New American Bible (Revised Edition)
Preamble. The Creation of the World
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This section, from the Priestly source, functions as an introduction, as ancient stories of the origin of the world (cosmogonies) often did. It introduces the primordial story (2:4–11:26), the stories of the ancestors (11:27–50:26), and indeed the whole Pentateuch. The chapter highlights the goodness of creation and the divine desire that human beings share in that goodness. God brings an orderly universe out of primordial chaos merely by uttering a word. In the literary structure of six days, the creation events in the first three days are related to those in the second three.
1. light (day)/darkness (night) = 4. sun/moon 2. arrangement of water = 5. fish + birds from waters 3. a) dry land = 6. a) animals b) vegetation b) human beings: male/female
The seventh day, on which God rests, the climax of the account, falls outside the six-day structure.
Until modern times the first line was always translated, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Several comparable ancient cosmogonies, discovered in recent times, have a “when…then” construction, confirming the translation “when…then” here as well. “When” introduces the pre-creation state and “then” introduces the creative act affecting that state. The traditional translation, “In the beginning,” does not reflect the Hebrew syntax of the clause.