Bible on origins

KEPLER-SCIENCE

Science has its limits and is principally unable to tell us much on the origin of matter and life. The laws we have discovered in creation are all about the existing situation and can't give us a real clue to the origin of matter. Take the law of conservation of matter and energy: this law doesn't fit the bill very well as regards the origin of matter and energy.

That's why it doesn't seem very strange to ask the One Who was there when it all began: the Creator. The Bible informs us about the beginning, in het Old as well in the New Testament. That we don't understand everything seems pretty logical: our understanding is limiteds - so different from that of the Creator. The Almighty God can tell us very well how it all began - and also why and how it all went so wrong.

This page relates the basics of the discussion, the links lead to articles and websites explaining more.

Also see the pages on Origins.

The scientific arguments for (theistic) evolution are discussed on BioLogos?

 

Some questions listed

A number of things ar important to consider if we ponder on the relationship between Bible and science, like:

  • How do we read the Bible? What genres can we find, is Genesis history?
  • What does the Old Testament tell us about Creation and about God?
  • How does the Lord Jesus speak about the beginning?
  • What do the apostels tell us about it?
  • Which effects does it have is we don't read Genesis 1-11 historically?

The links lead to more information and go deeper into the matter, on this page you will find the basics.

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29)

Recommended books:

  1. The Quest for the Historical Adam by William VanDodewaard (2015), Reformation Heritage Books, Grand Rapids / it tells the story of the hermeneutics on the creation of Adam from the early Church fathers to the present day.
  2. The Genesis Account by Jonathan Sarfati (2015), Creation Book Publishers / a theological, historical and scientific commentary on Genesis 1-11
  3. Should Christians Embrace Evolution? edited by Norman C. Nevin (with contributions of theologians and scientists)

LINKS:

  1. Articles on theistic evolution on creation.com
  2. What about the two creation accounts?
  3.  

Bible on origins

The perspective of the Bible writers

What did the Bible writers know? What was their world view? Did they believe the Earth was flat or not? Did God adapt His revelation to our level of understanding? Different answers are given to these questions:

  1. Bible and science match pe perfectly - this is called concordism - and the Bible is always right. Everything we read in the Bible, must scientifically be right. If it doesn't seem to fit, science will find out it does.
  2. Bible and science speak a totally different language because they speak about different things, that is from a different perspective. What the Bibel states doesn't need to match what science teaches us. The Bible has a theological focus and content and if we read something that doesn't seem to fit science, we need to start re-reading (re-interpretating) our Bible. This is called perspectivism.

Both views basically have the same problem, thinking that factually right also means stated in the right scientific language. But that's not how it goes in everyday life. We still speak about sunset and the like That's the perspective of the observer and it doesn't mean you think the Sun orbits the Earth. Your observation isn't wrong and can be used in court eg..

 

The observer's perspective

The Bible writers wrote from the observer's perspective. The goal always was to convey a certain message (not all factual details are important for the message), but the facts mentioned are right. The Bible always writes historically correct, but not complete and of course not in scientific language: the Book is written for all people, in language than can be understood by all. But the message of the Bible (the theological content) is closely connected to and anchored in the facts.

That's very clear in the NT: without a real resurrection our faith will be void, states Paul (1Cor.15:16). In the book of Acts the disciples always preach about the resurrection, because the Lord really has risen - He wants to be touched after the resurrection to make clear He is not a ghost (Luke 24:39).

In the same way the book of Genesis should be considered historical: it tells us how God chooses Abraham, Izak and Israel and shows us how the people of Israel landed in Egypt. In Exodus we read about the exodus, in Joshua how they enter Canaan - the whole religion of Israel is based on these historical facts. The first eleven chapters of Genesis explain where Abraham came from, the history and dispersion of all nations, the origin of sin: Genesis 12-50 roots firmly in Genesis 1-11 and the language, the way things are told, doesn't change: it remains the same throughout the whole of the book.

When was Genesis written?

Genesis is generally considered to be written by Moses. That doesn't mean he wrote all the details: he might have used available sources. For creation he of course needed revelation by God Himself - either given to Moses or to Adam who handed it down to his descendants.

Abraham probably could write. In Ebla a huge amount of tablets (with cuneiform script) were found that show that writing in Abraham's day was everyday business. There is no need to assume stories were handed down orally - and oral cultures had down their stories much more precise than we think. On top of that: Abraham could have asked Sem for information on the flood and between Sem and Adam only one extra link is needed.

Some scholars argue that Genesis was written and edited in Babylonian context - during the exile. There are some similarities between Genesis 1-11 and Babylonian texts, but:

  • A lot of mythology can be found in the Babylonian texts - not in Genesis.
  • It's more logical to assume Genesis is the original and the Babylonian texts are the distorted (mythical) 'copies'.
  • The many details in the stories of the patriarchs (covenants, Joseph in Egypt and the price paid for him) point to a second millennium BC context.
  • There is no reason to read a 'chaos-battle' into Gen.1:2 - it's more logical to state that 'tohuwabohu' refers to a bare state: God started working with raw material, just like a potter starts working with a formless lump of clay.

What difference does it make?

Why is it s important to consider Genesis 1-11 s real history? What's against thinking creation happened through evolution?

