| GENESIS 1:1 "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."
The Hebrew verb translated "created" is bara which means to "bring forth something that is radically new; produce that which is new, extraordinary, and/or epochal; produce through supernatural activity." In Genesis 1, there are several different Hebrew verbs used for God's creative activity. This word, bara, shows up 3 times in Genesis 1. In each case it is introducing something that is brand new; i.e., that has not existed before.
The Hebrew word for "heavens" is shamayim (plural - shameh is the singular form). This is the visible dome of the sky above and in which the clouds move; the realm n which the celestial bodies move; and the spiritual realm in which God and the angels dwell and operate. Whenever shamayim is used with erets (the Hebrew word for Earth), as in 1:1, the combination refers to the entire physical universe. There was no single word for the physical cosmos in Hebrew, so they used this combination to denote it. Someone once likened it to the butterfly. It is made up of two distinct and definable words, butter, and fly. But the butterfly is neither butter nor a fly. Nor is it butter that flies. Instead, it is a whole new definition. Such is the case with shamayim and erets. It is not just heaven or the planet earth, but the whole physical cosmos: galaxies, stars, asteroids and planets.
There are several passages that amplify Genesis 1:1; one is Hebrews 11:3 that tells us the universe that we can detect is made up of that which we cannot detect. We now have evidence from astronomy and physics showing the truth of what Genesis teaches. God is transcendent and brought the universe into existence from a context independent of matter, energy, time, and the dimensions of height, width and length.
So, another rendering of 1:1, in colloquial English would be: "In the beginning, God brought forth out of nothing a brand new physical cosmos (universe)."
In summary: God has now created the entire cosmos and everything in it; the galaxies, planets and stars.
GENESIS 1:2 "The earth was without form and an empty waste and darkness was upon the face of the very great deep. The Spirit of God was brooding over the face of the waters."
Any astronomer or paleontologist today can tell you that this is an exact description of a newly formed planet that has begun the cooling process. The earth itself contains the evidences of this.
Here is the list of the scientific method of interpretation:
1) Establish the frame or reference; point of view
2) Note the initial conditions
3) Sequence of events
4) Concluding statement
Here in verse 2, we see the initial conditions of the earth: it was dark on the surface of the waters and it was formless and void. The Hebrew word for "formless" is tohuw which means desolated; worthless; wasteness; useless; incapable of being utilized. Incapable of being utilized for what? For life - this is what Genesis 1 is all about; providing a place for life to exist. The Hebrew word for "void" is bohuw which means empty, void, devoid of existence. Devoid of existence of what? Of life. Again, this is a description of a newly formed, cooling planet that is unfit for life. In other words, complete agreement between astronomy and the Bible.
We now have the initial conditions and in the second part of 1:2, we find the point of view, the first step in the scientific method for interpreting Scripture. The Bible sets the frame of reference every time it deals with a sequence of events. Whenever we are faced with a sequence of events (chronology) in the Bible, there is a statement that prefaces it with the establishment of the point of view or frame of reference. This is critical because the point of view can drastically change the understanding, and Genesis 1 is a prime example. Many commentaries and expositions place the point of view as somewhere out in space. Thus, we get confusion over such things as how can the sun, moon and stars be created "in the beginning" and again on the fourth day.
But let's look at the second half of this verse: "The Spirit of God was hovering (brooding, moving) over the face of the waters." Here, very clearly, is the point of view or perspective. Where is the Spirit of God? Hovering over the surface of the waters. We are to look at the sequence of events that follow from the view point of the surface of the planet, not from outer space. You will see how looking at the creation events from this perspective solves the "problems" such as that mentioned previously (the sun, moon and stars). Now, with the perspective, or point of view, established, let's look at this verse more closely. "Now, the earth was formless (tohuw) and void (bohuw), darkness was over the surface of the deep" - the word for "deep" is tehom which means a "great mass of water; the oceans and seas" (the earth's record shows life began in the sea) -- " And the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." The word translated "hovering" is rachaph which means to "to brood over, cherishing and vivifying; to be tenderly affected; to be moved." Most translators prefer the definition "vivify" (which means to bring life into existence) here because the only other place where this verb is used is in Deuteronomy where a female eagle is described as brooding over her eggs as they are about to hatch. So, packed into this verb is a picture of God hovering over the surface of the waters and beginning to work to bring it to life.
