Genesis’ Creation Proclamation
This was originally an academic paper under the title “Genesis 1-3 is History” and it was written for an Old Testament class. The paper has been reformatted, but all copyright and plagiarism rules still apply. Please contact Austin if you wish to disseminate.
The creation account in Genesis is an age-old debate. Some scholars think that the creation account is a literal history. Those opposed say that creation is simply fiction. Additionally, a minority assert that the creation account is neither of those things.
The first chapters of Genesis are a literal history based on some evidences, but they should be viewed as more than apologetic pieces to combat skeptics and evolutionists; they should be viewed considering the sovereignty of God in all things. The length of creation, the age of the earth, and condition of creation at its completion all manifest the sovereignty of God, inform our apologetic, and proclaim God’s glory.
Length of Creation
The biblical narrative imitates that there were six days as made evident in Genesis 1:3-31. The historic creeds and confessions hold to this. The Westminster Confession of Faith states that “all things therein [were created] whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days.” However, the meaning of the word “day” is ambiguous. Since light was not created until the fourth day, there would be no reference point for the length of the first three days.
According to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (BDB), there are seven meanings to the word yôm, all denoting various time lengths. A case could be built on this because it is not possible to ascertain the meaning of day from the surrounding context. However, Louis Berkhof notes that “[yôm’s] primary meaning … denotes a natural day.” This is significant because Berkhof goes on to note that “it is a good rule in exegesis, not to depart from the primary meaning of a word, unless this is required by the context.” Consequently, if one is not able to ascertain the meaning of yôm from the context, it would be corrupt exegesis to not use the word’s primary meaning because one is departing for the “good rule in exegesis.” Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that when yôm is used in the creation account, it is referring to a natrual day.
Why Six Days?
A question may be raised as to why creation took six days; could not God have done all his work in a moment? Dr. Zacharias Ursinus poses many reasons as to why he did not create in a single day, but I find two of his reasons to be the most intriguing. Ursinus explains, “because he [God] would show his power, and freedom, in producing whatever he willed.” Creation took six days because God simply chose to; God wanted to show his attributes.
Ursinus also explains that God took six days to engage our minds, “ we might not sit in idleness, but might have an opportunity of considering his [God’s] works, and thus discerning his wisdom, goodness, and power.” God wanted us to ponder his power and freedom among many other things for more than a moment. By taking longer, God has given us more things to think about.
Linguistically, it would be impossible for all things to be created in a moment. Francis Turretin comments that “the earth is said to have been without form and void and darkness rested upon the face of the deep (which could not have been said if all things had been created in one moment).” Also, he notes another argument by pointing out that “in the fourth commandment … God is said to have been engaged in creation six days and to have rested on the seventh (so that by this example the people might be induced to rest on the seventh day).” It is impossible to rest for a moment and for that moment to be an entire day. Therefore, it was intentional and logical for God to create in six, natural days.
Age of the Earth
The age of the earth is contested among scholars and scientists alike. The most reasonable explanation to the earth’s age is known as “Mature Creationism” (Grudem 304). Mature Creationism asserts “that the original creation must have had an ‘appearance of age’ even from the first day” (304). A prime example of this is Adam and Eve.
When God created Adam, God told him that he “may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17, English Standard Version). If Adam was created as an infant, how could he have eaten and how could he have had the mental capacity to comprehend God’s warning? Likewise, when God created Eve, he charged them to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion” (Gen. 1:28, ESV). If Adam and Eve were created as infants, they would not have been able to procreate, nor could they have had dominion over creation because they would not have had the physical or mental ability.
A final example is the vegetation (Gen. 1:11-12). Adam and Eve would need sustenance and it could not come from the animals. For Adam and Eve to eat, the vegetation would have needed to be fully grown, giving the appearance of age. Therefore, all things were created with the appearance of age so that creation could thrive.
