Monday, June 15, 2009

Review of meeting about Genesis 1, part 2 of 4

Continuing on with my previous post summarizing our discussion group, I'd like to discuss the second common roadblock that non-believers have with interpreting Genesis 1.

This second roadblock is that many skeptics object to the idea that the sun, moon, and stars are allegedly created on Day 4, after not only the earth has been created, but also the first plants have been created as well. First of all, this makes no physical sense, and second, we know for a fact that many stars (and galaxies) are far older than the earth. But Genesis 1:16 says, in the middle of the Creation Day Four account:
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 (NIV).
What are we to make of this? The common misconception here hinges on a subtle shift in point of view. In verse 1:2, the text tells us:
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.
This implies that it was dark on the surface of the earth (but not necessarily because the sun didn't exist). Then, in Creation Day One, "God said 'Let there be light,' and there was light (v. 1:3)." Does this mean that the light here in verse 1:3 is different from sunlight? Some have proposed it is God's shenikah glory, as will be true of the new creation (Rev 21:23). However, it doesn't have to be that mystical. I contend that it was dark on earth's surface because of thick cloud cover, and not due to the lack of a sun. When God said "Let there be light," He was not creating light, but allowing light to pass. (The Hebrew verb here, haya, can be translated "come to pass".) In fact, our best planetary formation models predict that the primordial earth was covered in thick clouds, much like Venus is today, and only because of a miraculous collision event with another planet-sized body (which, by the way, is the same event that formed the moon and a topic for another discussion) did the cloud cover become thin enough to allow light to impinge upon the surface of the earth.

So what then do we do with Creation Day Four? It seems that in verse 1:16, the Bible is clearly teaching that the sun, moon, and stars were created that day. Well, the answer is that the Hebrew verb tense translated as "made" could also be translated as "had made." In other words, verses 1:16-18 were, in a sense, parenthetical notes.

But Creation Day Four still talks about the sun and the moon appearing for the first time. God said "Let there be" lights in the sky, which as we saw before, means "let it come to pass that lights would be in the sky." We should interpret this to mean that, in this creation epoch, this is the first time that an observer on the surface of the earth can see and distinguish these heavenly bodies. Previously, the cloud cover that allowed light to penetrate was still scattering enough to obscure the sun and moon as distinct objects. Kind of like a haze. If you read further in Day Four, the text even tells you why it is important for the heavenly bodies to become distinguishable: to mark the days, seasons, and years. This was not previously possible.

So that's roadblock #2. I know it was kinda wordy, but hopefully understandable. Of course, if you didn't understand it or if you have questions/criticisms...

Comments are welcome!