“In the Beginning” A Self-Paced Tour of Scripture In Two Parts By Barbara L. Klika, MSW, Personal Life Coach Under shepherd Set Apart Ministries, Inc. February 2010
Preparation & Study • In the first portion of this presentation, you will find some groundwork for the study of the phrase “in the beginning.”There will be some links you may choose to follow for further support if you like. You may also just go through both parts and return later for more information. • The second part will walk through the findings with your participation. Should you decide to use the links, you will be able to get familiar with them for your own research at another time.
Preparation • The best preparation for any study of the Word is to invite our God to be present with us so may we begin with a prayer? Father, our Abba, we want to know You better. We want to understand what You have provided for us through the Written and the Living Word. We want to understand what You have placed there for us, not what man may “read into” the text. Please let Your Spirit be active within us as we begin this exploration of your plans“in the beginning.”We ask for Your eyes to see and ears to hear, in the Name of our Messiah, Yeshua; Jesus of Nazareth. May it be so.
Part OneMany ways to Study Scripture • Often our first exposure to Scripture came in the form of children’s stories which were simplified accounts of the people of the Book. • The stories usually highlighted the people’s relationship to our Creator God through their lives. • At some point, we began to understand that these people and their stories were connected to one another.
As our understanding progressed, we saw that God has had a plan and has been bringing it about through His people over all time. • We saw that it involved Jesus Our Messiah, whose Hebrew Name is Yeshua, and His work on our behalf at His first coming and in His long anticipated return.
Unfortunately, all too many people stop right about there, and decide that they only need to know His story/History as told in what’s called the “New Testament” losing the opportunity to find the wonderful Truths that have been a part of the Biblical record… FROM THE BEGINNING!
When we prayerfully delve deeper beyond the people, places, and events, we find some amazing truths and we begin to see the “markers” of similar phrases and concepts that fill the Scriptural landscape… …the poetry of Scripture. • This is especially true as we correlate between the Old and New Testaments and see our need for all Scripture from the beginning of our Bible.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.(2 Timothy 3:16-17 KJV) • The Scripture referred to here by Paul is from the beginning: the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings. This is what existed when he wrote his letter to Timothy!
Torah, Prophets and Writings? • In Hebraic understanding “Torah” has several different levels of meaning. • In our western or Greek way of thinking, there is often just one way to understand a concept-- “either this or that.” • In Hebrew it is more common to find a “both/and” approach, or multiple levels of meaning.
In its most narrow definition, Torah refers to the first five books of the Bible, those written by Moses, Genesis through Deuteronomy. • A second level of the use of “Torah” is in reference to what we have called the “Old Testament.”
It is made up of three parts in Hebraic thought; The Torah, The Prophets and the Writings. • The Hebrew words for these three parts are Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim. • These three are often summarized in one word, TaNaKh, like the English concept of an acronym.
And the most broad definition of “Torah”… • Though it has been translated as “Law,” through the use of the Greek word for law, “nomos” a more literal definition is “God’s Teachings on Righteousness.” • Hebrew is a very action or function oriented language so there is a good picture of this meaning in the word itself.
Torah Translation • Literally, the word “Torah” is from the root word “yara” which means “to hit the mark.” • The word for sin, “hata” means “to miss the mark.”
Context will show you what level of Torah is indicated. • Any reference to righteousness or God’s teachings is often “summarized” by calling it Torah. • These are 3 basic levels of interpretation of the term “Torah” though there is so much more! • The foundation for all sound Scripture study is familiarity with the account given there.
Once we know the basic facts, people, places, events… • …we complete the first level of study which can be called the literal or historical level. • It involves the simple, straightforward meaning of the text which is so important to grasp.
These basic facts give us a foundation so we can move on to further exploration such as is presented here. • We can show ourselves approved as students of the Word; good Bereans!(Acts 17: 10-12)
I’m confused! • Most Believers know that the whole Bible is inspired by our God but in actual practice, the New Testament is often promoted as all that is needed. • Why do we need to go back to the beginning? • How do we know that the Old Testament is important for us to know our Messiah? Is He even mentioned in it? We know because He, Himself, told the disciples how important it is!
Did you ever notice what Messiah said on the road to Emmaus? And beginningat Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.…And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. (Luke 24: 27, 44 KJV) You could say this was a walking tour of the Scriptures about Himself!
