בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen. 1:1)[1]


Lexical Definitions and Related Forms

            The verb בָּרָא occurs fifty-three times in the Hebrew Scriptures.[2]  Brown, Driver, and Briggs define בָּרָָא as “shape” or “create.”[3]  Koehler and Baumgartner agree, but add that, in relation to other ancient Semitic words, בָּרָא can carry the idea of “to build” or even “to give birth,”[4] concepts which are related and give concrete illustration to its primary Hebrew meaning of “create.” 


Brown, Driver, and Briggs list two words closely related to בָּרָא:[5]


·         בְּרִיאָה (n.f.) – a creation, a thing created (Num. 16:30)


·         בְּרָאיָה (n.pr.m.) – a Benjamite (1 Chron. 8:21)


Theological Significance

            Despite its sparse occurrences, בָּרָא is an important word within the scope of Old Testament theology.  The verb refers only to divine activity, specifically the creation of the cosmos (Gen. 1:1).[6]  As noted by McComiskey, it refers, in this sense, to the initiating of something new (e.g., Ps. 51:10; Isa. 41:20; 48:6-7; Jer. 31:22) and to the concept of bringing something into existence (e.g., Isa. 43:1; Eze. 21:30; 28:13-15).  Such powerful ideas used in conjunction with the creation of the universe have far-reaching implications for God’s people (Isa. 40:26-31) and for God’s control over history (Isa. 42:1-5).  The ideas surrounding בָּרָא clearly attest to God’s great power and sovereignty.[7]





Old Testament Occurrences

            בָּרָא is employed in a variety of places throughout the OT, most notably Genesis and Isaiah, and occurs primarily in the Qal and Niphal forms.  The following is a general outline tracing some significant occurrences. [8]




·         Gen. 1:1 – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

·         Gen. 1:21 – God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves . . .

·         Gen. 1:27 – God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

·         Gen. 2:3 – . . . He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

·         Gen. 6:7 – The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land . . .”

·         Deut. 4:32 – “Indeed, ask now concerning the former days which were before you since the day that God created man on the earth . . .”

·         Ps. 89:12 – The north and the south, You have created them . . .

·         Ps. 89:47 – Remember what my span of life is; for what vanity You have created all the sons of men!

·         Isa. 4:5 – . . . then the LORD will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day . . .

·         Isa. 40:26 – Lift up your eyes on high see who has created these stars . . .

·         Isa. 40:28 – The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, does not become weary or tired.

·         Isa. 41:20 – . . . that the hand of the LORD has done this, and the Holy One of Israel has created it.

·         Isa. 43:7 – Everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory . . .

·         Jer. 31:22 – “How long will you go here and there, O faithless daughter?  For the LORD has created a new thing in the earth—a woman will encompass a man.”

·         Mal. 2:10 – Has not one God created us?




·         Gen. 2:4 – This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created . . .

·         Gen. 5:2 – . . . He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.

·         Ps. 102:18 – This will be written down for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD.

·         Ps. 104:30 – You send forth Your Spirit, they are created . . .

·         Ps. 148:5 – Let them praise the name of the LORD, for He commanded and they were created.

·         Isa. 48:7 – “They are created now and not long ago . . .”

·         Eze. 21:30 – In the place where you were created, in the land of your origin, I will judge you.


LXX Usage

            There are in the Septuagint several Greek words that translate בָּרָא.[9]  Examples include:


·         γενναν – to bring forth, to create

·         κατασκευζειν – to make, to construct, to build, to create

·         κτιζεν – to found, to establish, to make, to create

·         ποιειν – to make, to create, to cause, to bring about[10]


The Greek word used to translate בָּרָא in key creation references in the book of Genesis is ποιειν. [11]  For instance:


·         Gen. 1:1 – Εν αρχη εποιησεν ο Θεος τον ουρανον και την γην.

·         Gen. 1:21 – Και εποιησεν ο Θεος τα κητη τα μεγαλα, και τασαν ψυχην ζωων ερπετων, α εξηγαγε τα υδατα κατα γενη αυτων, και παν πετεινον πτερωτον κατα γενος και ειδεν ο Θεος οτι καλα.

·         Gen. 5:2 – Αρσεν και θηλυ εποιησεν αυτους και ευλογησεν αυτους  και επωνομασε το ονομα αυτου Αδαμ η ημερα εποιησεν αυτους.

·         Gen. 6:7 – Και ενεθυμηθμ ο Θεος, οτι εποιησε τον ανθρωπον επι της γης, και διενοηθη.


