New Medium Blog Post: Created God the Heaven(s) and the Earth

I finished my translation of Genesis 1:1. Follow the link to see.

Created God the Heaven(s) and the Earth.

Or here is the conclusion.

Now for the moment of truth. How would I translate this verse if I were on some committee of translators? Here it is.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Incidentally, this is the same as the English Standard Version (ESV). You might be thinking, “Well, that was much ado about nothing.”

I know it might look that way. I ended up translating it almost the same as the King James, which has been around for over 400 years. The only change I made was to make heaven plural. Maybe you think Bible translation is like making sausage. Don’t show me the process. Just give me the end result. The thing is, we still need some people who know how to make sausage.

At an early age, I learned that there are some things in our English Bibles that were lost in translation, and I wanted to investigate them. In just this one verse, I found some things that could not be translated into English or even the ancient Septuagint.

  1. Created comes before God to show something God did for us before revealing God’s name.
  2. An untranslated word et reinforces important ideas: that the heavens and the earth are not deities but created by God, and that God created not only the heavens and the earth but everything in between and everything that exists in them.
  3. The heavens is preferable to heaven or the heaven, because it includes every possible meaning of the Hebrew word ha-shamayim.

And even though I ultimately did not agree with the Masoretic Text (Hebrew) which said, “When God began to create heaven and earth,” that reading needed to be considered, and the reasons for changing it needed to be compelling. When the scribes and Rabbis who copied, preserved, and taught these scriptures in their original language for thousands of years tell you what they think it means, you need to at least listen, even if you disagree.

Also, the idea behind that reading is that creation did not happen all at once. It was a process of bringing order to chaos. That idea is important not only for the Bible but for life. God ordered everything about this world—light, darkness, water, land, sky, plants, and animals—just by commanding their patterns of organization, and I can’t even bring order to my office. But if God is so good at ordering chaos, maybe somehow God can impart just a little of that to me.

In the end, though, I think what is most important about this verse is it declares boldly that God not only created the heavens and the earth, but everything in between and everything that exists in them. The entire universe and all that is in it. That is why—with all due respect to Rashi and the Masoretes—I have to part ways with them here. But they took me on a fascinating journey, and I hope to have many more opportunities to explore with them on this wild, wild world of Hebrew scriptures.

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