Many Creation Stories – Genesis 1:1-5 (Part 1)


In Genesis 1:1-5, we encounter intriguing aspects that invite deeper reflection. We explore the use of the pronoun “us” in the early chapters, raising questions about its connection to the Trinity and the presence of Jesus in the garden. Additionally, we debunk the notion of strict sentence structure when reading the passage in Hebrew, uncovering its poetic nature. And we challenge the idea of a perfect heaven by considering alternative perspectives.

Join us on this captivating journey as we uncover the rich layers of meaning within Genesis 1:1-5.


Nate: All right, we have a new idea for a type of show we’re going to do. It’s not going to be every episode, but we’re going to start mixing these in quite frequently. And it’s essentially remember the old days where you would just preach through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, like five years.

Shelby: Five years.

Nate: Well, Romans took like, five years. Then you take a break for Psalms in the summer. But anyways, we’re going to just kind of go through. We might not stop on every passage, we might not do every book. We probably won’t. But we’re going to do what seems interesting to us and kind of go from there. So we thought we would start at the beginning. Now, if you’re familiar with this podcast Almost Heretical, you will have likely listened to the first few episodes of this show, which were done over five those were recorded over five years ago now, which is crazy. Yeah, we did a whole series on the fall following a lot of Dr. Michael Heiser’s work on kind of the Divine Realm and the Divine Beings and the Heavenly Realm and these other beings and giants and nephilim in the land and how the mating of humans with these creatures and how a lot of what we see in Genesis and even some other places in the Old Testament dealt a lot with removing the high places in the land and Goliath had to do with the giants that were it’s really crazy stuff. And it’s all that weird stuff in the Bible that you don’t usually hear sermons about. That’s what we wanted to do with that early series as a way of saying there’s nothing off limits anymore. We can talk about this stuff and we can be like, that’s weird, that’s strange. That might be a worldview that ancient people held, and we don’t have to hold that. And that’s what this book is. It’s also other things. There’s wisdom, literature, there’s poetry. But that is one of the aspects is there’s ancient worldviews held within these pages. And so we have a chance to kind of go through and look at different things. This time through Genesis. We might look at completely different things than what we looked at before. Some of it might be looking at some of the same things with new eyes. So that’s sort of my overview. Do you have anything else you want to say there?

Shelby: Yeah, I think a few notes about at least my idea of what this series is going to be going into it. First of all, it’s not going to be exhaustive. Like, we’re not trying to cover everything that could be covered about the Bible. That would be ridiculous. And it’s mostly what we think is interesting and worth talking about. And a lot of it’s going to be just the types of things that maybe a lot of us never learned growing up or things that help us look at things in a whole new light compared to the way we used to see the Bible. Also, it’s not going to be verse by verse. Like some episodes are going to focus really deeply on maybe a couple of verses, and this will probably be one of them starting in Genesis, one big chapter. But then others. I mean, personally, I think when we get to the book of Leviticus, we might cover that whole book in one episode. So it’s really just going to be up to us and what we decide is cool and interesting. And it’s also going to be based a lot on the feedback we get and the emails we get with either your questions about certain passages that we’ll be weaving in or if you learned something that you felt like was really helpful or interesting about a passage, send it in and we’ll be stoked to put that into our through the Bible Series.

Nate: Through the Bible. I like that.

Shelby: I mean, through the Bible is not original to me. I don’t know if anyone else out there had a dad who listened to Jay Vernon McGee go through the Bible over and over again. It’s like a 20 minutes radio episode.

Nate: I used to disjocke these on Christian radio back in the day.

Shelby: He’s the original through the Bible guy.

Nate: I mean, right? Okay. My joke leviticus, the place where good Bible reading plans go to die. You said Leviticus a long time ago, but I had to get to my joke.

Shelby: We’ll get back to Leviticus. Who knows, maybe that’s where the series will die. No, I’m just kidding.

Nate: Yeah, I don’t think so. Okay, so in the beginning and in the background, you’ll hear a little birds chirping and the garden, these sounds no, I’m just kidding.

Shelby: But no, there’s no garden yet. We’ve got to go Genesis one one. Okay, but before we dive right in, so we’re starting with Genesis, we got to just do a basic overview really quickly of this book in general. I don’t know how you classify the importance of books with the Bible, but if you did, this would be one of the most important.

Nate: I don’t think we were allowed to qualify or quantify or say which books were the most important, although I think.

