I was surprised recently when I read Genesis 1 again, and noticed how inactive God is during the creation process. I mean that from a literary standpoint, not a literal one... bear with me. :)

Below is a summary of the creation actions described in Genesis 1:

  • 1:1 -- God created heavens and earth


  • 1:3 -- there was light


  • 1:4 -- God separated light and dark


  • 1:7 -- God made vault
  • 1:9 -- it was so
  • 1:11 -- it was so
  • 1:12 -- the land produced


  • 1:15 -- it was so
  • 1:16 -- God made two great lights
  • 1:17 -- God set them


  • 1:20 -- God created sea creatures, and winged birds
  • 1:22 -- God blessed them


  • 1:24 -- it was so
  • 1:25 -- God made wild animals
  • 1:27 -- God created mankind, he created them, he created them
  • 1:28 -- God blessed them

I find it interesting the verb choice used here. A few observations:

  1. 4 of the 6 creation days use passive voice to describe creation events. The phrase "It was so" occurs 4 times, in addition to the passive phrases "there was light" and "the land produced." (I know that "produced" is not technically a passive verb, but it doesn't show God's active involvement in the process here.)
  2. The verb "create" is used only 5 times--and three of those times are in the same verse, to describe the same action (verse 1:27). The verb "make" is used an additional three times (1:7, 1:16, 1:25)
  3. God blesses sea creatures and birds, and humans, and tells them to be fruitful and multiply. But not land-animals.

My primary question is: What is the significance of the verb "create" during the creation account? It's only used to describe the creation of "the heavens and the earth," "sea creatures and birds," and "humans" (and it's used three times to describe humans). I can see the creation of humans as special and distinct, and therefore worthy of special attention in the form of repeating that God created humans. But what's so special about fish and birds?

And a secondary question is: What's the significance of the use of passive voice in the creation account?

And finally: Am I reading too much into this? :)

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    That's a wonderful observation and a wiser man than I will have to answer in completeness, but you forgot about all the "God said" parts. It's not immediately obvious, but "God said" means God's Word (Jesus) and the Love (Holy Spirit) between God the Father and His Word creates everything together.
    – Peter Turner
    Nov 15, 2011 at 16:04
  • @PeterTurner: I didn't so much forget it, as intentionally survey only the verbs used to describe the creation acts themselves. Although I can see how an argument can be made that the speaking of a command could be considered a creation act--at least if it weren't for the creation acts having also been explained with other verbiage after the command form. That doesn't mean I wouldn't appreciate an answer that took the 'said' verb into account. :)
    – Flimzy
    Nov 15, 2011 at 16:12
  • An almost ancillary observation: the formulation of Christology in the first millennium AD led to the importance of the verb "create" as distinct from the relations "begetting" and "processing" in the Godhead. God creates things that are not inherently God, whereas God begets His Son, Who is therefore also God, and the Holy Spirit processes from God, and therefore is also God. Many, if not most, of the heresies stem from trying to make Christ out to be entirely the creation of God (and therefore not God), or else not really part of the creation at all (and therefore too distanced to save it). Nov 15, 2011 at 16:53
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    I think this would be better at Biblical Hermeneutics. Nov 15, 2011 at 20:23
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    Aside from leaving out all the 'said' as Peter mentioned--they are clearly what are called 'performative utterances' here--I should also say that none of the "passives" you mention are actually passive. The passive of 'the land produced vegetation' would be 'vegetation was produced by the land', and I don't believe you can make a passive of 'there was light' or 'it was so' at all. (Maybe 'passive' isn't the word you mean here? You might want to clarify.)
    – Muke Tever
    Nov 16, 2011 at 13:50

2 Answers 2


What is the significance of the verb "create" during the creation account?

To answer this question I believe we first need to understand why Genesis was written.

The research that many exegestes, such as James K. Hoffmeier's “Some Thoughts on Genesis 1 & 2 and Egyptian Cosmology”, have done conclude that it was written to reject the Egyptian Cosmology (Creation Mythology).

These creation myths are greatly explained in this article: Genesis 1-2 In Light Of Ancient Egyptian Creation Myths by Tony L. Shetter.

Since I don't believe I could explain this any better I'll just quote the summary of the article:

In conclusion, the author/redactor(s) of the Genesis creation accounts share certain concepts of the makeup of the world with other ancient Near Eastern cultures. However, it is especially with Egypt’s worldview that the author/redactor(s) are familiar. Evidence for this lies in the many allusions to Egyptian creation motifs throughout the Genesis creation accounts. But, rather than being a case of direct borrowing, they demythologize the Egyptian concepts and form a polemic against the Egyptian gods. Thus, they elevate Yahweh-Elohim as the one true God, who is transcendent and who is all powerful. He speaks his desire and it comes to pass. He does not require the assistance of other gods to perform the acts of creation. He alone possesses the power and means necessary to effect the creation of the world.


Disclaimer: this is my opinion; I'm not trying to start an argument (or is that implicit in all posts here?)

I wonder if this hints at there being a process at work which is an interplay between God and creation?

I certainly see in the land produced a hint that natural processes were at work, and that God did not instantly "magic" everything into being, but nudged things in the right direction and let them run their (unfallen) natural course.

I don't know for sure, of course; these are hints which not everyone will see, but it's fun to think about it.

I have to add that these thoughts evoke a sense of awe and wonder in me which I find it hard to explain. I find it easier to see how God could have "magiced" a complete creation into being; the thought that there was some kind of process is absolutely beyond my imagination.

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    Welcome to Christianity.SE! Thanks for taking the time to answer. While I don't disagree with your answer/opinion, I would encourage you to read this post about how to support your answers: What makes a good supported answer? We do make a point of answers needing more than just one Christian's opinion. Some things to consider adding to your answer would be which Christian doctrine addresses this issue, where the doctrine comes from in Scripture, and what Christian traditions hold that doctrine.
    – Flimzy
    Nov 24, 2011 at 20:49
  • Thanks, @FLimzy. I'll read the guidelines try to improve my answer.
    – AJ.
    Nov 25, 2011 at 9:57

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