Genesis 1:1 Commentary - John Trapp's Complete Commentary (Old and New Testaments)
Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Ver. 1. In the beginning. ] A BEGINNING there was then, whatever Aristotle a fancied of the world’s eternity. So true is that of a learned Italians - Philosophy seeks after truth; divinity only finds it; religion improves it. b Veritatem quaerit philosophia, invenit theologia, &c. But the philosopher would be yet better satisfied. He had read (say some) c this first of Genesis, and was heard to say thereupon, Well said, Sir Moses; how prove you what you have so said? Egregie dicis, domine Moses; sed quomodo probas? An ancient d answereth, I believe it, I need not prove it. credo, non probo Another, e we believe the holy penmen before heathen wise men. piscatoribus credimus, non dialecticis A third, f The mysteries of the Christian religion are better understood by believing, than believed by understanding Multo melius credendo intelliguntur, quam intelligendo creduntur fidei Christianae mysteria. Abbas Tuiciensis. Theologia non est argumentativa. g But, best of all, the apostle, "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God; so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." Heb 11:3 Divinity doth not use to prove her principles, whereof this is one. No, not Aristotle’s own divinity, (his Metaphysics , I mean) wherein he requires to be believed upon his bare word. Albeit, if Ramus may be judge, those fourteen books of his are the most idle and impious piece of sophistry that ever was set forth by any man. h Thus, "Professing themselves to be wise, they become fools." Rom 1:22 "Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them?" Jer 8:9
Plato had read Moses, whatever Aristotle had done; and held truly, that the world had a beginning. So did all the philosophers that were before Aristotle, except the Chaldeans, and Hossellus Lucanus, the Pythagorean, out of whom Aristotle took his arguments, which are to be read, Physic, viii. c. 8, and ii. and l. 1. De Coelo, c. 1, and l. xii.; Metaphysics, c. 7. But it is more than probable that he taught the world’s eternity in opposition to Plato and others, who rightly concluded the world must needs have had a beginning; otherwise we could not know whether the egg or the bird, the seed or the plant, the day or the night, the light or the darkness, were first; sure it is that he held that opinion rather out of an affectation of singularity, than for any soundness of the matter or strength of argument. Himself, in his first book of Topics , and ninth chapter, saith that it is no more than a topical problem: he should have said a plain paradox, yea, a mere falsity. For "In the beginning," the Jerusalem Targum hath "In wisdom," that is, in God the Son, saith Augustine, according to Joh 1:3 2Ch 1:162Ch 1:162Ch 1:162Ch 1:16 . And indeed God created all things by his Son Christ; not as by a concreating cause, but as by his own essential Wisdom. 1Co 1:24 ; Pro 1:20 ; Pro 8:1 And of this mystery and appellation some suppose the heathens had some traditional knowledge; for aa Christ, the Wisdom of the Father, was eternally and ineffably begotten in the divine essence, so they worshipped a goddess whom they called the goddess of wisdom, and feigned that she was begotten by Jupiter of his own brain; and they called her Aθηνη , which word is much like in sound with the Hebrew Adonai , as a reverend man i hath well observed.
God created. ] Heb. Dii creavit. Plural subject "Dii" (Gods) singular verb "creavit" . Editor. The Mystery of the blessed Trinity, called by Elihu, Job 35:10 Eloah Gnoscai , "God my Makers"; and by David, Psa 149:1 "The Makers of Israel," and "Remember thy Creators," saith Solomon. Ecc 12:1 To the same sense, sweetly sounds the Haphtera, or portion of Scripture which is read by the Jews, j together with this of Moses, viz., Isa 42:5 . And that of the psalmist, Psa 33:6 "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath [or spirit] of his mouth": that is, God the Father, by the Son, through the Holy Ghost, created all. This Trismegist, k an ancient Egyptian (for he flourished before Pharaoh), acknowledged, and thence had his name. The Hebrews also of old were no strangers to this mystery, though their posterity understood it not. Rabbi Solomon Jarchi, writing on that, Son 1:11 "We will make," &c., interprets it, "I and my judgment hall." Now a judgment hall in Israel consisted of three at least, which in their close manner of speech, they applied to God, who is Three in one, and One in three.
Rabbi Simeon, the son of Johai, brings a place out of Rabbi Ibba, on Deu 6:4 , "Jehovah Elohenu, Jehovah Echad, ‘The Lord our God is one Lord.’" Here the first Jehovah, saith he, is God the Father, Elohenu , the Son (who is fitly called our God , because he assumed our nature, as is well observed by Galatinus), the third Jehovah is God the Holy Ghost. Echad, one, showeth the unity of essence in this plurality of persons; wherefore, saith Luther, doth not Moses begin thus, "In the beginning, God said, Let there be a heaven, and earth," but because he would set forth the three persons in order; the Father, when he saith, God created; the Son, when he saith, God said; and the Holy Ghost, when he saith, God saw the light that it was good?
