In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

This was past events so it should use past tense. But now means (at) the present time.

Or now here used as a conjunction means ‘ because the thing mentioned is happening or has just happened’ ?

  • He uses now to stress the fact that this condition (formless and empty) was established after the creation of the heavens and the earth. "Now, just after the creation, the earth was formless and empty". Apr 28, 2018 at 14:16

3 Answers 3


This text is from the Bible, which was not written in English, but translated into English from Hebrew. The translator is trying to capture a fairly common feature of Hebrew, starting sentences with a conjunction, in this case, "וְ". This can be translated as "Also" or "And", but the translator feels that in English "and" wouldn't work here, as it is the start of a piece of narration.

In a narration "Now" means "At that time" and it serves the purpose of translating "וְ", while still being good English.

Other translators have used "And" instead (KJV). Others (NLT) have simply dropped that word and started verse two "The earth was…".


That is the use of now to mean at that time of what is being described or at the time of the story:

  1. adverb In stories and accounts of past events, now is used to refer to the particular time that is being written or spoken about. She felt a little better now. It was too late now for Blake to lock his room door. By now it was completely dark outside.

It does not always refer to a present time.

Collins Dictionary


But the second sentence is using the past tense.

It's not now that gives it the tense, but the earth was formless.

When considering tense, look at the actual verb—not, as in this case, the adverb. The same sentence, written in the present tense, would be:

Now, the earth is formless.

Also note that just because something happened in the past, that doesn't mean that the narrative has to use the past tense. (Although that's often the case.)

"Tell me what happened last night."
"Okay, so I don't see the window and I walk right into it."

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