NKJV Study Bible on Genesis 1:1–2

I’m reviewing the NKJV Study Bible right now, and here it is on Genesis 1:1–2:

1:1 ….Even though the word for God is plural, the verb for created is singular. It means “to fashion anew.” This oft-used word in the Bible always has God as its subject. Here, it means that God renewed what was in a chaotic state. God changed chaos into cosmos, disorder into order, emptiness into fulness….

1:2 The two words without form . . . void express one concept—chaos. The earth had been reduced to this state (Jer. 4:23); it was not the way God had first created it (Is. 45:18). Darkness is a potent biblical symbol of evil and wrong…. The deep is a term for the secret places of the waters (see also 7:11); this term sounds enough like the name of the Babylonian goddess Tiamat to remind the ancient reader of the Babylonian story of creation to which this story stands in dramatic contrast. All these images together portray chaos, disaster, and devastation. From this portrait of utter ruin, God brought an orderly creation.

There are numerous problems with this small section.

  1. Does ברא (bara) mean “to fashion anew,” as in taking something existing and turning it into something else? It’s true that God used existing material to create man, but that simply isn’t the way Gen. 1:1 describes the creation of the heaven and earth. That creation starts with nothing.
  2. The only reason the NKJVSB would want to posit that God “renewed what was in a chaotic state” or that “the earth had been reduced to this state” (emphasis mine) in 1:1 is that it wants to leave the door open for evolution.
  3. The proof texts cited, Jer 4:23 and Isa 45:18, do not support what they are enlisted to prove.
    • Jer 4:23 is a fulsome description of God’s coming judgment on Judah: He goes so far as to threaten that their land will be made “without form and void.” This allusive language is not making any statement about what those words mean in Gen 1:2.
    • Isa 45:18 merely says that God did not create this world to be a chaos but to be habitable for humans. It doesn’t deny that at one early stage in the six-day process of creation the world was in fact without form and void.
  4. There is no good reason exegetically to find “disaster” and “devastation” on the first day of creation. Those words imply some previously existing good which had been destroyed. It’s as if the writer of these notes had a misprinted NKJV which switched verses 1 and 2: “The earth was without form and void, so God created the heavens and the earth.”
  5. God may very well have brought order out of disorder (but a disorder He created on the first day solely to be brought into order), but “darkness” need not be a symbol for evil in God’s creation before the Fall. Darkness best refers in context to the absence of light before God let it be. “Utter ruin” is not present in Genesis 1:1–2. The NKJV Study Bible notes go against what the NKJV text says.

Genesis 1 is an insurmountable obstacle for accommodation with the world right now. You can’t hold together inerrancy, a straightforward hermeneutic, biological macro-evolution, and personal integrity.

I am not a creationist because I have a bigger bucket of evidence than the evolutionist has. I’m a creationist because I have on-faith presuppositions taken from Scripture which determine my interpretation of the data—all data. Each evolutionist also has presuppositions taken on faith, but most appear blinded to this truth by the modernism which still rules their field. (Stanley Fish has to come from outside the sciences to make this point.)

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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