So now we have established the point of view: the surface of the planet beneath the cloud layer, and the initial conditions: unfit for life to exist. There is no need here for a gap theory since this is exactly what the evidence of astronomy shows. Jupiter, for example, still contains this primordial condition. It is still covered with a dense cloud layer containing interplanetary debris that light cannot penetrate. It's clouds still consists primarily of ammonia and methane in quantities poisonous to life. This gives us a picture of how the earth was, and is in perfect agreement with Genesis 1:2.
GENESIS 1:3-5 Day One
We now come to the first "day." I have noticed that many Christians who subscribe to the literal 24-hour thesis totally ignore what went on before the first "day" of creation - or they search for theories such as the Gap theory to "explain" the first two verses of Genesis. The fact remains that the Bible tells us that prior to the "six days of creation" on earth, God first created the entire physical cosmos, then began to concentrate on the planet earth to make it habitable for life. This is in perfect agreement with the evidence in astronomy today. And the six days of creation actually address only the events of God preparing the earth itself for life and then creating that new life.
1:3-5 "And God said, "let there be light and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good - suitable, pleasing - and He approved it; and God separated the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day."
The verb used here (let there be) is hayah which means "become; cause to appear or arise; cause to be made or done; come into existence; come to pass; made into something." Note that it does not mean to create something that has not existed before. This is a clear distinction from the verb bara used in verse 1. What we are being told here is that God caused the clouds to become translucent so that light could shine through. We know the clouds are still there because it is not until the fourth day that they are broken. But they are no longer blocking the light from the sun. It is still overcast, but diffused light can come through and now photosynthesis can take place. I can really appreciate this verse because I live in the Pacific Northwest where the skies are overcast for a large part of the year (they say people in Seattle do not tan, they rust).
So, the light is now diffusing through the atmosphere (which is still comprised primarily of clouds of ammonia and methane, but the clouds have not broken and the observer on the surface of the planet cannot see the objects responsible for the light - this points up the criticalness of the point of view. "Young earthers" often argue the days had to have been 24 hour days because there was no sun for photosynthesis for the plants in Day Three. But the Bible clearly states that there was light penetrating the clouds on Day One. As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, I can assure you that grass and other plants grow very well in overcast conditions. Direct sunlight is not necessary for photosynthesis to take place (houseplants are another good example). And, in fact, there was no need for the sun, moon and stars to be visible from the surface of the earth until the fourth day, as we shall see.
The Hebrew word yom translated as day means "sunrise to sunset (12 hours); sunset to sunset (24 hours); a space of time (defined by an associated term); an age, time or period (without any reference to solar days)." There is nothing in verses 3-5 to indicate the length of time that has passed. Actually, the very ambiguity of the Hebrew lends itself to an indefinite period of time.
The earth now has light for photosynthesis, one of the fundamental requirements for life.
GENESIS 1: 6-8 Day Two
"And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters; and let it separate the waters [below] from the waters [above]. And God made the firmament (the expanse) and separated the waters which were under the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the firmament heavens and there was evening and there was morning, a second day."
Again, we see the verb hayah, not bara. God is not creating anything new, but working with what is already there. Here the text is describing God setting up a stable water cycle (water evaporating up and falling back to earth as rain; this is one of the first things first year biology students learn) - a cycling of water through the atmosphere and the oceans so that it will be possible for life to exist on land (which comes next). God is setting up the conditions for life on land which is where He intends to put man.
Thus, by day two, we now have light for photosynthesis and a stable water cycle. There is a very delicate balance in designing a planet for life. This is but one aspect -- it is vital for a planet to retain large amounts of moisture in its atmosphere, but not retain large amounts of ammonia and methane. At this point, the water cycle is established, but there is still too much ammonia and methane in the atmosphere and not enough oxygen, about 1%-2% as opposed to the 20%-21% necessary for life to exist. But, God is working on this. In all of this, we see the infinite care and loving craftsmanship that God took in making us a place to live. If you have watched a sculptor, for example, and witnessed the infinite care taken to produce a sculpture, you would know he can never rush it. He takes his time, working slowly, lovingly crafting in his effort to make it as perfect as possible. So we see God working here - lovingly and slowly crafting everything to perfection. Taking His time as He works on His creation.
GENESIS 1:9-13 Day Three
"And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be collected into one place (of standing), and let the dry land appear. And it was done. God called the dry land Earth, and the accumulated waters He called Seas. And God saw that this was good - admirable, fitting - and He approved it. And God said, Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed and the fruit trees yielding fruit each according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth. And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kind, and trees bearing fruit in which was their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw it was good - suitable, admirable - and He approved it. And there was evening and there was morning, a third day."
We have already seen that there is diffused light for photosynthesis and a stable water cycle. God plans to put man on land, so the next requirement is a stable land mass above the waters. This is the first mention of land. The verb used for appear (let the dry land appear) is raah which means "be seen; appear; show forth; cause one to see; to be perceived or beheld; to be considered." So the dry land appears from below the surface of the water (volcanic action, etc.) and eventually there is a relatively stable land mass.
However, there is still the problem of the poisonous atmosphere. First year biology students learn that plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Scientists say that if a land mass is covered with plants and there are no oxygen-devouring animals, the plants will bring the level of oxygen into the atmosphere from 1%-2% to 20%-21% percent in 3 or 4 thousand years. As a byproduct, an ozone shield is formed which will protect the coming creatures from ultraviolet radiation. This shows God was heading into the final preparations for land animals and, eventually, His crowning creation, man.
Some people have a problem with these plants (using English translations), so let's go back to the Hebrew and see what it has to say. When we read "fruit," we tend to think of peaches and pears and thus, bees and pollination. But is that what the Hebrew actually says? There is a clue in the phrase "in trees bearing fruit in which was their seed."
Trees: the Hebrew word here is ets which means any large plant containing woody (cellulose) fiber. So, any plant with any kind of cellulose structure in it would qualify and paleontologists tell us that such plants go way back in the fossil record; long before any land animals (or insects) appeared.
Seeds: the Hebrew word is zera which means "embryos or zygotes of plants, trees, grasses, etc.; i.e., the embryos of any plant species." All plants and animals have this little embryo or zygote that has the potential for becoming an adult specimen of that specie. Such seeds go a long way back in the fossil record. There is no problem with the order of events given here and what is seen in the fossil record.
Fruit: the Hebrew word here is periy which means "food and/or embryos produced by any living thing." This is the tiny food supply attached to seeds that provides the seed as it germinates with a bit of nourishment until the plant can send out roots and make it's own food. In humans, this would be the placenta that feeds the baby until it comes out from the womb.
So, the plants spoken of here are not those "fruiting" plants which need insects to help in reproduction. These are simply green plants that will provide the planet with the necessary oxygen for land animals. This is a good example of a problem with translation and why it pays to go back to the original language in cases like this.
To recap: by the end of the third day, God has taken a dark, formless planet with a poisonous atmosphere (a new planet in the process of cooling down) and provided light for photosynthesis, a stable water cycle, dry land and an atmosphere suitable for life. Now conditions are ready for the higher animals with one exception and He addresses that exception next.
GENESIS 1: 14-19 Day Four
"And God said, Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and tokens [of God's provident care], and [to mark] seasons, days, and years. And let them be for lights in the expanse of the sky to give light upon the earth. And it was so. And God made the two great lights, the greater light (the sun) to rule the day and the lesser light (the moon) to rule the night; He also made the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good - fitting, pleasant - and He approved it. And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day."
Again, the verb is hayah meaning to "let appear; to become visible." So, the sun, moon and stars became visible from the surface of the earth for the first time. These have not been mentioned before, so God feels a little explanation of them is in order and that is what we see here. The Hebrew verb for "made" used here is in the complete tense; meaning they were made some time in the past. We already know when they were made - "In the beginning, God created the physical cosmos; i.e., the galaxies, stars and planets." Until now, these celestial bodies were not visible to the observer on the planet, but we know - and verse 3 specifically shows this -- that they were already out there. Now, however, God has broken the cloud cover and these objects are visible for the first time from the surface of the earth, so He is providing more information about them.
One thing scientists have learned is that the higher animals require the visibility of the sun, moon and stars, at least occasionally, to regulate their very complex biological clocks. So, now that God is getting ready to create these higher animals, He needs to make these celestial bodies visible on earth. And this is exactly what He does in this fourth day. The fish and other sea creatures did not need this as they have no complex biological clocks.
