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Heaven and earth (Genesis chap. 1, verse. 1)

La terra vista dallo spazio

The fourth and the fifth word of the Hebrew Bible – et hashamaìm weet haàrets – are generally translated in our Bibles with the words: heaven and earth. Whereas we have two different terms with two specific meanings, for Jews “heaven and earth” constituted a single phrase that means the “Creation’s object”, far greater than heaven and earth as we now commonly understand them .

First of all the sentence encloses the perennial  message of the story of creation, namely that God created “all things”! Indeed the Hebrew language doesn’t have a specific word for “all”. So the Jews mention the “extremes” of the “totality” they wanted to describe; in this case “heaven” and “earth” indicate the extremes of “everything”. Yes, but what does  “everything” consist of? Is it possible identify “et hashamaìm weet haàrets” with what we now call “universe“?

At the beginning of the second chapter the expression “heavens and the earth” is taken up and explained: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the hosts of them (see Genesis ch. 2 , verse 1) . What are the hosts? In Hebrew, “host” is tsebà and it means “heavenly hosts of angels” or ” armies”, the first meaning being predominant in the bible.

Therefore, for the Jews “heaven” was not only “the sky” , but also “the residence of God and his angels” (see e.g. Psalm 101, verse 20) . So when at the beginning God created “all things” it was meant probably not just what you can see, but also what you don’t see as angels, for example, that jews believed were real beings as anything else.

For us today, it is hard to believe that what is unseen is as real as the visible. So many people speak of love which, although invisible, you can deny to have felt it, for example when you falls in love with a woman or a man. Fortunately some authors of the New Testament (cfr. John Ch. 4 , ver. 8) have assimilated the nature of the invisible God to love, the only not visible thing that the modern man has not yet been able to prove that it doesn’t exist! (For more details you can purchase my book La Bibbia riscritta e commentata, Aracne Editrice 2015)

Simone Venturini

Scrittore

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