Monday, July 10, 2017

Clarifying Creation

Let’s consult the NET Bible and its footnotes regarding the Genesis creation account:

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

The footnote here reads, with divisions added in brackets:
[A] Or “the entire universe”; or “the sky and the dry land.” [See B below.] This phrase is often interpreted as a merism, referring to the entire ordered universe, including the heavens and the earth and everything in them. The “heavens and the earth” were completed in seven days (see Gen 2:1) and are characterized by fixed laws (see Jer 33:25). [B] “Heavens” refers specifically to the sky, created on the second day (see v. 8), while “earth” refers specifically to the dry land, created on the third day (see v. 10). Both are distinct from the sea/seas (see v. 10 and Exod 20:11).
Part B of the footnote is clarified in the footnotes for verses 8 and 10.

Genesis 1:8 God called the expanse “sky.” [Footnote: Though the Hebrew word can mean “heaven,” it refers in this context to “the sky.”]

Genesis 1:9, 10 God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place and let dry ground appear.” It was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land” [Footnote: Heb “earth,” but here the term refers to the dry ground as opposed to the sea.] and the gathered waters he called “seas.”

To conclude that Genesis 1:1 is only referring to Earth’s sky above the Mosaic composer and that the earth refers only to the dry ground he is standing on would demand the question of how the oceans introduced in Genesis 1:2 were created. Additionally, the sun and moon must have been included in “the heavens” of Genesis 1:1 for life to be possible on earth, with the light sources finally becoming discernible to an earthly observer in Genesis 1:14—per the elaborating creation account in Job 38:9: “when I made the storm clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band.” Thus the creation account is from the vantage point of an earthly observer. As the NET Bible notes for Genesis 1:14 (God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky.”):
Light itself was created before the light-bearers. The order would not seem strange to the ancient Hebrew mind that did not automatically link daylight with the sun (note that dawn and dusk appear to have light without the sun).
Additionally, “light” in Genesis 1:3 is from the Hebrew word ’ohr, but “lights” in Genesis 1:14 is from ma’ohrʹ. One book explains this difference by noting that ma’ohrʹ
means the source of the light. Rotherham, in a footnote on “Luminaries” in the Emphasised Bible, says: “In ver. 3, ’ôr [’ohr], light diffused.” Then he goes on to show that the Hebrew word ma’ohrʹ in verse 14 means something “affording light.” On the first “day” diffused light evidently penetrated the swaddling bands [per Job 38:9], but the sources of that light could not have been seen by an earthly observer because of the cloud layers still enveloping the earth. Now, on this fourth “day,” things apparently changed.[1]
The sources of light were now discernible phenomenologically, as the next footnote explains:
The language describing the cosmos, which reflects a prescientific view of the world, must be interpreted as phenomenal, describing what appears to be the case. The sun and the moon are not in the sky (below the clouds), but from the viewpoint of a person standing on the earth, they appear that way. Even today we use similar phenomenological expressions, such as “the sun is rising” or “the stars in the sky.”
Thus we can see how being reasonable with the creation texts is not about capitulating to modern science, but is merely about letting the text speak for itself and noting its semantic range of meaning while discerning its phenomenological presentation. In this way we can see that it harmonizes with modern science all on its own without any persuasion or manipulation.[2]

[1] Life—How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation? page 31 (2006).

[2] In discussing how Genesis presents creation and other events, like the Deluge and the antiquity of humanity, I’ve found that it’s best to note the semantic range of descriptive Hebrew words and then be reasonable or yielding in your interpretation. This is not about capitulating to modern science, it is about being reasonable with the text, noting what its semantic range allows for.

See also: