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I've been studying Genesis 1, and a lot comes down to interpreting Genesis 1:1 correctly. I googled this for quite a bit, but I'm not making much progress.

Basically, I've come to the conclusion that the universe is older than the earth, and that the universe has millions of unfallen worlds in it. (I'm a Seventh-day Adventist, sorry 😉)

That changes things a bit for Genesis 1:1.

"In the beginning God created the heaven [?] and the earth." - Genesis 1:1 (KJV)

I think there are two interpretations:

  1. When it says "heaven and earth" (sky + land), it is a reference to Earth
  2. When it says "heaven", it is a reference to the universe

Option 1 - Maybe Genesis 1 only ever talks about our world (and perhaps the solar system). The phrase "In the beginning" would then be something like "6,000 years ago". The phrase "heaven and earth" generally speaking means Earth in the Bible (see verse below).

"For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it." - Exodus 20:11 (KJV)

Option 2 works well too, but then the question is, can "In the beginning" refer to the universe, but not to the Earth (which was created later)?

Any thoughts on the correct interpretation of Genesis 1:1? :)

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I don't know if this will help or confuse you, but here it is.

Gen 1:1 is actually "the heavens and the earth". "Heavens" is plural in the original Hebrew and in almost all translations. (I suspect you're using the original King James version, not the New King James Version.)

2Cor 12:2 explicitly mentions that "… one was caught up to the third heaven" and experienced a vision of God's heaven.

  • The first heaven is the Earth's atmosphere: the air, with clouds, birds, whirlwinds, etc.
  • The second heaven is space, planets, stars, the rest of the universe.
  • The third heaven is God's home, spirit not physical.

And to start you on your next step, note that there is nothing in the Bible that prevents "the beginning" of Genesis 1:1 from being 15 billion years ago, and Genesis 1:2 from being only 6 thousand years ago.

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  • Thanks for sharing. Yeah, the plural thing always confused me, especially because it says in Gen 2:1 (KJV) that the heavens (plural) were finished. So, are you saying that earth was created at the same time as the universe? And was then "filled" in Gen 1:2 in six days? But then earth is more than 6,000 years old right? I'm thinking: 6 days + genealogies = "6,000" years. So, maybe Gen 1:1 is like "In the beginning God created the universe [billions years ago?] and the earth [6,000 years ago]. Is that a valid interpretation? Gen 1:2 describes the initial state of the earth, e.g. a blank canvas?
    – Jarno
    Sep 9 at 5:10
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    The first heaven is the visible (all that is observed from earth). The second heaven is the angelic principalities and authorities (see Job and the sons of God). The third is the heaven of heavens, God's throne and dwelling place. We know that there are seventy generations (Luke) from Christ back to Adam. All other speculation about creation-time is pointless as we are only told what we need to know (to be saved).
    – Nigel J
    Sep 9 at 6:05
  • Thanks Nigel. I think you're right about only being told what we need to know. Maybe Genesis 1 is just that, the creation of earth, then moving on to Adam and Eve and the Fall straight away. I guess I'm just curious. ;)
    – Jarno
    Sep 9 at 8:24
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    @Jarno asks "are you saying that earth was created at the same time as the universe?". Not in its present form. There's no reason the "in the beginning" creation can't be the same as the scientific big bang, with the universe (including Earth) forming over billions of years. Sep 9 at 13:09
  • @Jarno asks "was then "filled" in Gen 1:2 in six days?". That there was a gap of time between 1:1 and 1:2 was considered well before paleontology indicated a need for such a theory. The idea that this time was when the battle between God and Satan devastated the face of the Earth has been around for only a few centuries. Both ideas are referred to as "The Gap Theory", as mentioned in Sherrie's answer. See also The World Before Man Sep 9 at 13:17
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Here is a quote from a fascinating study on genesis one.

"For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." (2 Pet 3:5-7 KJV)<

People assume that the mention of the word "water" in the above passage makes it a reference to Noah's flood and the antediluvian world of man, but it is not. The phrase "willingly ignorant" and common sense should tell you otherwise. After all, anybody even remotely familiar with the Bible knows about Noah's flood. No, the verse is speaking about something else, and the only other place in the Bible where the Earth was covered in waters is Genesis 1:2. The ramifications are obvious: The Bible itself reveals that the "heavens and the earth, which are now" (made during the seven days) was not the first-time creation of all things. The Word of God is telling the observant reader there was a previous world on the face of this old Earth before the present world of man.

It's another view of Genesis and the world that may have existed before the re-creation started in Genesis two.

It makes a lot of sense to a lot of people… I would suggest to thoroughly look at all the Scriptures when studying it out and make up your own mind.

Here is a link to add to your study if so inclined.

https://www.kjvbible.org/gap_theory.html

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  • Thanks for sharing. That's a wonderful verse actually. I had never looked at it like that. :) I think there are 3 things people are willingly ignorant of: creation, flood, and judgment. Thanks for the article. My understanding is that Gen 1:1 is the creation of the earth, and Gen 1:2 is the initial state (blank canvas)? I believe that because the word "And" is used for every verse. A chain of actions?!? I'll re-read the article when I come back later today. Just need to think about it for a bit... ;)
    – Jarno
    Sep 9 at 5:24
  • Jarmo, it's fun to search these things out as they are hidden throughout scriptures like gold hidden in a dark mine. Questions cause us to seek Him and to search the Scriptures. Sometimes things we find don't always go along with things that we have been taught.
    – Sherrie
    Sep 10 at 0:28
  • I agree with that. Thanks for reminding me of it. :) I definitely wasn't looking for this. It just sort of ended up in front of me. :) This forum has really helped me see things clearer, and I'm grateful that God brought it to my attention now. And what have I learned? Well... The universe is big, really, really big, but God really cares for this blue marble (even though it has gone astray quite a bit).
    – Jarno
    Sep 14 at 6:23
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There are a number of viable ways of interpreting the creation account in Genesis. It's kind of like prophecy in reverse. Just like there are a number of end times interpretations, so there are also different interpretations of the creation account.

After the initial creation of the "heavens and earth" though a developmental process possibly lasting billions of years, there was the terraforming of the earth. The creation week described in Genesis could have been done in a rapid manner in a period of 148 hours, in a series of lengthy developmental stages stretching eons of time, or even in one flashing moment in time (e.g. with the appearance of timeless age built into the fabric of reality). St. Augustine writes: "Our seven days resemble the seven days of the Genesis account in being a series, and in having the vicissitudes of morning and evening, but ... they are God-divided days in contradistinction to sun-divided days;..."

One note to keep in mind is that Genesis 1:14-18 could be interpreted as mentioning lights appearing in the sky to mark off days, seasons, etc. That's because the Hebrew verb "wayya" can be translated as "had made." This is possible because the Hebrew language has no special word for the pluperfect tense but uses the perfect tense or the converse imperfect to express the English past or the English pluperfect. See S.R. Driver "A Treatise on the Use of the Tense in Hebrew, (Oxford: 1892), p.86.

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