Table of contents
Creation of the Earth, the Visible World
After the creation of Heaven, the invisible, angelic world, God created out of nothing, by His word alone, earth, that is, the material from which He gradually made our visible, physical world, the visible sky, earth and all that is in them.
God could have created the world in a single instant, but since He wished from the very beginning that this world should live and develop step by step, He created it not in an instant, but over several periods of time, which in the Bible are called "days."
These "days" of creation were not the usual days that we know, consisting of twenty-four hours. Our days depend on the sun. However, during the first three "days" of creation there was no sun yet in existence, which means that the days described in Genesis could not have been the kind of days as we understand them. The Bible was written by the Prophet Moses in the ancient Hebrew language, and in this language both "day" and a period of time are called by the same word Yom. It is impossible for us to know exactly what kind of days these were, even more so since we know that "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (II Peter 3:8; Ps. 89:5).
The Holy Fathers of the Church consider the seventh "day" of the world to be continuing even at the present time, and that after the resurrection of the dead there will begin the eighth eternal day, that is, eternal future life. Thus St. John of Damascus (VIII century) writes concerning this: "The seven ages of this world are reckoned from the creation of Heaven and earth to the general conclusion and resurrection of men. For even though there is a personal ending, there is also a general, complete ending when there will be the general resurrection of men. The eighth age is the age to come."
St. Basil the Great in the fourth century wrote in his book Hexaemeron: "Therefore whether you call it a day or an age, you express one and the same idea."
Therefore, in the beginning, the matter created by God did not have any definite shape or form; it was formless and undeveloped (like fog or water) and covered with darkness, and the Spirit of God was borne upon it, imparting to it life-bearing power.
Note: The Holy Bible begins with the words: "In the beginning God created Heaven and the earth" (Gen. 1:1).
In the beginning in Hebrew is bereshit and means "first of all" or "at the beginning of time," that is, before bereshit there was only eternity.
Created here is expressed by the Hebrew word bara, which means "created out of nothing." It is distinguished from the Hebrew word assa, which means "to make, to form, to shape out of matter." The word bara (created out of nothing) is used three times in the account of the creation of the world: 1) in the beginning — the first act of creation, 2) at the creation of "living souls" — the first animals, and 3) at the creation of man.
Strictly speaking, nothing more is said concerning Heaven, that is, it was finished in its formation. This is, as was said above, the spiritual, angelic world. Later in the Bible the Holy Scriptures speak of the heavenly firmament, called "heaven" by God, as a reminder of the higher, spiritual Heaven.
"The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters"
(Gen. 1:2). "Earth" here is understood to mean the original matter, still not put into form, from which the Lord God during the six "days" formed and made the visible world — the universe. This unformed matter or chaos is called the deep, as being unfathomable and unlimited space and water, as a water-like or mist-like matter.
Darkness was upon the face of the deep, that is, the entire chaotic mass was submerged in darkness, due to the complete absence of light.
And the Spirit of God was borne above the water: here began the creative work of God. By this expression "was borne" (the Hebrew word used here has the following meaning: "to embrace everything with oneself as a bird with its wings spread out embraces and warms its fledglings"), the action of the Spirit of God upon the first-created matter should be understood as the imparting to it of the living power which was necessary for its formation and development.
All three Persons of the Most-holy Trinity participated in the creation of the world equally, as the Triune God, One in essence and Indivisible. The word "God" in this place is written in the plural Elohim, that is Gods (the singular is Eloah or El— God), and the word "created" (bara) — is in the singular. In this way the original Hebrew text of the Bible, from its very first lines, points to the singular essence of the Persons of the Holy Trinity, saying as it were, "In the beginning Gods (the three Persons of the Holy Trinity) created Heaven and earth."
The Psalms also clearly speak of this: "By the Word of the Lord the Heavens were established, and all the might of them by the Spirit of His mouth" (Ps. 32:6). Here "Word" means the Son of God, "Lord" means God the Father and "the Spirit (breath) of His mouth" means God the Holy Spirit.
The Son of God, Jesus Christ, is plainly called "Word" in the Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word...and the Word was God...all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:1-3).
It is especially important for us to know this, because the creation of the world would have been impossible if there had not first been the voluntary will of the Son of God to endure the sacrifice of the Cross for the salvation of the world. "All things were created by Him" (the Son of God) "and for Him: and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist: And He is the head of the body, the Church: Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have pre-eminence. For it pleased the Father, that in Him should all fullness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of His Cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, whether they be things in earth or things in Heaven" (Col. 1:16-20).