  • It's against the consistent testimony of the whole of Scripture.
  • God is reliable: it shows in His acts and in His speaking. If we can't trust Him when He speaks about the beginning, how could we trust Him for anything else?
  • If He didn't create Man as related in Gen.1+2 put in stead chose Adam and Eve from a group of people (like He did with Abraham): why didn't He tell us? Why complicate things this way?
  • If the├»stic evolutionists are right, all believers (Jews and Christians) were wrong in their belief all these ages. Do we really need theologians to understand it? Have we been so stupid all along?
  • The triad creation-fall-redemption looses it's significance without the first two really taking place.
  • Overseeing the whole of His work at the end of the six days of creation God says that everything was very good. That doesn't match with an evolution processwith death and struggle for life from the beginning - these could only have started taking place after the fall - not before.
  • According to the Bible creation happened by speaking (momentarily). We do find processes in the Bible, but nowhere connected to creation.
  • The Bible founds marriage, the coming of the Messiah and the future very clearly in the first chapters of Genesis. If we can't read the first chapters historically, why should we believe in prophecies about the future?
  • The strata bear witness to God's judgment by the Flood (though not all strata will have been formed by the Flood). The Flood points towards the future judgment - so we deny God's judgments if we deny the Flood. A local makes God a liar, because He promised something like that would never happen again (Gen.9:9,10).
  • It is striking how much the alternative readers (theistic evolutionists) disagree and how meager their exegeses often is ...

Greg Haslam wrote (in book nr. 3)

If God didn't say what He meant in Genesis, why should we trust Him anywhere else? If God couldn't get creation right first time in the beginning and was forced to use a 'hit and miss', 'road-kill' method involving eons of death and destruction, then how long might we have to wait for God to re-fashion the world at the end? It could be long wait for our final resurrection and new residence! Yet both are said to be instant outcomes of Christ's return in the Bible. Why not at the beginning also?

Genres in Scripture - how do I read?

Bible writers use different genres of writing: sometimes factual, sometimes poetic, sometimes prophetic and sometimes they use symbolic language.

  • The historical books relate what happened in a factual way. That doesn't mean that all facts are told - sometimes we would like to know more. The books of Moses and Joshua to Chronicles are written in this way.
  • Poetic language in the Bible is different from what we are used to. The Psalms often use parallelism: the first line is repeated with other words or the second line is in contrast with the first. Examples: He spoke and it came to be, He commanded and it stood firm (Psalm 33:9) or: The Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction (Psalm 1:6). The use of this language doesn't mean in correct information is given.
  • Profetical books often use poetic but also symbolic language. Symbolic language often is easy to recognise: the Median-Persian empire is described as a bear, the Lord Jesus as the Lamb and as a Lion. Symbolic language does describe a reality: the goat in Daniel 8 shows how Alexander the Great would conquer a large part of the world.

The Bible can often be read at different levels. If the Church fathers e.g. saw an allegory in the six days of Creation, it was an extra layer of meaning to them: the historirall meaning still stood firm in their eyes. Many Bible passages show three different layers of meaning:

  1. The historical meaning: this is what happened. Written down is what's important for what follows. Think of the Passover: it's closely connected to the liberation of Israel on of Egypt.
  2. The spiritual meaning: for me or the church, what can we learn from it? This layer of meaning has its roots in the historical layer. The Passover tells me that I'm safe behind the blood of the Lamb. We celebrate this fact at the Lord's Supper.
  3. A profetical meaning: what does it mean for the future? Sometimes a part of it has been fulfilled already - like with the Passover: this was fulfilled when Jesus died on the cross.

The testimony of the Old Testament

As is stated the whole history of Israel - and the whole of the salvation history as well - is rooted firmly in Genesis 1-11. Let's take a look at some OT books:

  • In the Ten Commandments the Sabbath is rooted firmly in the creation in six days (Ex.20:8).
  • Chronicles starts with Adam - just like the genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3.
  • God asks Job: Where were you when I laid the Earth's foundation? (Job 38:4). After that He speaks about big monsters like the Behemoth and the Leviathan: creatures that remind us of Dinosaurs.
  • The Psalms speak a number of times very clearly about the creation:read e.g. Ps.8, 33:6,9, 103:2, 136:5 and 148:5.
  • Isaiah speaks a lot about the LORD as Creator, especially in Chapter 40-48 opposed to the idols and as a reason to trust Him.
  • Creation in Genesis is intended to be the beginning or opening of history, starting with time and space. The creation account is part of an ongoing history with numbers and time sequences moving into the book of Exodus - nowhere a gap to be seen!

The testimony of the New Testament

It's remarkable how Jesus and the apostel speak about the creation. A selection will prove this point:

  • John 1 goes back to the beginning and makes perfectly clear that Jesus is the Word of God become flesh:d actually is the Creator Himself. This is confirmed in Col.1 and Hebr.1.
  • Jesus speaks a number of times about the beginning, with authority and 'as if' it really happened - He was there Himself! See e.g. Mat.19:4-6 and Mat.24:21.
  • Jesus acts confirm that He is the Creator. Many times He heals by just speaking a word (Mat.8:8, Mark.7:34, John.2:1-11, John.4:50, John.5:8-9 and John.11:43,44).
  • Paul bases a part of his teaching on historical facts: Adam was the first man, Eve was seduced, Adam sinned and brought sin and death in the world. See Acts.17:26, Rom.5:12-20, 1Cor.15:45-49, 1Tim.2:13,14.
  • Peter about Creation and the Flood in connection with the coming judgment: 2Peter.3:5-7.
  • Hebr.11:3 confirms that the creation took place by the Word - the things we see, haven't come into being by what we observe.
  • The miracles Jesus performs are real, material events (water did turn into wine - not slowly like in ordinary wine production). This also points to His Creator-power - why wouldn't creation have been done as quickly!

KEPLER-SCIENCE