Shelby: Pretty much all scripture is God. Yeah, that wasn’t written by the ancient Jews. Although I found it interesting that Genesis is not the oldest book in the Bible, even though we think of it that way, because it’s talking about what in our mind is the oldest things. It’s talking about the oldest stories of Israel. Actually. Job is probably what scholars would consider to be the oldest. Although, of course, there’s an oral tradition behind many, if not most of the texts of the Old Testament. But really the impetus behind the writing down of a lot of these things and the forming of them into actual stories that could be used over and over again was for many of the texts was the Babylonian exile and then the coming back from that exile and trying to reestablish a Jewish culture. That’s when the formation of the Torah was really solidified. That’s when a lot of these books came into being, which, if you’re familiar with the Old Testament and the history of the Jewish people, in my mind, that’s fairly late in the game. That’s only a few hundred years. That’s like fifth or 6th century BC. Only a few hundred years before Jesus is showing up. That these books are even actually coming into formation, which means Job is over.

Nate: 400 years older than Genesis.

Shelby: There you go.

Nate: That’s a long time.



Shelby: Okay. Well, anyway, so a lot of these texts formed after the exile. Interesting to think about the fact that most of the history of Israel and all these figures that we think of, from Adam and Eve down to Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, all of these events existed or happened in whatever form before any of this writing happened. I mean, all of this had already happened by the time you start getting the actual writings of texts like Genesis hundreds of years before. So it just, I guess, sets a perspective of like, these really are legends and lore and kind of in many ways myths. Not myth in the sense of fairy tale, but myths in the sense of kind of legends, the more traditional sense of the word myth, that’s all being compiled here. So that’s just a helpful way to go at it, of like, these are not being written as the events are happening. Not even close. This is in light of returning from the Babylonian exile, trying to reestablish a culture and figure out who are we? That’s when all of this starts to really take on importance. All right, so we’re going to start with Genesis one one, and honestly, probably not even the entire creation story today because there’s so much packed in here that we’re likely going to get my plan is to get from verse one to verse nine. We may not even get that far. And so to preface this creation story, this is a pretty big story that we’re diving into and one that we probably all have a lot of background with. I mean, this story has been the source of so much debate, especially in the last it feels like in the last hundred years or as a scientific revolution has really taken place several centuries now. This story has become the place where you go to debate science and evolution versus creation and young Earth creationism.

Nate: What did you learn about that growing up? I got like a stack of questions on Genesis alone. These were just the ones that were seemed to be saying something about Genesis one. And there were tons and tons more of Genesis in total. Kayla, a listener of the show, said a bunch of stuff and then also what I want to know is do you have to believe that Adam and Eve were actually the first two humans on the world or is that just the literary style of Genesis basically a metaphor imagery? We had some others about the science of it as well. And I mean, that was, I think, a question I had in It Feels Like a and we talked about this. We just did an episode just released, so you go check it out about Catholicism on Utterly Heretical, which is our second podcast. Our second podcast we do for supporters of the show. You can also get it on Apple podcasts. By supporting the show on Apple podcast you’ll get all those episodes as well. But we were talking about the science. We look at some of these, especially Old Testament, especially creation story and Flood and the Exodus and that type of thing. Things that we can now maybe prove archaeologically or scientifically didn’t or could not have happened. Those are paths out for a lot of people of Christianity, evangelicalism, the faith. And we’re not here trying to tell you don’t leave or don’t take those paths out. Go wherever you need to go.

Shelby: But because we’ve been told so dogmatically that you have to hold a certain position, like a literal seven day creation type of thing, then when people start to realize that that doesn’t really make a lot of sense, then, yeah, a.

Nate: Kid grows up being told no, they happen to be at a church. That was it’s literal seven days. And anyone tells you otherwise is trying to diminish the word of God and dismantle this book and they don’t have faith. And then you start to be like, well, I don’t think it is pretty good evidence that it’s not. And then you’re like, well, I at least cannot be a part of that community anymore and there’s already one that’s lost now in your life and you’re off to something else. And either a different community within the faith tradition or you’re like, you know what? And you start asking yourself questions like, was this serving me? Even? Why am I doing these? Can be channels out and paths out for people. And that’s what I see in some of these questions. People asking about the answer is no. You don’t have to believe that Adam and Eve were the first humans on the Earth, right?

