In the beginning, God.  The first words of the Old Testament leave no room for misunderstanding.  Before the details of the rest of the story are conveyed, the author wants to make sure the reader grasps a fundamental doctrine: in the beginning, God.  In the beginning, there was nothing other than God, and from the beginning, there was nothing that did not come from God.

God created everything we know and see out of nothing.  Usually, when someone tries to imagine “nothing,” they fall short.  Normally, that person is imagining space or a dark expanse, but even that is something.  That something fails to be nothing.  Aristotle stated, “Nothing is what rocks dream about.”  It’s impossible for our finite minds to even comprehend the concept of nothing, but that is exactly out of what God created.  He created the world ex nihilio (“out of nothing”).

He didn’t need any outside advice or help.  He wasn’t scrounging around for building supplies.  All he used to create everything we experience today was words uttered from his lips.

“In the beginning, God.”  With these first words, the author of the Book of Genesis opens the Old Testament canon of Scripture with what appears at first glance to be an unfortunate case of improper grammar.  The literal reading: “In the beginning, Gods created.”  Apparently, plural Gods singularly created.  With the Hebrew language, verbs express elements more blatantly than what is typically found in the English language.  A Hebrew verb will express person (the difference between “I,” “you,” or “he/she/it”), number (singular or plural), gender (masculine, feminine, or common), and other elements contained in its presentation.

The author uses the word Elohim to describe this God of Creation.  The problem?  El is the word for “God,” Elohim is the word for “gods.”  Don’t misunderstand the author’s intention.  He is not a polytheist.  He doesn’t believe in many gods.  He clearly shows in his spelling of the verb “created” that a single entity is doing the action.  The author is not confused.  He is attempting to communicate something about the protagonist of the Old Testament.

God is so big that the singular tense cannot contain him.  He is not just god, he is God.  He is majestic.  He is holy.  He is mighty.  He is one, yet in his singularity, he is so big that he bursts out of the simple casing.  I am one.  You are one.  Elohim is one and then some.  The opening words of the Old Testament desire to set the stage properly: this God is unlike anything you or I have ever encountered before.

Travis Agnew is a Christian, husband, father, pastor, author, blogger, and religion instructor.