What Happened on the First Day of Creation? A Study of Genesis 1:1-1:2

The First Day of Creation

The glory of the Bible is that, unlike the writings of other ancient nations which demonstrated a belief that water was the primal material before the existence of any gods, it claims that God was in the beginning and that He created all that is.  Both the Gap theory and a relatively new theory, which posits that the six-day-creation-clock didn’t really start ticking until God uttered the words “Let there be light” in verse three, suggest that the first day didn’t start in verse one but in either verse two or verse three, respectively.  Let us simply analyze, biblically and linguistically, the full range of the key Hebrew words in Genesis 1:1–2 and see what they mean and if they support the idea that a time gap exists in those verses.  (English words for which the Hebrew equivalent is given are italicized.)

 

In the beginning God created (ברא bara) the heavens and the earth (את השׁמים ואת הארץ et hashayim ve’et ha’aretz).  The earth was without form, and void (ובהו תהו tohu vavohu); and darkness was on the face of the deep (תהום tehom). And the Spirit of God was hovering (מרחפת merachefet) over the face of the waters (המים על־פני al pnei hamayim).

 

Bara and Asa

 

The first key word isברא  created (bara) which is used a total of 53 times in the Old Testament.  The basic and majority times used form of the word, which is used in Genesis 1, has the general meaning of create, shape or form.  It has been suggested that the word bara used here in Genesis is a different type of action than the word עשׂה (asa – do, make, fashion or produce) used in Exodus 20:11 where God says that he made the heavens and earth in six days.

 

 Bara and asa are for the most part synonymous with one important distinction between them: bara is used only of God’s actions and never of man’s.  There are countless examples of where man can asa (do or make); however, only God can bara.  There is by implication creation ex nihilo, but the major thrust of the word bara lies in its use by God only and on the initiation of something new.  The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) notes concerning asa and its distinction from bara:

 

The word [asa] occurs with great frequency in the Genesis account of creation, which is the first great act of God in history. The significant interchange between the words bara’ “create” and ‘asa is of great interest. The word bara’ carries the thought of the initiation of the object involved. It always connotes what only God can do and frequently emphasizes the absolute newness of the object created. The word ‘asa is much broader in scope, connoting primarily the fashioning of the object with little concern for special nuances.

 

The use of bara’ in the opening statement of the account of creation seems to carry the implication that the physical phenomena came into existence at that time and had no previous existence in the form in which they were created by divine fiat. The use of ‘asa may simply connote the act of fashioning the objects involved in the whole creative process. (TWOT: 1708 asa)

 

As the TWOT notes, the use of asa is a broader term than bara, but we see from the context in which the words are used that they can be used interchangeably to a large extent.  Perhaps the best example is Isaiah 45:18 where God is disparaging those who put their trust in idols rather than in Him, the true God and Creator of all.  Notice that the three words that are used, create, form and make all describe the same event – the creation of the heavens and earth.

 

For thus says the LORD,

Who created (bore בורא) the heavens,

Who is God,

Who formed (yotzer יוצר) the earth and made (oseh עושׂה) it,

Who has established it,

Who did not create (braha בראה) it in vain,

Who formed (yatzarah יצרה) it to be inhabited:

“I am the LORD, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:18)

 

This verse is incredibly specific, especially in regards to the creation of the earth.  First of all, God declares that He is the one who created (bore בורא) the heavens – which could also be translated as Creator of the heavens.  Next He says that He is the former (yotzer יוצר) and the maker (asah עושׂה) of the  earth, a seeming confirmation of the supposed distinction of bara and asa.  However, God continues by saying that He created it, where the word it, is the third person singular feminine possessive suffix.  Put simply, it means that the word it is attached to the word created.  The word it must refer to earth because the earth is a singular feminine noun and heavens is a dual masculine noun.  Clearly and unmistakably God declares that He created, formed, and made the earth.  Thus, to suggest that Exodus 20:11 (“For in six days the LORD made [asa] the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them…”) is not parallel in thought to Genesis 1 is to ignore the evidence in favor of one’s own theory.

 

The Heavens and Earth

 

Thus far verse one has told us the when of creation – in the beginning, and then the how – God created something completely new (bara), which only God can do.  Now we are up to the what, which is of course: the heavens and the earth.  The question before us is understanding what precisely that means since immediately in verse two we are told that the earth was formless and void (תהו ובהו tohu vavohu); the earth must have not been fully complete.  Thus, just what did He create?  What are we to understand by the heavens and the earth?  Did He create them complete or could that term be understood as the material that He would later form, as if He first created the clay and then worked it into a suitable form?

 

The answer to this enigma lies in the fact that there is no single word for universe in Hebrew, which is confirmed by the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “The Hebrews had no proper word for ‘world’ in its wide sense of ‘universe.’ The nearest approach to such a meaning is in the phrase ‘the heavens and the earth.’”[i]  Thus, stating that God created the heavens and the earth is equivalent in our day to saying that He created the universe; it encompasses all that is.[ii]  Bible commentators Keil and Delitzsch note the significance of the first creative act found in the Bible:

 

[…] there is nothing belonging to the composition of the universe, either in material or form, which had an existence out of God prior to this divine act in the beginning (Keil & Delitzsch Genesis 1:2).

 

That is to say, God essentially created the building blocks before beginning construction.  The term the heavens and the earth here might be thought of as the raw material, the elements that God created out of nothing that He would form and fashion later to His liking.  Consider that before God created anything, there was only God.  There was no universe, no vacuum of space, nothing whatsoever.  There was only God.  Thus as part of His creative act, He had to create a dimension that was apart from Him – in which He could further manipulate and form the basic elements according to His will.  Keil & Delitzsch again comment:

 

This is also shown in the connection between our verse and the one which follows: “and the earth was without form and void,” not before, but when, or after God created it. From this it is evident that the void and formless state of the earth was not uncreated, or without beginning. At the same time it is obvious from the creative acts which follow (vv. 3-18), that the heaven and earth, as God created them in the beginning, were not the well-ordered universe, but the world in its elementary form; (Keil & Delitzsch 1866: Genesis 1:1)

 

Tohu Vavohu

 

“The earth was without form, and void (תהו ובהו tohu vavohu)” (Genesis 1:2a)

 

Verse two tells us that the matter God created was still in no particular shape or form.  There was no planet earth as we know it today, but the raw material that God had created, (according to Genesis 1:2b) was still in no special shape.  It was still unformed and unorganized.  These words do not in any way suggest that there had been an earlier creation, as proposed by the Gap Theory.  They do not suggest that the earth was a wasteland waiting to be recreated.  The word tohu in Genesis 1:2, according to the TWOT,

 

refers not to the result of a supposed catastrophe (for which there is no clear biblical evidence) but to the formlessness of the earth before God’s creative hand began the majestic acts described in the following verses. As Jeremiah 4:23 indicates, the earth always has the potential of returning to tohu wabohu if God decides to judge it. (TWOT Tohu)

Furthermore, the text says that the earth “was without form, and void” and not “became without form, and void” as the Gap Theorists argue.[iii]  The Hebrew והארץ היתה vehaaretz hayta is what is known grammatically as a copulative clause.[iv]  The Hebrew letter vav (or waw) attached to the noun (the earth) acts as a type of parenthetical[v] statement that is to suggest a reading: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  (Now the earth was without form, and void.)”  Thus the earth was desolate and void (tohu vavohu) at the very beginning of God’s creation and did not become as a result of God recreating it.

 

Tehom, the Deep

 

The rest of verse 2 seems to indicate that the creation of the heavens and the earth was water.  That is to say, that all of the matter of the universe was comprised of water and that water was formless.

 

…and darkness was on the face of the deep (תהוםtehom). And the Spirit of God was hovering (מרחפת merachefet) over the face of the waters (על־פני המים al panei hamayim). (Genesis 1:2b)

 

The apostle Peter comments on the creation of the world from water, “…that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water” (2 Peter 3:5)

 

It is also interesting to note that several ancient creation myths (cosmologies) had water as the original and eternal substance from which gods subsequently emerged.[vi]  The Bible, of course, demonstrates the superiority of God over His creation since He is the one who made the waters, and not the one emerging from the waters.  These ancient myths, I believe, are a distorted memory of the true creation account in which water was the first substance God created.

