Man has always been intrigued with the theme of origins. Science, however, cannot satisfy that curiosity, for it cannot deal with the question of origins. That is beyond the scope of the scientific method, which requires observation and experimentation.
The first verse of the Bible, though, by divine inspiration, answers the human longing: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This grand affirmation is both factual and literal. In this article, we will simply highlight some important thoughts related to the account of creation recorded in Genesis.
The expression in the beginning clearly reveals that the universe is not eternal. Modern science confirms this. The second law of thermodynamics, which demonstrates that the universe is running down or wearing out (cf. Hebrews 1:10, 11), implies that it had a commencement. Even unbelievers like agnostic astronomer Dr. Robert Jastrow have conceded that “modern science denies an eternal existence to the Universe” (1977, 15).
This initial phrase focuses upon the commencement time. Prior to this event, time did not exist. Though we are not given a precise date for “the beginning,” the time of the creation is not an irrelevant issue. Other biblical considerations clearly demonstrate that the universe is not billions of years old, as alleged by evolutionary date-setters (see Jackson 1989). The fact is, the universe and humankind share a genesis within the same week (cf. Mark 10:6; Romans 1:20).
The eternal source behind the universe is God. Unlike ancient pagan creation accounts, no explanation is offered for the presence of God. He is simply depicted as the existing Creator.
The Hebrew term Elohim probably derives from a root meaning strong. It is especially employed in the Scriptures to emphasize the Lord’s creative power and his sovereignty over the world. The name, as used in 1:1, is plural. Some argue that the plural merely indicates plenitude of power, while others see in this form a subtle suggestion of the Trinity (Stigers 1976, 47), a concept which becomes quite pronounced subsequently (cf. 1:28; 3:22; 11:7).
The New Testament makes it clear that the pre-incarnate Christ was a key figure in the creation (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2). The fact that Elohim is used with the singular verb bara (created) negates the liberal claim that an early vestige of polytheism is here reflected.
The universe was not self-created, as some modern atheists assert. If matter has the innate power to create itself, it is reasonable to assume that such would be occurring even today. But it is not—as the first law of thermodynamics reveals. One may conclude, therefore, that matter has never had the intrinsic ability to bring itself into existence.
God is said to have created (bara) the heavens and the earth. Bara is used in the Old Testament only of divine activity, and contextual considerations argue that the action of 1:1 involved a creation ex nihilo, i.e., out of nothing (cf. Psalm 33:9; Hebrews 11:3).
The heavens and the earth includes all material elements of the universe in their unorganized compositional condition. And though Scripture does not specifically mention it, apparently even the angels were made at this time, for we are later informed that the entire creation was accomplished within the first week (Exodus 20:11) and that the angels “shouted for joy” when the “foundations of the earth” were laid (Job 38:4-7).
Some allege that there is a vast gap, involving billions of years, between 1:1 and 1:2 (see Deaver 1992, 167-174). There is absolutely no basis for this novel idea, which was concocted in the early nineteenth century as a means of harmonizing the Bible with the evolutionary time scale.
Initially, the earth was without form and void, i.e., this planet did not possess the spherical shape that it now has; it was an undefined mass of matter. Moreover, it was empty of the myriad life forms that would later populate it. Those who argue that the earth at this point was a fully “functional working earth” with numerous forms of primitive biological life (Clayton 1989, 14) do so without any evidence whatever. Such ideas reflect a futile attempt to facilitate the Genesis record to evolutionism.
The original creation was shrouded in darkness as the Holy Spirit of God began to fashion the earth into a place for biological habitation. The expression “the deep” hints that the original consistency of the earth was fluid rather than solid (cf. “waters” in v. 2c).
Then the Creator speaks: “Light, exist!”—and light bathed the planet. The nature of this light is not revealed. It was a temporary source of illumination that marked the days until the sun was made on the fourth day of that first week (v. 14). The New Testament suggests that this original light typified the gospel of Christ, which ultimately was to provide spiritual illumination for the human family (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4). Thus was the divine activity of the first day of the creation week.
That the days of this initial week were literal days is evidenced by the fact that each was characterized by an evening and morning, and by the use of the ordinal numerals in connection with each day (cf. Numbers 7:12ff). There is no justification for stretching the creation days into vast eons of time in order to accommodate evolutionary chronology (Coffman 1985, 29-31). Nor is it legitimate to suggest that there might have been long ages between the creation days (England 1972, 110). Even more absurd is the notion that the expression “first day” was a mere “literary device” for the conclusion of a paragraph (Willis 1979, 83).
Such compromises clearly reflect a mentality that has been influenced by evolutionary considerations.
On the second day of earth’s first week, God made a firmament to separate two levels of water. Actually, “firmament” is not a good rendition of the original word, raqia; “expanse” is better for there is nothing firm about the heaven above us. The original word is employed in different senses in this chapter (cf. vv. 14, 20).
Some believe that the “waters above the expanse” (or literally, in the upper portion of the expanse [see Aalders 1981, 60]) represents the atmosphere whence comes our rain, snow, etc. Others feel that this may be an allusion to a vapor canopy that surrounded the early earth, providing a paradise-like climate on the pristine planet (Whitcomb and Morris 1961, 240, 241; 255-258).
Terrestrial waters were gathered together into one place and dry land appeared on the third day. This obviously involved massive geological movements. Basins were formed wherein the waters drained—“He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the deeps in store houses” (Psalm 33:7)—and land masses were shoved up. This is not to suggest that the earth that then was is identical to that which now is (cf. 2 Peter 3:6), for the great flood of Noah’s day has since intervened.
