I want to be especially careful as we approach this first chapter of the book of Genesis. This past week I read an account of a man who attempted to quote Scripture from our passage as a proof text for smoking pot. Here is the account as given by Christianity Today a couple of years ago:
Arrested in Olathe, Kansas, for possession of the drug, Herb Overton based his defense on Genesis l:29: “and God said, … I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth …”
Judge Earl Jones doubted Overton’s hermeneutics, however. According to a Chicago Tribune account, the judge told the Bible-quoting defendant: “As a mere mortal, I’m going to find you guilty of possession of marijuana. If you want to appeal to a higher authority, that’s fine with me.”17
We can all read of such an event and laugh about it. While Herb Overton’s error is comical, there may be a less obvious error of which many Christians may be guilty—and it is not a laughing matter.
This week my attention was arrested by a brief article in Eternity magazine entitled, “Evangelicalism’s Six Flaws.” Most of the article has me still scratching my head, but I was particularly troubled by this statement:
We have treated creation as a static occurrence—arguing whether or not God has created it in seven days, thus missing the point of the religious meaning of creation and the ongoing activity of God in history.18
As I have considered Robert Webber’s accusation, it seems to me that we evangelicals have made five major errors in the way we have handled Genesis over the past few years. Most of these errors are in part a reaction to the three-fold attack of atheistic evolution, comparative religion and literary criticism.19
(1) We have dealt with the creation account according to a scientific grid. Some recent theories and conclusions of scientists have challenged the traditional interpretation of the biblical creation accounts. In a conscientious effort to prove the Bible to be scientifically accurate, we have approached the first chapters of Genesis from a scientific point of view. The problem is that these chapters were not intended to give us an account of the creation that would answer all of the scientific problems and phenomenon.
Dr. B. B. Warfield has stated the problem well:
A glass window stands before us. We raise our eyes and see the glass; we note its quality, and observe its defects; we speculate on its composition. Or we look straight through it on the great prospect of land and sea and sky beyond. So there are two ways of looking at the world. We may see the world and absorb ourselves in the wonders of nature. That is the scientific way. Or we may look right through the world and see God behind it. That is the religious way.
The scientific way of looking at the world is not wrong any more than the glass-manufacturer’s way of looking at the window. This way of looking at things has its very important uses. Nevertheless the window was placed there not to be looked at but to be looked through; and the world has failed of its purpose unless it too is looked through and the eye rests not on it but on its God.20
The author of Genesis has not written the creation account for the glass maker. Rather he urges us to look through the glass of his account to the Creator behind it all.
(2) We have used the creation account of Genesis as an apologetic, when its primary purpose is not apologetic. The apologetic use of the early chapters of Genesis, while of value,21 is not in keeping with the author’s purpose for writing. Genesis was written to the people of God, not unbelievers. Men who refuse to believe in creationism do not do so for lack of facts or proof (cf. Rom 1:18ff), or due to their greater knowledge (Psalm 14:1), but due to a lack of faith (Hebrews 11:3). Genesis is much more of a declaration than a defense.
(3) We have attempted to find in Genesis one the answers to mysteries which may or may not be explained elsewhere. We may wish to learn, for example, just where Satan’s fall and judgment fit into the creation account, but may not be given such information because it was not the purpose of the author to answer such questions.22
(4) We have failed to study Genesis one in its historical context. I suppose that it is easy to commit such an error here. We may doubt that there is any historical background. Or we may conclude that this is precisely the purpose of the chapter—to give us a historical account of creation.
The background which is vital to our grasp of the meaning and message of creation is that of those who first received this book. Assuming Moses to be the author of Genesis, the book most likely would have been written sometime after the Exodus and before the entrance to the land of Canaan. What was the situation at the time of the writing of this creation account? Who received this revelation and what needs were to be met by it? This is crucial to rightly interpreting and applying the message of the creation.
(5) We have often failed to apply the first chapter of Genesis one in any way that is relevant to our own spiritual lives. As one of my friends put it, “We come to a message on Genesis chapter one expecting nothing more than to have our apologetic batteries recharged again.”
