Creation: Something from Something, Something from Nothing, or Something from Hardly Anything?

By Schrader, Malcolm E. | Jewish Bible Quarterly, July 2008 | Go to article overview

Creation: Something from Something, Something from Nothing, or Something from Hardly Anything?


Schrader, Malcolm E., Jewish Bible Quarterly


THE BIBLICAL TEXT

RASHI (1040-1105 CE)

Genesis starts with the Hebrew word beresheet (Gen. 1:1). The word is a form of "beginning," which could be translated as In the beginning of ..., to be followed by the object of the preposition. However, it is not followed by an object. Instead, it is stated: In the beginning of, God created the heavens and the earth. This, of course, does not read smoothly, raising the question: in the beginning of what? Rashi declares that it should be understood as saying "Towards (or during) the beginning of the creation of the heavens and the earth." As a result of omitting the object of the preposition "of," there is no commitment to a specific point in time for entering into the description of Creation. Rashi elucidates: "... and the text does not come to inform us on the order of creation, to say that these preceded (the others)...." He argues that if that were the case, the text should have stated "barishona [In the beginning] He created the heavens and the earth." Thus, the text does not point to any of the listed objects of Creation as having occurred at the beginning of time. Rashi supports his thesis by adding that there is no "resheet [beginning of]"in the Torah text that is not attached to the word after it. He cites many places where this preposition is followed by an object, inferring that there must be a special reason why the object is omitted here, said reason being to project an ambiguity in time.

Rashi then presents the opposing view, which states that the first sentence should be understood as saying "In the beginning of everything God created the heavens and the earth. "In this reading, the word "everything" is the object of the preposition "of 11, and is understood without being stated. Rashi then cites support for this opposing view by citing examples from the scriptures where a word that is omitted is obviously understood.

Rashi now reaches his ultimate conclusion, in support of his original interpretation, with two arguments which serve as a rebuttal of the opposing view. One, he cites the succeeding text, which speaks of the Godly wind blowing over the surface of the water (Gen. 1:2), even though creation of the water had not been mentioned. He points out, furthermore, that the heavens are fabricated from fire and water. Thus, water, a raw material for creation of the heavens, had to precede the heavens, yet it is mentioned after the "beresheet" Creation. Therefore, Genesis, in its first sentence, could not have been listing an order of Creation. and the word beresheet does not mean "first" or "before everything."

IBN EZRA (1089-1164)

Avraham Ibn Ezra (comments, Gen. 1:1), in a grammatical discussion, briefly cites examples showing that the Hebrew word "bara [created]" in the first sentence of Genesis does not necessarily mean something-from-nothing (creatio ex nihilo), and that beresheet can precede a verb in the past tense, as it does with bara in the present case. He states his view that this sentence refers to an ongoing process of Creation which is described in the text that follows. He thus essentially adopts Rashi's position on the meaning of beresheet. He, however, makes it clear that the majority view of scholars holds otherwise.

RAMBAN (NAHMANIDES) (1194-1270)

Another exegete with a definite view of beresheet is Ramban (comments, Gen.1:1) writing nearly 200 years after Rashi. He starts with a quick summary of Rashi's comments on the subject. He then proceeds with an overt description of what may be regarded as the "science" of the matter. He describes what are apparently, to him, the independent facts of Creation, before assessing the impact of the first sentence of Genesis, beresheet.... Creation is described as matter brought forth from absolutely nothing (creatio ex nihilo). The original form of this matter is a single substance from which all others were subsequently derived. He states that the Greeks called this substance "hyle. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Creation: Something from Something, Something from Nothing, or Something from Hardly Anything?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.