 

Tehom accurately describes well the water that was there in the beginning.  It is best translated as deep, depths, or abyss.  According to A. S. Yahuda, a word similar to tehom appears in the ancient language of Akkadian, which has a very similar meaning, thus helping us to better understand its use in the Bible:

 

[…] [tamtu] is conceived in its primordial condition as […] the primeval water as a sea, an ocean, before the earth was created by the heaping up of mud on the shore of this tamtu. (Yahuda 1933: 128)

Physicist Dr. Russel Humphreys, in his book, Starlight and Time, describes his theory based on the observations of this verse, how water might have then been transformed into the other known elements, “…this verse suggested to me that the original material God created, the deep, was pure water, which He then transformed into other materials”[vii] (Humphreys 2004: 72).

 

Merachefet, God’s Energizing of His Creation

 

The last word to analyze is מרחפת (merachefet): “And the Spirit of God was hovering (מרחפת merachefetover the face of the waters (על־פני המים al panei hamayim).” (Genesis 1:2b) The word is also found also in Deuteronomy 32:11[viii] and denotes the fluttering, hovering, or brooding motion of a bird over its nest.

 

As an eagle stirs up its nest,

Hovers (מרחפת merachefet) over its young,

Spreading out its wings, taking them up,

Carrying them on its wings, (Deuteronomy 32:11)


The purpose of the act of brooding by a bird over its nest is to provide warmth and nurturing to its young.  The movement is that of the bird gently shaking and moving its body in fairly small motions.  It also contains the idea of the bird covering its young with its wings, enveloping them in order to bring them to maturity.[ix]

 

It seems that at this point God began to energize the raw material that He made in verse 1.  The oscillation on the face (or surface) of the deep, which is really what the hovering could be compared to, created the movement of the inert elements.  It is interesting that all matter and energy at their core are simply wavelengths; “matter acts as both a particle and as a wave” (Koehler 1996).

 

We saw above that the Hebrew letter vav attached to the front of the word hayta (was) created a type of parenthetical statement.   The fact that מרחפת (merachefet) is a transitive participle substantiates that verse 2 is not a new thought or even the first act of God but a clarification of what came before it in verse 1.

 

God Speaks

 

The sequence of events is that the first thing that God did was to create the heavens (space) and the earth (material) – that is, He created a place or dimension outside of Himself and then the matter to work with, which we are told was without form and empty.  Then God, hovering over the face of the deep, decreed light to exist.  These are the first recorded words of God, but in fact, the third creative act.

 

This view can be strongly defended from the Hebrew grammar.  The typical sequence of a narrative is to start with a verb in the simple past tense[x] (Genesis 1:1 begins with bara – created in the simple past tense) thereby signifying something new or dramatic to the story.   Verse 2 we saw is a parenthetical statement explaining what is meant exactly by the creation of the “earth”.  The action picks up again in verse 3 with the use of a sequential past tense[xi].  The use of a different kind of Hebrew verb marks quite clearly that the writer understood the actions of verse 3 to be a continuation of the previous two verses.  Hebrew expert Dr. Buth notes that this is the normal storytelling construction in biblical Hebrew.

 

The sequential past tense is used to present the next event in the story or the next event in a sentence.  If the writer wants to mark a break in the flow of the story for any reason, then they do not use the sequential past tense.  For a past event they would need to put something other than the verb at the beginning of the sentence and then use a simple past tense (Buth 2005: 52).

 

Not only is verse 3 a continuation of verse 1, but the entire creation account of Genesis 1 uses the sequential past tense.  Consequently, according to the grammar, there is no break between verse 1 and the rest of the chapter.

 

Thus, there is no reason to try to place millions of years between any of the first three verses since they are all part of that first day.  Light was created on the first day, along with the very building blocks necessary for even the light to shine, which was energized by the movement of the Holy Spirit over the face of the deep.  There exists, therefore, no reason to believe that the length of the first day was any different than that of any other, nor was there a previous world that fell only to be recreated, nor was there even a geologic creation some billions of years earlier.  The first three verses of Genesis 1, the first day, all occurred within 24 hours just like the rest of the days as we shall see.


[i] International Standard Bible Encyclopedia “World”

[ii] This is not to overlook the speculation that there may be parallel universes.  However, by definition the word universe should encompass all that exists in the dimension of time and space.

[iii] For further discussion see: Weston W. Fields, (1976) Unformed and Unfilled p. 58.

[iv] For a further discussion on the copulative clause see: Kautzsch and Cowley, Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, p. 484, section 154a, footnote 1.

[v] Joüon, P., & T. Muraoka, (2003; 2005: electronic version, Logos Software) note the use of the copulative clause (also known as the vav explicativum):

On the other hand, a nominal or verbal clause with Waw forms a sort of parenthesis and precedes the main clause as in Gn 13.2 ואברהם כָּבֵד מאד now Abraham was very rich … ; 24.16 now the young girl was very beautiful…; Jon 3.3 now Nineveh was an enormous city; Gn 48.10 וְעֵינֵי ישׂראל כָּֽבְדוּ מִ ֫זֹּקֶן now the eyes of Israel were heavy because of old age; Josh 4.10 “whilst the priests … stood (עֹמְדִים) in the middle of the Jordan … the people hurriedly crossed over (וַיְמַהֲרוּ וַיַּעֲבֹ֫רוּ).” This same type of clause is also found used in an independent fashion: 1Kg 1.1 (at the very beginning of a narrative) now King David was old, advanced in age; Gn 37.3 now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons.

[vi] “In almost all primitive creation stories in Egypt, the eternal substance that existed in the beginning and whose origin is not explained is water, the primeval ocean, Nun.”  (Redford 1992: 398)

[vii] See Humphreys 2000: Appendix C, section 15 for a detailed, mathematical explanation of the physics involved.

He also notes that he based “a theory about the origin of the planetary magnetic fields on the possibility that the earth and other bodies in the solar system were originally created as pure water” (Humphreys 2004: 73).  He remarks that his theory has been extremely successful in predicting measurements of the magnetic fields of Uranus and Neptune.

[viii] The word is in the Pa’al form in Jeremiah 23:9.

[ix]Keil and Delitzsch confirm this “The creative Spirit of God, the principle of all life (Psalm 33:6; Psalm 104:30), which worked upon the formless, lifeless mass, separating, quickening, and preparing the living forms, which were called into being by the creative words that followed. רחף in the Piel is applied to the hovering and brooding of a bird over its young, to warm them, and develop their vital powers (Deuteronomy 32:11). In such a way as this the Spirit of God moved upon the deep, which had received at its creation the germs of all life, to fill them with vital energy by His breath of life.” (K&D 1866 Genesis 1:2)

[x] Dr. Randall Buth notes “in telling stories, the past tense is used with a special word order to grammatically signal events as a break in the flow of the story.  It marks a discontinuity.  That is, something is put in front of the verb […]  This is done when the author wants to break the time flow of the story, or when the author wants to mark a boundary of unity […]”  (Buth 2005:52).   There could be no better way to indicate that Genesis 1:1 is an absolutely new and dramatic event than by using the simple past tense (also commonly referred to as the perfect or qatal tense).

[xi] This is commonly known in Hebrew grammar as the vayyiqtol tense.

 

Evolution’s Dirty Little Secret

A large number of well-trained scientists outside of evolutionary biology and paleontology have unfortunately gotten the idea that the fossil record is far more Darwinian than it is. This probably comes from the oversimplification inevitable in secondary sources: low-level textbooks, semi-popular articles, and so on. Also, there is probably some wishful thinking involved. In the years after Darwin, his advocates hoped to find predictable progressions. In general, these have not been found–yet the optimism has died hard, and some pure fantasy has crept into textbooks […]  (David Raup 1981: 832, Professor of Geology University of Chicago, Chicago Field Museum, emphasis mine)

 

The primary reason that there is any question regarding the length of the creation days of Genesis is due to many people’s belief that evolution is a fact, and since it is a fact, then a literal reading of Genesis must not be valid.  Some have gone so far as to suggest that the ancient Israelites were simplistic and merely ignorant of true science, which is precisely what medical doctor William Keen did in his 1922 book entitled I Believe in God and Evolution.  Keen’s book may be somewhat dated, but the attitude he championed has not changed.  In fact, we could argue it has become even more entrenched today.

