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.
Genesis 1:1

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 , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Thanks for sharing Clyde. You make some valid points, and I agree with you on a lot of them. I also think you’ve done a nice job examining Scripture. However I respectfully disagree with the premise.

    In short, I see no reason to believe that the sun, moon and stars existed prior to day four, and I see no evidence that there was a barrier preventing most of the light from reaching the earth. I think the only reason a barrier is needed is to set up the possibility that the sun existed before day four. But once we acknowledge that there was no barrier, the only legitimate option we have left is that God created the sun, moon and stars on day four.

    I think there are too many inconsistencies and problems that can’t be resolved with this model. Just one problem I see is the number of assumptions needed to make it work. For instance, you indicate that the sun was already in existence on the first day because the earth began receiving light from it. Then, referring to Genesis 1:14-17, you mention that the presence of light shows that the sun already existed, so there must have been some kind of cloud cover. But these are two very big assumptions. If we go back to Genesis 1:3, God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. As rightly pointed out, it doesn’t say that God created the bodies that produced the light, so why must we assume that the source of the light was the sun? Why couldn’t there be a different source of light, especially since God may not have called the laws of physics into existence yet? Why couldn’t God and his glory be the source of light? After all, God’s glory will be the source of light in the new heavens and earth (Revelation 21:23-24 and Revelation 22:5).

    Nowhere in the creation account does it mention that there’s any kind of cloud cover. This must be assumed in order for this model to work. It’s just assumed that the sun must have been the light source, and that there must have been something blocking it, otherwise we wouldn’t have to wait until day four before we see the sun again.

    I also think these assumptions impact the events occurring on days two and four, and I don’t see how they can be reconciled without further assumptions.

    I’d love to discuss further with you on either of our blogs, and hope to have some further good dialogue. I think we could help each other have a better understanding of these events in Genesis.


    • I agree that there are problems with my idea and that is does require making some assumptions. But believing that everything was created on the third day creates a bigger problem; how can we see stars that are billions of light years away if the universe hasn’t existed for billions of years? I realize that possible solutions to this problem have been proposed. For one thing we don’t know if the speed of light has always been what it is now. I simply think that the believe the universe already existed is more likely and creates fewer problems.


      • Clyde, sorry for taking so long to respond. It’s been a bit busy lately.

        I don’t see any problems or inconsistencies with believing that the earth and entire universe were created in six days as described in Genesis. In fact, I think there’s tremendous consistency.

        How can we see stars that are billions of light years away if the universe hadn’t existed for billions of years? Great question. But in order to answer that adequately, I think it’s important to recognize the shortcomings of secular science and the Big Bang. And that’s because, in order to conclude that there is a problem with the young earth creationist model, one must borrow from the secular model in which the universe MUST be billions of years old. I think it’s been drilled into students for many decades now, and they’ve only been given this one model, while at the same time censoring all other views. And that means a vast majority of educated people only think in a certain prescribed way (instead of thinking against the grain or creatively).

        What I’m getting at is two things: 1) There are, as you acknowledged, a number of possible solutions that have been proposed by creationists. 2) the secular Big Bang model has its own set of insurmountable problems that haven’t been resolved.

        I don’t know which creationist cosmology is the correct one, or if the correct one has even been discovered yet. I personally like the anisotropic synchrony convention, proposed by Dr. Jason Lisle, in which the speed of light in one direction can be any variable we want, as long as it fits the given parameters. In other words, the speed of light could be instantaneous in one direction, and that would allow us to see the light generated by the sun and stars when God created them on day four. This is consistent with what has been proposed by Einstein.

        Second, secular scientists who hold to the Big Bang cosmology have problems with their own model, and they must rely on hypothetical entities to prop them up. Things like dark matter, dark energy and inflation have been proposed to account for the lack of scientific evidence.

        Therefore, as a creationist, I think our model(s) are just as credible as the secular models, and that means we don’t need to resort to the millions and billions of years that they have no choice but to accept. And that leads me to one final point: and that’s that we can trust God’s word. If God says he created the heavens and earth in six days, and that he created the sun, moon and stars on day four, then we can trust that he did so, even if we don’t perfectly understand it. So I think it’s fair to believe the creationist model over the secular model without having to borrow from them.


  2. I know there are models that solve the problems of the speed of light but so far none of them can be proved. Believing that the universe is older than the earth doesn’t require belief in the Big Bang. There is evidence that the universe is younger than is generally believed but that doesn’t rule out the possibility that it is older than the earth. I have made a new post that explains my beliefs more clearly than this one does.

    One reason I reject the idea that the whole universe was created on the fourth day is that this would imply that the whole universe was made for man while Psalm 115:16 says that only the earth was made for him.


    • True, none of the creationist models can be proven, but neither can secular models, or the one you’re proposing. But then again, science isn’t about proving anything. There’s no such thing as a scientific proof. Science is about demonstrating that there’s reasonable evidence to support a given theory. Or that it’s currently accepted as the best explanation of the data.

      Therefore, it’s not necessary that the creationist models be proven- after all, the secular models aren’t proven either. And I think it’s important to understand that all the various cosmologies have issues that need addressed, so there’s no reason to dismiss a young universe model.

      Psalm 115 is a great Psalm, but I’ve never taken it as evidence that the universe was created prior to day four. I think the verse still applies and is just as valid if God created the sun, moon and stars on day four. The heavens belong to the LORD whether they existed before day one or were created on day four.



Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter

Christ in You

... Life and Love in Jesus

Living with Chronic Pain

A fine site

Dumbest Blog Ever

Stu[pidity] on Stareoids

Kingdom Pastor

Living Freely In God's Kingdom

Squid's Cup of Tea

seeking shalom through wrestling well


Discussing Biblical Authority


For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:11)

My Rainy, Windy Life

Life is not mundane.

His Eternal Word

Psalm 119:89,"Forever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven"

%d bloggers like this: