Full Text Version
Genesis 1 – English Standard Version (ESV)
The Creation of the World
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. 8 And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
9 And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
11 And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 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. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.
20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 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.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.
24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 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.
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
We are going to be super-lucky if we get anywhere near the end of this lesson. But, all the same, I’d like to take as much time as necessary to get as far as we can.
In Genesis, we are going to be looking at the origins of… well everything that has an origin. Genesis, in broad strokes, gives us the beginning of the universe, the origins of man, the origins of family, of evil, of salvation, of Justification by faith, of election, and divine judgement. That is quite the list of doctrines.
Although I think it is foolish to try to “rank” books of the Bible; I’m sorely tempted to classify Genesis as one of the most important books.
Before we can quite tackle the content of the book, it might help us to start here:
Fact or Fiction?
The reason we need to maybe start here is that we are about to read and study some incredible things. Many of these things are, by definition: unique. They occurred once and will never happen again. This means for many of these events, we will not be able to examine the regular workings of the universe for clues on how to regard the fantastic things described in the opening chapters of the Bible.
The other reason we should start here is that the answer to this question has real consequences for our faith.
For example: If the fall of A & E is an allegory, a theological fiction to represent the fall of men in general; designed to show our failty and rebelion against God. What are the consequences? Well, sin, in some senses stops being a willful disobedience, it’s simply something we are. We still need a savior, but maybe we don’t have to worry so much about confession and repentence. Afterall, how can you repent from what you are? You can only repent what you do.
What about the flood? Well, if that’s just a story, and it didn’t really happen, we might learn that whoever wrote the book says God doesn’t like sin very much, but it sure loses its teeth. I mean, what’s the point of talking about God destroying almost everything if He didn’t actually do it? Do we need to worry about the final judgement or is that just a boogie-man story too?
No, I don’t think we can get away from asking if Genesis is fact or fiction.
To be brief though, I will say I think it is fact. Not poetry, not allegory, but hard, historical fact.
Now, the fact that the wheels of Christianity kind of fall off if Genesis is fiction is no proof. The best reasoning I’ve got for believing it should be taken at face value is that scripture relies on it as fact.
1. 2 Tim 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[a] may be complete, equipped for every good work.
When Paul writes this, he uses the word “all”, he has Genesis in mind as much as any other book. Now, this doesn’t prove that the book is historical fact, Psalms is “God breathed” and is poetry; Jesus used parables. What we can take from this, though, is that that our creation account isn’t on the same footing of the creation myths.
2. Psalm 136
In vs 10-12, we have:
to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
His love endures forever.
and brought Israel out from among them
His love endures forever.
with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever.
Where the author gives God praise for these events, which are pretty undisputedly held has historical. But what we see just prior to that, with out any break in apparent sincerity is:
Who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.
who made the great lights—
His love endures forever.
the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.
The author of the Psalm definitely regards the events in early Genesis as factually accurate as any other events.
3. The teachings of Jesus
Ok, shocker: Jesus’ endorsement of early Genesis’ authenticity is a very weighty vouch. We see this in Matthew 19:4 where Jesus replies to the Pharisees:
4 “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Here, Jesus quotes Gen 1:27, and 2:24. And, in replying this way makes the assumption clear that there were and actual first man and woman, as well as a first marriage where these lines were spoken.
4. In contrast to other creation accounts
I know we mentioned that the 2 Tim passage already elevates Genesis’ creation above the competing accounts. But I also want to make the note that, for as fantastic as the account is, it stands in stark sobriety to the competing ancient cosmologies.
In the Babyolonian account (the Enuma Elish), for example: We have two dragons, Apsu and Tiamat, which spawn a generation of dieties; the plots of which spawn the world.
Or, to look at the Egyptian accounts (there are a few), the world basically existed and the God’s did things to make it the way it is now.
Or, to look at the concept of the “cosmic egg”, now I don’t use this term to denigrate it, it represents a motif by which the world and all in it, came forth from some primordial thing. This idea occurs in many myths with a a varying degree of deistic proding. Usually surrounded by a varying degree of deistic infighting.
