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Posts tagged “Genesis

Genesis 1-11: Fact or fiction?

Gen 1-11 2 400pxDoublespeak is saying one thing and meaning another, usually its opposite. In 1984 when Big Brother and the Party say “peace” they mean “war”, when they say “love” they mean “hate”, and when they say “freedom” they mean “slavery”. And today “tolerance” can mean “intolerance”. Doublespeak deliberately obscures, distorts, disguises, or reverses the meaning of words to manipulate public opinion. It’s used in advertising and politics. Is the beginning of the Bible a type of doublespeak where words don’t have their usual meaning?

The Bible is a library of 66 books that were written over a period of more than 1,500 years by many different authors. It was written to be understood by ordinary people, so it shouldn’t be difficult to interpret. Fathers were to teach it to their children (Dt.  6:4-9; Eph. 6:4). Timothy knew it from infancy (2 Tim 3:15). And the Bereans were commended for checking Paul’s teaching against the Old Testament (Acts 17:11).

The original aim of this post was to examine the literary genre of Genesis 1-11. But then I realized that such studies are often a means to say that this portion of the Bible doesn’t mean what it seems to say. But there is no direct correspondence between genre and whether the content is fact or fiction. For example, God’s spectacular victory over the Egyptian army is described in prose (Ex. 14:23-31) and then in song (Ex. 15:1-12, 21). In this case, prose and poetry are both based on historical fact. Likewise, Christian hymns and songs are often based on Scripture. In this case poetry is based on the facts in Scripture. So, although poetry and prose are different genres (styles), the genre doesn’t indicate whether their content is factual or not. Poetry can be factual, and prose can be figurative. Nevertheless, I will look at the genre first.

Just as there are different types of painting (landscape, still life, and portrait), there are different types of literary works. Literature can be divided into poetry, drama, and prose. And prose can be fiction or non-fiction. The Bible is comprised of several types of literature.

Accurate exegesis and interpretation (understanding) takes into consideration the purpose and style of a given book or passage of Scripture. In addition, some verses are meant figuratively, and proper discernment of these is enhanced by an understanding of literary genre (category, type or classification). An inability to identify literary genre can lead to serious misunderstanding of Scripture. The main literary genres found in the Bible are: law, history, wisdom, poetry, narrative, prophecy and apocalypse, and letters (see Appendix A).

Genesis is the first book in the Bible. As it describes the background to the rest of the Bible, it’s the foundational book of the bible. Some claim that the early chapters of Genesis are more poetic and theological than factual by suggesting it’s an epic myth, exalted prose, semi-poetic, or a defence of monotheism. In this post, we will evaluate this claim.

The purpose of Genesis

The book of Genesis is summarized in Appendix B. The Bible says that this book was produced by Moses (Lk. 24:27, 44). As the events recorded in Genesis occurred before his lifetime, presumably he compiled and edited its content. He did this during the Israelites journey to the Promised Land. So, the book was written for the Israelites and the context is the exodus. The content of Genesis indicates the information they needed to know and the questions that they were asking. These included:
Why are we (Israel) traveling to the promised land?
Why were we (Israel) living in Egypt?
Why do we (Israel) have 12 tribes?
Why do we (Israel) practice male circumcision?
What was our (Israel’s) special relationship with God?
Who were our (Israel’s) ancestors and where did they live?
The history of our nation (Israel).
The origin of our nation (Israel).
The promises given to Abraham.
Where did the patriarchs come from?
The origin of nations and languages.
God protects the godly and judges the ungodly.
Why is humanity now in an alienated relationship with God?
The prevalence of evil.
The origin of evil.
The origin of marriage.
The origin of humanity.
The origin of animal and plant life.
The origin of the earth.
The origin of the universe.
God’s immense power.

Moses was selective in the material that he used. He “spoke from God as he was carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pt. 1:21NIV). Moses documented enough information to answer their main questions without going into detail. So, Genesis describes the main features of the past, in order to help the Israelites understand their present circumstances.

Looking at the main genres found in the Bible (see Appendix A), it’s clear that the one most suitable for addressing these topics is “history”. To investigate whether Moses used this genre, we will look at the literary genre of Genesis 1-11 in particular.

Is it figurative language?

Figurative language is language that uses words or expressions with a meaning that is different from the most literal interpretation. Figurative language uses exaggerations or alterations to make a linguistic point. It is very common in poetry, but is also used in prose and nonfiction writing.

Metaphors, similes, personification, hyperbole, and symbolism are examples of figurative language. But there are many others like alliteration, onomatopoeia, oxymorons, puns, synecdoche, metonymy, irony, and idioms.

There is chiasmus in Genesis 1-11 (Gen. 2:4; 9:6; 6:1 – 9:19; 11:1-9). This is a figure of speech in which two or more phrases are presented, then presented again in reverse order to make a larger point. Chiasmus was particularly popular in the literature of the ancient world, including Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, where it was used to articulate the balance of order within the text. The chiastic structure makes narrative easy to remember, which is very important for a largely oral culture. Chiasmus presents facts in a particular order, but it doesn’t indicate fiction. Biblical scholars have identified many chiasms throughout the Bible. For example, Genesis 17:1-24 is a chiasmus in the life of Abraham.

Some claim that there is number symbolism in Genesis 1 (see Appendix C). But this is a weak argument for saying that this Bible passage is symbolic rather than factual. And it doesn’t change the meaning of the Hebrew words from their usual meaning. And like chiasmus, this doesn’t make the language figurative. Instead it shows that it was written to be easily remembered and passed on aurally.

In other post, I have shown that the framework hypothesis method of interpreting Genesis 1 is questionable and not robust. This assumes that the days of creation are figurative categories that were chosen for literary or thematic reasons and that many of the words in this chapter don’t mean what they seem to mean. This interpretation is unnecessarily complicated and extrabiblical.

As it’s not figurative language, maybe Genesis 1-11 is poetic?

Is it poetry?

The main characteristic of Hebrew poetry is parallelism where the statements in two or more consecutive lines are related in some way. Scholars have identified various types of Hebrew parallelism, such as: synonymous (repetition of the same thought), contrastive (contrast with an opposite thought), and developmental (building on a thought).

However, parallelism is absent from Genesis 1-11 except for 1:27; 2:23; and 4:23-24. If Genesis is poetic, it would use parallelism throughout like the book of Psalms. But Genesis doesn’t look like Psalms. For a poetic account of creation see Psalm 104.

Some claim that the number symbolism in Genesis 1 means that it is poetic (Appendix C). They infer this from a comparison with ancient non-biblical accounts. But this is poor exegesis. The best exegesis uses the immediate context and so should be based on Genesis and the other books of Moses. We will use this approach. And we will use the views of other biblical characters, rather than the views of current scholars who are separated from these events by thousands of years. This shows that the people referred to in Genesis really existed and the events referred to in Genesis really occurred.

There is repetition in Genesis 1-11 (see Appendix D), but it’s not parallelism or poetic. There are many other examples of this in the Old Testament (see Appendix E).

Just because a passage is poetic doesn’t mean that it’s fiction. Poetry is merely a literary form. On its own, it has nothing to do with whether the content is fact or fiction. It may or may not reflect a historical background. Many poetic portions of scripture relate to genuine history (Num. 24; Ps. 148; 1 Tim. 3:16b). And these are acknowledged as being divine in origin and authoritative in force (Ps. 82:6; Jn. 10:34).

As it’s not figurative language or poetry, maybe it’s parables?

Is it allegories or parables?

Parables are usually introduced with a simile or a statement indicating that they are a figure of speech. As neither of these are present in Genesis 1-11, there is no evidence of any parables. The prophet Nathan told a parable to King David (2 Sam. 12:1-7). The historical facts about David, Uriah and Bathsheba are clearly stated, and it is also clear that the parable was fictional. And the intention of Nathan in telling the story is clear, as is the intention of the writer of 2 Samuel in recording this historical event. But there are no indicators in scripture that any of Genesis 1-11 is a parable.

An allegory is a story in which the characters and/or events are symbols representing other events, ideas, or people. Paul interprets the story of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah as an allegory for the Old and New Covenants (Gal. 4:22-26). Here, Paul takes actual, historical people from Genesis (Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah) and uses them as symbols in a lesson for Christians. The evidence of scripture shows that the people referred to in Genesis really existed and the events referred to in Genesis really occurred. They are not allegories.

As it’s not figurative language, poetry or parables, maybe it’s a historical novel?

Is it a historical novel?

Historical novels are fictional stories that are based on historical characters or historical settings. The beliefs of the authors of the other books of the Bible show that the characters and settings in Genesis 1-11 are fact, not fiction. The evidence of scripture shows that the people referred to in Genesis really existed and the events referred to in Genesis really occurred. They are not a historical novel.

As it’s not figurative language, poetry, parables or a historical novel, maybe it’s a myth?

Is it a myth?

A myth is a mixture of fact and fiction that may have a moral lesson. Some believe that the biblical account of the seven days of creation (Genesis 1:1–2:3) was an abbreviated Hebrew version of a more ancient Babylonian tale. The ancient Babylonian creation myth Enūma Eliš is a poem that explains the origin of gods and people. But the gods are mortal, violent and frail, and nothing like the supreme Creator God of Genesis. It’s a song in praise of Marduk, their greatest god. Genesis 1 is about the creation, while Enūma Eliš is more about the creator. Genesis 1 is a tightly structured narrative, while Enūma Eliš, is a dramatic narrative poem.

The main problem with the mythical approach is that it confuses historical issues and literary genre. If we leave aside the question of whether the miracle stories in the Bible (including creation) are fact or fiction, the whole question of whether these stories are myths becomes extremely easy to answer. The biblical narratives are not myths because they do not possess a mythical literary form. They are straightforward and use the language of ordinary events. The biblical stories take for granted the world as we tend to experience it.

Is Genesis 1 merely an argument against pagan myths? A myth is a story blending fact and fiction that serves as a vehicle to convey truth. But if this was the case how does one decide which part is fact and which part is fiction? Does it teach us not to worship the sun but the God who made the sun? Pagans don’t just worship the physical object, but a god behind it (1 Cor. 10:19-20). The Bible does contain arguments against pagan gods (Ps. 74:13-15; Isa.  37:18-20; 45:12-20). They emphasize God’s strength and the weakness of idols. But Genesis 1 is nothing like this. Instead the pagan myths are probably derived from the original account which was passed down to Moses. The early chapters of Genesis were edited from ancient sources that pre-date the pagan ones. Normally borrowing embellishes history into a fanciful legend. In the ancient Near East, simple accounts may lead to elaborate legends, but not vice-versa. So, the simple Hebrew account of creation can lead to the embellished Babylonian creation legend, but not vice-versa.

Some scholars believe that there are three creation stories in the Bible. These are Genesis 1, Genesis 2 and a myth of the primordial battle between God and the forces of chaos known as Leviathan (Ps. 74), Rahab (Ps. 89) or the monster of the sea (Isa. 27). But this is incorrect. The introduction in Genesis 2:4 to the second section of Genesis states that Genesis 1:1-2:3 is an account of the creation of the universe. Recapitulation was widely practiced in ancient Semitic literature. It this case a broad summary is followed by a detailed account of matters of special importance. Genesis 2:5-25 is a more detailed account of the creation of Adam and Eve on the sixth day of creation (Gen. 1:26-30). So the difference in styles between Genesis 1 and 2 is due to the different subject matter. Leviathan, Rahab and the monster of the sea are symbols of the power of Egypt (Ps. 74:13-14; 89:10; Isa. 27:1). Such scholars interpret this figurative language to be narrative, while they interpret the narrative in early Genesis to be figurative! This demonstrates how presuppositions can influence one’s interpretation of Scripture!

The Bible specifically warns Christians against believing myths. The Apostle Paul says: “As I urged you … stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths … ’ (1 Tim. 1:3–4NIV).
“Have nothing to do with godless myths …” (1 Tim. 4:7).
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of (false) teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:3–4).
“Therefore rebuke them (false teachers) sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth” (Titus 1:13-14).

The Apostle Peter says: “we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power” (2 Pt. 1:16).

As it’s not figurative language, poetry, parables, a historical novel or a myth, maybe it’s a biography or autobiography?

