Understanding the Two Creation Narratives in Genesis:
Just How Many Beginnings Were There?

Daniel M. Berry

Cheriton School of Computer Science
University of Waterloo
Waterloo, ON, Canada


The first word in the Hebrew Genesis 1:1, as traditionally vocalized and pronounced, means literally ``In a beginning''. Regardless, tradition apparently has it meaning and translated as ``In the beginning''. The literal meaning is considered as contradicting what was believed to be reality, one creation from nothing, i.e., ex nihilo, by God. Consequently, Rashi, the noted medieval commentator, suggested a syntactic solution, based on mimicking the sentence structure of the second creation narrative in the second part of Genesis 2:4, which appears to imply one beginning, the beginning. This syntactic solution, however, requires a change from the traditional vocalization and pronunciation of the second word of Genesis. Upon close examination, the second creation narrative and Rashi's syntactic solution are shown to imply multiple creations as does the literal first creation narrative. This talk argues that we should accept the traditional, Masoretic vocalizations along with their literal meanings. It then explores some Biblical consequences of those literal meanings. The talk concludes with explorations of the relation of the literal meanings and modern cosmological science and of the implications of this relation on Judaism.