Another Way to Study Scripture • Some people focus on the Bible as literature, and believe you can gain from its beauty, whether or not you are a believer. I tend to be wary of this approach; are you? • While there isvalue, it is not the same thing as seeing the beauty of the Scripture through the eyes of faith! But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. 2:14 KJV)
But if Scripture IS Literature… • Wouldn’t there be things we could learn from the various aspects such as style, structure, theme and poetry? • Is it possible to consider these aspects without losing our eyes of faith? • Not only is it possible, but many treasures are found in this type of study that we would not see any other way!
How do we know that Scripture is considered “literature?” Let’s stop here… Take a moment to find an online Bible such as www.biblegateway.com or www.blueletterbible.org You can also obtain an excellent Bible study tool free of charge at www.esword.com You can choose one or more translations to search. I usually start with KJV, NKJV, NASB and NIV. Go to the keyword search function, all words, and enter “literature.”
If your search is like mine, you will find “literature” used only twice. It is found in Daniel 1; in connection with the four young boys brought into the King’s court and only in 3 newer translations—NKJV, NASB and ESV. • “Literature” is listed as Strong’s #5612; the Hebrew word sepher—a writing, a letter, a document, a bill, a register, a book, a scroll.
Now let’s check the dictionary for its current meaning in English, especially since only the newer translations chose “literature” for sepher. • “Writings in prose or verse; especially: writings having excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest” (First Entry--Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary; February 2, 2010)
What about a Bible Dictionary? • “Literature” as found in these three translations is not found in Vine’s Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testaments. • The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament has a lengthy entry for sepher. To summarize: writing, book, scribal art and legal document. There is also note of training in literary forms for the scribes who recorded the important events of the kingdoms of the ages.
The Bible as Literature • The Scriptures certainly are a historical account and they do have elements of legal documents– covenants – as well as prophetic visions and majestic poetry. • Clearly, we would also understand them to have universal importance and excellence of expression as well! • Most importantly, we know that they were inspired by our God!
Should we be surprised that He filled it with buried treasures? • We know that He is the Living Word and the written Word as well, unchanging and inseparable. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.(John 1: 1-2 NKJV) For if you believed Moses you would believe me, for he wrote about me.(John 5:46 NKJV) How do we find these treasures?
Thematic Analysis • One of the in-depth ways to study literature, and Scripture, is to examine the structure and style of the writing. This includes many aspects; among them, evaluation of the themes and the language used, sometimes called either parallelisms or chiastic study. • Hebrew poetry involves repeating concepts and images rather than the rhyming words or rhythm English speakers are accustomed to reading. • It is important to consider translation issues because it is often difficult to completely or accurately convey concepts in the second language.
Translation vs. Transliteration • Some concepts were just transliterated and not translated, i.e., Amen and Halleluyah are transliterations (sounds represented in known alphabet), not translations (defined meaning.) Amen means “ may it be so” and Halleluyah means “Praise to Yah.” • Transliterations do not always use exactly the same letters for a word as people hear the sounds differently. Since it is not the original language, this is not really a problem but it underlines the importance of considering the original language in study.
On the other hand, the Hebrew alphabet has added depth because the specific letters are important. Each of its letters were originally in the form of pictographs and have meanings of their own before the modern script came into common use. • The study of these ancient meanings has become more accessible in recent years as researchers are publishing their findings.
There are Hebraic understandings for concepts, colors, places, things, directions, and numbers which are derived by their context and sometimes by their pictographic meaning in ancient Hebrew.
All Scripture is God-Breathed! • We can be comfortable that there is a reason for every specific word in its place throughout all of Scripture. • Though this is not always clear in English or other languages the Bible has been translated into, it becomes wonderfully clear as we examine the Hebrew roots of the text.
The choice of words used in the Greek translation of the original Hebrew Torah (the Septuagint) became the basis for the specific words chosen to convey the same concepts in the New Testament. • All that is written in the New Testament confirms and is fulfillment of all that was written in the Torah originally. • We can allow Scripture to interpret Scripture with boldness and confidence in the Author.
Greek or Hebrew? • There is no argument that what we call the “Old Testament” was written in Hebrew with some Aramaic. The debate may go on as to whether the “New Testament” Scriptures were originally written in Greek or in Hebrew, but most scholars will agree that the worldview, thought content, and imagery used is purely Hebraic! • Whatever the language, the imagery doesn’t change!
Now with that background… • Let’s move on to our study of what is related to In The Beginning!
“In The Beginning” • This is a powerful and well recognized phrase. Most people know that it is the first phrase in the Bible. • What they may not know is how thoroughly this concept permeates ALL of Scripture.
Genesis • We are accustomed to seeing this word as the title of the first book of the Bible. • It refers to the beginning of things,coming from the Greek language: as in similar words such as genes, generations, generate. • The Greek “gen” originated from the Hebrew “gan” which means “garden,” as in the First Garden, Eden.
The English translation uses this concept as a title for the book. In Hebrew, the titles of each portion of Scripture are generally the opening words of that section. • Underneath “Genesis” our familiar English title there is the Hebrew Name by which it is known. Beresheit
Stop here… • Take a moment to find your online Bible keyword search page again: www.biblegateway.com www.blueletterbible.org Search the phrase: “in the beginning” • www.wildbranch.org & www.ancient-hebrew.org are both good resources to learn more about Hebrew, too! Come back for Part 2 when you have done so, or continue on.
Part Two The Study • If your search is like mine, you found many responses incorporating “beginning.”
Save the lists of Scripture references you have found and we will move back and forth now between them and this presentation. • Some people prefer to save as a Word document and some people like printed copies. Experiment to find out what works best for you.
How do we know they are not just random uses of the same phrase? • This might be our conclusion, knowing that many different people wrote the Books of Scripture. • We will look for the imprint of the same Source of inspiration or Author throughout Scripture. • “In the beginning” is one word in the Hebrew: “Beresheit”
Translation vs. Transliteration • “Beresheit” as written here in English letters is a transliteration: use of known alphabet to attempt to recreate the sounds of a word from another language. It is also transliterated as “B’resheit” and B’reshiyt.” • “In the beginning” is a translation of the meaning of the word.
Reishith, as it is transliterated in Zodhiates Lexical Aid, Strong’s #7225, is said to mean first in place, time, order, or rank; first with regard to dignity; the first of its kind and first fruits. The connection is made between Genesis 49: 3 and Revelation 3:14. • Take a moment to look these up and confirm the similar meaning. (The Blue Letter Bible program offers the Strong’s numbers and definitions online.)
The root word of reishith is Rosh,which is Strong’s #7218. • Rosh is said to mean the head, person, chief, leader; whether appointed, elected or self-appointed. There are many additional connotations. • For this study, we note that: “Rosh can also refer to the headstone of the corner which was carried over into the NT and quoted by Jesus. (Matt. 21:42, Luke 20:17, Eph. 2:20, 1 Peter 2:7) Jesus is the head of the church. (Eph.5:23)” (Vines Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words)
And there is so much more! • Since Hebrew words work from a “root” system of consonants, all words from a similar root will carry various related meanings. • Putting them together helps us understand the pictures that are “under the surface.” • Here you will begin to find some of the buried treasures of His Word!
We can consider the translation of the meaning of the word AND the meaning of each of the letters. • We can then consider the meaning of various combinations of the letters, remembering Hebrew reads from right to left. • There is no limitation to internal comparisons such as there is for English compound words.
tyeXaerB Here is the word in Modern Hebrew script, such as you would find in most Torah scrolls. Here is an interpretation of the word.
The “beit” or “B” is symbolic of a house or a tent In this place in the Torah, the first word, it is drawn larger than the other letters, as it is shown here. You might say “THE” house! In a grammatical, literal sense, it conveys “in the” while the remaining letters represent “reisheit” meaning “beginning.”
This is a “resch” or “R”. In ancient or paleo-Hebrew, it represents “the head of a man.” Taken together, they form “rb” or “bar” which means “son.” The first two letters alone then carry the idea of the “son of the house” along with their grammatical meaning of “in the beginning.”
The last letter is a “tav” or “T”. This letter carries the meaning of a “mark” or “signature.” When put together with the first two letters, we find “trb” or transliterated as “brit” which means “covenant.” Now we have the sense of “a covenant with the son of the house from the beginning.”