“And there was light”


“God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light.”
(Genesis 1:3)

There has been much debate over whether or not the Bible teaches a literal six day creation or if there is room for a more “figurative” approach to the text. This debate is new, since before Darwin no one ever questioned the literal nature of the “days” mentioned in Genesis. But here is one reason to believe that it was actually six literal days:
The language demands instantaneous results. God said it, and then it happened. The language does not allow for time in between when God commanded and when the command was carried out – it conveys an instantaneous result.

Hebrew can easily convey long periods of time between events. One such example is in Joshua 23:1, “Now it came about after many days, after the LORD had given rest to Israel from all its enemies around them…”

But in the story of creation, no such phrases are used – therefore to read long ages into the text is a fallacy, and totally against all indications within the text. Rather such an effort stems from a desire to place Scripture under the authority of a theory of ungodly men, who deny that God even exists.

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7 Responses to “And there was light”

  1. Tato says:

    I think the desire is not to place authority under ungodly men, but rather a desire for attempting to understand something that seems to unknowable.

    We talked about this a bit, but my general thought was that some of the debate resonated around the idea of “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void…” – its a summary statement, but some that it that there is room to be implied that creative acts could have happened after the formless/void earth existed.

    I do not disagree that there are efforts to place authority under man rather than God – however I don’t think that statement is fair – especially to Christians who are involved in science who are trying to wrestle with understanding the world and what they perceive in creation.

    I haven’t read it in Hebrew, but I know that the creation account flows in English and you get a definite sense that creation was a quickly occurring event. However, I am not sure if your statement is very “fair”.

  2. nathanwells says:

    You might be right, that I wasn’t fair – perhaps a simple fact: Looking for the gap theory in Genesis puts (knowingly or unknowingly) the Word of God under the authority of a theory invented by ungodly men who don’t even believe God exists.

    Is that fair? I back up my claim to some degree by the historical interpretation of the text, as well as my own study, and the study of other people in our own day. There is no ‘explicit’ reason to see a gap, unless you want to see one.

    What do you mean by, “a desire for attempting to understand something that seems to unknowable.”

    Meaning that the text is unbelievable?

    Why is the text unbelievable?

    Why should I believe Darwin over a normal understanding of what is said (mean normal based on the historical [pre-darwin] interpretation of that text)?

    If we say Darwin was right, AND that the Bible teaches what Darwin teaches, then we are saying that it took Darwin to help us get Scripture right…because before him, no one saw it.

    Some more reasons – light was created – the heavens, and stars were created – meaning they didn’t exist before they were created, unless a gap theorist claims they too were destroyed…
    Also, a gap theorist has to say that God created all the animals (and there was death), and based on the fossils, God re-made the animals in the same way that He made them the second time, after destroying His first creation – why? Adam and Eve were the first humans (1 Corinthians 15:45), so was it just a planet of animals before?

    The statement in Genesis 2:1 also helps us see that Genesis 1:1 is a summery statement – “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts.” (Genesis 2:1)

    Plus you have summery statements elsewhere: “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:11)

    That means “all that is in them” could not have existed before the 6 days in which God created them (at least to my reading).

    Just some thoughts…

  3. Ben says:

    Well, think of it in the light of Copernicus. If the church has always interpreted the Bible to say that the sun revolves around the earth, and evidence comes to light that this is not the case, should they condemn him as a heretic or question their interpretation?

  4. Tato says:

    I didn’t say the text is unbelievable… don’t read into my words what I didn’t say. God has the power to do as he sees fit. What I said was people wrestle with their observations in this world, and that means that people try to understand that in light of what the Bible says. Have you never observed something and wondered how that fit into the scope of God’s creation? Wondered how it worked in light of what you observed and in light of what the Bible teaches? Sometimes things don’t seem to fit together as nicely as we would like, thus people seek to understand something and wrestle with how what they observe may or may not be true in context with scripture. The text isn’t unbelievable… that would be silly to say… but to a degree it is unknowable (the details, the time frame, how exactly it was pulled together)… someday it may be clear to us when we are with God, but my mind cannot fathom and truly know what took place on the creation day. (Please don’t read into this that I am saying that scripture isn’t clear – that is not what I am saying).

    As far as the gap theory thing: why not mention the fact that it is clear from the text that a day is evening – morning “the first day”… that makes it clear. Genesis informs the reader what a day is: evening and morning. That is obviously given in light of making sense of the time frame of God’s creation.

    However, one thing that brings some of the young earth/whatever you want to call it… debate thing into question is that the summary statement in Genesis 1:1-2… there is no mention to how long the earth was “without form and void” nor how long the “Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Narratively it is setting the story for God’s creative act, which occurs in rapid flowing succession. But, how long the earth was without form and void/the Spirit of God hovering… is unclear. Even in the text you see that God is moving around things – separating the waters, gathering together water to make land, sprouting vegetation… he created material and started shifting it around in creation. How long was that material around for? The text gives no clear answer. So why is it submitting the Bible to a ungodly theory? Narratively the Genesis account is silent on that.

