Creation ex nihilo – void
Genesis tells us God created an earth “without form and void.” As we shall see, that comes remarkably close to the understanding of early creation by modern physicists.
The creation story: Genesis 1:1
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Many theologians interpret Genesis 1:1 in many ways, and progressive creationists in still more ways. Grammatically, both the Hebrew style of writing that starts with a statement and attaches a string of additional statements to it, and the English style of journalism writing that starts with a topic sentence would support the simple reading of this verse as being a sentence that explains what the rest of the writing will be about.
As clear as this verse may be from a grammatical point of view, it also suggests profound scientific principles that were first understood by Albert Einstein. Einstein understood that time cannot exist without space, and vice-versa: space cannot exist without time. He understood that in order to create the cosmos, space had to be stretched. In the process of stretching, time is then created. This phenomenon is called the “space/time continuum.”i Genesis 1:1, while grammatically establishing what will follow, also gives us the basis for the creation of time (the beginning), as well as matter (the earth), and the cosmos (the heavens). The Hebrew tells us that this is the first order of events in time, or the first step in the course of events. Some may argue that this simple sentence is not to be interpreted scientifically; however, as this work progresses, the sheer volume of instances such as these will make it harder to sustain that argument.
The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
There are several significant scientific things being established in this verse. I will break it down piece by piece, first with an explanation of the Hebrew meaning of the word and then the wealth of information brought to the understanding of what happened relying on the application of modern physics. In other words, first what the Hebrew says and second, the science that supports it.
The first word “earth” is interesting. If we assign the word the connotative meaning without researching the full breath of the Hebrew meaning, we would think of solid land composed of dirt and a variety of other materials, which has made this particular word an enigma to Creationists. Although the Hebrew word used in this verse can also include the usual meanings for the word “earth” that we would expect when used elsewhere, there is also another meaning. It is simply a designation that sets the earth apart from the heavens or the sky.ii In other words, another territory, environment or entity being described by God that separates earth as a region or a field that is different than what will become the heavens or the sky or other celestial bodies. As NASA explores the cosmos looking for signs of life and environments similar to what we have here on earth, we are continually discovering how unique an environment the earth provides – even when compared to other planets, and especially when compared to stars.
The word used for heavens confirms this, since it is a plural designation – meaning that there were two heavens – as distinguished from the one earth. This duality can be interpreted to mean the earth’s atmosphere and what we call the cosmos. It is not a stretch at all to say that the Scriptures speak of two distinct heavens as compared to one earth. And, as we will see throughout the work, Moses, who wrote Genesis, most likely did not have an understanding of the differences between our atmosphere and the cosmos. At this point, it is only important to understand that there is a distinction made between the earth and the heavens.
In a future series, we will discuss the separation of the waters from the waters that occurred on Day Two. To confirm that the earth is a separate entity, we will learn that there is a distinct difference between what will become the earth as we know it and the cosmos. It is also not a stretch to say that Moses was obedient when he recorded these words, as surely it must have seemed odd to him that God referred to the atmosphere and the cosmos as “the waters.” From Moses position in time and space, observation appeared to contradict what he wrote, as neither the atmosphere nor the cosmos appeared to be water, and yet that is what he wrote under inspiration and with great obedience. It isn’t until modern day physics are applied that the Scripture’s use of the word “waters” in verses 2, 6 and 7 is confirmed and makes sense. As a prelude to the writings that deal with Day Two, it should also be noted that Day Two sets the basis for what will be labeled as the “Big Bang Theory” in modern physics.
“Without form and void”
Now we begin to get into some heavy duty science. Genesis goes on to use the words “without form and “void” to describe the qualities of this designated area that is called the “earth.” The words “without form” do not describe a mass of a continually morphing or indistinguishable structure lacking any physical shape, as one would imagine a bubble that is floating through the air, changing shape as it glides along.
