I have studied scripture for most of my life. When I was young because I HAD to and as I got older because I WANTED to. But there was always something about the beginning in the book of Beginnings (Genesis) that has bothered me and I have looked at and explored many possible options that people have put forward.
Just look at the first two verses of the Torah’s Bereshit or the Bible’s Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
So familiar yet so mysterious. Now I don’t want to get into an argument about how old the earth is based on this passage or whether God created in 7 literal days or over a billion years; that is an argument saved for another time. What I want to know is what happened between the first and the second verse. What happened between God’s creation and the “NOW” where the earth was formless and empty with darkness and chaos? Here are the explanations that I have heard (even used a time or two): 1] Verse one is a “summary” or “explanatory” verse of what begins in verse two. 2] There was a “pre-earth age” where Satan fell from heaven to earth and messed things up so bad they were now formless and empty and God had to create AGAIN. 3] Its just poetry where it isn’t meant to literally be what REALLY happened, it is a myth to teach us about salvation from our worst fear: Chaos!
In my current studies on Judaism I have come in contact with a 12th century Jewish philosopher/theologian who has come up with the best explanation I have heard yet. Moses Maimonides, in his book “A Guide for the Perplexed” (what a great title, right?) wrote that in order for there to be something NOT GOD, because God was and is everything in pre-creation eternity, God had to WITHDRAW to make room for NOT GOD. Or the God of LIGHT had to pull back a part of His infinite light and what was left was darkness and chaos. Or the God of Fullness and Form retracted himself and left a space of formlessness and emptiness. Into that void came what was NOT GOD: darkness, evil, disobedience, and chaos until God interacted with it to give it structure and fill it with all kinds of creatures. An interesting and compelling argument, yes?
Moses continues to write that it is OUR job, or God uses US to bring order, form, light, and NON-chaos into the framework of the world he created. In this chaotic world, I can’t think of a better thing for Jews and Christians to do together.