wouldn’t create something imperfect — that needed more work” and then embrace the idea that an omnipotent God needed TIME to create. He could have done it all in a nano-second if He’s omnopotent, but he didn’t. And the fact that he didn’t doesn’t translate to God being “non-omnipotent.” And so an initial creation of “imperfect” (chaotic) material prior to Genesis 1:1-2 doesn’t translate to an imperfect deity. The idea that God’s perfection disallows chaotic conditions in Genesis 1:1-2 is patently illogical (and theologically dangerous, since that same logic can be applied to deny God’s other attributes, as I just demonstrated.

So, having dispensed with such poor thinking, let’s take a brief look at biblical passages that comprehensively credit God with all that there is (and so, ever was).  And since they have comprehensive wording, my view is that we need to consider that these passages are intended to be comprehensive — that is, transcending the material of Genesis 1:1-2. If we don’t, then we are left with a tough job — alluded to below — of showing that the material of Genesis 1:1-2 was viewed as an exception to this comprehensive rhetoric.

Put another way, I don’t think these verses really  allow for “God created all things EXCEPT ….” Genesis 1:1-2 is not hinted at as an exception, and there is no indication that the biblical pre-scientific writers were entertaining the idea that creation was co-eternal with God. The only way one could argue that material before Genesis 1:3 means creation was eternal would be to demonstrate that the biblical writers considered it an exception to God as creator of “all things.” That is the bar for a winnable co-eternal creation argument in biblical theology.

1 Corinthians 8
6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Colossians 1:
15 He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

Romans 11
36 For from him [God] and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen

1 Corinthians 11
12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.

Hebrews 2
10 For it was fitting that he [God], for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation [Jesus] perfect through suffering.

Ephesians 3
9 … God who created all things,

Revelation 4
11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

Hebrews 11
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 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.

Technorati Tags: ,

About The Author

Comments

37 Responses to “God as Creator of All Things — Including the Material Already Present at Genesis 1:1”

  1. Nobunaga says:

    Excellent , thats the reason i asked about pre existing matter before, it wasn’t for scientific purposes but for theological issues, it doesn’t get any bigger imo than the attributes of God, and giving creation divine attributes. Thanks for the explanation.

    I asked a question in the last blog that didnt get a answer, it may have been before it’s time or just a lame question lol, but i’ll ask again in the hope of an answer;

    Is there a link to tiamat in Enuma Elish and tohu in Gen ? Or is the combat motif avoided on purpose, and by it’s avoidance used as a polemic ?

    the combat pops up in the psalms but is it missing in Gen for a important reason ?

    • MSH says:

      email me a reminder on this one.

    • blop2008 says:

      You mean Tehom (the Deep); not Tohu [Va-Bohu] -> unformed and empty.

      • Nobunaga says:

        No i was thinking of Tohu – chaos but thanks anyway.

        • blop2008 says:

          ??? never heard or read that in connection to Tiamat, the goddess of the salted water (ocean).

          • Nobunaga says:

            Have a look at chaoskampf in wiki. Theres a good book by Jon Levenson on this but if your taking the Memra course on OT theology you will already know about that.

            • Nobunaga says:

              Heres a fascinating article re; the above, its a look at the book of Job in a effort to understand why chaos or (Evil) remains, after God has created and ordered His world or conquered chaos in the battle motif. But this is perhaps for another blog.

              http://www.amalgam.virginia.edu/Issue1/Graham.pdf

              • blop2008 says:

                Many thanks! I’ll look at this.

              • Gary says:

                OK, I have to admit, when I saw a freshman paper, I didn’t want to read it. But VERY interesting. Give the guy an A+. My interest perked up when I saw the mention of a Leviathan with 7 heads on page 2. I couldn’t help but think of Revelations as I read the rest of the paper. Many tie-ins…
                Creation, Gen. start of bible; Rev. New Earth, end of bible.
                7 headed monster, agent of darkness.
                New Heavens and New Earth, no sea, which represents chaos.
                References to Isaiah verses (why is he interested in Leviathans)?
                Rabah mentioned along with Babylon.
                Maybe I’m reading to much into it. But interesting, give the guy two A+’s, and advance him to graduate classes.

                • Nobunaga says:

                  Yeah i don’t think the battle motifs in revelations are a coincidence, Mike said he is covering this in one of his books if i remember correctly ?

                  Its a good little paper to get a idea and general description of the battle motif (imo), without too much reading.

