Free In Christ

Finding Freedom in the Churches of Christ

From The Archives: The Scriptures and Creation

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[This post is from November 22, 2009.  This is where I explain part of my view on Genesis 1 and this really hasn’t changed.  I think my explanation is far better than the traditional view.]

I was taught that the entire universe was created in six 24 hour days about 6,000-10,000 years ago. While this may be true, the Scriptures do not say this. We must go through the first chapter in Genesis in detail to arrive at what the Scriptures are trying to show us.

“in the beginning” – I was always taught that this referred to the beginning of time but the Scriptures do not say this. It is assumed. It is more likely that this indicates the beginning of the story because time is nowhere indicated as starting at this point. Also, time only exists if the earth exists or light exists to measure it. It is earthly and human. Time is indicated by a measurement of the movement of the earth in it’s orbit and how it turns on its axis or on the speed of light (outside of the earth). Something must exist before it can be measured. This is to say that the beginning must refer to the beginning of the story and we will see that there may have been pre-existing material.

“created” – This does not mean “made from nothing” it just means made or formed. Their could have been pre-existing material or it could have been from nothing. We don’t know.

“heavens and the earth” – This does not mean “the universe and the planet Earth” it means “the sky and the land”. The ancient people did not know that the earth was a planet. They believed in what is called the geocentric model of the universe. They believed that the Earth was flat and all of the stars and other heavenly objects were connected to the sky (the heavens). They did not know that our planet was just one of many. The word translated “earth” in Genesis most often means “dirt” or “land” and cannot refer to a planet in a solar system (because they didn’t know this existed).

At this point, all the Scriptures have told us is that “in the beginning of the story God made the sky and the land”. Let’s go on.

“the earth was” – The earth cannot be described if it didn’t exist as in the traditional view. The meaning here is “the land was” meaning that the land did exist before the 1st day in the creation sequence.

“formless and void” – This can be tricky because many read “formless” and say “it couldn’t exist because it had no form” but we must use logic and conclude that nothing can be described that truly has no form (unless it is spiritual which seems unlikely here). We must realize that formless indicates that the land was in such disarray as to not have any usable form. No places for humans to dwell. If you imagine a molten area that no human could ever live in, you probably have the right picture. The Scriptures tell us also that the place was empty. This could either indicate that it was once full or that it never was. The Scriptures do not say.

“over the waters” – This also indicates that their was water here before the 1st day in the creation sequence. This is contrary to the traditional position.

The next part of Scripture is called “the creation hymn” because it is in an ancient form of Hebrew poetry. The part before this is not in poetry. This is why it is italicized in most modern Bibles. The fact that this is poetry tells us something about it: that it shouldn’t be read as straight history. It is also a very specific type of poetry. It is called a 7-day creation myth. These were common in the ancient world and many different cultures had them. The Jews would have been familiar with these coming out of the Egyptian culture. The point here isn’t that God created the world for people in 6 days but that He created it. The 7 days are not to be taken literally but act as a literary device like verses in a song. The days just separate literary points. The original audience of this book would not have thought that these were literal days.

“let there be light” – We shouldn’t think that God is creating light at this point but we should read it as “let there be light on the land”. There must have been light before the reconfiguration of the Earth because other celestial objects give it off. It is likely that the planet Earth has some light at this point but that it is simply too dark to support human life. Here, God directs that light to the Earth in order to provide the right balance between day and night.

“evening and morning” – It is the ancient Jewish way to count the evening as before the morning in a day. When the sun went down, they considered the day over and the next one to have begun. All Jewish festivals also start at sundown (not like our current way of thinking that considers morning to be the start of the day)

“sky” – We shouldn’t think that God made the sky in verse 1 and here. That doesn’t make sense. It is more accurate to say that He separated the water above (the atmosphere) from the water below (the oceans). The planet Earth had a sky above the land before this but it did not have the right mixture to support human life. God is making the sky exactly right and the water exactly right but we know that they both existed before in verses 1 and 2.

“let dry ground appear” – The word “appear” is very important. God is not making the ground, He is making it appear. This means that He was saying where there should be water and where their should be land. Verse 2 says the land was “formless” so God is giving it the correct form. The land would come up from the water where God wanted it (showing that it already existed).

“lights in the sky” – To the ancient people, the lights (sun, moon, and stars) were connected to the sky. We know today that this is not true. Their view is called the geocentric view and ours the heliocentric view. It is still true (and this is the only thing the text actually says) that God created all of these things for us to use for the measurement of time. Only in the traditional view would anyone be confused about light being made in Day 1 and the lights being made here. There was already light in Day 1 but it wasn’t on the Earth as it should have been. There we already lights in the sky at this point but were not set for the way we would measure time until this point.

“the seventh day” – The days do not have to be literal in order for God to make the seventh day (the Sabbath) a holy day for His people. God chose to teach them the story of creation this way so it makes sense that He would also remind them of the creation in the same way. The Sabbath laws have much to do with honoring the creation. By having the seventh day, the seventh year, and having a Jubilee year the year after the 49th year as Sabbaths, they are honoring the creation (people and everything else) by letting it rest. The seven days do not have to be literal for this to be the way that God wanted to teach the people.

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Written by freeinchrist

May 5, 2010 at 8:00 am

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