Article of the Month

 

May 2009

The Big Bang Theory and Genesis

In late March, National Public Radio interviewed a Jewish man who had decided to read the Bible and enter his personal reactions to it on his blog. He immediately had comprehension problems. Just as an example, he was bewildered by the appearance of light in the first creative day without a mention of the sun until the fourth creative day. Suffice it to say that even some Biblical scholars have had difficulty with that question.

Thus, this month’s article will attempt, as briefly as possible, to provide a rational and even lovely overview of the beginning verses of the Bible. While we cannot be overly confident in scientific theories, the currently-favored theory called THE BIG BANG has the ring of truth about it. Coupled with the CANOPY THEORY which was proposed in the nineteenth century by the cosmologist Isaac N. Vail, the two theories give detailed weight to the poetic summary written by Moses.

We will refer to the words of Genesis by chapter and verse numbers. (Hence, 1:1 will be Genesis, chapter 1, verse 1.)

BEFORE DAY ONE

We are Biblically convinced that the creative “days” of the Bible are not 24-hour periods. They are epochs. When Genesis begins (1:1), we are PRIOR to the events called “the first day.”

“In the beginning” might give the wrong impression. The very best Hebrew scholars insist that the meaning of verse 1 is:

“In the beginning of God’s creating
of the heavens and the earth…”

In other words, this is not THE beginning, but A beginning. Other things had transpired in the recesses of the prior eternity. Among those things was the creation of the invisible spirit world with its myriads of angels, cherubim, seraphim, etc. But the Bible is centered around the earth, not around things prior to or outside of the earth.

So, as Genesis begins, God makes the visible universe. He makes it from energy, not from matter. Hence, the visible comes from the invisible. (Hebrews 11:3) It all begins at one central explosion of energy—a BIG BANG! And from this central point, the visible matter we call the universe has ever since, and to this day, suns, asteroids, comets, moons, etc., were sent hurling into the emptiness of space! But the Bible centers on only one of these little chunks of matter—our earth! We, apparently, are the prototype, the very first of God’s creative designs for intelligent, physical, tangible life.  (Someplace had to be first!)

Thus, from some remote point in ancient time we have the earth shooting from that central blast of creative power with all the other ‘pieces’ of the universe. And the record is (1:2), “and the earth was, without form and void” (or “a waste and emptiness”. It was no better than all the rest of the “space junk” hurling around.

THE FIRST "DAY"

As the narrative begins, we perceive that its intent is to show us the steps necessary in preparing the earth, which already “was,” for the habitation of its eventual rulers:  mankind. We begin at that distant point in time when the earth has already cooled sufficiently that it is a core covered by water (1:2). It is here that God begins to “move” to make our planet special. Thus begins the first creative epoch. Its focus is light. Genesis 1:3-5 is laden with intriguing suggestions. How do we get light?The sun is the obvious answer. What is here portrayed is that the earth is captured by the gravitational pull of the sun. We have become a planet. We have a source of light. (We will say more about the sun when we get to the fourth “day.”)

The light was “good.” (1:4) The pronouncement of things of each epoch as being ”good” is worthy of note because it is missing in the second and seventh “days.”  We will explain this later.

With the simple summary, “God separated the light from the darkness,” we have another important truth relative to this creative “day.” The earth began to rotate, thus giving us the separation of day and night. The delightful simplicity of verse 5 has hidden in it this basic truth of earth’s rotation.  The Hebrew root-word for “day” means WARM; the root for “night” means TWIST! How clear! How simple! How true! Day is WARM because it faces the sun. It is “separated” from the darkness called “night” because of the TWIST of the earth away from the sun.

“And the evening and the morning were the first day.” Mission accomplished. Evening and morning, of course, do not refer to night and day. These are poetic symbolisms of incompletion and completion. Each “day” begins with an objective and ends with its accomplishment. These words occur for each creative epoch EXCEPT number seven—for a reason to be shown when we get to that point.

The SECOND "DAY"

The objective of the second creative epoch is to create an atmosphere. Verse 2 implied that the earth was merely a water-covered core. But verse 6 separates the waters. Some waters, by gravitation, remain at the earth’s surface. Some of the waters rise up to cover the entire planet with a canopy of liquid (probably heavily saturated with minerals). The force of the earth’s rotation primarily, as well as the evaporative powers of sunlight, are likely the mechanisms behind this separation. Saturn’s current rings might serve as an illustration of the concept except that they do not cover the whole planet.

This separation of the waters above from the waters below resulted in an atmosphere in between. (1:6, 7; see also II Peter 3:5.)  Some translators say “firmament;” some say “expanse,” etc.

HEAVEN?

