For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water (KJV)

Most versions of this verse translate the verse as reading "consisted out of water" or "formed" or "sustained"

I would like to know the reason why the "consisted" version of the passage is favored.

  • It's possible that some archaic meaning of "stand" is close to "consist". I don't have a subscription to the complete OED online, so I'm not able to check.
    – user33515
    Jul 26 '17 at 23:03
  • Vulgate: "For this they are wilfully ignorant of, that the heavens were before, and the earth out of water, and through water, consisting by the word of God." Interesting, in light of Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3; John 1:1,3; Psalm 33:6 etc. Jul 27 '17 at 0:05


This is the rendering favored by BDAG, which is a major reference source for many modern translations.


BDAG, which is one of the most well known and respected Greek lexicons in the NT studies arena, gives both of these options (consisted, formed) as correct meanings for this reference. (Pg. 791 of the 1979 edition).

The Greek word in question is συνίστημι, which has a wide range of possible meanings, including (BDAG, 791):

  • To bring together
  • Present, introduce, or recommend
  • Put together, constitute
  • Stand with, by
  • Be composed or compounded, consist
  • Continue, endure, exist, hold together

The immediate context includes the following themes:

  • The beginning of creation (v. 4)
  • Death of the world's inhabitants by water (v. 6)
  • Divine judgment (v. 7)


I think that the translation is affected by what the translator believes the immediate context is discussing: i.e. The Creation Act or the Deluge. I would venture to guess that most translators who felt the context is the Creation Act also translated the term as "consisted" or "formed," as such a translation would be consistent with their understanding of the context. On the other hand, if the translator felt that the context was the Deluge, they would be unlikely to consider terms that reflected make up or formation.

Given the popularity of various Creation-Judgment-Re-Creation theories, I would not be surprised if the Creation Act is typically the favored contextual interpretation.

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