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Isaiah 65:17

"See I am creating new heavens and a new earth; The former things shall not be remembered nor come to mind". New American Bible. My emphasis.

The following translations also have "I am creating": Amplified Bible; Legacy Standard B; Aramaic B in PL; Contemporary English Version; Literal Standard; Young's Literal and more.

2 Peter 3:13

"But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwell". ESV.

If God is creating [I am creating] in Isaiah 65:17 why is the writer of 2 Peter still waiting for them?

Genesis 2:3

"So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation".

In Gen 2:3 God rested from creating, did He then go back to creating later on?

Does "I am creating" convey the Hebrew? Why; why not?

Vines Expository Dictionary says: "The technical meaning of 'bara' [to create out of nothing] may not hold in these passages-". To which I add, "may not" reflects a level of uncertainty, so where does that leave Isaiah 65:17?

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    Even in colloquial English, "I am doing something" may mean "I am going to do it". That could be why Peter waits for the promise made in Isaiah. Jan 25, 2023 at 17:12

2 Answers 2

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Background

The verb "bara'" in Is 65:17 is in qal stem participle form [1]. Quoting from an article precisely on qal participles [2]:

"Verbal Usage

A participle can also function as a verb in a clause. [...] Present active participles express a "continuous" aspect regarding the action of the verb (but the tense or sense of time of the action is determined solely by context)."

That the "I am creating" translation is more literally accurate than the "I create" one is confirmed by its being the one chosen by the two most literal Bible translations: the Literal Standard Version and the Young's Literal Translation [3].

Possible solutions to the apparent problem

1. Colloquialism

As already suggested in a comment, it may be that "I am creating" is a colloquialism for "I am going to create", just as people do in many languages (of which I can personally attest English and Spanish). Of course, this solution needs to be validated by an expert in biblical Hebrew.

2. Precise definition of what we are waiting for in 2 Peter 3:13.

2 Peter 3:13 can be interpred in the sense that we are not waiting for the new heavens and earth to be created but to be made available to us: they were indeed created when God spoke the words of Isaiah 65:17, but since that time they are being kept "in storage", hidden from us, until they are revealed and made available to us at the end of times.

3. Eternity of God according to classical theism (my favorite solution)

God is eternal, and in his eternity - which is one moment of infinite fullness, not an infinite succession of moments - He creates a universe which evolves in time, but God Himself is not in time. Time is an internal dimension of the universe, just like the 3 spatial dimensions. Thus, whereas God's viewpoint is in eternity, man's viewpoint is within time.

Appealing to an anthropomorphism, God, in the one infinite moment in which He lives, is holding in his hands the whole film of the universe from the Big Bang to the end of times, sustaining each frame in existence and having all the frames simultaneously before his eyes. In his eternity, God is creating the universe, is creating each human soul at the time of the respective conception, and is creating the new heavens and new earth, even if, from our viewpoint, they will come into existence only at the end of times.

References

[1] https://biblehub.com/text/isaiah/65-17.htm

[2] https://www.hebrew4christians.com/Grammar/Unit_Nine/Qal_Participles/qal_participles.html

[3] https://biblehub.com/isaiah/65-17.htm

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  • Personally I cannot see any connection between the "Big Bang" you refer to and the Bible. But ignoring that, for me your answer makes sense to my question so +1 and chosen answer.
    – C. Stroud
    Jan 27, 2023 at 12:10
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When reading any Hebrew prophecy, we must recall that Hebrew does not have a future tense and thus uses one of the other tenses, usually the present tense (Hebrew does not even strictly have tenses in the Latin, English and Greek sense either).

Nevertheless, the answer to the OP's question is cleared up by the NT text in Rev 21:1, 2 which directly alludes to Isa 65:17 and Isa 66:22 -

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Thus, when translating Hebrew into English, the translator must assign a verb tense in English. In Isa 65:17, many translators take this as a prophecy that is answered by Rev 21 (quoted above) of a future action by using an English future tense:

  • NIV: See, I will create new heavens and a new earth.
  • BSB: For behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.
  • CSB: For I will create new heavens and a new earth
  • HCSB: For I will create a new heaven and a new earth;

Even the LXX translation gives the future tense as Breton's translation:

  • For there shall be a new heaven and a new earth

The Hebrew "verb" here is בָּרָא (bara), the same as in Gen 1:1 in a slightly different form:

  • In Gen 1:1, בָּרָא (bara) is Qal-perfect
  • In Isa 65:17, בָּרָא (bara) is Qal-participle

Almost all Bible (Hebrew) prophecy about the future is written in a way that makes God's actions appear already accomplished to emphasize its certainty. Here are some further examples:

  • Gen 3:15 - "I will put enmity ..." (Qal-imperfect)
  • Gen 49:10 - "The scepter will not depart ..." (Qal-imperfect)
  • Num 24:17 - "... A star shall come out of Jacob and a sceper shall rise out of Israel ..." (Qal perfect and Qal conjunctive perfect)
  • Deut 18:15 - "A prophet ... will arise ..." (Hifel-imperfect)
  • 2 Sam 7:12 - "When your days are fulfilled, ... I will set up ..." (Hifel-Conjunctive-Perfect)
  • Ps 2:7 - "I will declare ... " (Piel-Imperfect)
  • Ps 16:10 - "For you will not leave my soul in Sheol ... " (Qal-Imperfect)

In each of these cases, the verb could have been translated (grammatically) as either a present tense of perfect/past tense, but the translators recognized a prophecy about the future and correctly translated with an English future tense. Much of the material in Isaiah and Jeremiah about the future destruction and restoration if Israel is written in this style.

For further information see John 14:1-3.

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