—Professor Ellen van Wolde, an Old Testament scholar at Radboud University in The Netherlands. She claims the first sentence of Genesis is not an accurate translation of the Hebrew verb “bara” in the context of the Bible and other creation stories from Mesopatamia.

Translations of the Bible are debated and challenged all the time. In the case of the Creation story in Genesis, it’s often about the tense of the verb “create” and God’s role in the process that’s up for grabs. In a previous post, I compared three versions:

First, the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible:

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,

And from Fox’s The Five Books of Moses:

At the beginning of God’s creating of the heavens and the earth,

And now from the Tanakh:

When God began to create heaven and earth—

She says that the “bara” should not be translated as “to create” but “to spatially separate.” The impact of such a statement challenges the very notion that God created something out of nothing — and that humankind’s understanding of the story has been wrong for thousands of years.


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Interesting opinion. Of course, the title of the article/report, based on Professor Worde's opinion, is presumptuous. At best, it is only an interpretative possibility, not fact. I am interested in seeing the textual and linguistic support from Prof. Worde from the Hebrew and Mesopotamian ancient literature.

So interesting that after thousands of years mankind has realized that the only thing preventing agreement between scientific findings leading us to a theory of a "big bang" (when matter as a singularity gained the dimension of space between its divided particles) and fervent faith-based and scripture-supported belief in the same has been due a misinterpretation (or possibly a dis-interpretation.)

Finally there is good reason for all the quibbling and arguing can cease and we can join as one in a human brotherhood. This should be world-wide news and reason for rejoicing and peace can finally reign between "secular" and "religious" oriented people. The implications for an enlightened and exponential development of humanities sense of Oneness and solidarity are staggering.

This is what is taught in Mormon temples.

Shalom Krista et. al. When I think of creation, I too, am filled with awe and wonder (ala Abraham Heschel). However, as a liberation theologian committed to healing the world (tikkun olam) through concrete "Christian Praxis", I feel the restless zeal of the Hebrew prophets who were never comfortable with the "status quo" and thus, I am compelled to address the sicknesses which plague our planet, our people, and our future. As H.L. Mencken said about the craft of journalism: "My job is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted." Walter Brueggemann also writes cogently about the prophetic imagination and our need to challenge "Empire Theology". I am not trying to be cynical when I find semantic jousting over words like "bara", but I do think that since God has done her part by creating the world, it is now up to us to create something like community, diversity, tolerance, and an ethics of environmental stewardship. Remember in B'reishit (Genesis) that when God was finished with her work, she grabbed a beer, sat down in her barcalounger and thought, "It is all good, very, very, good". Let's not mess it up folks - Rick Folker Kansas City
"Si tu quieras la paz, trabaja para justicia" - Pope Paul VI

Who created God? If something was there, before God, did God create this or was this something there before God, herself? We have here a mystery, and it is profound. But I do believe, deeply, that all words are "divine" and that God herself/himself, created language, and this is for us to probe and like disrobing, the robe in probe itself, it's a neverending mystery that just keeps unfolding, like the "rose". The sun, a "rose" this morning.

I am following a profound and beautiful story that has everything to do with the potential of words, so yes, to BARA, and now we have BARA CK, and who knows whether he will do the Noble Thing in promoting world peace or whether it will be the "No Bell" prize.

Why is it we can, all of us, use this miraculous clay, the alchemy of language?

I am saying it's divine, and to ask that question, is to open more doors than you can possibly imagine. And I would say, in deep ways, I have been tossed some of those keys. Life is a door, life is adore.

Is there proof of the existence of God? Maybe it's time to take a closer look at the miracles in our own lives and wonder, what is it, moves us, E motion itself?

Like Markforever, I'd like to hear a little more basis than simply bald assertion. It should also be noted that "other creation stories from Mesopotamia" don't necessarily tell us much about what the Biblical text means--while there may be parallels, there are clearly other ways in which the Biblical text is self-consciously distinct, as would be expected when God is constantly telling the Israelites not to be like the surrounding nations.

More seriously, she seems to be wrenching one word out of its context and playing with it all by itself, ignoring how that word is used elsewhere in the exact same story, not to mention elsewhere in the Pentateuch and the Hebrew Bible as a whole, and ignoring the rest of the chapter. For instance, 1:21: "God created (bara) great whales..." 1:27: "God created (bara) man in his own image." How does "separated" as a meaning make any sense in these verses? Clearly God is doing a lot of separating (light from darkness, land and seas, etc.), but he is first creating things that need to be separated: "Let there be light" (bara not used there). And there's another perfectly good word for separating that is actually being used in the text: "badal" (vv. 4, 6, 7, 14, 18). Far more words than just "bara" have to be re-imagined for her new cosmology to be internally consistent.

In the final analysis, this looks like just another publicity stunt--make an outlandish claim that supposedly upends everything people have always known to be true about Christianity and/or Judaism and the credulous, secularist, and religiously illiterate press fawn all over it (see almost every Easter cover story on Time and Newsweek), eager for a new way to show believers to be the drooling idiots they've always known them to be.

While all very interesting, this is really nothing terribly new. What was "new" was the idea of creation ex nihilo, driven by the medieval philosophers, who couldn't imagine God needing anything but God's intellect/imagination to create. The early Rabbis had no problem understanding that God used the stuff of chaos -- tohu va-vahu -- as the raw material of creation, even as human beings (adam) were made out of the earth (adamah), and the woman was fashioned out of the raw material of the body of the first human.

"humankind’s understanding of the story has been wrong for thousands of years."

Well Duh...!

"humankind’s understanding of the story has been wrong for thousands of years."

Well Duh....!

What a great thought-thank you SOF! I'm trying to watch some of the NASA research in the most outer reaches of "creation". We may never fully understand the creator's methods, but we do know his intentions-love for us. When we are done with finding out how it was done, we can then focus on the "inward", physiologically, I mean. There is now research on cells, with no nucleus, probably functioning billions of years ago? There is a new bible discovered recently-it's been stored in some european monastery for a very long time, and it's been digitized for all of us to see and even translate if one so chooses!

God created the universe and who created God have been debated in every religion. The problem is that humans write religious scriptures, whether they are revealed or not. Humans cannot conceive time except in a linear, consecutive increment and therefore we ask questions such as when the world was created, or what was before the world was created, etc. In the phenomenological sense and in this three-dimensional world view, we will continue to ask such questions. Many masters and seers in many ancient religions speak about the experience when time is experienced as NOW. The past, present and future exist as now and it can be experienced as such. All reincarnations exist simultaneously; and all events occur and can be experienced simultaneously. The world is becoming, meaning it is always being created.
The idea that God created man in his own image or the idea that God created the world from nothing are questions that show human limitations. Alternatively we will think of spirit or alien forms that have similar capabilities as us but may have superhuman capabilities as best we can imagine. We cannot conceive of multi-dimensional personalities or existences, or non-physical worlds, or worlds where time does not exist as we know it because we continue to use our cognitive faculties to answer these questions.
Mystics and many seers have experienced “god” but they recognize that to express it in human language distortions will occur. Therefore, they encourage experience over scriptural studies, and provide guidelines to help understand if experience is “real” or not. They also recognize that each person will have a different experience of “god”.