Created. ] Made all things of nothing, in a most marvellous and magnificent manner, as the word signifieth. This Plato doubts of, Aristotle denies, Galen derides as a thing impossible, l because, with Nicodemus, he cannot conceive how these things can be. "The natural man," the mere animal, Qυχικος , 1Co 2:14 whose reason is not elevated by religion, "pereeiveth not these things of the Spirit of God: they are foolishness unto him." The cock on the dunghill meddles not with these matters. Well might St Paul tell the men of Athens, Act 17:23-24 (and yet Athens was the Greece of Greece, Eλλας Eλλαδος m and had in it the most mercurial wits in the world), that God, "that made all things of nothing," was to them the "unknown God": and Lactantius fitly saith of Plato (who yet merited the style of Divine amongst them), that he dreamed of God, rather than had any true knowledge of him. n He nowhere called God the Creator, but Dημιουζγον , the workman; as one that had made the world of a preexistent matter, co-eternal to himself. Atheists of old scorned at the work of creation; and asked, "Quibus machinis," with what tools, engines, ladders, scaffolds, did the Lord set up this mighty frame? But, "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed" (set in joint, ξατηζτισηαι , Heb 11:3 , the word signifieth, as all the members of the body are tied together by several ligaments), "by the word of God," without either tool or toil. Isa 40:28 He not only formed and made, but created all by the word of his power: see all these ascribed unto him in Isa 43:7 . There were four errors, saith a late learned man, o about the creation: some affirmed that the world was eternal; some that it had a material beginning, and was made of something; some held two beginners of things: that one beginner made things incorruptible, and another made things corruptible. Lastly, some said God made the superior creatures himself, and the inferior by angels. This very first verse of the Bible confutes all four. In the beginning, shows the world not to be eternal. Created, notes that it was made of nothing. The heaven and the earth, shows that God was the only beginner of all creatures. God created all: this excludes the angels. In the government of the world, we grant they have a great stroke. Eze 1:5-6 ; Dan 10:1-21 ; Dan 11:1-45 Not so in the making of the world, wherein God was alone, and by himself. Isa 44:24 And, lest any should imagine otherwise, the creation of angels is not so much as mentioned by Moses, unless it be tacitly intimated in these words - "The heavens and the earth"; p "The world and all the things that are therein"; Act 17:24 "Things visible and invisible"; Col 1:16 "whether they be thrones or dominions," &c., called elsewhere "angels of heaven"; Mat 24:26 ; Gal 1:8 because, probably, created with, and in the highest heaven, as Christ’s soul was created with, and in his body, in the Virgin’s womb, the self-same moment. The highest heaven, and the angels were of necessity, say some, to be created the first instant, that they might have their perfection of matter and form together; otherwise they should be corruptible. For whatsoever is of a pre-existent matter is resolvable, and subject to corruption; but that which is immediately of nothing is perfectly composed, hath no other change, but by the same hand to return to nothing again.
Ques. But if this were the heaven, what was the earth here mentioned?
Answ. Not that we now tread upon, for that was not made till the third day; but the matter of all that was afterwards to be created - being all things in power, nothing in act.
The Cabbalists observe that there are in this first verse of the Holy Bible six Alephs: and therehence they conclude, that the world shall last six thousand years. But they may be therein as far out as that wise man q was who, A.D. 1533, affirmed that the world would be at an end that very year, in the month of October, and that he pretended to gather out of those words, Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum: and again those, Videbunt in quem transfixerunt. So some r since that, but little wiser, have foretold as much concerning the year of grace 1657, from those words mundi conflagratio; and because the universal flood fell out in the year of the world 1657. According to these groundless conjectures, confuted already by time, some have argued, that because Solomon’s temple was finished in the year of the world three thousand, therefore the spiritual temple shall be consummated in three thousand more. This reckoning comes up to that of the Cabbalists above mentioned; and to that known prophecy of Elias (but not the Tishbite), that as there were two thousand years, plus minus, before the law, and two thousand under the law, so there are to be two thousand under the gospel.
a Aristotle’s Physic.; vide Sharpei Symphon., p. 11, Pliny, l. i., c. 1. 2 Jo. Picas Mirand.
b Jo. Picus Mirand.
c D. Prid. Cathedra.
h Aristotle’s Sοφια , seu Theologia, sophistica, est, omnium quae literis unquam mandata sunt, maxime stulta, maximeque impia. - Ramus in Theolog.
i Mr Manton upon Jude.
j Moses was read every Sabbath, Act 15:11 with a lecture out of the prophets, Act 13:15
k ηκμασε δε προ του φαραω - Suidas. τρις μεγιστος , in Poemandro. Nam haec propria est Hebraei verbi significatio. Jun.
l Irridet Galenus Mosen eo quod dicat Deum ex nulla praeexistente materia condidisse mundum. - Buch.
n Somniaverat Deum, non cognoverat. - Instit., l. v. c. l4.
p Kοσμος μεν εστι συστημα εξ ουρανου και γης και των εν τουτοις περιεχομενων φυεων - Aristotle, De Mundo , c. 2. Yates’s Model of Divinity.
q Bucholcer., Chronol.
r Alsted., Chronol.
Consult other comments:
John Trapp's Complete Commentary (Old and New Testaments)
John Trapp (1601 – 1669), was an English Anglican Bible commentator. His large five-volume commentary is still read today and is known for its pithy statements and quotable prose; his volumes are quoted frequently by other religious writers.