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The Meaning of “Beginning”

Opening page of Genesis in Hebrew, photo credit: Jim Brenneman

Does the fact that in Hebrew the definite article “the” is not present in Genesis One verse one mean that “Beginning” is not absolute?

Does it mean that there could be other beginnings before the beginning described in this verse?Genesis 1:1 Interlinear snippet

If there are multiple beginnings, then only one of them is really “A Beginning” in any meaningful way. And if there are multiple “ends” then none of them is the end, except the last.

Because this is the first verse of the entire Bible, it only makes sense for it to be talking about the “Absolute Beginning.” And the grammatical form used in Genesis 1:1 is the only way to describe “absolute beginning.”

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Absolute Beginning and the Definite Article in Hebrew

In all of the biblical passages which refer to Creation’s absolute beginning we never see a definite article.

“As He began, God created the heavens and the Earth.”

This is the meaning.
Otherwise it would have said, “As He continued, God created. . .”

If it were not “Absolute Beginning” then it would have said, “Once upon a time” But it did not say this. Rather the translations could easily be stated, “Upon commencing,” “Upon Initiating,” or “In ‘HEAD’ point.”

If this were not an account of the absolute beginning, then the word Beginning would not have been used.

Beginning

The word beginning (Reshiyth – H7225), which occurs 51 times in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, never has the article. This is because it always has the meaning of

onset” – “Initial” – “First” – “Point A” – “Commencement” – “foremost” – “Firstly” – “From the Outset” – “Primary” – “Headmost” –

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An Absolute Beginning

In particular four clear passages parallel our usage in Genesis 1:1 are found in Jeremiah in reference to the beginning of the reign of several kings. Each case does not mean one of many beginnings but the absolute beginning of their reign (Jer. 26:1; 27:1; 28:1; 49:35).

If the word ever means “one of many beginnings” then it loses any sense of beginning at all. It is an oxymoron to speak of multiple beginnings. It makes no more sense than a pair of three, or one hand clapping, or a square circle.

This word for beginning occurs 51 times. If you would like to get a feel for its usage here are a few samples:

Gen. 10:10; 49:3; Ex. 23:19; 34:36; Num. 24:20; Deut. 11:12; Job 40:19; 42:12; Psa. 111:10; Prov. 1:7; 4:7; 8:22; 17:14; Eccl. 7:8; Isa. 46:10

Which of these would make any sense if it were translated as “one of many beginnings” or “A beginning” ?

None.

Beginnings and Endings must be complete to have meaning

Similarly, there cannot be multiple “Omegas” or Ends. Can you imagine this: Jesus is one of many beginnings, and one of many endings? “End of All things is at hand” cannot mean “one of many ends of all things is at hand” or the sense of “end” becomes nonsense.

Returning to Genesis One, verse one – that this was the beginning is confirmed in the explanation of John who says that outside of this beginning there was not one thing that was made, ever. All things were made through/by Him; and without Him/ apart from Him was not a single thing made that has ever been made.

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By saying that all things were made by Him from this “beginning” it confirms that this beginning is not “one of many beginnings” but every single thing’s only beginning (Rev. 4:11). The word beginning is used because the only meaning of this word is “Point ‘A’ [Alpha]” – onset, absolute beginning – not continuation or “once upon a time.”

Paul also explains it thus:

For in/by Him were ALL things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; ALL things have been created through Him, and for Him; and He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. Colossians 1:16-17

It means from the First. If it were “A” first then it is not a first at all, but only one among many exceptional events.

Genesis One goes on to explain that this “Beginning” was the first by describing the activities that had just transpired in v. 1-5 as “Day One.” “Day One” cannot have a sense of “A Day One” without losing any sense.

  • Beginning
  • First
  • Head
  • Onset
  • Supreme
  • Best
  • Initial
  • Onset
  • Start
  • Topmost

All of these are absolute and definite by virtue of their very meaning.

What does “All” Mean?

Genesis goes on to explain that the events described in these beginning six days were an account of the Creation of all things in heaven (with all their host) and earth (including the seas). This precludes anything cyclic or a mere continuation or repetition of many previous beginnings. In the Christian worldview there has to be an actual first.

And so [by this six-day activity] the Heaven [of God] and the earth [of Man] were finished/completed, and all the host of them. And then on the seventh day God finished/completed His work which He had fully made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had ever made. And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it; because that in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. – Genesis 2:1-3

If “beginning” only means “one of many beginnings,” then “All” here must mean “an all” or “one of many alls.” Which reduces the meaning once again to shear nonsense.

For “all” here to mean “an all” it does not mean “all” at all.

“All” always means “the all” or “the complete sum total of all things” in a given category.

Because this is the account of the origin and creation of all things then it must be the Absolute Beginning.

In the beginning God created the Heaven and the earth. Genesis 1:1

  • If the Beginning in Genesis 1:1 is not The Beginning of All Things that Have a Beginning, and
  • If there are other beginnings before this beginning,
  • Then beginning does not really mean beginning does it?

Jim Brenneman

Written by Jim Brenneman

Jim Brenneman is a long-time biblical creationist – searching the Scriptures for the legitimate simple sense of the inspired accounts of the origins of all things. He travels the world to introduce Christians and their leaders to all areas of the Bible, from Hebrew to the science demonstrating God's accurate account of earth's past.

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