June 16, 2011

BCOE: Creation of the Universe and Early Earth

Please read all of these Bible passages before we get into Genesis 1:1-2.  The letters in brackets are referenced later.

1)  In the beginning, God created [“bara,” בּרא] the heavens [universe] [a] and the earth [d-j]. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep [waters] [j].  –Genesis 1:1-2

2) Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens [universe] [a] and stretched them out [b], who spread out [pounded down] the earth [d] and what comes from it . . .  –Isaiah 42:5

3) Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens [universe] [a-b], who spread out [pounded down] the earth [d] by Myself . . . –Isaiah 44:24

4)  . . . the LORD, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens [b] and laid the foundations of the earth [e] . . . –Isaiah 51:13

5)  The burden of the word of the LORD concerning Israel: Thus declares the LORD, who stretched out the heavens [a-b] and founded [laid the foundation of] the earth [e] . . . –Zech. 12:1

6)  When there were no depths I [Wisdom] was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water [j]. Before the mountains had been shaped [k], before the hills [k], I was brought forth, before He had made the earth [e-f] with its fields [“chuts,” וחוצות, meaning “outside”], or the first of the dust of the world [d]. When He established the heavens [a], I was there . . . –Proverbs 8:24-27a

7)  You are the LORD, You alone. You have made heaven [universe] [a], the heaven of heavens [farthest parts of the universe] [b], with all their host [stars, etc.] [c], the earth [d-f] and all that is on it, the seas [h-j] and all that is in them; and You preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships You.  –Nehemiah 9:6

8)  It is He [God] who sits above the circle of the earth . . . who stretches out the heavens [universe] like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in.  –Isaiah 40:22

9) He stretched out the north over the empty place [b]; and He hung the earth on nothing [d-f].  –Job 26:7

10) He set the earth on its foundations [e], so that it should never be moved. You covered it with the deep [waters] as with a garment [j]; the waters stood above the mountains [or hills] [j]. At your rebuke they fled; at the sound of your thunder they took to flight. The mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place that you appointed for them [k]–Psalm 104:5-8

11)  Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth [e]?  . . . Or who shut in the sea with doors [g] when it burst out from the womb [h], when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band [i] . . . –Job 38:4a, 8-9

Creation Order of Events

From all these verses we get the following picture of the formation of the universe and earth:
            a) The universe is created from nothing and appears
            b) It is stretched out for everything to “dwell in”
            c) The hosts of heaven are made
            d) Primal dust of earth gets compacted down
            e) The foundation is laid down
            f) The primitive earth is completed without the seas
            g) The seas are shut in
            h) The sea waters burst out
            i) The atmosphere becomes thick and dark
            j) The sea waters cover over the mountains/hills
            k) Hills and mountains are made. 

Clearly, there was a lot going on in Genesis 1:1-2.  Genesis 1 is not a complete picture of the Creation.  That is the first thing to note.  The creation of the heavens and earth were complex.

Let’s see for a moment how that this order is really justified from the passages.  First, from many of these passages, it is clear because of the consistency that the heavens were made (a) before the earth (f) (passages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9).  The stretching out of the universe (b) seemed to have been required for things to exist within it (c-k) per Isaiah 40:22 (8), though it indicates a continual stretching out of the heavens.  Just as a tent is put up for people to live in it, the universe was expanded for things to exist within it.  Other passages referring to the expansion of the universe before the earth was made are passages 3 and 5.  Nehemiah 9:6 (7) puts the formation of the hosts of heaven (c) directly after the formation of the universe (a), and then the earth is formed (d-e).  The foundations of the earth are laid down by some process (e) and then the water covers over it (j), according to Neh. 9:6 (7), Psalm 104:5-6 (10), and Job 38:4-9 (11).  According to Job 38:8-9 (11), the seas burst out (h) and thick clouds were made that created darkness (i).  According to Psalm 104 (10), the mountains (k) were created after the seas (j).  This completes the entire order of events. 

