Anglican Essentials: Going Deeper–Creation from Nothing

Some Scriptural basics

The Hebrew Bible opens with the verse (Genesis 1:1): 

בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ
In the beginning (Beresit), God (Elohim) created (bara) the heavens and the earth.

John’s Gospel opens with (John 1:1,3):

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.
In the beginning (arché) was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … Through him all things were made.

The Hebrew and Greek characters here remind us that the Bible is written in ancient languages, where words may not carry the same connotations as in modern English.  In the Hebrew Scriptures, the activity designated by the word בָּרָ֣א, bara (create) is only done by God, never by a human being.   Both verses start with “beginning” (in both original languages the definite article “the” is omitted), and in both languages the word translated “beginning” has a significance beyond the purely temporal.  The Hebrew resit has the sense of “beginning,” “choicest,” “foremost,” and comes from the same root as rosh, meaning “chief,” “head.”  In Greek, ἀρχῇ, arché,  has the sense of “beginning,” “source,” “origin,” “principle,” or “what governs.”  The arché is what stands at the root or ground of things, which in John’s Gospel is the λόγος, Logos, Word. In Genesis 1, God creates by speaking (“Let there be light,” etc.).  The Greek term Logos is a deep term that refers to something spoken, as in rational speech, but also would have meant to the philosophers of the day the fundamental governing principle, or “logic,” of all things, by which the whole cosmos is ordered.  The Bible is making strong claims when it speaks of the “beginning.”

Our beginning and our end are inextricably interrelated.  Where we are tending is hidden in where we are from.  As Gregory of Nyssa says, “Since the creation came into being at the beginning through God’s power, the end of every thing that exists is inseparably linked to the beginning.”  To the Christian mind, all things hold together in Christ, for as Jesus says near the end of the Bible (Rev. 22:13), “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”           

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