    Moreover, I doubt that we are intended to read it with scientific ideology because the sweeping movement of the passage that I receive when reading it is an awe at a God who can create out of nothing.

    Was Darwin a gap theorists? He couldn’t really be since it is a relatively new theory. Why do you prop up Darwin as the one whom these gap theorist are submitting to? I know why you point him out… but the reality is that it didn’t stem from Darwin inasmuch as it stems back to the enlightenment and the sweeping thought of downplaying who God is.

    Did this post stem out of our conversation when you were around last week?

  5. nathanwells says:

    Ben – I believe the “sun rising” is quite a bit different than what goes on with the dealing of Genesis 1. Genesis 1 is explaining how the world came into being – not from our perspective, because we weren’t there – while as the sun rising is how, yes, even today, we speak of our orbit, because it is how we see it. I don’t think you can make a comparison.

    David – :) no, this wasn’t a post wholly directed at you – we were talking about it in Theo I class and I had never thought about the whole “instantaneous” thing, so I thought I would post it.
    But since we were talking about it and I couldn’t remember what my professors had said about it, I thought after reading a little bit, to talk about it would be good.

    I still don’t think you can get a gap – because of the summery statements that I quoted – it says the heavens and the earth were created in those six days – so no pre-creation is possible (or at least no re-creation is possible). I don’t think it is unclear.

    I say Darwin because the gap theory wasn’t really an option until he came around. Because the gap theory tries to help people feel better in light of what the world thinks. You are right, they are not like a theistic-evolutionist, but I think that to see a gap you have to ignore what the text explicitly says and then infer things that don’t exist in the text.

    You are right – the Bible isn’t a scientific document – but when it explains how something happened, especially something outside of our own observation, I think it leaves little room for other options.

    I would be interested on hearing more though – because it is good to interact on these matters – they are in the Bible because God deemed them important, so we should study, and study to understand and know God.

  6. Ben says:

    No, you’re right, I don’t think that my example has any bearing on the interpretation … it is merely a response to

    “I back up my claim to some degree by the historical interpretation of the text”

    and not

    “as well as my own study, and the study of other people in our own day.”

    That is, don’t make the same mistake as Copernicus’s detractors, which was not one of interpretation, but of being unwilling to re-examine an interpretation.

    Personally, as I’ve grown older, I’ve found things like non-literal days or theistic evolution to be less and less of an issue either way. It affects no point of theology or practice, so I treat it more as a “Well, I’ll find out when I get to heaven.”

  7. Laic says:

    Some thoughts and clarifications: 1-It is untrue that the literal nature of the “days” in Genesis was never questioned prior to Darwin; see Augustine’s ‘The Literal Interpretation of Genesis,’ not to mention Justin Martyr, Origen, even Philo of Alexandria. In the Ancient Christian Commentary series Andrew Louth edited the edition on Genesis 1-11. It is a helpful collection for seeing numerous ways Genesis was understood which has been largely forgotten or ignored in many modern circles. 2-To gloss evolution as the invention of those who did not believe in God is not quite right -Naturalists attempted to spin it that way and were evidently successful in doing so. The last chapter of Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’ suggests that this could be how God created (though Darwin did later move from agnosticism to atheism). Regardless, it doesn’t matter so much whether or not a scientific theory was worked out by atheists or theists, but whether or not it’s correct and whether or not a scientific theory should inform biblical interpretation at all. Of course, this is not an issue for those who do not see Genesis as making scientific claims (thus, there’s no need to see Darwin’s ideas within Genesis or even see scientific ideas not at odds with Darwin’s, as in the hermeneutical gymnastics of gap-theorists which seem rather silly). 3-I don’t think anyone denies that the text seems to indicate instantaneous results; the question is whether the instantaneousness is to be understood along with other details through one’s literal or figurative lens. That it appears instantaneous might perhaps be problematic to certain day-age theorists (there are some different conceptions within that camp for which I don’t think it would be problematic anymore than for YEC’s), but that’s hardly the only model on the market, and is far from the majority view. 4-Let’s say one takes Joshua 23 to be literal history and Genesis 1 to be allegory, that person would not then accept that the way “days” is understood in Joshua to inform how he understands “days” in Genesis because each is a totally different context for “days.” 5-Lastly, taking the quote, “the Bible isn’t a scientific document – but when it explains how something happened, especially something outside of our own observation, I think it leaves little room for other options.” I do not think this is so, for in the myths of various cultures, including Ancient Near Eastern ones, an etiologcial story of how something came to be is a powerful way of expressing what that something is and what its relation is to other things (rather than a scientific record of how it happened). The fact that such a story might be outside of our observation does not make this more or less the case. Understanding the etiologies of Genesis this way hardly seems to me to be a less than straight-forward way of approaching the text.

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