THE PROLOGUE, 1:1–2
“In the beginning God.” God is the subject of the first sentence of the book, and He dominates the entire chapter. Called by His name Elohim thirty-five times in the creation narrative, He demonstrates infinite power and transcends all material existence, as indeed the majestic name Elohim signifies. “Beginning” refers to the commencement of time in our universe and demonstrates that the matter of the universe had a definite origin; it is not eternal and did not start itself. “Created” translates the Hebrew bärä’, which Hebrew scholars commonly have understood to signify to bring into being ex nihilo, from nothing, without the use of preexisting material. But even some evangelical Old Testament scholars do not now believe that the case for such a position is impregnable. If it is not, support for ex nihilo creation may be found in the New Testament, as Hebrews 11:3 and Romans 4:17 demonstrate. “Heaven and earth” seems to mean the whole universe, not only planet Earth and its enveloping atmosphere.
In the past many have conjectured that a great catastrophe occurred between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. They could not conceive of God’s creating a chaos, and therefore supposed that something happened to spoil the original, beautiful, and perfect creation and to necessitate God’s re-creation in six creative days. Some would place here the fall of Satan and the entrance of sin into the universe to deface what God had made. In setting forth that concept, they were able to introduce a vast time span between original creation and re-creation and thus to find a way to bring about some meeting of minds between the claims of scientists about the age of the universe and the beliefs of many Bible students.
In dealing with such a view, it should be noted first that verse 2 only describes the world as “desolate and uninhabitable,” at a stage not yet ready for man. It does not portray chaos as such. Presumably God did not determine to bring the creation to a completed state all at once, though He could have done so. Second, there is no direct or specific statement anywhere in Scripture of divine judgment between those verses. Third, there is no justification for translating, “and the earth became desolate.”
Darkness enveloped the primeval ocean, but the Spirit of God began to move “upon the face of the waters.” God’s creative and sustaining energy in the form of the Holy Spirit began to work on the creation in process. Thus the entire Trinity participated in the creation. It would appear that the Father was the designer and issued the decree to create; the Son effected the design (John 1:3; Col. 1:16); and the Spirit was involved in some capacity. Matter apart from God is inert and has no ability to produce a world of order and beauty, but the omnipotent and intelligent Holy Spirit imparts capacity to matter and produces an ordered world.