In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Gen 1:1 NIV
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 NIV
It seems natural for us to think the beginning was when the universe we can see first came into being. Yet, clearly, God existed before the beginning. It is a theological belief that time was created in the beginning, meaning that God did, and does, exist outside of time, and, therefore, outside of our understanding.
Heed the thoughts of Hilary of Poitiers, a Fourth Century Bishop. What does this “in the beginning was” mean? He [John] ranges backward over the spaces of time, centuries are left behind, and ages are cancelled. Fix in your mind what date you will for this “beginning”; you miss the mark, for even then he of whom we are speaking “was.” Survey the universe; note well what is written of it: “in the beginning God made the heaven and the earth.” … [John] pierces beyond the beginning. For his “was” has no limit of time and no commencement; the uncreated Ward “was in the beginning.” ACCS
Augustine, writing about the beginning of the Fifth Century, had this to say: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It can only be understood in ways beyond words; human words cannot suffice for understanding the Word of God. ACCS
Basil the Great, Fourth Century defender of the faith, especially the still debated Trinity, tells us, Our outward word has some similarity to the divine Word. For our word declares the whole conception of the mind; since what we conceive in the mind we bring out in word. Indeed our heart is as it were the source and the uttered word the stream that flows from there. ACSS
Athanasius, Fourth Century Bishop of Alexandria and a leader in the fight against Gnosticism which controlled about half of all parishes in his days, writes [A group of Gnostics called the Arians] whisper, “How can the Son be Word or the Word be God’s image? For a human word is [spoken] and then is over and done with.”… But the word of truth confutes them as follows: … if their dispute concerns God, who created humanity, let them no longer entertain human thoughts but others that are above human nature. … But God is not like humans as Scripture has said. God is, exists and has always existed. Therefore also his Word exists and is forever with the Father, as radiance accompanies light. ACCS
He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. NIV
Now John has started to meddle with Genesis. Everyone knows that God created the universe. Here, John is saying that Jesus did the creation. Is John wrong?
No. John opened with, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. NIV In verse 14, John adds the connecting line. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. NIV
John does not attempt to explain how a Word becomes a human. He knows the Word is God’s Word and God’s Word has the power to create. What else do we need to know? Some have argued that God died so that His Word might become a human, but John did not say it. John clearly says there is God, Word, and Holy Spirit.
I am amazed at the similarities between Genesis 1 and the Big Bang Theory. A Belgian priest named Georges Lemaître first suggested the big bang theory in the 1920s, when he theorized that the universe began from a single primordial atom. [Note that a theory in science is a speculation about what might be true, not something that has been proved true. Science so far has found some evidence that the Big Bang may be true and no evidence against it.]
The Genesis account follows the Bang step for step. Light was the first to appear, then light from darkness, then stars, planets, moons, and life, to oversimplify. Did God create the universe in six days? Or did He create it in a trillionth of a second? Did He create it a few thousand years ago, or 14 billion years ago?
What does that matter? God created, no matter how he did it. I choose not to ignore the tens of millions of bits of evidence that our earth is 4 ½ billion years old, that the Mesozoic Period lasted 180 million years before most of the monster dinosaurs were killed off 60 million years ago. I see nothing in the Bible to disagree with the science. Why wouldn’t God enjoy watching life evolve through the eons?
Or to put it another way, a narrow and literal understanding of the Biblical text misses the intent of the creation story. It is pointed out by the non-religious that there are numerous ancient stories of the Creation found in other civilizations, most much older than the Hebrew version. But what the Genesis story has that none of the others have is the theology. God Created by speaking the Word. That is also what is missing in the Big Bang Theory, but that’s natural because God stands outside of science and can’t be measured by scientists.
We can, in a way, measure the Word. God spoke and Jesus was the result. The Word became DNA and developed into a human fetus/baby/child/man. The man, John tells us, was the Son of God, the Son of Man, and a human rabbi who trained many disciples—not just 12—in the ways of God. The Way is to love God and love every human.
One more point should be made here. John did not invent In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Jewish targums—Aramaic paraphrases of much of the Old Testament—use the Word as another name for God, especially in settings like creation. While none of the targums say the Word created the universe, they do have let there be light according to His Word. There are plentiful uses in a similar vein.
John alone uses these targumic sources in our scriptures, but it seems certain that he did use them.
Be righteous and do good.