The creation account becomes a prominent theme throughout the Old and New Testaments. Here, as elsewhere, we cannot do wrong by allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture. When the creation theme occurs in Scripture, it calls forth a response from men. We have frequently failed to call for any such response as we have taught Genesis chapter one.
Revelation never is given in a historical vacuum. The Bible speaks to men in specific situations and with particular needs. We cannot rightly interpret Scripture or apply it to ourselves until we have answered the question, “What did this passage mean to those to whom it was originally given?” From archaeological studies much is known of the literature, culture, and religions of those who surrounded the Israelites. Understanding the contemporaries of the Israelites greatly enhances our grasp of the meaning of the creation account according to divine revelation as found in Genesis one.
First, we know that virtually every nation had its own cosmogony, or creation account(s). Somehow I had always thought that the account of Genesis one was something new and original. Actually this revelation came late compared to other near eastern nations. Antiquity had devoted a great deal of time and effort to its origins. The account of Genesis chapter one had to ‘compete,’ so to speak, with the other accounts of its day.
Secondly, there is an almost remarkable similarity between these pagan cosmogonies. From her study of twelve myths, Ms. Wakeman has identified three features always present: “1) a repressive monster restraining creation, 2) the defeat of the monster by the heroic god who thereby releases the forces essential for life, and 3) the hero’s final control over these forces.”23
Third, while distressing to some, there is considerable similarity between the pagan creation myths and the inspired account of creation in the Bible.24 The correspondence includes the use of some of the same terms (e.g. Leviathan) or descriptions (e.g., a man-headed sea monster), similar literary form,25 and a parallel sequence of events at creation.26
The explanation of these similarities by some are unacceptable. For example, we are told that these similarities evidence the fact that the biblical cosmogony is no different than any other ancient creation myth. Others would assure us that while there are similarities, the Israelites ‘demythologized’ these corrupted accounts to assure an accurate account of the origin of the earth and man.27 Some conservative scholars simply call the correspondence coincidence, though this seems to avoid the difficulties, rather than to explain them. The most acceptable explanation is that the similarity is explained by the fact that all similar creation accounts attempt to explain the same phenomenon.
Early races of men wherever they wandered took with them these earliest traditions of mankind, and in varying Latitudes and climes have modified them according to their religions and mode of thought. Modifications as time proceeded resulted in the corruption of the original pure tradition. The Genesis account is not only the purist, but everywhere bears the unmistakable impress of divine inspiration when compared with the extravagances and corruptions of other accounts. The Biblical narrative, we may conclude, represents the original form these traditions must have assumed.28
More important than the fact that the nations surrounding Israel had their own (perhaps older) accounts of creation, was the use to which these were put in the ancient Near East. Ancient cosmogonies were not carefully recorded and preserved out of a love for ancient history; they were the foundation of religious observance.
In the ancient world their deities were nature gods, sun gods, moon gods, rain gods, and so on.29 In order to assure the on-going of the forces of nature and guarantee bountiful crops and growing herds of cattle, the creation myths were re-enacted every year.
Myth, therefore, in the ancient world was mimetically re-enacted in public festivals to the accompaniment of ritual. The whole complex constituted imitative magic, the effect of which was believed to be beneficial to the entire community. Through ritual aroma, the primordial events recorded in the myth were reactivated. The enactment at the appropriate season of the creative deeds of the gods, and the recitation of the proper verbal formulae, it was believed, would effect the periodic renewal and revitalization of nature and so assure the prosperity of the community.30
From this background we can begin to realize how vital a role was played by cosmogony in the ancient Near East. Israel’s social and religious life, like that of her neighbors, was based upon her origin. The Genesis account of creation laid the foundation for the remainder of the Pentateuch.
In this light we can see the significance of the contest between the God of Israel and the ‘gods’ of Egypt. Pharaoh dared to ask Moses, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?” (Exodus 5:2).
The answer of the Lord was a series of ten plagues. The message of these plagues was that Israel’s God is the creator of heaven and earth.
For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night and will strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the Lord (Exo 12:12; cf. 18:11; Num 33:4).
It would seem that each plague was a direct affront to one of Egypt’s many gods. While a direct correlation of each plague to a specific god may be somewhat speculative,31 the battle of the gods is evident.
