"By wisdom the Lord laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew." - Proverbs 3:19, 20.
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Although the "days" of the first chapter of Genesis can be interpreted to allow for a very old universe, this won't do any good unless the rest of that chapter makes sense in this context. God's creation account brings up many other questions which must also be answered. Here the various statements made in Genesis 1 will be examined in the combined light of what the Bible says and what scientists have been able to learn about God's creation.
As will be seen, the rocks and stars are rich in very detailed information; they say a great deal about their origins and their Creator. Unfortunately, the Bible contains very few total pages about the beginning; and what it does relate is much less detailed than we would like. While it will be comparatively easy to decipher what God's creation is telling us, it will not always be so simple to grasp exactly what His Bible is saying here.
This chapter will present an attempt to correlate the first chapter of Genesis with the universe. It is not the intent to make dogmatic statements about what Genesis actually means; instead, mere possibilities will be suggested. The scientific evidence will occasionally expose an incorrect interpretation of scripture; but it can never prove that any understanding is correct.
Genesis 1 will be examined very closely. Where it is scientifically possible, how God worked will be examined in addition to just what He did. Although at times God left the scientists utterly without a clue as to how He worked, at other times He left so much evidence of His methodology that a determined atheist can imagine the processes could have occurred even without God's hand on them. As God's Bible reflects the individual styles of its many human recorders, so also His universe retains the marks of His various channels of creation - sometimes supernatural, other times quite natural. In all cases, in both God's Bible and in His universe, we see God's wisdom revealed through the ultimate result.
Creationists often emphasize God's power and authority and neglect His wisdom, knowledge and understanding. As Proverbs 3:19, 20 (quoted at the beginning of this chapter) tells us, these three played an important role in the creation. We often erroneously picture God as a sort of powerful magician who speaks a single magic word, then steps back and the heavens simply obey. According to this image, God does not reason out each of the incomprehensible myriad details of what He is doing. The actual working out of those minute elements of design is somehow left up to the "magic" itself; but, of course, God is the "magic." It is He who works out every microscopic detail.
Psalm 33:6 states: "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made." Here God's creative agency is metaphorically described as the "word." (In John 1:1, Jesus is similarly described as the "word.") Psalm 33:9: continues "For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm." Once God has spoken something, it is certainly as good as done; but this is different from saying that God merely spoke the command, then sat back and watched some other creative agency deliver the results. God created the universe by Himself (Isaiah 44:24). God does have the power to "speak things into existence." But we must remember that He also is that power; He is the one who does as well as the one who speaks. God worked out every single detail Himself. He "made the earth by His power," but He also "founded the world by his wisdom." (Jeremiah 10:12, 51:15).
This picture of God's methodology is supported by the Hebrew wording of Genesis 1:1. The word there for created is "bara" which, according to Gesenius, means "To cut, to carve out, to form by cutting." 1 For example, both the N.I.V. and N.A.S. translated this word "cut" in Ezekiel 23:47. It is commonly taught that "bara" means something like "to create out of nothing." Apparently it does not. This word appears to speak of God's craftsmanship rather than of His power to create matter from nothing. Of course, it is still true that God actually did create the universe starting from nothing - at least from nothing which is a visible part of this universe (Hebrews 11:3).
God once gave Job a brief and highly figurative lecture on how much attention to detail was required to create the universe:
"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone - while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? ..." - Job 38:4-7.
Today, scientists are able to read some of these details. Like Job, we can never really appreciate just how much was involved in making the universe, but what we can learn from science will help us to come to a better understanding of who God really is.
[Beginning of this Chapter]
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
As recently as a hundred years ago, writing this book would not have been an easy task. At that time it was taught in physics courses that matter could neither be created nor destroyed. If this book had been written at that time, it would have been difficult to resolve the resulting conflict: If matter could not be created, then it must have always existed and there could have been no beginning. At that time the only agreement which could possibly be reached would be that if a creation were possible, it certainly would have taken God to do it.
Modern physics now confirms what Bible believing Christians knew by faith all along. Einstein supplied the necessary relationship between matter and energy 2 and later the Heisenberg uncertainty principle supplied a possible relation between energy and time. Scientists are now quite willing to concede that a moment of creation was possible. Other evidence even dictates the necessity of a creation. The famous second law of thermodynamics (Boltzmann/Kelvin) establishes that the universe must not have always existed or it would have run down to a dead stop before now. 3 Hubble's correlation between red shifts and distances to stars, and the consequent rate of expansion for the universe, even indicates a rough estimate for the time of its creation. 4
As Hubble's observations showed, the more distant galaxies have proportionally greater red shifts. (Red shift is a measure of how rapidly a distant galaxy is traveling away from us.) This means that all galaxies are moving away from a single point in space - that they all must have started from there at the same time. All of the matter in the universe is behaving as if it were the debris left over from a colossal explosion which once happened at that point. Using his limited information, Hubble calculated that this explosion must have occurred about two billion years ago. 5 Later refinements corrected this estimate to the presently established range of fifteen to twenty billion years.
Penzias and Wilson's measurement of the universe's background radiation confirms a very violent beginning at about this time. 6 More recently, evidence from nucleosynthesis has quantitatively confirmed some of the fine detail concerning this event 7 which cosmologists call the "big bang."
Although correct in substance, the big bang theory is often couched in terminology which assumes atheism. This, unfortunately, makes Christians reject it without even considering it logically. An atheist will attempt to present the moment of creation as if it were a completely "random accident" - one which, by "lucky coincidence," started a chain reaction of cause and effect that ultimately fell together into the Sistine Chapel and Marilyn Monroe among other wonders. But the "big bang" requires neither unguided randomness nor an accident. Besides, even those processes which appear random to humans are under God's control. "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord." (Proverbs 16:33).
Design and purpose in the guiding hand of an intelligent creator are consistent with the evidence for this cosmic-scaled explosion; but the random-accident scenario leaves an endless list of unanswered questions such as: How was the wildly expanding fireball sculpted into the universe's galaxies? How was the immense gravitational attraction of all this tightly-concentrated mass overcome? 8 And, what could possibly have set it off in the first place? 9
In any case, the moment of creation has been conceded. Modern science has come as far as giving us a description of how the universe began which even matches the details of the Biblical account. According to Einstein's laws, before there was any energy or matter in the universe, there could not have been any time or space either. 10 If there was no time "before" this event, then there really was no "before" at all! Although this confuses us, it is no problem for God; His existence is somehow independent of time as it relates to our physical universe.
