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Yet this interpretation that the earth “became” waste and void has been discussed for close to 2,000 years, as pointed out by the late Arthur Custance in his book Without Form and Void: A Study of the Meaning of Genesis 1:2 .
The earliest known recorded controversy on this point can be attributed to Jewish sages at the beginning of the second century.
The Hebrew scholars who wrote the Targum of Onkelos, the earliest of the Aramaic paraphrases of the Old Testament, rendered Genesis 1:2 with an Aramaic expression Dr. Custance translates as “and the earth was laid waste” (1988, p. 15). The original language evidently led them to understand that something had occurred which had “laid waste” the earth, and they interpreted this as a destruction.
The early Catholic theologian Origen (186-254), in his commentary De Principiis, explains regarding Genesis 1:2 that the original earth had been “cast downwards” ( Ante-Nicene Fathers, 1917, p. 342).
In the Middle Ages the Flemish scholar Hugo St. Victor (1097-1141) wrote about Genesis 1:2, “Perhaps enough has already been debated about these matters thus far, if we add only this, ‘how long did the world remain in this disorder before the regular re-ordering … of it was taken in hand?’ ( De Sacramentis Christianae Fidei, Book 1, part 1, chapter 6).
Other medieval scholars, such as Dionysius Peavius and Pererius, also considered that there was an interval of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.