In the third verse of the first chapter of Genesis, this Elohist author indicated that Elohim spoke, אֱלֹהִ֖ים (Elohim) וַיֹּ֥אמֶר (wayyomer), καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεός (kai eipen ho theos). This was something that God himself, Elohim, had said, not this author’s words, but the words of God himself. Thus, the Bible came to be known as the word of God, because God spoke these words. Although there were specific instances where it says “God said”, like here, or “Jesus said”, there is a lot more to the Bible that merely the named spoken words of God. Thus, there came to be an emphasis on the exact words of God from the Bible. However, the exact words were probably Hebrew words, since this author wrote in Hebrew. How did God or Elohim speak these words? He had to use human words. What language did God speak? This author had God human enough to have a mouth and speak Hebrew. Where did this author get these words of God from. Obviously, this was a Hebrew oral tradition before it was written down that began at some time prior to this writer writing them. How old is this tradition of God speaking Hebrew to Hebrew speaking individuals? Our human knowledge is limited. This author implied that God Elohim had a mouth and spoke Hebrew. Thus, the Hebrew Bible was God’s words, the word of God, written in Hebrew. Do you believe that the Bible is the word of God?
Sources for the Book of Genesis
The Spirit of God
How did this nothing of the earth end up the way it is? This Elohist author explained that God intervened. He created this world that we see around us. The ending of the second verse of Genesis explained what happened. After presenting his view of this nothing world, an amorphous mass of water, he said that the Spirit, וְר֣וּחַ (weruah), of Elohim, אֱלֹהִ֔ים (Elohim), was hovering, מְרַחֶ֖פֶת (merahepet), over, עַל־ (‘al), the face, פְּנֵ֣י (pene), of the waters, הַמָּֽיִם׃ (hammayim). The Hebrew word for Spirit can also mean a wind or breath. However, the Greek Septuagint use the words “the Spirit of God, καὶ πνεῦμα θεοῦ (kai pneuma theou)”. This was a breath, a wind, or the spirit of God. In either case, it was a divine intervention. God was breathing or blowing a wind. The Elohim God was going to insert himself into this formless confused mass of heavens and earth. God’s Spirit was another way of saying that God was present. Of course, for Christians, they have interpreted this Spirit of God as the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Blessed Trinity. Suffice it to say, this Elohist author saw this as an intervention of some kind by God, Elohim. What do you think of the Spirit of God?
Ancient Hebrew view of the world
This Elohist author continued in verse two by explaining his cosmology of the world. The earth, וְהָאָ֗רֶץ (wehaares), was, הָיְתָ֥ה (hayetah), formless, תֹ֙הוּ֙ (tohu), and empty, וָבֹ֔הוּ (waḇohu), with darkness, וְחֹ֖שֶׁךְ (wehosek), all over, עַל־ (‘al), the face, פְּנֵ֣י (pene), of the deep abyss, תְה֑וֹם (tehowm). The earth was in a state of confusion or without any form or structure with nothing in it. Darkness was all over. For this author, the earth or the world was a flat space. Underneath the earth was Sheol, a dark nebulous place. There were columns underneath the earth that held it up. However, the oceans on each side of this flat earth had a deep abyss at the bottom of it. If you looked up, there was the sky with the sun, the moon, and the various stars with a dome that had floodgates that could be opened to let rain in, because there was a lot of water above these domed floodgates. Finally, above all that was God resting on his heavenly throne. This was a shared view of this horizontal world. If you went too far to either side of this known world, you fell off into one of the two oceans on either side that had a bottomless pit. God and the sky, or the domed climate control, were above earth. God thus controlled the climate, hot, cold, rain, snow, hail, and wind. The sun, the moon and the stars moved around the earth, since the center of this universe and the world was earth itself. The idea of a round earth as a part of a planetary system in a wider universe was a foreign thought to most people until the sixteenth century, some six hundred year ago. This Elohist author of the fourth or fifth century BCE had a different view of the world than what you and I have. He was trying to explain how his world came into existence, not how your world came to be. What do you think about a flat earth?
Heaven and earth
The rest of the first sentence of the first verse of Genesis explains what was created, the heavens, הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם (hassamayim), and the earth, וְאֵ֥ת (weet) הָאָֽרֶץ׃ (haares). Everything was included with these two words, “the heavens and the earth”. The Greek Septuagint said the same thing, τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν (ton ouranon kai tan gan). God or Elohim had created everything that was in the heavens or the sky above and everything here below on earth, the total reality of this Elohist author. Before there were humans or any creatures, there was a sky above the earth. There was nothing, if it was not in the heavens or on earth. Elohim God had created or made everything that existed, seen or unseen, material or spiritual. We humans had no role to play in the beginning of creation. God alone created everything in the heavens and on earth. We had to accept our limited finitude. God was not finite. He was before, and he would be after we humans existed. Throughout this first chapter, these two terms, “heaven and earth”, will be used over and over again. They represent the totality of reality. God was in charge of everything. He created everything. What did God create?
