Creation – what does the Bible actually say?
There are a lot of misconceptions about what the Bible says about creation. For example, many people think that the Bible says that God created the entire universe in six days. But is this really true? We need to take a careful look both at what the Bible says and what it doesn’t say.
The first verse consists of a declaration that God created everything.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
The account of the six days in which our world was created begins with this statement in verse two:
The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Our planet already existed at the beginning of the first day. It is described as being in darkness and covered by water. The six days do not describe the actual creation of our earth but its transformation from a chaotic condition into one which supports life.
We are not told whether the earth had just been created or had existed for some time. Bible believers are divided between two groups over this question. Young earth creationists believe that the earth had just been created in this chaotic state. Some old earth creationists believe that the world had originally been created perfect but that there was some catastrophe which brought about the condition which existed in verse two. The Bible ends by describing the creation of a new earth to replace an old one that had been corrupted by sin. Perhaps it starts the same way.
When it comes to understanding what the Bible teaches it doesn’t really matter which view of creation is true. Our present earth was created was six days just a few thousand years ago. All life, including human life, was created by God and didn’t come about by any process of evolution. The fossil evidence which some consider evidence of evolution is the result of the worldwide flood in Noah’s day. The only point of disagreement is whether or not the planet we live on was in existence before the six day creation.
One question that arises is whether these are literal days or merely indefinite periods of time. On the first day light appears and God separates the light from the darkness, calling them day and night. The day concludes with this statement, “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” Each subsequent day ends with a similar statement. It is obvious that each day consists of one rotation of the earth on its axis, so these were literal days.
Whether these were days were 24 hours long as our days are now would depend on whether the speed of the earth’s rotation was the same then as it is today. There is an event in the Bible that might possibly have brought about a change. The flood in Noah’s time was part of a cataclysmic event that radically changed the geography of the earth. For the waters to cover the earth, the topography must have been been different from what it was today. A description of how it was changed at the end of the flood is found in Psalm 104:6-9:
You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. 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. You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth.
It is possible that with changes of this magnitude the speed of the earth’s rotation could have been changed. The first civilizations that developed after the flood had calendars with 360 days. Perhaps before the flood the year was in fact 360 days long and the simply retained their old calendars.
Here are two posts about the effects of the flood on the earth.
The six days only describe what happened on earth and tell us nothing about the rest of the universe. The sun was already in existence on the first day because the earth began receiving light from it then. But we don’t know whether the sun was created on the first day or whether it existed before that but there was some barrier which kept its light from reaching the earth.
Genesis 1:14-17 seems to contradict this.
And 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, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.”
And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth.
But if you read it carefully you will find that it doesn’t actually say anything about the creation of the sun and the moon. It only says that God made lights in the sky, not that he created the bodies that produced these lights. The presence of light shows that the sun already existed so there must have been some kind of cloud cover which kept the sun from being seen but still allowed its light to reach the earth. This was now removed so that the sun, moon, and stars could now be seen.
Exodus 20:11 is sometimes cited as proof that the entire universe was included in the six days.
For in six days the LORD made heaven and 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.
Some people think it is a restatement of Genesis 1:1,
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
But the word heaven has more than one meaning in the Bible. It is used to describe the atmosphere, outer space, and the home of God. Genesis 1:1 apparently includes all three meanings, but verses 6 to 8 use the word only in the first sense.
And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”
And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
The word earth also has more than one meaning. It can mean the planet we live on or it can mean dry land. In verses 1 and 2 it means the planet. But it has the second meaning in verse 10.
God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
It is obviously used in the second sense in Exodus because it speaks of the heaven, the earth, and the sea. If it were speaking of the planet the sea would be included in it and wouldn’t need to be mentioned separately.
The verse from Exodus is obviously using the words “heaven” and “earth” as they are used within the account of the six days rather than as they are used in verse one. It says that God made the air, the land, and the seas, and everything in them. In addition, Psalm 115:16 says,
The heavens are the Lord’s heavens,
but the earth he has given to the children of man.
Since God has given only the earth to man it seems logical that this is the only part of creation that God would describe in detail.
Chapter 2 begins by telling us that God rested on the seventh day. This statement is followed by a description of the creation of the first two humans. We were told previously that God had created them on the sixth day and given them dominion over all the rest of the life on the earth. Now he describes their creation in more detail.
Some people claim that this account contradicts the account in chapter one because it says that plants and animals were created after the first man was created.
The belief that plants were created later is based on this statement in verse five:
No bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground.
It doesn’t say that no plants had yet been created but only speaks of two kinds of plants, those called bushes of the field and small plants of the field. This obviously refers only to plants that need to be cultivated by humans in order to grow.
The belief that animals were created later is based on the statement in verse nineteen that God formed animals and birds out of the ground and brought them to the man to be named. But the verse says:
Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them.
This section is exclusively about the first man and woman and other parts of the creation are mentioned only as they are related to their creation.
The creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 can be divided into three parts. The first verse says that God created everything. Genesis 1:2 to 2:3 gives a detailed description of one part of this creation, the world we live in. It took six days and was followed by a day of rest. This is simply one part of the creation described in the first verse. Man was created on the sixth day and the rest of chapter two is a detailed description of his creation. We aren’t told anything about the creation of the rest of the universe.
Posted on March 6, 2012, in Bible study, creation and tagged Adam and Eve, Bible, creation, garden of Eden, Genesis, old earth creationism, young earth creationism. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.