Is the story of creation, as placed forth in the Bible, true? Or is it simply a myth, like other ancient creation stories such as the Epic of Gilgamesh? Was the Bible Creation story inspired, or simply developed as alternative literature belonging to the Hebrew people? Taking a deeper look at both the story of creation and facts of science can shed light on the subject.
First of all, let’s address the question of whether it is plausible for creation to have happened in seven days, as stated by the biblical account of creation. According to our sense of time today, it definitely seems impossible for creation to have happened in seven days. However, we need to remember that the creation account was not written in our language or in our time period. It is therefore inaccurate to judge the truth of the statement based on our understanding of the term “day.” We need to look at what the word meant to the Hebrews, at the time the bible was written. The concept of a day as a set interval of time – 24 hours, did not yet exist. The understanding of the term day was much less specific and more abstract. It simply referred to a period of time that included a stretch of light, followed by a stretch of darkness, which represented a stretch of activity followed by a stretch of rest. The term, therefore, designated a certain succession, not a set amount of time. It follows, therefore, that the bible doesn’t claim that God created the world in 168 hours, which our modern understanding of the term “day” would lead us to believe. Rather, it implies that God created the universe through a succession of ordered actions that took place over distinct periods of time, and that there was a break (night) between the creation of certain elements and that of other elements. This claim is perfectly plausible, and is actually consistent with science, which believes that, the creation of different forms of life and matter happened gradually and in a set order. Furthermore, modern science states that millions of years passed between the appearance of matter, and the appearance of the first life forms, and then between initial plant life and more complex forms of life, signifying that creation did happen over periods characterized by activity followed by relative inactivity. This is perfectly compatible with the day and night sequence given in the Bible.
Order of Creation
Moving on to the sequence of creation, we find complete coherence between the biblical account and that of modern science. According to modern science, some form of nebulous mass or matter came first (often linked with the Big Bang theory). This was followed by the creation of the stars, including the sun, of the planets, and the planets, including the earth, and of water, where the first unicellular forms of life came into being. After the earth existed, the water gathered in one place, and the continents were formed. The earliest life forms – plant life – came into existence, followed by increasingly complex forms of animal life and, finally, by the human person. Scientists, including those that support the Big Bang theory and Darwin’s theory of evolution all agree on this basic order of events.
Thousands of years before science arrived at these conclusions, the writer of Genesis recorded the events of creation in the same order:
God first created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was a “formless void” (Gen 1:2). This very much resembles the first stage of creation modern science puts forth, when nebulous mass of matter came into existence. According to Genesis, God’s spirit then “hovered” over the waters corresponding to the scientific creation of the first forms of unicellular life. He then created light, corresponding in the scientific sequence to the creation of the sun and other stars.
On the second day, God gathered the water into one place and separated it from the land. The represents the “stabilization of the water system” that occurred according to modern scientific terms. On the third day, God created plant life; again, the order of creation in Genesis mirrors, or better said, foreshadows, the order that science would later discover, in which primitive plant life followed unicellular life and preceded animal life.
Genesis again refers to the creation of light, and the separation of night from day on the fourth “day” of creation. To some, this might seem to discredit the Genesis story. After all, hadn’t God already created light on the first day? A closer look at the text, in conjunction with science, however, actually strengths the case made in support of Genesis. Science has shown that, although the sun and stars had been previously created, their light didn’t shine through to the earth until a later time period, when a cloud cover that had overshadowed the earth since its beginning faded away. According to science, light would have broken through and reached the earth some time after the first plant life came into being. The reference to the coming of light and the separation of night and day on the fourth day of creation, therefore accurately places a new development of light in relation to the creation of earth.
On the fifth day, God created the birds and sea creatures, followed by the “beasts of the earth” and, finally, the creation of man on the sixth day. Again, the order given by Genesis is impeccable based on modern science, On the fifth day, God created the birds and sea creatures, followed by the “beasts of the earth” and, finally, the creation of man on the sixth day. Again, the order given by Genesis is impeccable based on modern science, which states that birds came into being around 70 *10^6 years ago, followed by whales and other early sea creatures around 50*10^6 years ago, carnivorous mammals between 50*10^6 years ago and 30*10^6 years ago, other large mammals around 15*10^6 years ago, and finally, by the human being.
