Genesis Account of Creation

THE BOOK OF GENESIS
ITS ACCOUNT OF CREATION

THE book of Genesis opens with the grandest theme that ever occupied the thoughts of created intelligences; the Work of God, in bringing into being the material universe, and peopling it with organic, conscious life. The style and manner of treatment are in harmony with the grandeur of the theme. In few and powerful strokes, the progressive stages of the work are pictured to the mind, on a scale of magnificence unparalleled in writings human or divine.

It is much to be regretted that these characteristic traits of the account of the Creation, shadowing forth its impenetrable mysteries in broad and general outlines, should have been overlooked in its interpretation. This sublime Epic of Creation, with its boldly figurative imagery, and poetic grandeur of conception and expression, has been subjected to a style of interpretation, suited only to a plain and literal record of the ordinary occurrences of life. Hence, not only its true spirit, but its profound teachings, have been misconceived and misinterpreted; and its exhibition of the mysteries of creative power, which science traces in its own observation of Nature, have been confounded with popular misapprehensions, irreconcilable with the well-known facts of science.

A reconciliation of the Biblical account with the facts of Geological science has been attempted on a false theory; namely, that the several stages in the earth’s formation took place in an assumed interval of time between the first and second verses; an interval of vast and indefinite length, unnoticed by the sacred writer. During this interval, the successive processes in the formation of the earth was completed, and the successive orders of vegetable and animal life, the remains of which are found imbedded in its strata, were brought into existence and perished; that the account of the present state of things on the earth’s surface begins with the description in the second verse, representing the chaotic condition of its surface after the last of its great internal convulsions; and what follows, in verses 3-31, occurred in six natural days of twenty-four hours.

    The objections to this theory are:

1. There is no foundation for it in the sacred writer’s statement. He gives no intimation of such an interval. It is thrust in, where there is no indication that it was present to his mind, and no reason for it in the connection.

2. It assumes that the sacred writer has not given us an account of the Creator’s work, but only of a part of it; that for unknown ages the earth was peopled with vegetable and animal life, of which no record is made.

3. It is without support in the facts ascertained by science. Scientific investigation shows that no such convulsion, as is assumed in this theory, occurred at the period preceding the creation of man.

Hence the latest advocates of this theory are driven to the assumption, that what is revealed in verses 3-31 has reference only to a small area of western Asia; being nothing more than the reconstruction of that little segment of the earth’s surface, broken up and thrown into confusion by an internal convulsion, and the creation there of the new orders of vegetable and animal life that now occupy the globe.

On this supposition, the earth had already enjoyed the full light of the sun for ages, before the work of the first day (verse 3) began. Even then all around this little tract, the earth was in a blaze of light; but over this tract dense mists shut out the rays of the sun. God said: “Let there be light!” The mists grew thinner, letting in sufficient light for the time, though not enough to disclose the forms of the heavenly orbs, which were not seen there till the fourth day, though visible everywhere else. Then follow, in rapid succession of single days, the formation of continents and seas, the clothing of the earth with vegetation, and the peopling of it with the various classes of irrational animals, and finally with Man.

The infinite God has not revealed his work of creation on such a scale as this; and its proportions are better suited to the conception of the timid interpreter, stumbling at minute difficulties and seeking to evade them, than to the grand and fearless exposition of his work from God’s own hand.

4. It is an unworthy conception of the Creator and of his work. Why was the work of reation extended through six natural days, when a single divine volition would have brought the whole universe into being, with all its apparatus for the support of life, and its myriads of living beings? Its extension through six successive periods, of whatever duration, can be explained only by the operation of those secondary causes, which the structure of the earth itself proves to have been active in its formation, requiring ages for their accomplishment.

It is now established, beyond question, that the earth we inhabit was brought into existence many ages before man was created. During these ages it was in process of formation, and was gradually prepared, under the divine direction, for its future occupation by man. In those vast periods, succeeding each other in long procession, it was fitted up for his abode by accumulations of mineral wealth within its bosom. These processes required ages for their completion, as represented in the sacred narrative, and recorded by the divine hand in the successive strata enveloping the earth, and marking the progressive stages of its formation.*

*”Every great feature in the structure of the planet corresponds with the order of the events narrated in the sacred history.” – Prof. Silliman, Outline of Geological Lectures, appended to Bakewell’s Geology, p.67, note. “This history furnished a record important alike to philosophy and religion; and we find in the planet itself the proof that the record is true” (p.30).

