Monday

27 May 2013

"In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth..." (v.1)


Background

The crew of Apollo 8 made their first mission to the moon in December 1968. On Christmas Eve, whilst in lunar orbit, they made a live television transmission where they  read out the first ten verses of Genesis. Maybe they chose these verses not only because of the phrase "heavens and the earth" but also because the chapter speaks of a time when humanity did not exist.

Genesis literally means 'birth' and the book is full of births and beginnings. The book itself, although from many different sources, is thought to have begun life around the time of the Babylonian exile (c.586-538 BC) and some of the stories are also similar to stories in ancient Babylonian and Mesopotamian folklore which would have influenced the Israelites during their time in Babylon.

Genesis begins with a liturgy of creation, a song, from an ancient worship tradition. Those Christians who have taken its message as a literal fact have taken the passage far from its original context. This story, although from a later tradition than the 'second' creation story (Genesis 2:4 - 3:24), was placed at the beginning of the Jewish sacred Scriptures and thus the Christian ones too.

Incidentally in the first verse, the Hebrew word 'ruah' can mean spirit, wind or breath and it has something to do with the force of life: that without which we do not exist.


To Ponder

  • The first verse of Genesis has a picture of the Spirit creating order from chaos. How does this fit in with your understanding of the Holy Spirit active in the world today?
  • Does God create out of nothing or does God's power create form and beauty out of an existing chaos? How does this relate to the serious environmental concerns of today?
  • How do we use these stories in our secular culture today?


Bible notes author: Revd Rosemary Fletcher

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