The Hebrew word tohuw also denotes a primeval state of confusion and emptiness, and
the Hebrew word for “void” is bohuw, which simply means empty or a vacuity. Scientifically, this equates to what we describe as a vacuum, with recent observations indicating that vacuums contain chaotic bursts of energy known as quantum fluctuations. Again, Moses must have been puzzled by the oddity of using these two words in harmony. What is being said is that there was an empty, formless vacuum that contained confusion (chaos) that was in constant movement (the Hebrew that denotes “constant movement” will be discussed shortly). Before experiments were made in vacuum physics, saying that a vacuum that contained nothing, contained chaos that was in constant movement can be more than the unenlightened mind can understand. However, that is exactly what vacuum physics has recently discovered and it is exactly what the Scripture recorded over three millennia ago.
Today we have the benefit of vacuum experiments, which Moses wasn’t privy to 3800 years ago. These experiments have revealed that true voids (as would have existed primordially) do not exist as we previously thought but contain unstable amounts of high-energy fieldsiii known as quantum fluctuations. Apparently even “nothing” contains something: chaotic bursts of energy or to put in the Hebrew terms: an empty state of confusion and chaos that is in constant movement. We may understand that atoms are composed of energy charges that form the nucleus of the atom and the electrons within their orbital configurations, but we don’t understand how quantum fluctuations turned into kinetic energy, which turned into acoustical and radiation waves, and which ultimately turned into the elements we observe today. This day of Creation in Genesis actually helps us to understand exactly how this happens, which is supported by recent discoveries in both vacuum physics and plasma physics.iv Astoundingly, it is telling us with great specificity how God created something out of nothing.
In verse 2, God is telling us that what would become the earth started as a formless void with unique and unexpected characteristics. Once again, modern day physics helps us to understand this better and modern day physics would also reach a higher level of understanding if it understood and acknowledged the Creation sequence, enhanced by the Hebrew translation of the words.
To recap: physics tells us that ZPEs (zero point vacuums – or the purest form of a vacuum) contain quantum fluctuations. Since this is so significant a confirmation of the physics in Genesis, it cannot be overstated: quantum fluctuations are chaotic bursts of unorganized energy. Moses tells us the same thing in the Creation account but he goes further in stating that the chaos was also in a constant state of movement. Here we have the merging of Moses’ Hebrew with modern day physics, and together they help us to understand what existed at the beginning of time.
The comparisons can be charted like this:
|Genesis Statement||Hebrew Word & Meaning||Physics Application|
|“In the beginning…the heavens…”||Re’shiyth Strong’s #7225Translates to time;Shemayim Strong’s #8064Translates into two domains: 1. The atmosphere; and 2. The cosmos||Einstein’s Theory of Relativity argues that time and space are interwoven, which means they have to have existed at the same together, for when you create space, you create time. This is referred to as the space/time continuum.|
|“…the earth.”||Erets Strong’s #776An environment or region that is distinguishably different from the cosmos||Although NASA has been looking for years, it has yet to find a planet with the unique qualities of the earth. It should also be noted that planets are infinitely different from other celestial bodies, including the structure of stars.|
|“…without form and void.”||Tohuw Strong’s #8414Primordial confusion, and empty place without formBohuw – a vacuity – or a vacuum, an empty place, a void that is in constant movement.||At the beginning of time there was nothing but a primordial vacuum with quantum fluctuations, which contained nothing but chaotic bursts of energy.|
While modern day physics doesn’t tell us what existed before the Big Bang, it does assume that there was some kind of vacuum with a small dense piece of matter of some kind, although any evidence for the piece of matter has not been discovered, including NASA’s search for monopoles. The Bible also tells us that a void (vacuum=nothing) existed at the beginning (before time and space were created) contained continuously moving confusion. Physics also tells us that vacuums contain chaotic bursts of energy – or nothing with confusion. As we proceed, we will also learn that the Hebrew words tell us that this primordial state was in constant movement. And we will learn that this overlooked aspect of the Genesis verse is extremely important scientifically.
ii Unless otherwise quoted, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon and Strong’s Comprehensive Concordance of the Bible are used. Additionally, consultations with Hebrew scholar Pam Elder have been relied on as well and contributed to this work with great insight.
iii Morris, Richard 1990. The Edges of Science. Prentice Hall Press. Vacuum Physics and Quantum Field Theories, pp. 8, 25, 184; quantum mechanics, pp.19. An investigation into and a report on vacuum physics and quantum mechanics. http://homepages.cae.wisc.edu/~callen/book.html