Shelby: And that’s because this chapter, this story, which there weren’t chapter breaks when this was originally written, and actually this first creation narrative probably goes from one one to two four. Chapter two four, that’s where the actual natural break should be. So I’m sure there’s a reason why they didn’t do that. But scholars would maybe change where that break is if it was a simple process, which it’s not. But anyway, it’s a very poetic passage. I mean, it is a poem, and more so in Hebrew than in English. And probably as we go through the passage today, I’m going to emphasize the Hebrew a lot because I just think it’s so beautiful. I won’t always dig into the Hebrew as much or Greek if we ever get to the New Testament, which I sure hope we do, but it feels so applicable and so valuable when we’re talking about Genesis One, because it’s a poem and it’s a rhythmic, ritualistic story and that’s just really important. So no one should have seen this as a descriptive definition. It’s not a textbook of how are you listening? Ken Ham answers in Genesis was a big part of my upbringing. But, yeah, we’ll probably come back to them throughout this. Well.

Nate: And the problem with it, not to opine too far on this, but is that by focusing on that aspect, the literalness of these texts, you end up missing, which I think is what we’re largely going to talk about today. This whole other realm of things you can get from this text and the beauty of what it absolutely was intended to be, and you end up constructing an arc or something where that wasn’t necessarily the goal.

Shelby: I think they’re building the Tower of Babel now, which just blows my mind.

Nate: Yeah, we’ve talked about this by fighting your whole life to say it was a literal seven days and it couldn’t be any of these. You end up missing the poetry here.

Shelby: Or whatever we’re going to and as has been said many times by more progressive scholars, I mean, this is not like a progressive position to hold. It’s just not an ultra conservative position to hold. I would say is that we have often in the more conservative evangelical world come at Genesis one, asking the wrong questions that this isn’t meant to be the answer to how exactly did the world come into creation? There’s a commentary, a whole book on just Genesis, chapters one through eleven by Claus Westerman. And he said, I just thought this was a helpful quote. He said, all that can be presumed with certainty is that the creation narratives were not originally answers to the question about the origins of the world and of humanity. They arose from the everyday concern about the stability of the present state and of human existence. And again, this is coming from the perspective of a whole people group that has been completely, I mean, just demolished, their whole society destroyed and then sent into exile and then finally coming back. So their main concern is not how did the world come into being? Their main concern is who is God, what is our identity? What kind of a god is this? And how important are we in the story? Yeah.

Nate: Who are we as a people? And all these kind of questions. Right?

Shelby: Yeah. What’s really interesting is that scholars compare Genesis one creation account most frequently with the Babylonian creation account, which would have been something that the Jews would have been familiar with because they’ve just spent an entire period of exile in that community. And that story is called the Enuma Elish. It’s this creation myth, and it tells the story of the creation of the world and is very polytheistic. It’s very much about the rise of the gods. And I’m going to read this little summary, and I think you’ll just be struck by how incredibly different this is than the story that we’re familiar with about the creation of the world. And keeping in mind that this story is being told around the people who then formed Genesis around the same time, like, these stories kind of came into their final form around the same time. So we’re very likely in connection with each other in contrast with each other, as you’ll see. So the narrative begins with the primordial gods, APSU and Tiamat, who represent the fresh and saltwater, respectively. They give birth to a pantheon of younger gods who become disruptive and noisy, disturbing the peace of APSU. APSU plans to destroy them, but the god Aya learns of his intentions and kills APSU in self defense. Tiamat, enraged by APSU’s death, seeks revenge and creates an army of monstrous creatures. She appoints her son, Kingu as the leader of this army. The gods, fearing Tiamat’s wrath, are unable to defeat her. However, Marduke, the god of Babylon, this is an important character for Babylon. It’s, their main god, offers to confront Tiamat in exchange for being made the supreme ruler of the gods. Marduk engages in a fierce battle with Tiamat and eventually emerges victorious. He splits her body in two, forming the heavens and the earth. From Tiamat’s eyes, he creates the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Marduk then shapes humanity from the blood of Kingu, which was Tiamat’s son, to serve and worship the gods. So that’s the creation narrative that was probably most close to the Jews. So we’ll just take that lens. I mean, what are your initial thoughts, hearing that kind of a story?

Nate: Well, and again, they would have been living amongst us, too. So even if it wasn’t written or written form yet, like, they would have been hanging out with a lot of people that were living with this worldview of worshipping.

Shelby: Marduke right.

Nate: Yeah. But I mean, a lot of violence, obviously, a lot of death and destruction, but yeah, a very violent story.

