“In the Beginning …”

June 23, 2021

Genesis 1:1 is usually translated as “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This traditional rendition, so familiar in the English-speaking world, is an unfortunate mistranslation that misses the true meaning of the Hebrew. The mistake was first published with the King James Version in 1611. Judging from the Latin Vulgate—the Latin version of the Bible of the fourth century, traditionally thought to have been the work of Jerome (347–420)—and from the Greek Septuagint of the second century BCE, the wording “In the beginning …” seriously misrepresents the original. The original Hebrew reads Be’reasheet. While it can mean “in the beginning of,” it cannot mean “in the beginning.” In his book The Hidden Face of God, Gerald L. Schroeder comments:

The difficulty with the preposition “of” is that its object is absent from the sentence; thus the King James Version merely drops it. But the 2100-year-old Jerusalem translation of Genesis into Aramaic takes a different approach, realizing that Be’reasheet is a compound word: the prefix Be’ “with” and reasheet a “first wisdom.” The Aramaic translation is thus “With wisdom God created the heavens and the earth.”[1]

Such an opening places the emphasis of the first creation account on an entirely fresh footing, acknowledging divine wisdom as a fundamental building block of the universe. The creation is expressly declared to be the work of Wisdom in the Psalms, in the Book of Proverbs, and in Jeremiah, while the Book of Job ensures that we do not miss the deep interconnection of Wisdom and Goodness, for in God’s absolute Wisdom he realizes the self-expression of his love.

n[1] Parallels of this idea are found in Pss. 33:6, 104:24 (Gerald L. Schroeder, The Hidden Face of God: Science Reveals the Ultimate Truth (New York: Free Press, 2001), 49.


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