Is it a biography or autobiography?

Genesis can be divided into sections which begin with the Hebrew word for generations or descendants (see Appendix F). It’s interesting to note the same pattern is evident in Genesis 1-11 and Genesis 12-36. So there is no evidence of a change of genre within the book of Genesis.

The Bible says that Moses wrote the Pentateuch (Ex. 17:14; 4;4; 34:27; Num. 33:2; Dt. 31:9, 24; Mk. 10:3; Lk. 24:27; Jn. 1:17). And Jesus referred to it as “the law of Moses” (Lk. 24:44; 1 Cor. 9:9), “the book of Moses (Mk. 12:26), and simply “Moses” (Lk.16:29).

It is likely that each of the generations from Adam onwards wrote down an account of the events which occurred in their lifetime, and Moses, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, selected and compiled these, along with his own comments, into the book we now know as Genesis. So Moses was the editor of Genesis. The events of Genesis occurred long before his time. The original version of Genesis 10 (which shows where people were scattered to after the incident at Babel) was written before 1870BC because it mentions the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah which were destroyed by God about 360 years before the birth of Moses (Gen. 10:19). Moses included editorial comments (Gen. 26:33; 32:32). And a description of the Jordan valley in Abraham’s time as being “like the land of Egypt”, seems to be an editorial comment by Moses (Gen. 13:10).

So Genesis 1-11 is mainly a biography and an autobiography. If it’s a biography or autobiography, can its facts be confirmed?

Comparison with Genesis 12-50

Genesis 12-50 is a historical description of the lives of four generations of Israelites: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Often, the book of Genesis has been divided into two sections: Primeval History (chs. 1-11) and Patriarchal History (chs. 12-50). But where is the boundary between these two sections? At Genesis 11:27? But the text of Genesis 11 has a similar structure to that of Genesis 12! In fact, there are no significant differences in the structure of the text in Genesis 1-11 compared to Genesis 12-50. As “patriarchal history” is generally regarded as accurate history, then there is no linguistic reason why “primeval history” should not also be accepted as accurate history. And some passages of the Bible cite characters from both sections without indicating that the earlier ones are less historical. It would be better to say that the difference is one of subject matter. Genesis 1-11 deals with the world, whereas Genesis 12-50 deals with the descendants of Abraham.

Genesis 12 would make little sense without the genealogical background in Genesis 11. As Genesis 11 includes the genealogy of Shem, this links to the genealogy in Genesis 10, and to the one found in Genesis 5. Shem is mentioned in each of these three chapters of Genesis.

Genealogies treat people from Genesis 1-11 in the same manner as those from Genesis 12-50 (1 Chr. 1-8; Lk. 3:23-38). The same applies to the list of heroes of the faith from the Old Testament (Heb. 11:4-22).

Evidence from the rest of the Bible

The principal people mentioned in Genesis chapters 1–11 are referred to as real people (historical, not mythical) in the rest of the Bible. For example, Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, and Noah are referred to in 15 other books of the Bible. And I have demonstrated in other blogposts that Adam and Eve, and Noah were real people.

At least 25 New Testament passages refer directly to the early chapters of Genesis, and they are always treated as real history. Genesis 1 and 2 were cited by Jesus in response to a question about divorce (Mt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10:6-9). Paul referenced Genesis 2-3 (Rom. 5:12-19; 1 Cor. 11:8; 15:20-22, 45-47; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:13-14). The death of Abel recorded in Genesis 4 is mentioned by Jesus and John (Lk. 11:51; 1 Jn. 3:12). The flood (Genesis 6-9) is confirmed as historical by Jesus and Peter (Mt. 24:37-39; 2 Pt. 2:4-9; 3:6). And Jesus mentioned the flood in the same context as He did the account of Lot and Sodom (Gen. 19) (Lk. 17:26-29). Finally, in Luke’s genealogy of Christ, he includes 20 names found in the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 (Lk. 3:34-38). He traced the genealogy of Jesus back to Adam (Lk. 3:23-38). So the New Testament treats Genesis 1-11 as real history and not merely literary or theological devices. It’s a record of “actual events” in the history of humanity

Jesus Christ referred to the creation of Adam and Eve as a real historical event, by quoting Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 in His teaching about divorce (Mt. 19:3-6; Mk. 10:2-9), and by referring to Noah as a real historical person and the flood as a real historical event, in His teaching about the ‘coming of the Son of Man’ (Mt. 24:37-39; Lk. 17:26-27).

Humanity needs to be redeemed because of the fall into sin (Genesis 3). Unless we know that the entrance of sin to the human race was a true historical fact, we can’t understand God’s purpose in providing a Savior. And the historical truth of Genesis 1–11 shows that all mankind needs salvation from the penalty, power, and presence of sin.

Unless the events of the first chapters of Genesis are true history, the Apostle Paul’s explanation of the Gospel in Romans chapter 5 and of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 have no meaning. Paul writes: “For just as through the disobedience of the one man (Adam) the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man (Jesus) the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19). And, “For since death came through a man (Adam), the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man (Jesus). For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive … So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam (Jesus), a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor. 15:21-22, 45). The historical truth of the record concerning the first Adam is a guarantee that what God says in His Word about the last Adam (Jesus) is also true. Likewise, the historical, literal truth of the record concerning Jesus is a guarantee that what God says about the first Adam is also historically and literally true.

So Genesis 1-11 presents as a biography or autobiography whose facts are confirmed by the rest of scripture as being historically accurate. These inspired writers treat the people, and events in Genesis 1-11 as real, not merely literary or theological devices.

Conclusion

The Bible was written to be understood by ordinary people, so it shouldn’t be difficult to interpret. We have seen that Genesis 1-11 is not figurative language, poetry, parables, a historical novel or a myth. But it is a biography and an autobiography that describes real historical people and real historical events. It is prose narrative, with some embedded pieces that are poetic (Gen. 1:27; 2:23; 4:23-24) and some genealogical records (Gen 5, 10, 11:10–26). And it differs from other near eastern cosmologies because they are poetic and polytheistic. The writers of the Bible affirm that Genesis 1-11 is fact not fiction. It is an account of real events. Jesus affirmed it as well. And the gospel is based on the historicity of the early chapters of Genesis. So, Genesis 1-11 isn’t a type of doublespeak where words don’t have their usual meaning.

Reference

Sarfati J D (2015) “The Genesis Account”, Creation Book Publishers.

Appendix A: Traditional genre (literature style) of the books of the Bible

The dominant genre of each book of the Bible is listed below. Note that figures of speech can occur within each of these genres.

Law
Leviticus
Deuteronomy

History
Genesis
Exodus
Numbers
Joshua to Nehemiah
Acts

Wisdom (also contains poetry)
Job
Proverbs
Ecclesiastes

Poetry
Psalms
Song of Songs
Lamentations

Narrative (biographical)
Ruth
Esther
Jonah
Matthew to John

Prophecy and apocalypse
Isaiah
Jeremiah
Ezekiel to Malachi
Revelation

Letters
Romans to Jude

Appendix B: Summary of the book of Genesis

  1. Creation (Gen. 1-2).
  2. The fall into sin (Gen. 3-5).
  3. The flood (Gen. 6-9).
  4. The dispersion (Gen. 10-11).
  5. Life of Abraham (Gen. 12-25:8).
  6. Life of Isaac (Gen. 21:1-35-29).
  7. Life of Jacob (Gen. 25:21-50:14).
  8. Life of Joseph (Gen. 30:22-50:26).

God created a universe that was good and free from sin. God created humanity to have a personal relationship with Him. Adam and Eve sinned and thereby brought evil and death into the world. Evil increased steadily in the world until there was only one family in which God found anything good. God sent the Flood to wipe out evil, but delivered Noah and his family along with the animals in the Ark. After the Flood, humanity began again to multiply and spread throughout the world.

God chose Abraham, through whom He would create a chosen people and eventually the promised Messiah. The chosen line was passed on to Abraham’s son Isaac, and then to Isaac’s son Jacob. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, and his twelve sons became the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel. In His sovereignty, God had Jacob’s son Joseph sent to Egypt by the despicable actions of Joseph’s brothers. This act, intended for evil by the brothers, was intended for good by God and eventually resulted in Jacob and his family being saved from a devastating famine by Joseph, who had risen to great power in Egypt.

Appendix C: Number symbolism in Genesis 1

Some people quote the following to claim that Genesis 1:1-2:3 is symbolic rather than factual.

  • The first sentence of Genesis 1 consists of seven Hebrew words.
  • The second sentence of Genesis 1 contains exactly fourteen (a multiple of seven) words.
  • The Hebrew words ‘earth’ and ‘heaven’ appear 21 times (a multiple of seven). But this is incorrect, “heaven(s)” (Strongs #8064) appears only 11 times (which isn’t a multiple of seven) and “expanse” (Strongs #7549) appears 9 times (which isn’t a multiple of seven). According to Genesis 1:8 “God called the expanse Heaven (or sky)”. This is a total of 20 times (which isn’t a multiple of seven).
  • The Hebrew word ‘God’, is mentioned 35 times (a multiple of seven).
  • The Hebrew refrain ‘and it was so’ and the summary statement ‘God saw that it was good’ occur seven times. But this is incorrect, “and it was so” only appears six times (v. 7, 9, 11, 15, 24, 30; which isn’t a multiple of seven)!
  • The six days of creation and the day of rest comprise seven days.

But they don’t mention that the Hebrew word “day” appears 15 times. And “water” appears 12 times. And “God said” appears ten times. And “evening” and “morning” both appear six times. None of these are multiples of seven!

So this is a weak argument for saying that this Bible passage is symbolic rather than factual. I expect better scholarship to justify such a claim. Instead, it looks like cherry-picking to me.

Appendix D: The structure of Genesis 1

Genesis 1 has a repetitive structure, which was a common device in ancient literature to aid memorization. But it is not poetic. There are four basic themes on each day of creation.

1. God’s command
“And God said, ‘Let there be …”

2. Fulfilment
“And it was so …”. God spoke things into existence. As God is the creator of time, He needs no time for His creative acts.

3. Assessment/Evaluation
“God saw that it was good”.

4. Conclusion/Closure of the day
“And there was evening and there was morning – the Xth day”.  As the Hebrew day went from sunset to sunset, it was made up of the night-time hours followed by the  daylight hours. Each command was fulfilled within a 24-hour period (see “In six days”).

Why did God take so long to create the universe? He took six days of creation plus one day rest to give us the pattern for a week.

Appendix E: Other Biblical examples of repetitive structure

Repetition is present in many Old Testament passages.

Numbers 7 is also a numbered sequence of days. On 12 consecutive days a representative of each of the 12 tribes of Israel brought an offering for the altar.
“The one who brought his offering on the first day was Nahshon son of Amminadab of the tribe of Judah” (v.12)
“On the second day Nethanel son of Zuar, the leader of Issachar, brought his offering” (v.18).
“On the third day, Eliab son of Helon, the leader of the people of Zebulun, brought his offering” (v.24).
“On the twelfth day Ahira son of Enan, the leader of the people of Naphtali, brought his offering” (v.78).
No one teaches that Numbers 7 is a literary framework for teaching something theological and that is not history. The same should apply to Genesis 1.

Genealogies are repetitive. 1 Chronicles 1:1-9:44 gives genealogies from Adam to King Saul. As these are accepted as being factual, so should those in Genesis 5 and 11 (they overlap).

Nehemiah 3 describes the rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem in a repetitive manner. It progressively moves around the wall mentioned each section between each of the ten gates and describing who repaired each section.

Appendix F: Possible sources of the book of Genesis

The sources of Genesis are 12 family documents (see below). Eleven of these are headed by the Hebrew word toledoth (Strongs #8435), which means generations or descendants. The fact that these are referring to what follows rather than what precedes is clear in other instances of this word in the Old Testament (Num. 3:1; Ruth 4:18; 1 Chr. 1:29). So, in Genesis, the toledoths tell us what followed from the named person.

It’s possible that each of these documents was written on a clay tablet. During the exodus Moses probably compiled all these tablets into a long scroll. He may have used vellum to write on as the Israelites had many sheep.