  2. Gary says:

    1. “material already extant before Genesis 1:1– is not construed in biblical theology as evil or sinister” and “so an initial creation of “imperfect” (chaotic) material prior to Gen …doesn’t translate to an imperfect deity” seems obvious. I didn’t realize that these would ever be issues to anyone. But I guess people will jump onto most anything.
    2. (This is a separate point from 1.) “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God”, being an X- scientist, I have to mention – from the human perspective, we know nothing except our own universe. Multiple dimensions of potential other universes, we know nothing of…Nothing existed before our universe, but…
    And that is not to say God didn’t create any other potential universe. But the bible just deals with the universe we know. How is that for being nebulous. But my point – it does not conflict with science (I know you don’t care, but I do).

    • Gary says:

      By the way, just to clarify, I certainly do not use the multi-universe, multi-dimension (beyond 4) to justify wacky ideas like human civilizations being ruled by semi-gods on other worlds or other universes (like the mormon theology). I use it (I may be rationalizing, but it makes sense to me) to harmonize my beliefs with a heaven, hell, spirit/angel properties, etc. People certainly do not believe (I hope) that heaven exists on Jupiter, or hell exists in the molten core of the earth. Heaven, hell, and angels exist in places that the normal properties of physics as we know them, do not exist. Which is – places beyond 4 dimensions, since properties exist that we have absolutely no concept of – like I think I said previously – example – 2 dimensional world has no concept of a 3 dimensional property of mass. So an angel appearing to a person in our world does not obey our physical laws. And again, the point = no conflict with the bible and science.

      • MSH says:

        I’m hoping there with you (about the heaven and hell and Jupiter, etc. thing). We have to realize that all these terms are “cosmic geographical terms” by necessity. Human writers, even those moved by God to write (and within their own worldview, not a new one zapped into their heads that their readers would not understand) use geographical terminology (“location language”) to describe places that are not located in their terrestrial existence. It’s all they could do to talk about a “place” or “sphere of reality” that was non-terrestrial.

    • MSH says:

      I follow.

  3. David Medici says:

    @MSH: I note that all the verses you reference that state God is the creator of all things are New Testament verses, removed from the writing of Genesis by 1400 years (whether you accept the Mosaic authorship of Genesis in its entirety or whether you prefer a post-exhilic editorial process that utilized Mosaic and other ancient Israelite writings to create the books now ascribed to Moses). I did a quick search for OT verses that unambiguously state God created all things, not merely that he is the creator of the heavens and earth, and can find none.

    If your proffered understanding of Genesis 1:1-3 is correct, that would mean we have no text that permits us to assert the Israelites believed God to have been the creator of all things. The closest we could get would be to assert they believed God to be the creator of the heavens and earth, but we could say nothing about the origin of the pre-existing matter of Genesis 1:1.

    Being a bit under the weather at the moment, my memory and quick research may be deficient. Can you offer OT proof that Israel accepted God to be the creator of all things?

    • MSH says:

      sweet – I was hoping someone would catch this!

      I also have not been able to find any verse that *says* Yahweh created the pre-existing material. But (orthodox – i.e., biblical) Israelite religion would not allow for another deity to be around prior to Gen 1:1 to do this – in fact, that any deity existed before Yahweh is specifically denied by Isa 43:10 (Yahweh is credited with creating the other elohim – members of the heavenly host — in other texts, so that much is covered). Since to the ancient near eastern mind only a deity could be responsible for the pre-existing material fashioned by XYZ creator / fashioner, you have Yahweh as “default” creator of said material for Israelite thinking.

      In other words, if you asked an Israelite the question of who was responsible for the pre-existing material, I have no doubt the answer would be “Yahweh — who else was there?” That falls short of an actual verse, but makes complete sense in the context of Israelite religion.

      • David Medici says:

        Let me go out on a limb, perhaps more of a twig.

        If the Israelite conceived of Yahweh as creator of all things by default, might this (assumed) creative hegemony be at least part (perhaps a small part) of the biblical writers’ extreme opposition to Baalism?

        Canaanite theology, as expressed at Ugarit, had Baal as the cosmogonic head of the divine council, whereas El was the theogonic head of the gods. In other words, with a good deal of simplification, the Canaanite divine council was responsible for the creation of the universe and its governance, but El was responsible for the creation (fathering) of the gods on the divine council (with perhaps one exception) and it was by his will that gods assumed certain roles and powers. El delegated to or approved the exercise of power among the various gods, but he did not meddle, per se, in the ordering of the cosmos.

        It is interesting to note that El is never criticized in the biblical narrative. In fact, Yahweh is many times also called El, leading one to believe that perhaps for the Israelites El was Yahweh and the various gods of Yahweh’s council are in some state of rebellion against Yahweh (cf: Ps. 82), which would include Baal.