So, to summarize:
            (a) comes first by intuition
            (b) comes after (a) by intuition, and before (c) by (7), (8)
            (c) comes before (d) by (7)
            (d) comes before (e) by (6)
            (e) comes before (f) by intuition and by (11)
            (f) comes before (g) by (11)
            (g) comes before (h) by (11)
            (h) comes before (i) by intuition and by (11)
            (i) roughly at the same time as (j) by (1), (11)
            (j) comes before (k) by (10).

The order is entirely consistent with these exceptions: passages 6 and 8.  Both of these, I believe, are easily explained.  Isaiah 40:22 (8) starts by saying that God sits above the circle of the earth.  This isn’t a reference to the past creation, but a reference to the current state of things.  The following part of the verse makes reference to the stretching of the universe for things to dwell in it, and seems to be indicating that the universe is still being stretched out.  Passage 6 has the following form: “When X . . . when Y . . . Before A, before B, before C, or D.  When E, I was there.”  The most logical way to interpret something like that is events X and Y are not sequential with events A through E.  And, you would expect that AE would be going back in time, not forward.  You would say, for example, “Before I woke up, and before I went to bed, I had a headache,” and not, “Before I went to bed, and before I woke up, I had a headache.”  The order is reversed in such a sentence.  And, indeed, the events A E of passage 6 (Prov. 8:24-27) are in reverse order compared with the other passages: formation of mountains and formation of hills ((k) above), formation of earth with its “outside” (e), the beginning of the primal dust of the earth (d), and the creation of the heavens (a-c).  We may want to examine the Hebrew word “outside” sometime, but for now let is suffice that the order is quite nicely in reverse.

As you can see, all of these passages give a consistent message about the order of events, and there is no reason to doubt that there was a specific order of events that happened in the process of time.  The only passage that violates the order is passage 6, and we have noted why that is the case.

Now, keep in mind that it would generally be reasonable to list events in chronological order going either forward or backward in time.  For example, “On Wednesday, I went to the park; on Tuesday, I went to the ballgame; and on Monday, I stayed home.”  Even though this order is going back in time, it is still a reasonable order.  There are a few other passages referencing the creation of the heavens and earth that list things in reverse order; however, these passages are fewer—as one would expect—than those listing things in a forward-in-time order.  Such passages are Psalm 102:25, Isaiah 45:12, Isaiah 48:13, Jer. 10:12, Jer. 51:15, where the earth’s creation is mentioned before the creation of the heavens.  These passages are clearly in the reversed order, since Genesis 1 is chronologically moving forward in time.

We’ll see shortly that this order of creation of things listed above fits with generally received science, which is a spectacular testimony of the accuracy and validity of the Bible!  We should not defraud Creation of its deserved testimony to God’s work and Word.  The young earth view has little use for these descriptions of the formation of the universe and earth, and cannot adequately account for how these biblical passages so beautifully fit with mainstream science.  They often try to explain these passages away and awkwardly ascribe some of it to the Flood, such as Psalm 104.

Genesis 1:1
Genesis 1:1 says that God created (“bara,” בּרא) the universe.  This word for create, “bara” in Hebrew, normally refers to making something from scratch or perhaps out of nothing.  This was a miracle.  The laws of nature at the very least were created from nothing—from God’s very mind.

Next, Genesis 1:1 says that the earth was created.  However, we see from all the passages above, that the universe had to be “stretched out” like a tent for everything to be made within it (Is. 40:22).  So, apparently some time elapsed between making the universe and making the earth.  In any case, a stretching of something requires some amount of time.  This is entirely consistent with mainstream science: the Big Bang, the known expansion of the universe, and then the eventual formation of earth.  Science attests to this order.  It also attests to the fact that the universe (the heavens) are still being stretched out as verses indicate.

The actual making of earth wasn’t instantaneous either, we see from the other passages.  The foundation got laid down and then the seas were formed from water within the earth.  Later, the land and mountains got formed, which we’ll discuss later pertaining to Day 3 of creation.  There is reference to “primal dust” of the earth (Prov. 8:26), and of the earth being “beaten down” [“raqa,” רקע] (Is. 44:24).  This “raqa” has the meaning of to overlay with layers and hammer down.  It’s the term that would perhaps be used of a blacksmith who was creating something and hammering it and putting a layer over other layers to finish it.  So, the entire picture that seems to be presented is of the earth being formed from primal dust and compacted down and overlaid with new layers until the foundations were completed; then, the seas came out of the earth and covered over the foundations and created a dark, watery and cloudy atmosphere (Job 38:8-9).

According to the Bible itself, Genesis 1:1 has a much simplified view of all of this creation of the universe and earth.  However, again, established science is consistent with the above view of the formation of the earth!  Let that sink in a little bit.  This view of what happened during the formation of the earth sounds almost like a textbook view of it.  A textbook would probably present it more technically like this, in summary: the earth formed from primitive stardust (Prov. 8:26) as small planetoids coalesced and got compacted together with new layers of earth forming through time (Is. 44:24); finally, early on in earth’s history, much of the oceans’ water came from within the earth as water bubbled up and came out as steam (Job 38:8) and surrounded the earth, forming a thick blanket of steamy atmosphere that then started to condense down to cover over the earth’s crust and form a global ocean (Job 38:9).

For a young earth creationist, there is a question as to what the “heavens” entail if it does not include the sun and stars.  The earth is listed separately, so the earth cannot be considered a part of the “heavens” in v.1.  What was created?  Yes, it could be said that it was the “vacuum of space” that was created, but I find that an unlikely interpretation.

Genesis 1:2
Next, Genesis 1:2 says that the earth was—or “had come to be” (“hayah,” היה)—without form (“tohu,” תּהוּ) and void (“bohu,” בּהוּ).  According to Genesis 1:2, the earth now had waters covering it.  The idea of these two words is that the earth was vacant, without life, without solid ground, empty, and a wasteland.  From the other verses listed, we see that the sea waters took time to be created.  Genesis 1:2 is after the seas had formed from water within the earth and after thick clouds had covered the earth creating thick darkness, according to Job 38:8.  Does “thick darkness” from Job 38:8 sound familiar?  Genesis 1:2 says that after the waters on the earth had formed there was “darkness . . . upon the face of the deep.”

Why was there darkness?  According to Job 38:8, the darkness was due to a thick, watery atmosphere!  Notice carefully, Genesis 1:2 says that the perspective to be used is from the surface of the waters.  Darkness covered the surface.  It is not necessarily saying that darkness was throughout the universe, but from the surface of earth.  This is consistent with Job 38:8.  Please compare these Scriptures and see if I’m right.  Why does Genesis 1:2 talk about darkness covering the face of the deep, if the darkness was everywhere?  I present to you that Scripture interprets itself, and the darkness was only from the perspective of the surface as Job 38:8 indicates.

Interestingly, there are only two other places where the Hebrew words “tohu” and “bohu” are found together, and one of these two places is Jeremiah 4:23, which says, “I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light.”  This clearly harkens back to Genesis 1:2.  In Jeremiah 4:23, as most commentaries will agree, the description is in regard to Israel after its judgment and destruction.  The idea appears to be that the land would be ruined, the inhabitants removed, and the place burned causing smoke to obscure the sun, moon, and stars.  The “heavens . . . had no light,” but clearly this isn’t saying that the sun, moon, and stars would be destroyed!  No, rather, the meaning would seem to be that from the perspective of the surface of the earth in Israel, the heavenly lights would be covered and not visible.  Applying this language to Genesis 1:2, we can definitely see the interpretation mentioned above fitting, I believe.

Another passage that supports this interpretation of Genesis 1:2, is Ezekiel 32:7-8, “When I blot you out, I will cover the heavens and make their stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give its light. All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over you, and put darkness on your land, declares the Lord GOD.”  Does this not sound similar to Genesis 1:2?  The “darkness” upon the land was because of “a cloud” covering the sun and moon.  Notice also the relative statement that the “moon shall not give its light.”  This wasn’t scientifically precise, but only a relative statement true from one perspective—from the surface of the earth.

Science, again, can easily be reconciled with this sound interpretation of Genesis 1:2; though, science is still not able to tell us what happened precisely during the early years of the earth.  Established science will tell you that the early atmosphere of earth was much thicker.  The idea of there being darkness is entirely reasonable with science.  Early on, the steamy atmosphere would be dense and dark, more than likely.

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