On this third day, the world of botany was born. God spoke and the earth brought forth grass, herbs yielding seed, and fruit trees which were already bearing fruit. Though only seconds old, this fruit must have appeared mature. Note that vegetation came into existence before marine life—a fact in conflict with the evolutionary scenario. There is no way to harmonize Genesis with evolutionism.
The text indicates that these plants were designed to produce after their kind. This expression is used ten times in this chapter, and it is scientifically consistent with the laws of genetics. The word “kind,” which is employed in different senses in the Bible, is, in Genesis 1, almost certainly broader than our term “species,” yet it clearly suggests that all forms of life have not derived from an original source.
On the fourth day, God made heavenly luminaries—the sun, moon, and stars. Some contend that these celestial bodies were “created” (bara) in the beginning (v. 1), but were merely “made” (asah), i.e., appointed as earthly chronometers, on the fourth day. There is no justification for this allegation; it is merely baggage of the gap theory. Note that the fiat—“Let there be . . .”—is used interchangeably with “made” (v. 14; cf. 6,7). Bara and asah are synonyms and frequently are used interchangeably (cf. 1:26, 27; 2:2, 3; 5:2). Had the Lord wanted to convey the impression that the sun and moon merely appeared on the fourth day, he could have expressed it as precisely as he did with reference to dry land in verse nine.
The heavenly bodies were to function also as signs (e.g., for things like weather, navigation, or even in prophecy [Matthew 2:2]). The celestial orbs highlight the glory of God (Psalm 8:3). They also serve to mark the seasons; the revolution of the earth around the sun determines our year, and the journey of the moon around the earth establishes the month.
There is no basis, however, for the superstition of astrology in these passages. Observe also that the Bible clearly teaches that the earth existed before the sun, moon, and stars—a concept at variance with evolutionary cosmogony.
Living creatures of the seas (marine organisms) and birds were made on the fifth day of the creation week. Life was first on the land (plants) and then in the seas. This is the reverse of the Darwinian concept. Moreover, the evolutionary theory asserts that fish appeared millions of years before birds (with reptiles evolving in between these two groups), but that idea plainly contradicts the biblical narrative. There are almost 8,600 species of birds on earth today. Notice that they were made before the “creeping things” (i.e., reptiles [v. 24ff]), which again clashes with the dogma of evolution.
Additionally, on this day God created great sea monsters. This would include animals like the whale. The blue whale can be as long as 110 feet, and weight some three hundred thousand pounds. But the Hebrew term is much broader than simply the whale (KJV); it is a generic term which certainly would include creatures like the aquatic dinosaurs. (For a discussion of dinosaurs and man, see Jackson 1983, 85-88.)
On the sixth day, dry-land creatures were made. Various generic categories are mentioned. Cattle (behemah), creeping things (remes), and beasts of the earth (hayath-haares). These creatures appear to be broadly classified according to their natures (domestic or wild) and locomotion methods (walking or creeping). “Animals are classified in Scripture according to simple characteristics that give quick recognition” (Morton 1978, 154), and not according to any modern scheme that is based upon more complex considerations.
It is absurd to argue, as some have done (Clayton 1977, 151), that the classifications here do not include organisms like insects, amphibians, reptiles, and dinosaurs—suggesting, therefore, these creatures likely existed in some age prior to the creation week. The entire creation was made within the six days of earth’s initial week (Exodus 20:11).
God, i.e., the Godhead (note the plurals “us” and “our” in v. 26) made man (mankind) in his image and after his likeness. This does not imply that God is a physical being. He is not (Hosea 11:9; Matthew 16:17; John 4:24). Nor does it suggest that man partakes of the nature of deity. It does imply, though, that man is clearly distinct from the animal kingdom. He possesses certain traits analogous to his Creator. Humans have esthetic, moral, social, and spiritual components that are unique in this world.
Man was given dominion over the other forms of earth life. This implies the responsibility to conquer and rightly use the planet. One of the great Bible truths so frequently ignored is this: The earth and its creatures are the Lord’s (Psalm 24:1). Man has been appointed as a steward for the management of God’s property, and, ultimately, he will give account for his stewardship (cf. Luke 16:2).
For the first time in the divine record, sexuality is explicitly mentioned (v. 27). Humans were created male and female. This reference doubtless prepares the way for the introduction of the holy state of marriage (chapter two). Jesus declared that human gender distinctions existed from “the beginning of the creation” (Mark 10:6). Humans were never a bisexual blob. Furthermore, Christ did not regard man and woman as late-comers to the planet.
God charged the first couple to multiply and replenish the earth (v. 28). The word “replenish” merely means to fill (cf. Exodus 40:34). It does not suggest refilling the earth after an alleged gap theory catastrophe.
The Lord provided for man’s physical welfare by appointing herbs and fruits for his food supply (v. 29). This may indicate that man, at first, was vegetarian; later, however, meat was clearly assigned as a food substance (see 9:3). Many cultures have traditions which speak of people in the ancient past who abstained from eating animal flesh. As the creation week was concluded, God saw everything he had made, and it was very good. This expression clearly shows that no evil and corruption had as yet invaded the earth’s environment.
Genesis 1 is straightforward, historical prose (not poetry). It is inexhaustibly sublime and is unmarred by absurd mythology or foolish speculation. The first book in the Bible answers one of the most fundamental queries of human curiosity—whence the origin of our universe and mankind?