        In regard to the subject of this post, for the biblical writers Baal usurps Yahweh’s position as creator of all things, dethroning Yahweh on that point. Hence, perhaps, some of the opposition, although, to be sure, much opposition came from the notion that a god other than El/Yahweh was governing his El/Yahweh’s creation.

        Possible?

  4. Kevin says:

    This is sounding Gnostic Mike…lol

  5. Kevin says:

    what was before the order….and WHO caused the dis order???…

  6. WoundedEgo says:

    I completely agree with your “alternate view” of Gen 1:1-3 in your PowerPoint presentation, but here, I believe your train has derailed. Please allow me to throw some light on the verses you cite and then offer one or two others:

    1 Corinthians 8
    6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

    The first thing to note in the passage that you cite is that it clearly shows that the “Trinity” is an absurd fabrication. But the second thing is that this has to be read relative to Gen 1. Paul is speaking of “the sky and land and all therein” as TA PANTA. John gives explicit “exception” to pre-existent matter (the bottomless sea) ala Thales when he qualifies “through it [God's utterance] was everything made THAT WAS MADE.” – See John 1.

    >>>Colossians 1:
    15 He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

    This passage has *no bearing* on Genesis 1 or any physical creation. The word is KTIZW and refers to the “regime” – the “kingdom of the son of his love,” hence the reference to “thrones, dominions, principalities or authorities.”

    >>>Romans 11
    36 For from him [God] and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen

    Again, he is not referring to matter but to the convoluted plan for Jews, the nations, etc. that he was just discussing.

    >>>1 Corinthians 11
    12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.

    Again, in this context, he is referring to the generation of Adam and the new humanity.

    >>>Hebrews 2
    10 For it was fitting that he [God], for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation [Jesus] perfect through suffering.

    Again, the contextual reference is the “plan” laid out for the son and sons of man in Psalm 8, not to cosmogeny.

    >>>Ephesians 3
    9 … God who created all things,

    Again, this is KTIZW and refers to the regime, not the “universe.”

    >>>Revelation 4
    11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

    Again, KTIZW and refers to the “establishing” of the order of things at hand, not to matter. But this passage begins with John entering into the throne room through an “opened door”. That “door” is actually a **hatch** – one of the “portals of the sky” referred to here:

    Genesis 8:2 The fountains also of the deep and the windows [portals, hatches] of heaven [the sky ceiling] were stopped, and the rain from heaven [the sky] was restrained;

    This reveals the backwardness of the cosmology of the scriptures, that begins in the first few verses where God makes a “firmament” or “structure” with water above it and itty bitty stars embedded in it – all the way to here in Revelation, where John must pass through a hatch in order to enter God’s throne room in the sky.

    >>>Hebrews 11
    1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 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.

    This refers to the “ages” not the “universe.” It refers to the “delineation” spoken of here:

    YLT
    Heb 1:2 in these last days did speak to us in a Son, whom He appointed heir of all [these] things, through whom also He did make [delineate] the ages;

    He is referring to the age of the prophets versus the age of the son.

    I would add a very important verse that “seals the deal” about the preexistent bottomless sea…

    Ps 24:
    1 ¶ «A Psalm of David.» The [promised] earth [land] is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world [the inhabitable part of the dry land], and they that dwell therein [Palestinians].
    2 For he hath founded it ***upon the seas**, and established it ***upon the floods***.

    So we see a few things:

    * the preexistent “universe” is conceived of as consisting of endless water ala Thales;

    * the making of the sky structure and the establishment of dry land upon the endless sea was time consuming and energy consuming (it took days, and he rested after).

    * because he established the dry land and inhabitable places, he has the right to boot out or even kill the inhabitants, and give it to whom he will. The rest of the psalm says to whom he will give it.

    * the concept of a solid structure for a sky persists from cover to cover. It is one tower-height above the dry land.

    * Jesus has no part of Genesis 1. He is not adopted as a son until he is resurrected, and God says “this day have I begotten you.”

    • blop2008 says:

      Bogus, I wouldn’t know where to start…

      • MSH says:

        I hear you.

        • WoundedEgo says:

          Try to find a weak point and pounce on it. But if you can’t find one, then I think your silence is your best bet.

          • blop2008 says:

            Most of them are, so there is no point in wasting our time pouncing them. Your very first line is exemplary:

            “The first thing to note in the passage that you cite is that it clearly shows that the “Trinity” is an absurd fabrication. ”

            It’s not…there’s plenty of scholarly resources on this (peer-reviewed and books) from the top NT scholars out there, masters of Biblical Greek and Early Church history and documents. The Trinity is taken for granted in the NT, but it’s further developed in early church history, just like almost everything else in OT history, where Jews try to develop their understanding of God and the doctrines and interpretations develop. It doesn’t drop from heaven all fully formed.

