May 06, 2011

Six Periods (Days) of Ancient History

Disclaimer: What follows is my personal interpretation of the Genesis 1 account in relation to the history of the universe and life on earth. Because science is a work-in-progress and the fossil record is still being uncovered, the dates given are approximate. Please note that my views listed below are not necessarily shared with any other old-earth creationist and only reflect a personal understanding of Genesis 1.

Pre-Creation Week - [c. 13.7 - 4.4 Ba] Genesis 1:1 covers a vast amount of time. The “Big Bang” happened during this first verse [c. 13.7 Ba]. There was an expansion of the heavens, or universe, that took eons (described in other passages of the Bible; cf. Is. 42:5, 12; 48:13; 51:13; Jer. 10:12). Once the stars and galaxies formed, God selected the perfect star and formed a molten Earth from the stardust and planetesimals surrounding the Sun [4.6-4.5 Ba]. In reference to the creation of the earth, the Bible (Is 42:5) uses a word that means to overlay by hammering and to “beat,” which could indicate the compression that occurred and the progressive clumping together of planetesimals and other stardust.

Once the basic foundations of Earth were formed, the ocean started forming (as other passages in Job and Psalms say; cf. Job 38:8) primarily from steam within the earth bubbling up from molten magma and being expelled from volcanoes. This expelled water vapor and gases formed the early atmosphere. The water vapor in the atmosphere condensed down to a primitive, shallow global ocean [4.5-4.3 Ba]. Comets contributed to the global ocean, but likely only in a supplemental capacity.

Period 1 - [c. 4.4 - 4.0 Ba] The atmosphere was much greater than today at this point, and it was probably hazy from methane and carbon dioxide, greatly blocking sunlight and causing significant darkness (cf. Job 38:9; Gen. 1:2) [4.4-4.3 Ba]. As the earth cooled and water condensed further into the Ocean, the atmosphere eventually cleared enough for daylight to be visible from the perspective of the ground (Gen. 1:3-5). A day and night cycle was thus established [4.3-4.2 Ba]. There was no continental land at this point, so the earth was a massive watery sphere covered by perpetual clouds.

Period 2 - [c. 4.0 - 3.5 Ba] — The water cycle then got formed after the earth’s surface cooled even more (Gen. 1:6-8) [4.0-3.8 Ba]. At this point, however, there was still massive cloud-cover that obscured the sun, moon, and stars. The sun would have looked like a large glow in the sky, likely—or not even have been discernible.

Period 3 - [c. 3.5 Ba - 500 Ma] — From that point, you had God forming the continental landmasses through plate tectonics (as briefly described in Psalm 104:5-9 and Job 38:10-11). The ocean waters were “gathered together” and dry land appeared [3.5-3.2 Ba]. This was a long process of land being gathered together and breaking apart and being re-gathered.

Then, I believe, though it’s not critical to this view of Creation, that God created amazing single-celled life with all the DNA encoding packed into it to form all living things. Evolution, adaption, and constructive mutation were designed into this cell(s). Probably at first, simple vegetative-like life grew underwater, like cyanobacteria, xenophyophores, and plankton [~3.5-0.7 Ba] (Gen. 1:11-12). Eventually, simple vegetation such as algae and fungi spread to the land as the first modern life forms on land [1.0-0.9 Ba]. This vegetation started forming into recognizable plant life [750-500 Ma], with lynches, mosses, liverworts, and ferns being some of the earliest modern plant life (although prehistoric, strange life existed on the land much earlier [<1 Ba]).

