In the beginning

just some quick scribbled notes of stuff from sunday’s sermon, wanting to grab hold of it while it’s fresh in my mind (a jumbled mixture of stuff the preacher said and my own thoughts):

That well-known verse, Genesis 1:1 – in English it tells you that in the beginning God created… but here’s the bit that as a Hebrew speaker I see in the original and most English speakers miss, and our pastor was bringing out: the word translated into English as God is Elohim, a plural noun.

in the beginning Elohim made the heavens and the earth and everything – who is this Elohim? not some lonesome single deity but a plurality. This is something I’ve been aware of for a long time, but I feel it’s worth repeating here: the creator of the world is Elohim, a plurality. A united plurality – that’s what we’re told in the Shema: our God is one. The Hebrew word translated there as “one” is “echad”, it’s one in the sense of unity – as opposed to the word “yachid” which means “single”. (One, united, as opposed to those ever-squabbling gods that other nations worshipped. Elohim is one.)

Yes, it’s a concept that is difficult to get your head round, but it’s there, right from the beginning.

We talk about a time in history which we call BC, Before Christ – but it would be more accurate to call it BI: Before the Incarnation. Jesus was there right at the beginning, as John tells us:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (John 1:1,3) Just as we see in the beginning of Genesis, Elohim is there at creation, the plurality of Elohim, with the Spirit hovering over the void, and the Word being active in the act of creation – God speaks, and the world as we know it comes into being. The refrain of Genesis 1: God said. God said. God said. In the beginning was the Word – Jesus isn’t some kind of afterthought, he’s there right at the beginning. What happens later on, at that point in time where we divide history into BC and AD, what happens there is just a temporary change for him, as it says in John 1:14: “And the Word became flesh…” But there isn’t really a time Before Christ, there isn’t a time when Jesus didn’t exist, only a time when the Word was not flesh.

Another thing to note about the word Elohim: it’s a plural noun, but the verb it takes is nearly always in singular. That first verse of Genesis says “be-reshit bara Elohim” – “be-reshit” = in the beginning; “bara” = the verb “create” in past tense 3rd person male singular. It’s another clue to that unity – they act as one. (And a bit further down that first chapter of Genesis, in verse 26 Elohim says: “Let us make man in our image” – there’s that plurality again! (and as a Hebrew speaker I can confirm that the plurality is there in the original text.) (and again, that “God said” bit has the verb “say” in singular. This is a peculiar combination – it’s there to tell us something.)

Elohim is one – a united plurality.

The Word was there in the beginning, and through him all things were created.

A lot later on, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And a few decades later he died on a cross to atone for our sins. And a few days later he came back to life, and a while later he went up to heaven and he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he sent the Spirit to guide us and teach us and… see, this is the plurality of Elohim, the same plurality that was there from the very beginning. They’re just doing slightly different jobs now. And one day Jesus will have yet another slightly different job – he’s coming back to judge and to rule over the earth.

end of jumbled thoughts.

One thought on “In the beginning

  1. Pingback: who is the God of my fathers? | Meirav's Soapbox

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