The Elohist source
Elohim was the name of God used in the Elohist (E) and Priestly (P) sources of the Torah. Yahweh was the name of God used in the Jahwist (J) source. The different names may be the result of geographical origins, with the P and E sources coming from the North and the J source from the South. God did not reveal his name as “Yahweh”, before the time of Moses, when God gave Moses the Torah. This Jahwist source presented Yahweh more anthropomorphically, like in the story of the Garden of Eden looking for Adam and Eve. The Elohist source often presented Elohim as more distant, and frequently involved with angels. The Jahwist portions of the Torah were composed in the first millennium BCE with a latter Elohist redaction during the 5th century BCE. Thus, the older texts are the Jahwist texts, so that chapter 2 of Genesis is older than chapter 1. The Elohist editor put his story first. Thus, one major source of the Bible is the Elohist author or authors who wrote during and after the Babylonian exile. The Elohim name for God was more generic than the exclusive name of Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Do you accept that there were different human authors for the Hebrew and Christian Bibles?
God or Elohim
The third Hebrew word of the first sentence of this book of Genesis is אֱלֹהִ֑ים, (Elohim). The Greek Septuagint used the word ὁ θεὸς (theos), that means God. Here we get the first hint of a source. Elohim means strength or supreme power. In the hymns that have been recovered among other ancient religious poetry, we find these powers ascribed to different beings. In the Bible alone, Elohim was the unique strong one. Elohim was originally a Hebrew word meaning many “gods”. Although the word is plural, in the Hebrew Bible it usually took a singular verb and referred to a single deity, the God of Israel. This word was originally the plural form for the children of El, and was conventionally vocalized as “Elohim”. The singular word “El” was a standard term for “god” in Aramaic, paleo-Hebrew, and other related Semitic languages, including Ugaritic. The notion of a Jewish divinity underwent changes. Most uses of the term Elohim in the latter Hebrew texts imply a proper unique title for the one supreme deity, not “gods”. The ambiguity of the term Elohim was the result of the notion of a Jewish divinity that underwent changes in the early period of Israelite identity. These changes emerged in the 7th to 6th century BCE in the Kingdom of Judah and during the Babylonian captivity. The Hebrew Bible used various names for the God of Israel. These variations were the result of different source texts and narratives that constitute the composition of the Torah. What do you know about Elohim?
Interestingly enough, the second Hebrew word of this book of Genesis, in the very first verse, explains that everything was made or created, בָּרָ֣א (bara). Everything was made, ἐποίησεν (epoinasen), or created in the Septuagint Greek translation also. Somebody or something made us or created us and our world. We and our world were created, shaped, or formed. We humans did not make ourselves. Something bigger than us, more important than me, a higher power, was involved in this creation. I and my fellow humans must admit to something outside ourselves that made, created, shaped, or formed us. Just like in our human lives, other humans made me, shaped me, created me, or formed me. We usually call them parents. They had an important role to play in our lives. However, I am not my parents. We are different. Whoever made everything, including me, is different, bigger, and more important than me. We must admit that we were created by something other than ourselves. Thus, the sense of creation is another real belief that is shared with many other religions. I did not create myself and my world. However, there are some people who think that they created themselves. They think that they are at the center of all things. Everything must revolve around them. Do you believe that you and the things around you are created?
In the beginning
Everything has a beginning. So too, the Bible has a beginning. The first book of the Hebrew Bible is called Genesis. The very first word of the Bible was “In the beginning, בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית (beresit)”. The title of this first book of the Bible is Genesis, that means beginning or origin. In the Greek Septuagint translation, it is ΕΝ ΑΡΧΗ (en arche). All humans want to know how things began. How did life begin? How did my life begin? How did this world I live in begin? We want to know how and why it all started. The first book of the Bible tries to answer this question in the very first verse and chapter of this book of Genesis. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Genesis has an answer. Were humans there to record the beginning of everything? Obviously not. How then did this Hebrew author know what was going on at the beginning of everything? Was there a beginning or have things always been this way? All religions have some sort of beginning. We know that all humans were born at some time. They had a mother who told them what it was like to begin as an infant. Was the world an infant? Scientists have been trying to figure out the beginning of the universe or world. Some have talked about a “Big Bang,” a great big universal explosion. Others have talked about a gradual development or an evolution from one species to another. We all agree that there must have been a beginning. This author of Genesis was going to explain what this beginning was like. How did he know? How do you think the world began?