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 forms the opening of the Genesis creation narrative.

Hebrew text[edit]

In the Masoretic Text the verse consists of 7 words and 28 letters and is as follows:

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

The first word is b'reishit, or bereishit (בְּרֵאשִׁית). The definite article (i.e., the Hebrew equivalent of "the") is missing, but implied. The complete word literally means "in [the] beginning [of]". The same construction is found elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, usually dealing with the beginning of a reign.[1]

The second word is the Hebrew verb bara (ברא) ("([he] created/creating"). It is in the masculine singular form, so that "he" is implied; and perfect aspect, commonly translated by English past tense. "Bara" is also used in Genesis 2 verses 3 and 4. John Walton claims that the meaning of "bara" is not "create" in the modern sense, but to differentiate/separate and to allocate roles – e.g., in the creation of Adam and Eve, God allocates gender roles to "male and female".[2]

Elohim (אלהים) is 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 Elohim YHWH, "God YHWH", introduced in Genesis 2.

Et (אֵת) is a particle used in front of the direct object of a verb; in this case, it indicates that "the heavens and the earth" is what is being created. The word ha preceding shamayim (heavens) and aretz (earth) is the definite article, equivalent to the English word "the".

English translation[edit]

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 1:1–2 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!).[3]

The idea that God created the universe out of nothing (creation ex nihilo) has become central to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, but it is not found directly in Genesis, nor in the entire Hebrew Bible.[4][2][5] 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. 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. 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.[6]

See also[edit]



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


  • Alter, Robert (2004). The Five Books of Moses. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-33393-0.
  • Bandstra, Barry L. (1999). Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Wadsworth Publishing Company.
  • Bandstra, Barry L. (2008). Genesis 1–11: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text. Baylor University Press.
  • Blenkinsopp, Joseph (2011). Creation, Un-Creation, Re-Creation: A Discursive Commentary on Genesis 1–11. T&T Clarke International.
  • Dumbrell, William J. (2002). The Faith of Israel: A Theological Survey of the Old Testament. Baker Academic.
  • Hamilton, Victor P (1990). The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1–17. New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT). Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN 0-8028-2521-4.
  • Knight, Douglas A (1990). "Cosmology". In Watson E. Mills (General Editor) (ed.). Mercer Dictionary of the Bible. Mercer University Press. ISBN 0-86554-402-6.
  • May, Gerhard (2004). Creatio ex nihilo. T&T Clarke International.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Wenham, Gordon (2003). Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Pentateuch. Exploring the Bible Series. 1. IVP Academic. p. 223.

Further reading[edit]

  • Curzon, David. Modern poems on the Bible: an anthology. Phila: Jewish Publication Society, 1994.
  • Full translation of Rashi on Genesis 1:1
  • "Genesis 1:1." Online Parallel Bible. [1]
  • Jewish Publication Society. The Torah: The Five Books of Moses (3rd ed). Philadelphia: 1999.
  • Kselman, John S. “Genesis” in Harper’s Bible Dictionary.
  • Rosenbaum and Silberman. Pentateuch with Rashi’s Commentary.
  • The Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha
  • Torat Chaim Chumash. Mossad HaRav Kook. 1986
  • Urbach, Ephraim E. The Sages: the world and wisdom of the rabbis of the Talmud.
  • Von Rad, Gerhard. Genesis: A commentary. Phila: The Westminster Press, 1972
Preceded by
Book of Genesis Succeeded by
Genesis 1:2