Shelby: Yeah, very violent, very polytheistic. So we can see where the contrast would have come into play. What makes this significant? I think there’s no tension in the Genesis one creation narrative that we’re about to dig into, whereas the one we just read is just full of it. And also what’s interesting in the Genesis narrative is that the focus is not actually Israel. The people of Israel are not singled out in the story at all. It’s just purely about humanity. And Westerman, the scholar I quoted earlier, he wrote, one cannot overestimate the significance of preserving and passing on a tradition about humanity in which God’s visa vis is not Israel with its rubricized, liturgy and law, but the cosmos, creation and people. Israel, with all its esoteric and exclusive traditions, never lost sight of what God was doing for the world and its inhabitants.

Nate: Which is just a cool perspective. Yeah.

Shelby: I like that last note before we start to actually get into Genesis. Another creation narrative or creation narratives that were likely touching or influencing the Jewish culture at the time are Egyptian creation stories, of which there were many because there’s many, many Egyptian gods. But two of the most prominent stories, one involves many gods whose children are the various elements of creation. It’s not as violent as the anuma elish that we just read. But one one interesting thing is that there’s a noon, which is the primordial chaos, which is actually kind of we see a little bit of that in verse two, I think, of Genesis. But the first God, Atum, brought himself into being out of that. So a little kind of difference than what we’re going to see in Genesis is that that God comes into being from the matter rather than the God preexisting it. And then the other of the most prominent Egyptian creation stories and this one, I think, is maybe the most similar of all the ones I saw to Genesis one, although it’s still polytheistic versus monotheistic. But in this one, the main creative force is the God Pata. I’m not sure exactly how you’re supposed to pronounce it. It’s P-T-A-H Pata. And the story just follows PATA’s orderly formation of the earth with excellent craftsmanship. Like, he’s this God known for being a craftsman and having beautiful workmanship. And so there’s some of that lack of tension, that lack of conflict and more of an emphasis on the beauty of the creation. But it differs from Genesis in that there is a lack of focus on humans and not as much emphasis on the goodness of creation that we see a lot in Genesis one. So that hopefully just sets a bit of the stage for the culture in which this creation narrative is being formed. And I don’t know about you, but I feel like I grew up thinking that the Genesis One story of God creating the world that existed and then everybody else started creating their own creation stories. But really, we’re one of the bunch. We were not. We I mean, I’m throwing myself in with the Jews. The Jewish narrative creation story was not the first. It was one of many. I mean, every culture had one.

Nate: Do we have any I don’t know how we would even have this, but any way of knowing if this was something that was being orally passed down for years before it was actually written? Or was this kind of like what we’re painting here is a bit like they were in exile. They heard these other stories and they’re like, hey, let’s go write our own. But maybe this was also something that was passed down too orally. I don’t know.

Shelby: Yeah, oral tradition is very, very hard to trace. And Genesis one actually, this leads right into what I was about to one more preface before the actual verse.

Nate: Sure.

Shelby: Well, when you look at the Old Testament, old Testament scholars, Hebrew Bible scholars use what’s called the documentary hypothesis, which it basically divides all the parts of the Old Testament, every passage or down to sometimes even phrases and attributes it to a certain source. And usually there’s four sources that are referenced and they’re called we use initials to reference them, which is JDE. And P. J stands for Yahwest, which we would often sell with a Y, but think of like, Jehovah. And that source uses the divine name Yahweh. That’s one of the main ways that we distinguish it. And that one’s considered to be one of the oldest, probably 9th or 10th century BC. And that one focuses largely on the southern kingdom of Judah. So it’s kind of this more history happening, more being written more closely to when that actually happened. The D of the JDEP stands for Deuteronomist, and it’s largely the book of Deuteronomy and has a lot of theological and legal perspectives and it’s thought to be written during the reign of Josiah. The E stands for Elohist. And this source generally uses the term Elohim for God rather than Yahweh. And you don’t see those in English unless well, you can notice it because if you see the word God, that’s likely Elohim. Whereas if you see the word Lord in all caps, that’s likely the word Yahweh. So you can see a little bit of that showing up in English. And then the last one, which is the one relevant to us today, is the P. This stands for priestly. And the source represents what would be called priestly material in that it focuses on ritual, genealogies, legal regulations. And that’s the one that’s thought to be written after the Babylonian exile around fifth or 6th century BC. And largely yeah, part of this creating of recreating of a religious Jewish culture. So Genesis one is categorized into that P tradition, which is actually one of the latest. And so while it definitely can have an oral background, it’s attributed to maybe one of the later actual writings of the Old Testament. So as we go through this whole series, most of these passages that we go through, I’ll probably mention which of those JDE or P categories it falls into. If it’s relevant. It’s not always super relevant to the conversation, but it can be. And it’s helpful to just recognize that these books are not necessarily written as chunks. They’re sources. Scholars think that there were maybe these main four sources. They’re not super dogmatic about that because there’s only so many ways that we can know. But that the scholars, Jewish scholars, ancient Jewish scholars, wove those four sources together. Kind of like what we talk about in the New Testament, that there’s sources that the Gospels pull on to form the Gospels. So it’s basically like that for the entire Hebrew Bible.