I know this is not a tight argument, but there is something much cleaner about God creating the universe ex nihilo than by the other methods.
So, with quick and dirty, yet reasonable argument on our side for regarding the early chapters of Genesis as fact, let’s dig in.
In the beginning
1 In the beginning, God…
Already I want to stop and do some sightseeing. The reason is that, without any exageration, I think we can say that these are some of the most profound words ever written.
It speaks of the absolute beginning of all things. The Hebrew words used here indicate that the universe was created from no pre-existing material. That everything was made new for this purpose. Although it’s possible to read it so that God created the universe out of pre-existing material, doing so tortures the language pretty badly. It also makes Genesis kind of a useless book. Having God make the universe out of pre-existing material is like going to a play, sitting down for the opening act, watching the house-lights dim, and having the curtain come up to reveal the actors are already 15 minutes in to the play. It misses the point!
What else do we get from these first four words?
- Atheism is out. There is clearly a God, not a self actuating materialistic universe.
- Pantheism is out. If God created the heavens and the earth, everything is not God.
God is self existent. In fact, we’re told of nothing else that exists before the creation of everything. So, God is the only self-existent thing. Everything else depends on him.
God is unknowable. No amount of inspection of the universe will force God to give a full account of himself. His complete nature can never be fully known to us.
We are very unused to this idea. Even if we don’t know something we generally have the attitude that we will eventually learn how it works and how to manipulate it. God being outside all creation puts the hard-stop on that notion as it applies to himself.
This also means that God doesn’t explain himself to us. We have the idea, that you can understand any man if you can but walk a mile in his shoes… That is, you will come to understand his motivations and see his actions through his frame of reference. Well, we will never get that with God. Therefore, since we will never have all the information he has, nor have his perspective, we can hardly be in a position to judge him.
God is self-sufficient.
Self-existence means no origin, or eternally present. Actually, time kind of loses its meaning in some senses. Self-sufficiency, on the other hand means that there are no external needs. If God created the universe, then it is not more than him. There is nothing inside it that didn’t come from him. Everything, therefore depends on him, and he depends on nothing.
There is no talk of God-Man partnership here. We don’t supply anything in terms of satisfying some need of God’s. He doesn’t need us to worship him. He doesn’t need us to sacrifice to him. He doesn’t lack “glory” which we supply to him.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is in Ps 50:
9 I will not accept a bull from your house
or goats from your folds.
10 For every beast of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know all the birds of the hills,
and all that moves in the field is mine.
12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and its fullness are mine.
13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?
14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,[b]
and perform your vows to the Most High,
15 and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
It can be stated in no clearer terms that He does not depend on us. But that truth starts all the way at the beginning, implied by the fact that he created the universe and all in it.
God’s self-sufficiency also means that he is all that’s necessary for accomplishing his work.
God is Eternal.
Whenever the beginning was, God was there. There is a timeless quality that comes in here: If God is there at the beginning, and nothing created him, then he has always existed… whatever that means. But the result of this is that God is. He is unchangable; time doesn’t touch him, and the concept of change is only sensible with respect to time. God and his standards are not some moving target that change with the times. What is right in one age, is always right. God does not keep us guessing.
God is inescapable. If God doesn’t change, if his rules don’t change, if he doesn’t die, or won’t move away, you can bet we’re going to meet him. We can not ignore him.
God is Powerful.
Honestly, there is no concept which conceptualizes what internal vigor must be necessory to create out of sheer will. God created all that is, we can’t even see it all; we will never be able to see it all. God created us. God is powerful enough to fix us, he invented us.
In the beginning, take 2
Ok. Let’s try this again.
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Hey! We got to the end of verse 1! Let’s move on to Vs. 2. Wait, no, let’s stay on vs 1 a little longer. Let’s ask another question: What do we mean when we say “created?”
How did creation actually happen? There are several theories on the market. Each has its virtues and its faults.
