and God called the light Day and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. Genesis 1:5 Hebrew World translation
Called – This will be a bit difficult, but I know you are up for it. I am going to ask you to step out the usual way we see the world after 25 centuries of Greek influence. I’m going to ask you to reconsider the world from the perspective of the ancient Near East where the meaning of existence is very different. I’m going to ask you to do this because the Bible rests on this Near Eastern worldview and it cannot be read or understood without absorbing a different way of thinking, even in areas where we believe the views we hold are indubitable.
In Hebrew, something exists because it fulfills a function. It does not exist simply because it occupies space and time. Unless something has purpose or acts according to design, it has no existence. Greek thinking is just the opposite. Something exists because it occupies space and time. It does not need to have purpose or be part of a design in order to exist. For example, the proposal that the universe came into existence as a result of the random clash of energy in the Big Bang suggests that something can exist without design or purpose. In fact, if the full implications of the Big Bang are correct, everything that follows is ultimately without design or purpose. This kind of thinking is simply impossible in a Hebrew context. It isn’t just wrong. It is nonsense! It’s like saying that red is green or that 2 + 2 = 5,000,000. In Hebrew, there is no existence without design and/or purpose.
In Hebrew, to name something is to specify its distinctiveness in design and purpose. Only those things that have a name exist and those things named only exist because they fulfill some role within the greater design. We have often heard that naming in Hebrew means describing the essence of something, but now we must realize that describing the essence of a thing does not mean describing the way it occupies space and time. To describe the essence of something in Hebrew is to say what it does according to its design and purpose. If I do not know how something fits into a role, I do not know what it is. You might think of the Hebrew term manna, a term that means “what is it?” Until the children of Israel knew what manna did (what its purpose was), they did not know it. It occupied space and time but it did not yet exist as part of the design of the cosmos.
If we apply this shift to our thinking about the Genesis story, we see immediately (I hope) that Day and Night are not designations about astronomical rotations. Day and Night are designations about what light does and what the absence of light does. This has nothing to do with the sun or the moon (which is why the designation of the function of astronomical bodies comes after the separation of Day and Night). Day is the name for the function of light. Night is the name for the function of not-light. Astronomy has nothing to do with it.
If this is true for Genesis 1 (go read all the “days” of creation from the perspective of what function is being named), how much more true is it of the making of humans. From a Hebrew point of view, we are what we are made to do. We exist within our designed function. When we act according to our designed function, when we play the role we are assigned in the order of the creation, we are named zakar and neqevah (male and female) in the demut and tselem (image and likeness) of the Creator. When we fulfill the function we were designed to fulfill, we exist as nephesh hayah, just as Elohiym is YHWH (His name is also His function).
But what if we don’t fulfill that role? What if we don’t do what we were designed to do? What are we then?
You might ask yourself, given the Hebrew worldview, if those homo sapiens (a Greek term) who do not fulfill the purpose for their design actually exist as human. And while you are thinking about that one, you might ask yourself if the ‘ezer kenegdo who is not fulfilling her design (by choice or by compulsion) exists as ishshah (woman).
Just something to think about as you go out today to do what you were designed to do.
Topical Index: design, role, function, called, named, Genesis 1:5, ‘ezer kenegdo