“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”—Genesis 1:1, New World Translation.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”—Genesis 1:1, King James Version.
Meaning of Genesis 1:1
This opening passage of the Bible states two important truths. First, the “heavens and the earth,” or the material universe, had a beginning. Second, they were created by God.—Revelation 4:11.
The Bible does not reveal how long ago God created the universe, nor does it explain how he created it. But it does explain that he created the universe by means of his “vast dynamic energy and his awe-inspiring power.”—Isaiah 40:26.
The word “created” is translated from a Hebrew verb that is used exclusively to describe an activity God performs. * In the Bible, only Jehovah * God is referred to as the Creator.—Isaiah 42:5; 45:18.
Context of Genesis 1:1
This first verse of the book of Genesis introduces the creation account found in Genesis chapters 1 and 2. From Genesis 1:1 to 2:4, the Bible briefly relates the steps that God took in creating the earth and all living things on it, including the first man and woman. After this general outline, the Bible gives a more detailed account of the creation of man and woman.—Genesis 2:7-25.
Genesis describes God’s creative work as progressing over a period of six “days.” These were not literal days of 24 hours, but time periods of unspecified length. Indeed, the word “day” can apply to time periods other than 24 hours. This is shown at Genesis 2:4, which uses “day” synonymously with “time” and sums up all of God’s creative activity over the previous six days as occurring on one “day.”
Misconceptions About Genesis 1:1
Misconception: Genesis 1:1 indicates that God is a Trinity because the Hebrew word for “God” used in this verse is plural.
Fact: The title “God” translates the Hebrew word ’Elo·himʹ, which is plural, to denote majesty or excellence, not a number of people. The New Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges that the plural ’Elo·himʹ as used at Genesis 1:1 “always takes a singular verb, indicating that, like the royal we, the plural of excellence, not number, is meant.”—Second Edition, Volume 6, page 272.
Read Genesis chapter 1 along with the explanatory footnotes and cross-references.
^ par. 5 Regarding this word, the HCSB Study Bible states: “In its active form the Hebrew verb bara’, meaning ‘to create,’ never has a human subject. Thus bara’ signifies a work that is uniquely God’s.”— Page 7.
^ par. 9 Referring to the period marked by the Hebrew term translated “in the beginning,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary states: “The length or duration of the period is not specified by the term.”—Revised Edition, Volume I, page 51.