That’s the contention of Dr. Ellen van Wolde. The problems in translation and interpretation in Genesis 1:1-3 are well known to Hebraists, but it’s rare for any of them to claim that the Bible teaches that God did *not* create matter, which Dr. van Wolde claims as a necessary conclusion. The first thing I thought of was how odd Genesis 1:26 would sound: “And God said, ‘Let us spatially separate humankind in our image and in our likeness.” Huh? Actually, she’s just trying to argue that bara’ in Gen 1:1 doesn’t mean God created the earth (it’s already there in Gen 1:2). That view isn’t uncommon among Hebrew scholars and is syntactically plausible – but there’s more to consider than Gen 1:1-3 when articulating a full-orbed description of creation in OT theology, as this response from my fellow Hebraist and zealot blogger John Hobbins has written here.
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I had a similar reaction, Michael, and blogged about it as some length on Higgaion.
@Christopher Heard: liked it; nice job – and the hype truly is maddening.
Why add to the Bible, just to expand the arguments?
Current science cannot even agree on what matter is, Standard Model or other; and ‘matter’ is not even mentioned in Genesis, much less significant.
Simply state the codex used, and the translated ‘words’ and meanings ; then build from that. Otherwise all these peripheral ideas can expand geometrically.
Trying to determine a word’s meaning isn’t adding to the Bible, so I’m not sure precisely what you mean.