In some translations, Genesis 1:2 says ..."and the earth was waste and void" . However some translations add a footnote stating "but the earth became waste and void". if the second translation is correct, it means that God first created a a beautiful earth then it *became waste and void *So my question is:

What is the correct translation of this verse from the Hebrew text?

  • I recognize that this question was extensively discussed here:hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/13306/…. But I have a question regarding item # 4 in the best answer.
    – Dr.Apell
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 8:51
  • You appear to understand the word 'became' to refer to a process that is unconnected with the original creation as stated in Gen 1:2 (i.e.the result of a subsequent process). However, when we read in Genesis 2:7 that "...the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being" we have no difficulty understanding that the word 'became' in that verse means simply 'as a result of' what has just been stated (i.e. God's breathing into his nostrils).
    – Richard
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 12:59
  • Ok so based on your logic if you use a translation that the earth became waste and void ... does that mean God created the earth and then it became waste and void? If so does that not contradict Isaiah 45:18 where the Lord says " i did not create the earth waste and void"? My point is that the "became" might imply that God first created a beautiful earth ..then it became waste and void. That is the beautiful was destroyed. Just like God created man, and then man became of was transformed into a living soul after God breathed into his nostrils.
    – Dr.Apell
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 16:52
  • 1
    The reconciliation of this passage with a passage in Isaiah is out of scope (the only reason they would need to be 'reconciled' is theological in nature, and thus does not start from the Genesis text itself within its original context. The second question is really a separate question all by itself, and may be unanswerable from the text itself (purely speculative)
    – Dan
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 22:25
  • 1
    That portion of the question might be better suited on the Christianity.SE if you are really looking for an answer to it. Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 22:58

1 Answer 1


The problem with this interpretation is that it proceeds from a false premise of "Creatio Ex Nilho" (Creation from Nothing) which was a concept that arrived on the scene with Platonic philosophy This is not to say that this philosophy is wrong (matter had to come from somewhere and have a beginning after all,) but simply that it does not apply to this text which was written from a perspective of "Creatio Ex Materia".

This is not to say that this is not, in fact, how God created, just that the text of Genesis was not written from this perspective. Under that assumption, the question becomes, what is creation? The etymological meaning of the verb בָּרָא (bara'), is "to cut out and put into shape,". Therefore, though akwardly worded, the earth could become formless and void ("Creatio Ex Nilho") and then be created ("Creatio Ex Materia"). In this way, it really wouldn't matter or impact the meaning of the text if it says "became" or "was".

  • 1
    You would likely enjoy Tsumura's Creation and Destruction: A Reappraisal of the Chaoskampf Theory in the Old Testament. Tsumura argues that modern readers anachronistically presuppose a materialist ontology whereas the ANE presupposed a functional ontology. He performs a semantic analysis of tōhû and argues for its translation as 'unproductive' rather than 'formless' in light of this insight.
    – Dan
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 22:45
  • 2
    Walton also makes this argument (along with an extended diatribe from an evangelical perspective concerning the creation vs. evolution debate) in a book aimed at lay evangelical readers entitled The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate.
    – Dan
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 22:47
  • 1
    FYI, I edited out the Lucifer question from the original question (for the problems noted in your answer, among others), and so I also removed it from this answer so that they are 'in sync'. This answer would benefit from a citation from a lexicon such as the HALOT, but is otherwise good.
    – Dan
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 22:50

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.