Nate: Oh, like if we’re still looking for.

Shelby: Q. Yeah, Q is another is a New Testament source, whereas JDEP are Old Testament sources. And it’s called the documentary hypothesis because it’s all essentially hypothetical but a lot of research behind.

Nate: Interesting. Okay, are we ready to read Genesis?

Shelby: I think we are ready to actually read.

Nate: Also to clarify, when you said in this series we’re not like doing a series on Genesis right now. This is a new type of show that we are going to do a lot of it could be the main thing we do. Mixed in with guests here and there, which we have a really exciting guest coming up soon. Just got to say that we don’t like to timestamp these, but I’m so excited about this guest. Biggest guest we’ve ever gotten and I lost my train of thought. This guest lose my train of thought.

Shelby: You’re talking about the series.

Nate: It’s not a series. Exactly, it’s not a series. This is a new type of show.

Shelby: Oh, yeah, it’s not a series. Usually we do them all back to back, like the Canon series or the.

Nate: Woman series or they’re like an eight episode, four episode type.

Shelby: This one’s going to be kind of ongoing.

Nate: Exactly. Maybe the future of the show. If you all like it out there, submit your questions, tell us what to talk about.

Shelby: There’s essentially no end to the Bible.

Nate: Yeah, cool. Okay. Genesis one.

Shelby: Genesis one one. Okay. Read it with the most just passionate yeah.

Nate: What’s that guy that used to the audio read the NIV translation in the beginning.

Shelby: Oh, that’s it. That’s it.

Nate: I don’t know if I’ll do that.

Shelby: No, it’s okay. We don’t want to make fun of it.

Nate: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Shelby: Okay, again, a little slower.

Nate: This is the NIV, by the way. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now I remember some sermons where it was like, in the beginning, God and you stopped there and you had to stop there the whole week on that.

Shelby: And what was the message behind that?

Nate: That God was there before anything. Yeah, that God was god existed. And then you get to John One, right in the beginning was the Word, and so Jesus was there too, which we had a question about this. I don’t know where this is. Hold on. Not that this is what you want to talk about. Oh, this is so funny. Okay, this is an email from 2021. Sorry.

Shelby: Send in those emails. You never know when they’re going to come.

Nate: Yes, well, we do reply to a lot of emails, but if you’re a patron of the show, you’re in the Facebook group and you’re on the calls and you’re talking to us all the time, but the general questions that we get, we try to weave them in two episodes. This email says, my good friend Shelby, this is talking about you recommended your podcast to me. This is actually funny. This is before Shelby was on the podcast. So this is when you were just a listener of the show and you recommended the show to someone. So thank you for your contributions.

Shelby: Thank you to my past self.

Nate: I’m in a place of being unsatisfied with the Evangelical church. Welcome to the club. Thanks so much for what you guys are doing and your positive approach to learning. It’s really inspired me. I started from the beginning and listened to the first three episodes. So referencing back to our Divine Realm Genesis series, we did question for you. You guys talk about how God uses the pronoun US multiple times in the first few chapters of Genesis, and this attest to the fact that there were other divine beings present. I’ve heard it suggested that us is referring to the Trinity. Would you say there’s evidence that suggests that Jesus was president in the garden? Isn’t that a book? Who’s that by? Oh, Shane Claiborne. Jesus for president.

Shelby: Anyway, it said Jesus was present.

Nate: Jesus was present in the garden. And I think this does largely come from John One, where you get the in the beginning was the Word. The word was with God.

Shelby: The Word was and I mean, if you believe the Trinity is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and then you get a verse like, let us make man.

Nate: In our image, then well, and then in verse two, you get the Genesis one. Two, you get the spirit of God was hovering over the so there it is.

Shelby: Feel God. I’m all, well, I mean, so far you’ve gotten God and spirit, but I’m.

