A KINDLY GENT GENTLY PUSHED ME on the very first sentence in my paraphrase of the Casual English Bible.
I released a “welcome to the Casual English Bible” video last week, which he saw. Then he went to Genesis 1:1.
Here’s how the revered King James Version puts it:
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”
The problem with that is the word “beginning.” Scholars ask, “The beginning of what?”
Here’s how the Casual English Bible has it at the moment, in a beta edition I will be revising and correcting.
Life began when God created1 the universe—everything on earth and in the sky.” [Footnote to “created” says: Some Hebrew language experts say it should read “started to create,” which suggests a process, with the process taking a week or perhaps an eon of weeks.]
Here’s the conversation we’ve had in the comments section of the YouTube video.
This is unfortunate. Starting with the very first verse, it is inaccurate and says something the Biblical text does not say. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” is VERY different from saying this versions “Life began when God created the universe.” Terrible, just terrible. How can it help people understand the Bible when it is not accurately saying what the Bible says?
They both express the two most important words: God created.
I appreciate that, but I’m concerned about your adding the words “life began” into Gen. 1:1. I believe that to be way out of line from the original text. Please reconsider your paraphrase in this instance.
I’ll take a look at that. Thanks.
I think you make a valid point. On the one hand, if life in the universe has a starting point, it seems reasonable to presume it all begins with God’s first act of creation. But it’s presumptuous. And opens the door to arguments about the definition of life. One tough question is about what “in the beginning” refers to. In the beginning of what? Some say it means “first,” as in the first thing God did in this creation process. A bit like “Once upon a time,” which I won’t use because of it’s connotation with fairy tales. Here are 2 replacement options I’m considering: 1. The story of life begins here, when God created the skies and the earth. or 2. First, God created the skies and the earth. As you might expect, I’m leaning toward the first option. It takes a position about what “in the beginning” means. And I can expand on it with a counterpoint in a footnote. But I like the simplicity of option 2 as well. Care to weigh in?
Actually, Stephen, we know that God’s first act of creation did not include life. Life was created on Days 4, 5, and 6. I have prayed much about weighing in on making suggestions, but I realize that I am not an ancient Hebrew or Greek scholar. I know I am not qualified to work on a translation or even a paraphrase (which I believe to even be more difficult). I, like you, am a Bible teacher, and I am most comfortable staying in that arena I can see how this exercise may have helped you personally, but I encourage you, my brother in Christ, to keep it as a personal project. There are many impressionable young sheep who could misunderstand your well intentioned but perhaps not always precise paraphrase. I make these comments in sincere Christian love. God bless you.
That sounds like a gentle rebuke meaning, “You probably shouldn’t make this paraphrase available to the public.” I’m not a Hebrew or Greek scholar, but I’m a seminary grad who has been researching and writing books about the Bible and translating scholars into casual English for more than 40 years. Tyndale House Publishing started with a grandpa paraphrasing the Living Bible for his grandkids. Not that I plan on starting a publishing company or even publishing the Casual English Bible in a print edition. I’m enjoying what I’m doing and I’m sharing it with impressionable young sheep, hoping to get them to start reading the Bible and getting acquainted with the Shepherd. As for when life began, we don’t know. The Creation story isn’t science. And the events may not have happened in the order told. Kinda hard to grow plants on Day Three without the sun on Day Four. We disagree on most key points here, I think. But we disagree agreeably. I appreciate that. Peace to you.
Other than suggesting I take the Casual English Bible offline, any suggestions about what to do with the first sentence in the Bible?
Here’s the literal take, using a Hebrew-English interlinear.
- ’êṯ—could mean: time, it came to pass, times/seasons, proper time…
- haš·šā·ma·yim—sky, heavens, of the air…
- wə·’êṯ—and, with, for…
- hā·’ā·reṣ—and the earth, on the earth, land, of the land…
I’ve been following the samples of your new version of the Bible and, in general, I liked its freshness. On the translation of Genesis 1:1, I believe that it will a presumptuous mistake to add the idea that the texts refers to the beginning of life. It obviously goes beyond the original. I prefer option 2: “First, God created the skies and the earth.” It seems that this first text of the Scriptures is a title for what follows. In modern terms, it refers to the beginning of the universe. If this premise is accepted, life existed before the material universe was created: The Triune God, angels, inhabitants of other locations in the universe…
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks. I’m still thinking. Your thoughts are helpful.