In addition, examples of verses containing the other Greek words mentioned above



·         γενναν – Αποστρεφε, μη καταλυσης εν τω τοπω τουτω ω γεγεννησαι, εν τη γν τν ιδια σου κρινω σε. (Eze. 21:30)

·         κατασκευαζειν – Και νυν ουκ εγνως; ει μη ηκουσας; Θεος αιωνιος, ο Θεος ο κατασκευασας τα ακρα της γης ου πεινασει, ουδε κοπιασει, ουδε εστιν εξευρεσις της φρονησεως αυτου, διδους τοις πεινωσιν ισχυν, και τοις μη οδυνωμενοις λυπην. (Isa. 20:28)

·         κτιζεν – Τον Βορραν και θαλασσαν συ εκτισας, Θαβωρ και Ερμων εν τω ονοματι σου αγαλλιασονται. (Ps. 88:12)


New Testament Usage of γενναω, κατασκευαζω, κτιζω, and ποιεω

            The verb γενναω has three general meanings in the New Testament.[13]


·         Become the parent of; beget

Gal. 4:23 – But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise.

αλλ ο μεν εκ της παιδισκης κατα σαρκα γεγεννηται, ο δε εκ της εγευθερας δι επαγγελιας.


·         To give birth to; bear

Gal. 4:24 – This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are slaves; she is Hagar.

ατινα εστιν αλληγορουμενα αυται γαρ εισιν δυο διαθηκαι, μια μεν απο ορους Σινα εις δουλειαν γεννωσα, ητις εστιν Αγαρ.


·         To cause something to happen; bring forth; produce

2 Tim. 2:23 – But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.

τας δε μωρας και απαιδευτους ζητησεις παραιτου, ειδως οτι γεννωσιν μαχας.


            The verb κατασκευαζω likewise has three general meanings.[14]


·         To make ready for some purpose; prepare

Matt. 11:10 – “This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way before You.’”

ουτος εστιν περι ου γεγροπται, Ιδου εγω αποστελλω τον αγγελον μου προ προσωπου σου, ος κατασκευασει την οδον σου εμπροσθεν σου.


·         To bring a structure into being; build; construct; create

1 Pet. 3:20 – . . . who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.

. . . απειθησασιν ποτε οτε απεξεδεχετο η του θεου μακροθυμια εν ημεραις Νωε κατασκευαζομενης κιβωτου εις ην ολιγοι, τουτ εστιν οκτω ψυχαι, διεσωθησαν δι υδατος.


·         To furnish; equip

Heb. 9:2 – For there was a tabernacle prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place.

σκηνη γαρ κατεσκευασθη η πρωτη εν η η τε λυχνια και η τραπεζα και η προθεσις των αρτων, ητις λεγεται Αγια.


            The verb κτιζω has the one meaning of “to bring into existence” or “create.”[15]


·         Eph. 2:10 – For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

αυτου γαρ εσμεν ποιημα, κτισθεντες εν Χριστω Ιησου επι εργοις αγαθοις οις προητοιμασεν ο θεος, ινα εν αυτοις περιπατησωμεν.


            The verb ποιεω, used as ποιειν in the LXX translation of Genesis 1:1, has several meanings in the New Testament.[16]  A few will be mentioned here.


·         To produce or manufacture something material (used of God’s creative activity)

Heb. 1:2 – . . . in these last days [he] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.

. . . επ εσχατου των ημερων τουτων ελαλησεν ημιν εν υιω, ον εθηκεν κληρονομον παντων, δι ου και εποιησεν τους αιωνας.


·         To undertake or do something that brings about an event; cause; accomplish

Matt. 7:22 – “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’”

πολλοι ερουσιν μοι εν εκεινη τη ημερα, Κυριε κυριε, ου τω σω ονοματι επροφητευσαμεν, και τω σω ονοματι δαιμονια εξεβαλομεν, και τω σω ανοματι δυναμεις πολλας εποιησαμεν;


·         To make or do something for oneself or of oneself

Lk. 5:33 – And they said to Him, “The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink.”

οι δε ειπαν προς αυτον, οι μαθηται Ιωαννου νηστευουσιν πυκωνα και δεησεις ποιουνται ομοιως και οι των Φαρισαιων, οι δε σοι εσθιουσιν και πινουσιν.