Nate: Saying you could argue that’s the Trinity take John One.

Shelby: Sure.

Nate: If you go into the New Testament. You take John one, then you got everyone there.



Nate: Potentially, yeah.

Shelby: I would disagree, but so, yeah, obviously, Jesus was not even born by the time this was being written. So if you want to retrospectively put him in there, sure. But the people forming this story had no concept of a trinity and no concept of Jesus. He did not exist.

Nate: A messiah figure.

Shelby: Yeah, but they did not I don’t think they would have thought of him as a I mean, the Messiah was this was not in the the notes at all. And that’s great. The the Messiah was meant to be a revolutionary figure that largely was, you know, freeing them from political and geographical tyranny. Not wasn’t meant to be literally God. That that in and of itself is.

Nate: A crazy topic, which is funny because that’s the most important part of Jesus, I think, for most people. Okay.

Shelby: Anyway, in the beginning, God and actually, I like that you bring that up because when because I, too, heard so many sermons on emphasizing this. In the beginning, God, when you read it in Hebrew, that’s not actually the sentence structure at all. The Hebrew structure is more like in the beginning created God, the heavens and the earth. Or a Jewish commentary said, literally changed it this much, said that a better translation might be when God began to create the heavens and the earth. So it’s not even a like, Genesis one. One doesn’t even have to be read as a complete statement, which has become so iconic. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Like, this is just the setting. But if you get really technical, the very first word is Birashi it, which can mean in the beginning, but the b at the beginning of that, the b sound, the berashiit can also mean kind of when, like, it can be the setting of a phrase, the when God began to create heavens and earth.

Nate: Now, explain to me this poetry thing, because I’ve been told this is a poem, right? And you said this is a poem. What is that?

Shelby: Yeah, and by poem, I don’t necessarily.

Nate: Mean so there’s not, like, some structure.

Shelby: Some oh, there’s definitely structure, but it.

Nate: Doesn’T it doesn’t rhyme, I should say.

Shelby: Sure. But there’s definitely structure. The stuff that you’re totally familiar with. And there was evening, and there was morning the first day or and God saw that it was good, like repetition. But there’s also, when you read it in Hebrew, some of these things become a little more clear, and we’re going to get into those as we go. Okay, so that’s verse one. In the beginning, God created in heaven. You know what? I love the Hebrew of this chapter so much that I just want to read it, even if you don’t have a clue what it says. This was read aloud, even though we were just saying it might not necessarily have a super long oral tradition. It was an oral experience for the people because people didn’t really read it. Like, you had your synagogue leader who would read it, but everyone else was hearing it. And when you had it in your home, it was you were repeating it to your children. So once it became part of the culture, it was an oral experience for the most part. So I’m just going to read it in Hebrew because I just think it’s beautiful. Betashiyat bara elohim etasha mayim. The et for the language people out there.

Nate: It’s beautiful.

Shelby: You probably heard the word elohim in there. Yeah, I like to encourage people. You can pick out little words, you know, in any language.

Nate: I know that one.

Shelby: You know that one. All right, so that’s verse one. We won’t always be going literally verse by verse, but this chapter we just have to verse two. You want to read that one for us?

Nate: Verse two now. The Earth was formless and empty. Darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Shelby: I love this verse, and I feel like it doesn’t get as much emphasis as it should have.

Nate: It’s like I can picture this.

Shelby: There’s so much mystery in it, and it’s not at all the seven day answers and Genesis type of creation. It’s just okay, so the Earth was formless and void, or however it was you read it, unformed void.

Nate: There’s a lot of empty is what the NIV says, but yeah, void. What was that with?

Shelby: Well, there’s a lot of different ways to translate it because the phrase that’s used in Hebrew is a very kind of poetic word. It’s tohu vivohu and the phrase tohu Vohu, which it’s two words put together. It’s like emptiness and formlessness. But the phrase itself is not used anywhere else in the Old Testament, so it’s meant to just be creating this image of, like, primordial. I mean, some could say the primordial soup that then led to the spontaneous life. Who knows? What’s interesting here, I think, is very much grew up believing that God created everything out of nothing. I mean, creatio ex nihilo, that’s like a Latin phrase for creation out of nothing. And it’s like a whole doctrine. And it’s emphasized to us, I think, of the power of God and the originality of God. Like God is before everything and created everything out of nothing. I mean, that was unquestionable and incredibly important to my upbringing.

Nate: It’s like painted all over this canvas, right? This blank canvas. But the question is where’d the canvas come from?