- Materialistic Evolution
- Theistic Evolution
- Gap theory
- Literal six-day creation
- Progressive Creation (day-age) (earth-bound perspective)
Cosmogony (means: Idea of how the universe came to be): Materialistic evolutionists have believed, at one time or other that:
- The universe has always existed
- The universe is a one off which will never repeat (big-bang theory)
- The universe oscillates in a bang-crunch cycle
- Our universe is one coordinate in the multiverse which contains every possible unvierse.
But, we are waaaay beyond testability here. Honestly, the deal is that any cosmogeny mechanism is fine as long as it doesn’t violate the a priori belief that there is a creator.
That however the earth came to be, the important thing is: that the only things that exist are the things that exist in our nature. There is no super-natural power outside it, directing, giving purpose.
This multiplicity of physical and chemical processes have resulted in Earth being a planet that has, purely by accident, given rise to life and all its resulting forms.
The forms of life, in M.E., are determined by fitness to environmental factors. Life, in according to the M.E. is like a liquid, which changes its shape to fit its container.
There are several advantages to this theory.
- It is a tidy explanation which people can understand. There is nothing (by definition) particularly special about the appearance of life.
- There are startling resemblences between different species where it is easy to imagine one specie smearing in to another. That is, there is reasonable plausability based on what we see in the world.
And there are several difficulties about M.E.
- The fossil record doens’t exhibit a purely gradual transition from species to species with mistakes littered all around. We don’t have fossils of animals with extra arms, legs, etc. Now, granted the fossil record as we have it doesn’t disprove evolution, it’s just not strong either way.
- Michael Behe’s idea of irreducible complexity. This is the idea that a complex biological mechanism does not exhibit partial functionality as its constitutate parts form during the evolutionary process. The coagulation cascade is a roughly twelve step process where, if any step is missing, the process completely fails. This would have had to appear all at once in a sizable population in order to be carried on as an evolotionary advantage. So, you have a complex mechanism which either total works, or totally fails having to appear in a bunch of organismism all at once. It’s a stretch.
- The second is duplicated solutions in wildly different environments. I guess you could take “the eye” as the classic case of this. Remarkably similar eyes show up in cephalopods (octopus’s) and vertibrates. This is remarkable because cephalopods broke off from vertibrate branches WAAY before eyes were developed as an organ.
Off the top, those are main pro’s and cons’ though, Christians tend to cite a few more. I think these are non-issues for evolution though.
- I’ve heard Christians argue that matter doesn’t have a will and therefore the idea of natural-selection can’t really exist. Nature can’t “select” anything. – I think this is mostly a fundamental misunderstand of what is meant by “natural selection.” The M.E. means “natural selection” in a way similar to liquid filling a container.
- There is the issue where M.E. means there is no reason for living or no meaning to life. If M.E. is true, then there is no meaning to life. The fact that there is no meaning to M.E. based life is not an impediment to its truth. That has to be determined on other grounds.
We are going to cover this next because we just did all the heavy lifting to talk about evolution.
The theistic evolutionist believes in all the same mechanical occurrances that the M.E. believes in. The main difference being there is an intelligent, personal God driving the whole show as opposed to random chance.
What this means is that the T.E. imagines whatever astrogeny happened is what happened when God said “let there”. And the T.E. believes that evolution is the mechanism of biogenesis when God said “let the earth…“.
The pro’s of this mirror the pro’s of M.E. The difficulties are not so difficult, and the fatal objections aren’t fatal here if there is a creator driving the show.
There are still difficulties though. And it actually comes from the Christian quarter, less the biological quarter.
- In T.E. we see a real economy in divine intervention, which isn’t present in the rest of the Bible. In the beginning of the universe and the creation of life happened mechanically. Yes, God said “Let there” but the idea in T.E. is that those utterances are mostly a formality, God set the universe up so that these things would happen. But, after Adam appears then we see a much more active God. I mean, it’s not impossible that this is actually OK, but it seems difficult to me.