 

Fully convinced that evolution was an established fact, Keen argued, “A fundamental difficulty with the so called ‘Fundamentalists’ is that they fail to recognize the fact that the ‘Children of Israel’…were living in the intellectual childhood of the human race” (Keen 1922: 7).  He then goes on with his biased and incorrect version of ancient history by stating, “…their minds were cast in a poetic mold, their literature was permeated with imagery, metaphors and parables.  Bards, priests and prophets delivered it to them.  No scientists then existed”  (Keen 1922: 8).

 

Neither of Keen’s observations is based on historical fact.  Unfortunately, his belief in evolution has skewed his understanding of history, though his perspective is consistent with the evolutionary model.  Simply stated, the evolutionary model proposes that life forms continue to get more and more complex and so too does man’s sophistication and understanding of the world.  While mankind is more technologically advanced today than ever before, and hence we have more and usually better data to work with, ancient man was by no means primitive, nor was man at that time in the “intellectual childhood of the human race.”

 

The age before Abraham (approximately 2000 B.C.) saw amazing applications of scientific principles based on math, geometry, physics etc.  The ancient civilizations of the time (the Sumerians, Babylonians, Akkadians and Egyptians) were the ones who invented writing, an extremely complex concept not for the weak-minded.  These civilizations first developed elaborate mathematical tables.  It was even the Babylonians[1] who preempted the Greek philosopher Pythagoras with his famous discovery known as the Pythagorean Theorem by approximately 1300 years (O’Connor and Robertson 2000b).  These ancient peoples erected enormous pyramids and ziggurats, which to this day still defy some of our best engineering prowess — and they did so all without the aid of motorized machinery.  They plotted the course of the stars with incredible precision and devised extremely accurate calendars.  They wrote music and plays for entertainment, kept immaculate business records that have survived until today, and even had a postal system.  This supposedly primitive culture, to which Keen referred, codified extensive laws, which in many countries, law students are still required to study.

 

Keen is equally incorrect in claiming that there were no scientists.  Let’s consider some evidence that shows that ancient man was actually quite advanced and therefore was not mentally primitive as Keen as suggested.  If men were not mentally primitive, then they were able to faithfully and accurately pass down the creation account given to them by God.

What is Science?

 

The Collins English Dictionary defines science as “the systematic study of the nature and behavior of the material and physical universe, based on observation, experiment, and measurement, and the formulation of laws to describe these facts in general terms.”  This description certainly applies to what we narrowly define as science today.  But the word science comes from Latin and simply means knowledge.  This meaning is reflected in the Webster’s Dictionary 1828 definition, “In a general sense, knowledge, or certain knowledge; the comprehension or understanding of truth or facts by the mind.”  The Bible contains many astute observations about nature that demonstrate that the authors were very observant of the world around them and came to conclusions about their world.

 

In the book of Job, we find a statement that claims something that was not universally accepted in the ancient world.  Whereas the countries surrounding Israel believed that the world was either floating on water or founded upon the body of a dead or living god, the Bible describes the earth suspended in empty space:  “He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing. [al-bli-ma literally: on-without-what]” (Job 26:7).

 

Ecclesiastes 1 verses 6 and 7, thought to have been written by Solomon, make keen observations regarding the circulation of the atmosphere and the water cycle:

The wind goes toward the south,

And turns around to the north;

The wind whirls about continually,

And comes again on its circuit.

All the rivers run into the sea,

Yet the sea is not full;

To the place from which the rivers come,

There they return again. (Ecclesiastes1:6, 7)

 

We take these passages for granted since they communicate things that are fairly common knowledge today, but these passages demonstrate an extraordinary understanding of the world – all without the benefit of high-tech measuring instruments.  At the most, these are proofs that God inspired the words of the Bible; and at the least, they demonstrate good science on man’s behalf.  Consider another example:

 

The birds of the air,

And the fish of the sea

That pass through the paths of the seas. (Psalm 8:8)

The fact that “the seas were circulating systems with interaction between wind and water”[2] was not known until the late 1800’s yet the Bible contained this truth almost 3000 years earlier than modern science.  In essence, William Keen and those in agreement today who claim that the Bible is just a collection of myths and therefore we need not take it literally but instead must interpret the Bible by way of modern science, have made a grave mistake.  The Bible is reliable and scientific.  Certainly, if indeed inspired by God, then it must be accurate.  However, if only inspired by men, then those men were first-rate scientists of their day.  Dr. Keen’s thesis is certainly not unique, however.  In fact, it seems that the number of individuals who claim, “I Believe in God and Evolution” only grows in spite of the authority and accuracy of the Bible.

 

Evolution Sunday

 

On February 12, 2006 hundreds of churches around the United States observed Evolution Sunday, a celebration of the 197th birthday of Charles Darwin, in order to support the teaching of evolution in public schools.  Evolution Sunday was the culmination of approximately two years of gathering signatures from over 10,000 clergy from many mainline churches who believe that evolution is an established fact.  “At St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, Atlanta, the Rev. Patricia Templeton told the 85 worshipers […] ‘A faith that requires you to close your mind in order to believe is not much of a faith at all’” (New York Times, Feb 13th 2006).  A parishioner from that church commented in a similar fashion:

Observation, hypothesis and testing — that’s what science is, it’s not religion. Evolution is a fact. It’s not a theory. An example is antibiotics. If we don’t use antibiotics appropriately, bacteria become resistant.  That’s evolution, and evolution is a fact.  (ibid)

 

Unfortunately Rev. Patricia Templeton and her parishioners have misunderstood both the Bible and science.  She is wrong in believing that the teaching of the Bible somehow requires us to close our minds – the Bible actually gives us the correct paradigm with which to properly understand the world.  It tells us why people behave selfishly and sinfully, why there is disease and death, and why we see the scars of a global cataclysm known as the flood.  The real scientific evidence, as we will see, supports the Bible.

 

The parishioner that made the above statement is wrong as well since he lacks a basic understanding of the difference between macro and Natural Selection.  Natural Selection, speciation and adaptation, are embraced by essentially all Bible believers.  The person referred to merely an example of how organisms adapt to their surroundings – a fact which is recognized by all.  As noted, Darwin was correct in observing the change of the beaks of the finches.  That, however, was all that he actually observed.  The other aspects of his model are speculation and not based on “observation, hypothesis and testing,” the very requirements people claim the Bible leaves out.

 

Molecules-to-man evolution, that is to say the changing of one kind to another (reptile to bird, for instance), remains nothing more than a paradigm which has never been observed and cannot by any means be proven even after so many years of trying.  It is not an established fact.  Darwin himself even wrote in a letter[3] to Asa Gray, a Harvard professor of biology, “I am quite conscious that my speculations run quite beyond the bounds of true science.”

 

Darwin was not the only “Darwinist” to recognize this point.  L. H. Matthews wrote in the Introduction to Darwin’s (1971 edition) Origin of the Species:

 

The fact of evolution is the backbone of biology and biology is thus in the peculiar position of being a science founded on unproven theory.  Is it then a science or a faith?  Belief in the theory of evolution is thus exactly parallel to belief in special creation.  Both are concepts which the believers know to be true, but neither, up to the present, has been capable of proof. [4] (emphasis mine)

 

Matthews is by far not the only person to suggest such sentiments regarding the scarcity of evidence in support of the evolutionary model.  Famed evolutionist Stephen J. Gould of Harvard, stated “The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of the fossils” (1990: 13). David M. Raup, paleontologist at the University of Chicago and curator and Dean of Science at the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History, likewise stated:

The evidence we find in the geologic record is not nearly as compatible with Darwinian natural selection as we would like it to be. Darwin was completely aware of this. He was embarrassed by the fossil record because it didn’t look the way he predicted it would […]. Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn’t changed much. […] Ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin’s time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of Darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as the result of more detailed information.  (Raup 1979: 22-29 emphasis mine)

 

The Clergy Letter Project

 

The Clergy Letter Project from which the idea of Evolution Sunday came about issued the following statement (An Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science) that sadly claims that the keystone and foundational passages of Genesis are nothing more than stories with a spiritual message and are not real historical events.  The entire letter has been copied below:

 

Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth. (“An Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science”, Clergy Letter Project, 2004, emphasis mine)

 

What Kind of Truths Are the Biblical Promises?

