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#84 - Gen 1:1 - Do Bible scholars believe "in the beginning" means "the only"

by Robert Nguyen Cramer

This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.


Question/insight #84:

In the first chapter of Genesis, does 'the beginning' represents 'the only' to Bible scholars in general or just to Mrs. Eddy?

Response #84:

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes:

The Hebrew word translated as "beginning" is Strong's Hebrew word #7225 and can be transliterated as ray-sheeth, re'sit, or re'shit. One authoritative Hebrew dictionary (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Volume II, edited by Harris, Archer, and Waltke, Chicago: Moody Press: 1980, pages 825-826) writes:

As mentioned above the root of re'shit is ro'sh or ro's <Strong's Hebrew word #7218>, which means "head".

Another highly respected Hebrew lexicon (The Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament, Volume 3, edited by Ernst Jenni and Claus Westerman, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997, page 1184) writes:

All of the above is is consistent with what other dictionaries and commentaries say on the meaning of the Hebrew word that is translated as "beginning."

I will have to let you draw your own conclusion regarding Mrs. Eddy's description that the word "beginning is employed to signify the only…" In considering this you may wish to keep in mind that she used the word "signify" rather than "mean." Mrs. Eddy sometimes articulates a "spiritual sense "of biblical passages that eludes clear-cut explanation based upon the original texts. Here she seems to be referring to the spiritual sense of the passage, not a translation of the Hebrew word.

The official Webster's dictionary of Mrs. Eddy's day defines "signify" as follows:

To get an honest sense of what Mrs. Eddy (or any author) intended, it is helpful to explore how she expressed herself in similar words and phrases elsewhere. She in fact refers to "in the beginning" and "the only" in the same paragraph elsewhere in Science and Health. She writes:

Rather than retrofitting selected facts and re-used inspiration to justify our already determined opinions, it is exhilarating to let the facts and inspiration lead us into fresh, honest insights.


Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer