The Foundational Verse of the Bible

In this lesson we will demonstrate how the very first verse of the Bible refutes the major philosophies that try to explain man's existence without reference to God.
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So far in our study of Genesis we have reviewed the inspiration of Genesis, that it is from God; the nature of the book, a book of origins; the author, Moses using previously recorded history; the divisions of the book:

  • Chapters 1-11 as history of the world from creation and chapters 12-50 as the history of one nation in that world.
  • 10 generations beginning with Adam and ending with the sons of Jacob recording, preserving and handing down their records which were compiled and edited by Moses under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Now we will pass into the actual text of the book.

Genesis 1:1, Foundational Verse

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
- Genesis 1:1

If Genesis is the foundational book of the Bible, then verse 1 of Genesis is the foundational verse of Genesis. The Bible is the most produced book in history, the most read book in history, therefore verse 1, where most people begin to read even if they do not finish, is the most read verse in the Bible, in history, and in the world.

Henry Morris, in the resource book for this course (The Genesis Record, Baker Books, 2009) says,

...if a person really believes Genesis 1:1, he will not find it difficult to believe anything else recorded in the Bible. (p. 37)

This verse does not try to prove the existence of God, it merely assumes it. Of course, it was written before any disbelief occurred, before any false system of belief to reject God was developed so it does not attempt to prove a self-evident fact.

However, this verse does contain the information necessary to refute all of man's subsequent false ideas about God and the creation. It is as if God knew what man would ultimately think up to deny God and so in the very first verse God preempts any possible false idea about Himself.

Here are seven main philosophies refuted by this verse alone:

  • Atheism says there is no God.
    • Genesis 1:1 says that God created the heavens and the earth.
  • Pantheism says that everything is God. The trees, rivers, stars, etc. Pantheism is a form of thinking where people deify nature or give nature a force of its own.
    • Genesis 1:1 says that God is separate from His creation, He is not part of it. He existed first and then He created the world. He is before and after it.
  • Polytheism teaches a multiplicity of gods. The Greeks, Romans and nearly every ancient people as well as primitive peoples today (Africa, S.A., East) are polytheists.
    • Genesis 1:1 says that only one God created all things.
  • Materialism is the basis for most modern thinking. It says that matter is eternal and that matter is the only thing that exists. Communism was based on materialism with its main idea being how to distribute material wealth equally.
    • Genesis 1:1 says that matter had a beginning. At some point it did not exist and then God brought it into existence.
  • Dualism, an ancient idea developed into different systems by Plato and later Descartes. Basically, it says that there are two powers at work in the universe (good and evil) and the interaction between these two is responsible for all of what we see. (Hinduism also explains the beginning of the world as the interaction of two entities).
    • Genesis 1:1 states that all that we see was created by only one power, God. The Bible accounts for evil but evil is never at the same level as God. There is only one supreme power at work according to Genesis and it was manifested at the very beginning.
  • Humanism teaches that man is the ultimate reality. There is nothing higher or nobler than man. Many good works done to benefit mankind are done by those who hold to this philosophy.
    • Genesis 1:1 refutes this idea because it teaches that God, not man, is the ultimate reality since God was here before man and is the creator of man.
  • Evolution, our most prevalent idea today, says that time and chance working on eternal matter is responsible for the universe.
    • Genesis 1:1 says that in the beginning (specific time), God (not chance) created (not evolved) the heavens and the earth.

These and other theories (naturalism - all is matter, deism - God not involved, agnosticism - we cannot know, monism - genesis without God - all comes from one substance, determinism - fate, pragmatism - what works is what is good, nihilism - might makes right) are all different ways to deny the simple truth of Genesis 1:1 and replace it with a man-made idea.

The words in Genesis 1:1

We will save the phrase "in the beginning" for later when we will discuss the age of the earth.

GOD – Hebrew term "Elohim" which stresses the majesty and omnipotence of God. It is a plural noun (gods) but used in a singular fashion in this verse. This immediately suggests the dynamic nature of God who is at the same time one yet more than one, somehow.

CREATED – refers to the unique work of God, never used in reference to humans. The word means to call into existence from nothing. Man "forms" or "fashions" but only God "creates. The whole system of faith rests here: either random particles which always existed, generated by themselves a more complex, orderly universe and then graduated to intelligent beings capable of applying and developing intelligence (the same matter that made a rock made you); or God created it. This is the choice we have.

HEAVEN – This does not refer to the stars and planets but to the space where these are situated. When we refer to our existence we talk about the "space – mass – time" universe, the basic components of our existence. This "heaven" would refer to the space component since the time component has been introduced (in the beginning) and the mass element is about to follow. No word is used in the Bible to express this idea of space and so the term "heaven" is used, as in the idea of expanse or universe.

EARTH – Again there is no word in the Bible that refers to "matter" so Moses uses the term earth (land) which describes the creation of the next basic component which is matter (not yet shaped or formed but now in existence).

IN THE BEGINNING – I have said that the universe is a combination of the elements of space, matter and time. Science teaches that each of these elements is necessary for the universe to have a meaningful existence:

  • If there is space and time but no matter then the universe is empty, nothing happens.
  • If there is matter (which includes energy) and time but no space, there is no movement, just one big mass. Space is needed.

Time is the third and most important component because it permits perception of the matter and space. Genesis 1:1 says that the element of time was called into existence along with space and matter to comprise the time-space-matter continuum which we call the universe.

Now, Genesis says that this time-space-matter component was not yet formed. The next verses go on to explain how God fashioned the raw materials of creation into the universe that we now see.

Some authors say that verse 1 is the title of Genesis or a summary of events but as we said before, the summary of Genesis 1 is given in 2:4,

...these are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

Also, all the other sections of Genesis have no titles, only these summary statements showing the end of a particular generation.

So, the first act of the first day of creation was the bringing forth the building blocks of the universe, the time-space-matter elements.

If you were translating Genesis 1:1 into modern scientific English, you could say,

The transcendent, omnipotent Godhead called into existence the time-space-matter universe.

Discussion Questions

  1. Explain the concept of a foundation and how Genesis 1:1 fulfills this role.
  2. Review each of the philosophies below and discuss how Genesis 1:1 refutes them.
    • Atheism
    • Pantheism
    • Polytheism
    • Materialism
    • Dualism
    • Humanism
    • Evolution
  3. Break down each word from Genesis 1:1 into its respective meaning and state the importance of the complete sentence.
    • God
    • Created
    • Heaven
    • Earth
    • In the beginning
  4. Explain how Genesis 1:1 describes matter, time, and space components.
  5. What is the relationship between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 2:4?
  6. How can you use this lesson to grow spiritually and help others come into a relationship with Jesus?
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