 

Whether or not religious truth is different than scientific truth is irrelevant; if something is indeed true, then it does not matter what category it falls into.  The events as described in the Bible are either true or they are not; there can be no middle ground.

 

The very accounts that they are dismissing as being spiritual stories or allegories are, in fact, the very foundation of the Bible.  For example, if the flood did not actually occur as Genesis declares, then the promise given by God “I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth…” (Isaiah 54:9) through the prophet Isaiah is worthless.  If God based His promise on an event that did not really occur, then what assurance would outcast Israel have that some day God would no longer hide His face but restore them?

 

“For a mere moment I have forsaken you,

But with great mercies I will gather you.

With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment;

But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,”

Says the LORD, your Redeemer.

“For this is like the waters of Noah to Me;

For as I have sworn

That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth,

So have I sworn

That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.

For the mountains shall depart

And the hills be removed,

But My kindness shall not depart from you,

Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”

Says the LORD, who has mercy on you. (Isaiah 54:7-10 emphasis mine)

God is comparing the judgment of the earth by the flood with the judgment on Israel.  Here He promises that just as the waters would no longer cover the earth, which is to say that the judgment would not happen again, so too was the promise that Israel’s judgment would pass.  If the story of the flood is just a timeless story to teach us about God, what do we do with the promise that He made to Israel?  If there was no real flood, was there also not a real judgment that fell on them?  Clearly from biblical and secular history we know that is not true; Israel definitely was judged as we will see in the statements of Daniel, Jeremiah and the Chronicler.  Later in chapter 11 we will look at some real-world evidence of that flood.

 

The First Six Days 5 ComboFurthermore, if we categorize the creation account, Adam and Eve, and Noah and the Flood as being merely figurative and non-literal stories that contain truths, all the while denying that they are in fact true in what they state about cosmology, history, and geology, then what do we do with the promise of redemption given to us concerning the current sinful condition of man?  Is Jesus the fulfillment of that promise?  Was there really ever a promise made?  And if there was a promise made, then to whom was it made if not to the real, historical Adam and real, historical Eve?  Gleason Archer stated well the importance of the Bible being true and accurate in all areas that it touches: “if the biblical record can be proved fallible in areas of fact that can be verified, then it is hardly to be trusted in areas where it cannot be tested.”  (Archer 1982: 23)

Darwin Didn’t Want God’s Help

 

We should not use man’s observation of nature to interpret the Bible.  Man sees things differently everyday and in a way that fits his best interests.  The data concerning the origin of the universe are out there, but how we interpret those data is the true test.  After having seen the historical and archeological confirmations of Scripture, we should therefore let Scripture be the starting point of our worldview.  We ought not let man’s interpretation of nature be used to interpret Scripture.

 

Accepting the various facets of the evolutionary model as fact is the only reason for arguing that the creation days mean billions of years.  Ironically, Darwinian evolution is diametrically opposed to God’s assisting in any way.  It is given as a plausible mechanism for how we are here without any first cause, not how God might have done the job!  There seems to have been no room for divine intervention in Darwin’s world.  Darwin expert Neal Gillespie noted “Darwin clearly rejected Christianity and virtually all conventional arguments in defense of the existence of God and human immortality” (Gillespie 1974: 141).

 

Furthermore, Sir Arthur Keith stated in the introduction to the sixth edition (1872) of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection

 

[…] we see that Darwin’s aim was to replace a belief in special creation by a belief in evolution and in this he did succeed, as every modern biologist will readily admit.  (Keith 1872: xvi-xvii)

 

Darwin himself, in Life and Letters of Charles Darwin published posthumously, describes the process by which he went from a belief in God to removing God from his world completely:

Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true.  (Darwin 1896: 274-286)

 

Evidently, to grant room for evolution in Genesis is contrary to what Darwin advocated.  If Darwin didn’t believe in Theistic Evolution, why should we?

Get the book, The First Six Days


[1] O’Connor and Robertson state concerning the Babylonians mathematical abilities, “Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the Babylonian’s calculating skills was their construction of tables to aid calculation. Two tablets found at Senkerah on the Euphrates in 1854 date from 2000 B.C.. They give squares of the numbers up to 59 and cubes of the numbers up to 32…”  (O’Connor and Robertson 2000a)

 

[2] Late 1800’s. Dr. Matthew Maury is considered one of the major founders of the science of oceanography. He was also a creationist who believed in the absolute authority and accuracy of the Bible. One day while he was sick in bed, he asked his son to read the Bible to him. One of the verses his son read was Psalms 8:8. That particular verse mentioned “paths” in the seas. Believing that the Bible must be correct about these “paths”, he set out to find them. As a result, Dr. Maury was the first to discover (in modern times) that the seas were circulating systems with interaction between wind and water.”  Scientific Foreknowledge in the Bible retrieved from creationists.org/foreknowledge.html October 22, 2006

[3] Quoted in N.C. Gillespie, Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation (1979) p. 2 (University of Chicago book). See nwcreation.net/evolutionism.html retrieved October 2, 2006

 

[4]  See Introduction pages: x, xi.

 

Replenish the Earth and the Gap Theory

 Replenish the Earth and the Gap Theory

In Genesis 1:28 we read “…and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.” (KJV)  The King James Version’s use of the word replenish has been seen by Gap Theorists as proof that the earth is old, since supposedly Adam and Eve are commanded to fill again.  In fact, the idea that God commanded Adam and Eve not merely to fill the earth but to fill the earth again, stems from the Gap Theory.[i]  The proponents of the Gap Theory believe that the billions of years of the age of the heavens and earth, as touted by evolutionistic thinking, is found between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.  Thus, did God command Adam and Eve to fill the earth for the very first time or to fill the earth again?  Did they

The First Six Days: the Gap Theory Debunked

Get all facts in the book.

actually understand that they were to fill the earth again because the world prior to their creation had been destroyed?

 

Replenish/Malu

It is true, that in today’s English, when we say replenish we mean filling up something that is depleted, something that was once full and is now empty.  However, just less than 200 years ago, Webster’s Dictionary (1828) defines the word as, “To fill; to stock with numbers or abundance.”  We can see that the word has changed from meaning fill to fill again today.  Of course, the answer ultimately lies not in English but in Hebrew.

 

The Hebrew word מלאו (malu) does not mean to refill, but simply to fill.  It in no way connotes or implies to fill again.  It just means fill.  God gave the same command to fill in Genesis 9:1 to Noah after the flood as He did to Adam and Eve.  There is no question that Noah was to fill the earth again, but that is not intrinsically implied by the word; God simply said to fill the earth.  Likewise, to suggest that God commanded Adam and Eve to repopulate a world that had been recreated is poor exegesis and is not even remotely supported from the text.  We can, therefore, absolutely conclude that Adam and Eve simply understood God to be telling them to fill the earth for the first time and not to refill the world.  They would absolutely not infer from God’s command that there had been a world gone bad prior to theirs.  In fact, there are no words or verses that support such a claim.[ii]


 


[i] Weston W. Fields in his book Unformed and Unfilled (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1978) provides a thorough discussion of the Gap Theory and its fatal flaws.  See also

answersingenesis.org/creation/v3/i3/gap_theory.asp

[ii] For a discussion on the Gap Theory, see: Russell Grigg From The Beginning Of The Creation

answersingenesis.org/creation/v19/i2/beginning.asp

The Value of Literary Genre (The Language of Creation Part 5 of 5)

the language of creation

A consideration raised by the Clergy Letter Project is that the creation account is not to be read literally but allegorically or figuratively. The Letter states: “Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation…Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.” (Clergy Letter Project, 2004) People holding to this view often claim that the literary genre of Gen 1 and 2 is poetic rather than prose. They therefore suggest the account cannot be a literal, accurate, straightforward, and chronological summary of the actual events; it is simply using figurative, allegorical, metaphorical language to teach us “timeless truths.”