Time and space cannot exist where there is no matter. This means that the moment of the creation of matter marked the beginning of time and the creation of the "heavens" which we call "space." This sounds very similar to the Bible's, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1). It would be a remarkable match if the Hebrew word for "earth" also referred to cosmic matter in the general sense - the matter from which the earth, stars and planets were ultimately formed. According to Gesenius' lexicon, the word "erets" (translated "earth" here) did carry the alternate meaning "element of the earth" to the ancient Hebrews. 11 This means the Biblical and scientific accounts of the first moment of creation match exactly!
Cosmologists tell us that about fifteen or twenty billion years ago, matter, time, and space appeared together with the cosmic "big bang." The energy of this explosion was what caused the creation of the stuff from which stars and planets were later formed (cosmic matter) and sent it spreading in all directions at nearly the speed of light. According to relativity, even "space" itself spreads with the mass of the stars. 12 Notice how this account matches with Jeremiah 10:12:
"God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding."
In particular, notice the cause-and-effect connection between matter and energy 13 and how the heavens are spread out. The word "earth" is again translated from "erets" and may again refer to matter in general.
Although in the past science did not seem to bear out Genesis 1:1, at the present time it does so very closely - just so long as we are willing to accept a longer-than-twenty-four-hour interpretation for the creative "days." Scientists now tell us that matter was created under exactly the circumstances which the Bible described thousands of years ago. Of course the scientists have not yet been able to fathom every aspect of God's creation, but they have come a long way.
This confirms some observations made back in the second chapter of this book: Even if science disagrees with theology, that does not necessarily prove that theology is in error. As we know today, theologians were correct in saying, back in the last century, that the universe was created - even when this was still in disagreement with science. Similarly, even if theology appears to be in agreement with science, that does not necessarily prove that we are interpreting the Bible correctly. Interpreters of both scripture and the universe can be wrong at the same time - even when they agree with each other. 14 Remember that the Inquisition used both Scripture and science against Galileo! Truth can be very elusive, no simple approach can always be trusted to lead us in the correct direction.
"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 verse is also a very interesting one; in fact, it is a subject of much controversy. Creationists sometimes place a huge time gap here in which many things supposedly happened but were not recorded in the Bible. This theory was originally proposed as an attempt to correlate the purported short days of Genesis with the long ones of science. It adds a complication to scriptural interpretation which is totally unnecessary; the "days" of Genesis can refer to long periods of time without the need for invented gaps. Such complications should always be avoided when there is neither a scientific nor Biblical reason for including them. 15
Back in Genesis 1:1 God created the matter from which the planet earth was later to be formed. Here in verse two, this matter is being formed into a planet. Taking Genesis 1:2 as a literal description of how our solar system (the earth, sun, moon and planets) actually looked as it was being formed, yields good agreement with modern scientific theory concerning this event. If, instead, verse two is taken to describe just the early earth, immediately following the formation of our solar system, there is still good agreement with scientific theory. Because both the Biblical and scientific data concerning this event are so vague, there is a lot of room for speculation. Some different possibilities will be suggested here.
There are many theories concerning the formation of our solar system and much is still unknown. However, it is agreed by astronomers that solar systems form from clouds of interstellar matter called nebulae. 16 A nebula is a very large shapeless cloud of interstellar gas and dust (cosmic matter) floating in space. In the case of the formation of our own solar system, this cloud is believed to have contained the remains of an ancient star (or stars) which exploded long ago. 17 Eventually, gravitational forces pulled this matter into solid clumps which became our sun and its planets. At first, before the sun ignited, this process would be occurring in the darkness of interstellar space.
This scientific reckoning of the formation of our solar system, from a dark shapeless cloud of space dust, bears a remarkable resemblance to the Bible's, "The earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep." The word "earth" was again translated from "erets" and could therefore refer to the drifting matter of a dark nebula. But there is no reason why this verse could not refer to just the incompletely-formed planet earth which was still in darkness - either owing to the dark cloud of dust still enveloping it or to awaited ignition of the sun.
Continuing with the second verse, "The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." This is also very rich in possible interpretations. Here emphasis is being shifted from "matter" in general to "water" more specifically; water plays a key role in the creation of life and is the focus of the next few verses. A shift in emphasis at this early stage might imply an early start toward the creation of life; still, there might be different reasons why emphasis was shifted at this point.
The phrase "was hovering" ("moved" in the more familiar King James version) is translated from the Hebrew "rachaph" which is used only two other places in the entire Bible (Deut. 32:11 and Jer. 23:9). The word means something like "to be moved or affected" as with love or fear. 18 First taking Jer. 23:9, "... My heart is broken within me; all my bones tremble, ..." Here the word "tremble" is translated from the Hebrew "rachaph." In this case the one who is speaking (God) is being moved by distress. Deuteronomy 32:11 gives a nicer picture. "Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young,..." Here the Hebrew "rachaph" was translated as "hovers." (This is also how the N.I.V. translated this word in Genesis 1:2.) This time it is used in a sense similar to a hen brooding over her eggs - being moved as with love. This might be what is intended in Genesis 1:2, but as we will see, the Jeremiah usage might also be the truth. God may have intended both shades of meaning at the same time.
There are other sources of uncertainty in this verse. The word "Spirit" (translated in Genesis 1:2 from the Hebrew "ruach") could also be translated as "breath" or "wind." If "wind" were the intended meaning, then the phrase "of God" would probably take on another shade of meaning, more like "mighty" or "violent." 19 This would imply the less gentle understanding of "rachaph" implied by Jeremiah. A mightily raging wind could certainly be described as being moved with "emotion." This phrase could be translated, "and the wind of God raged on the waters." This would not necessarily mean that the "brooded" understanding implied by Deuteronomy is wrong; if God meant to accomplish a creative step with His mighty wind, it would still represent a loving God "brooding" over His creation.