Biblically Unrecorded History: Meanwhile, prehistoric marine animals (e.g. trilobites, sponges) were popping up in the Ocean [650-550 Ma]. For the most part, this prehistoric, intermediary marine life eventually went extinct and wasn’t intended to be a part of God’s final product for the ecosystem. Most or all of these creatures were 'soul-less'. Therefore, Genesis doesn’t mention these intermediary, marine life-forms. Prehistoric fish formed [c. 530 Ma] that also served as intermediary forms leading to modern fish kinds. (For reference, these fish developed long after primitive forms of vegetation on the land.) Insects also started appearing not long after these prehistoric fish and much earlier than the angiosperms [450-350 Ma]. Cockroaches, dragonflies, and several other flying insects were early modern kinds of insects. The Bible doesn’t record the creation of insects.

Eventually, after the prehistoric marine life were formed, more complex vegetation appeared like trees, bushes, and some herbage, perhaps (Gen. 1:12) [450-300 Ma]. Fruitful trees and grasses (angiosperms) didn’t form until much later [300-200 Ma], well into Period 4 and maybe even in the first half of Period 5, but the formation of all modern vegetation is a process that the Bible regards as a single process that started in Epoch 3. The order of the creation of vegetation was: (1) simple vegetation without seeds [c. 3.5 Ba], (2) simple plants with seeds/spores [c. 600 Ma], (3) fruitful trees and other plants [c. 250 Ma] (Gen. 1:11-12).

Period 4 - [c. 500 - 250 Ma] — Sometime after vegetation was forming on the land, the cloud cover began to become less dense (Gen. 1:14-18) [500-350 Ma]. The simple vegetation and plants that were proliferating likely helped in the removal of carbon-dioxide and pollutants which caused the atmosphere to clear. The actual sun, moon, and stars became visible, and useful for signs and seasons and marking days, months, and years. From the standpoint of the surface of the earth, these celestial bodies had just been put 'in the sky'.

Period 5 - [c. 250 - 65 Ma] — After almost all the basic kinds of plants had formed on the land, there was a massive extinction event that killed off most of the prehistoric marine life and 95-97% of all life in the oceans [c. 252 Ma]. The oceans were depleted of life. God spoke to the oceans and marine life and told them to fill up the oceans with modern marine animals (Gen. 1:20). The marine life exploded and many modern kinds of sea life came into existence (Gen. 1:21) [250-160 Ma]. Also, not long after this time on the geological timescale, God started forming birds [160-125 Ma]. The order of these events was: (1) filling of the oceans with modern fish [250-125 Ma], (2) formation of birds [190-125 Ma].

Biblically Unrecorded History: Meanwhile, around the same time period, prehistoric animals on the land (e.g. dinosaurs, prehistoric mammaliaformes) were popping up [250-150 Ma], though there were amphibious animals on land previously [c. 400-360 Ma]. Most of these prehistoric, intermediary land animals eventually went extinct and weren’t intended to be a part of God’s final product for the ecosystem. They also were probably soul-less (emotionally-simple) animals. Consequently, just like with the prehistoric marine life, Genesis doesn’t record the formation of these prehistoric animals. These animals were nothing more than a stepping stone to get to modern land animals.

Period 6 - [c. 65 Ma - 65 Ka] — Then, after the formation of the first birds [190-125 Ma], modern land animals proliferated on the land from the prehistoric land animals (Gen. 1:24-25) [65-10 Ma]. Specifically, Genesis mentions livestock [50-10 Ma] (easily-domesticated animals), wild animals [90-50 Ma] (spirited, larger quadrupeds, perhaps), and creeping animals [150-60 Ma] (small, soulful animals that scurry along the ground—not insects). The order of these things is not specified precisely, since v.24 has one order and v.25 has a different order.

Over eons, God was shaping animals into His desired final forms (kinds reproducing after their kinds). Man, as the pinnacle of His Creation, took the longest to form. God made pre-humans that had greater intelligence than other animals (Homo sapiens). Evidence suggests that they were likely able to make fire and bury their dead with some symbolic behavior. Pre-humans were upright and intelligent and the animals learned to fear them [2 Ma – 65 Ka]. Most human-like animals—other Homo species—died out before God created Adam and Eve (Gen. 1:26-31).

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