Genesis 1:1

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Genesis 1:1
1:2 →
Genesis on egg cropped.jpg
The first chapter of Genesis (B'reshit in Hebrew) written on an egg in the Israel Museum.
BookBook of Genesis
Hebrew Bible partTorah
Order in the Hebrew part1
Christian Bible partOld Testament
Order in the Christian part1

Genesis 1:1 is the first verse of the first chapter in the Book of Genesis in the Bible and the opening of the Genesis creation narrative.

Hebrew text[edit]

In the Masoretic Text the verse is as follows:

  • Vocalized: בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ
  • Transliterated: Bereshit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve'et ha'aretz.

It consists of 7 words:

  1. Bereshit (בְּרֵאשִׁית‎): "In [the] beginning [of something]". The definite article (i.e., the Hebrew equivalent of "the") is missing, but implied.[1]
  2. bara (ברא‎): "[he] created/creating". The word is in the masculine singular form, so that "he" is implied; a peculiarity of this verb is that it used only of God.[2]
  3. Elohim (אלהים‎): the generic word for God, whether the God of Israel or the gods of other nations; it is used throughout Genesis 1, and contrasts with the phrase YHWH Elohim, "God YHWH", introduced in Genesis 2.
  4. et (אֵת‎): a particle used in front of the direct object of a verb, in this case "the heavens and the earth", indicating that this is what is being "created".
  5. Hashamayim ve'et ha'aretz (הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ‎): "the heavens and the earth"; this is a merism, a figure of speech indicating the two stand not for "heaven" and "earth" individually but "everything". the entire cosmos.[3]
  6. ha is the definite article, equivalent to the English word "the".
  7. ve is equivalent to English "and".


The Opening of Genesis Chapter 1 from a 1620–21 King James Bible in black letter type. The first edition of the KJV was 1611.

Genesis 1:1 can be translated into English in at least three ways:

  1. As a statement that the cosmos had an absolute beginning (In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth).
  2. As a statement describing the condition of the world when God began creating (When in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was untamed and shapeless).
  3. Taking all of Genesis 1:2 as background information (When in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, the earth being untamed and shapeless, God said, Let there be light!).[4]


Genesis 1:1 is widely taken as the authority for the Judeo-Christian doctrine of creation out of nothing (creation ex nihilo), but most biblical scholars agree that on strictly linguistic and exegetical grounds this is not the preferred option and is not found directly in Genesis nor in the entire Hebrew Bible.[5][6][7] The Priestly authors of Genesis 1, writing around 500–400 BCE, had been concerned not with the origins of matter (the material which God formed into the habitable cosmos), but with the fixing of destinies.[2] This was still the situation in the early 2nd century CE, although early Christian scholars were beginning to see a tension between the idea of world-formation and the omnipotence of God, but by the beginning of the 3rd century this tension was resolved, world-formation was overcome, and creation ex nihilo had become a fundamental tenet of Christian theology.[8]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Blenkinsopp 2011, pp. 30–31.
  2. ^ a b Walton 2006, p. 183.
  3. ^ Waltke 2011, p. 179.
  4. ^ Bandstra 1999, pp. 38–39.
  5. ^ Blenkinsopp 2011, p. 30.
  6. ^ Nebe 2002, p. 119.
  7. ^ Clifford 2017, p. unpaginated.
  8. ^ May 2004, p. 179.


  • Bandstra, Barry L. (1999). Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Wadsworth Publishing Company. ISBN 0495391050.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Blenkinsopp, Joseph (2011). Creation, Un-Creation, Re-Creation: A Discursive Commentary on Genesis 1–11. T&T Clarke International. ISBN 9780567372871.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Clifford, Richard J (2017). "Creatio ex Nihilo in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible". In Anderson, Gary A.; Bockmuehl, Markus (eds.). Creation ex nihilo: Origins, Development, Contemporary Challenges. University of Notre Dame. ISBN 9780268102562.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • May, Gerhard (2004). Creatio ex nihilo. T&T Clarke International. ISBN 9780567456229.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Nebe, Gottfried (2002). "Creation in Paul's Theology". In Hoffman, Yair; Reventlow, Henning Graf (eds.). Creation in Jewish and Christian Tradition. Sheffield Academic Press. ISBN 9780567573933.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Waltke, Bruce K. (2011). An Old Testament Theology. Zondervan. ISBN 9780310863328.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Walton, John H. (2006). Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible. Baker Academic. ISBN 0-8010-2750-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

Preceded by
Book of Genesis Succeeded by
Genesis 1:2