  1. Creation of the universe (Gen. 1:1 – 2:3). There is no toledoth here, because nothing (in time) preceded creation. Time began at the beginning of this creation.
  2. “Descendants” of the heavens and the earth (Gen. 2:4-4:26). This is what followed from creation.
  3. Descendants of Adam (Gen. 5:1-6:8).
  4. Descendants of Noah (Gen. 6:9-9:29).
  5. Descendants of Shem, Ham and Japheth (Gen. 10:1-11:9).
  6. Descendants of Shem (Gen. 11:10-26).
  7. Descendants of Terah (Gen. 11:27-25:11).
  8. Descendants of Ishmael (Gen. 25:12-18).
  9. Descendants of Isaac (Gen. 25:19-35:29).
  10. Descendants of Esau, born in Canaan (Gen. 36:1-8).
  11. Descendants of Esau, born in Edom (Gen. 36:9-37:1).
  12. Descendants of Jacob (Gen. 37:2-50:26).

Written, June 2018

Also see: In six days?
Adam and Eve: Fact or fiction?
Noah: Fact or fiction?

 


In six days?

Words 4 400px“Run”, “take”, “break”, “turn”, and “set” are said to be the words in the English language which have most meanings. Many of our words have multiple meanings, but we usually aren’t confused by them. That’s because the other important element of language is context. In this post we look at the meanings of the word “day” in Genesis 1.

Days of creation

The Hebrew noun yom (Strongs #3117), occurs 14 times in Genesis 1:1 – 2:3. Six of these are the “days” of creation, which are listed below.

“And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day” (1:5NIV).
“And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day” (1:8).
“And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day” (1:13).
“And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day” (1:19).
“And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day” (1:23).
“And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day” (1:31).

The Hebrew word yom has several meanings, with the most appropriate one usually being indicated by the context. In this post we look at what the word yom in these verses meant to the ancient Hebrews. Our method includes a study of the text, the context and how Moses used this word.

Other instances of “day” in the first section of Genesis

We will begin by looking at the other instances of the word yom in the first section of Genesis (Gen. 1:1 – 2:3). As it describes events that occurred before the creation of humanity, this account came from God. But it may have been edited by Moses. The first instance is “God called the light ‘day’, and the darkness He called ‘night’” (1:5). Here yom means the daylight period of a 24-hour day (approximately 12-hours). The remainder of the 24-hour day is called “night”.

The next instances of yom are in this passage, “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day (12 hours) from the night (12 hours), and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days (24 hours) and years (12 months), and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so. ‘God made two great lights—the greater light (sun) to govern the day (12 hours) and the lesser light (moon) to govern the night (12 hours). He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day (12 hours) and the night (12 hours), and to separate light from darkness” (1:14-18). The first instance of yom in this passage means the daylight period of a 24-hour day. While the second means “24-hours” because it’s associated with the word “years”. The remaining two instances of yom mean the daylight period of a 24-hour day.

The final instance of yom is in this passage, “By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done” (2:2-3). In this passage, the word yom is described by the adjective “seventh”. Previously each of the six days of creation was described by a numerical adjective, “one” to “six”. As this is the next “day” in a series of days, it has the same meaning that yom has in the other six days of creation, which is discussed below under the subheading “Interpretation of the days of creation” (See Appendix A).

So in this section of Genesis, the instances of the word yom apart from the days of creation can mean:
– a 12-hour period (sunrise to sunset), or
– a 24-hour period (sunset to next sunset).

Instances of “day” in the second section of Genesis

The instances of yom in the second section of Genesis (Gen. 2:4-4:26) are listed below. This section begins, “This is the account of the heavens and the earth (the universe) when they were created, when (in the day that) the Lord God made the earth and the heavens (the universe)” (2:4).

Adam is warned about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “when (in the day that) you eat from it you will certainly die” (2:17).

The serpent told Eve, “when (in the day that) you eat from it (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3:5).

In these three instances, yom is used in the Hebrew idiom “in the day that”, which means “at the time that”, or “when”. It’s a time period of unspecified length. The time periods here are: the six days of creation, which are interpreted in the next section (2:4) and the time it takes to eat some fruit (say a few minutes) (2:17; 3:5).

After they sinned, Adam and Eve heard God “walking in the garden in the cool of the day (yom)” (3:8). This means either the daylight period of a 24-hour day or the whole 24-hour day. I favor the former.

The punishment given to the serpent and to Adam were for “all the days (yom) of your life” (3:14, 17). In this case, the plural version of yom means a 24-hour period, but the context adds “of your life” to give an expression meaning “a lifetime’. In this case yom has a figurative meaning which is a space of time defined by an associated term.

“In the course of time (yom)”, is used to describe the time period before Cain and Able brought offerings to God (4:3). The NET says that “The clause indicates the passing of a set period of time leading up to offering sacrifices”. The literal meaning is, “And it happened at the end of days”. It describes the time period when Cain and Abel grew to be adults. In this case, the plural version of yom means a 24-hour period, but the context adds “in the course of” to give an expression meaning “a portion of a lifetime’.

After being informed of his punishment, Cain told God, “Today (this yom) you are driving me from the land” (4:14). In this context, yom means a 24-hour day.

So in this section of Genesis the instances of the word yom can mean:
– a few minutes, or
– a 12-hour period (sunrise to sunset), or
– a 24-hour period (sunset to next sunset), or
– six days of creation (which are interpreted in the next section), or
– a portion of a lifetime (when yom is plural and accompanied with “in the course of”), or
– a lifetime (when yom is plural and accompanied with “of your life”).
So, here a phrase that includes the plural of version of yom can indicate a period of time period between 24 hours and a lifetime.

Interpretation of the days of creation

We have seen that the Hebrew noun “yom” can have several different meanings in the early chapters of Genesis. But in each day of creation, the word “yom” is singular. This rules out the meanings shown above that can be associated with the plural version of yom. So in this case that Hebrew text rules out “a lifetime” and “a portion of a lifetime”. This leaves the following possibilities:
– a few minutes, or
– a 12-hour period (sunrise to sunset), or
– a 24-hour period (sunset to next sunset).

And each of the six days of creation is associated with the statement, “And there was evening, and there was morning”. How does Moses use the words “evening” and “morning” elsewhere in Genesis? From appendices B and C it’s clear that “morning” usually means after sunrise and “evening” means after sunset. The only possible figurative meaning is in Genesis 49:27, which is poetic. But Genesis 1 isn’t poetic because it has no parallelism and isn’t type-set as poetry in most Bibles. It’s a numbered sequence of days like Numbers 7:12-89 and not a poem. So the meaning of these words in Genesis 1 should be “after sunrise” and “after sunset”. This seems to follow the Jewish order of reckoning time: from sunset to next sunset (rather than from midnight to next midnight). As “evening” and “morning” were part of each day of creation, the day seems to mean a 24-hour period rather than “at the time that” or “a 12-hour period”. This is supported by the Hebrew text associated with the first instance of “evening” and “morning”, which seems to indicate that having an evening and a morning amounts to having one full day (Appendix D).

It is instructive to see how God and Moses interpret the days of creation. The words of the fourth commandment were spoken by God (Ex. 20:1). These say, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 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” (Ex. 20:8-11).

Clearly the “six days” of labor in this passage are the same period of time as the “six days” of creation – they both use the plural yom with the adjective “six”. They both mean six 24-hour days. And the “seventh day” of Sabbath rest is the same period of time as the “seventh day” that God rested after creating the universe – they both use the singular yom. They both mean one 24-hour day.

Similarly, this is repeated when “the Lord said to Moses” (Ex. 31:12), “Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’” (Ex. 31:14-17).

Clearly the “six days” of work in this passage are the same period of time as the “six days” of creation – they both use the plural yom with the adjective “six. They both mean six 24-hour days. And the “seventh day” of Sabbath rest is the same period of time as the “seventh day” that God rested after creating the universe – they both use the singular yom. They both mean one 24-hour day.

Can this “day” mean long periods of time?

Some people suppose that the “days” of creation in Genesis 1 are long eras of time. However, we have seen that the only meanings of yom in this section of Genesis are either a 12-hour period (sunrise to sunset), or a 24-hour period (sunset to next sunset).

We have also seen that in the second section of Genesis a phrase that includes the plural version of yom can indicate a period of time of up to a lifetime. But the occurrences of yom in Genesis 1 are singular, not plural. This is consistent with the NET Study Note that says, “The exegetical evidence suggests the word “day” in this chapter refers to a literal twenty-four hour day” (see Appendix E).

The other meanings of yom in the Old Testament are given in Appendix F.

Another explanation that is given for disregarding this interpretation of yom is to say that Genesis 1 is a symbolic or poetic genre rather than history or prose. This topic is addressed in a coming post on “Genesis 1-11: Fact or fiction”, which shows that Genesis 1 is not Hebrew poetry and it is not symbolic.

Can there be a day before the sun exists?

One objection to this interpretation is that 24-hour days can’t exist without the sun. The sun seems to be created on the fourth day of creation (Gen. 1:14-16). However, all a day requires is a light and a rotating earth. And the light doesn’t have to come from the sun. Was there a light on the first day? Yes (Gen. 5:4). Was there a rotating earth on the first day? We are not told specifically. But there is light and darkness and evening and morning. So we can’t rule out the possibility of a rotating earth on the first day of creation.

Why six days?

Why did God create the universe in six days and not in an instant or six seconds or six minutes or six hours or six weeks or six months or six years or six eras of time? The Israelites were told it was a pattern for the observance of their weekly Sabbath under the law of Moses (Ex. 20:8-11; 31:14-17). They were to work for six days and then observe the Sabbath on the seventh. As we are under the new covenant and not the law of Moses, we are not required to keep the laws of the Sabbath (they are not included in the New Testament commands to Christians). So God’s six days of creative work and one day of rest gives us the pattern of the seven-day week. There is no astronomical explanation for the week being seven days like there is for the length of a day (a rotation of the earth), a month (a rotation of the moon) or of a year (a rotation of the earth around the sun).

Are the days just a literary device?

It has been suggested that the seven “days” in the first section of Genesis (1:1-2:4a) is just a list of events or categories and not a chronological sequence. In this case the number and ordering of the “days” were chosen for literary or thematic reasons. They are a metaphorical framework that God used to describe the creative process. By looking at three foundations of this interpretation, we will see that it would not have been understood this way by the ancient Hebrews.

First, it is assumed that similarities between day 1 and day 4 (both mention light or lights), mean that these are two different ways of describing the same event. So the events described on day 4 add more detail to those described on day 1. Likewise for days 2 and 5 (both mention water and atmosphere), and days 3 and 6 (both mention land and vegetation). Therefore, Genesis 1 describes three events in no particular sequence. But water was created in day 1, so in this respect day 1 is also similar to day 5. And the heavens in which the sun and moon were placed were made on day 2, so in this respect day 2 is also similar to day 4. And the sea is mentioned in days 3 and 5, so in this respect day 3 is also similar to day 5. So the parallels are selective and other parallels are ignored! Obviously, water, land and the atmosphere needed to be created before creatures could inhabit these. That’s common sense, and not a literary technique!

Second, if the seventh day is still continuing, then the other six days are metaphors and not 24-hour periods. But we have seen that the seventh day isn’t a long period of time (Appendix A).

The third justification for the framework approach is that 24-hour days don’t make sense if is assumed that God used natural processes to create and not  miraculous means. This is based on the presupposition that as miracles are not observed today, they have never happened. And so the events attributed to each day couldn’t be achieved in 24-hours. An interpretation of Genesis 2:5-6 is used to claim that God used natural means during the creation period and not supernatural ones. But Genesis 2:5 is in a section that describes what happened on day 6 in more detail, and it refers to cultivated plants, not those created on day 3. And the psalmist says this about creation, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth … Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere Him. For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm” (Ps. 33:6-9). And this is also what the writers of the New Testament believed, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Heb. 11:3). So the process of creation didn’t take a long period of time; God spoke and it was done. His creation was miraculous. And there are other nature miracles in the Bible like the Israelites crossing the Red Sea and the Jordan river on “dry ground” (Ex. 14:21-22; Josh. 3:15-17).