Shelby: Interesting. Never heard it that way.

Nate: Because he’s hovering over water.

Shelby: Yeah, well, and this tohu VAVOHU, this unformed chaos ness, it doesn’t mean nothing. It means unformedness, like a bunch of clay that’s sitting there. So in the beginning, there is something that God then does stuff with, which is just different than I feel like we talk, and it’s right here.

Nate: It’s not like it’s not hidden. Yeah, it’s like a pile of Legos, right? Like, yeah, you created that thing, but you didn’t necessarily make the Legos maybe pile.

Shelby: Sure, maybe God created the tohu vivohu, too, but that’s not important to this story. This story doesn’t care where the chaos ness and all the unformed stuff came from. What’s important is what God does with them. So then we get into the other interesting part of this, that the spirit of God hovers over the face of the waters. Like, whoa, that doesn’t really come up anywhere else in the rest of the story. And, like, why is it even in there, and what does it mean? And the Spirit of God here is the word rock, which means as does the equivalent word. In Greek. It means spirit and wind and breath, all of those things together. I think I’ve been kind of experimenting with the name Ruach as actually like, a different way to refer to God. I have this ongoing project in my mind and with actually one of our listeners who does the monthly one on one calls with me. We’ve talked about this a lot, which.

Nate: If you do want to go deeper, we obviously have the $5 a month become a patron of the show. You get on the calls with us, the group calls with us. You get the Facebook group, you get ad free version of the show second podcast. We do all that kind of stuff. But there is another level if you want even longer calls, just with Shelby to kind of, like, talk about some of the stuff, talk about what you’re processing, all that kind of stuff, get a good 45 minutes to an hour with Shelby. There’s a whole other yeah, every month, there’s a whole other plan for that on Patreon. So go over there if that’s something that would be interesting to you.

Shelby: Yeah. So one of the people that I talked to, we’ve talked a lot about what to call God as we talk about trying to demasculinize God in our experience and emphasize the feminine side. And just even the name, any of the names that we’ve used for God have this masculine element. Even the word God is the male version of the female word goddess, and we don’t necessarily want to pick one. So anyway, all that to say, in in our experimentation, we’ve thought about maybe we could use this Hebrew word ruach as, like the new way that we talk about God, because it’s just this it means the spirit. It feels a little more gender free or something like that.

Nate: Yeah. And more some people go to Universe or talking about God in these other ways and kind of has that same thing, like this spirit, this element, something that’s kind of above and within everything, sort of a concept which I think people are trying to get to with Universe okay.

Shelby: And so what’s the Spirit of God, this ruach, the Ruak Elohim doing here is hovering over the face of the waters. I took that word, hovered and looked at the other places that it’s used in the Old Testament, which you can do all of this for free on your own without knowing Hebrew. I use the blue letter Bible. It’s a website and an app, and it’s pretty awesome. So it’s the Hebrew word rahaf, which is only used about three times in the Old Testament. One of the other uses is in Deuteronomy 30 211, and it’s talking about an eagle hovering over its young. And I think that’s a beautiful picture of likely a mother eagle. And then we have here this picture of the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters and just this like something that’s growing and about to be about to be born, and it’s caring for it. But who knows? I mean, those things are written. These verses didn’t necessarily know about each other as they were written, but it’s just an interesting use of the word. But let’s go to verse three. You ready for it?

Nate: Let’s do it. All right. Verse three. Genesis one, verse three. And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.

Shelby: This is a good example of where in Hebrew, it’s more of a poem than in English. I mean, it does feel a little bit poetic here, like, Let there be light, and there was light. It feels like there’s a rhythm.

Nate: I can feel it, I can see it.

Shelby: But in Hebrew, it literally says vayomerohim, which means and God said yehi or vahi or it’s just or means light. And those the other two words are like this, to be verb, where we have to use three words let there be before we even get to the word light. And there was light. It’s a lot. Whereas here it’s so much simpler. It’s just literally and God said yehi or vahi or it’s just beautiful, literally. To read what’s interesting here, and probably a lot of you have noticed this when you were deconstructing, maybe if you had to deconstruct a literal seven day creation upbringing is that light is made right here in day one, whereas the sun isn’t made until day four. So then what’s the light? Yeah. And how did the creation literalist deal with I mean, did this ever come up for you?

Nate: No, I don’t think that was ever.

Shelby: An issue, which is funny because we read this over and over again and we believed the literal seven day creation.

