Summary: Is Genesis theistic evolution, day-age theory, a gap, literal 6 days, a polemic, an allegory, majestic prose, intelligent design or something else? If Christians can’t agree on the timing of creation, can we agree on the purposes of the creation story?
Berasheet bara' Elohim et hashamayim ve'et ha'aretz
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. What are the secrets behind the creation stories in Genesis? Is Genesis literal, allegory, or majestic prose? What are the forgotten purposes of the creation stories?
Purpose: Let’s discuss creation.
Plan: We’ll look at Genesis 1-2, pros and cons of various creation theories and more importantly, some lessons.
A Few Notes
In A Beginning: Some scholars believe that “In the beginning” should be better translated “in a beginning”. The traditional translation has been followed by most scholars. (Kass, Leon R. The Beginning of Wisdom, University Of Chicago Press. 2006. 27.)
Let Us make Mankind: Who are the “us”? Some popular theories are God and the angels, that “us” adumbrates (indicates faintly) the Trinity, this is a leftover from earlier polytheistic accounts, which I personally doubt, or God uses the royal plural. We can only speculate.
The Earliest Account: Hasty thinking has led some to believe that Genesis 1-2 is not the earliest creation account. If Moses wrote all of Genesis including the two creation stories, then creation accounts from Babylon and Sumeria were earlier. However, if Moses was one of several editors or redactors of Genesis and not the sole author, that leaves room for the inclusion of very early creation documents and writings by the Patriarchs. If so, we don’t know how ancient these creation stories may have been.
Let’s now examine a few of the many, many creation theories and some of their strengths and weaknesses:
1. Godless Evolution: A popular theory today is evolution without God. A strength is that it attempts to be honest with the geological record. This also exposes science’s greatest weakness, ignoring divinity.
2. Theistic Evolution: A popular theory is God-directed evolution. A strength of this theory is that it also tries to be honest with the geological record. A weakness is that it elevates potentially dishonest and fallible human testimony and demotes God’s Word. Also microevolution within a kind is observable, as dog breeding shows, but proof of macroevolution, into another family entirely, remains elusive.
3. The Day-Age Theory: The day-age theory speculates that the days of Genesis 1 are not literal days but ages, possibly millions of years. A strength of this theory is that it acknowledges popular interpretation of the geological record. Biblically, the word day sometimes refers to a period of time. A weakness is ignoring Genesis’ internal literary definition of a day being morning and evening.
4. The 6 Day Theory: This is the most literal interpretation. Some strengths are that “day” is defined as morning and evening. Some scientists claim that carbon dating is grossly distorted and the geological record can be interpreted in a manner consistent with a young earth. Some weaknesses are explaining light before the sun’s creation. Stars are put in the expanse, originally defined as between the waters. Day is used non-literally in Genesis 2:4. Popular interpretation of the geological record and carbon dating interpret a much older world.
[Note: the rest of these may be briefly listed as preaching the whole list may become tedious. They are included for interest. Please continue preaching from Creation Lessons.]
5. The Gap Theory: According to this theory, the devil ruined things after Genesis 1:1 and the ruin-restoration or restoration theory postulates a gap of perhaps millions of years followed by a re-creation in verse 2. A strength is attempting to harmonize the geological record with the Bible, with some limited scriptural backing: the Holy Spirit “renewed” the face of the waters (Psalms 104:30) and angels were a previous creation (Job 38:4-7). Some weaknesses are that Romans 5:14 says that death reigned from Adam to Moses, and geologists have difficulty with a 6,000 year old worldwide cataclysm. The gap is pure speculation.
6. A Polemic Theory: A polemic is a hostile attack. Was Genesis 1 an attack upon nature worship showing that God created what people worshipped as gods? A strength of this theory is that ancients did worship nature as many gods. A weakness of this theory is that if this is a polemic, its nature is somewhat disguised.
7. Augustine’s Allegory Theory: Augustine and others taught that Genesis was a creation allegory. A strength of that idea is that it could explain some of the internal puzzles. A weakness of that argument could be Jesus’ acknowledgement that from the beginning God made them male and female (Mark 10:6). Many Christians have also interpreted Genesis as history.
8. Majestic Prose: Another theory is that Genesis is stylized history (the original meaning of the word myth), majestic prose, elevated prose, or a festive overture. Some strengths of this view are poetic parts in days 1,2,3 parallel to days 4,5,6 though it is mostly prose, and stylistic use of the number 7. A weakness is if it was stylized prose, then many people throughout history have missed that point.