It is also interesting to observe that this is the first mention of seasons, days and years. Implied here is that, before "day" four, there were no seasons, no days or years. Hence, once again, it points to creation days of indeterminate length.
To recap: We saw the dissipation of the primordial gasses in the beginning that made the atmosphere translucent. It later became transparent through the oxygenating of the atmosphere. There was only a small amount of oxygen in the primordial atmosphere, but with plants being produced on the land in large numbers, releasing oxygen, the percentage eventually rose to the amount needed and, as a by-product, provided the ozone shield to protect against ultraviolet radiation. Lastly, the dense cloud cover was broken up. With the stable water cycle and the dry land, the planet is now ready for the advanced animals. This perfectly accords with the evidence collected by scientists in recent years.
GENESIS 1: 20-23 Day Five
"And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly and swarm with living creatures, and let birds fly over the earth in the open expanse of the heavens. God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, which the waters brought forth abundantly according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good - suitable, admirable - and He approved it. And God blessed them saying, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let the fowl multiply in the earth. And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day."
Up until now, there has been no mention of any of those creatures who need the visibility of the sun, moon and stars to regulate their biological clocks. But in the 5th and 6th creation days, those are the only creatures mentioned. All advanced creatures need the visibility occasionally of the sun, moon and stars to regulate their complex biological clocks.
The first creatures mentioned are sherets, a "swarm of small or minute animals." This is not a specific term, but would include such animals as mollusks (the most primitive creatures to need the visibility of the sun, moon and stars), insects, small reptiles, amphibians, and the like. The sea creatures and the birds are self-explanatory.
Let me here inject an explanation of Hebrew classifications of animals. To the Hebrews there were basically three kinds of animals: animals with bodies; animals with bodies and souls; and those with bodies, souls and spirits (man). The first land animals, then, were the "animals with bodies." Next will come, on day six, the nephesh animals. This Hebrew term means "life, soul, creature, person, appetite, mind." These were animals endowed by God with mind, will and emotion (Hebrew defines soul as mind, will and emotion) and these animals can relate to man on these three levels. In the Bible, we learn that God has made two different kinds of animals: those that can relate to us and those that can't. For example, we can show affection to our dog and he will return it. We can show affection to a lizard or a fish, but it will not be returned. We can train dogs, cats, horses, etc., but not fish, insects, etc. The Hebrews referred to these two groups of animals as those with bodies and those with bodies and souls.
On day five, God created the animals with bodies. The verb used for create here is asah meaning to manufacture, fabricate, produce. God took the dust of the earth and carefully and lovingly fabricated all these animals with His own hands. Contrary to some beliefs, He didn't just slam things together or snap His fingers and suddenly have a huge bunch of critters. The Bible says He lovingly crafted each and every one of them.
GENESIS 1:24-31 Day Six
"And God said, Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creeping things and [wild] beasts of the earth according to their kinds. And it was so. And God made the [wild] beasts according to their kinds, and domestic animals according to their kinds, and everything that creeps upon the earth according to its kind. And God saw that they were good - fitting, pleasant - and He approved them. God said, Let Us make mankind in Our image, after our likeness; and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the [tame] beasts,and over all of the earth, and over everything that creeps upon the earth. So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it [with all its vast resources]; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and over every living creature that moves upon the earth. And God said, See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the land, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to all the animals on the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the ground, to everything in which there is the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food. And it was so. And God everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good - suitable, pleasant - and He approved it completely. And there was evening and there was morning - a sixth day."
In verses 24 and 25, we see the second usage of the Hebrew verb, bara, meaning something brand new along with the verb asah which means to fabricate or manufacture. This double construct tell us that God is making more creatures out of the dust, but is adding something brand new. What is it? A soul. These are the nephesh creatures (and, incidentally, the only animals besides birds mentioned in the story of the flood). In verses 26 and 27, we see this double construct again: "let us make (asah -- fabricate) man" and "God created (bara indicating something brand new)." God made man, but added something brand new. What was brand new? A spirit. Man is the only creature to have a body, soul and spirit.
We now have the three usages of bara (brand new things):