Scientifically, the birth of stars (and their planets) can be initiated by a cosmic compression wave in the nebular medium. 20 This wave could be described as a wind of incomprehensible power - one which would cause the birth of our sun. On the other hand, if this verse does not describe the formation of the solar system but only describes the early planet earth, then "wind" might refer to a great burst of solar wind from a giant sun flare. Scientists believe that such a blast may have cleared away much of the nebular dust. 21 Under this interpretation, the sun might have already been shining before this time, but its light would not yet be visible from earth because of an excessive amount of surrounding dust. A strong enough blast would clear this dust away. Notice that under either of these two interpretations, we might expect light to become visible immediately following the blast of "wind."
"And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light."
As explained, our solar system, including the sun, the moon, the earth and the other planets, was originally formed from nebular space-dust falling together into clumps. The sun was by far the largest clump and, according to the laws of thermodynamics, would therefore be much hotter and under much more pressure than the planets were.
If you have ever had an opportunity to use an old-fashioned hand-operated tire pump, you can appreciate how air gets hotter when it is compressed. The pump can get so hot that it becomes uncomfortable to hold. The forces involved in a forming star are much greater and the temperatures thus generated are great indeed! When the material of the forming star (which is mostly hydrogen) becomes hot enough, the star will ignite 22 - quite literally as a giant continuously-burning hydrogen bomb!
When this happens, there is light. The nuclear fusion reaction takes place way down in the center of the newly formed star. Eventually its energy will reach the surface and the star will begin to shine. Genesis 1:3 may describe the creation of the sun or it may describe a time when the sun's light first became visible to the earth owing to the removal of some nebular dust. Either way, God created the sun during His first "day." As will be explained later, another event is described during God's fourth "day." Scientists date this event - the creation of the sun and planets - at about 4.5 billion years ago.
"God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light 'day,' and the darkness he called 'night.' And there was evening and there was morning - the first day."
As was briefly mentioned, stars generate a "wind" of sorts. A new star will sporadically flare and generate this "wind" in bursts. After a star has settled into a stable routine, this "stellar wind" (comprised of elementary particles which "blow" away from it at about a million miles per hour) also stabilizes. 23 The stellar wind eventually blows the remaining dust away from the solar system; but at the moment of the star's ignition, there would still be plenty of interplanetary dust present. At first, there may have been enough to keep the planets in darkness.
With time, there would have been less dust. At some point the solar system must have merely been a hazy place; sunlight would have bounced around in a moderate amount of interplanetary dust. Hence, the first sunlight would have reached the earth from all sides. Even the back side of the earth would be illuminated by light reflected off this dust. Adding to this, the earth was initially very hot. It may have been hot enough to glow and emit some light of its own - although it never reached a high enough temperature to become a star like the sun did. 24 These initial conditions would have produced light on both sides of the earth at the same time; there would have been no night.
Genesis 1:4, 5 tells us that God separated the light from the darkness; the scientific account tells us He did this by further clearing of the interplanetary dust with the solar wind - and possibly by cooling the earth's surface. At present, there is scarcely any dust or debris left floating in our part of space at all - just a few atoms per cubic inch and an occasional meteor, comet or asteroid.
When this dust finally blew away, the light from the sun hit the earth directly as it does today. This meant one side of the turning planet was bathed in the sun's light while the other side was in the earth's own shadow. When the earth's surface cooled, it could not emit light so the shadow side was truly in darkness. Hence there was the separation of the day from the night. Again, God's universe tells the same story His Biblical account does.
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"And God said, 'Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.' So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse 'sky.' And there was evening, and there was morning - the second day."
Here the word "sky" is translated from the Hebrew "shamayim." Although "shamayim" is the same Hebrew word which was translated "heavens" back in verse one, those "heavens" are different from the "sky" which God is creating here. Remember, the same word can sometimes be used to mean two different things even in the same Biblical passage. In verse one, God created the heavens which we call "space"; here He is creating the heavens which we call the sky.
As mentioned previously, the early earth was quite hot. Initially it reached temperatures which may have been hot enough to melt rocks. 25 The center of the earth is hot enough to melt rocks even today; but it is kept heated by energy from radioactive minerals. 26 The earth's surface did cool with time though. First the earth cooled sufficiently to form a solid crust. Later, it became cool enough that volcanic steam could condense upon it into liquid water. 27 This appears to be what is written about in verses six through eight. Instead of having one big cloud of steam (water in gas form) surrounding the planet, water condensed onto its surface (the waters below) while a great mass of clouds (the waters above) remained above the growing "expanse" of air.
This expanse of air was mostly nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water vapor which had accumulated from volcanic activity. From the absence of heavy inert gasses in our present atmosphere, scientists conclude that the earth's original atmosphere must have been stripped off - possibly by the same solar flare that cleared the solar system of dust. 28
We see this from a slightly different perspective in another Biblical reference which describes the same event:
"By wisdom the Lord laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew." - Proverbs 3:19, 20.
This description contains more detail concerning the division 29 of the deeps (waters); 30 here the waters above (as identified in Genesis) are described as clouds which drop dew to form the waters below.
Again there is good agreement between what the Bible tells us God did and what scientific understanding tells us happened. Scientific understanding is finally converging upon the Biblical account which, remarkably, was composed thousands of years ago. Of course God was there and He knew what happened when He created the world. No one else could have known until this century.
Although scarcely worth mentioning today, the Hebrew word "raqia," translated "expanse" in Genesis 1:6, was in times past a source of confusion. Theology, from around the time of the translation of the King James Bible (and before), seriously regarded the "expanse" as a physical dome which held liquid water up above the sky; 31 hence the translation "firmament" in the King James Version. In verses such as Genesis 7:11 where it figuratively says, "The windows of heaven were opened" (K.J.V.), those theologians envisioned literal windows opening in the dome of the sky and spilling the waters through. That, of course, is not how God causes rain!
There was actually some justification for this historic misinterpretation as there is today for modern mistakes. The root of "raqia" means to spread out by beating - as one might hammer out a bowl from a piece of copper. 32 It was as easy to take this word to mean a sky-size inverted physical bowl which has been beaten into shape as to simply take the idea of a separation or spreading. In fact, without the realization that the waters above could hold themselves aloft in the form of thick clouds, it would be much easier to imagine something physical supporting them.
