Creation, Science, and Genesis 1

I was at a wedding reception not long ago, seated next to a man I had not previously met.  We exchanged the usual small talk.  I learned that he was a retired eighth-grade science teacher and so on.  The conversation was pleasant enough until he learned that I am a Bible-believing Christian (and as I like to say, “Should there be any other kind?”).  He immediately launched into an all-out assault. “How can you possibly believe Genesis?” He went on and on about evolution, endeavoring to make a mockery of God’s Word.  It takes hundreds of thousands of years for the light from such and such a star to reach the earth. How could God have created the universe only about six thousand years ago?  He referred to the Bible as a practical joke.

The man was well prepared with his long list of scientific reasons why Genesis chapter one could not possibly be true, and he continued for about 20 minutes endeavoring to shame me for being so stupid.  The problem he was having, however, (other than being terribly rude at a wedding reception) was that he had never before met anyone who held the position I do regarding the “creation” account.  For every objection and piece of scientific evidence he brought up, I was able to give him a simple Biblically correct response that allowed for his “evidence.”  He was finally silenced, unable to think of a way to poke a hole in my position.

So what is my position on the age of the earth, the fossil records, evolutionary theory, etc?  My position is that it is a bunch of science stuff and I am not a scientist.  I don’t actually know for myself how much of what is said about these things is true, but I know that none of it contradicts God’s Word when we properly understand what it says.

Maybe the earth is a million years old or 10 billion.  The fact that various numbers are still being proposed tells me that the jury is still out on this, but virtually everyone agrees that it is older than six thousand years.  I said “virtually everyone.”  We live just a hop and a skip from the “Creation Museum,” displaying men and dinosaurs together.

The problem the Creation Museum people have is that it is documentable from the Scriptures that Adam and Eve lived about six thousand years ago.  If they were created on the “sixth day of creation,” then the earth is only about six thousand years old.  Since they cannot reasonably deny the prior existence of the wooly mammoth, or whatever, they are forced by what they believe the Bible says, to place the wooly mammoth in a relatively recent time frame.  I admire their determination to hold to the Scriptures, but their scholarship is less admirable.

Let’s take a look at what Genesis says.

[KJV] Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.  And the evening and the morning were the first day.

The Hebrew words translated, “without form and void,” communicate an empty or confused waste.  The earth was obviously not completely without form.  The face of the waters already existed.

Notice the two uses of the state of being verb, “was” in verse two.  The first is in normal type.  The second one is in italics.  Italics in the King James Version indicate a word that was supplied by the translators.  There is no Hebrew word for it in the text.  The state of being verb is only implied by the rest of the sentence.  This is the most common way it was done in Hebrew.

The first “was” is translated from “hayah,” which occurs only 74 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, obviously not the normal way to express the state of being.  I am not a Hebrew scholar and I am not going to pretend to be, but there are a few basic things we need to recognize about Hebrew verbs when considering their meaning.  “Hayah” occurs in the qal form and the perfect mood (as in verse two above) just 25 times.  I used the general word “form” here.  Various writers refer to this as a “stem”, “verb pattern” or “conjugation” (not to be confused with what we English speakers think of as conjugating verbs).  Hebrew verbs take on different meanings in these different forms.  “Hayah” in the qal form does not mean exactly the same as it does in the niphal form or some other form.  There are 7 different such forms, or stems, that Hebrew verbs can take.  When looking at the other uses of a Hebrew verb to see it in other contexts and get a more clear picture of its meaning, we must recognize that it is only the other uses in the same form that will carry the same meaning.  I have read the 25 occurrences of “hayah” in the qal form (and perfect mood).  Many of them demand the sense of something becoming rather than just being.  Others could allow for either meaning.  A relatively small number seem to carry the sense of the state of being verb.

The “Let there be” of “let there be light” in verse 3 is “hayah” and also in the qal form but in the imperfect mood.  The action had not yet occurred, but the statement is indicative of an action taken, not just a state of being.

Here is the Strong’s data for “hayah” in Genesis 1:2.

