The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Scholar claims God created us, but not the earth

earth_1489714c.jpgAnd now, a little head-scratcher for a Monday morning. 

A leading scholar claims that a botched translation has been misleading us for thousands of years:

Professor Ellen van Wolde, a respected Old Testament scholar and author, claims the first sentence of Genesis “in the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth” is not a true translation of the Hebrew.


She claims she has carried out fresh textual analysis that suggests the writers of the great book never intended to suggest that God created the world — and in fact the Earth was already there when he created humans and animals.

Prof Van Wolde, 54, who will present a thesis on the subject at Radboud University in The Netherlands where she studies, said she had re-analysed the original Hebrew text and placed it in the context of the Bible as a whole, and in the context of other creation stories from ancient Mesopotamia.

She said she eventually concluded the Hebrew verb “bara”, which is used in the first sentence of the book of Genesis, does not mean “to create” but to “spatially separate”.

The first sentence should now read “in the beginning God separated the Heaven and the Earth.”


According to Judeo-Christian tradition, God created the Earth out of nothing.

Prof Van Wolde, who once worked with the Italian academic and novelist Umberto Eco, said her new analysis showed that the beginning of the Bible was not the beginning of time, but the beginning of a narration.

She said: “It meant to say that God did create humans and animals, but not the Earth itself.”

She writes in her thesis that the new translation fits in with ancient texts.

Continue at the link for more.

Comments read comments(6)
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Mike L

posted October 12, 2009 at 10:14 am

So much for literal translations of scripture.

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Thomas Scott

posted October 12, 2009 at 10:29 am

ummm, right. What about all the other references to creation on the world?

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Michelle G.

posted October 12, 2009 at 10:50 am

Just Thank God. I love you All.

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posted October 12, 2009 at 10:59 am

Wonder of this “Old Testament Scholar” ever read Isaiah:
“This is what the Lord says—
the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker:
Concerning things to come,
do you question me about my children,
or give me orders about the work of my hands?
It is I who made the earth
and created mankind upon it.
My own hands stretched out the heavens;
I marshaled their starry hosts.” (Isaiah 45:11-12)

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posted October 12, 2009 at 12:08 pm

This really isn’t new, scholarship on the relationship between the two creation stories in Genesis and other Near Eastern religions has existed for a long time. The Babylonian account of creation, the Enuma Elis, refers to the same ‘separation’, by Marduk. It is informative also, that the first account of creation in Genesis comes from the Priestly Source (P), who composed this account after the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem.
Interestingly, P still refers to God’s name in plural, Elohim which could be thought of as “the powerful ones”. Both accounts did not come out of a vacuum, the story is a product of religious syncretism.
Some other points, Isaiah is written by another set of authors, although the later half of this book was probably composed around the same time P redacted the Torah. Also, no scholar would use the term, “Old Testament”, Hebrew Bible is more appropriate.

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posted October 12, 2009 at 2:00 pm

This is hardly original, as Mormonism’s revered prophet Joseph Smith said as much in his King Follett Discourse:
You ask the learned doctors why they say the world was made out of nothing; and they will answer, “Doesn’t the Bible say He created the world?”  And they infer, from the word create, that it must have been made out of nothing.  Now, the word create came from the word baurau, which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship.  Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos — chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory.  Element had an existence from the time he had.  The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed.  They had no beginning, and can have no end.
I have another subject to dwell upon, which is calculated to exalt man; but it is impossible for me to say much on this subject.  I shall therefore just touch upon it, for time will not permit me to say all.  It is associated with the subject of the resurrection of the dead — namely, the soul — the mind of man — the immortal spirit.  Where did it come from?  All learned men and doctors of divinity say that God created it in the beginning; but it is not so; the very idea lessens man in my estimation.  I do not believe the doctrine; I know better.  Hear it, all ye ends of the world; for God has told me so; and if you don’t believe me, it will not make the truth without effect.  I will make a man appear a fool before I get through if he does not believe it.  I am going to tell of things more noble.
We say that God himself is a self-existent being.  Who told you so?  It is correct enough; but how did it get into your heads?  Who told you that man did not exist in like manner upon the same principles?  Man does exist upon the same principles.  God made a tabernacle and put a spirit into it, and it became a living soul.  (Refers to the old Bible.)  How does it read in the Hebrew?  It does not say in the Hebrew that God created the spirit of man.  It says “God made man out of the earth and put into him Adam’s spirit, and so became a living body.”
The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is co-equal with God himself.  I know that my testimony is true; hence, when I talk to these mourners, what have they lost?  Their relatives and friends are only separated from their bodies for a short season: their spirits which existed with God have left the tabernacle of clay only for a little moment, as it were; and they now exist in a place where they converse together the same as we do on earth.
A rather interesting document, although I don’t agree with the doctrine, and so I’m a colossal fool in the eyes of the prophet (and no doubt many others 😉

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