Of course modern translations reflect this more scientifically correct understanding. The word "expanse" is now used instead of the less correct "firmament." There is really nothing new about scientists aiding theologians in Biblical interpretation and translation; it has been going on for quite some time.
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"And God said, 'let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.' And it was so. God called the dry ground 'land,' and the gathered waters he called 'seas.' And God saw that it was good."
When the water first condensed onto the young planet's surface, the earth was still very smooth and it was possible for the oceans to cover it entirely. This is because the earth, as a whole, actually behaves more like a liquid mass than as a solid ball. Liquids will not form mountains or valleys very well. Scientists believe that the earth actually was, at one time, completely covered by a shallow sea. At that time, the only solid matter which might occasionally have broken the water's surface would have been volcanic islands. 33
Although it is not presently known exactly how it happened, geologists tell us that by 2.5 billion years ago, the more-or-less rigid continental masses had formed. 34 These masses, being made of relatively light-weight rock, floated on top of other rock which was heavier. 35 This is similar to how a marshmallow floats in hot chocolate or how aluminum floats in liquid mercury. In this way, the continents were able to reach above the surface of the ocean (see illustration). The phrase "let the dry ground appear" seems to speak of this time when the continents first formed.
Although aluminum will not float in water, it will float in mercury. It will float high enough to break through a layer of water. The continents do not float on the oceans but they do float on heavier rocks.
There is no reason to be concerned that God did not say that the waters were gathered together into several different oceans as they appear today; the earth has not always looked just like it does right now. According to the well-established theory of plate tectonics, the continents ride on various plates of rock which make up the earth's surface. The center of the earth is a very active environment and it constantly pushes these plates around. Where these plates collide, subduction areas form where matter is drawn back down into the earth's molten center; where they separate, volcanic activity fills in the opening cracks. The continents ride around on these moving masses, sometimes splitting apart or crashing into each other. This motion is a little bit like how foam might float around on the surface of a boiling pot of water.
Geologists tell us that as recently as a couple of hundred million years ago, all of the continents were briefly unified into a single land mass which they refer to as "Pangea." 36 This clumping together is believed to have happened at other earlier times during the earth's past as well. At the time the dry land first appeared, the waters might literally have been gathered into "one place." But the fact that the Bible also refers to the waters as "seas" (plural - as opposed to the singular implied by the phrase "one place") seems to indicate that the actual physical arrangement, over time, may have been somewhat more complicated.
God also describes the creation and gathering of the seas in Job:
"Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness. When I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, 'This far you may come and no farther; ... '" - Job 38:8-11.
Because there would have been a great deal more water in the clouds back then than there is during any present-day rainstorm, those clouds would have been very dark - hence God's phrase, "wrapped it in thick darkness." Of course the "doors" are figurative (see Job 3:10, Psalm 78:23); they refer to the limits which were imposed on the sea as it was gathered and the dry land appeared.
According to the scientific account, the figurative "womb" from which the primordial sea originally "burst" was the earth's rocks. Whatever atmospheric water the earth had initially was removed when the original atmosphere was stripped. The makings for the present atmosphere and oceans - nitrogen, carbon dioxide and steam - were safely held (chemically bound) in the "womb" of the earth's rocks. Later these elements were released by volcanos and hydrothermal activity. 37 God's words "bursting forth" appear to be quite descriptive of how they were released. As explained, this steam later condensed upon the earth's surface to cover it completely with a giant ocean (when the waters below were divided from those above). Here limits are being set for this ocean as the continents appear.
Again, we see a remarkable agreement between the old-earth interpretation of the Biblical account and the scientific account of the earth's beginnings. The Bible is not telling us fairy tales; it appears that the scientists aren't either. Both witnesses appear to have their accounts grounded upon actual truth.
"Then God said, 'Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.' And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning - the third day."
As the various created life forms are examined, another minor adjustment to our traditional view of Genesis will become necessary. If the "days" of creation were of indefinite length as has been determined, it is not unreasonable to assume that they might have had indefinite edges as well. As explained back in Chapter 3, the expression "evening and morning" usually carries the idea of "continuously." This could imply that a particular act of creation may have been initiated on a particular "day," although the act could continue and overlap subsequent "days." Thus Genesis might reflect topical as well as chronological organization to some extent; the creation of all plant types could be reported under one heading whether or not every single "kind" was created during that same distinct time slot. If this interpretation is the truth, then the various creative "days" would actually overlap each other somewhat.
There are quite a number of instances where the scientific information demands this. According to the fossil evidence, there are a great many types of plants (described under day three) which God did not create until after He had created some types of fish (day five). For example, the first sharks were created during the Devonian period (about 400 million years ago); 38 but the first flowering plants were not created until more recently (200 million years ago or less). 39 This should not be a surprise; building up a functioning planetary ecosystem is a tricky business and requires that new species be introduced in a carefully planned order. Flowering plants, for example, require certain insects to pollinate them; God would naturally have held off creating them until His creation was ready for them. We must conclude that at least some of the creative "days" had overlapping edges.
In fact, this same conclusion must be reached however one chooses to interpret the length of the "days" of Genesis. Even under the twenty-four-hour interpretation, the named creative acts must span different creative "days." Scripture tells us that "male and female" humans were created during the sixth "day" (Genesis 1:27); yet God did not create Eve until after Adam did many things including naming all the livestock, the birds, and the beasts (Genesis 2:15-22). 40 Adam's activities preceding the creation of Eve must have taken longer than twenty-four hours.
The order in which Genesis presents each of life's forms will be compared with the order in which scientists say that the first representatives of each category appeared. This will not be a trivial task for several reasons. First, God did not necessarily group His creatures into the same categories which scientists or even theologians use. Next, scientists get their information from fossils which are hardly ever as plentiful as one would like. Also, it is not known if first appearance is even what Genesis addresses. For another possibility, it might address when the majority of a category's types were created. These are just a few of the problems which will be encountered.
Of the many living things which God created, the first ones the Bible tells us about are land plants (Genesis 1:11-13). It is tempting to interpret this to mean that the first life was not created in the water, as the scientists tell us, but on the land instead. Such a claim is made on page 227 of the book Scientific Creationism. 41 It is more accurate, however, to say that the first created life forms which the Bible mentions are those plants which God created upon the land. God may have created other plants in the water before this time.