1961 hy”h’ hayah {haw-yaw}

Meaning:  1) to be, become, come to pass, exist, happen, fall out 1a) (Qal) 1a1) —– 1a1a) to happen, fall out, occur, take  place, come about, come to pass 1a1b) to come about, come to pass 1a2) to come into being, become 1a2a) to arise,  appear, come 1a2b) to become 1a2b1) to become 1a2b2) to become like 1a2b3) to be instituted, be established 1a3) to be  1a3a) to exist, be in existence 1a3b) to abide, remain, continue (with word of place or time) 1a3c) to stand, lie, be in, be at,  be situated (with word of locality) 1a3d) to accompany, be with 1b) (Niphal) 1b1) to occur, come to pass, be done, be  brought about 1b2) to be done, be finished, be gone

Origin:  a primitive root [compare 01933]; TWOT – 491; v

Usage:  AV – was, come to pass, came, has been, were happened, become, pertained, better for thee; 74

08804 Stem – Qal (See 08851) Mood – Perfect (See 08816) Count – 12562

Hayah” can in certain contexts indicate mere existence or being, but that is not the usual sense of the word.  Another telling piece of information in the Strong’s data above is the mood of “hayah” in Genesis 1:2.  It is the perfect mood.  This is how the lexicon describes the perfect mood:

08816 Perfect

The Perfect expresses a completed action.

1) In reference to time such an action may be:

1a) one just completed from the standpoint of the present “I have come” to tell you the news
1b) one completed in the more or less distant  past in the beginning God “created” “I was (once) young” and “I have (now) grown old” but “I have not seen” a righteous man  forsaken
1c) one already completed from the point of view of another past act God saw everything that “he had made”….

The perfect mood indicates a completed ACTION.  Just “being” is not an action.  “Becoming” is an action.

In light of all this, I submit that a better translation of Genesis 1:1 & 2 is:

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth became an empty waste; and darkness upon the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

How much time was there between God creating the heaven and the earth and when the earth became a wasteland?  It can be whatever the scientists want to say.  And the record only says here that the earth became a waste, not the whole universe.  How long was it between the earth’s destruction and when God put it back together?  It could have been a long time.  We don’t know.  But we know that about six thousand years ago, God, to some degree, started over.  I say “to some degree” because God did not have to start completely from nothing.  There was already an earth.  It had seen massive destruction, but did not cease to exist.  It seems that the “face of the waters” was still intact.  And there is nothing to indicate that the entire universe had been destroyed.

Another thing to keep in mind as you read through the rest of the record is that it is written from the perspective of what God did to restore the earth.  When the record says that God said let there be light and there was light, it does not mean that there was no such thing as light existent anywhere in the universe.  There just wasn’t light, or enough of it, on earth.

There were not six days of creation as some people say.  “Create” is only used here of what God did in the beginning (could have been billions of years ago) and during the six days when God created animals and people.  For every thing else, it says God made whatever, and that’s different.  My son and I made a tree house, but we were in no position to create one.  Or, the record says God said and it was so.  We don’t know how He did that, but it isn’t called creating in the record.  Some versions might use the word “create” more frequently in this record, but they shouldn’t.  The Hebrew words make a distinction between making and creating.  So it was six days of some creation, but mostly putting things back together.  And yes, I believe the days were literal 24-hour days.  It is hard to read, “And the evening and the morning were the first day,” and think the Author was endeavoring to communicate that what He meant by “day” was an age of hundreds of thousands of years.

I realize that I am not the first to present what some might refer to as, “the gap theory.”  I don’t call it that, and I do not necessarily subscribe to everything proponents of what they call “the gap” might present.  But translating “hayah” as “became” rather than as “was” seems reasonable enough.  As I said before, I am not a Hebrew scholar.  I could be wrong, but the evidence sure seems to me to point in the direction of the “became” translation.

Were there people before Adam and Eve?  I’ve been told that there is evidence of villages that existed 20,000 or 30,000 years ago.  Maybe there were and maybe there weren’t.  I am not in the business of analyzing that kind of evidence.  Either way, it does nothing to shake my faith.  Whoever those creatures were, human or human-like, they died.  And God started over with Adam about six thousand years ago.

Is the earth 10 billion years old?  Did life forms develop through some evolutionary process?  I am not necessarily completely settled on how much of which theories I accept, but I have no problem with people proclaiming them.  They do not contradict God’s Word.

I would be happy if people who are more knowledgeable of Hebrew and/or science than I am would jump in and confirm or repudiate what I have written.  This would add to the learning process, would it not?  (Unless you are just a creep like the guy at the wedding reception who only wanted to intimidate, humiliate, and embarrass his prey.  In that case, you don’t need to feel compelled to comment.).

This article is a little different than some others I have submitted.  There have been others in which I have asserted absolutely what God’s Word has to say.  Here, we are dealing with a translation from Hebrew.  This is outside the area of my primary expertise.  The “became” translation seems reasonable to me, and it accounts for the scientific evidence.

The bottom line is that The Word of God is True.  When we correctly understand what it is saying, and we also have true science (though neither always correctly understanding God’s Word nor always having accurate scientific conclusions is a given), then there will be no conflict between the two.