"Psalm 23," John August Swanson. Used by permission from the artist.
Image © by John August Swanson. Artwork held in the Luther Seminary Fine Arts Collection, St. Paul, Minn.
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Genesis 1:1--2:4a Commentary
by Karla Suomala
Translation renders the opening verses of Genesis 1 deceptively clear and straightforward.
This passage, however, contains a number of words and phrases that are used rarely, if at all, in other parts of the Hebrew Bible, making them more difficult to define with the kind of precision that we might like. Translations smooth out the rough edges of this ancient text, implying a level of understanding that we can’t quite claim.
Genesis 1:2, for example, says that “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” Both “formless void” (tohu va-bohu) and “swept” (merahefet) have posed difficulties for translators. The word merahefet appears only three times in the Hebrew Bible and might just as easily be translated as hover, flutter, or move.
Even more problematic are the two words that make up the phrase tohu va-bohu (“formless void”),which appear together as unit in only this verse and in Jeremiah 4:23 that also describes creation. ...
| Bible Text
2019-20 Worship resources
The narrative lectionary is a four-year cycle of readings. Read more.
Narrative Lectionary 090: Creation
September 08, 2013
Join Profs. Rolf Jacobson, Craig Koester, and Kathryn Schifferdecker for "I Love to Tell the Story," a conversation on Year 4 of the narrative lectionary. This podcast covers texts for Sept. 8, 2013: Genesis 1:1-2:4a
(corresponding Gospel: John 1:1-5).