Creation and Scientific Theories
Is it possible to believe in the Bible and the Big Bang? Yes. While it is perfectly fine to believe that God created everything in a manner unknown to himself, it is also perfectly fine to believe that the universe came into being through the Big Bang. Genesis did not say how God created the matter on the first day, or the physical means he used. The Big Bang is a perfectly legitimate theory that doesn’t contradict Genesis, as long as you believe that God set the Big Bang in motion and thus view the Big Bang as a scientific explanation of the means God used for creation. Believing that the Big Bang occurred in no way eliminates the need for a Creator that set everything into motion; it is just one way of explaining how things could have happened.
Is it possible to believe in the Bible and Darwinism? Again, yes. While you do not have to believe that the human body evolved from preexisting life forms – namely, the ape, the proposed theory of evolution is not counter-biblical, nor anti-Christian. What is important is that you remember that the theory of evolution refers only to the evolution of man’s body. It can’t explain man’s soul. According to Genesis, the creation of man happened when God breathed “life” (literally, spirit or soul) into Adam. It is man’s soul that makes him in the image and likeness of God. As long as we realize that God created man in a unique manner by bestowing upon him the gift of his soul, it is fine to believe that the body of the first human persons had gradually evolved. The life forms they evolved from were not man, they became the human person the moment God created man’s soul.
Pangea and Panthalossa: One scientific theory proposes that, ages ago, the continents were all together as one landmass, surrounded by a continuous body of water. Over centuries, tectonic movement caused gradual the gradual separation of the continents and, as a result, multiple bodies of water. While this theory is not universally accepted, it further collaborates the truth of Genesis 1:9-10, in which God separated the dry land from the water. The wording in Genesis points to the probability of one landmass, which, according to the theory of Pangea and Panthalossa, would accurately represent the scientific development of land and water.
Genesis is not the only book in the Bible that accurately presented truths about the universe and the nature of creation long before science discovered them. Here are a few other examples:
Several centuries before ancient Greek thinkers, such as Pythagoras began to question the previously accepted theory that the earth was flat, the prophet Isaiah referred to the earth as being circular (Is 40:22)
Before modern science explained that the earth floats in space, unsupported by any other object, the book of Job stated that God “hangs the earth on nothing.” (Job 26:7).
Before modern science reached the conclusion that the universe has been expanding since it came into existence, Isaiah refers to “the heavens” as being stretched out and spread (Is 40:22).
Abraham knew through God’s promise that the stars are uncountable before science reached the conclusion that the stars in our galaxy alone can only be estimated, not even taking into account the countless stars in the other galaxies as well.
In sum, nothing in the Genesis creation account contradicts science. On the contrary, modern scientific discoveries have actually confirmed the basic truth of creation as explained by Genesis. Granted, Genesis does not claim to be a scientific account, and presents creation from a spiritual perspective, focused on the relationship and interaction between God, the Creator, and his creation. Nevertheless, its explanation is completely compatible with science and even supported by it.
This coherence points not only to the truth of Scripture, but also to its inspiration. The author of Genesis put in writing millenniums ago truths that accurately represent scientific happenings that have only recently been studied, discovered and confirmed by science. The writer did not have today’s telescopes, microscopes, fossils and formulas to help him study the earth and life forms in order to deduce their origin. His conclusions were not the result of scientific evidence; they were something he simply knew and accepted as true because he believed them to be inspired by God.
To read more detailed explanations about the correlations between Scripture and science pertaining to creation, visit “The Bible, Genesis and Science,” “Evidence for God,” and “Taking Back Astronomy.”
Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed. Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work he had been doing, he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation. Such is the story of the heavens and the earth at their creation.