Book Parallels

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Is there a parallel between Luke 1:35 and Genesis 1:2?

This question addresses two words that may seem close or the same in English. Let’s look at the verses one after another first.

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35, ESV)

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2, ESV)

So did Mary experience the overshadowing of the Spirit in her body to produce the divine Jesus in the human form of a baby in the same way that the waters experienced the hovering of the Spirit? At least I think this is the connection you are asking about.

If that is the case, it is not easy to reconcile the words “hover” and “overshadow” for several reasons. First, Hebrew and Greek words don’t always correspond with each other. Some words do, and others don’t. Usually, common words like go, do, see, and say, for example, have equivalents between languages. But some words have no equivalents in other languages.

Second, a word can mean something a little different in a different context. The word for overshadow in Luke 1:35 is used in other forums in the New Testament for shade or casting a shadow. It’s only used of the Holy Spirit in this place.

I looked up Genesis 1:2 in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament translation) and discovered a different word and idea in that translation. The Greek word used in Genesis 1:2 contains the idea of rushing upon or bringing upon.

Then I tried finding the word for overshadow in the Septuagint to see if it is used anywhere other than Genesis 1:2 in any other contexts. It appears four times in four verses. Here are the contexts of the overshadow/cast a shadow from the Septuagint:

  • Exodus 40:35 where Moses can’t enter the tent of meeting because the Shekinah glory cloud overshadows the tent. The Hebrew word here means to “settle.”
  • Psalm 90:4 where it talks God covering you with protection. The Hebrew word here means to “pass over.”
  • Psalm 140:7, once again with the idea of a covering for protection. The Hebrew word means to “cover.”
  • Proverbs 18:11 where it has the idea of casting a shadow. In Hebrew it Is translated “imagination.”

So the translators of the Septuagint used the same idea of overshadow or cast a shadow for Hebrew words with the same idea, but did not use it in Genesis 1:2. Based on these results, it doesn’t appear that there is a correlation or parallel between “hovering” in Genesis 1:2 and “overshadow” in Luke 1:35.

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