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Notes on Creation August 23, 2011

Posted by John Salerno in Christianity, Religion.
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I had originally intended this blog post to be a side-by-side comparison of the creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2 in order to show that there are two separate versions of the creation narrative in the Bible and that they contain significant differences that make them mutually exclusive. However, as I began working on it I found myself writing comments after nearly every verse or group of related verses, and I decided to post my commented version in its entirety. My comments are italicized below the related verse(s). Any italics within a verse are part of the original translation (NASB) and are not my own.

Genesis 1

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

The first verse of the Bible is technically incorrect. If it is referring to God’s activity on the first day of creation, then it is wrong because God did not create the heavens on Day One. As stated in Gen. 1:6-8, God created the heavens on the second day.

It may also be argued that God did not create the earth until Day Three (Gen. 1:9-10), which would again make the first sentence incorrect. It is true, however, that the earth as a general body was created (or already existed) on Day One (Gen. 1:2 refers to the “earth”).

If, on the other hand, this first verse is meant to be taken only generally – if “the beginning” simply refers to the beginning of time but not strictly to Day One – then it is correct but trivial. In this case, the verse could have said just about anything, since everything was created “in the beginning.”

3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

These verses are confusing because there is no explanation of what this “light” actually is. God does not create the Sun or the stars until Day Four (Gen. 1:14-16), even explicitly repeating the command “let there be light” two days after light had supposedly been created.

It should also be noted that our concept of day and night only exists as a result of the time it takes the Earth to make one rotation around its axis in relation to the Sun. Without the Sun present, as is the case for the first three days of creation, there would be no concept of day or night. There would be no possible way to refer to “one day” (Gen. 1:5), “a second day” (Gen. 1:8), or “a third day” (Gen. 1:13) without the Sun in its place.

6 Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. 8 God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

On Day Two God finally creates the heavens referred to in the first sentence. What apparently happens here is that God separates the formless void of earth, which was all water as of Day Two, into two distinct bodies of water, one (which would become the ocean) below the newly-created sky, and one (which we know does not exist) above the sky. Some fundamentalists believe that God used this second body of water – the one over the sky – to flood the earth, and claim this as the reason for its absence now.

9 Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. 13 There was evening and there was morning, a third day.

On Day Three God creates dry land and distinguishes between the land and the ocean. The most important point to note here is that Day Three marks the first instance of creation on a smaller scale (i.e. not the earth, ocean, or sky). The very first thing God creates is vegetation (plants, trees, fruits, and vegetables). Contrast with Gen. 2:5-9 in which it is specifically stated that “no shrub” and “no plant” had yet sprouted from the earth before God created man, after whom vegetation was created.

14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so.

Oddly enough, it is specifically stated here that one of the purposes of the “lights” (i.e. the Sun) is to account for days and years. Yet somehow we have gotten to Day Four without the Sun.

16 God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also.

This passage is clearly wrong. It states that God made two separate lights, one for the day (the Sun) and one for the night (the Moon). Yet, we know that the Moon is not itself a light. It is, essentially, a big rock that only reflects the light from the Sun. So for the creation story to claim that the Moon is a “great light” is wrong. Note that it cannot be argued that the “great light” for the night is the stars, because the creation of the stars is specifically mentioned in a separate sentence.

17 God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. 19 There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

What is the difference between the creation of light on Day One and the creation of light on Day Four? Furthermore, God had already separated the light from the darkness on Day One (Gen. 1:4), so it is unclear what further separation is occurring here.

20 Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.” 21 God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

Day Five provides the next instance of creation on a smaller scale. Following the creation of vegetation on Day Three, God creates ocean life and birds on Day Five.

24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. 25 God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.

Day Six, the final day of creation, begins with the creation of land animals and insects.

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Following the creation of land animals and insects, God creates humans. It should be noted that humans are God’s final act of creation and both man and woman are created simultaneously. Contrast with Gen. 2, in which man is created before all plant and animal life, and woman is created after all plant and animal life.

29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

The most important fact to note in this passage is that God specifically grants to humans all plant life for food. There is no mention of a tree from which man and woman are forbidden to eat.

Genesis 2

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. 2 By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

Though part of Gen. 2, this is the final passage of the creation narrative from Gen. 1.

4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven.

Of note here is the phrase “in the day,” which suggests that this creation story occurs in the span of a single day. While not all translations contain this phrase (e.g., NIV), and while it may be argued that the phrase is meant figuratively, the creation narrative itself does not distinguish between days and seems to occur in a single day.

5 Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. 6 But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground.

There does not appear to be a special creation of land, as in Gen. 1:9-10. Rather, references to the land (“earth” and “ground” above) are made as if either land already existed along with the water, or land and water were created simultaneously. Contrast with Gen. 1:2 in which the “earth” solely consists of water, and Gen. 1:9 in which land is specifically created.

Also note that plants do not yet exist.

7 Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

God’s first act of creation, aside from the earth itself, is man. Contrast with Gen. 1:11 in which God creates plant life before anything else, including humans. It should also be noted that man and woman are not created simultaneously as in Gen. 1:27.

8 The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. 9 Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

After man was created, God created the vegetation in the garden of Eden. Contrast with Gen. 1 in which God creates vegetation on Day Three and man on Day Six. Also note that this creation narrative contains a reference to the tree forbidden to the man and woman, though no strictures have been mentioned yet.

10 Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers. 11 The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

Just as the garden of Eden is referred to in Gen. 2:8, this passage gives more details about the layout and location of the garden. This may have been done in part because the author of this particular creation narrative (the “J” source) portrayed God as an anthropomorphic being, and details such as these would allow the author a “setting” in which to place his “characters.”

15 Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.

Gen. 2:8 already states that God placed the man into the garden, so it is unclear how the action of verse 15 differs.

16 The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

At this point man is forbidden to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Contrast with Gen. 1:29, in which God gives man and woman all plant life to eat. Another point to note is that woman has not yet been created and thus does not directly receive the command not to eat of the tree.

18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” 19 Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.

After the creation of man and plants, God creates land animals and birds. There is no mention of ocean life or insects being created. Contrast with Gen. 1:20-21, in which God creates ocean life and birds on the same day, and Gen. 1:24-25, in which God creates land animals and insects on the following day.

21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”

24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

God’s final act of creation is woman. Contrast with Gen. 1:27, in which God creates man and woman simultaneously, after all other life had been created. In the creation narrative of Gen. 2, man is created before plants and animals, and woman is created after plants and animals.

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