Does it conform to scripture as regards man? The creation of Man is specifically described in 2:7
And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being
Here, it’s reasonable to conclude that God created Adam new. A clean break from the other design lines. The counter argument is that all life is dust and that this is a figure of speech. There was no better way to describe the evolution of man than to say he was made out of inorganic things.
But then we come to the creations of Eve… yeah, the difficulty stands.
Also with Adam: we believe that Adam really existed. For the T.E. Adam requires an awful lot of special explanation. To the evolutionist of any kind, man is primarily a class of being, not an individual.
The Gap theory
Cosmogeny: As described in the Bible. But, the universe appears to be older than what we can account for in the book.
Gap theory states that there is a period of time between Vs 1 and 2 of indeterminant length where geological ages happen. This theory states God created a good world which Lucifer ruled prior to his fall, you’ll see the fall of Lucifer, and God’s judgement of the world along with Lucifer, at which point we pick up at Verse 2.
This seems pretty fantastic, but what’s it got goign for it:
- It follows the Bible closely. It takes information from the whole Bible and compiles it in to a reasonable narrative. It puts a place and time to events which we know happened, but don’t otherwise have any clue about.
- In the Masoretic, there is a mark between Vs 1 and 2 which the old Jewish scholars placed to indicate a pause between Vs 1 and 2.
- This view has very little trouble with the following creative verses.
From the Christian perspective, this is not a terrible argument. From the scientific perspective this view accounts nicely for the apparent age of the universe.
And it’s difficulties:
The primary objection is lingustic. You have to do some serious gyrations to make the language line up. The translation required is pretty unnatural, however it is possible.
The second is that all of creative acts of God are really hidden inbetween vs 1 & 2, and all we are seeing from 2 onward are God’s recreation of the world.
Second is a geological objection. If the Geologic formations of the earth, layers of crust, were laid down before the formation of life, how did the fossils get in there? Gap theorists propose that the flood was so disruptive that it compelely rearranged the strata of the earth’s crust… Seems like a lot to me.
Cosmogeny: Views the Genesis event as six literal days. This results in a young earth, where the fossil and geological records as having been formed by the great flood due to its destructive proportions.
Where the Gap theory is a little out of fashion, we are going to be reasonably familiar with this one. The general idea of six-day creationism is that the events which created (namely: God’s creation by declaration) the universe are fundamentally different than the rules and events that we observe today. Things like:
- The speed of cosmo- & geological processes
- Biogenesis and the apparent bio-diversity
- The introduction of death and decay through the curse pronounced by God. Etc.
And that between these fundamentally different processes and the previously-mentioned destructive influence of the flood, we can accurately and biblically account for the universe.
So, what’s this theory got going for it?
This theory requires the fewest changes to the literal and natural reading of the text of Genesis. There is:
- no stretching ‘days’ in to ages billions of years long
- no trouble with the evening-morning cycle in the text
- conformance to the text most natural to use if the creation event actually takes six days
no bio-diversity or bio-complexity issue.
Has several statistical arguments in favor, revolving around the idea that the universe is a very unlikely place to exist.
a nice fit with the idea of the universe ‘running down’ which is echo’d by the spirit of the 2nd law of thermodynamics.
And it’s difficulties:
There are lots of independent observations we make which indicate the universe is much older than can be possibly accounted for by using six literal days for a creation time. There are a whole host of stars which we can see which are much farther away than 12000 lightyears (l-y); there are a variety of radiological measurements, cosmic background radiation, red-shift measurements, aging stars by observing their size and color, etc etc. We are consistently measuring the age of the universt to be rougly 15B years old, and the earth roughly 5B years old.
From the creationist view, this isn’t strictly a problem as far as the physicals are concerned: God created them in their current state, “in motion” as it were. But this leaves us with a question: why the conflict? Doesn’t that imply God is lying to us?
Second: Fossils tend to be arranged like so: simple stuff farther down, more complex stuff closer to the surface. If the flood caused the fossil formation we now have, shouldn’t the distribution be much more uniform?