 

A survey of parallel accounts written in both prose and poetry, however, demonstrates that regardless of a passage’s literary genre, (poetic or prose), it is still to be understood in a literal fashion. For example, God’s commanding of Moses to strike the rock so that water would come out of it (Exod 17:6) offers an example of prose that was retold in a literal but poetic fashion by later, biblical writers. Asaph uses very concrete words to describe the historical fact of the rock being struck and water coming out, such as: “we have heard”, “our fathers have told us”, (Ps 78:3) “(God) appointed a law…to make known”.  He makes it abundantly clear that striking the rock was a very real, historical event and that the events occurred as stated. There is no sense of allegory whatsoever in his language even though he retells the account using poetic parallelism (chiasmus A, B).

  • Give ear, O my people, to my law; (A) Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. (B)
  • He divided the sea and caused them to pass through; (A) He made the waters stand up like a heap. (B)
  • He split the rocks in the wilderness, (A) and gave them drink in abundance like the depths. (B) He also brought streams out of the rock, (A) and caused waters to run down like rivers. (B)  (Ps 78:1, 15. 16)

 

The striking of the rock and water coming forth is reiterated in Psalm 105:41 where another Psalmist states: “He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it ran in the dry places like a river.”  Both of these writers have interpreted the events in Exodus literally and straightforwardly. (See also Paul’s recounting in 1 Cor 10:1-6)

 

Exodus 15:1 is another example of poetry as historical fact a song (poetry) to the Lord: “Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and spoke, saying…” Exodus 15 is the poetic form of chapter 14 which was written in prose – that is, a plain straightforward kind of language. What we must not miss, however, is both the prose in chapter 14 and the poetry in 15 tell a true and historic account of what happened at the crossing of the Red Sea. A historic account expressed in poetry in no way precludes it from also being an accurate and true account.

 

Therefore, whether or not Genesis creation account is poetry or prose or even a mix of both makes no difference. We see this proven by looking at other biblical passages that speak of creation. For example, after taking the children of Israel out of Egypt, God led them to a place called Mount Sinai. We read in Exodus 20 which is written as prose, He gave them the law and therein he states that he created everything in six days and rested on the seventh. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God.” (Exod 20:9) Certainly God is talking about a regular workweek. The people were to work six (literal) days and then they were to take a day off, something very different from the custom of the peoples around them, who generally didn’t take any days off. God gives the reason and history behind the seven-day week: “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.” (Exod 20:11, 31:15, 17) God unequivocally declares that He created everything in only six days. Like the other times that a cardinal number appears before the word day (yom יום), here too it is used as a literal 24-hour day. God makes perfectly clear how long he took to make the universe (just in case anyone should be confused). If these days are not taken as literal days then neither can the Sabbath be taken as literal. Yet the Sabbath as a literal day, starting at sunset Friday evening and lasting until the following Saturday evening, has always been considered a literal span of 24-hours so we can safely conclude that the six days of creation are also to be taken literally.

 

There is no way to circumvent this declaration: the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, observed for 24-hours every week, is a sign between the Jewish people and God. The Israelites knew exactly how long it was – for not knowing would cost them their life. The Sabbath was/is 24 hours and therefore, so are all of the other days of the week, which is how long it took God to create the heavens and the earth. Hence God himself interprets the former revelation given in Genesis one and two as literal.

Framework Hypothesis

The framework hypothesis posits that the layout of the creation events is not chronological but theological and thus we cannot understand the days (and creative events) as being literal. For example Gordon Wenham, a proponent of the framework hypothesis argues that, “…the distribution of the various creative acts to six days, has been seized on and interpreted over-literalistically…The six day schema is but one of several means employed in this chapter to stress the system and order that has been built into creation.” (Wenham 1987: 39, 40) Yet the fact that the Genesis creation account is beautifully written does not detract from the author’s intent to convey a literal and factual account.

 

This is confirmed by many biblical scholars, who do not believe that Gen 1:1-2:3 is the actual scientific explanation of where we came from, yet nevertheless argue on the basis of linguistic and literary criteria that the Genesis creation account was written as a literal rendering of what the author believed to have truly happened and hence the days of Gen 1 and 2 are literal, definite periods of time. Old Testament scholar Gerhard von Rad states, “The seven days are unquestionably to be understood as actual days […]” (von Rad 1972:65).

 

Oxford Hebrew professor James Barr, who does not actually believe Genesis as factual, states emphatically concerning the writer’s intent, “the creation ‘days’ were six literal days of a 144-hour period” (Barr 1978: 40). Barr later adds in a 1984 letter:

…so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Gen 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that: 1) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience, 2) the figures contained in the Gen genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story, 3) Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark.’ (Barr 1984)

Gerhard F. Hasel in his article The “Days” Of Creation in Genesis 1 likewise notes the conclusion of liberal scholars:

 

the creation “days” cannot be anything but literal 24-hour days. They are fully aware of the figurative, non-literal interpretations of the word “day” in Gen 1 for the sake of harmonization with the long ages demanded by the evolutionary model of origins. Yet, they insist on the grounds of careful investigations of the usage of “day” in Gen 1 and elsewhere that the true meaning and intention of a creation “day” is a literal day of 24 hours (Hasel 1994, emphasis mine).

 

Hasel further argues how:

 

the ‘literary genre’ redefinition of the creation account is intended to remove the creation account from informing modern readers on “how” and “in what manner” and in what time God created the world. It simply wishes to affirm minimalistically that God is Creator. And that affirmation is meant to be a theological, nonscientific statement which has no impact on how the world and universe came into being and developed subsequently. (Hasel 1994)

 

Thus what Wenham and others have discovered about the literary style of Genesis only serves to magnify its author, God, and the literary considerations in no way detract from a literal interpretation of the days and events contained therein. Furthermore and for the record, Walter Kaiser states in his study on Genesis 1-11; “we are dealing with the genre of historical narrative-prose, interspersed with some lists, sources, sayings, and poetical lines.” (Kaiser 1970: 61) Therefore the attempt to relegate it as non-literal literature is an unwarranted effort to dismiss the biblical cosmology as myth.

Conclusion: The Language of Creation Proves a Literal Seven-Days Creation

The biblical creation account can only be describing a period of seven literal 24-hour days. The linguistic foundation is found in the usage of the word day (yom יום) because every time it is used in conjunction with a cardinal or ordinal number, the meaning is always and without exception limited to the period of a regular and literal 24-hour day. God Himself reiterates that He created the heavens and the earth in six days, which is why He instructs man to work six days and then to take the seventh off. We know from history that the Hebrews have always taken the six-day workweek literally and have considered the seventh day to be a day of rest. Because God tells us twice in Exodus (20:11 and 31:17) that those were literal days, our only plausible conclusion regarding the six (plus one) days in Genesis is that they are to be taken as literal, 24-hour days. There is wide acceptance that the writer of Genesis believed that God created in six literal days. We need not and cannot conclude that they were six indefinite periods of time, at least not if we are to take everything else in the Bible seriously.

 

The only reason to conclude that the six days of creation were long periods of time is if we seek to harmonize the Bible with the model of (geological, chemical and biological) evolution. However, if we simply seek to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture, then the interpretation of Genesis 1 is clear: God created the heavens and the earth in six literal 24-hour days and rested on the seventh. We therefore conclude that there is no room for a biblical interpretation which includes an evolutionary process of billions of years during creation; God emphatically declares to have done it in six, literal days.

 

Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four

Bibliography

Barr, James (1978). Fundamentalism. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.

Barr, James (April 23, 1984). Letter to David C.C. Watson: Oxford.

Bozarth, G. Richard. (Sept. 1979). The Meaning of Evolution. American Atheist Magazine.

Brown Driver Briggs (BDB), (1996).  Hebrew Lexicon. Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.

Buth, Randall (1994)."Methodological Collision Between Source Criticism and Discourse Analysis, The problem of 'Unmarked Temporal Overlay' and the pluperfect/nonsequential wayyiqtol" in Biblical Hebrew and Discourse Linguistics, ed. Robert Bergen, (S.I.L., 1994: 138-154).

Buth, Randall (2005).  Living Biblical Hebrew, Introduction Part Two, Mevasseret Zion: Biblical Language Center.

Clergy Letter Project. Retrieved August 20, 2006, from www.butler.edu/clergyproject/religion_science_collaboration.htm

Collins, C. John (1995). The Wayyiqtol As ‘Pluperfect’: When And Why Pages 117-140 Tyndale Bulletin Vol.46.1 (May 1995).

Fields, Weston W. (1978). Unformed and Unfilled. Collinsville, Illinois: Burgener Enterprises.

Harris, R. Laird, Gleason L Archer Jr., & Bruce K. Waltke, (1980). Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Chicago: Moody Press.

Joüon, P., & T. Muraoka (2005). A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew. Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico.

Kaiser, Walter C. (1970). The Literary Form of Gen 1-11, New Perspectives on the Old Testament. ed. J. Barton Payne Waco, TX: Word Books.

Kautzsch, E. and A. E., Cowley, eds (1910). Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, 2nd. ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Keil & Delitzsch (1866). Commentary on the Old Testament. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids (1973 reprint).

Hasel, Gerhard (1994). The “Days” Of Creation in Gen 1: Literal “Days” Or Figurative “Periods/Epochs” Of Time?  Retrieved September 5, 2006, from www.grisda.org/origins/21005.htm

Orr, James ed. (1913) International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. (electronic version: The Word Bible Software).

Pipa, Joseph A. Jr. From Chaos to Cosmos: A Critique of the Framework Hypothesis. Westminster Theological Seminary/California. (Draft January 13, 1998). Retrieved March 12, 2007, from http://capo.org/cpc/pipa.htm

Ramm, Bernard (1950). Protestant Biblical Interpretation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Roberts, A. & J. Donaldson, eds. (1885). Translations Of The Writings Of The Fathers Down To A.D. 325. Buffalo: The Christian Literature Publishing Company. The Word Bible Software.

Ross, Hugh (1991). The Fingerprint of God. 2nd ed. Orange, CA: Promise Publishing.

Von Rad, Gerhard (1972). Gen: A Commentary. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.

Wenham, Gordon J. (1987). Gen 1-15, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 1. Waco, TX: Word Books.

 

Are Genesis One and Two Contradictory Accounts? (The Language of Creation Part 4)

The Language and Grammar of Genesis One and Two

The claim is often made that the creation accounts of Gen 1 (really 1:1 – 2:3) and Gen 2 (really 2:4 – 2:25) are contradictory. Thus, it is suggested that even if chapter 1 had been written with a literal intent, chapter 2, with its supposed contradictions, would render a literal reading impossible. The principal difference in the two chapters is that chapter 1 deals the language of creationwith creation from a panoramic view while chapter 2 is concerned specifically with the how of the creation of man and the what of man’s role in God’s creation. Let us analyze biblically and linguistically the key passages the full range of the key Hebrew words in Gen 1:1–2, the grammar of chapter 1 and also 2:4, 2:5-7, and 2:19.

 

Genesis 1:1 is the first act of creation and not simply a title which is substantiated by the Hebrew grammar. The typical sequence of a narrative is to start with a verb in the simple past tense. (Buth 2005:52) Gen 1:1 begins with bara – created in the simple past tense thereby signifying something new or dramatic to the story.  Verse 2 is a parenthetical statement explaining what is meant exactly by the creation of the “earth”. The action picks up again in verse 3 with the use of a sequential past tense (vayyiqtol). The use of a different kind of Hebrew verb marks quite clearly that the writer understood the actions of verse 3 to be a continuation of the previous two verses. Dr. Randall Buth notes that this is the normal storytelling construction in biblical Hebrew.

 

The sequential past tense is used to present the next event in the story or the next event in a sentence. If the writer wants to mark a break in the flow of the story for any reason, then they do not use the sequential past tense. For a past event they would need to put something other than the verb at the beginning of the sentence and then use a simple past tense (Buth 2005: 52).

 

Not only is verse 3 a continuation of verse 1, but the entire creation account of Gen 1 uses the sequential past tense. Consequently, according to the grammar, there is no break between verse 1 and the rest of the chapter and hence no gap of years between any of the first three verses since they are all part of that first day. Light was created on the first day, along with the very building blocks necessary for even the light to shine, which was energized by the movement of the Holy Spirit over the face of the deep. There exists, therefore, no reason to believe that the length of the first day was any different than that of any other, neither was there a previous world that fell only to be recreated, nor was there even a geologic creation some billions of years earlier (as the Gap Theory suggests). The first three verses of Gen 1, the first day, all occurred within 24 hours just like the rest of the days.

Bara and Asa

Before God created anything, there was only God. There was no universe, no vacuum of space, nothing whatsoever. There was only God. He created something completely new (bara), a space/dimension (from nothing) called שמים shamaim (heavens) which he filled with ארץ eretz (earth-material) which was in the process of being formed and was not completed. Keil & Delitzsch underscore the connection between verses one and two “it is evident that the void and formless state of the earth was not uncreated, or without beginning…the heaven and earth, as God created them in the beginning, were not the well-ordered universe, but the world in its elementary form; (Keil & Delitzsch 1866: Gen 1:1) God essentially created the building blocks before beginning construction. The term “earth” here must be directly interpreted by verse two and hence understood as the raw material, the elements that God created out of nothing that He would form and fashion later to His liking. The creation of light was the third creative act.

 

A key word in Genesis 1:1 is ברא (bara) created and is used a total of 53 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. The basic and most widely used form of the word (used in Gen 1) has the general meaning of create, shape or form. It has been suggested that the word bara used here in Gen is a different type of action than the word עשׂה (asa – do, make, fashion or produce) used in Exodus 20:11 where God says that he made the heavens and earth in six days.

 

Bara and asa are for the most part synonymous with one important distinction between them: bara is used only of God’s actions and never of man’s. There are countless examples of where man can asa (do or make); however, only God can bara. There is by implication creation ex nihilo, but the major thrust of the word bara lies in its use by God only and on the initiation of something new. The TWOT notes concerning asa and its distinction from bara: “The word bara’ carries the thought of the initiation of the object involved. It always connotes what only God can do and frequently emphasizes the absolute newness of the object created. The word ‘asa is much broader in scope…“’asa may simply connote the act of fashioning the objects involved in the whole creative process.” (TWOT: 1708 asa)

 

As the TWOT notes, the use of asa is a broader term than bara, but we see from the context in which the words are used that they can be used interchangeably to a large extent. Perhaps the best example is Isaiah 45:18 where the three words that are used, create, form and make all describe the same event – God’s creation of the heavens and earth. “…who created (bore בורא) the heavens, who is God, who formed (yotzer יוצר) the earth and made (oseh עושׂה) it, who has established it, who did not create (braha בראה) it in vain, who formed (yatzarah יצרה) it to be inhabited…” (Isa 45:18)

 

This verse is incredibly specific in regards to the creation of the earth. First of all, God declares that He is the one who created (bore בורא) the heavens – which could also be translated as Creator of the heavens. Next He says that He is the former (yotzer יוצר) and the maker (asah עושׂה) of the earth, a seeming confirmation of the supposed distinction of bara and asa. However, God continues by saying that He created it, where the word it, is the third person singular feminine possessive suffix (the word it is attached to the word created). The word it must refer to earth because the earth is a singular feminine noun and heavens is a dual masculine noun. Clearly and unmistakably God declares that He created, formed, and made the earth. Thus, to suggest that Exodus 20:11 (“For in six days the LORD made [asa] the heavens and the earth…”) is not parallel in thought to Gen 1 is to ignore the evidence in favor of one’s own theory.

Tohu Vavohu

The matter God created in Gen 1:1 was still in no particular shape or form: “The earth was without form, and void (תהו ובהו tohu vavohu)” (Gen 1:2a) There was no planet earth as we know it today, but the raw material that God had created (according to Gen 1:2b) was still in no special shape. It was still unformed and unorganized. These words do not in any way suggest that there had been an earlier creation, as proposed by the Gap Theory. They do not suggest that the earth was a wasteland waiting to be recreated. The word tohu in Gen 1:2, according to the TWOT: “Refers not to the result of a supposed catastrophe…but to the formlessness of the earth before God’s creative hand began the majestic acts described in the following verses.” (TWOT Tohu)

Furthermore, the text says that the earth “was without form and void” and not “became without form, and void” as the Gap Theorists argue. (See also: Fields 1978:58).  The Hebrew והארץ היתה vehaaretz hayta is what is known grammatically as a copulative clause. (See Kautszch and Cowley 1910:484) The Hebrew letter vav (or waw) attached to the noun (the earth) acts as a type of parenthetical statement (See: Joüon, P., & T. Muraoka 2005) that is to suggest a reading: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Now the earth was without form, and void.)” Thus the earth was desolate and void (tohu vavohu) at the very beginning of God’s creation and did not become (per the Gap Theory) as a result of God recreating it.

