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EXPLANATION OF GENESIS 1.1, 2.
The first verse of the Bible runs thus: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." The Hebrew word which we have translated "create" means, especially in conjunction with "b'reschith," "in the beginning," the creatio ex nihilo, creation proper, the bringing forth from nothing, to bring forth something according to its being and substance.
The most common Hebrew word for bringing forth is "asah," which answers to our "make," the Greek iroieiv, the Latin facere. The words "jazar" and "bara" have a more special meaning than "asah." Jazar answers to our "form," Greek -n-Xacraetv, Latin formare or Jingere, and is therefore frequently combined with the so-called accusative of the subject; this is also possible with "asah," because this more general word does not exclude the idea of the special word. In Gen. ii. 7, e.g., it is said: "And the Lord God formed man "—as the context shows, the body of man—"of the dust of the ground" Where we have formed, the Hebrew has jazar, with "dust" in the accusative, the Septuagint hrkaaev, the Vulgate formavit. Unlike asah and jazar, bara never has the subject in the accusative, and it is never used for human productions, but only for divine productions. The fundamental meaning of the word is certainly "to create," and although it may be occasionally found when there is no question of actual creation, it is only employed for divine actions, and for those divine actions which are marvellous, so that they are to a certain degree equal to creation. You will find proofs of this use of the words in every Hebrew dictionary, and in every thorough commentary on this passage. And here the addition "in the beginning" excludes any other idea.
The expression is explained in this way by every exegete who is worthy of the name, although their theological bias may be as different as, among the modern expounders of Genesis, that of Keil and Knobel.1
I need not now enter into the question as to whether God is here intentionally called Elohim and not Jehovah, or whether the name Elohim contains a reference to the Trinity.2 It is sufficient for our object to know that God is described as the creative framer of the world. On the other hand, I cannot overlook the exegetical controversy as to whether the visible material world is here meant by "heaven
1 "How and from what did God create matter? According to the narrator, certainly entirely through His own will, and therefore from nothing."—Knobel, Gen. i. 1. Cf. Tuch, Genesis, 2nd ed. p. 14. I omit the answer contained in the 1st ed. to Bunsen's assertion "that the question of the schoolmen, whether God created the world out of nothing, is left quite unnoticed in Gen. i. 1, and generally in the Bible," in order to leave room for more necessary discussions. For the translation, "In the beginning, when God created the heaven and the earth,—and the earth was without form and void . . . ,—and God created" (Dillmann, Genesis, p. 17, etc.), see Delitzsch, Genesis, p. 75.
2 "We cannot, without destroying the differences between the Old and New Testaments, say that Elohim is pluralis trinitatis; but we may perfectly well say the triniias is the revelation in the New Testament of the pluralitas of Elohim."—Delitzsch, Genesis, 3rd ed. p. 67.
J and earth," or whether heaven means the spiritual immaterial creation, the angel world, and earth the material creation.1
There is no doubt that in the Hebrew Old Testament generally, "heaven and earth" express one idea, and mean the universe, the same which the Greek books of the Old Testament call <5 /eooyto?.2 Look at the passage in the Psalms (cii. 25, 26): "Of old hast Thou laid the foundations of the earth; and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. They (heavens and earth) shall perish, but Thou shalt endure." 3 It is impossible to quote a passage in the Bible in which heaven and earth mean two separate conceptions, the spiritual and material creation: and it is the less allowable to take that as the meaning here, because in the following verses heaven certainly does not mean the spiritual (vers. 9, 10) and earth the material world (vers. 2, 10). If, therefore, the angels are meant to be included in the first verse as the creatures of God, it is only in so far as they belong to the world; but it does not mean that they are specially denoted by the word " heaven."
1 Amongst the modern writers, specially Michelis, Erdwickhmg, etc., p. 7. Kath. Lit. Zeitung, 1859, No. 44. Natur u. Ofenbarung, 1862, 473; 1869, 83. C. M. Mayrhofer, Das dreieine Leben in Gott und jedem GeschSpfe, Regensburg 1851, i. 93. Westermayer, Das alte Test, i. 6. Baltzer, Biblische Schopfungsgesch. p. 184 seq. Cf. Theol. Lit. Blatt. 1867, 236.