If we apply the framework hypothesis to Genesis 1, what stops this approach being applied to Genesis 3 (with a talking snake), Genesis 6-8 (with a global flood), Christ’s miracles and Christ’s resurrection? Nothing! So, it finishes up saying that most of the Bible is metaphorical; it doesn’t mean what it seems to mean. But the prophets and apostles didn’t devote their lives to metaphors. Their preaching was based on historical facts, not metaphors. Many of them died as martyrs. And they wouldn’t have been willing to give up their life if the Biblical account was mainly metaphors.

Some consider Genesis 1 to be an illustration  to teach the theology of six days work plus the Sabbath. But this is back to front – the Sabbath was based on the historical events of Genesis 1, not vice-versa (Ex. 20:8-11).

Our study of the text and context indicates that the ancient Hebrews would have understood each “day” of creation to mean the 24-hours from sunset to next sunset. And they would have understood that the sequence of seven days comprised one week, which was the model for 6 days work and one day Sabbath rest. So the framework hypothesis is extra-biblical.

What about the rest of the Bible?

We have looked at what the word yom in Genesis 1 meant to the ancient Hebrews who took part in the exodus. But the Bible is a progressive revelation. Truth gets added as we move from the beginning to the end. What do the scriptures that were written after the Pentateuch say about this topic?

Did any of the other authors of the Old Testament mention the creation? Yes they did, but none of them specifically mention how long it took. Instead they seem to assume that it’s already known from the Pentateuch.

Did any of the authors of the New Testament mention the creation? Yes they did, but none of them mention specifically how long it took. Instead they seem to assume that it’s already known from the Pentateuch. But one author does refer to it implicitly.

The writer of Hebrews quotes from Genesis 2:2, “For somewhere He (God) has spoken about the seventh day in these words: ‘On the seventh day God rested from all His works’” (Heb. 4:4). In this verse the Greek noun hemera (Strongs #2250) is translated “day”. This singular word is also used seven other times in the book of Hebrews. In these instances it means:
– “In the day” (or “during the time”) of testing in the wilderness in 3:8. This was a period of about 38 years.
– “Every day” (or “daily”) in 3:13; 7:27; and 10:11. These are 24-hour days.
– “A certain day” (or a certain “time”) in 4:7.
– “Another day” (or “another time”) in 4:8
– “When” in 8:9.
So the singular noun hemera has several meanings in this book, but none of them means a long period of time. Could “the seventh day” in 4:4 have any of these meanings? Yes, it could be a 24-hour day that is referred to as “the seventh”. That’s the only one that makes sense in conjunction with the adjective “seventh”. Therefore, in Hebrews 4:4 “the seventh day” means a 24-hour day, like the 24-hour days described in Hebrews 3:13; 7:27; and 10:11. The adjective “seventh” implies that “the seventh day” followed six other 24-hour days (which were the six days of creation). By the way, there is no suggestion in this passage that “the seventh day” was a long period of time.

Did Jesus mention the creation? Yes He did, but He didn’t specifically mention how long it took. But Jesus showed that He accepted the Pentateuch as describing historical events. For example, in Matthew 19:4–6 He quotes from Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24, which are the chapters of the Bible that describe the six days of creation.

Jesus told the Jews that they must accept the words of Moses (Jn. 5:45-47). At that time faithful Jews believed that the Pentateuch was factual because it was the foundation of their faith. And in it Moses wrote that God created the universe in six days (Ex. 20:11). This was a fundamental belief of faithful Jews, including Jesus and the apostles.

What about the fact that Christians are under a different covenant and no longer under the Old Testament law of Moses? Like Genesis 1-11, the six days of creation occurred before God’s promise were given to Abraham and the old covenant was given to Moses. So, the new covenant through Jesus doesn’t affect how God created the universe. But through Jesus we can anticipate God’s new creation (Rev. 21:1-22:5).

What about 2 Peter 3:8?

When writing to Christians in about AD 66, Peter warned them not to forget the promise that Christ would return to judge the world. As they were in danger of forgetting this promise which had been given about 35 years earlier, he wrote, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Pt. 3:8). 1,000 years is 365,000 days, which would be a long period of time for people living in Peter’s time. So the verse says that for God a short period of time is like a long period of time and a long period of time is like a short period of time. It’s two conflicting similes that doesn’t make sense unless time is irrelevant to God. Comparing 1,000 years with one day may have been a Hebrew idiom for comparing long and short periods of time (Ps. 90:4). From God’s eternal perspective, there’s no significant difference between one day (a short period of time) and 1,000 years (a long period of time). Just because there had been a time delay, didn’t mean that God had forgotten to keep His promise.

Some people use this verse to say that in the Bible one day can symbolize 1,000 years or a long period of time. But if this is the case, the verse also says that 1,000 years or a long period of time can symbolize one day or a short period of time. This doesn’t make sense because these have opposite meanings. Instead, the word “day” in this verse is used in two similes which together indicate that God doesn’t experience time like us. This makes sense because God crested time.

What about billions of years?

How do scientists calculate the age of the universe and the time it took to form? Three methods have been used. One is based on assumptions about stellar evolution. Another is based on assumptions of an expanding universe and the Big Bang theory. And a third is based on Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. They all seem to use the size and rate of expansion of the universe; parameters whose magnitudes are inferred because they can’t be measured directly. Instead they are measured by remote sensing. And they all use mathematical models that assume what happened in the universe over billions of years because it can’t be measured directly. And they assume the existence of entities like dark energy and dark matter. If the assumptions are wrong, then their estimate is wrong. It’s a circular method because the answer is based on their presuppositions.

The Bible says that God created the universe is six 24-hours days, but scientists claim that it formed naturally over about 14 billion years. The difference between these two periods of time is huge. Orders of magnitude are used to compare very large differences between numbers. It this case the difference is expressed as the power of 10. For example, 1,000 is one order of magnitude greater than 100, two orders of magnitude greater than 10, and three orders of magnitude greater than 1. In this case, 14 billion years is about 12 orders of magnitude greater than 6 days. This is a factor of 1012, which is 10 with 12 zeros after it! Or 10,000,000,000,000 times greater!

The 14 billion years comes from the naturalistic assumption that the present is the key to the past. But history goes forwards, not backwards. And causes go before their consequences (or effects) and not after them. It’s more accurate to say that the past is the key to the present. Scientists can only observe the present. As any statements they make about the past are based on assumptions, their accuracy is based on the accuracy of their assumptions. Because of this, there is a huge uncertainty in their estimation of the age of the universe.

Elsewhere I have shown how history trumps science when dealing with the past. This is because a reliable eyewitness is superior to forensic science in the investigation of crime. Consequently, reliable history is better than ancient forensic science in investigating what happened in ancient times.

Can the Hebrew language express long periods of time?

If the creation of the universe took much longer than six days, what Hebrew words are available to communicate this?

“Years” is mentioned in Genesis 1:14 and a “thousand” is mentioned in Genesis 20:16. The Hebrew word eleph (Strongs #505), translated “thousand” occurs 505 times in the Old Testament. And the Hebrew word shanah (Strongs #8141), translated “years” occurs 876 times in the Old Testament. The largest number mentioned specifically in the Old testament is Jeroboam’s 800,000 troops (2 Chron. 13:3). Olam (Strongs #5769) can mean “long duration”, but it usually seems to mean “forever” or everlasting”.

A characteristic of the natural world can also be used in a simile to convey a large number. For example, God told Abraham, “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore” (Gen. 22:17). And He told Jacob “I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted” (Gen. 32:12).

So the Hebrew language can express long periods of time.

A mature creation

One of the reasons why the Hebrew account didn’t need to mention long periods of time, was that God created a mature universe. Adam and Eve began life as adults, not babies. The fruit trees were already producing fruit. All natural processes and cycles were operating in equilibrium, not in their initial phases. Stars and galaxies were positioned in the universe. This happened in six days. There is no mention of matter being concentrated in a dense ball as is assumed by the Big Bang Model. And there is no need for evolutionary development from the simple to the complex. It’s easy for God to create complexity. He can do it instantly.

Conclusion

A study of the text and context indicates that the ancient Hebrews would have understood the noun yom in each “day” of creation to mean the 24 hours from sunset to next sunset. The idea that these could be large periods of time is extra-biblical and is not based on exegesis of the Hebrew text.

All of the authors of the Old Testament and the New Testament, and Jesus Christ, would have also believed that God created the universe in six days, each of which were 24-hours long. This trumps extra-biblical opinions. And God’s six days of creative work followed by one day of rest seems to be the source for the 7-day week in our calendar.

Because of the way it’s calculated, I’m skeptical of the claim that it took about 14 billion years to create the universe. It’s a huge amount of time. But the real uncertainty in this number is also huge.

Appendix A: Length of the seventh day  

The entry for “Day” in Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon includes:
“2. Day as a division of time:
d. day as defined by evening and morning Genesis 1:5,8,13,19,23,31 (compare further בֹּקֶר, עֶרֶב); see also Genesis 2:2 (twice in verse); Genesis 2:3, Exodus 20:11 (twice in verse), Exodus 31:17 (twice in verse).”
This lexicon associates the seventh day with the other six days, which is the case for Exodus, 20:11; 31:17. Remembering the Sabbath every week is consistent with the day of rest being 24-hours like the other days of creation and not a month or a year or some other length of time.

Because it was not a day of creation, the seventh day is described differently. It lacks the command (“God said”), fulfilment (“and it was so”), assessment (“God saw that it was good”) and conclusion (“there was evening, and there was morning”) of the other six days. Instead, the conclusion to day seven is “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created” (Gen. 2:4a).

On the other hand Vine thinks that in Genesis 2:3 yom refers to the entire period of God’s resting from creating the universe, at least until the return of Christ. When the Jewish leaders criticized Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath, “In His defense Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working’” (Jn. 5:17). It is clear from the context that Jesus is referring to God’s providential and redemptive work and not to His creative work.

And some use Hebrews 4 to claim that the seventh day is unending. But this is poor exegesis. Hebrews 3:7-4:13 warns against unbelief. That’s the context. The writer uses two illustrations. One is the Israelites who rebelled against God during the exodus and so they never entered God’s rest – “They shall never enter my rest” (Heb. 4:3b, 5), which is quoted from Psalm 95:11. Psalm 95:7-11 is also a warning against unbelief. The other illustration is God’s rest after the six days of creation – “And yet His (God’s) works (of creation) have been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere (Gen. 2:2) He (God) has spoken about the seventh day in these words: ‘On the seventh day God rested from all His works’” (Heb. 4:3c-4). The writer wants unbelievers (who never enter God’s spiritual rest) to become believers (who have entered God’s spiritual rest). He says, “we (believers) who have believed enter that rest” (Heb. 4:3a). So the spiritual “rest” he is addressing is different to the “rest” from creating mentioned in Genesis 2:2-3.

Appendix B: Occurrence of the word “evening” in Genesis 2-49

The Hebrew noun ereb (Strongs #6153) means “evening”. It occurs in the following passages of Genesis 2-49.

“When the dove returned to him in the evening” (8:11).
“The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening” (19:1).
“it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water” (24:11).
“He went out to the field one evening to meditate” (24:63).
“But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her” (29:23).
“So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening” (30:16).
“Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, in the evening he divides the plunder” (49:27). This is metaphoric language in a poem.

Appendix C: Occurrence of the word “morning” in Genesis 2-49

The Hebrew noun boqer (Strongs #1242) means morning. It occurs in the following passages of Genesis 2-49.

“Early the next morning Abraham got up” (19:27).
“Early the next morning Abimelek summoned all his officials” (20:8).
“Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water” (21:14).
“Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey” (22:3).
“When they got up the next morning” (24:54).
“Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other” (26:31).
“Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head” (28:18).
“When morning came, there was Leah!” (29:25).
“Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters” (31:55).
“When Joseph came to them the next morning” (40:6).
“In the morning his mind was troubled” (41:8).
“As morning dawned, the men were sent on their way with their donkeys” (44:3).
“Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, in the evening he divides the plunder” (49:27). This is metaphoric language in a poem.

Appendix D: Is the “day” defined in Genesis 1:5?

Numbers can be cardinal or ordinal. A cardinal number indicates a quantity, such as one, two, three, four, five. It’s used for counting things. An ordinal number indicates position, such as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th. It’s used for putting things in order. In the first section of Genesis (Gen. 1:1-2:4a), in the Hebrew language the number associated with yom is cardinal for day 1 (ehad, Strongs #259, meaning “one”) and ordinal for the remaining days 2-7 (Steinmann, 2002). Is this defining what a “day” is for the rest of the creation week? Steinmann found that in the Pentateuch ehad is only used as an ordinal number for numbering units of time to designate the day of a month (Gen.8:5, 13; Ex. 40:2, 17; Lev. 23:24; Num. 1:1, 18; 29:1; 33:38; Dt. 1:3). All other units of time are numbered using ordinals. Therefore, in Genesis 1 ehad should be translated as “one” and not “the first” (Gen. 1:5). This is the meaning given in Green (1985). The NASB translates it this way, “And there was evening and there was morning, one day”. And the NET says that an alternative version of this sentence is “There was night and then there was day, one day”. This statement is equivalent to saying that one rotation of the earth equals one day.

According to Steinmann, “Genesis 1:5 begins the cycle of the day. With the creation of light it is now possible to have a cycle of light and darkness, which God labels “day” and “night.” Evening is the transition from light/day to darkness/night. Morning is the transition from darkness/night to light/day. Having an evening and a morning amounts to having one full day. Hence the following equation is what Genesis 1:5 expresses: Evening + morning = one day.”

Appendix E: NET Study Note on the days of creation in Genesis 1

“The exegetical evidence suggests the word “day” in this chapter refers to a literal twenty-four hour day. It is true that the word can refer to a longer period of time (see Isa. 61:2, or the idiom in Gen. 2:4, “in the day,” that is, “when”). But this chapter uses “day,” “night,” “morning,” “evening,” “years,” and “seasons.” Consistency would require sorting out how all these terms could be used to express ages. Also, when the Hebrew word יוֹם (yom) is used with a numerical adjective, it refers to a literal day. Furthermore, the commandment to keep the Sabbath clearly favors this interpretation. One is to work for six days and then rest on the seventh, just as God did when He worked at creation.”

Appendix F: “Day” in Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon

The Hebrew noun yom is used in the following ways in the Old Testament.

  1. Day, opposed to night
  2. Day as division of time
  3. Day of the Lord (coming in judgment)
  4. Plural, days of anyone
  5. Days
  6. Time
  7. Phrases, without preposition and with, are

References

Green J. P., (1985) “The interlinear Bible, Hebrew-Greek-English”, Hendrickson Publishers.

Steinmann, A., (2002) “Echad as an Ordinal Number and the Meaning of Genesis 1:5”, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 45(4):577–584.

Written, May 2018

Also see: Adam and Eve: Fact or fiction?
Noah: Fact or fiction?
Using history and science to investigate ancient times
Complex creation

 


Evidence of Noah’s flood

Flooded river - Jun 2016 400pxAfter some Australian motorists drowned when their cars were swept away by floodwaters in June 2016, university researchers investigated how much force it takes to wash cars away from the road. A 1 tonne vehicle was moved by water 15 centimeters deep flowing at 3.6 km/hr. It was carried away in 60 centimeters of water. A 2.5 tonne vehicle was moved by 45 centimeters of water and began floating in 95 centimeters of water. The cars were moved so easily partly because even shallow water can be deceptively strong, and partly because modern cars are so air-tight that instead of taking on water they get pushed along by it. Even slow-moving water is powerful because water is heavy: each cubic metre weighs 1 tonne. They concluded that vehicles became vulnerable to moving floodwaters once the depth reached the floor of the vehicle. This is consistent with Queensland advice that “Water deeper than the bottom of your car door is enough to float your vehicle away, or splash the engine and cause it to stall”.

If a shallow river can be so powerful, a global flood would be an enormous catastrophic disaster. If this happened about 4,350 years ago, surely there would be some evidence of it still visible today. This blogpost is a summary of eight main points that were made by Dr Tasman Walker in a presentation on “Evidence of Noah’s flood in Australia”.

What would we expect to find on earth if there was a global flood as described in Genesis chapters 6-8 in the Bible?

Fractures in the earth’s crust

The two main sources of the water for the flood are described as “all the underground waters erupted from the earth, and the rain fell in mighty torrents from the sky” (Gen. 7:11-12NLT). Subterranean water burst from beneath the earth and there was torrential rain for 40 days. The flood waters rose to cover the highest mountains of the pre-flood world by 8 meters (Gen. 7:17-20). By the way, Mt Everest didn’t exist before the flood because there are sedimentary rocks with marine fossils on its summit.

If underground water was erupting from the earth on a global scale you would expect that the earth’s crust would be fractured. Today major fractures are seen in the earth’s crust around the edges of the continental plates. When these continental tectonic plates move against each other there are earthquakes and volcanic activity. Such geological activity around the Pacific Ocean is called the “ring of fire”.

So we would expect to find fractures in the earth’s crust and we do. These fractures are evidence of Noah’s flood.

Billions of dead things

If a catastrophic flood covered the earth for six months you would expect to find billions of dead things all over the earth. “Everything (except those on the ark) that breathed and lived on dry land died” (Gen. 7:22NLT). Because such a flood would transport huge amounts of sediment across the earth, most of the creatures that drowned would be buried in the sediments. Because such a flood would also transport huge amounts of sediment into the ocean and cause a depletion in oxygen levels, many marine creatures would die and be buried as well.

Queensland dinosaurs 400pxAt Winton in Queensland, there are many well-preserved fossils of dinosaurs and marine creatures. Dinosaur fossils have also been found at Muttaburra (Queensland). These fossil-bearing sediments extend across the Great Artesian Basin into New South Wales, South Australia, and the Northern Territory, while marine fossils are found in other parts of Central Australia.

So we would expect to find billions of dead things (fossils) in sedimentary rocks and we do. These fossils are evidence of Noah’s flood.

Evidence of rapid burial

If a catastrophic flood covered the earth for six months you would expect to find evidence of rapid burial.

At Richmond in Queensland an exceptionally well-preserved marine reptile fossil was discovered in 1990. It’s a plesiosaur that’s over 4 meters long. In order to be preserved so well it must have been buried rapidly. Fossils of land animals are also found in this region, such as the ankylosaur (an armored dinosaur).

So we would expect to find evidence of rapid burial and we do. These fossils of creatures that were buried rapidly are evidence of Noah’s flood.

Sediment covering huge areas

Great artesian basin 400pxIf a catastrophic flood covered the earth for six months you would expect to find evidence of sediment covering huge areas.

Geologists find that layers of sedimentary rocks extend across large areas called sedimentary basins. They can contain coal, oil and gas that’s used as fossil fuels. For example, the Great Artesian Basin and the Sydney Basin. There are also examples in other continents. And there are also offshore sedimentary basins on the continental shelf of countries around the world.

So we would expect to find evidence of sediment covering huge areas and we do. These layers of sedimentary rock across huge areas are evidence of Noah’s flood.

Evidence of raging waters

If a catastrophic flood covered the earth for six months you would expect to find evidence of raging waters. As these flood waters would have been highly energetic, they would have transported material along with the flow.

3 sisters 400pxThe Three Sisters rock formation at Katoomba is composed of sandstone, which was laid down by water. This layer extends across the Sydney sedimentary basin. An examination of the sedimentary layers evident in road cuttings shows layers 1-2 meters thick, which indicates that a lot a water was involved in transporting and depositing this sediment. This water must have been continually rising (to enable continual deposition). There are many cross-beds that go at an angle across the strata. They are formed when the sediment layer builds sideways.

Uluru 400pxUluru (Ayers Rock) in the Northern Territory is made of sandstone and the layers have been tipped up so they are almost vertical. These strata are visible as parallel lines on Uluru. This shows that there hasn’t been any significant erosion between the deposition of the strata. So there was rapid deposition – one layer was laid upon the other quite quickly. When we look at a geological cross-section through Uluru it is evident that a lot of sandstone has been eroded from above Uluru. The grains that comprise Uluru are angular, poorly sorted (a large range of particle sizes) and well-preserved (not weathered) which is consistent with rapid deposition.

Olgas 400pxKata Tjuta (the Olgas) is a group of large, domed rock formations 25km west of Uluru. They are comprised of large boulders (30-50cm in size). These all face in a similar direction, which is the direction of the water flow that transported them to this site. They indicate highly energetic flood waters.

So we would expect to find evidence of raging waters (which transport and deposit lots of sediment) and we do. These cross-beds, parallel sedimentary strata and boulders are evidence of Noah’s flood.

Evidence of massive erosion

If a catastrophic flood covered the earth for six months you would expect to find evidence of massive erosion. After the flood waters peaked and subsided, they would have flowed off the continents and eroded material away as they flowed back into the ocean.

When you stand at Echo Point overlooking the Three Sisters, you see that Jamison valley is cut into a flat plateau. How did it get so flat? As the floodwaters moved across the continent, they eroded the surface flat. That’s how plateaus formed all around Australia and around the world. Jamison valley is much larger than any valley caused by Kedumba River that flows through it (the same is true for the Grand Canyon in USA). Geomorphologists call these overfit valleys – the valley is too big for the river. How did it get to be such a large valley? The valley was carved by a lot of water and not by the current river. As the floodwaters subsided, when hills became exposed, the water carved out large valleys transporting the sediment out of the area.

This is also evident at Carnarvon Gorge in Queensland at the intersection of the Great Artesian Basin and the Bowen Basin. A large valley has been cut into a sandstone plateau that’s capped by basalt. As material has been eroded away, these sedimentary layers originally covered a much larger area.

As a result of such erosion, rivers can flow through mountain ranges rather than around them. For example, the Heavitree Gap in the MacDonnell Ranges near Alice Springs. How did that happen? Many explanations have been proposed, but none of them work. As the floodwaters subsided, the higher parts of the ridge become exposed and the water flows between the gap between them. As the waters continue to drop, they continue to erode through this gap until when the water has all subsided the gap remains and a river flows through this gap today. It’s called an air gap if it doesn’t go down to the level of the adjacent surface.

So we would expect to find evidence of massive erosion and we do. These large overfit valleys are evidence of Noah’s flood.

Evidence of youthfulness

If a catastrophic flood covered the earth for six months about 4,350 years ago, you would expect to find evidence of youthfulness.

At Kata Tjuta there are a few boulders lying around, but not many. And there is a small apron around it, but not a large one as if it had been eroding for millions of years. And there’s very little debris around the base of Uluru or Kata Tjuta. This indicates that it was eroded recently.

So we would expect to find evidence of youthfulness and we do. The lack of erosional debris is evidence of Noah’s flood.

Worldwide memories of the flood

All of the people of the earth are descendants of the eight people on Noah’s ark. As the global flood occurred about 4,350 years ago, you would expect to find memories of Noah’s flood in the different people groups around the world.

Cultures around the world have flood legends (or stories). For example, the Bundaba Flood Story of the Aboriginals at Broome is given in the appendix. Common features in the stories are that there was a moral cause, people were drowned, there were people saved in a boat, and there was a bird.

So we would expect to find worldwide memories of the flood and we do. These flood stories are evidence of Noah’s flood.

Summary

There’s plenty of evidence in Australia of Noah’s flood. Evidence of eight aspects of Noah’s flood show that what we observe is consistent with what the Bible says. This flood is a key to connecting the Bible to the world around us. It explains the sedimentary rocks and the fossils. And it washes away the millions of years that are assumed by evolutionists.

It also helps us understand the world. It makes sense of biblical creation. Death and suffering came after Adam and Eve and not before them because they were a consequence of sin. Whereas according to the idea of evolution, death and suffering over millions of years brought about our existence.

Questions and answers

What is rapid burial?
When animals and fish die today they disintegrate and are recycled. They aren’t fossilized. So, how were the fossils preserved? If they are buried quickly it stops them being scavenged and it affects how bacteria destroys animal’s bodies. So rapid burial is necessary to produce fossils.

What about continental drift?
Like evolutionists, creationists fit the evidence into their world view. There is a creationist model of how the continents were all together before the flood and they broke apart during the flood (catastrophic plate tectonics). The earth’s mantle (beneath the earth’s crust) can suddenly lose its strength under high temperature and high pressure. So the continental movement could have happened very quickly (continental sprint) during Noah’s flood. In the second half of the flood the ocean basins sank and the continents rose: “Mountains rose and valleys sank to the levels you decreed” (Ps. 104:8NLT).

What does “the earth was divided” in the time of Peleg mean (Gen. 10:25)?
This is just before the tower of Babel when God divided the people into different language groups and they dispersed across the earth (Gen. 11:1-9). This is what we believe it means. It couldn’t be the separation of the continents because if it happened a few hundred years after the flood that would be a huge catastrophe and many people would perish and there is no evidence of this in Scripture.

When was Mt Everest formed?
The earth’s crust moved during the flood. The mountain ranges like Mt Everest were elevated towards the end of the flood. The mountians we see today rose up at this time. The shapes of the mountains were carved by the waters of the flood (and any post-flood ice).

Do we know how high the mountains were before the flood?
No. We know there were mountains before the Flood because the Bible speaks of them (Gen. 7:19-20). But we don’t know how high they were. Some creation geologists speculate that they weren’t as high as those today.

What about the ice age?
It happened after the flood. The flood is the only thing that explains the ice age. It was due to warm waters after the flood caused by the addition of hot subterranean water and by heat from volcanic activity. And large amounts of volcanic dust and aerosols in the atmosphere would have reflected solar radiation back into space causing low atmospheric temperatures. Warm oceans evaporate water, which then moves over the land. Cold air over the continents results in this water precipitating as snow. And the snow accumulates forming ice. Because the ice was not fully melted the following summer, the ice built up from year to year. It has been estimated that the ice accumulated for 500 years after the flood and then retreated to where it is today over another 200 years. But evolutionists don’t have an adequate explanation for the ice age.

What about global warming?
Climatic modelers try to include the ice age, but they don’t include Noah’s flood. They think that the earth’s atmosphere is unstable and a little change will tip it over the edge. Whereas the earth’s climate is very stable – after the huge climatic disturbance of the global flood, it took about 700 years to come back to equilibrium.

What about the decrease in longevity?
Before the flood people typically lived over 900 years. After the flood this decreased exponentially towards 100 years (David) and then 70 years. It was probably a genetic change and not an environmental one because after the flood Noah lived 350 years (Gen. 9:28) and Shem lived 500 years.

What about the Behemoth described in Job 40?
We believe it was a brachiosaur (sauropod) dinosaur. The size of its tail is one of the reasons. We believe that dinosaurs and people lived together. They were called dragons and other names because “dinosaur” is a modern name.

Appendix: The Bundaba Flood Story

Long, long ago there was a great flood. It happened because some children found the “winking” owl and plucked out all its feathers. The bird flew without wings, into the heavens and showed himself to Ngowungu, the Great Father. Ngowungu became very angry and decided to drown the people.

Later the people saw a small cloud rising which grew bigger and bigger till it spread all over the sky. The thunder began to roll and crash and the people were greatly afraid. With the rain and thunder was a terrible wind which broke great limbs off trees and rooted up others. During this terrible storm there was a noise above the awful crashes of thunder. This noise was coming from the north. The salt water, the sea, came pouring over the ranges from the north. The flood rose higher and higher till all the land was covered except the tops of two or three mountains.

A bird with a leaf in its mouth flew in front of them showing them the way to Mt. Broome. From further west a man and his wives with a dog were battling their way in a canoe when a bird with a leaf in its mouth flew in front of them showing them the way to Mt. Broome. They eventually reached Mt. Broome and landed there where some other survivors were.

Then Djabalgari, the great left-handed man incised his little finger and let the blood trickle down into the flood waters. The waters began to go down and eventually disappeared off the country. All other people were drowned.

Acknowledgement

This blogpost was sourced from a presentation by Dr Tas Walker (a geologist with Creation Ministries International) on “Evidence of Noah’s flood in Australia”.

Written, July 2016


In six days

environ auditor 2In March 2016 the NSW Environment Protection Authority served notice requiring a company to conduct a mandatory environmental audit of its waste oil processing facility near Maitland. This followed a pattern of environmental non-compliance at the facility, including serious breaches involving air emissions and water discharges. The audit of site practices and procedures includes assessment of testing waste products, operation and maintenance of pollution control equipment, bunding and spill management, and potential impacts on groundwater. In this post we carry out an audit of the naturalistic explanation of the origin of life.

In 1999 New Holland published a book, ‘In six days: why 50 scientists choose to believe in creation’. The editor, Dr John Aston, noted in the preface that:

‘Why would educated scientists still believe in creation? Why wouldn’t they prefer to believe in Darwinian evolution or even theistic evolution, where an all-powerful intelligence is seen as directing the evolutionary processes? Could scientists believe that life on earth is probably less than 10,000 years old? How would they deal with the evidence from the fossil record and the ages suggested by the radioactive dating of rocks as millions and billions of years old?’

‘During the past century, the biblical story of Genesis was relegated to the status of a religious myth and it was widely held that only those uneducated in science or scientific methods would seriously believe such a myth. However, my experience in organizing this book, is that there is a growing number of highly educated critically thinking scientists who have serious doubts about evidence for Darwinian evolution and who have chosen to believe in the biblical version of Creation.’

The scientists gave their personal response to the question: ‘Why do you believe in a literal six-day biblical Creation as the origin of life on earth?’ The responses were divided into two categories ‘Science and Origins’ (dealing with the scientific critique of evolution as well as the scientific basis for creation) and ‘Religion and Origins’ (dealing with a more philosophical approach to the question of evolution and creation). My contribution was in the latter section (p.322-327).

Introduction

There are two main views about the origin of the universe and the origin of life: those based on naturalism and those based on an intelligent Creator. As these events occurred long ago and are not subject to direct observation or experimental tests, both of these perspectives are mainly philosophical beliefs based on certain assumptions about the physical world.

This fact is ignored or distorted in most modern treatments of the topic of origins. For example, the March 1998 issue of National Geographic included an article titled, ‘The rise of life on earth’. The editor of the magazine wrote concerning this article on the origin of life: ‘Science is the study of testable, observable phenomena’, and religious faith is ‘an unshakeable belief in the unseen’. This ‘straw man argument’ diverts the discussion away from the issues of science and logic to the separate topic of science versus religious faith. It also ignores the fact that there are no obvious ‘testable, observable phenomena’ on the origin of life. Furthermore, the language used in the article demonstrates that naturalism also relies on faith in the unseen.

The naturalistic view of origins is that everything that exists can be explained by physical and chemical processes alone. This differs from the view that matter, energy, physical and chemical processes and life were established by a Creator as revealed in the Holy Bible.

Searching for truth

An environmental auditor relies on two main factors: objective evidence and agreed standards. The outcome of each part of an audit depends on comparing the observable evidence against the relevant standard. Of course, environmental standards change in time and space across the world. Similarly, any explanation of origins should be consistent with the body of ‘observable evidence’ and any relevant ‘standards’. This is complicated by the fact that the evidence is viewed today, a long time after the beginning of the universe and life. Also, in a changing world, it is not immediately obvious which standards are relevant. The Bible is the only reliable and consistent source of truth; it is like a fixed frame of reference. Other authorities, such as science and logic, are not sufficient, as they may change in time and space; they are like a changing frame of reference.

The laws of physics and chemistry are examples of the relative standards of science, which change with time as knowledge develops. They were developed under present conditions and assume that the universe already exists. Two of these fundamental laws are that life always comes from earlier life and that mass/energy is conserved. Applying them to the origin of life assumes that all these conditions were true at that time. To say; then, that naturalism explains the origin of life is ‘circular reasoning’, as the outcome is largely determined by the assumptions made. Although these laws may describe the present world, it would be a gross assumption to extrapolate them back to the unobserved initial conditions. Yet this is done frequently by those with a naturalistic viewpoint, without acknowledgement of the uncertainties involved and the limitations of the scientific method.

The assumptions of both naturalism and biblical creation and the principles of the scientific method are stated clearly in W Gitt’s ‘Did God Use Evolution?’ 1993, CLV Christliche Literatur-Verbreitung e. V.

The Bible is a source of ‘absolute’ truth that has stood the test of time much longer than any other document or philosophy. Of course, as in the case of any literature, it requires interpretation as to what is historical and what is metaphorical or symbolic. Besides obvious literary techniques, the most reliable method is to use the whole message of the Bible to interpret any particular passage. Otherwise, an interpretation may not be consistent with the rest of the Bible.

The Bible contains three clear tests for determining whether a belief, teaching or philosophy is true or false. To be true it must pass each of the three tests:

The Jesus test: This test states that, ‘Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist … This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood’ (1 Jn. 4:2-6NIV). The question to be answered in this test is: What does it say about Jesus Christ? The Bible teaches that Christ was unique: divine and human, sinless, eternal and the Creator. It is false to deny that Christ was the divine Son of God. Beliefs that fail this test usually claim that Christ was, at best, a great teacher or a prophet. They may even encourage the view that Christ and other events in the Bible are mythical.

The gospel test: The Bible warns about those promoting a different gospel, ‘If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!’ (Gal.1:9). The question to be answered in this test is: What is its gospel? In other words: what is the core belief or hope? The Bible says that the root cause of all our problems is that everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s requirements—resulting in death. The only means of rescue is salvation by faith in Christ. ‘Different gospels’ are those that differ from this. They either add to it or take away from it. There is a warning against adding to or taking away from the words of the Bible (Rev. 22:18-19). Broader aspects of the gospel include the original creation and the ultimate restoration of all things (Rev. 4:11; 21:1-22:6). We need to be careful when applying this test because a ‘different gospel’ may deceive by using words similar to the true gospel but give them different meanings.

The fruit test: Jesus Christ warned, ‘Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them’ (Mt. 7:15-20). The question to be answered in this test is: What kind of fruit is evident? In other words, what type of attitudes and behavior does it encourage? Is the divine nature or the sinful nature most evident? The former is characterised by the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The sinful nature may involve: idolatry, sexual immorality, selfish ambition, pride, hostility, quarrelling and outbursts of anger (Gal. 5:19-23).

These tests will now be used to assess the naturalistic view of origins.

Testing naturalism

The Jesus test: As naturalism means that nature is all there is, it is associated with atheism. For example, the American Association of Biology Teachers states, that; ‘The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing environments.’
This view of origins has no need for a Creator or the divine, and so is consistent with a belief that Jesus Christ was only a human being and not divine. Naturalism clearly fails the Jesus test.

The gospel test: As naturalism assumes there is no God, it accepts no absolute standards of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, and rejects the existence of ‘sin’ in the sense of falling short of God’s standard. Therefore, it teaches that there is no need of a savior. Its gospel is that nature has made itself and the Genesis account of origins is not true. A biblical consequence of this is that if there was no paradise at the beginning as described in Genesis, then there can be no hope for a future paradise (Acts 3:21). In fact, naturalism rejects all the basic biblical truths, such as: creation, the beginning of evil, the need for salvation and the ultimate destiny of human beings. So, naturalism fails the gospel test.

The fruit test: Naturalism supports and is associated with: materialism, humanism (humanity is self-sufficient, capable of solving all their difficulties) and pantheism (‘nature’ replaces God). Its acceptance leads to: less value on human life (practices such as abortion and euthanasia are more acceptable). Another example from the past is racism; less value on family life (biblical marriage is less important; divorce is more acceptable); less value on morals (truth is now relative, not absolute); a ‘might is right’ attitude that supports the strong, but not the weak (survival of the fittest; a competitive world; compassion involves saving ‘weak genes’). As these are opposite to the values of the Bible, naturalism fails the fruit test.

It is clear from this that the viewpoint of naturalism fails all the three biblical tests for determining what is true. Therefore, it is false and is not consistent with the overall message of the Bible.

Summary

Due to the influence of the above philosophies, claims are often made in the name of ‘science’ that go far beyond the available evidence, and some aspects of modern science have become increasingly tenuous and speculative. In fact, the everyday use of the word ‘science’ has changed from dealing with things that are observable and testable to meaning ‘naturalism’ and so includes conjecture and dubious hypotheses.

Although we live in a ‘cause-and-effect’ universe, ultimate causes, such as origins, are outside the realm of reliable science. Science can only reliably deal with the present world; it cannot reliably deal with the past (such as origins) or the future (such as ultimate destinies), as it cannot directly observe these. I believe all scientists should be wary of their assumptions, as these can largely determine their findings. They should also be wary of extrapolations outside the range of observation. The further the extrapolation, the less reliable the prediction. Changes in the assumptions will change the prediction. This applies in particular to boundary conditions, such as those involving initial conditions (or origins). Therefore, scientists can only speculate, imagine and guess about the origin of life.

The author

Dr Hawke is a Senior Environmental Consultant with an electricity supply company in Sydney, Australia. He holds a BSc with first class honors in Physics from the University of Sydney, and PhD in Air Pollution Meteorology from Macquarie University. Over the past 22 years, Dr Hawke has worked as an environmental scientist and environmental consultant for a state government regulatory authority and the electrical power industry. He is also a Certified Environmental Auditor with the Quality Society of Australasia.

Published in 1999

Also see: Recognizing false teachers
The idol of evolution: Part 1


Snakes and Ladders

Sin is our greatest problem

oblivious 6Our world can be a dangerous place. But sometimes we are unaware and oblivious of the dangers. Using a smart phone can be dangerous if we are not aware of what’s happening around us. After a woman died recently in Sydney when she was run over by a bus, police issued a warning about people using their phones when walking.

Not only are there physical dangers, but there are spiritual dangers. Are we aware of the spiritual dangers we face? Like ignoring the God who made the universe by living as though there is no God? Or are we oblivious of these like someone using a phone when crossing a street? Today in a survey of the first 11 chapters of the Bible we will see that sin against God is our greatest problem, and the source of all our problems.

Context

This passage was compiled and written by Moses 700–2,500 years after the events occurred. Some of this information was passed down from his ancestors and some was revealed to him directly by God. Note that most of this time is covered by two generations – the lifetimes of Adam and Noah cover about 1,900 years. When he wrote it, Moses was “carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pt. 1:21NIV). “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians”, so he could write and keep records (Acts 7:22).

Snakes and ladders1The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt where people worshiped many pagan gods (Polytheism). In order to understand their situation and their world, they needed to know about the earlier history of the world. This helps us understand our world as well.

Genesis covers the origins of the universe, the earth, humanity, marriage, sin, languages, the nations, and the Israelites as God’s chosen people. The first eleven chapters summarize the highlights of world history up to the time of Abraham. This history includes four crises.

A crisis in the first generation

Chapters 1-2 describe the creation of the universe, the earth, the plants and animals, and Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. God spoke and it happened over a period of six days. They were given one restriction: “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Gen. 2:17).

The first crisis occurs when Adam and Eve are tempted by Satan to disobey God (Gen. 3:1-5). What will they do: follow God or Satan? This is a unique situation, because they lived in a perfect world and didn’t have a sinful nature. It was an external temptation. After they chose to disobey God and eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they are banished from the Garden of Eden. This first sin affected the whole creation including child birth, relationships between husband and wife, work and agriculture. Life was now a struggle with conflict, suffering, disease, decay, spiritual death and physical death. They went from a life in paradise to a life of problems. Their problems were a consequence of their sin. Sin was their greatest problem and the source of all their problems.

The Bible teaches that we have all inherited this sinful tendency – “everyone has sinned, we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Rom. 3:23NLT). Everyone is guilty; we are all self-centred, and so we were all affected.

However, in the list of God’s punishments there is a promise. He said to Satan “I will put enmity between you and the woman (Eve), and between your offspring and hers; he (Eve’s offspring) will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen. 3:15NIV). So there is a hint of good news amidst the bad news. A suggestion of an end to the conflict between people and Satan, when Satan is crushed.

snakes & ladders boardgameIt’s a bit like the old game of “Snakes and Ladders” (“Chutes and Ladders in the US”) where you roll a dice to get a number and move that many spaces along the board. When you land on the head of a snake you slide backwards, and when you land on the bottom of a ladder you jump ahead. The consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin hindered their life and moved them away from God, like the snakes hinder a player of snakes and ladders. The sin sequence is: temptation, followed by sin, and spiritual death. But the promise of victory over Satan is like a ladder to help them and move them towards God.

Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed Satan the snake (Gen. 3:12-13). Like Adam and Eve, we often blame our problems on others or our circumstances. Do we realise that our sin is our greatest problem? Do we ignore God by living as though He doesn’t exist?

A crisis in the second generation

Cain and Able were Adam and Eve’s first two sons. Cain becomes jealous of Abel. The second crisis occurs when this develops into hatred and he is tempted to kill Abel. What will he do; follow God or his anger? His parents would have told him what happened after they disobeyed God. But he murders Abel and is banished to be a nomad and “went out from the Lord’s presence” (Gen. 4:1-16). Cain’s problems were a consequence of his sin. This incident would have devastated Adam and Eve. The first boy to grow from infancy to maturity was a murderer! Their greatest problem as a family was caused by Cain’s sin.

But once again, it’s not all bad news. Because Cain was worried about his safety, “the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him” (Gen. 4:15). This is a promise of God’s protection. We can see a pattern developing here. God punishes sin, but provides some relief in the form of a promise.

Also, it is an example of the conflict between Satan’s offspring and Eve’s godly offspring (Gen. 3:15). In this case Cain was Satan’s agent who killed Abel, who is commended for his faith in God (Heb. 11:4; 1 Jn. 3:12). But God replaced Abel with Seth and the godly line of descendants was re-established (Gen. 4:25-26).

So in the history of humanity, Cain is like a snake in the game of snakes and ladders and Seth is like a ladder. Cain’s descendants moved away from God and lived as thought He wasn’t there, while Seth’s descendants moved towards God and followed Him. Who are we like; Cain or Seth (Jude 11)? Cain ignored God, but Seth followed God.

According to the Bible, The fool says …, “There is no God”. They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good” (Ps. 14:1). If we live as though there is no God, then we become god. We claim to know everything everywhere – otherwise God could exist somewhere, but we could be ignorant of Him. The Bible says this is foolish and leads to sinful behavior.

A crisis in the 10th generation

During the 1,600 years after the first crisis, the earth’s population grew, being comprised of cities and societies. We have seen the crises and problems in the early history of our earth for individuals and for a family. Now we will look at society as a whole.

Wickedness increased with time. It became a part of their normal way of life. They were oblivious to its danger. In the days of Noah, society was characterized by violence and corruption (Gen. 6:1-7). “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5). It is a crisis where a society of people turns away from God and go their own way. They reject the message of Noah, the “preacher of righteousness” (2 Pt. 2:5). He warned people to turn to God or face God’s judgment. So they had a choice to make.

God’s judgement on their sin was to destroy the original creation with a global flood. The death of these people was a consequence of their sin. Their greatest problem as a society was caused by their sin.

But once again, it’s not all bad news. Noah’s godly family was protected on the ark (Gen. 7:1 – 8:19) and given a promise that the earth would never be destroyed again by a flood (Gen. 8:21 – 9:17). Here we see that God punishes sin, but some are rescued.

Noah’s family is like a ladder in the game of snakes and ladders. They followed God. The rest of the people are like a snake. They moved away from God and lived as thought He wasn’t there. Who are we like; Noah’s family or the rest? The rest ignored God, but Noah’s family followed God. Their choice determined their destiny.

A crisis in the 15th generation

In God’s covenant with Noah, He commanded the people to “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” (Gen. 9:1). They obeyed the first part but not the second. They increased in number and built the city of Babel, but resisted being scattered across the earth (Gen. 11:1-4). They proudly built a tower as a monument to celebrate their achievements. This is another crisis where a society of people turns away from God and go their own way.

God’s judgement on their sin was to cause the people to start using different languages (Gen. 11:7-9). Now because they couldn’t understand each other, they scattered across the earth into different nations that spoke different languages. This would have been a tough time. They lost technology and homes that were in the city, becoming nomads and settling in new areas. Some probably lived in caves at this time. The scattering of these people was a consequence of their sin. Their greatest problem as a society was caused by their sin.

Once again we see that God punishes sin, but where is the promise? It’s like a game of snakes and ladders without the ladders. The promise is given to Abraham in the next section of the book of Genesis.

Are we alert or oblivious?

What can we learn from these four crises in early history involving Adam, Cain, the flood and Babel?

At each crisis the people had a choice, but the choice wasn’t unlimited. Because we are finite, we are only free to make decisions within God’s limits and boundaries. God is the only one without boundaries – He is infinite. He gave us a free will and choice, but within certain boundaries. God sets the standard for human behaviour. It is a sin to cross those boundaries.

At each crisis the people had a choice to follow God or Satan. And their choice determined what their life was like afterwards. Likewise, our choices have physical and spiritual consequences. They determine our destiny in many ways.

Snakes and ladders2But in each crisis people acted as though God wasn’t there; they ignored the possibility that they would be punished for disobeying God. They were unaware and oblivious of this danger. It’s like they were asleep or unconscious or there’s a malfunction of the brain and nervous system. My nephew is in a hospital brain injury unit. He can see and hear and is starting to speak a little, but he can’t respond with the rest of his body. If there is danger, he can’t react to it. For our safety, let’s be alert and aware of spiritual dangers instead of being oblivious. The dangerous sin sequence is: temptation, followed by sin, spiritual death, physical death, and eternal death in hell. It’s the snake to hell that Satan promotes. It’s the choice of those oblivious to temptation. Here death is the door to hell.

God made us with a conscience, an inborn sense of right and wrong (Rom. 2:15). It’s like an alarm to remind us when something is wrong. It worked for Adam and Eve when they felt guilty and hid from God after they sinned. Then they confessed their sin. Is your conscience working or broken?

Our greatest danger is spiritual death, which leads to eternal punishment in hell. This is the consequence of our sin if we don’t accept God’s promise of eternal life with Him in heaven (Jn. 3:16). That life is possible because Jesus took the punishment that we deserve when He died on the cross. It is ours if we confess our sin and repent by turning around to follow God. Have you done that?

Snakes and ladders3This salvation is like the promises that we found in the passage. It is an example of God’s grace and mercy and like the ladders in snakes and ladders, which move us closer to God. The salvation sequence is: Conviction of our sinfulness – our conscience alarms, followed by confession, and repentance, followed by God’s forgiveness, spiritual life, physical death, and eternal life in heaven. It’s the ladder to heaven that Jesus Christ provides. It’s the choice of those alert to temptation. Here death is the door to heaven.

According to the Bible, there are no other chances to follow God after we die. We only live once, and die once. We only have one life to follow Jesus and then the opportunity will end. There is no reincarnation. Also, the way of salvation is not through good works, or superior knowledge, or acts of worship or devotion. We can’t get to heaven by being good. It’s not through what we do, but accepting what Jesus has already done for us.

But sin has consequences for Christians as well. We can also be oblivious and live as though God isn’t there. This destroys our fellowship with God. It can be restored if we confess our sin and repent by turning around to follow God once again (1 Jn. 1:9). This pattern is like snakes and ladders, with sin being a snake that moves us away from God and restoration a ladder that moves us towards God. The sequence is: Temptation, followed by sin, loss of fellowship with God, conviction of our sinfulness – our conscience alarms, confession, repentance, followed by God’s forgiveness, and the restoration of fellowship with God. It’s the snake and ladder of daily Christian living. It’s the choice of those oblivious to temptation, but whose conscience alarms later.

Snakes and ladders4Of course it is better if our conscience alarms at the stage of temptation than that at the stage of conviction. So temptation is a critical stage. A healthy alert conscience short circuits the cycle and saves a lot of anguish.

Christians still experience the conflict between Satan and humanity (Gen. 3:15). When we pray it’s good to include spiritual concerns like temptation, sin, conviction, confession, repentance, and salvation, not just physical concerns.

Because we are all sinful, there will be crises in our life. There will be choices to make. In this respect, life is different to the game of snakes and ladders: it’s about choice, not chance. When facing a crisis, we need to realise that sin is our greatest problem. The first step in dealing with a problem or an addiction is to acknowledge that we have a problem. Then we can deal with the sin and get right with God.

Some say Genesis chapters 1-11 is just a story to illustrate that God made the world. It really took billions of years, not six days. It’s not real history. It’s a different genre. Adam and Eve didn’t exist, there was no global flood. The genealogies aren’t true. It’s an ancient myth. But such a viewpoint undermines the whole Bible. This part of Genesis is quoted extensively by both Jesus and Paul. Adam and Noah are both mentioned 8 times in the New Testament. They were real people.

Conclusion

So let’s remember these lessons from the early chapters of Genesis. Let’s be alert and aware of our sinfulness and not oblivious like someone using a smart phone when crossing a street. We ignore it at our peril because God punishes sinners. But it’s not all bad news, the good news is that God promised to help sinners like us and the rest of the Bible describes how He did it.

Let’s be like Noah’s family and make good choices and follow the God who made the universe, instead of living like He isn’t there. Realizing that sin is our greatest problem and Jesus is God’s solution.

Written, February 2014


Dinosaurs in the Bible?

Dinosaurs capture the imag­ination of both young and old. They are big, fast, powerful, and sometimes deadly. These mysteries of the ancient world have entertained us all the way from the old Flint-stones cartoon series (currently being revived as a movie), to Bar­ney, the current children’s TV favorite, to Jurassic Park, the block buster movie of a few years ago. But don’t let the current dinosaur-mania, and the idea of evolution that seems to undergird it, either undermine your faith in the God of the Bible or brainwash your children.

What are dinosaurs?

The word “dinosaur’ was coined in 1841 by Sir Richard Owen, who studied the bones of the Igua­nadon and the Megalosaurus. He named this new order of animal the “dinosaur” which means “ter­rible, huge lizard.” The bones studied were fossils of creatures that lived in the past. A fossil is formed when minerals replace parts of the body and turn it into rock. Dinosaurs were amazing creatures. When did they live? What happened to them?

Any facts that we have con­cerning dinosaurs are gathered from fossil remains found in sedimentary rocks. When we consider fossils, we are dealing with evi­dence of past events, much like stu­dents of ancient history or forensic science do. We seek likely explana­tions of the past, which can be tested, but not proven conclusively. We need a witness, just like in a court case. And we have one, God, who was there in the beginning! He is the witness who knows everything, is reliable and has given us the Bible. In the book of Job, He asks, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?” (Job 38:4 NIV).

Dinosaurs in Genesis

The King James Version of the Bible was translated in 1611, over 200 years before the word “dinosaur” was coined. For this reason, it does not occur specifically in the Bible, and the influence of evolution probably stopped translators from using it in more modern transla­tions today. There are five events recorded in the Bible that have affected every person on the plan­et: the Creation, the Fall, the Flood, the tower of Babel, and the life of Jesus Christ. Three of these shed light on the subject of dinosaurs.

The Creation: Dinosaurs were created on the sixth day with all the other land animals. Adam was also created then, so they lived together. This wasn’t a problem, as they were all plant eaters. Adam and Eve “ruled” over them and Adam named them. God saw that it was “very good” – the Garden of Eden was paradise on earth for both man and dinosaurs! (Gen. 1:25-30; 2:19,20).

The Fall: Adam and Eve’s rebel­lion against God resulted in a dif­ferent world. After their sin, several things came in: suffering, conflict, decay and death. Romans 5:12 says, “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” Death affected all creation. Romans 8:21-22 says that all creation is wait­ing to be “liberated from its bondage to decay … We know that the whole of creation has been groaning as in the pains of child­birth up to the present time.”

The Flood: The earth was full of violence: “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness had become.” He was grieved, and decided to “wipe … from the face of the earth – men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground” (Gen. 6:6-7). This state­ment includes dinosaurs, as does Genesis 6:19-21: “Bring into the ark … two of every kind … of ani­mal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground … to be kept alive.”

Then Genesis 7:11 says that “all springs of the great deep burst forth and the floodgates of heaven were opened.” This would have led to erosion and the transport of sediments. It was a worldwide flood, not just a regional one. The ark was needed to save Noah’s family and the animals that were in the ark with him. Except for those in the ark, God destroyed the whole world as punishment for man’s sin and the evil that resulted from it. The flood was a catastrophe involving tremendous amounts of water and upheavals of the earth.

What would we expect to find after the flood? Billions of dead things buried in rock layers, laid down by water, all over the earth. And what do we find? Billions of dead things, buried in rock layers, laid down by water, all over the earth! Sedimentary rock – such as sandstone (from sand), shale (from mud and clay), and con­glomerate (a mixture of both) – covers three quarters of the earth. Fossils required a quick burial –resulting from something such as a catastrophic flood – in mud or sand that turned into rock. These fossil graveyards are everywhere. They provide us with fossil fuels such as oil – which supplies our world’s entire petro-chemical industry, and coal – a fossil fuel used Worldwide for heat, the pro­duction of electricity and many industrial uses.

Dinosaurs in Job

Except for Genesis 1-11, Job is the oldest book in the Bible. Its main character probably lived about 2,000 BC – after the flood, but before large cities were built again. The book shows that Job’s faith was very strong, despite the suffering he went through. In Chapters 38-42, Job is made to realize the vastness of God’s power as revealed in His creation of the physical and biological world. This realization made Job feel insignificant enough to say, “I know that you can do anything, and that no one can stop you” (Job 42:2). We don’t control the uni­verse – God does. The climax of God’s response to Job is a descrip­tion of the two largest creatures He had created – the behemoth and the leviathan.

The behemoth (Job 40:15-24) was the greatest of land animals. It ate plants; it was strong, powerful, unbothered by raging rivers, and beyond being captured. The leviathan (Job 41), another gigantic beast, lived in the water. It was a creature without fear; it terrified the mighty; it couldn’t be subdued; and the mere sight of it was over­powering. It had fearsome teeth, a flaming mouth and smoking nos­trils. The leviathan is referred to as a dragon in the King James Version and a sea monster in the New Inter­national Version (Isa. 27:1).

Some say these creatures are mythical. But if they are, also referred to in the same passage are a lion, horse, ostrich and eagle, which are not mythical. Some say they are just other words for present day animals such as the hippopota­mus, the elephant and the crocodile. If that’s the case, did the Jews have special words for the first two, but not the third? Or are they the now extinct Bra­chiosaurus and the Plesiosaurus dinosaurs?

Dinosaurs surely would have shown God’s power in creation! But then, any creature with life is amazing and demonstrates God’s creative power — even the smallest of things, such as the DNA mole­cule which carries the genetic code. The dinosaur probably became extinct after the flood, because of the much harsher, drier climate and the ice age; because of less vegetation; and possibly because of the impact of humans who continue to cause other ani­mals to become extinct.

Dinosaurs in evolution

Evolutionary ideas about dino­saurs began at the beginning of the last century with Hutton (1795) and Lyell (1830), who taught that “the present is the key to the past.” They attempted to explain the past by present processes alone. So fossils were interpreted in terms of geologic ages, which are based on theoreti­cal “index fossils” and an “evolu­tionary tree.” They say that dinosaurs lived from 200-70 mil­lion years ago inthe Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous Ages. The so-called evolutionary tree pre­sents the idea that all life has evolved by natural processes of development alone over millions of years – from molecules to man.

This idea of an evolutionary tree is held by most scientists. It is presented as a fact, not as a theory, which it is, since it can’t be proven. It is taught in schools, uni­versities, museums and the media. Thus everyone is indoctri­nated. But the Bible says they are wrong. And 2 Peter-3:3-7 says the exact opposite of what evolution­ists teach: “In the last days scoffers will come … But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word … the earth was formed … By water also the world … was deluged and destroyed … The present heavens and earth are reserved for fire.”

The scoffers don’t believe that God created the world. They see no need for a Creator God, so there is no authority (Jud. 21:25). They say there are no moral absolutes, no sin, and, therefore, no need for a Savior! They do not believe that God destroyed the whole world by water. They do not believe that God will judge the world by fire. With no author­ity and no sin, there is no judg­ment or accountability – past, pre­sent or future.

Evolution attacks the very foun­dation of the Christian faith. It says that suffering and death existed from the beginning, before Adam and Eve ever sinned. But God is not the source of suffering and death, and He would never refer to a creation based on evolutionary theories as “good.” God’s purpose was the creation and redemption (or rescue) of mankind, not mil­lions of years of evolution! 1 Timo­thy 6:20-21 says such “opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge” cause some to “have wandered from the faith.” Don’t let this happen to you!

You decide

Dinosaurs were massive examples of God’s creation, but now they are dead and gone from the face of the earth, and we see them only as fossils. As such, they are merely symbols of God’s judgment of sin. The real examples of God’s judg­ment on the sin and wickedness of mankind are: the destruction caused by the global flood (be reminded of this every time you see sedimentary rock layers); the burning sulfur rained on Sodom and Gomorrah as God’s judgment on evil (verified by fossil remains); the coming tribulation period; and the coming final judgment and destruction by fire (both prophe­sied in the Bible).

Romans 6:23 is God’s provision for us: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eter­nal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Don’t let dinosaurmania and the idea of evolution either under­mine your faith in the God of the Bible or brainwash your children. Remember that Jurassic Park is just a fictitious, money-making movie with a comment on genetic engi­neering. The Bible tells the real story about the creation, existence and extinction of dinosaurs.

Published, December 1995

Also see: Year of the dragon


I have heard that the Garden of Eden was located in Iraq. Is this true? How do we know?

Genesis presents a summary of the early history of our world. Its writing was inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is not a myth or an allegory or a metaphorical story. In the more detailed account of the creation of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2 we learn that they lived in the Garden of Eden.

The only clues in the Bible of the geographical location of the Garden of Eden are that it was “in the east” (Gen. 2:8 TNIV), and that the river in the garden separated into four rivers named: Pishon, Gihon, Tigris (Hiddekel) and Euphrates (Gen. 2:8-14). Also, the first three of these rivers flowed through regions named Havilah, Cush and Ashur, respectively.

Garden of Eden

As Moses probably compiled the book of Genesis from ancient documents and oral accounts under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we don’t know the reference point used for the statement “in the east.” Some think that Israel/Palestine is the reference point. Also, as we don’t know today of a river that separates into the four rivers named above, the topography of the earth was probably different in those days. The Bible suggests that the continents were once together (Gen. 1:9-10). However, today the continents are separated by oceans, and sedimentary layers with fossil sea shells have been found at the top of many Himalayan peaks, including Mount Everest.

Although the Bible doesn’t describe when the continents moved apart, it is likely that the earth’s landscape was changed significantly by the catastrophic global flood survived only by Noah’s family. “Every creature that has the breath of life in it” perished in this disaster and everything that existed before the flood was “deluged and destroyed” (Gen. 7:17; 8:21; 2 Pet. 3:5–6). Not only did it rain for 40 days, but “all the springs (fountains) of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of heaven were opened” (Gen. 7:11-12). The springs (or fountains) of the great deep may have been oceanic or subterranean water. This immense flood is the most likely source of the thickest layers of sedimentary rock on earth.

The abating flood waters may have been associated with the uplift of mountains and the sinking of valleys (Ps. 104:6-8). When the mountains rose, the flood waters eroded the land and flowed into the seas (Job 38:8-11). As there are many volcanic rocks interspersed between fossil layers, there may have also been volcanic eruptions at this time. For example, Mt. Ararat in Turkey is a volcanic cone near the junction of the Eurasian, African and Arabian crustal plates. Catastrophic plate collisions may have pushed up creating mountains at this time. If this is so, then God used the tectonic forces associated with the flood and its aftermath to alter the earth’s topography. It was a new start for our planet. (See the parallels between Gen. 1:28-30 and 9:1-5).

After the flood, Noah’s family moved to the Shinar plain (Sumeria/ Babylonia) where we find rivers today called Tigris and Euphrates. Because they flow above flood-deposited layers of rock containing billions of fossils, these are not the same rivers that flowed from the Garden of Eden. They were probably named after the original pre-flood rivers, just as settlers from the British Isles to America and Australasia gave familiar names to many places in their “new world.”

As the Garden of Eden was destroyed in the flood and covered by thick sediment and maybe even water, there is no such place today, and its location on the globe can’t be established with certainty. So, although it may have been located in Iraq, or somewhere nearby, in the days of Adam and Eve, we don’t know where Eden is today.

Published, February 2011