Icons of Theophany in Genesis

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving¹ over the face of the waters.

– Genesis 1:1-2

[H]e sent forth the dove out of the ark; and the dove came back to him in the evening, and lo, in her mouth a freshly plucked olive leaf so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth.

– Genesis 8:9-11


 And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him;  and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

– Matthew 3:16-17


¹The Hebrew verb has been translated “hovering” or “moving” (as a bird over her young, see Deut 32:11). The Syriac cognate term means “to brood over; to incubate.”  Excerpt from footnote found here: https://bible.org/netbible/

In the footnote for Genesis 1:2 we see that the author uses the word for moving or hovering to image the movement of the Holy Spirit or the Breath of God. This is the first critical image of our meditation. The second is the root of the name Adam. “The noun ‘Adam’ is…the masculine form of the word adamah which means “ground” or “earth”. It is related to the words: adom (red), admoni (ruddy), and dam (blood).” Wikipedia

Key words and images: water, Spirit/breath/wind, dove, hovering bird, Adam, earth, Baptism, Chrismation

We see in Genesis several icons prefiguring the Baptism of our Lord. The primordial waters on the face of the earth and the cleansing flood water. The Spirit of God moving as a bird over the waters and the dove flying out to look for the dry earth as the waters recede. In both the genesis and flood narratives we see the waters recede and dry land emerge (Gen. 1:9-10 and 8:9).

At the Baptism of Christ we see the same images – the waters and the dove. My favorite image or perhaps favorite connection is that of Christ as the New Adam imaged in Genesis by the earth. Adam, the man — made of earth and vivified by the Holy Spirit. Christ the New Adam emerges from the waters like the dray lands in Genesis and the Spirit like the form of the dove alighting upon Him of whom the Father says “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Brothers and sisters, let us remember Christ’s words to his disciples, the Great Commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Mat. 28:19-10

We are baptized into Christ we have put on Christ! We are sealed with the Holy Spirit! And as ones adopted unto sonship we call upon The Father as Our Father!


2 thoughts on “Icons of Theophany in Genesis”

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