Fact or Fiction: The Creation Story

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.

Timing

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.

Interesting Facts

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.

Conclusion

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.

Genesis 2:2-4

7 thoughts on “Fact or Fiction: The Creation Story

  1. Hi, I came over from Kimberely’s Catholic Family Vignettes.

    This was a VERY informative post. I’m really looking forward to reading more of your blog.

  2. I am very interested in the Creation/Evolution discussion and have never heard your side explained so well.
    My biggest question at this point is how you explain that death came through sin and how the earth could have been ‘good’ with half developed creations for so long, dying and struggling for survival. I honestly would like some honest and open discussion on this! Thanks.

    • Thanks, Katherine. I also appreciate real discussion on this topic… I don’t have a lot of time now, but I do have some ideas regarding the two points you brought up, and will write another comment addressing them soon, later today or tomorrow.

    • Regarding death coming through original sin… I believe that the question behind this is really whether good preceded (and is therefore stronger) than evil or not. Death is something experienced universally by all creatures. Nevertheless, death is seen as something evil. We mourn those who pass away and wish they were here with us. We fear our own death and the unknown that lies beyond. We fear the pain associated with death. We continually miss those who pass away, even after many years. These are all indications that death, while universally experienced, somehow goes against our nature. It is not something we see as good. Even those that want to die to escape suffering don’t see death itself as good – it is just an escape from something worse. It makes sense, therefore, that if good is greater than evil and preceded evil, death did not exist from the beginning. The perfect (now lost) nature of man was eternal. Perhaps man would have passed from one state to a better state, but without the “evil” of death. When people of faith say that death entered with original sin, they are giving a theological explanation to the concept that death, a physical evil, entered the world when evil entered the world and entered into contest with good. That is why, for people of faith, the Resurrection of the Lord is very important. It shows that, even though evil, seen through physical as well as moral, emotional and psychological suffering, is currently battling good in the world, ultimately, good is still more powerful, because in the Lord, death was incapable of overcoming life. He died, but rose from the dead, never to die again, showing that life, the good, is more powerful than death, the evil. This gives people of faith the hope that even though they suffer in this life, something better, the triumph of life and love, awaits them.

      Regarding the second point – the half developed creations dying and struggling for survival. Are you referring to early human forms and their struggles to form civilizations and survive? Or are you referring to plant and animal life forms that went through great struggles and evolutions before becoming what we know them to be? If you are referring to the former – the struggle of the human beings – this was after the creation of the first humans, and evil was therefore already present, causing the struggling and suffering. If you are referring to animals and other creatures, aside from human beings: this is a more scientific question, and therefore can’t be answered by faith or the bible alone. All the information we have now regarding which creatures existed that long ago and in what state is hypothetical at best. We have fossils and other proofs that certain animals existed, and some scientists have proposed that they existed in a certain time frame. However, geological proof and studies have shown that all the information gathered actually only pertains to the post-flood world (and there was a great deluge, scientifically proven through strata in the rocks). Scientists know that people existed prior to the deluge because they were there to record it in primitive writing and myths (the story of Noah and the flood is in the Bible, but other ancient Mesopotamian manuscripts from the same time and even earlier also testify to a great flood). The flood changed the layout of the earth’s crust and also changed the atmosphere – after the flood, death came a lot more quickly to both people and animals because of different elements that had entered the earth’s immediate atmosphere when the layer of moisture previously surrounding the planet had collapsed. Anyway, the long and the short of it is that scientists have shown that none of their dating techniques (whether through fossils, rock strata, gases, etc.) are accurate for the pre-flood world, because they only apply to the atmosphere and surface of the earth as we know it. They know it was different before, but have no way of going back to the pre-flood circumstance to figure out what it was like. Consequently, science really doesn’t know what creatures existed before the flood, in what form, or for how long. Science doesn’t know that the animals died, or how long they live. In fact, various aspects about the atmosphere before the flood that are known have led scientists to say it is quite plausible to believe that human life forms before the flood may have lived for hundreds of years or even longer – literally, because the atmosphere was more friendly toward life. If this is true, then it would have been the same for the animals. So we really don’t know how they were, how, or if they died, and whether or not they were really “struggling” before the flood. The flood happened, comparatively speaking, shortly after evil entered the world, in the timeline believed by people of faith. Scientists, hypothetically, can paint a picture of a struggling, dying set of creatures prior to the flood – this can’t be proven wrong, but can’t be proven true either. Another picture – one of a harmonious world without the struggles and suffering can also be painted and could be just as true. The atmospheric changes that can be demonstrated scientifically can’t prove that the latter is true, any more than they can the former, but some tendencies that can be shown (like the likelihood that the environment was friendlier, men could live for extended periods of time, and that natural disasters did not see to exist until after the flood) are quite compatible with the position taken by people of faith regarding the previous existence of all creatures in harmony without the struggles and suffering. Again, it can’t be proven scientifically, but it is not incompatible with what science has demonstrated. The opposite picture – that of a suffering creation from the beginning cannot be disproven, since our means to scientifically prove what the pre-flood world is like is too poor. If actual scientific proof, rather than hypothesis, were to arise regarding the pre-flood world, I would be very interested in learning more about it, but I would be surprised if much more surfaces soon, given the problem of not being able to accurately date anything prior to the flood…

      Sorry if that’s a really long answer… If you have more comments on the topic, I would be happy to hear them…

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