Genesis 2:5 – 2:7

A casual reading of Genesis 2:5 to 2:7 “Before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown…there was no man to till the ground…” in English it appears to critics to indicate that man was created before plants and shrubs. Is this referring to all of the vegetation on the entire planet or is it more defined? The vegetation referred to is designated by the word field, which appears twice in the text. שׂיח השׂדה (siach hasadeh) plant of the field and עשׂב השׂדה (esev hasadeh) herb of the field are the technical terms that we must not overlook. Both of them are in the construct state, which simply means that two nouns are considered one unit. It is very similar in English where bicycle tire is not referring to bicycle and tire, but a type of tire, that is, the tire of a bicycle. So too, we could just as well translate these as field plant and field herb – two specific items. Keil & Delitzsch clarify that the planting of the garden, not the creation of the plants, is what is being referred to:

 

The growing of the shrubs and sprouting of the herbs is different from the creation or first production of the vegetable The language of creationkingdom, and relates to the growing and sprouting of the plants and germs which were called into existence by the creation… שׂדה [sadeh] is not ‘the widespread plain of the earth, the broad expanse of land,’ but a field of arable land, soil fit for cultivation, which forms only a part of the “earth” or “ground.” Keil & Delitzsch 1866: Gen 2:5-2:7)

Genesis 2:19

Genesis 2:19 is frequently considered to be a contradiction to chapter one since it would seem God first formed Adam and then the animals “God formed every beast…and brought them to Adam…” (Gen 2:19) The Hebrew word formed (ויצר vayitzer) is in the past tense. This form, however, can potentially express a simple past tense and the past of the past, known grammatically as the past perfect (see: Buth: 1994 and C. John Collins 1995; ESV, NRS use this form as well). The past perfect is used to express any action that happened prior to another, both occurring in the past. For example, Johnny had eaten three hamburgers before he ordered dessert. The past perfect, had eaten was finished before the action of ordering. Thus the word vayitzer can signify either the simple past or past perfect and formed could just as well have been translated as had formed. (See Pipa: 1998) The Hebrew supports either which would then yield a plausible translation, “Out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field…and brought them to Adam…” The use of the past perfect here, grammatically speaking, clears up the order of creation events perfectly: God first created the animals, then created man and then brought the animals that He had created to man.

 

Part One Part Two Part Three

A Day is a Thousand Years? (The Language of Creation Part 3)

A Day is a Thousand Years?

Peter’s statement “…with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2Pet 3:8) has been A Day is a thousand yearsused to supposedly prove that time and numbers in the Bible do not have concrete value and therefore the days in Gen 1 could have lasted one thousand years or perhaps even one million. The key to understanding is the phrase “with the Lord” with which Peter describes God’s perspective to time and not man’s; he is not saying that one thousand years are equal to one day but rather in God’s economy, time is radically different and when we think that the Lord is “slack” (2Pet 3:9) we should think again. Peter wants to make clear that God’s timetable is different from ours, hence “with the Lord”.

Numbers are Literal in the Bible

Another objection made against the creation account is that numbers and days are allegorical or figurative. Signers of the Clergy Letter Project suggest the creation account is not meant to convey literal truth but simply “timeless truths.” Though there are many examples that can be brought to demonstrate that claim to be false, for brevity’ sake we will only compare the texts of Jeremiah, Daniel, and 2 Chronicles.

 

God told the prophet Jeremiah that the people of Judea would “serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” (Jer 25:11) Approximately seventy years later, Daniel tells us, “I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem” (Daniel 9:2). Keep in mind, though the book of Daniel contains many visions, Daniel chapter 9 is him explaining an event in his life; in other words, it ought to be read as literally and historically true. In his time of prayer he interprets the prophecy of Jeremiah in unmistakable terms – he understood from the prophet Jeremiah that God would keep His people in Babylon for seventy literal years. He does not try to look for a hidden message as to what God meant by seventy years, he assumes them to be literal: exactly seventy years after the first deportation, the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem.

 

Daniel interprets and confirms that the curse given in Deuteronomy was 100% literally fulfilled through the destruction of Jerusalem. “As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us.” (Daniel 9:13) He does not seek to

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interpret away God’s words as allegory as many do today. Daniel was much closer to and was a part of the writing of the Hebrew Scriptures – less than seventy years after Jeremiah. His own writings are also considered canonical, inspired, and authoritative. If he took such writings as literal and straightforward, how much more should we? The literal interpretation of Daniel regarding Jeremiah’s prophecy is also shared by the writer of 2 Chronicles in extremely plain language: “…to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah … As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years…that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled…” (2Chron 36:20, 21) The author of Chronicles reiterates the period of seventy years to fulfill Jeremiah’s prophecy. There was no question in the writer’s mind that this prophecy was fulfilled completely and literally.

The Language of Creation, Confronting the God-Plus-Evolution Myth (Part 2)

24-Hour Days

The final meaning refers to days of 24‑hours. The most basic way of defining a day was from evening to evening, which is indicated in the text by evening and morning. The ancient Israelites, contrary to us, started their new days at sunset. Thus, Friday night right after sunset would already be considered the Sabbath and the day would end Saturday evening at around the same time.

 

Another way to indicate a regular day of 24‑hours is by hayom hazeh היום הזה which is translated as “the very same day.” In Gen 7:13 we read: “On the very same day Noah…entered the ark.” Likewise, Gen 17:23 states: “So Abraham took… all who were born in his house… and circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very same day…” In both of these passages, the word day makes reference to the same day – that is the 24-hour period they were currently in. It is clear that the word here does not refer to an indefinite period of time but rather to a 24-hour period.

Days with a Cardinal Number

When a cardinal number (one, two, three, four, etc.) appears in front of the word day, it refers only and always to one (or many) period(s) of 24 hours. There are numerous verses which elucidate this point. “But Jacob said to him… ‘And if the men should drive them hard one day, all the flock will die.’” (Gen 33:13)

 

What Jacob is saying to his brother Esau is that there is a limit to how far little children and cattle can go in one day. The reference is clearly to one 24-hour period of time. Numbers 11:20 clarifies the usage even more. The children of Israel complained against the LORD because they did not have meat like they had in Egypt, the very place where God rescued them from. In frustration with his stubborn children, He declares that they will have more meat than they know what to do with: “You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you…”  (Num 11:20)

 

Here the meaning of day or days is clear. There would be not just one, or two, or five, or ten, or twenty days, but a whole month’s worth of meat. The meaning of the word day is augmented by the contrast with the word “month” chodesh חודשׁ, which only refers to the time of about thirty days or one cycle of the moon and never anything else.

 

Further proof that yom day refers to a 24-hour day when preceded by cardinal numbers is found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. God, in explaining the judgment coming upon the world, says, “For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights…” (Gen 7:4) God gave Noah another seven days – not long, indefinite periods of time, but seven 24-hour days, until the floodwaters would come. Indeed after seven literal days, the waters of the flood came: “And it came to pass after seven days that the waters of the flood were on the earth.” (Gen 7:10) Verse 11 surpasses the previous two in precision by telling us exactly when this occurred. “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up…” (Gen 7:11)

 

This description is not just about some indefinite period of time. It was on the 17th of the second month, a very real time that the flood came. And then the record (verse 24) tells us specifically how long the waters were on the earth. “And the waters prevailed on the earth one hundred and fifty days.” One hundred and fifty days in the text is not some long, undetermined era. Some people would contend that the days of the flood are irrelevant since Noah was simply a mythical or an allegorical figure. However, if one accepts the words of Jesus and the New Testament, then one must also accept that Noah was a real person who lived through the worldwide flood. (See Mat 24:37, 38, Luke 17:26, 27, 1Pet 3:20, 2Pet 2:5, Heb 11:7) Thus, because Jesus and the disciples accepted Noah as real, we must understand the days described in Gen as being real, 24-hour days.