    • Gary says:

      WoundedEgo, Just out of curiosity, per your comment, “The first thing to note in the passage that you cite is that it clearly shows that the “Trinity” is an absurd fabrication.”

      Can I ask what religion you follow? Since the Trinity, I thought, was pretty well established in Christian religions. Just want to grasp where you’re coming from.

  7. Iliya Panayotov says:

    Great! Also here’s an cool verse about creation out of nothing:

    …as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. (Romans 4:17)

    • MSH says:

      the verse pretty clearly applies to the creation of the nation (Abraham had no children). It’s more of a statement of God’s ability to do do this than “he did this” (with respect to Genesis 1 — though I agree the NT does come down on creation of everything, including the pre-existent material of Genesis 1:1-2).

  8. Chavoux says:

    I just want to add that in Hebrew language/thought two “opposites” are often used to mean “all”. E.g. “young and old” (all people), “male and female” (all people), “good and evil” (all knowledge?), “day and night” (always)… in this context the meaning of “heaven and earth” probably means “all creation”/ “all that exists”.

  9. Hanan says:

    By virtue of it saying “When God first created the heavens and the earth……” doesn’t that serve as a generic statement of him creating EVERYTHING to follow, INCLUDING the “pre-existent matter?”

    • MSH says:

      Not if (in Gen 1) the statement is linked to activity with the matter already there. (Incidentally, in the early church the dominant view was not creation ex nihilo). I think you *do* get to creation of the pre-existing material in other biblical statements (things like God being credited with creating all things visible and invisible — apparently a more exhaustive idea). I also think it’s required for philosophical and scientific coherence (on the latter, science says matter is not eternal – and the “baby universe” idea does not undermine that).

      • Hanan says:

        So that begs the question. Is it really linked? Meaning, we are asking the question of where that material came from and looking around for hints as to whether Yahweh created it or whether Israelites envisioned an eternal material (as other ANE religions did). So perhaps by using the word ‘bara,’ it signifies a *general* creation of those materials and then working with it. Afterall, why use the word bara, if he merely fashioned it?

        • MSH says:

          Last question first: bara’ is used to “create” the same things in the Hebrew Bible that other verbs are used to describe. For example, the verb ‘asah is used for the creation of heavens and earth. Both bara’ and ‘asah are used of the creation of humans. The verb bara’ is therefore not unique in terms of what it produces or a process (or not). It’s uniqueness comes from the fact that, in the Hebrew Bible, only God is the subject of that verb. It therefore marks a thing that only God can do (which doesn’t require ex nihilo, since no other entity could form or fashion the heavens and earth either).

          If one had ONLY Gen 1:1, one could either presume eternal matter or presume the matter was created earlier by the same God of Gen 1:1. But Gen 1:1 isn’t the only creation verse in the Hebrew Bible, so we cannot presume on the basis of Gen 1:1 that an Israelite would be thinking of eternal matter (they didn’t ignore the other passages).

          • Hanan says:

            Oh no, that isn’t what I meant. I meant this.

            The question isn’t about the other days of creation. The question is this. Since you have the statement: “When at first God created (made) the heavens and the Earth, the earth was…..” can one get a GENERAL conclusion that the words *Heavens and the earth* mean EVERYTHING (i.e. all the days of creation) INCLUDING the next phase which is to actually FASHION that earth.

            Put it another way, if Genesis 1-1 is referring to everything (i.e. the sun, moon, plants, animals, man) why cannot it also refer to the supposed “pre existing matter” which He is about to mold and fashion???

            • MSH says:

              I think it’s fair to say that “heaven and earth” is a merism that the writers would have presumed encompassed all the world they experienced — the reality they experienced with their five senses. It’s not a scientific statement or an ontologically exhaustive statement (e.g., they wouldn’t have experience the unseen world, which members also must be created — at least if one maintains that there is only one uncreated being – God).

              Since the unformed, pre-existing matter was around before humans, and since it was formed by the time humans came about, humans wouldn’t be thinking of it in the written material. But since that stuff became the world of human experience, it “resides” (it’s part of) that world of human experience.

              But I doubt very much any of the biblical writers were thinking so gymnastically.

Leave a Reply

Please note: Comment moderation is currently enabled so there will be a delay between when you post your comment and when it shows up. Patience is a virtue; there is no need to re-submit your comment.