No wonder that the covenant sign of the Israelites was the keeping of the Sabbath:
But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, “You shall surely observe My Sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.… It is sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever, for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed” (Exo 31:13,17).
Observing the Sabbath identified Israel with their God, the Creator Who ceased from labor on the seventh day.
The miracles of the Exodus, then, served a function similar to the signs and wonders performed by our Lord. They authenticated the message which was proclaimed. In our Lord’s case, it was the words He proclaimed and the inspired writers preserved. In the case of the Exodus, the Pentateuch was Moses’ written revelation of God which his miracles authenticated. The Exodus proved Yahweh to be the only God, the Creator and Redeemer. The Pentateuch provided the content for the faith of Israel, of which the creation account is the foundation.
Many interpretations exist for the first three verses of the Bible, but we will briefly mention the three most popularly held by evangelicals. We will not spend a great deal of time here because our conclusions will be tentative and the differences have little bearing on the application of the text. Let me simply begin by saying that we who name the name of Christ as Savior must ultimately take Genesis 1:1 at face value on faith (Heb 11:3).
View 1: The Re-creation (or Gap) Theory. This view maintains that Genesis 1:1 describes the original creation of the earth, prior to the fall of Satan (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12ff). As a result of Satan’s fall the earth lost its original state of beauty and bliss and is found in a state of chaos in Genesis 1:2. This ‘gap’ between verses 1 and 2 not only helps to explain the teaching of Satan’s fall, but it also allows for a considerable time period, which helps to harmonize the creation account with modern scientific theory. It does suffer from a number of difficulties.32
View 2: The Initial Chaos Theory. Briefly, this view holds that verse one would be an independent introductory statement. Verse 2 would describe the state of the initial creation as unformed and unfilled. In other words the universe is like an untouched block of granite before the sculpter begins to fashion it. The creation is not in an evil state, as the result of some catastrophic fall, but merely in its initial unformed state, like a lump of clay in the potter’s hands. Verses 3 and following begin to describe God’s working and fashioning of the mass, transforming it from chaos to cosmos. Many respectable scholars hold this position.33
View 3: Precreation Chaos Theory: In this view (held by Dr. Waltke), verse one is understood either as a dependent clause (“When God began to create … ”) or as an independent introductory summary statement (“In the beginning God created … ”). The creation account summarized in verse one begins in verse two. This ‘creation’ is not ‘ex nihilo’ (out of nothing), but out of the stuff existing in verse 2. Where this comes from is not explained in these verses. In effect, this view holds that the chaotic state does not occur between verses one and two, but before verse one of an unspecified time. The absolute origin of matter is, then, not the subject of the ‘creation’ account of Genesis 1, but only the relative beginnings of the world and civilization as we know it today.34
We might summarize the difference between these three viewpoints in this fashion:35
It is important to recognize that verses 2-31 do little more than expand upon verse 1. They do not fully (certainly not in a scientific fashion—who would have cared over the centuries until now?) explain creation. Neither do they prove it, for this is ultimately a faith issue. The facts upon which this faith must be based are simply stated.
There does seem to be a pattern to these six creation days, which many Bible students have observed. It can best be illustrated graphically:
Formlessness Changed to Form
Emptiness Changed to Habitation
Luminaries (sun, moon, stars)
Air (upper expanse)
Dry land plants
Seen in this way, the first three days remedy the situation of formlessness described in Genesis 1:2. The 4-6 days deal with the state of ‘void’ or ‘emptiness’ of verse 2. There also seems to be a correlation between days 1 and 4, 2 and 5, 3 and 6. For example, the air and water receive corresponding life forms of fish and birds, though this should not be pressed too far.
Two other observations should be pointed out. First, there is a sequence to the six days. It is clear that this account is arranged chronologically, each day building upon the creative activity of previous days. Secondly, there is a process involved in the creation, a process involving the change from chaos to cosmos, disorder to order.
While God could have instantaneously created the earth as it is, He did not choose to do so. The clear impression given by the text is that this process took six literal days, and not long ages. Nevertheless, the eternal God is not nearly so concerned about doing things instantaneously as we are. The process of sanctification is only one of many examples of God’s progressive activity in the world.
