Sunday, October 7, 2018

Unlocking Genesis One

In order to understand the meaning of any piece of literature we must consider the cultural and linguistic context of the text. By taking these important factors into consideration, it becomes clear that a straightforward reading of the account of creation in Genesis leads to creation days that are long periods of time, not 24 hours each. That realization is a critical principle for understanding the creation story in Genesis 1. But perhaps the most important key for unlocking everything in the story, from the order to the timing of creation, is to look in the passage for the proper perspective, or point of view, from which the story is being told. As discussed in a previous post, the church of the seventeenth century made a fundamental mistake by not considering the point of view of the writer in the many biblical passages that discuss the movement of the earth, sun, and moon. In each of those passages the point of view is that of an observer on the earth. From a perspective on the earth, the sun, moon, and stars, do move across the sky which is why we still say that we observe a "sunrise" or "sunset." The biblical description of the motion of the astronomical objects is accurate from the perspective of the observer.

To properly understand the creation account in Genesis 1, we must also adopt the proper point of view. That is the key to unlocking the story. Fortunately, the text itself tells us the needed perspective. It is stated in Genesis 1:2; "Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." My young earth creationist friends have pointed out that there were no humans around to observe the creation of the universe so we must rely on what God says to know what happened at the beginning. I do agree that God's word will give us an accurate and truthful description of how he created the universe. Since no one was around to observe the creation, it would make sense that God's account should be given from God's perspective. Genesis 1:2 tells us where God is and, therefore, the proper vantage point from which to view the story of creation as it unfolds in the rest of the chapter: "the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." God's Spirit is hovering over the waters that cover the surface of the earth. The rest of the story of creation as told in Genesis 1 is not told from a perspective outside of the universe or from somewhere in outer space looking at the earth, sun, moon, and stars, but is told from where God is on the surface of the earth. The key to unlocking the mysteries of the rest of the creation account is a proper understanding that the story is told from God's perspective on the surface of the earth.

Another indication that the story is presented from a perspective on the surface of the earth is found in verse 16 which says, "God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night." Those two lights, the sun and the moon, do not appear to be "great lights" from almost any place in the universe. The only planetary viewpoint that would describe the sun and the moon as great lights would be on the surface of the earth.

Let me quote from my book The Creator Revealed: A Physicist Examines the Bible and the Big Bang, to elucidate some of the other insights we gain from looking at Genesis 1:2 and understanding that the story is told from a perspective on the surface of the earth.

Verse 2 is crucial in that it lays the foundation for the rest of the story of creation. It tells us the conditions that existed on the surface of the earth, not those that existed throughout the entire universe. It says the earth was formless and empty, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters — that is on the surface of the earth. Starting in verse 2 and continuing on through the rest of the story of creation, the events are described from God’s perspective on the surface of the earth....

Now this condition of being formless and empty, with darkness over the surface of the earth, is identical to current scientific theories about the conditions on the early earth. If we could be transported back to the early earth about four and a half billion years ago, we would find it to be formless with mostly water and very little land. It was empty because no life existed on it. It was dark on its surface because Earth had a very thick atmosphere, which along with dust and debris in the atmosphere and in outer space, blocked out the light from the sun, moon, and stars. The sun, moon, and stars were already created and were in the heavens, but because of Earth’s primordial atmosphere and the dust and debris, they were not visible from the surface of the earth. (We know the sun, moon, and stars were already created because they are a part of the creation of “heavens and earth” in verse 1 that occurred before the events described in the rest of the chapter.) Just as the Bible says, we now know from science that when the earth was first formed, darkness covered its surface. In outer space, it would not have been dark at this time. The sun, moon, and stars would have been visible. But the Bible doesn’t speak about what the conditions were like in outer space. The Bible only says that it was dark on the surface of the earth and does not say anything about conditions elsewhere in the universe. This could be an example of God’s verbal inspiration of scripture. It is possible that this careful attention to detail is quite noteworthy in that the writer of Genesis does not say it was dark throughout the universe (which it wasn’t) but only says that it was dark on the surface of the earth (which it was). In any case, we have a remarkable statement about conditions on the early earth when God first created it. A story of creation told from God’s perspective, as he sees it on the surface of the earth, gives an indication of the inspiration of the Bible and shows a remarkable agreement between the words of scripture and the record of nature. Both the Bible and observations of nature agree that the early earth was formless, empty, and dark and watery on its surface.1

For those who claim that the biblical account is incompatible with the findings of modern science, notice that I am not distorting or revising the biblical narrative. I am carefully interpreting it and understanding it within the context that it is written. The biblical text clearly describes where God is as the story unfolds and what the primordial conditions were like on the surface of the earth. That key understanding will unlock the rest of the account of creation and reveal a biblical description of the history of the earth that aligns with the scientifically verified history of the earth, as we will explore in the next blog post.

1Michael G Strauss PhD, The Creator Revealed: A Physicist Explores the Bible and the Big Bang, (Bloomington, IN, Westbow Press, 2018), pp. 88-89.

1 comment:

  1. https://media1.tenor.com/images/054c4944acaa2467d39278201f6a684d/tenor.gif?itemid=4506893

    ReplyDelete