In a previous article, we saw that God’s “Word” (logos; λόγος) appeared to Israelites like Samuel long before the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). Yet, the Gospel of John also states that the Word existed all the way back at creation: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (1:1). John’s use of the phrase “in the beginning” (en arche; ἐν ἀρχῇ) echoes the Greek translation of Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning (en arche; ἐν ἀρχῇ) God created the heavens and the earth.” Yet John goes on to say that “all things were made” through this Word (1:3), a notion that does not appear in Genesis 1. So where does the Gospel find support for the Word’s role in creation?  

The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible corroborates John’s assertion that “all things were made” through the divine Word (1:3), but in order to find biblical support, we must go beyond Genesis to the Greek version of the Psalms. According to Psalm 32:6 LXX [33:6 in Hebrew and English Bibles], “By the word (logos; λόγος) of the Lord the heavens were established, and all the host of them by his breath.”

Moreover, according to the Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Bible, called the Targums, God created light through the Word. According to the original text of Genesis 1:3, “The Lord said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light,” but according to the Targum, “The Word (memra; ממרא) of the Lord said, ‘Let there be light” and there was light according to the decree of his Word (כגזירת ממריה; kigzerat memreh)” (Tg. Neof. Gen 1:3). To the extent that John’s understanding of the creative Word parallels the Jewish translational traditions that we also find in the earlier Septuagint and later Targum, John had strong support for the idea that God created the world through the Word.

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21 COMMENTS

    • Thanks, Gene. Actually it’s not a mistake; Ps 32:6 is the correct reference. In the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible), the Psalms are organized slightly differently, so that usually the Septuagint ends up being a psalm “behind” the Masoretic text, as it were.

  1. To say that God says it “through” or “by” his word does not make it any different then simply saying God said it… God says it, &… it simply is… “let there be light” & there was… So for someone to use an imagination to think that it is anything other then simply what it states then it is “their” interpretation… (Hear o’ Israel, the LORD our God is ONE LORD! Isaiah 28:13 KJV “But THE WORD of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line;…”

  2. I would contend that John needed no corroboration beyond being divinely inspired. Of course it should surprise no one that God saw to it that he was consistent with other scripture.

  3. There seems to be some confusion about the use of metaphors in allegories. Literalism is not intended- the logical chasm is too great- by the raconteur even though one’s imagination is free to roam but keep in mind it remains speculative.

  4. Thank you for the discussion on “The Word.” I like to look at each day of creation in Genesis in the way the wording says, “And God said, ‘Let there be…'” All things were SPOKEN into existence! And Jesus is the WORD! How wonderful!

  5. And people believe in a trinity by claiming the “Word” in the beginning means another person in the Godhead, When its simply God speaking.

  6. I believe yeshua is In the first verse in genesis. He is the aleph tav is He not. Bereshit bara elohim et ha shamayim ‘ve et ha eretz that is the conclusion I came to years ago. Blessings

  7. Good article. I have a question. If the sun was created on day four, what was the light created on day one? Thank you.

    • Thanks for your question, Anne. Since God names the light “day” and the darkness “night,” we know that the text is expressing God’s appointing of a *period* of light (i.e., day) and a *period* of darkness (i.e., night). The focus of day one is not “sunlight” (which comes from the sun on day four), but rather the appointing of *time.* In other words, the ancient Hebrew writers use the terms “light” and “darkness” to describe God establishing time on the first day.

  8. Looking at the question above on light and dark. Isn’t a type of darkness mentioned in scripture a physical darkness, so people can’t see even their hand in front of their face? My idea is that darkness is not just a shadow formed because of a blockage of light, but that light exists even though there wasn’t a star formed we call the sun? The city of God at the end is a place which has no need of sun or moon because the Lord is with His people and He is the physical light.

    • I think your interpretive instincts are good here, Alexandra. The text isn’t discussing a physical light in Genesis 1:3 as much as it is discussing “time.” More, as you note, there is often reference to metaphorical darkness in Scripture. That may be what’s going on here in Genesis to some degree. “Light” and “darkness” are certainly being used as “placeholders” for the description of “time,” so in that sense they are at least “approximations,” if not quite “metaphors.” Thanks for your helpful contribution to the discussion.

  9. Thanks for both articles Dr. Nicholas, the one about the Word and Samuel and also this one. Great insights!

  10. I have heard that the word “brasheet” is in the wrong form to mean “In the beginning”. Some Rabbi’s say it means that “by his main agent” God created. The word “racheet” is used elsewhere to refer to Torah. So you could say, “By Torah, God created…”. John 1:3, right?

    • Thanks for your question, Allan. You’re right that the first word in the Bible (bereshit) likely does not mean “in *the* beginning,” since, according to the Masoretic text, there is no “the.” What’s likely happening is that the ב (B) at the start of the word is what we call a “temporal bet,” so that the word should be translated something like, “When began” — with the entire opening phrase reading, “When God began to create….” Despite later rabbinic midrash that has God creating at the beginning “with Torah,” there is no support in the original biblical Hebrew for such a reading. What the later rabbis do is conflate Genesis 1:1 with the statement in Proverbs 8:22-23 that “Wisdom” was with God “at the beginning” of creation. The rabbis then equate Wisdom with the Torah, and there you have it: Torah in the beginning! But, again, the actual language of Genesis does not support this understanding.

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