Condition of Creation
The condition of creation is where the entire debate of creation comes to a point. With old earth creationism, physical death would have been present before the fall. However, the spiritual effects of sin would be present after the fall. In contrast, young earth creationism, which affirms that physical death was not present before the fall, states that both physical and spiritual death affected the world at the fall. If we affirm that Genesis is history and that “every thing was created free from deformity and sin, and from evil under every form” — then the effects of the fall change the original condition of creation (Ursinus 144).
There are variety of objections from scholars to a historical Genesis. However, one of the most challenging objections to a historical Genesis deals with “external evidence” (qtd. in Halton 72). Kenton L. Sparks explains that “the historical intentions of the biblical author by no means ensure historical accuracy, for accuracy depends on the author’s sources rather than on intentions.”
Truth is highly valued by God (cf. Exodus 20:16, John 14:6). God is the source of truth because without God, there would be no truth (cf. Exodus 20:16, John 14:6). Moses had the ultimate source when it comes to recording history, which was God. Therefore, Sparks is right in his statement, but the statement bears no weight because Scripture is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16). Surely, Moses was accurate in his recording of the creation account.
Another argument is from Gordon J. Wenham, who writes:
[The origin of Genesis] is irrelevant whether ancient Israelites learned about the flood from the Babylonians or the Phoenicians, whether Abraham knew about it because he grew up in Ur, or that Moses learned about it at the Egyptian court. Similarly its [Genesis] date of composition is irrelevant whether it entered Scripture in the early second millennium … or in the fifth century BC … . The message is the same in either case. (qtd. in Halton 61)
Wenham brings an indifferent approach to the origin of Genesis. I would pose a simple question to Wenham: would the Israelites accept a book written by a hermit from Phoenicia in 600 BC? Of course not. There are standards in which the Israelites would adhere to in order to determine the legitimacy of the book and to allow it in their canon.
Genesis is history and young earth creationism is the most logical conclusion. Creation was created in six, natural days. The earth was created with an appearance of age at the beginning. Everything was created “very good” (Gen. 1:31, ESV), but due to the fall, creation is now corrupt. Readers of Genesis can be sure of its truthfulness because God inspired it like he did the rest of the Scriptures. Creation manifests the sovereignty and glory of God. These first three chapters of the Bible are not mere apologetic pieces against skeptics or evolutions. Creation is so much more beautiful when it is viewed in light of God’s sovereignty and glory.
What does this view of creation mean for Christians? As stated in the beginning, creation manifests the sovereignty of God in all things. Without God, none of creation would be possible. It was completely by his own will that he chose to create the earth when he did and that he took six days to do so. Sadly, the fall has corrupted his creation, which is why God will one day redeem it just like he redeems his people. The opening of the Bible describes a perfect creation and the ending of the Bible closes with a perfect creation. This helps to give Christians the motivation to go and proclaim the gospel to all people, so that they may enjoy God and all he offers.
The opening chapters of Genesis also inform our apologetic. Some may say that creation supports an evidentialist approach to apologetics rather than a presuppositional approach. I mean that instead of answering questions based on evidences, Christians should be answering questions as if Christianity is the only basis to account for everything. The difference between these two approaches is that the former establishes some form of theism, while the latter establishes the biblical God as the basis for everything. This is proclaimed in the very first verse of the Bible, “in the beginning, God …” (Gen. 1:1, ESV). Moses makes no case for God based off evidences; rather, he sets forth without making excuse that God was in the beginning and is the source of everything.
We must remember God’s glory. “The chief end of man is to glorify God” (WSC 1) and it would be reasonable for all creation to be for his glory. Robert Shaw wrote, “[h]is glory shines in every part of the material universe.” All creation is proclaiming the glory of God (Psalm 19:1, Isaiah 6:3) and so should we. This life is not about us, it is all about God (cf. Ps. 73:25-26).
Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof
Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (BDB)
Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither?
The Reformed Faith by Robert Shaw
The Reformation Study Bible (ESV) by R.C. Sproul
Commentary of Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism
Institutes of Elenctic Theology by Francis Turretin
The Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms