There are passages in the Bible that amaze me. Genesis chapter one and the Order of Creation Story is one such passage to me. I understand Genesis 1 as a remarkable pre-scientific expression of the modern understanding of the formation of the earth.The way Genesis 1 anticipates modern scientific understanding is marvelous to me.
I do not intend this essay to be scientific, nor do I claim it to be a scholarly study of an ancient myth, neither is it any attempt on my part to interpret this text from the point of view of a Bible scholar. I am not a scientist, an ancient writing scholar or A Bible scholar. The following remarks are personal and primarily a part of my faith Journey. All I am trying to do is to express what seems to me to be a truly remarkable and prescient ancient writing that is thousands of years old that in some ways anticipates modern science regarding the formation of earth.
First, I want to look at the order of creation as I understand it.
The Gen 1 creation story begins with what some have called chaos. There seems to have been a huge disorganized collection of matter with the Spirit of God watching over it, like a mother hovering over a new born baby. Here is the text.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.Gen 1:1-2.
Then God begins to bring order out if the chaos.
Day I: Light
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. Gen1:3-5
Day 2: Sky and Oceans
And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day. And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 1 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. Gen1:5-8a
The ancient picture was that there was water above in the sky which provide earth its rain. Below were the waters below which were the oceans and I suppose lakes, rivers, streams and so forth. Therefore it is really the sky and the waters above and earth waters like the oceans that were separate and in that way came into being.
Day 3: Dry Land and Vegetation
Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day. Gen 1:9-13
Day 4: Time
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 1 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day. Gen 1:14-19
The Sun, moon, and stars are the timekeepers and markers for mankind. Therefore, I take it that what was being created was time.
Since the sun was created on the fourth day it is difficult for me to imagine how this passage gets interpreted to mean that creation took place in seven literal 24 hour days. If there was no sun the first three days what was there to mark the passage of a twenty four hour day?
Day 5: Sea and Sky Animals
And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day. Gen 1:20-23
Day 6: Land Animals and Man
And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. Gen1:24-26.
Now lets go back and begin looking at the creation story again from the beginning.The chaos following the Big Bang was very disordered. In time, the forces of the universe led to the advent of stars. In that sense light came out of the chaos. In the time immediately following the big bang there was no light. As Billions of years past, the mass that was the result of The Big Bang began to clump up because of gravity. As some of the clumps grew to massive size, they ignited into the powerful thermonuclear furnaces that we call stars. These thermonuclear furnaces are what we call stars thus bring light to the universe. Therefore, the Biblical view that chaos became light is similar to modern science.
Now I want to look at the structure of the passage.
Day 1: Light…………………………………………Day 4: Time
Day 2 :Sky and Oceans………………………..Day 5: Sky and Ocean Animals
Day3 :Dry Land and Vegetation………….Day 6: Land Animals and Man
The order above seems to me to be in roughly the same order of the development of Earth as presented by scientists including evolutionary biologists. That observation seems to make the argument between Science and The Bible interpreters rather unnecessary.