Verse 8 calls the atmosphere “heaven.” It is helpful to note at this point that the Bible uses the word “heaven” in a number of different ways. Sometimes the word, as here, applies to our atmosphere. Sometimes it applies to the unseen world of the spirit realm extending far beyond earth’s atmosphere into the reaches of space. Sometimes it refers to the visible universe (e.g., 1:1). Sometimes the word is used as a symbol for the religious world.

WHY IS "GOOD" MISSING?

As mentioned, the second creative “day” is without the phrase “And God saw that it was good.”

The second “day” accomplished its mission of creating an atmosphere—but not the kind of atmosphere God had in mind for the future. He did not intend to keep vast amounts of mineral—saturated waters above the atmosphere. For a number of reasons, in the long run this would be NOT GOOD! Thus “day” number two omits this seal of approval.  II Peter 3:5 and 6 make it very plain that this water above the atmosphere was one of the tools to be used in creating the great flood of Noah’s day. As we shall see, there may well have been other, earlier uses for some of this swirling canopy surrounding earth’s atmosphere.

"DAY" THREE

The third epoch sees two objectives: (1) the surface separation of land from water, and (2), the introduction of plant life—the latter being obviously reliant on the former.

The acknowledgment of the continuance of two water locations is made in 1:9.  We now deal only with the waters below the heavens.”

How does land appear? There are two very viable theories. Both may be true. One theory holds that another planet passed close to the earth and its strong gravitational pull literally pulled a part of the earth’s yet-soft core up so that it was above water level. A second theory proposes that the extreme weight of the surface waters pushing down on the yet-soft core forced up adjacent parts of the core. It also is tenable that volcanic eruptions added to this build up, creating more heights above sea level. The important thing, of course, is that the third “day” allows the introduction of life forms not possible on a water-covered earth.

Thus God calls it good (1:10) to have both earth and sea.  He immediately introduces vegetation on the land (1:11). Translators vary in their versions; it is variously called vegetation, plants, grass, herbs, etc. (It is interesting to note that, contrary prevailing theory, the earliest Biblically-documented life forms are on land, not in the water.)

AFTER ITS KIND

Here the first biological concepts are introduced in the Bible.  This early vegetation period (probably that which is commonly termed the Carboniferous Age) SPECIFIES fixity of species.  These plants are said to yield seed and bear fruit “after their kind.” Nowhere in the Biblical record is there given credence to the concept of evolution of species—not even in the first plants.

It is also interesting to reason on the slim facts available here. These must be flowering plants—plants which, after flowering, produce fruits and seeds. It would seem that some means of pollination was available. It may have been that pollen was simply carried by the extremely humid air. But fossil records consistently testify that insects (e.g., bees) appear when flowering plants appear. Insects are not mentioned in the creative account—perhaps just to keep things basic. But it is not unlikely that they were created in “day” number three.

SUN

We still have no direct mention of the sun. Nevertheless, this vegetation as described would not grow without some sort of sunlight. It was there.  It came in “day” number one. We do have day and night (1:4, 5); but the day must have been murky. The atmosphere must have been much like that in a hothouse on an extremely overcast day. While we might not care for this kind of environment, the plants loved it! They flourished (1:13); and God saw their flourishing to be “good.” Thus this “day” gets two goods pronounced over it!  (1:10, 14)

THE FOURTH "DAY"

The fourth day descriptions need not be enigmatic. As we have seen, the presence of the sun is just about indisputable in “days” one and three. So, what is it that happens in “day” four?

In 1:14 the events are not difficult to explain. These PRE-EXISTING “lights” now become VISIBLE as individual entities in the atmosphere. Prior to “day” four, the outer waters (above the atmosphere) were so dense, so mineral-laden, as to not allow any definable view of the lights in the universe. The earth prior to “day” four was simply dark or light. There were (visibly) no sun, moon, or stars.

The CANOPY THEORY of Dr. Vail suggests periodic falling and thinning of the upper waters. So, as “day” four progresses, much of the heavy, lower, mineral-laden waters fall. The precipitation must have been phenomenal! It likely accounts for a good deal of the lower sedimentary deposits visible in the earth today.  Much of the lush vegetation from “day” three would have been buried in this terrestrial mudslide. Our coal deposits are a part of the result.

But the main result is that celestial luminaries become visible through the atmosphere. It is likely that they are yet a bit hazy because a part of the “waters above the earth” remain until Noah’s great flood.

We all are aware that lights through haze send out beams. The result would be lines between stars—thus accounting for the “pictures” in the sky named with nearly universal agreement by the peoples of the earth. We call them constellations; but, in our day, we often wonder how anyone could possibly see a BIG BEAR! However, with the light beams above this hazy atmosphere, the whole world of mankind before the flood had no problem agreeing that there was a BIG BEAR up there! Because of this constellation’s northern location, the north of earth is to our day called the Arctic (meaning bear); the south of the earth is called the Antarctic (meaning on the other side from the bear).

