The great drama of the beginning of all things starts with Yahweh-Elohim and the language is simple but vivid. It evokes the wonder and richness of creation from formlessness to teaming life. But the account in genesis 1 is more than poetic; it tells man what he needs to know in order to understand himself and the world around him.
Six major religious points emerge from the opening chapter of Genesis:
Thus in one fell swoop we are given the justification for moral living and belief in an omnipotent Creator.
- 1. The orgin of the world and of life was no accident and that there is a Creator;
- 2. Yahweh made everything there is;
- 3. All that Yahweh made was good;
- 4. The high point of all Yahweh's creative acts was the making of man;
- 5. Manklind is distinguished from all other creatures in two respects:
- a. He alone is made in Yahweh-Elohim's own image or likeness; and
- b. He is given charge over all the rest;
- 6. Yahweh's "six days" of creative activity follwoed by a day of rest, sets the pattern for man's working life
Creation is described as taking place in six days. There are eight acts of creation, each introduced by the words "and Elohim (god) said...":
The events of Creation are described from the standpoint of an observer seeing the development of creation around him. The order, some claim, is not necessarily chronological; certain problems arise, they claim, as one considers that light is apparently created before the sun, moon and stars. On the other hand, it has also been suggested that the chronology is perfectly correct and that what the text witnesses is the progressive removal of the think water canopy that initially covered the earth that lead on the fourth day to the sun, moon and stars being 'unveiled'. Either way, the account is one which we can all understand - from the simplest peasant to the scientifically educated 21st century man.
- 1. Light and darkness/day and night are created;
- 2. The earth's atmosphere (firmament) is created;
- 3. The dry land and see are separated, to be followed by the creation of plant life;
- 4. The sun, moon and stars are formed which lead to seasons, days and years;
- 5. All sea creatures and birds are created;
- 6. The land animals are formed; and
- 7. With the Creation completed, Yahweh-Elohim rests.
The Creator is described in pluralistic terms in Genesis 1: "Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness..." (Gen.1:26). Indeed, the Hebrew word for "God" in the RSV is ELOHIM which literally translated means "Gods" (the plural or EL or ELOAH, meaning "God"). Though traditionally in Western theology Elohim is usually taken to mean, not 'God', but 'God with plural majesty' it has to be admitted that the meaning can also indicate more than one Deity. The writer John may have had the latter in mind in the opening verse of his Gospel when he describes the pre-existent Elohim (God) living with the Logos, or Christ. Whatever the meaning of 'Elohim' may be, it is curious that the author of Genesis, whether Moses of the Yahwist, should conceive of the Creator in such a pluralistic sense especially when both were monotheists. Though several explanations are possible it would be safest to admit to the two possible interpretations, viz. that Elohim represents not only the plurality of majesty of the Creator but in all likelihood more than one Creator was involved .
The second description of Creation in genesis 2:5-25 is not simply a duplicate of the first. It is written from a different point-of-view, this time focussing on man. It also uses a different name/title for God. In the first account it was Elohim, God the Creator, the great and lofty One who inhabits eternity. Now it is Yahweh-Elohim , God in relation to His people. The existence of two accounts has been variously explained, the liberal interpretation being that they represent two dfferent traditions or sourses but that is no reason for trying to make them contradict each other. This should not, however, be used as an excuse to carve up Genesis to fit a theory - about the evolution or religion or anything else. It is our view that Moses was the author of Genesis 1 & 2 and that he may have utilised an earlier source (Gen.1), perhaps from the patriarchal period (hence the rpesence of Elohim and not Yahweh), and substantially wrote Genesis 2 himself, utilising the the name of Elohim (God) he had been given in Sinai (Yahweh) and combining it with the more ancient title, Elohim (God). Hence the title of Deity in Genesis 2, Yahweh-Elohim (rendered in RSV and most English versions as "Lord God"). This hypothesis does not require adhesion to the yet unproven hypothesis of the existence of J, P, E and D sources, at least as far as Genesis is condcerned.
In Genesis 2, Elohim (God) creates man (The Hebrew word translated "Adam" means 'man'). He plants a garden in Eden in the east, where man is to live. But man is not made for a solitary, self-sufficient existence. Neither birds nor animals provide the kind of companionship he needs, So Elohim creates woman, a new being, yet sharing man's own essential nature.
Creation stories belonging to other ancient peoples have given currency to the view that Genesis contains merely another version, adapted to suit Hebrew beliefs. As we have seen, Genesis 1 & 2 consist of a general account of the creation of the heavens and the earth, followed by a more detailed description of the making of man. Stories of cosmic and of human creation, either separately or as unities, are numerous, and many have several points in common: a pre-existent Deity, creation by divine command, man the ultimate creature, man formed from the earth as a pot is made, and man in some way a reflection of Deity. However, common ideas need not share a common origin; it is misleading to reduce different stories from all over the world to their common factors in order to claim that they do. A single source for all, or large numbers of different stories is improbable. The Babylonian creation myth, entitled the Atrakhasis Epic, has particularly been singled out by liberal theologians  as supporting the contention that the author of Genesis simply borrowed the basic elements and then embelleshed them with the Hebrew view of religion. But though there are factual similarities between the Atrakhasis Epic and Genesis, they only serve to emphasise the wide difference in moral and spiritual outlook. There is no need to argue that Genesis was derived from other creation accounts, as critics of the Bible have hastened to do. The differences of standpoint and content are in fact so marked that they serve to highlight the divine inspiration of Genesis rather than undermine it.
Thus in conclusion, we see that the pattern of chapter 1 shows the princople of one day's rest in seven and that account of chapter 2 sets the pattern for human marriage. These two religious ideas are perhaps the most important that can be derived from Genesis 1 & 2.
 This is not an admission to polytheism (many gods) but to plurality of Persons in the One Elohim (God), i.e. a Godhead. Traditionally this has been resolved by various formulations, including those of Trinitarianism (3 Persons in one God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit), Binitarianism (2 Persons in one God - Father and Son), Modalistic Monarchism (One God, One Person rotating between Father, Son and Spirit modes) and the Echad Doctrine.
 Traditionally but erroneously rendered 'Jehovah'. Because of a Jewish supersition not to utter the Divine Name, the consonants of the Divine Name (YHWH, known also as the Tetragrammaton) were combined with the vowels of 'Adonai', the Hebrew word for 'Lord' to form the bastard word 'Jehovah'.
 Liberal theologians tend to dismiss all notions of the supernatural or revelation and seek naturalistic explanations for the Biblical texts. Conservative theologians, by contrast, accept the supernatural, prophecy, revelation, etc..
Updated and expanded on 7 August 2009