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…