John Walton lost world Gen 1 creation of time

I’m working through John h Walton’s book on the Lost world of Genesis one. I’m at the part where he talks about the creation of time. The problem I’m having in my brain right now, is that Genesis 1:1 starts off with at least waters in existence. From my limited knowledge of contemporary physics, I understand that water cannot exist in the absence of time. At the very least it didn’t exist before the Big Bang yet time existed then. Has anybody got an idea how to reconcile this?

For starters, you don’t approach the Genesis account, something written to an audience that had no knowledge of contemporary physics, as if it is intended to describe scientific realities. It isn’t. This approach to the Bible (taken by Walton) is called a culturally contextualized hermeneutic. It does not attempt to find concordism in the text. You might want to read up some on what concordism is, since it sounds like that is the approach you are coming from.


Oh on the contrary, I think concordism is a dead end. Still I don’t think Walton’s light=time makes much sense.

I don’t think the point is to make sense from a modern physics perspective. I think the point is to try and understand how someone in the ancient world would have thought about these different concepts. Of course how you think about things will be different and again it probably won’t make much sense from a modern perspective.

It’s been a while since I looked at the book, but I think the point was that the stars, sun, and moon were functionally what ordered time for the ancients by marking days, months, and seasons.

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The creation account of Gen. 1 isn’t based of a real event but is taking to typical style of creation stories of the Ancient Near East that other cultures would have used and they state these fundamental truths: 1. Yahweh alone made the universe. 2. Yahweh was existent long before the universe came into being. 3. Only Yahweh alone is the one true God and there are no other deities before Him. 4. Humans are made a sacred images of God and are not slaves to do the work of the gods as other ANE text put it but they are made to work with God and be in relationship with Him. The motif of the waters existing in the primordial space was an ancient symbol of chaos and chaos creature and unlike other ANE creation stories where the gods struggle to tame the chaos of the primordial waters, Yahweh has no real struggle at all and tames it with ease, thus the absence of a conflict account in the story and how Yahweh continues creating with no resistance.

The stars, sun and moon are given the task of giving signs of times and seasons.


Ah yes that helps! Thanks!!

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Very interesting. Thanks for sharing this. It brings so much more to the story of Jesus calming the seas and walking on water.


I still think there is room for more than one true and noncontradictory reading, as I mentioned in another conversation. That does not mean that we can read into it whatever we want, as noted in the second reply following.

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I wonder if you’re not quite understanding Walton’s hypothesis in general. He’s suggesting that everything physically exists (already created by God) and that the 6 days are like a temple dedication, naming things and giving them function. So time exists prior to water, but in this view the story is told in a literary way to talk about their function. He created time and created the sun, moon, and stars for the purpose of telling time. He created sky and water and filled it with flying creatures and sea creatures, respectively. He created land and plants and filled the land with animals that would eat the plants. He created man to be God’s image and to rule over the earth.

In that view, the scientific explanation of the Big Bang does not conflict.

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I didn’t come away from that section of the book with the impression that Walton was suggesting that God “created time” on day one.

In the general framework of the days of creation, days 1-3 are acts of separating, and 4-6 are filling out those separated domains, so to speak.

In day one, we have God separating the periods of light from periods of darkness, and by doing so, establishing a pattern of days for the earth. Later, these domains of light and dark are filled with sun, moon, and stars to mark them.

In a modern sense, this does sound something like creating time, but that may be foreign to an ancient Near Eastern culture.

Well, yes, I didn’t quite understand it. That’s why I reached out. All the replies here have been most helpful.

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Technically, the existence of matter (“the earth”) requires the existence of time. That’s just the fact of space-time. The scripture never claims God “created time”, but that He created the “heavens and the earth”. That there were waters there is incidental to the fact that there was matter there, and thus time.

you mean verse two (2) ?

verse one (1) is a sweeping statement of creation of heaven & earth

after that, we start getting into more specifics – heaven was yet a dark abyss (apt description of the vast cosmos, wherein the average luminosity level is like one 60W lightbulb per cubic astronomical unit on average, the night sky is dark) and earth was a water world (in agreement with science)…

I was asking about time in respect to John Walton’s book The Lost world of Genesis one. In there on page 55 in my copy he states day one is “descibing the creation of time.”. That’s what I was asking about.

I found this interesting, that everything already physically exists. I like the idea that Genesis is describing a temple dedication rather than a watch-maker-ly construction of the cosmos. The temple, it seems to me, is the conscious mind’s model of the outer world. We have it and wonder how. Putting God’s creative function here makes a lot of sense. Where did atoms, planets and black holes come from? No one was concerned with that then and the more highly abstract objects -atoms and black holes, eg- are human constructs which we add to that basic temple/template given by we-know-not-what or God.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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