In this very concise one-chapter account, God has not told us everything He did! A great deal must have happened of which we have been told nothing. In Genesis 1, God mentions the creation of land plants, aquatic (water living) animals, birds and land animals. There are animals which do not fit into any of these categories - amphibians for example.
Amphibians, such as toads, hatch from eggs in the water, as do fish; but they later undergo modification and relocate to live on the land. Hence they are not exactly water or land animals. Although toads are not specifically mentioned here, or for that matter anywhere else in the Bible, they are certainly among God's creatures.
The Bible does not provide a single clue as to when God might have created amphibians. (The Egyptian plague of frogs in Exodus 8:1-6 doesn't count, of course.) For all we know from scripture, amphibians could have been created before plants were. If scientists are understanding God's creation correctly, then they have provided the missing information; God created the first amphibians between the time He created the first fish and when He created the first true birds. 42
Blue-green algae, the oldest known plant-like life form which lives in water, is not among those categories which God has named in Genesis 1. In fact, God makes no mention of any aquatic plants there. Therefore we have no scriptural authority for telling the scientists that life did not first appear in the water. All we have a right to say, if we are interpreting the Bible correctly, is that the first terrestrial (land living) plants were created before the first aquatic animals were.
Even this will cause some trouble; scientific sources often have this detail the other way around. The oldest known aquatic animals appear about 500-600 million years ago, during an "explosive" episode of creation called the Cambrian period. By comparison, the oldest known terrestrial plants do not appear in the fossil record until about 400 million years ago. 43 Although scientists do not know of any terrestrial plants which preceded aquatic animals, such plants may have existed anyhow.
A lack of fossil evidence does not prove that a particular life form did not exist. In the first place, plants do not often have hard parts and therefore do not fossilize very well. 44 This causes the fossil evidence to be misleading. 45 Next, fossils are much more likely to form on sea floors where sediments are piling up than on the dry land from where those sediments are being washed away. 46 This makes any terrestrial fossils rare. Furthermore, as far back in time as is now being considered, scientists regard the fossil record in general as being very sketchy. 47
If some terrestrial plants did precede the first aquatic animals, it is not at all clear that there should be any evidence of them; it is improbable that they would have been found in the fossil record. Scientists know from geological evidence that the bulk of the continental crust had formed by 2.5 billion years ago; 48 but what may or may not have been living on that dry land has not yet been seen in the fossil record preceding about 400 million years ago.
Because of this lack of actual evidence, there is some disagreement between sources as to what was happening up on the dry land while the first aquatic animals were appearing. One source describes the land as "A barren, lifeless desert." 49 Another source says, "The initial 'greening' of the landscape by green algae and bacteria may have taken place at or before this time." (Here "this time" appears to refer to when oxygen first became abundant - long before the first aquatic animals.) 50 As explained in the previous chapter, we should be skeptical in those cases where witnesses disagree; contradicting testimony is not adequately founded upon truth. The opinions of the scientists will, therefore, be disregarded here until they have found evidence on which to ground their claims.
About two billion years ago (after the continents had formed but before the first evidence of multicelled aquatic animals), there was a significant change in the composition of the earth's atmosphere. Evidence from iron oxide in mineral deposits indicates that this is when it first began containing large amounts of oxygen. 51 It is commonly assumed by scientists that this oxygen was produced by the blue-green algae which had lived in the earth's shallow seas almost since those seas were formed - that at this time, the algae finally started making headway against the processes which were removing oxygen from the atmosphere. But whether or not the first land plants had appeared by this time to help them out is not really a scientifically settled question.
In the past, the Bible has had a record of being correct (even if misunderstood) when scientific knowledge was wrong or incomplete. Because of this, and because the Bible seems to provide no justification for an alternate interpretation, it is probably the scientific evidence that is lacking here. As will be seen, it is unreasonable to exclude the Cambrian "explosion" of aquatic life from whatever God might have meant by having the waters "teem with living creatures" - the fifth day. There must have been some form of plant life living on the dry land preceding the Cambrian period. Scientists are unjustified in claiming the absence of Precambrian terrestrial plant life on such poor authority as the absence of evidence which is not expected to be very likely in any case. It is possible that this evidence might still be discovered some time in the future. Perhaps more digging (literally) on the part of the scientists will turn up some actual terrestrial fossils from the time period in question. Meanwhile we must just be patient and wait.
Another interesting point is that the Bible says the plants, as well as all the other created life forms, were created to reproduce "according to their kinds." 52 This statement is not in agreement with Darwin's theory of gradual and continuous evolution; but the fossil record has stubbornly borne out Genesis and not Darwin in this regard. New "kinds" of life just seem to appear, and then remain essentially unchanged for their entire stay on the planet. This has been, in many cases, a great many millions of years! 53 Here the traditional understanding of the Bible has stood firmly where the most popular scientific theory has needed continuous readjustment.
[Beginning of this Chapter]
"And God said, 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.' And it was so. God made two great lights - the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning - the fourth day."
This presents another apparent difficulty; according to the traditional interpretation, the sun is being "made" again. The scientists assure us that the sun was burning brightly long before there were any plants upon the earth; the Bible tells us that light preceded vegetation. We must agree with both. Plants do need light to grow. Furthermore, because light can be seen from very distant stars - light which has been in transit even longer than our sun has been around - there must have been plenty of stars back then too. Although theories concerning the formation of the moon are still being developed, the evidence shows that the moon was also created long before this time.
Another complication is that it appears that God is telling us that He "set" the sun, moon and stars in the "expanse" (the space between the waters) rather than in outer space where they certainly are. (Of course the word that meant the "expanse" between the waters could also refer to the "expanse" of outer space. Words do have multiple meanings.)
It seems another understanding of verses 14-19 is necessary - either this, or else another understanding of Genesis 1:3 and of all the scientific evidence as well. Something did happen at about this time which may provide an explanation.