A LITTLE FOURTH-EPOCH SUMMARY


The Greater Light


The Lesser Light

A point must be made regarding the word, “made.” In 1:16 we read that God MADE two great lights. Most have incorrectly assumed that He created them during this fourth epoch. Instead, God made these prior to this time but “let” (1:14) them be (visible) IN THE FIRMAMENT on the fourth “day.” 

We have here another good opportunity to comment on both the exactness and inexactness of Biblical words. Looking up the word translated “made” in any Hebrew lexicon will show what a generalized and flexible word it is. It can mean “made;” but it can also mean a host of other things depending on the intent of the user. God did not make the sun, moon, and stars in the fourth “day” in the sense of creating them. He had already done that in the BIG BANG. What He did do in this epoch is TO MAKE THEM APPEAR visible from the earth’s surface. However, since no one was there to see them, their visibility is not then the point. The point is that the atmosphere thinned, sedimentary deposits resulted, and the stage was set so that once man did appear, these lights could be used as clocks, as calendars, as navigational markers, as symbols, etc. As 1:14 succinctly reports the matter: “Let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years.” It was (and is) good. (1:15) If the precipitation of this heavy water had happened after man was on the scene, it would have made us extinct. Timing is everything!

EPOCH-DAY FIVE

The lower forms of animal life are the objectives of step 5 in preparing the earth for man. As with vegetation, the fixity of species is stipulated. They multiplied “after their kind.”  (1:21)

The creation of this epoch is divided into two basic groups—(1) animals based in the water, and (2), animals which fly. (1:20)

The King James Bible suggests “great whales” in 1:21; the New American Standard translates it “great sea monsters.” Since the period seems primarily piscine, ornithic, reptilian, or amphibian, whales (mammals) are unlikely. It is  very probable that dinosaurs are the “great sea monsters.” Biologists have been suggesting for some time that the enormous weight of these creatures would have made them prefer to wallow in the water to bear their weight more comfortably.

In any case, “day” five sees the oceans swarming with life, the skies swarming with birds, and the land welcoming the amphibian, reptilian, and ornithological species for egg laying and feeding purposes. It is, according to geological finds, almost certain that this epoch saw further precipitations from the earth’s canopy. The destruction of the dinosaur species is likely one of the casualties. Ultimately, the whole day was “good.” (1:21) It may be that our petroleum reserves date from the events of this time.

THE CULMINATION: "DAY" SIX

The creation of the higher animal species, and ultimately mankind to be ruler over it all, is the sixth epoch’s objective.

Land is now the focus (not in air and seas). (1:24)  The concept of fixity of species is repeated. (1:24, 25) It is the era of mammals. It is likely that no further canopy precipitations occurred during this age.

Man, of course, is the true focus of this era. (1:26) Biblical chronology shows that man does not appear on the scene until the very end of this sixth “day.” He was in God’s “image” in the sense that he was a reasoning creature. 

God is, even down to our day, not finished with His plan to prepare man to be king over this earth. All of the millennia since Eden have been used for man’s development. Ultimately we will be ready for the task. But here in 1:28, the then-current and future commission is stated for our race. We will populate the earth; then we will be able to subdue what needs subduing, and we will “rule.”

The Apostle Paul, quoting the 8th Psalm, confirms this point in Hebrews 2:5-9. He shows that the earth will not be under the control of angels (verse 5), but of man. Paul asks the questions mankind has perpetually asked: Why does God bother with man? The answer (verses 7 and 8) is that man was design and destined to rule the earth. But as Paul shows (verse 8), we don’t see that yet! Something went predictably wrong as the sixth day ended, and it has not yet been corrected.

VEGETARIAN

Mankind was vegetarian until the great flood. (1:29; 9:1-3) According to the record, so were the animals. (1:30) A number of biologists now are suggesting that even the terrible Tyrannosaurus Rex was vegetarian—using his vicious teeth to tear away at the gigantic plant matter of “day” five.

PERFECTION

As “day” six ends, man (Adam & Eve) is living in perfection—in harmony with their environment and with God. Thus God pronounces (for the first time) that the whole arrangement in this completed form is “VERY good.” (1:31)

THE SEVENTH "DAY"

The sixth “day” ended in tragedy. Man failed to appreciate the need to obey the Creator of all. The penalty of death—an inherited death that would pass on to each generation of mankind until it would eventually be removed. An additional result of disobedience was separation from God. It is exactly at the juncture of “days” number six and seven that this separation occurs. Thus God “rests” from His direct involvement in the affairs of man. (2:2) The account does not say, And the evening and the morning were the seventh day” because the day is not yet ended; its objective is incomplete. When it does end, it will, indeed, turn out to be very good. Meanwhile, the day is “sanctified” (2:3)—SET ASIDE for God to step away while He allows other agencies to work for the preparation of man to be appropriate rulers of the earth. 