Before we approach the question of what the creation should mean to us, we must deal with its meaning for those who first read these inspired words from the pen of Moses. The initial purpose of this account was for the Israelites of Moses’ day. What should they have learned? How should they have responded?
(1) The creation account of Genesis was a corrective to the corrupted cosmogonies of their day. We have already said that Egypt, for example, believed in a multiplicity of nature-deities. We need to recognize that Israel, due to her close and prolonged contact with the Egyptians, was not unaffected by their religious views.
“Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14).
It was not enough to regard Yahweh merely as a god, one among many. Neither should He be conceived of as just the God of Israel. Yahweh is God alone. There is no other god. He is the Creator of heaven and earth. He is not merely superior to the gods of the surrounding nations; He alone is God.
The tendency to begin to confuse God with His creation was a part of the thinking of the ancient world. He must be regarded as the God of creation, not just God in creation. Every attempt to visualize or humanize God in the form of any created thing was a tendency to equate God with His creation. So it was, I believe, with Aaron’s golden calf.
(2) The creation account describes the character and attributes of God. Negatively, Genesis one corrects many popular misconceptions concerning God. Positively, it portrays His character and attributes.
The theme of God as Creator is prominent throughout Scripture. It is significant that the last words of the Bible are remarkably similar to the first.
And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. And on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. And there shall no longer be any night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever (Revelation 22:1-5).
The truth that God is the Creator of heaven and earth is not merely something to believe, but something to which we must respond. Let me mention just a few implications and applications of the teaching of Genesis 1.
(1) Men should submit to the God of creation in fear and obedience. The heavens proclaim the glory of God:
The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge (Psalm 19:1-2).
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened (Romans 1:20-21).
Men should fear the all powerful God of creation:
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast (Psalm 33:6-9).
The greatness of God is evident in the work of His hands—the creation which is all about us. Men should fear and reverence Him for Who He is.
Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, Thou art very great; Thou art clothed with splendor and majesty, covering Thyself with light as with a cloak, stretching out heaven like a tent curtain. He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters; He makes the clouds His chariot; He walks upon the wings of the wind; He makes the winds His messengers, flaming fire His ministers. He established the earth upon its foundations, so that it will not totter forever and ever. Thou didst cover it with the deep as with a garment; the waters were standing above the mountains. At Thy rebuke they fled; at the sound of Thy thunder they hurried away. The mountains rose; the valleys sank down to the place which Thou didst establish for them. Thou didst set a boundary that they may not pass over; that they may not return to cover the earth ( Psalm 104:1-9).
(2) Men should trust in the God of creation, to provide their every need.
Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tenth of all. And the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.” And Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their share (Genesis 14:17-24).
Abram offered tithes to Melchizedek on the basis of his profession that Abram’s God was “God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth” (verse 19,20). And yet while Abram gave a tithe to Melchizedek, he refused to benefit in any monetary way from the pagan king of Sodom, for he wanted this man to know that “God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth” was the One Who made him prosper.
We sing, “He owns the cattle on a thousand hills … I know that He will care for me.” That is good theology. The God Who is our Creator, is also our Sustainer. You see God did not wind up the universe and then leave it to itself, as some seem to say. God maintains a continual care over His creation.
He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the labor of man, so that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine which makes man’s heart glad, so that he may make his face glisten with oil, and food which sustains man’s heart. The trees of the Lord drink their fill. The cedars of Lebanon which He planted, where the birds build their nests, and the stork, whose home is the fir trees. The high mountains are for the wild goats; the cliffs are a refuge for the rock badgers. He made the moon for the seasons, the sun knows the place of its setting. Thou dost appoint darkness and it becomes night, in which all the beasts of the forest prowl about. The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their food from God. When the sun rises they withdraw, and lie down in their dens, man goes forth to his work and to his labor until evening (Psalm 104:14-23).
The New Testament goes an additional step by informing us that the Son of God was the Creator, and continues to serve as the Sustainer of the creation, holding all things together:
For in Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17).
(3) Men should be humbled by the wisdom of God as evidenced in creation. Job had endured much affliction. But finally, enough was enough. He began to question the wisdom of God in his adversity. To his questioning God responded,
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me! Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth! Tell Me, if you have understanding, who set its measurements, since you know? Or who stretched the line on it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:1-7).