Back during the second day, the waters were divided into liquid water below and very thick dark clouds above. At that time, a hypothetical observer standing on the surface of the earth (perhaps in a boat) 54 would have no way of knowing that there were stars or even a sun; the clouds would have been too thick. He would know about day and night but would have no way of knowing that the brighter sky of the day was illuminated from behind by the sun. He would not be able to observe how the sun's arc across the sky would be higher in the summer than in the winter. He would not be able to observe the summer stars as they replaced the winter ones and then were, in turn, replaced themselves. In other words, he would not have the sun, moon and stars to tell him of the days, seasons, and years. He would have the continuing cycle of light and darkness; 55 but that would be all.
What appears to have happened on the fourth day is that God caused the cloud cover to thin and finally to break up. At this point, it would seem to our earthbound observer (who by now has some land to stand on) that the sun and stars had just come into being. Furthermore they would appear to him to be in the sky rather than in outer space - of which he knows nothing. To him, it would appear as if they had not existed at all until that moment. From that time on, they would be visible for him to use for reckoning days, seasons and years - but not before. This would put this verse in the class of verses called "observer true" - like those verses which say "the sun rose," when in fact the sun stayed where it was as the earth turned toward it.
This meaning - first presentation of the formerly hidden sun etc. - is compatible with the words which God used. There are only two words from which the difficulty actually arises, "made" used in "God made two great lights" and "set" used in "God set them in the expanse of the sky." "Made" is translated from the Hebrew "asah" and "set" from the Hebrew "nathan." Where our English translations say "he also made the stars," the Hebrew merely says "also the stars." 56 Other than the way these words have been translated, there is no problem with this passage referring to the breaking up of the clouds. 57 Each of these words will be examined here. 58
"Asah," the Hebrew for "made," is a different word than the one used back in the first verse where God "created" the heaven and the earth. There the word was "bara" which, as was explained, means "to carve out." The meaning of "Asah" is more general. It can mean "to labor," "to work about (or upon) anything," "to make," or "to produce by labor." 59 The word is translated many different ways. Some Biblical examples (K.J.V.) are: to deal kindly (Gen. 24:49), to work in gold (Exodus 31:4), to commit a sin (Lev. 5:17), to prepare bread (Gen. 27:17), or even to show kindness (Gen. 24:12). 60
The King James Version of the Bible translated "asah" as "do" more than it translated it any other way, more than twice as many times as it translated it "make" - which was the second most common rendering. Still the most precise 61 translation would be more like to "prepare" or "produce." These carry more of the actual color of "asah" than the nondescript "do." It would be more accurate to say that a cow produces milk than that a cow does milk (asah is translated "gives milk" in Isaiah 7:22).
The most exact translation might go something like, "And God produced two of the great lights." 62 This tells us nothing about how they got there. The translation that God made two great lights actually adds a shade of meaning (something like "built") which the Hebrew doesn't necessarily carry. Another translator could, just as properly, have added a different shade of meaning such as "worked on;" this would be as close to "asah" as "make" is. "Bring forth" is even an acceptable translation for the word (Lev. 25:21). It would seem that "asah" is a versatile enough word that it would fit properly almost regardless of how God caused the sun, moon and stars to appear in the sky.
Next, the word "set," translated from the Hebrew "nathan," will be examined. Like "asah," "nathan" is also translated in a wealth of different ways - for example to deliver them, (Gen. 32:16) to bring a snare, (Proverbs. 29:25) put out his hand, (Gen. 38:28) or make a covenant (Gen. 17:2). The most common translation of "nathan" is "give." 63 The King James Version translates "nathan" as "give" more than five times as often as it translates it any other way.
Instead of "God set them in the expanse of the sky," the Hebrew merely says, "God gave them in the expanse ..." "Set" carries the idea of a relocation - one which is not necessarily implied by "nathan." Here it would improve the English grammar without altering the Hebrew meaning to use a synonym of "gave" and say that God "presented" them (Ezek. 20:28). This verse can be translated so the sky assumes the sense of a display window through which the presentation is made rather than the location where the great lights would be placed; this interpretation removes any problem of apparent misplacement.
"Nathan," like "asah," will fit with almost any theory a person cares to propose. Again we seem to have a rather versatile word.
If the Bible had been translated to allow for modern scientific information, Genesis 1:14-18 might read:
And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate between day and night. Let them be as signs for seasons and days and years. And let them be for lights in the expanse of the sky to give light to the earth." And it was so. And God produced two of the great lights - the greater light to rule the day and the lesser to rule the night, then also the stars. God presented them in the expanse of the sky to light the earth and to govern over the day and the night and to separate between light and darkness. And God saw that it was good. 64
This is closer to the original Hebrew than most English translations are. A slightly more scientifically biased rendering, although as accurate as other English translations, could have replaced "produced" with "brought forth." This would be more consistent with previously created astronomical objects being revealed by the removal of a thick cloud cover.
Notice also that the order of appearance further confirms the idea that these lights became increasingly visible through a decreasing cloud cover. The order of appearance begins with those which are the most easily seen through the clouds and proceeds to those which are least easily seen. First the sun, next the moon and finally the stars would become visible.
Of course, God's use of such versatile words as "asah" and "nathan" does not prove that He did not actually fabricate the sun, moon and stars right then; those words could be taken either way. But they do allow harmony between the fourth-day description and what is known to be the truth from other evidence: The Bible says there was light back in verse three; there is good scientific evidence that this light came from the sun. Because this is not changing the meaning of any of the original Hebrew words, it is justifiable that this verse be interpreted in a nontraditional manner; when the scientific data is taken into consideration, there is more total information available than most translators have.
[Beginning of this Chapter]
"And God said, 'Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.' So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, 'Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.' And there was evening, and there was morning - the fifth day."
Here, the Bible says God created aquatic creatures and birds - probably in the order mentioned. The scientists are a little more specific: The first known multicelled aquatic animal life appeared five or six hundred million years ago. True fishes first appeared a little later - about four hundred million years ago. 65
There were some specific moments during earth's history when many species appeared within a very short period. The creation of aquatic animals was probably the most remarkable of these moments. Scientists call this event the "Cambrian explosion." The term "explosion" was appropriately selected because of the appearance of almost every imaginable form of aquatic life (with the single exception of those with backbones - true fish for example) within a very short period of time. 66 This is an interesting companion to the Bible's phrase "Let the water teem with living creatures." The two almost certainly refer to the same event. Notice this match confirms the very nature of this appearance as well as the mere fact of it. Here is another impressive match between the old-earth understanding of Genesis and the scientific evidence.
