IN THE BEGINNING GOD CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH
This is how the Bible starts. The term “in the beginning” (b’ereshith) has a subtle mystery associated with it. The
beginning of what? Here are a few possibilities. The Beginning of God. This appeals to a pantheistic
understanding of God, but appears to be Biblically unsound. The God of the Bible is a Creator God, and
world is His creation.
The Beginning of the Heavens and Earth. This holds more promise, especially if one assumes that Genesis
1:1 is describing creation ex nihilo (out of nothing) as opposed to giving structure to a formless dark universe.
Still, it seems a bit redundant. “In the beginning of the heavens and the earth, God created the heavens and
The Beginning of Space-Time. In this era of Modern Physics, the interaction between space and time
provides fuel for another viewpoint. God exists, and creates space-time. At one end of space-time is “THE
BEGINNING.” The other end of space time is “ETERNITY.” Before (if that is a correct term) the
beginning there was God and whatever was with God, but space-time, the universe we call our home, did not
exist. In the fullness of time, space-time will end and we will have eternity, with whatever characteristics it will
have. This seems plausible.
The Beginning of the Story. Before Genesis 1:1, the story, or grand narrative, that is related in the Bible, has
not started. The story starts with the creation of earth, with the associated heavens, and ends with the new
heavens and earth– and eternity. Eternity, then, would not be the cessation of time, but the end of the Great
I am not sure we always have to choose one interpretation. I certainly believe looking at the Bible as a story holds merit. A story is:
“an account of characters and events in a plot moving
over time and space through conflict toward resolution.”
The Bible obviously has characters and events, which takes place over time and space. It moves through conflict to
resolution. To me, the bigger question is whether there is a plot.
A plot to me suggests a couple of things. First, it suggests intentionality. A recording of stuff happening does not make a plot. A plot, for fiction, involves crafting of events in a coherent fashion so that the early events link, and mean something, within the timeline of the story. In non-fiction, history, events are chosen and displayed in (again) a coherent fashion to give the events meaning within a timeline.
Because the Bible has God, working within history, as the main character, the protagonist, the story of the Bible has
aspects of both fiction and non-fiction. The story of the Bible is non-fiction in that it claims, on the whole, to describe what happened, is happening, and will happen. The story of the Bible is like fiction because God is more than a character in the Bible, and more even than a historiographer, but the author of history. Thus, the story is more than simply the collecting of events, but the crafting/creating of events for the plot.
The dual qualities of fiction and non-fiction are difficult for some. Some focus on the human element of the story where
God becomes more of a character and less of the author. On the other hand, some focus on God as sovereign author to the extent that people become nothing more than characters in a play— props–, plot devices. It seems to me that the Bible works in “creative tension” between God as author and God as character.
Second, a plot suggests connectedness. On first reading, the Bible does not appear to be connected. It was written by different people over a long period of time utilizing different genres, in different languages, and set in different cultures.
Does the Bible have a sustained plot with intentionality, giving meaning to events, and connectedness giving causation of events? I believe so. The plot elements seem clear enough. The most basic flow of a story involves;
The Bible as a story can be seen as
Harmony between God, Man, and Creation
Restoration of Harmony
The basic flow of the plot can be argued about to some extent depending on the perspective of the reader. Even the antagonist can be argued about. Many point to Satan as the antagonist. However, most of the Bible seems focus on us as humans as our own worst enemy. Satan provides little more than guiding element in the chaos of rebellion.
However, the resolution event is more clear. It is the death and resurrection of Jesus. This event provides the clarity to the thread of God’s work in history. The divinity and humanity that is described as existing in Jesus brings the threads together. God is both author and main character of the story. Yet it is our story as well. We are characters in the story. We are also partly antogonist and protagonist. The divine and human are inseparably intertwined.
This book is a look at stories, not a look, primarily, at the Bible. But I believe it helps to start from the grand story and then work to the little stories within the grand story.
<From my Book, “Theo-Storying: Reflections on God, Narrative, and Culture.” If you are interested in it, you can go to my AMAZON PAGE.>
- The Great Storyteller (drewdowns.net)