Day 1: Genesis 1:1-16:16 || Read the CEB online.
From the opening sentence, you’ll notice that the Common English Bible translates some phrases in a significantly different manner from what you’re accustomed. That’s because many English translations take their cues from the King James (or Authorized) Version when it’s possible to have different ways of translating the Hebrew or Greek texts. So what we know as “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” could also mean “When God began to create the heavens and the earth.” Clearly, the CEB translators chose to approach the Biblical text without referring to previous translations to help make those choices. This helps open up our imagination and understanding so that we can hear a story as familiar as the creation with fresh ears.
And we do hear some familiar stories on our first day: it covers a lot of territory! The opening chapter says God created all, and named it not just good but “supremely good.” God gives humanity vocation (partner with God in tending the creation & join God in creating by having children); permission (enjoyment of God’s gracious gifts of land and food & a truly free will); & a prohibition (not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good & evil). Sadly, the humans listen to the voice of the serpent rather than the voice of the God who walks with them in the garden, and so the prohibition is violated, the permission is perverted, and the vocation is neglected. That community with God, one another, and creation is shattered becomes abundantly clear over the next few chapters — Cain and Abel, Lamech, the wickedness that pervaded humanity before the flood, and even afterwards, in Babel — all speak to our self-absorption, lust for power, and preference for speaking about God rather than to God.
But in chapter 12, things begin to change. Like a movie camera that starts with image of Earth in space before it zooms down to a single person, the focus shifts from broad strokes about humanity’s condition to focus on Abram and Sarai. Their answer to God’s call — “Go!” — renews God’s mission of recreation: “all the families of earth will be blessed because of you.” On this journey, there will continue to be opposition and strife and mistakes, yet even out of the mistakes, God’s purpose is at work, as in the story of Hagar and Ishmael. And yet Abram & Sarai will find unexpected allies and nourishment on the journey, too: Melchizedek, “My king of righteousness,” brings bread and wine and blessing to their table…
How do you hear new things in this familiar story?
Who do you feel a connection to most strongly?
If you’d like to answer, leave a comment below!
I’m thankful to Sean Gladding for sharing about “vocation, permission, and prohibition” in The Story of God, the Story of Us (IVP, 2010).