True feathered birds - although having teeth - first appeared with the dinosaurs about 150 million years ago. This date is perhaps a little shaky. In order to fly, birds must have light-weight bones. Hence they do not fossilize very well. (Birds fossilize better than plants do, however.) The oldest birds known to scientists might not be the very oldest ones there were.
Interestingly, the word "bird" may also be introducing some confusion. "Bird" is translated from the Hebrew "owph" which means merely "a wing." 67 It also carries the idea of "wing covered." 68 This is not necessarily a bird. In Leviticus, for example, this word is used in conjunction with a grasshopper!
"There are, however, some winged creatures that walk on all fours that you may eat;" - Leviticus 11:21, Emphasis mine - Underlined word translated from the Hebrew "owph."
Even though grasshoppers are not "birds," as we understand the term, they are still included in the Biblical category of "owph." In this same chapter of Leviticus, "owph" is also used in reference to a bat (compare verses 13 and 19). We must keep reminding ourselves that Genesis, like Leviticus, was written a long time ago; we should not be surprised if we have to temporarily lay aside our twentieth-century understanding of animal classifications if we are to interpret it correctly. Genesis was written in ancient Hebrew, not in modern technical English.
It would seem that God may include flying insects in with this category too - or possibly even all "bugs." 69 This pushes the date for the first appearance of "owph" back to about 350 million years ago 70 - farther back than any other exclusively land dwelling animal including the dinosaurs. This is still after the first aquatic animals. It is about the time of the first amphibians.
[Beginning of this Chapter]
"And God said, 'Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.' And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good."
These two verses primarily refer to mammals - most of which have appeared only within the last sixty-five million years. The oldest dinosaurs date from roughly 230 million years ago. Because dinosaurs did "move" along the ground and were "wild animals," it seems reasonable to include them here. That would make this category older than the oldest known true birds. Therefore, if we were to disallow bugs from the bird category, this would cause a chronological problem.
This discrepancy might just reflect an unfortunate lack of bird fossils; as has been explained, the fossil evidence for birds is not as complete as that for the dinosaurs. However, a lack of fossils is probably not what is happening here; it seems that God may include winged insects - and possibly all "bugs" - in with His group "birds." According to the fossils, "bugs" appeared before any other land animals. This would completely eliminate the chronological problem. It is not at all a conventional approach; but it is a possible way to solve the problem without abandoning the scientific or scriptural evidence.
"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created man in his own image ..."
This brings us up to God's last creation; man is the final entry in the list which Genesis 1 supplies. The oldest creature that anyone ever dares to call a man, Homo habilis, appeared about two or three million years ago. 71 Even though Homo habilis made and used tools (sharp flakes which he chipped off of rocks), he was not really a man. 72 In fact, he was quite unlike modern man.
There are also some more recent man-like creatures: Homo erectus, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, and Archaic homo. Homo erectus first appeared about 1.5 million years ago 73 and Homo sapiens neanderthalensis about 150 thousand years ago. 74 This last date falls in the dating gap. As explained in the previous chapter, it is difficult to date fossils from this period; so this date should be treated with some caution. Archaic homo is a loosely defined category which is sometimes applied to Homo erectus and sometimes to another species of man-like ape which seems to be coming into focus in the fossil record. This new creature is presently thought to fill the gap between Homo erectus and true moderns; this gap was once supposed to have been bridged by the Neanderthals. Archaic homo (the new creature) has sometimes been classified as a Neanderthal 75 and sometimes as a modern. 76 All of these other creatures should be excluded from the category of true men; even though they looked more like men and made more advanced tools than Homo habilis did, they still were not men.
Although theologians often insist there could never have been any man-like ape creatures, this is merely a theological theory based on our understanding of the Biblical phrase "after their kinds." The Bible does not actually tell us God didn't create them; whereas the fossil evidence tells us He did. There are obvious similarities between the man-like apes and modern man; but this does not prove we evolved from them. Because we believe God's creatures breed true to their "kinds," those man-like creatures must have been separate creations of God - similar to us, but also different. Denying their existence is a step away from God's truth - not toward it.
Although we may be uncomfortable with the idea of a nonhuman creature who made and used tools, we have no scriptural reason to be. We may wonder why God created them; 77 but we have no scriptural grounds to insist He didn't. Their existence may damage the pride we take in our "lofty" status as humans; but God has never promised us that we had anything to be proud of anyway (Psalm 103:14) - only that we would rule over His creation (Genesis 1:28). We might like to be the only intelligent creatures God ever created but we are not. The brain design of Neanderthal man was indeed remarkable; 78 and so is that of a modern bottle-nosed dolphin. In fact, a dolphin's brain is larger than a modern man's is. Dolphins are very intelligent creatures and God certainly made them. We have to admit we share this planet with other intelligent creatures! It could be argued that the biggest advantage we have over dolphins is not our brains but our hands. 79
Never the less, Adam was created in God's image while those other creatures were not. To sharpen the division between us and them, there is no physical evidence that any of them ever wore clothes - not even for warmth. Although the claim is often made that the Neanderthals wore clothes, there is no supporting evidence; It is merely assumed that they did because they lived in cold climates. 80 It is not known for sure that they didn't have sufficient body hair for warmth. 81 The first actual evidence of clothing and of bone sewing needles does not appear until fully modern man does. 82 This evidence indicates that the knowledge of sin (and therefore Adam's fall) came with modern man. This is another reason those earlier creatures should not be considered true men.
Many other traits which are normally considered human did not appear until fully modern man either. The earliest undisputed art first appears at the same time as the moderns do. 83 Although it was recently believed that Neanderthals buried their dead, this idea has now been brought under question. 84 The earliest presently-undisputed burials appear at the same time as modern man does. The fossil evidence also indicates that articulate speech was not possible for the Neanderthals. Their vocal tract did not have the right shape. 85
God made Adam a fully modern man (Homo sapiens sapiens). Exactly how long ago modern man appeared is hard to say. History only provides recent dates - from within the last 7000 years. It is certain that man was around before then - probably long before then; it is just difficult to know how much before.