Nate: Yeah, I don’t think I was like a hardcore, literal seven day pretty hardcore.

Shelby: But it’s interesting to me that I could believe that, though, so seriously, and then also believe that I was reading the Bible so honestly and just not really even notice these inconsistencies.

Nate: Yeah, I mean, I guess I believed that. I don’t know that I held it that dogmatically. I wasn’t out, like, fighting people about 7000 years or whatever, but I think, yeah, I believed that. And I was kind of anti science because they were always trying to prove that God isn’t real by saying that evolution is real.

Shelby: Yeah. So I went on to the answers in Genesis website because I was like, what do they say about this? This just feels like a big non scientific element to the story here, is that God’s creating light and it’s not the sun, and it doesn’t say what that is. And it turns out they had this whole article on it, and I found it interesting, actually. They don’t have an answer, but they do point out that early church fathers, as early as Tertullian, which is in the second century Ad. And then Basil of Caesarea, which is the fourth century, augustine, which is the fourth 5th century, were all trying to explain this very thing because they already were dealing they were already trying to read Genesis one literally even that early in Christianity. So being literal about Genesis one isn’t necessarily a modern problem, but it’s also not the most ancient. The most ancient is this Jewish version that’s not concerned with the scientific actual order of things, but with who God is and what God’s doing. It’s interesting. And a scholar I was reading noted that God is credited with creating the light but not the darkness. The darkness is already there.

Nate: That is interesting.

Shelby: But even so, he names both, which I guess is verse four. You want to read verse four?

Nate: Yeah, verse four. Genesis one four says, God saw the light was good and he separated the light from the darkness.

Shelby: So, yeah, that’s interesting to me that the darkness is considered an element worth naming that God oh, go ahead and read verse five, too.

Nate: We’ll just do four or five together. Okay. God called the light day and the darkness he called night, and there was evening, and there was morning the first day.

Shelby: Yeah. So God’s naming these things, which in the ancient world was a symbol of domination and ownership. I mean, even in the modern world, that’s when you name something, it’s essentially claiming it, right?

Nate: It’s planting your flag right there. In fact, things get renamed when someone else discovers the land. Right? Yeah.

Shelby: New England. And then we get that the end of this verse. There was evening and there was morning the first day. And that’s another one of those repetitive phrases that makes this a bit more of a poem and a liturgy. And one thing that’s beautiful about it is, again, when you compare it to the Enuma leash that we were reading and the Genesis version is so lacking in violence. It’s just evening, morning, day one, and it’s so full of structure, whereas that’s the one that we read earlier, there’s no timeline to it, really, other than just then. There was this person who fought this person, who killed this person, who battled this person, whereas the orderliness of it is saying something about the character of God, not necessarily how the things actually came into being. And also the evening, morning, first day. This is, as we know, there’s going to be seven days in the whole story. And it’s a very common seven day typology in the ancient Near East. Many festivals were six days long, and then the 7th day would be like this big change or shift, and it would be kind of this climax of things that would be different than the other six days, which is interesting. And we’ll get to that when we get to the 7th day, which is not going to be in this episode, maybe not even the next. But even though the seven day typology is a very common pattern in the ancient Near East, there’s no other creation narrative that uses it for the story of creation, which is just kind of cool.

Nate: Okay, okay, we got to stop here. That’s going to be the end of this one.

Shelby: We made it through five verses.

Nate: This will just be how it goes. We talk about some stuff, and then we go on to the next one. It’s not a series, not a part one, not a part two. Just we’re going to keep going. But this episode is actually going to continue. Over on our second podcast, we do Utterly heretical. Or if you’re in Apple itunes Apple podcasts, you can just click and listen to the second part, the bonus episode that’s going to come out because I’m about to ask Shelby about the perfection. I’ve often heard this idea of, like, heaven is going to be getting back to perfection because that’s what we saw in the garden was perfection. And so let’s chat about that a little bit. So keep on listening. If you are a supporter of the show, and if you’re not, you can just click to support the show. It’s like $5 a month. It helps us keep doing this show. And you get a bunch of benefits, bunch of perks and all that kind of stuff for supporting as well. If you have questions, comments, things you want to say, things you want us to cover on the show, things we missed, please submit it. Contact at almost Or if you’re a supporter of the show, you can do that in the Facebook group or on the next Zoom call. And we’ll get that into the next episode. All right, thanks so much for following along and listening along with us.

Shelby: See you next time for verse six.

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