The Elements of Creation

The construction of the world used up the whole of each of these four elements.
For the creator constructed it of all the fire, and water and air and earth available.
—Plato's Timaeus

Genesis 1:2 reflects an ancient belief that all things are composed of some combination of earth, fire, air and water. The four cosmic elements were not seen as mere building blocks, they were believed to control the very nature of man and matter. The four elements laid the base for alchemy and medicine until the 17th century.

To return to Gen. 1:2, from the elemental point of view, it is saying that before creation, there was no earth and no fire; there was only air and water.

2The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. (Gen 1:1-2)


Element Descriptive Passage
No Earth The earth was without form and void,
No Fire and darkness was upon
Space the face of the deep;
Air and the Spirit of God was moving
Water over the face of the waters.


Air was thought of as the primary non-material creative element. It is an animating element, the spirit of the gods and the soul of humans. That it could be felt and not seen made it seem all the more mysterious.

Air is not mentioned explicitly; "Spirit" was translated from the Hebrew rauch, meaning wind or breath. "Soul", by the way, is translated from nepesh, meaning breathing creature. In the Greek New Testament, soul comes from psuche, meaning breathe. Ghost or Spirit derives from Pneuma, meaning a current of air or breath.

Soul always refers to humans. Spirit (capital S) refers to God and spirit (small s) is synonymous with soul. In what is technically known as dualism, until the 17th century it was believed that soul and body were two different entities.

7And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Gen. 2.7 KJV)

3And his soul was drawn to Dinah the daughter of Jacob... (Gen. 34:3)

18And as her soul was departing (for she died)... (Gen. 34:18)

8So in the morning his spirit was troubled... (Gen 41:8)

27...the spirit of their father Jacob revived (Gen. 45:27)

Ancients were correct in seeing that breathing was necessary for life, but they had the sequence backwards. Breathing sustains life; it does not cause life. By their way of thinking, life is like a balloon: we live when air enters us and we die when air leaves us. To think that spirits animate gods and humans is like saying power makes motors move.


Fire was the secondary non-material creative element. It was the force of Spirit, a property of the gods that gave heat and light. We could surmise that because fire's heat is too hot to touch and because it could make living things disappear into ashes as if they were devoured by the gods.

There is no fire until God's Spirit creates it on the first day when he creates light. That the sun was created on the fourth day shows that they didn't know that our life giving source of light and heat comes from the sun.

3And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. (Gen. 1:3)

Examples: Moses Israelites sacrificed their animals with fire. In Genesis 15:17, there was fire when Abraham made his covenant with God. In Genesis 19:24, fire rained on Sodom and Gomorrah. In Genesis 3:2, Moses was met by a burning bush, which represented a Unitarian God. Revelation 20:9 predicted fire would come down from heaven and consume the evil ones.


Water was the primary material creative element, probably from an association with amniotic fluid and childbirth, the blue sky and the seas. On the second day, God divided the waters.

6And God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." (1 Gen. 1:6)

Water signifies something new is about to begin. To name a few: Noah's flood began a new civilization. Moses' name means drawn out of the water. The Red Sea crossing signaled the birth of Israel. The Israelites had to cross the Jordan River to get to the Promised Land. Jesus' baptism in the Jordan began his ministry.

According to Jesus, one must be born of water and air to enter the kingdom of God.

5Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)


Earth was the secondary material creative element. On the third day, God created earth from water. In biblespeak, water gives life to earth like a mother to a baby.

9And God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." And it was so. (Gen. 1:9)

Once earth is created, plant life erupted from earth on the same third day.

11Then God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it." And it was so. (Gen. 1:11)


Ancient astrologists thought of space as a cosmic element called ether. It was believed to be the substance that filled all space and the single element from which the other four elements came from. This might be where the idea of a self created god came from.

In the history of science, ether was believed to be a substance through which light traveled. In 1887, the famous Michelson-Morley experiment devised a test which led to the demise of the ether theory. If there was ether, a beam of light would split so it traveled in different directions at different speeds like a boat on a river. The experiment proved that light moves at the same speed in all directions.

Besides symbolizing space, "deep" masks the name of a sea monster that kept God company since eternity. In the passages below, we see expressions like "deep calls to deep," or "the deep trembled," or, "the deeps broke forth, or "it devoured the great deep," or, "the deep gave forth its voice." This clearly does not imply "deep water." Deep has a face; it is a sea monster personifying evil.

How can this be? Deep, a sea monster? In biblespeak, the direction of evil is always down. The English translation of Deep masks the presence of evil/chaos lurking in the primeval ocean.