Lastly: because of the non-uniformity of the laws of the early universe, we cannot legitimately investigate our origins. Does this really conform with what our knowledge of God’s ways (meager as those are) leads us to expect? I mean, if all this data is an illusion, what else is illusion? Why should any observations we make be trusted?
Progressive creationism, stated briefly, says that God created the world directly and deliberately over long periods of time that correspond roughly to the geological ages. That our observations of the universe are producing theories that match the revelation in Genesis. And that the creative acts described are still going on.
Progressive creationism isn’t so much a theory of how things came to be so much as an observation that the observed account and revealed account aren’t all that different.
- Initial Creation: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Kind of sounds like what we theorize happens during the big bang. The big bang happened fast. And, after the very rapid expansion the earth would have eventually formed but been quite hot. (Formless and void) There would have been plenty of volcanic activity and all the moisture would have been vaporized. This would be enough to keep the surface of the planet dark long after the sun formed. Also, we have the spirt hovering over the waters; which might mean the whole Genesis creation has a terrestrial point of view.
- The First day: Here, we see the atmosphere thin enough to let the light of the sun through. Rotation of the earth causes day and night.
- The Second Day: Further cooling of earth, and settling of dust. Enough water condenses out of the atmosphere to have an idea of sky. Prior to this, and I know this might be tough to believe, but at one point, the earth just would have been too hot to have liquid water on it. ALL of the water would have been vaporized.
- The third Day: After the apperance of liquid water, further volcanic activity and whatever else goes in to making land, would produce the land masses. Here we have the appearance of life. But I have a note on this later, it crops up under a difficulty.
- The Fourth Day: Although light has been reaching earth since the first day of creation, we finally see the skys clear enough for the heavenly lights to be clearly visible. (Remember, this is based on the idea that the creative account is given from the earth perspective).
- The Fifth Day: Here we see the first ‘de novo’ (new) creation since Genesis 1:1. Animal life is a new, creative act on God’s part.
- The Sixth Day: Finally the high-order land animals are created. This, again, roughly corresponds with the observed timelines.
Linguistic issues: it’s a contortion to the word ‘yom’ for it to mean the lengths of time necessary for this theory. Same issue with theistic evolution.
Day 3: That on the third day, we see life appear as sprouting vegetation, and seed bearing and fruit bearing plants. This is a fairly advanced life form as far as plants go. The earliest plants would have been seaweed, algae, bacteria types. The counter argument to that is intrinsic to the idea of progressive creationism that the time lines are not compartmentalized or that they are expressed in a compressed statment, but were really much more spread out.
Day 5: There is fossil evidence of invertibrate marine animals prior to land-based seed bearing plants. But, I don’t think this is an overwhelming objection. What simple life form falls in to what category here is kind of a judgement call. For example, what we now call an animal might have been considered a plant. The higher order animals though are placed with reasonable correctness.
Death is present before the creation and fall of Adam. This is really a serious objection. If we are really trying to hold to the Bible, sin and it’s consequence makes up a central issue for us. Can’t just throw it out.
Some mitigating arguments revolve aroudn the idea that death was always a factor for non-humans:
- God curses the man, woman, the serpent and ground. The Bible is silent on the state of the animals, both before and afterward. We aren’t told what the state of non-human life is.
- The curse of death doesn’t not only involve physical death, but spriritual death. Again, there is reasonable evidence that this curse doesn’t pertain to animals.
- Romans 8:19-21 & 5:12 talk about death coming in with Adam’s sin, but they don’t prove the case for animal immortality. We are given no contrast between their current impefection and their past.
- One final mitigating argument is: if there were no death prior to the transgression, what meaning does the threat have? What’s teh point of saying “you shall surely die” if no one has any idea about dying?
All these theories have their strengths and weaknesses. There are real strengths to each, and real weaknesses. What I’m hoping you’ll have picked up from all these is the framework for thinking through each alternative and using that to stand behind the theory that matches your reasoning and feeling.