Tuesday, April 15, 2008

In Beginning...

Once Ethan and I went to a God class at the synagogue. I wasn't raised Jewish, in fact I was raised Christian/Mormon, but I've always been curious about Judaism, and I've always been attracted to Jewish culture, not the least of this curiosity includes falling in love with a certain tall, dark Jewish man named Ethan Isaiah. So we went to this class, which had an interesting premise: attempting to infer some of the traits of God through his actions in the Bible. It began with Genesis 1:1, which is most often translated as "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." It was claimed in the class that the more appropriate translation of this verse would actually be "In beginning, God created the heavens and the earth...". This minor difference of losing the definite article has interesting semantic ramifications.

"In the beginning..." suggests a void before, a definite starting point to which one could point and define a start. It could suggest even a beginning to the universe or God himself, placing a limit on what we normally conceive of as infinite. Sans 'the', the verse suggests a more fluid start, less defined and less exclusive. Perhaps God existed but was static, and then at some point began to create; among the first of his creations was the heavens and the earth.

Why am I writing this out? Well, I'm starting this blog today, which definitely didn't exist yesterday, but represents merely making more concrete (typed words) my abstract thoughts and feelings, which predate the existence of the blog itself. In beginning, I'd like to say I've already begun.


Ethan said...

Could “In the beginning…” still imply only the beginning of say the earth, or God? As in “In the beginning, we were still just getting to know each other.” This could be a statement describing a relationship. Obviously both people were around prior to the relationship, but the relationship itself had a beginning amidst a longer, an perhaps infinite, timeline of the individuals involved and of all existence.

So, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and Earth...” Time and an existence we are not aware of, was already around/existing. But the beginning of what we know (are aware of – so far) began at this time.

And although one is aware of life prior to the relationship, we are currently unable to process existence prior to creation/big bang etc, but that doesn’t mean time and something didn’t already exist.

I realize that this probably does not make sense, but my point is, regardless of translation issues, one could argue that “the verse suggests a more fluid start, less defined and less exclusive” or that “in the beginning” is only definite about our awareness and not existence.

That said, thanks for giving me something fun to think about. I look forward to seeing the thoughts that make it into existence on the blog.


Anonymous said...


I am so excited we are talking philosophically! I love your ideas, and they are fun alternate possibilities with the language. That's why philosophy is fun! You're fun. You're best.

All of this would be clearer if there had just been a prepositional phrase following the "In the beginning", namely "of _______". Of God's relationship with humans, of everything, of time, of all that exists...

But then it wouldn't be cause for a discussion so much, huh? Thanks for commenting and beginning the discussion. I don't know how philosophical this blog will end up (probably not very) but it will be a fun place to exchange ideas.

Thanks and love ya,

Peggy said...

I believe God to be infinite,but the earth to be finite. God says he is the alpha and the omega. I agree with Ethan's premise that time and an existance that we are not aware of, was already around. In the beginning or In beginning is of no significance to me, because I believe either way would still refer to the creation of our earth, and does not limit God, nor does could it define God's beginning since he declares that he is the beginning (I am the Alpha and the Omega)

Anonymous said...

Hey, Mom!

Thanks for leaving a comment! I appreciate your ideas. The original post wasn't really an assertion of any argument, more of a connection I was making between starting this blog and the prior attention to the language of Genesis 1:1. I wasn't trying to persuade anyone; I was just connecting the "In Beginning..." with the beginning of this blog. Both God (and I) existed before our creations... that's the gist of it.

I hope you become a regular commentator!
Love ya,

Danielle said...

Hi family,

Reading this conversation reminded me of something I was reading this morning as I ate my organic cereal and organic strawberries and soymilk (actually, I started to eat this and then I realized something was weird with the new soymilk I bought - too thick - yuck! - so I very uncharacteristically dumped it but saved the strawberries and washed them off and instead had some organic plain yogurt, organic strawberries, and low-fat granola). Here is it (from a transcript of a panel conversation [on the subject of myth and literature] between several writers:

David Grossman:
"We cannot decode a myth. We do not know how it acts upon us. Bruno Schulz, the Jewish-Polish writer, who was murdered during the Shoah in Drohobycz, created a private mythology of his family. He believed that the words we use are only fragments of the primal language, which he compares to a mythological snake cut into thousands of pieces - the words that we are using now. These words are looking for each other in darkness. Our words today, he complains, congeal - they do not have the vitality of the primal language.

. . .

Today, in literature, we document the alienation between different parts of the body that we used to be. That's why most modern stories can be analyzed and consumed. You understand what the writer wanted. You can analyze it psychologically, sociologically, historically, and you get to the bottom of it. While there are certain stories - myths, but also some stories by modern writers - that, the more you read the,, the more mysterious they become.

I am a secular person, but I read in a Jewish institute, called the hevruta. Hevruta means two or three people reading the Bible with magnifying glasses, arguing about every verse, and finding a whole world in between the lines. We can study one verse of the Bible for a half a year, and we do not consume it. It's an ocean."