Unfortunately, radioactive dating techniques are of only limited help here. The event was too recent for the potassium-argon method to do any good, and it is too long ago to be accurately pinpointed by carbon-14. According to most sources, the oldest fossils of modern man date by carbon-14 to around thirty-five or forty thousand years ago; but this date is rather shaky. As explained in the previous chapter, carbon-14 needs calibration and the calibration has, so far, only been worked out to about nine thousand years ago.
Some remains identified as "fully modern humans," have been found which date (using exotic methods) as early as about a hundred thousand years old. 86 These fossils are considered modern men although some of them are said to display some "primitive features." Unfortunately, the term "modern man" is sometimes loosely used to cover both the true moderns and the archaics. Are these fossils truly modern men? Are they really Archaic homo? Are there some of each represented? Or is something else entirely different going on?
Although questions concerning the man-like apes might keep both scientists and theologians up nights, they really aren't that important to us right here; for the present purposes, it is only important that man fits into his proper place in the chronological order of God's creation. This has been properly established. The conventional date of thirty-five to forty thousand years will be assumed for this event, although it could be substantially in error.
Back in 1650 AD, James Ussher, 87 the Archbishop of Armagh, attempted to calculate the year in which God created Adam by using the genealogies provided in the Bible. He came up with a date of 4004 BC. 88 This is about 6000 years ago. It does not agree with the scientific evidence which we have just examined. The reason for this becomes apparent when we take a closer look at the Biblical genealogies.
It can be seen from comparing the genealogies from Genesis with the ones given in Luke 89 that the Biblical lists are not as complete as we would like them to be. Luke 3:35, 36, for example, records a second Cainan between Arphaxad and Sala (also spelled Shelah or Salah) which is not found in the parallel genealogy of Genesis 11:12. This is a warning that we can't be certain the type of calculation Ussher performed will give us meaningful dates.
Because of this, even young-earth creationists do not hold rigidly to the 6000-year age. Most of them assume about ten thousand years ago for the date of the creation of the earth - and therefore of Adam as well. (Remember that they consider Adam to have been created within a mere 144 hours of the time the heavens and Earth were created.) For example:
"Furthermore, the genealogies listed in Genesis and elsewhere in the Bible, it is believed, would restrict the time of creation to somewhere between six thousand and about ten thousand years ago." - Evolution: the Fossils Say No!, by Duane T. Gish, Ph.D., C. 1979, Creation-Life Publishers, San Diego, California, p. 60.
"To the extent that sound archaeological research may require dating of early human settlements at dates earlier than the traditional Ussher chronology allows, the Bible does indicate the possibility of minor gaps in the genealogies..." - Scientific Creationism, edited by Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., C. 1974, Master Books, El Cajon, California, p. 250, Emphasis theirs.
The point here is that even those who hold most rigidly to the traditional interpretation of the Biblical text do not regard Ussher's type of computing to be a reliable method of interpreting the Bible. Because there are well-founded historic dates which force human history back farther than these calculations allow, 90 and because of the known existence of some gaps in the genealogies, it might be more reasonable (within some sort of limits) to assume that the historic and archaeological dates are approximately correct.
The authors of Scientific Creationism (pp. 247-250), quite reasonably, explain that they are reluctant to allow for gaps accounting for the million years which they regard as the evolutionist's measure of human history; but we are not evolutionists and are not claiming Adam was a pre-human man-like ape creature (such as a Neanderthal). We need only account for the age of modern man.
Even so, the thirty-five or forty thousand years conservatively assumed for modern man would constitute a lot of gaps. If modern man turns out to be older than this, then there are even more gaps to account for. The young-earth creationists seem to be thinking more on the order of merely a few thousand extra years. Gish, for example, has allowed for about four thousand extra years. Because there is no scriptural evidence which limits these gaps to what the young-earth creationists are recommending, it will be assumed here that there are a great many gaps; 91 that they can account for this discrepancy.
The scientific dating might be somewhat in error, but this won't completely remove the problem. Carbon-14 can be calibrated back about nine thousand years (although not yet 40,000 years) and it has been found that, if anything, the carbon-14 dates are actually too young - not too old (see Chapter 5). Anyway, there are other kinds of evidence which tend to confirm the carbon-14 dates. Other dating techniques are more suspect, but we should not just assume they are wrong if we have learned anything at all from this book. It is quite likely that the error lies in our traditional understanding of scripture. 92
Although we may not be comfortable with this many gaps, we have no evidence that the truth should be what we are most comfortable with. Truth can sometimes be hard to hear. Maybe some future advance in the scientific understanding of early man will suddenly throw light on all of the presently obscure Biblical passages and clear this all up. Perhaps the solution will come directly through advances in Biblical understanding. Meanwhile we will have to be patient. It is at times like this that keeping one's mind open is the recommended course of action.
[Beginning of this Chapter]
The scientific evidence has not been as hard on Genesis 1 as we might have expected. It has been necessary to make a few adjustments to our traditional understanding, but it has not been necessary to abandon either scriptural authority or scientific evidence. Cautious interpretation can produce a very remarkable fit - a fit which not only matches the coarse data but some very fine points as well. Instead of opposing the Bible, scientific evidence elaborates upon it and helps us to choose between the different possible interpretations.
God's creation can be used as a powerful commentary on what Genesis really means. Remember, God "wrote" both accounts. What better source is there to consult about what a book means than another book by that very same author - especially one which covers the same information? Of course there is always that author Himself. Readers are encouraged, as they check the scriptures to see if this information is correct (and the libraries), to seek God and ask for His help. His word would be true even if every man were found to be a liar! (Romans 3:4).
Once again, the reader is reminded that none of the statements in this chapter are dogmatic claims. It is not known for certain which meaning or meanings God actually intended in the Scriptures. The possibilities which have been proposed merely appear to be in harmony with both God's written Word and His created universe as we understand them at the present time. Whether or not this understanding is truth, time will judge. Knowledge will increase and when it does, remaining errors will be exposed. We must continue to test everything; and we must hold on to the good. Furthermore, we must avoid those things which prove to be false (1 Thess. 5:21, 22).
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