King James Version
1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
English Standard Version
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
American Standard Version
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 And the earth was waste and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.
Let's start by looking at the differences here (aside from the "heaven," "heavens" issue which I already covered in the previous article, Genesis 1:1).
The first difference you will find between many translations, including the NIV and others, is the word "waste" in place of the word "formless." As always, to get a real sense of what the wording means, lets take a look at the Hebrew and Greek:
Hebrew: Strong's #H8414
tohuw (to'-hoo): from an unused root meaning to lie waste; a desolation (of surface), i.e. desert; figuratively, a worthless thing; adverbially, in vain:--confusion, empty place, without form, nothing, (thing of) nought, vain, vanity, waste, wilderness.
Greek: Strong's #G517
aoratos (ah-or'-at-os): from 1 (as a negative particle) and 3707; invisible:--invisible (thing).
So, my feeling here is that the proper translation would be more along the lines of "formless" with an element of the nature that it was "unseen," in a state of "un-readiness", or "unfinished". To say "waste and void" seems to me a doubling up of the original meaning, that is to say that it was shapeless and empty rather than barren and empty.
The next difference you will find is in respect to where the darkness was; was it "upon" the face of the deep or "over" the face of the deep? Quite frankly, I don't see a big difference here in terms of how it plays out in the interpretation, as "the deep" is truly and literally "the abyss," whereas today we would think of "the deep" as the depth of the ocean. This is quite open to interpretation whether or not He is speaking of the same abyss which is referenced in Revelation. However, the following "faces of the waters" which is spoken of separately, quite possibly qualifies the abyss itself, as part of the waters.
The final difference is the way that the creation day ends; one says "the first day" and the others (including some literal translations) read "one day." There is nothing significantly different in the meaning, but this is where you may be tempted to side on one fence or the other, namely the age of the earth.
Young Earth (believing the world is 6,000 to 20,000 years old) believers take the word "day" to mean one 24 hour period, while Old Earth believers (believing the earth to be billions of years - scientifically stated to be roughly 4.55 billion years) take the word "day" to be "God's day" or a "long but finite period of time". The Earth's rotation is actually slowing down by approximately 1.5 seconds each century, making the day slightly longer than it used to be, so saying a day is equal to what we see now, is not entirely accurate, from either view.
As far as I am concerned, the age of the earth doesn't concern me as much as the agenda which is behind the age of the earth, namely naturalistic explanations for the creation (or more fittingly non-creation) of the universe, and the misinformation campaigns (intentional or not) coming from both sides of the isle, regarding earth and all life on the "blue dot." All too often the age of the Earth and the universe itself becomes a point of contention not only between unbelievers and believers, but between Christian brothers and sisters. The age of the universe should was never of prime importance, there was never a doctrine that required that the period called a "day" in English, be 24 hours.
The Hebrew word for "day" is yom and can have four literally meanings: the day light hours (sun up to sun down), a portion of the daylight hours (where a portion is considers as a full day), what we see today as the full 24 hour period, or a long but finite period of time. Its Greek counterpart hemera follows this same pattern and the meaning is really determined by the context in which it was used. The qualifier reads, "there was evening and there was morning" which itself is ambiguous as the words can also literally mean "night" and "day" (respectively) which is what God called them. It simply seems to imply that evening and morning are only used to indicate a completeness TO the period, not a measurement OF the period. And again, for my money, I really don't see how it matters one way or another - whether the world is 6,000 years old or 4.55 billion, the result is still the same and the questions about "how did we get here" have not changed.
But, for those who didn't notice, we don't have a sun written into the text yet, so what this "evening and morning" is, really should be thought about in a wider way (i.e. not our way). I will explain more fully in Day 4, but be careful not to get so lost in the details that you forget the initial question we should be trying to answer.
One last point here; notice what "Day 1" or "the first day" actually does; it points out the fact that before this "day" there were no other "days". From verse one, time began, hence it introduces a temporal procession. What is so remarkable about this is that the first chapter of Genesis not only tells us of the creation of physical things and living things, but it introduces us to the notion that all matter, energy, space and even time itself came into being during a single event. It wasn't even until 1912 that science started finding evidence that this was indeed true and now we commonly refer to it as the Big Bang. But, notice that the Bible predicted this nearly 3,500 years ago when Moses began to pen the scriptures. Remarkable isn't it?
I am only going to touch on the topic of light here - as silly as that sounds - because I would like to come back to it when we speak about Day 4. But, I would like to say that the Hebrew and Greek text are both very clear on this point, "Let there be light" in Hebrew is iei aur and in Greek ginomai phos both mean literally to "manifest through light" or "become light".... I think I will leave this topic there for now
If you would like to comment on this topic, please do so in the Day 4 discussion (when we reach it).
Some questions for you to think about:
What is happening with the abyss (the deep) and what is the Spirit of God doing moving over the water?
How does your view of science effect your interpretation of the formless and 'voidness' of earth? And on that coin, how does it effect your view of the word "day" in the creation events?
Does naming the light "day" and the darkness "night" have any significance?
Thank you again for taking the time to join me in studying God's word and I pray that he guide us all in our walk with him.