Hi Stephen. I’m afraid I have to agree with Kindly Gent on this. Also see option 2 as a more accurate translation. Actually I see Young’s Literal Translation, although technically not a paraphrase, as best describing Gen. 1:1, “In the beginning of God’s preparing the heavens and the earth (for life)”. The word “preparing” is what does it for me. I wouldn’t know how to paraphrase that so it would be any better.
Stephen M. Miller
Wonder where “preparing” came from. I don’t see it in the Hebrew. Maybe it’s one of the many meanings related to one of those terms. I haven’t come across it yet.
Hello Mr. Miller, (or however you prefer to be addressed.)
it looks like you have learned that you are too old, too young, too uneducated, unqualified, and unauthorized (or is it uninspired?) to be writing your own version of the Bible. You are going to get something wrong, and it’s even worse if you alter any teaching of the KJV.
When I was KJO, I started translating the KJ to modern English. In the process, I learned that many of the KJO members are actually worshiping the KJ text more that God. Further research revealed that many of their arguments about verses leaving out words were bogus.
My translation wasn’t structured like yours. I only translated passages of text I was studying at the time.
But, during the process, I came across the text in Matthew 16 where Jesus tells the disciples to beware of the leaven of the Sadducees and Pharisees. The simple answer is that God was talking about their hypocrisy. But, He kept it on my shoulders for two weeks until I could understand how He meant it for me.
What God showed me is that the Bible was written for common man to be able to read it, and understand God’s message to us.
The Sadducees had watered down the text so badly that they did not believe in miracles or the resurrection and they cuddled up to the powers that be at the time. Why would I need that warning?
The Pharisees were polar opposites from the Sadducees. They dug into the text and parsed it so carefully as to create many new doctrines God never intended on. The example I am always reminded of is where the Bible says not to take a kid from feeding and then cook it in the milk it was drinking. The tradition that follows today is that followers won’t even keep milk and meat in the same refrigerator or have it at the same meal.
God’s message to me was that the KJV is a good translation, but I shouldn’t be focused on sticking to it. At the same time, I shouldn’t water down what the Bible says, either. While I started translating the KJV, but after this lesson from God, I converted over to translating or paraphrasing (probably more accurate) the original texts.
While you are focused on writing a paraphrase people will want to read, I went from wanting a publication to a personal project where I was translating text in my studies and my notes were added to my study Bible.
This leads me to your question, “the beginning of what.”
Here’s what I conclude and my reasoning behind it..
“the beginning” in Genesis 1:1 refers to the period starting with the creation of the heavens and earth and light on day one, through six literal days of creation, the creation and fall of man, the promise of a savior, and their expulsion from the garden.
My reasoning process using my lesson about the leaven:
In Genesis 1:1, the word “beginning” precedes the creation of heavens and earth. The word is not used again before the flood. The bible refers to “the beginning” when in six days God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them. Additionally, there are many references to Adam, Eve, Marriage and Sin pointing to “the beginning.”
It rules out the Gap Theory. The Gap Theory is a product of Pharisees with PhD’s. They have examined each individual jot and tittle looking for a way to parse Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Then they take a verse referencing a prophesy of Jerusalem and say it points to the gap between verses 1 and 2.
It also rules out evolutionism. Sadducees with PhD’s pull a verse concerning God’s patience with man and make it claim the 6 days were thousands of years over which evolution occurred.
The Bible is simple and made to be used and understood by common man, but it is also very deep. Christian Apologists with PhD’s study the depths of the scriptures and original languages to defend against the attacks of the Sadducees and Pharisees.
In a more humble note, I offer these points to consider when you work on your paraphrase/translation.
1. Do it all as you would do it for God Himself. (I know I’m preaching to the choir.)
2. Rev 22:18,19 Don’t add to, or take from, the words in the scriptures. Use your notes for that.
3. Remember as you write, to communicate God’s truths to the common man.
4. Give God the Glory.
5. Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
I see you wrote the commentary on Daniel for New American Commentary. I read your comments on Chapter 10. You have a great mix of simple, easy to understand commentary, and some very technical, down to the meaning of the original text.
I don’t think Kindly Gent understands your qualifications to be a translator. I have my own translations and notes, but mostly for my own use. I know I’m not qualified as a translator.