From Hebrew, deep, translates to, Tehom, which means deep, sea or abyss, a surging mass of water. This is as close as the Hebrew language can get to watery chaos.

Not coincidentally, the spelling of Tehom looks similar to Tiamet, the name of the primeval ocean, personified as a sea monster. In the Babylonian creation epic, Enuma Elish, Marduk defeated the monster and split it in two halves with one half becoming the sky.

16"Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? (Job 38:16)

6Thy righteousness is like the mountains of God, thy judgments are like the great deep; man and beast thou savest, O LORD. (Psalms 36:6)

7Deep calls to deep at the thunder of thy cataracts; all thy waves and thy billows have gone over me. (Psalms 42:7)

16When the waters saw thee, O God, when the waters saw thee, they were afraid, yea, the deep trembled. (Psalms 77:16)

19The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens;
20by his knowledge the deeps broke forth, and the clouds drop down the dew. (Proverbs 3:19-20)

4Thus the Lord GOD showed me: behold, the Lord GOD was calling for a judgment by fire, and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land. (Amos 7:4)

10The mountains saw thee, and writhed; the raging waters swept on; the deep gave forth its voice, it lifted its hands on high. (Habakkuk 3:10)

There other passages with names equivalent to deep. They tell us that before God could begin his creation, he had to battle and slay a monster representing the forces of chaos. This dragon monster went by the names of Leviathan and Rahab. This explains what is meant by the phrase, "darkness [evil] was upon the face of the deep," in Genesis 1:2.

12Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.
13Thou didst divide the sea by thy might; thou didst break the heads of the dragons on the waters.
14Thou didst crush the heads of Leviathan, thou didst give him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
15Thou didst cleave open springs and brooks; thou didst dry up ever-flowing streams.
16Thine is the day, thine also the night; thou hast established the luminaries and the sun.
17Thou hast fixed all the bounds of the earth; thou hast made summer and winter. (Psalms 74:12-17)

6By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth.
7He gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle; he put the deeps in storehouses. (Psalms 33:6-7)

9Thou dost rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, thou stillest them.
10Thou didst crush Rahab like a carcass, thou didst scatter thy enemies with thy mighty arm.
11The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine; the world and all that is in it, thou hast founded them.
12The north and the south, thou hast created them; (Psalms 89:9-12)

1In that day the LORD with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea. (Isaiah 27:1)

9Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago. Was it not thou that didst cut Rahab in pieces, that didst pierce the dragon?
10Was it not thou that didst dry up the sea, the waters of the great deep; that didst make the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to pass over? (Isaiah 51:9-10)

5The shades below tremble, the waters and their inhabitants.
6Sheol is naked before God, and Abaddon has no covering.
7He stretches out the north over the void, and hangs the earth upon nothing.
8He binds up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not rent under them.
9He covers the face of the moon, and spreads over it his cloud.
10He has described a circle upon he face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness.
11The pillars of heaven tremble, and are astounded at his rebuke.
12By his power he stilled the sea; by his understanding he smote Rahab.
13By his wind the heavens were made fair; his hand pierced the fleeing serpent. (Job 26:5-13)

13"God will not turn back his anger; beneath him bowed the helpers of Rahab. (Job 9:13)

In the New Testament, we find "deep" used in its equivalent Greek form, abussos, meaning abyss or bottomless pit, to symbolize a place of evil.

6But the righteousness based on faith says, Do not say in your heart, "Who will ascend into heaven?" (that is, to bring Christ down)
7or "Who will descend into the abyss?" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). (Romans 10:6-7)

30Jesus then asked him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Legion"; for many demons had entered him.
31And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. (Luke 8:30-31)

11They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon (Rev. 9:11)

7And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that ascends from the bottomless pit will make war upon them and conquer them and kill them, (Rev. 11:7)

8The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is to ascend from the bottomless pit and go to perdition; and the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will marvel to behold the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. (Rev. 17:8)

2And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, (Rev 21:2)

This next passage in the book of Revelation, predicts a new creation starting out the same way the first one did.

1Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain.
2And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,
3and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years were ended. After that he must be loosed for a little while. (Rev 20:1-3)

To sum up, whenever the Bible refers to someplace down-deep, abyss, bottomless pit-it is symbolizing a place of evil, as in "the depths of hell". The inhabitants go by names like Deep, Leviathan, Rahab and Abaddon. They are usually personified as beasts, dragons or serpents. Thus evil existed before creation and still waits for God to come and take it away. In other words, God's moral accomplishments have amounted to nothing.