בָּרָא and Creation Ex Nihilo

            The final topic in relation to בָּרָא that will be considered in this paper concerns the verb’s association with the doctrine of creation ex nihilo.  Is there sufficient evidence to conclude that בָּרָא (especially in Genesis 1:1) implies a creation out of nothing—in other words, a creation that employs no preexisting materials?  Paul Copan and William Lane Craig offer a few observations in support of the verb’s relationship to creation ex nihilo.[17]  First is the absence of any sort of preexisting matter in the initial creation.  The product of creation is mentioned (namely, the totality of the universe), but not any sort of eternal material.  The implication is that God’s creation is an entirely new work.  Second, the subject of בָּרָא is always God—never a human—thus demonstrating that the verb refers to a uniquely divine work, something only God can do.  Humans can “make” things out of other things, but only God can “create,” so to speak.  Therefore, the biblical writers are making a significant theological point in using בָּרָא.  Third, the verb is used in conjunction with God’s creative word (e.g., Ps. 148:5).  There is no hint anywhere in the OT that there are entities independent of Creator God (that is, necessarily independent); rather, the claim is that all things are contingent upon his effortless word.  Finally, בָּרָא is connected in Genesis 1:1 with the whole of physical reality.  The totality of the cosmos—expressed by the phrase “the heavens and the earth”—is in view, including all matter.  Copan and Craig admit that בָּרָא by itself does not necessarily mean “creation out of nothing”; however, with the observations stated above in mind, it is clear that the biblical writers are pointing in that direction.



            This paper has sought to provide key information in order to better understand the Hebrew verb בָּרָא and its implications.  It has been shown that the word has the basic meaning of “to create” or “to shape” and is used exclusively in relation to God’s powerful creative activity.  The scriptural consensus is that God alone is the initiator and sustainer of the universe—all that came to be rests on his powerful word and that alone.  As the psalmist declares, “Praise the LORD!  Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise Him in the heights! . . . Praise Him, highest heavens, and the waters that are above the heavens!  Let them praise the LORD, for He commanded and they were created” (Ps. 148:1, 4-5).






Bauer, Walter, William F. Arndt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich, eds.  A Greek-English Lexicon of the

            New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.  Chicago: University of Chicago

            Press, 1979.


Botterweck, G. Johannes, and Helmer Ringgren, eds.  Theological Dictionary of the Old

            Testament.  Vol. 1.  Translated by John T. Willis.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974.


Brown, Francis, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, eds.  The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew

            and English Lexicon.  Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004.


Copan, Paul, and William Lane Craig.  Creation out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and

            Scientific Exploration.  Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004.


Harris, R. Laird, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds.  Theological Wordbook of the

            Old Testament.  Vol. 1.  Chicago: Moody, 1980.


Hatch, Edwin, and Henry A. Redpath.  A Concordance to the Septuagint and Other Early Greek

            Versions of the Old Testament, 2d ed.  Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998.


Koehler, Ludwig, and Walter Baumgartner.  The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old

            Testament.  Vol. 1.  Translated and edited by M. E. J. Richardson.  New York: E. J.

            Brill, 1994. 


Lust J., E. Eynikel, and K. Hanspie, eds.  A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint.  Pts. 1, 2.

            Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1992 (pt. 1), 1996 (pt. 2).


Takamitsu, Muroaka.  Hebrew/Aramaic Index to the Septuagint.  Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998.


Wingram, George V.  The Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old

            Testament.  Nashville: Broadman Press, 1980. 




[1] Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. 

[2] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004), s.v. “בָּרָא.”

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, vol. 1, trans., ed. M. E. J. Richardson (New York: E. J. Brill, 1994), s.v. “בָּרָא.”

[5] BDB, s.v. “בָּרָא.”

[6] Ibid.

[7] R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 1 (Chicago: Moody, 1981), s.v. “בָּרָא,” by Thomas E. McComiskey.

[8] George V. Wingram, The Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1980), s.v. “בָּרָא.”

[9] Muraoka Takamitsu, Hebrew/Aramaic Index to the Septuagint (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), s.v. “בָּרָא.”

[10] Definitions taken from J. Lust, E. Eynikel, and K. Hauspie, eds., A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint, pts. 1&2 (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1992 [pt. 1], 1996 [pt. 2]), s.v. “γενναν,” “κατασκευζειν,” “κτιζεν,” “ποιειν.”

[11] Edwin Hatch and Henry A. Redpath, A Concordance to the Septuagint and Other Greek Versions of the Old Testament, 2d. ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), s.v. “ποιειν.”

[12] Ibid., s.v. “γενναν,” “κατασκευαζειν,” “κτιζεν.”

[13] Walter Bauer, William F. Arndt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich, eds., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), s.v. “γενναω.”

[14] Ibid., s.v. “κατασκευαζω.

[15] Ibid., s.v. “κτιζω.

[16] Ibid., s.v. “ποιεω.

[17] Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, Creation out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004), 49-59.