3 Wisd. xi. 18: Ij iratroivtxuis oov %t\p xal xTi'axaa. Tcv xarffw i| afioecpov vXri;. 2 Mace. vii. 9: 6 Tos tUvfttu /3*«>ii5f. vii. 13 and xiii. 14: i Tod xooftov xrfoTijf. viii. 18: T£ icewToxpxTopi ivrctftirp tit Z*.op xioftar h ivi rivfiari x»T»/3aXcit. Aug. Qu. in Hept. v. 5 : Asaidue quippe Scriptura his duabus partibns (ccehim et terra) commemoratia oniversum mundum vult intelligi.
8 For other passages, see Reiuke, Die SchSpfung der Welt, Miinster 1859, p. 143.
We find no unanimity among the Fathers with respect to the meaning of this verse. St. Augustine even gives us several different explanations of it at the same time,1 and it is plain that he did not firmly believe that by "heaven" the angels were meant, because he sometimes lays down the certainly erroneous opinion — that the angels are meant by the light which was created on the first day;2 and repeatedly says that we may understand by "heaven and earth " in ver. 1 the matter which God formed in the manner described in the following verses.3
It would be going too far to say4 that all the Fathers believe that the creation of the spirit world is intimated in the first verse, and that they are only uncertain as to the manner in which it is done; but even if we were to admit this, it would evidently not imply that the idea that heaven means the angels is more favoured by ecclesiastical tradition than the other, for the assumption that the creation of the spirit world is referred to in this verse is quite compatible with the other idea. But above all things I must protest against the assertion that the Church
1 Conf. 12, 17 seq.
2 De gen. ad lit. i. 3, 9 seq.
3 Contra adv. legit et proph. i. 10: Sive ergo priiis nomine coeli et terrae . . . materies ipsa informis significata est . . . sive per coelum et terram generaliter prius insinuata sit spiritualis corporalis - que creatura, sive aliquid aliud, quod hie salva fidei regula intelligi potest: Deum tamen . . . fecisse cuncta, qua; cernimus et quse meliora non cernimus . . . dubitare fas non est. Cf. De actti c. Fel. Man. i. 17.
4 Chrysostomus, e.g. (Hom, in Gen. ii. 2: Sermo 1 in Gen. n. 2), and Theodoret expressly say that Moses does not mention the creation of the angels; see also the author of the Qusest. ad Ant. 4 (Migne, 28, 601), wrongly ascribed to Athanasius. Cf. also Ztt. der D. M. G. 1870, 283. Theophilus of Antioch (ad Autol. ii. 13, p. 92 B), Basil (in Hex. horn. 1, n. 8.11), and others think that by heaven the material heaven is meant. has given an interpretation of this passage which is in a manner authoritative, according to which heaven signifies the spiritual, and earth the material creation. No doubt this passage (and others in which the same expression is found) is the authority for the assertion made by the Church in the Apostles' Creed, that God the Father is the Creator of heaven and earth. In the Nicene Creed this appellation is amplified (referring to Col. i. 16): Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. But this in no way involves a declaration on the part of the Church that by heaven we are to understand all invisible, and by earth all visible creatures. It follows only that when the Church makes use of the expression "heaven and earth," she means to allude to all visible and invisible things.1 Nothing in it throws any light on the explanation of the first verse of Genesis, for by adopting a Biblical expression the Church does not mean to declare that when this expression occurs in the Bible it must only be understood in the sense in which she has used it.2 There can only be an authoritative explanation of a passage in the Bible—an explanation which is "as good as authoritative" conveys nothing to my mind—when it is the Church's object to decide on the meaning of such
1 When we find the question asked in Cat. rom. p. 1, c. ii. q. 16, 17: Quid per ccelum et terram hoc loco intelligitur? and Quid peculiariter coeli nomine significatur? hoc loco does not refer to Gen. i. 1, which is not even mentioned, but to the first article of the Creed. Or are we to suppose that " earth" in Gen. i. 1 means only man, because in c. 18 we find: Qu£e creatura terrae vocabulo potissimum hie intelligitur 1
'In all catechisms the fourth [fifth] commandment runs thus, "Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long on the earth," but all Roman Catholic commentators translate Ex. xx. 22, "that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." [This refers to the Vulgate translation, which is adopted in Roman Catholic catechisms, ut sit longajvus super terram.]