 

The list of verses in the Hebrew Scriptures is extensive which confirms that every time a number comes before day it is referring to a 24‑hour day; a few more examples clearly illustrate the principle. “Then he put three days’ journey between himself and Jacob…” (Gen 30:36). “Forty days were required for [Joseph]… and the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days” (Gen 50:3). “And seven days passed after the LORD had struck the river” (Exod 7:25). “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel” (Exod 12:15). “Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none” (Exod 16:26). “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or shall you flee three months before your enemies, while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ plague in your land?” (2 Samuel 24:13). Although there are too many verses to list them all here, throughout the entire Hebrew Scriptures, in every case where a number precedes day, it deals with the literal usage of day rather than an indefinite period of time.

 

The days in Gen 1, therefore, should be understood as literal, 24-hour days due to the usage of the limitation of the evening and the morning (see also Num 28:3, 4) found throughout Genesis 1 (the fact that the sun was not created until the fourth day is irrelevant since the rotation of the earth is what constitutes a day – the light source is immaterial). Even though the evidence points to literal, 24-hour days in Genesis one, the old-earth camp is still persuaded that these days are long periods of time rather than normal (24-hour) days. They suggest that the usage of ordinal numbers (first, second, third, fourth etc.) rather than cardinals denotes different eras of time and thus the first era (day) is followed by the second era (day) etc. where each day equals an unknown but extremely long period of time in which the slow processes of evolution, with God’s help, had enough time according to Darwin’s model of slow change.

 

There are some fatal flaws to this theory, however, from a biblical perspective. First of all, the first day of Genesis in the Hebrew is not actually defined as the first day, but rather as day one or yom echad יום אחד. The word echad is the cardinal number one and should not be understood as first ראשׁון rishon, but as in the series one, two, three, four, etc. We have seen previously that any time day occurs with a cardinal number, it always refers to a literal, 24-hour day. So we can conclude that the first day of creation was 24 hours.

Days with Ordinal Numbers

Ordinal numbers (first, second, third, etc.) are also used in a literal sense when used with day just like cardinal numbers. Ezekiel records that on a particular (literal) day of a particular month of a particular year God again spoke to him: “Again, in the ninth year, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me” (Ezek 24:1). Likewise, Ezra records the exact day when the temple was finished: “Now the temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius” (Ezra 6:15).

 

We find in the book of Numbers a usage of ordinal numbers that is parallel to Gen 1. In Gen 1 we saw the chronology of creation described as one day and then the second day, the third day etc. In Numbers 29, God lists the various sacrifices and on which day they are to be performed for the feast of Tabernacles. Notice that the days listed have the same ordinal numbers as used in Gen. “On the second day (יום השׁני yom hasheni) present twelve young bulls…On the third day (יום השׁלישׁי yom hashlishi) present…On the fourth day (יום הרביעי yom harevi’i) present… On the fifth day (יום החמישׁי yom hachamishi) present…” (Num 29:17, 20, 23, 26).

 

The days above were most certainly real and literal days in which specific things had to happen; they were not long drawn out periods of time. The text employs the use of ordinal numbers as does Gen 1 but here we do not conclude that those days were indefinite periods of time; they were simply days. Thus even with ordinal numbers a day is just a literal, 24-hour day.

The Language of Creation, Confronting the God-Plus-Evolution Myth (Part 1)

The vocabulary and grammar of the biblical creation describe a period of seven-literal 24-hour days – unanimously affirmed by ancient Jewish and Ante-Nicene Christian commentators. Nevertheless, a God-plus-evolution myth has arisen offering an alternative interpretation of the biblical creation. The ideas range from each day being a long indefinite era of time to the Genesis account merely being a literary framework with no bearing to reality. This study seeks to prove that the seven days of creation were literal-24 days by considering: The delimiting use of a number in front of the Hebrew word “yom” (day); the literal use of numbers in the Bible, the language and the grammar of Genesis one and two, and the value of literary genre.

The importance of the literal-six day creation is underscored ironically by atheist and evolutionist R. Bozarth in the American Atheist Magazine: “The Meaning of Evolution:”

…evolution destroys utterly and finally the very reason Jesus’ earthly life was supposedly made necessary. Destroy Adam and Eve and the original sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the Son of God. If Jesus was not the redeemer who died for our sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing. (R. Bozarth 1979: 30)

While the atheists are forthright in their attack on the creation, the proponents of Theistic Evolution and Progressive Creationism, who profess a belief in God as creator and evolution as his mode of creation, are forced to somehow reconcile Scripture with evolution.

The Meaning of “Day”

The keystone of whether the earth is relatively young or extremely old rests heavily on the understanding of the Hebrew word יום yom, (day). Progressive Creation theorists contend that the days in Gen 1:1-2:3 are to be understood as long, indefinite periods of time. The young earth view, however, claims that God created the heavens and the earth and all therein in six, literal 24‑hour days roughly 6000 years ago. Does day only and always refer to a period of 24‑hours or does

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it also refer to an indefinite period of time in which millions and billions of years could have passed allowing for the Progressive Creation and theistic-evolution theories?

 

The word day is used in several different ways in the Bible; sometimes referring to a time in the past. Judges 18:1, for example, states “In those days…” בימים ההם bayamim hahem. This exact phrase appears 31 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is a very common expression and is really no different than how we in English say “back in my day” or “back in those days” referring to a period of years in our lives but stating it in days. Hence, in this context, days are understood to be referring to time in the past that probably lasted several years (there are many days in a year) though definitely not thousands or millions – something that is obvious because it talks about human history of which the Bible gives definite times.

 

Sometimes the biblical writers used the word day to refer to a specific time of eschatological significance such as “the day of the LORD” יום הוה yom YHWH, found 13 times in the Hebrew Scriptures (mostly in the book of Isaiah), refers to a time in the future when God will judge the world and usher in a new age. This expression seems to speak more of an event of unknown duration rather than a specific amount of time, though a period of 24 hours cannot be ruled out.

 

At other times, days in the plural can refer to the span of someone’s life. In Gen 5:4 we read concerning the days of Adam, “So all the days that Adam (ימי־אדם yamei-adam) lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died.” Here day is used in reference to Adam’s lifetime, which is described as days, but then the text very clearly goes on to clarify what is meant by days – that is the years of his life or the summation of the days of his life. This is wonderfully illustrated by the Hebrew title of the book of I and II Chronicles למלכי ישׂראל דברי הימים divre ha-yamim lemalche Israel, literally transliterated as affairs or matters of the days of the kings of Israel.

 

An objection raised by Progressive Creation advocate Hugh Ross states that the “day” in Gen 2:4 “refers to all six-creation days (and the creation events prior to the first creative day)… it refers to a period longer than 24 hours” (Ross 1991: 52) and therefore would support the theory that the days of the Genesis creation account long vast ages. He suggests the word for generation (toledah) underscores a long period of time. “In Gen 2:4 the plural form, generations, is used, indicating that multiple generations have passed.” (Ross 1991: 52)

 

Nevertheless, the Hebrew expression in the day (that the LORD God) made עשׂות ביום (b’yom asot) actually carries the force of when. The letter ב (beth) in Hebrew often designates a temporal aspect. Joüon &. Muraoka note in A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew “With the infinitive ב is used in the temporal sense”. This explains why the letter beth in בהבראם (b’hibaram) is translated when they were created, a fact also supported by both the Brown Driver Briggs Lexicon, and Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar (Kautzsch, E. and A. E., Cowley, eds 1910). B’yom is part of a three-word construct chain and it is used in relation to the infinitive asot (making) which again carries the force of when. What is important not to overlook here, however, is that when yom is used in conjunction with the preposition beth it may be understood as a less precise expression than the 24-hour day. When yom is used with a number, it always refers to a literal, 24-hour day. Furthermore, the full range of meaning of the word תולדות (toledoth), which often means generations, is in many places better translated as account or history. (See: BDB)

To Be Continued…

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