The creation story of Genesis 1 & 2 is very familiar to us today. The ancients would have seen and understood it different than we do. In the ancient world, the creation section would have been common discussion among the learned and wise men. This is still true today. However, this question for our study is how would the ancient’s understood the creation story?
Book Name: Genesis is the first book of the English Bible and it’s base Hebrew text corresponds to the first book of Torah called Bereshit בְּרֵאשִׁית. Bereshit can be said and spelled eight different ways – Bereshit, Bereishit, Bereshis, Bereishis, B’reshith, Beresh’t, Beresheet, or Bereishees. All of them are correct.
The first time “Genesis” is used to refer to this text was by the seventy-two Jewish translators of the Greek Septuagint (LXX). Later Jerome, using the Septuagint, used this name in his Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible. William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale depended heavily upon the Latin Vulgate and Luther’s German translations; so continued the tradition of calling this text “Genesis”. I am sure you know Genesis means “beginning” or “origin”
The Rabbis refer to the first book of Torah as “Bereshit” בְּרֵאשִׁית because it is the first word in the text. Bereshit בְּרֵאשִׁית has three meanings — “in the beginning“, “at the start“, or “at the head (of all things, in this case).” The translation “in the beginning” has become the most popular way to translate Bereshit and from what I’ve read all other translations are strongly opposed. In the world of translation, this has become a very political issue.
In Jewish tradition, there are three additional names used when referring the text of the first book of Torah. They are Sefer Bereshit which may mean book of beginnings, Sefer Rishon meaning the First Book, and Sefer Beri’at Ha’olam which translates to the Book of the Creation of the world. The oldest known reference to this text by the Rabbis is Sefer Maseh Bereshith, Book of Creation.