Job was challenged to fathom the wisdom of God in creation. He could not explain or comprehend it, let alone challenge it. How, then, could Job possibly question the wisdom of God’s working in his life. True, he could not see the purpose in it all, but his perspective was not God’s. Let any who would question God’s dealing in our lives contemplate God’s infinite wisdom as seen in creation, and then be silent and wait upon Him to do what is right.
If man should choose to ponder any question, let him attempt to fathom why an infinite God would so concern Himself with mere man:
When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the Stars, which Thou hast ordained; what is man, that Thou dost take thought of him? and the son of man, that Thou dost care for him? Yet Thou hast made him a little lower than God, and dost crown him with glory and majesty! (Psalm 8:3-5).
(4) Man should find comfort in times of distress and difficulty, knowing that His creator is able and willing to deliver him.
Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right (I Peter 4:19).
Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary (Isaiah 40:27-31).
Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to those who walk in it, ‘I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, and I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations’ (Isaiah 42:5-6).
I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these (Isaiah 45:5-7).
(5) Man should respond to the God of creation with the praise that is due Him:
Let the glory of the Lord endure forever; let the Lord be glad in His works; He looks at the earth, and it trembles; He touches the mountains, and they smoke. I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; as for me, I shall be glad in the Lord. Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 104:31-35).
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light! Praise Him, highest heavens, and the waters that are above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for He commanded and they were created. He has also established them forever and ever; He has made a decree which will not pass away (Psalm 148:1-6).
Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker (Psalm 95:6).
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Thy name in all the earth, Who hast displayed Thy splendor above the heavens! (Psalm 8:1).
My friend, the teaching of Genesis one is a great and mighty truth. It is one that demands more than assent; it necessitates action. And yet, great as it is, it has been paled by the coming of Jesus Christ. Just as God proclaimed, let there be light, so God has once and for all spoken in these last days (Heb 1:1-2) in His Son, Who is the light:
For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (II Corinthians 4:6).
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him; and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness; and the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1:1-5).
There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:9-13).
While God revealed Himself faintly in creation, He has disclosed Himself fully in His Son:
No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him (John 1:18).
We cannot avoid the biblical revelation that the God Who created heaven and earth, the God Who redeemed the Israelites from Egypt, is the God-man of Galilee, Jesus Christ. Just as He fashioned the first creation (Col 1:16), so He has now come to accomplish a new creation, through His work on the cross of Calvary:
Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (II Corinthians 5:17).
Beyond this there will soon come a day when the heavens and the earth will be purged of the effects of sin and there will be a new heaven and a new earth:
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells (II Peter 3:10-13).
Are you ready for that day, my friend? Have you become a new creation in Christ? Genesis one reveals how God has taken chaos and fashioned it into cosmos—order and beauty. If you have never come to Christ, I can say with total confidence that your life is formless and empty; it is chaotic and lifeless. The same One Who turned chaos into cosmos can make your life anew.
18 “Evangelicalisms Six Flaws,” Eternity, January, 1980, p. 54. This article by the Staff of Eternity magazine is a summary of an article by Robert E. Webber, published in the October issue of New Oxford Review.
First, there came the challenge of the scientific community. In the wake of Charles Darwin’s revolutionary hypothesis of evolution to explain the origin of species, the majority of the scientific community fell in with Darwin’s hypothesis against the Bible. They believed that they could validate Darwin’s theory by empirical data, but they thought that they could not do the same for the Bible.
The second challenge came from the comparative religionists who sought to discredit the biblical story by noting the numerous points of similarity between it and ancient mythological creation accounts from various parts of the near East being studied at that time. . . . According to his (Gunkel’s) view, the Hebrew version of creation was just another Near Eastern folk tale but in the process of time the transmitters of the story improved it by their creative and superior philosophical and theological insights.
The third challenge came from literary criticism. The case was stated most persuasively by Julius Wellhausen in his most influential classic, still available in paperback on book stands, entitled, Pro Legomena to the Old Testament. Here he argued that there were at least two distinct accounts of creation in Genesis l and 2 and that these two accounts contradicted each other at various points. Bruce Waltke, Creation and Chaos (Portland, Oregon: Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, 1974), pp. 1-2.
