MANY ancient peoples have preserved among their myths an account of the creation of the world. Distorted though such stories may be, they do contain certain basic elements common to other, more reliable ancient documents. The Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the ancient Quiche Maya of Guatemala, for instance, contains a creation story very similar to that found in the Bible. It opens with a vista of emptiness very much like that of Genesis 1:2:
The surface of the earth had not appeared. There was only the calm sea and the great expanse of the sky. There was nothing.... There was only immobility and silence in the darkness, in the night (Popol Vuh, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1950, p. 81).
In this expanse of water and chaotic gloom, then, creation began. But unlike the conventional concept of a Creator doing all the work, the Maya account speaks of two beings. Tepeu and Gucumatz, the "Creator" and the "Maker," known as the "Forefathers," combined their efforts for the task:
Tepeu and Gucumatz came together in the darkness... and talked together discussing and deliberating; they agreed, they united their words and their thoughts.... Then they planned the creation, and the growth of the trees and the thickets, and the birth of life and the creation of man.
The story proceeds then with "Let there be light!", the appearance of dry land, plants, animals and man, much as in Genesis. But why two creators instead of one? Surely, if the inhabitants of Central America could remember and maintain — independent of the Biblical record — the less important details about the creation, they ought to have a pretty good idea about who did the creating. Yet they speak of two creating beings instead of one. The point is, of course, that the Mayas are absolutely right on this particular point! Even in speaking of two creators they have actually retained a detail not commonly understood outside the original Hebrew context of the Genesis record. For the Bible, too, shows there were two distinct personalities involved in creation, not one as commonly assumed. When Genesis 1:1 opens with: "In the beginning God..." the Hebrew word for "God" used here is Elohim. It is in the plural, designating more than one. The English translators unfortunately did not perceive this, and hence simply rendered Elohim in the singular as "God." Yet the sense of plurality was not completely lost, for Genesis 1:26 was correctly translated in accord with the original: "And God said, Let us make man in our image." Most professing Christians would find it alien to conceive of more than one being as the creator. Yet Elohim expresses plurality in a uniplural sense. The word means "God," but in a family relationship. The New Testament speaks of "God the Father" and "God the Son," the One who became Jesus. They are two distinct beings, but both are God, Elohim. Both of them have been together since eternity. "In the beginning was the Word [the Son), and the Word was with God [the Father), and the Word was God" (John 1:1). Together they planned the creation, and God the Son carried it out (John 1:3; Col. 1:16). Thus the Bible reveals that there were actually two spirit beings — two distinct personalities who united their efforts in the creation — exactly as the Maya account so surprisingly relates.