Hebrews 4:4 gives a hint about the meaning behind God’s “rest.” When God stepped aside from direct involvement with mankind, He turned over the work of the permission of evil for the discipline of the race to His Son. God (because of His perfection, His position of Law-giver, and His abhorrence of sin), cannot directly deal with moral imperfection without destroying it instantly. Thus, ever since the disobedience in Eden, it has been Jesus, first in his pre-human existence, later in his now-glorified condition, who has been (as God’s spokesman) handling the affairs of earth while God “rests” from direct involvement. This change from the sixth to seventh creative epochs is simply summarized in Genesis 3:8. Adam and his wife, after disobedience, are “hidden” from God in the “cool of the day”—a Hebrew idiom meaning the change of day (i.e., sunset). A new evening and morning had just begun—the seventh day which has not yet ended.

A FEW MORE INFORMATION GLIMPSES
FROM GENESIS

A second account of creation with its more detailed focus on man begins in 2:4. In this verse it is interesting to note that the whole creative process is called one day—not seven! Among other things, this shows the flexibility of certain words in the Bible. The six-plus-one numbering system is going to be re-stated in the Jewish Law and to become the basis of Biblical chronological philosophy.  But “day” is a very adaptable word!

Please note just a few items from the second creative account:

(1) Genesis 2:5 and 6 strongly support the CANOPY THEORY we have presented. Before man, and well into man’s early history, there was NO RAIN. There was only a hot-house kind of mist. The waters above the atmosphere created a calm, green-house effect—virtually giving an even, undisturbed, temperature and humidity environment from pole to pole. This accounts for tropical vegetation and animal remains found (now-frozen) in the Arctic regions.

(2) We see in 2:7 the formula for the first man. He was sculpted from available materials; he was given the spark of life, and he BECAME a soul. He wasn’t GIVEN a soul; he doesn’t HAVE a soul; he IS a soul. Nowhere in the Bible is “immortal soul” ever mentioned! A soul is not a viable, separate part of a human. Thus man could, and did, and does die!

(3) The penalty for disobedience was (according to the better marginal translation) “Dying thou shalt die.” (2:17) God eventually will have no disobedience in His universe. Death is the perfect penalty for it. Death erases disobedience! God always intended to have a peaceful and wonderful universe. He gets to set its laws. Mankind must learn that; He is doing so through current-life experiences. Once the lesson is learned, a resurrected mankind will be willfully and joyfully obedient. This will occur at the close of the seventh “day.” Then should come the words, “And the evening and the morning were the seventh day; and God saw that it was VERY good!” (I Corinthians 15:24-28)

(4) When we finally get to the account of the Great Flood, we see the precipitation of the final waters which were yet above the atmosphere. (6:17; 7:4) God saved these waters for the foreknown events.  Hence, the eventual objective of “day” two concerning the atmosphere was completed in Noah’s day. Then an “It was good” could be stated for our atmosphere.

(5) In 7:11 and 12 we see that the great flood was not only the waters above the atmosphere, but also the “fountains of the great deep.” (II Peter 3:5) It is likely that yet another by-pass of a large planet or asteroid virtually pulled the oceans out of their depths to help cover the land surfaces. (See 8:2 also.) In 8:3, the word translated  “continually” in the King James Version means “in going and returning.” Verse 5 uses the same Hebrew. This language strongly suggests enormous tidal washes in addition to canopy precipitation. 

(6) The final testimony to the validity of the CANOPY THEORY comes in 9:8-17. It is the appearance of the rainbow. There had never been a rainbow before. There had never been rain before. There had never been the very direct sunlight needed to create the rainbow effect. After the flood, there were no “waters above the firmament” to threaten man. We now have clear skies—and very ordinary rain!

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IN CONCLUSION

We have had to be brief. This is a large subject; but understanding its basics creates a wonderful foundation for learning how the Bible and true science can give the most satisfactory answers. (I Timothy 6:20, 21)

We have used words like “poetic” in this little treatise. By this we are not implying lack of truth and inspiration; we are saying simply that God through Moses gave a satisfying, though brief and lovely, summary of the work of many ages. The Bible is not literal—although literal passages abound; but it is inspired and infallible. The Bible is written primarily in God’s own symbolic terms. Uncovering their meanings leads to great joys.

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