21 I must stress here that we should take seriously Peter’s instruction, “ . . . always being ready to make a defense to every one who asks you to give on account for the hope that is in you . . . ” (I Peter 3:15). Even here, in what might be called an exhortation for apologetic readiness, the message most needed by the unbeliever is the gospel of salvation through faith in Christ. My experience is that few are saved by the use of the Genesis account of creation as an apologetic. For those who are seriously considering the claims of Christ, but fear the Bible to be untrustworthy, such effort may well be worthwhile.
22 “First we can say, that the Book of Genesis does not inform us concerning the origin of that which is contrary to the nature of God, neither in the cosmos nor in the world of the spirit. Where does the opposite of Him that is good and bright originate? When we delve into the problem of the origin of evil in the moral realm, we come upon a great mystery. Suddenly, without explanation, in Genesis 3 an utterly evil brilliant, intelligent personality appears in the Garden of Eden masquerading as a serpent. The principle of origins, so strong in our minds, demands on explanation. But the truth is that the Book mocks us. Likewise, when we come to that which is negative in the cosmos, something devoid of form and dark, the Bible provides us with no information. Here are some of the secret things that belong to God” (Waltke, Creation and Chaos, p. 52). While I do not prefer Dr. Waltke’s choice of words (“the Book mocks us”), I do agree with his position that Genesis does not tell us all we might desire to learn.
First, by a comparison of Psalm 74:13,14 with the Ugaritic Text 67:I: 1-3 (Waltke, p. 12).
Psalm 74:13-14: “Thou hast broken the sea with Thy might, even smashed the heads of the monster of the waters, Thou hast crushed the heads of Leviathan, even given him as food for the people. . . .”
Text 67: I . 1-3, 27-30: “When thou smitest Lotan (Leviathan) the evil dragon, even destroyest the crooked dragon, the mighty one of the seven heads. . . .”
Second, by a comparison of Isaiah 27:1 with the Ugaritic Text ‘nt:III: 38-39 (Waltke, p. 13):
Isaiah 27:1: “On that day God will visit, with his sword (that is) mighty and great and powerful, Leviathan the evil serpent, even Leviathan the crooked serpent, and slay the monster that is in the sea.”
Text ‘ni:III: 38-39: “The crooked dragon, the mighty one of the seven heads.”
25 Cf. Waltke, Creation and Chaos, pp. 33,35. Actually, this similarity in form between the biblical text of the Pentateuch and the ancient Near Eastern texts has proven to be a blessing to those who hold to a unified (Mosaic) authorship:
“Kitchen compared the Pentateuch with ancient Near Eastern texts and discovered that the same features used by the critics as a divining rod to divide up the Pentateuch were present in these texts, written on rock with no pre-history.” Waltke, pp. 41-42.
27 “The most common explanation of those scholars who regard the world as a closed system without divine intervention is that Israel borrowed these mythologies, demythologized them, purged them of their gross and base polytheism, and gradually adapted them to their own developing and higher theology.” Ibid., p. 46.
29 “In Canaan at the time of the Conquest, each city had its own temple dedicated to some force of nature. The name Jericho derives from the Hebrew word, yerah, which means “moon” for its inhabitants worshipped the moon, the god “Yerach.” Likewise, on the other side of the central ridge of Palestine, we find the city of Beth Shemesh, which means “Temple of the Sun” for Shamash, the sun god, was worshipped there.” Waltke, p. 47.
31 “The knowledge extant concerning the practical everyday worship of the Egyp. pantheon is meager, and for all intents and purposes little or nothing is known about their metaphysical assumptions from the documented sources. It is obvious, however, that the twenty-two Egyp. provinces each had their respective religious center and totemic animal or plant. It is precisely the attributes of these deities that are involved in the plagues, but whether each of the plagues was thought to be the special domain of one or another of the Egyp. gods cannot be stated with certainty.” W. White, Jr. “The Plagues of Egypt,” The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975, 1976), IV, p. 806.
34 “But what shall we say about the uncreated or unformed state, the darkness and the deep of Genesis 1:2? Here we enter a great mystery for the Bible never says that God brought these into existence by His Word. What can we say about them?” Bruce Waltke, p. 52.