The writer has no claim to speak as a geologist, and does not profess to do so. He takes the teachings of geology as given us by eminent masters of the science, entitled to speak on its behalf. But, speaking as an interpreter of God’s Word, and taking their representation of their own science, he sees no discordance between the two records, which the same divine Author has given us in his Word and in his works. The former, when rightly interpreted, is in perfect accord with the latter, when truly exhibited. And geologists themselves assert that the Word of God, so interpreted, is in harmony with the teachings of their science. This alone is sufficient to satisfy the candid and conscientious inquirer. But they assert, also, that the divine Word explains the divine work, while the divine work confirms the divine Word. Moreover, no human philosophy could have discovered, or conjectured, what is here revealed.* The divine record was made when science had not yet penetrated the mysteries of Nature; when the earth’s record of its own history was still buried deep in its enveloping strata, and had been read by no human eye. As, therefore, no one witnessed the scenes described, or had read the “testimony of the rocks,” the written account, if true, as science admits it to be, must have been of superhuman origin.

*”No human mind was witness of the events; and no such mind in the early age of the world, unless gifted with superhuman intelligence, could have contrived such a scheme; – would have placed the creation of the sun, the source of light to the earth, so long after the creation of light, even on the fourth day, and, what is equally singular, between the creation of plants and that of animals, when so important to both; and none could have reached to the depths of philosophy exhibited in the whole plan.” – Dana, Manual of Geology, art. Cosmogony, p.743.

The successive stages in the account of the Creation are as follows: –

1. The act of bringing matter into being. Its condition as “waste and empty,” and subjection to the divine influence imparting to it its active properties. Production of light, as the first effect of this imparted action.+

+Styled cosmical in distinction from solar light.

2. Separation of the fluid mass into waters above and waters below.

3. Separation of land and water on the earth. Vegetation, beginning with its lowest orders.

4. Sun, moon and stars.

5. Animal life, beginning with inhabitants of the waters, the lowest in the scale, and winged species on the land.

6. Terrestrial animals, in ascending grades. Man, and his dominion over all.++

++”In this succession,” says Prof. Dana (Manual of Geology, as above, p.745), “we observe not merely an order of events, like that deduced from science; there is a system in the arrangement, and a far-reaching prophecy, to which philosophy could not have attained, however instructed.”

These periods of creative activity, and the cessation that followed, were presented to the mind of the sacred writer under the familiar symbolism of the six days of labor and the seventh of rest. This was a natural and intelligible application of it; the word day, the simplest and most familiar measure of time, being used in all languages for any period of duration, of greater or less extent; and it is specially appropriate in such a style of representation as we find in this chapter.

The six days of labor, and the seventh of rest, having been adopted as the symbolism under which these sublime mysteries are revealed, whatever properly belongs to it, and [R1609 : page 12] is essential to its full expression, is pertinent to the writer’s object. Each period being represented by a “day,” its beginning and end are described in terms proper to represent a day: “there was evening and there was morning.” This was necessary, in order to preserve the symbolic representation.

It should be observed that the sacred writer, throughout this account, represents things under forms of expression most easily apprehended by the common mind. The narrative was given to instruct, and not to perplex and confound, the common reader, as it would have done if expressed in scientific forms, adapted to a higher stage of culture than the Bible requires, or could properly presuppose, in its readers.

Such a view of the sacred narrative exalts our conception of the divine Architect, and of his work. He who inhabits eternity has no need to be in a hurry. With him, a thousand years are as one day. It was not till ages of preparation had passed away, that his purposes found their entire fulfilment, and his work its completed unity, in the creation of man.

According to the distinguished teachers of science – Professors Silliman, Guyot and Dana – the account of the creation recognizes two great eras, an inorganic and an organic, consisting of three days each; each era opening with the appearance of light, that of the first being cosmical, that of the second solar for the special uses of the earth.*

*”I. Inorganic era:
1st Day. – LIGHT cosmical.
2nd Day. – The earth divided from the fluid around, or individualized.
3rd Day. – 1. Outlining of the land and water.
2. Creation of vegetation.

II. Organic era:
4th Day. – LIGHT from the sun.
5th Day. – Creation of the lower order of animals.
6th Day. – 1. Creation of Mammals. 2. Creation of Man.”
Dana, Manual of Geology, p.745.

It need not be supposed that the sacred writer read in these wonderful revelations all the mysteries which they contain, or that they were seen by those to whom the revelations were first addressed. It was not necessary that he or they should be made wise in physical learning beyond the wants of their time; and the symbolism itself conveyed all the instruction they needed.

– T. J. CONANT.

The above is republished from The Watch Tower, January 15, 1894.

Genesis 1:1-2:4 – Seven days when no days? (r-blogger: creation)

The question was presented: How could the earth be made in seven literal days, since without the earth, there would have been no days? The argument seems to be that if there is no earth, then there could have been no days in which the earth was created.

Actually, the scriptures no where state that the planet earth was created in seven days, but rather that the heavens and the earth were created in six days, and on the seventh, Yahweh rested from creation. — Genesis 1:1-2:2; Exodus 20:11; Exodus 31:17.

How could the heavens and earth be created in “six days,” if there were no “days” until the earth was created? To understand this, we need to realize that in the Bible, as in well as in our common speech today, “earth” does not always mean the planet, and “day” does not always mean 24 hours.

In the first chapter of Genesis, for instance, “earth” is used in at least two different ways, as the earth — the planet — that was without form and void, and also as regarding the dry land. — Genesis 1:9,10.

Likewise, heavens is used to refer to that is spoken of in Genesis 1:7-10 is referring to the atmosphere, the air and that which is above the earth that is formed as result of the separating of the waters below and the waters below.

Furthermore, the word “day” is used in at least three different ways, related to at least three different periods of time, in the first two chapters of Genesis. We first have each of six days referred to as being and evening and a morning. (Genesis 1:5,8,13,19,23,31) Then we have the “day” that is referred to as “light.” (Genesis 1:5) We also have the additionally single “day” in which the heavens and the earth were created, which single “day” includes the six days mentioned before. — Genesis 2:4.

And we have the “days” mentioned in Genesis 1:14, as well as the “day” that is mentioned in the same verse and also in Genesis 1:15. The “days” in Genesis 1:14 are evidently referring to the 24-hour “days”, while the “day” is referring to the period of time that the 24-hour “day’ has “light.” This is averaged to be 12 hours. (John 11:29) Thus in Genesis 1:14,15 we have two different periods of time, both of which are called “day.”

Thus we conclude, based on the scriptures, that the “earth” spoken of as being created in Genesis 1:1; Exodus 20:11; and Exodus 31:17, was created in six literal “days” — six periods of time, as the scriptures state. We do not conclude, however, that those “six days” were days of 24 hours, nor do we accept the idea that the “earth” spoken of as being created in Genesis 1:1 refers to the planet itself.

The Bible gives us no indication of as to when the planet was created, but in Genesis 1:2, it simply reads when those six days began, that the planet earth “was” void and without form.

The “earth” that was created in those six days, pertains to the land mass and the arrangement of things upon the land mass, and in the seas as related to the land mass, as stated in Genesis 1:9-13, as well as the rest of Genesis 1.

Likewise, the “heavens” spoken of in Genesis 1:1 pertains, not to the creating of the galaxies, stars, planetary systems, etc., but rather of the sky and things in the sky, the flying creatures, as well as pertaining the what was being allowed to be seen in the sky, as though from the surface of the earth, that is, the making to appear of the sun, the moon, the stars, etc. This refers to the luminaries as they appeared in the sky — the heavens, not to the creation of the physical sun, moon, and stars.

It is these heavens and earth that are being spoken of as being made in one day, as well as six days. — Genesis 2:4; Exodus 20:11; and Exodus 31:17.

However, neither the one “day” of Genesis 2:4, nor each of the six days do we believe to constitute days of 24 hours each, nor do we believe that the Bible ever gives any indication of how long before the beginning spoken of in Genesis 1:1 that the physical universe was created, or when the planet earth itself was made.

Each of six days could have thousands, millions or even billions of years as we now count time. Likewise, the planet earth could been brought into existence thousands, millions, billions, or even trillions of years (according to the way we now count time) before the “beginning” that is spoken of in Genesis 1:1.

Thus, seen, the six days of creation, although they are literal “days”, in that they are literal periods of time, are not the same as the 24-hour days (Genesis 1:14), nor the averaged “twelve hours” of daylight (John 11:29), that are related to the planet earth’s revolving on its axis.

Related Studies:

Beginnings in the Bible
In the Beginning
Six Days of Creation

Original published on or before January 16, 2009; Updated: March 15, 2014.