Hello and welcome to another week and another post on Renaissance Woman.
I am moving on from studying “peace” for now and am beginning to look at “I create evil”. Different Bible translations have different words here: the KJV has “evil” as does the Amplified although that translation expands evil’s definition to “calamity”. Calamity is the word in the NKJV and New American Standard while the New International has “disaster”. Whichever word is used, it does feel as though we’ve reached a point in the study where we have all the ammunition we need to prove God is untrustworthy. After all, doesn’t He say it Himself? Evil exists because He created it.
The Genesis account does seem to confirm this-sort of. God certainly planted the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the garden so, while the Genesis account does not ever show Him actually creating evil, He certainly allowed the potential of it. The word in Isaiah is not “allow” though: it is bara in the Hebrew and is the same word translated “create” and “created” in the Genesis account. This ought to make the passage in Isaiah clear but, as I looked up the definition for bara, I found it was anything but.
I do not know if I have ever come across a more confusing definition in the Strong’s Concordance. The definition for bara (H1254) is; “to create, to cut down (a wood), select, feed (as formative processes):-choose, create (creator), cut down, dispatch, do, make (fat).” The word is translated these different ways in scripture. The majority of the time it is translated “create” or “creator” but Ezekiel 21:19 translates it twice as “choose”, Joshua 17:15 translates it “cut down”, Ezekiel 23:47 has “dispatch”, Exodus 34:10 translates it “done”, and 1 Samuel 2:29 does indeed translate bara as “make (yourselves) fat.” With all these different options to choose from, I wonder why the Bible translators choose “create”? Wouldn’t it make more sense for God to have said He dispatches or cuts down evil? Whatever my personal preferences might be, they matter not because “create” is the word agreed upon by the translators and so the question I ask myself this week is; what does it mean to create?
In search of an answer, I turn to Genesis where verse One states, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Strong’s definition aside, all experts seem to agree that creating means to bring something out of nothing. In his book The Universe Next Door, James W. Sire expresses this almost universally held Christian worldview: “God created the cosmos ex nihilo. God is He Who Is, and thus he is the source of all else. Still, it is important to understand that God did not make the universe out of Himself. Rather, God spoke it into existence. It came into being by his word: “God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light” (Gen 1:3). Theologians thus say God “created” (Gen 1:1) the cosmos ex nihilo-out of nothing, not out of himself or from some preexistent chaos (for if it were really “preexistent”, it would be as eternal as God).”1
As I think about it, I suppose Mr. Sire expresses what was also once my worldview or, at least if I didn’t hold to this belief buckle and thong, I never questioned it. I do so now. Mr. Sire insists creation is ex nihilo-out of nothing-and that it is important to understand God did not make the universe out of Himself. If that is so, then I do wonder at the meanings of John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:16-17, Romans 11:36, and Ephesians 1:22-23. The first verses of John we are all familiar with: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” The passage in Colossians states, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things and in Him all things consist” and the passage in Romans is, “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever”.
The same Greek words occur in these three passages. Through is dia (G1223) and denotes the channel of an act. By is en (G1722) and denotes a “fixed position (in place, time, or state), instrumentality”. Of is ex (G1537) and means “origin”. To and For are the same word in the Greek. That word is eis (G1519) and means “to or into (indicating the point reached or entered) of place, time, or purpose.” Consist is the word sunistao (G4921) and means “strengthened, set together, constitute”. And then there is before which is the Greed word pro (G4253) and it means “in front of, superior, prior, above, before”.
As I ponder all of these words together, I am reminded of what I read in one of my Physics books: “The deeper explanation for forces acting on objects is explained in physics with another imaginary concept called energy. Energy is an abstract idea that can’t be seen or detected directly, but we do see the effect it has on things when it is transferred from one place to another. Despite the fact it is imaginary, energy is a powerful idea that is important in every field of physics. Energy is like a force field, a mathematical idea that doesn’t physically exist. We cannot hold energy or see it directly, only the changes in things when energy is transferred. Energy is like momentum, a conserved quantity in nature. The amount we start any event with will always equal the amount we end with. It can never be created or destroyed, but can be transferred into different forms. If we can determine the energy of a group of objects before an event has happened, then we know they will have the same energy afterward. The event, whatever it was, will have transferred energy, so that afterward it is stored in different ways and shared out differently across the objects. Taking this law of conservation to the extreme tells us that all of the energy in our universe today came from one place, the Big Bang. No extra energy has been made and none of it lost since the start of time, it has only been shared out among different forms.”2
I have to point out the contradiction: first it is stated that energy can never be created or destroyed but then all energy in existence today came from the Big Bang. How can all energy in existence coming from the Big Bang be possible if energy cannot be created or destroyed? Thoughts for another time. Dr. Still then writes, “It is thought our universe started with a Big Bang. Before this event, there was nothing, including no space for things to move in, or time to grow old by. At some point, some quantum fluctuation triggered energy, space, and time to be unleashed…in the moments that followed, energy was converted into different forms, including the mass of many fundamental particles.”3 I find that riveting. Energy is at the very heart of the particles that bind together to form all that exists.
The God who John’s gospel declares is Spirit cannot be compared with the scientific concept of energy: words cannot express the vastness of the gulf that separates the reality of who God is from the idea of energy as described. Yet I do see a parallel in the description of energy to the picture painted in the scriptures. God, the Self-Existent One, cannot be created or destroyed. He is before all things. He is the source of all things. He spoke and His Word is the By and the Through and the To and the Of and the For of creation.
I am not prepared to agree with those who state God created the universe out of Himself but neither do I agree He created out of nothing. I do agree that all things came into existence because He declared them to be so and yet I see He is not separate from His creation. In Him, that is the Lord Jesus Christ, all things consist or hold together. I like the Amplified version of Romans 11:36: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things-For all things originate with Him and come from Him; all things live through Him, and all things center in and tend to consummate and to end in Him. To Him be glory forever! Amen-so be it.” I also wonder if all things existing In Christ isn’t what the Apostle Paul is expressing when he writes, “And He put all things under His feet and gave Him to be head over all things to the church which is His body the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23, Emphasis mine).
What does it mean to create? I haven’t the least idea. I think it’s far too early in my study of bara to begin drawing conclusions. That being said, I do not think the passage in Isaiah 45:7 can be interpreted as evil exists because God created it. Perhaps when God says “I create evil” He is promising there is nowhere we can go from His Spirit and no where we can flee from His presence. We can ascend into heaven and we will find He is there. We can make our beds in hell and we will find Him there was well. We can take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea and still His hand will lead us and His right hand will hold us (Psalm 139: 7-10). Perhaps “I create evil” is His assurance that we need not fear any evil for He is with us. (Psalm 23:4).
To Be Continued…
Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures are quoted from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1982
1. Sire, James W., The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, Fourth Edition, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, 2004, Page 29
2. Still, Dr. Ben, Mind Maps: Physics, Unipress Books Limited, 2020, Pages 32-33,
3. Ibid., Page 124
The Amplified Bible, Expanded Edition, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, The Lockman Foundation, 1954,1987
Green, Jay P. Sr., The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew, Greek, English, Volume 2, Authors For Christ, Inc., Lafayette, Indiana, 1985
Strong, James, LL.D., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990