Good stuff. I have contemplated this for a while myself. Since I started in the OT area of studies I was always fascinated with Gen 1, especially after I read Enuma Elish and the Baal Epic (among others). Hmm… void. Well, the Hebrew concept here in Gen 1 is unlike anything the other ancient near easterners could dream up. They always said the universe was created from a defeated monster, but ancient Israel comes and “bamm!” you got something quite extra-ordinary.
I won’t get into the revelation aspect because that would border on imposing our concepts to their time.
The reason I asked this question is because there is no answer. OT scholars have tried forever to discuss this and can’t. It’s hidden to deep in ancient Israel’s understanding of creation. Even Jewish tradition is unsure and so they’ve developed their Rabbinic thoughts, which, as is fundamental to Rabbic thought, means that every Rabbi is right and every Rabbi is wrong.
Theologically it baffles us to find that something else existed (if “exist” can even be attributed to the void, but the fact that we can talk about it means it is “something”) with God BEFORE the universe.
[quote:26notgkt]he Douay-Rheims renders the verse:
In the beginning God created heaven, and earth. And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God moved over the waters. Genesis 1:1-2[/quote:26notgkt]
This is good but still the JPS is more understandable. (v.2) “Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.” The only difference is “empty” and “unformed”. Unformed gives a much better description in the English language than empty. Therefore:
[quote:26notgkt]Void simply refers to the earth being empty, without feature. I would imagine it looked like a big ball of very wet mist. Half the mist was then separated into the heavens and the other half condensed into the oceans. But who knows?[/quote:26notgkt]
It can’t be “empty”. Unformed is closer, but still, we can’t fathom it. In fact the Hebrew translation is nearly untranslatable and that’s the problem (not to mention that nobody is alive that speaks Biblical Hebrew). “tohu vabohu” is “nothingness and void”.
Can nothingness and void be comprehended? Nope. We know what was, but not what “what” is. No ball of mist (hence nothingness). It’s “void”, no pun intended, of any European mythological concepts or any other for that matter.
Ok, now how is it possible then for God to move over what appears to be matter (the deep)? We took care of the void stuff of earth but now we find God hovering over water. Is this all just anthropomorphism or can theological truth be literally extracted from all of this? Does it matter to you that this creation account (and others, I won’t go there) is depicted in a language foreign to you (Hebrew, and the ancient near eastern concepts)?