'Rogue' YEC reads Genesis 1:1-18


(Daniel Pech) #1

As I’m sure many here know, the effective standard YEC view of Genesis 1:1 is that it does not include an implication of luminaries. That is, apparently most who espouse YEC deny that this verse is implicitly describing the creation of the luminaries.

This ‘standard’ YEC view of 1:1 is based on the fact that only at vs. 14-18 does the account specify the creation of the luminaries, and this seemingly in the present-tense meaning. So, most ‘YEC’s take for granted that these verses’ specifying the luminaries is meant in the present tense. This, despite that the most Hebrew-savvy YEC’s (such as Sarfati, see link below) argue that at least the ancient Hebrew of Genesis 1 and 2 lack a past-tense form of verb like English ‘had’ (that this Hebrew possesses only ‘has’, ‘have’, etc.).

Jonathan Sarfati, verbal presentation on his book, The Genesis Account, youtube video of same name, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6PTiBZB7dk @ video time 16:29-17:56.

But the status quo among YEC advocates as to the term ‘darkness upon’ in v. 2 is uninformed by what the Bible seems clearly to indicate as to the normal meaning of that term in a physical terrestrial context (((see Luke 23:44, Exodus 14:20, Deuteronomy 4:11, Joshua 24:7, 2Samuel 22:12, Job 3:5, Job 17:12, Job 22:11, Job 38:9, Psalm 18:11))). In that context, the normal meaning is the implied presence of dense cloud.

And if we add the latter phrase of v. 2 to this implied cloud, then it becomes clear that the pending location of God’s next action is that to do with the conjunction between that deep and the cloud. Otherwise, there is little sense to the fact that the account would specify a location of this ‘spirit of God’, much less a terrestrial location.

So, what we have here in the YEC camp, of which I am a member, is the effectively standard, traditional, inherited, passively ignorant view that, (X) given vs. 14-18, 1:1 cannot implicitly be describing the advent of the luminaries; and therefore (Y), the light in v. 3 must be the advent of light as such.

All this is complicated by the fact that those Biblically loyal Christians who, in being ignorant of these positive points of the Hebrew, face atheistic cosmologies, tend to interpret these verses merely as explicitly spelled out. This goes back at least as early as Theophilus in the early first millenium, who wrote:

“On the fourth day the luminaries came into existence. Since God has foreknowledge, he understood the nonsense of the foolish philosophers who were going to say that the things produced on earth come from the stars, so that they might set God aside. In order therefore that the truth might be demonstrated, plants and seeds came into existence before the stars. For what comes into existence later cannot cause what is prior to it.”

In short, the effective standard YEC position on Genesis 1:1-18 is that God changed the normally expected order of these things, and that He did so in order to pose a preemptive polemic against atheism.

Taking off from Theophilus is Basil, who reasoned:

“Heaven and earth were the first; after them was created light; the day had been distinguished from the night, then had appeared the firmament and the dry element. The water had been gathered into the reservoir assigned to it, the earth displayed its productions, it had caused many kinds of herbs to germinate and it was adorned with all kinds of plants. However, the sun and the moon did not yet exist, in order that those who live in ignorance of God may not consider the sun as the origin and the father of light, or as the maker of all that grows out of the earth.”

Theophilus does not explain how, in God’s supposedly having created light days in advance of the luminaries, God thereby effected to discourage the unbelieving turn of mind. And Basil gives no indication of knowing how a mere record that he supposed teaches such an oddity can instruct those who live and die without ever having heard it.

Presumably, most of today’s full-time defenders of Genesis 1 have followed after those such as Theophilus and Basil. First, they presuppose that God so designed humans that humans normally expect for God to have created in a particular order. Next, they perceive an odd order in the account of Creation Week. Finally, they willingly conclude, from that perception alone, that Genesis 1 must not teach the normal order, but instead must teach an odd, polemics-obsessed, one.

This begs the question: Did God so design the human kind that, without that odd order, even believers would be more inclined to reject God in favor of sun and stars? If no, then whom does such an odd order benefit?

If we assent to the proposition that God set us up to need the odd order that is commonly perceived, then how do we remain consistent with what the Bible normally seems to us to teach about anything else of God and His ways?

The account surely says that animal life was made only after plant life. Is that too sensible an order? The tradition-bound response is ‘Apparently not, for, the account does not present it otherwise than it is.’ The logic of this kind of reply is flippant, and trivializes the issue.

Given the modern knowledge of the physics of light, we certainly may reason that God may have created light prior to creating any ‘light-bearers’. But the primary issue of Genesis 1 is not any such admittedly universally trivial physics. Its primary issue is (1) the account as it stands, and (2) ourselves as God designed us normally to approach the account’s every part.

The ideally naïve adult hearer of Genesis 1 shall find that at least most of what it explicitly says is easily understood in its own explicit terms: one phrase, and one verse, at a time. James Jordan (see link below) claims to do this, but Jordan actually begins by interpreting v. 1 according to a long tradition of seeing vs. 14-18 as the retroactively controlling context for vv. 1 and 3.

H. M. Morris senior(see link below), in order to be fully consistent with that tradition, concludes that humans are not made so much in God’s image as in the image of the inherent senselessness of simulated computing devices:

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).
This simple declarative statement can only have come by divine revelation. Its scope is comprehensively universal, embracing all space (heaven), all time (beginning), and all matter (earth) in our space/time/matter cosmos. It is the first and only statement of real creation in all the cosmogonies of all the nations of past or present. All other creation myths begin with the universe already in existence, in watery chaos, or in some other primordial form. Evidently man, [what about unfallen man?] with unaided reason, cannot conceive of true creation; he must begin with something. But Genesis 1:1 speaks of creation ex nihilo; only God could originate such a concept, and only an infinite, omnipotent God could create the universe.
This revelation was given initially by God Himself to the very first man and woman and has been transmitted down through the ages to all their children. God either wrote it down with His own finger on a table of stone, as He later did the tablets of the law (Exod. 31:18), or else He revealed it verbally to Adam, who recorded it.

Here Morris deduces that the account implies that God designed humans deficient in terms of conceiving of creation ex nihilo. But that would mean that, despite what the Scripture says, humans have no normal, God-given capacity to recognize even that a Creator must exist!

Jordan, J. B. 1998. Dr. Waltke on Genesis One, Concluded. Biblical Chronology Vol. 10, No. 2, February 1998, http://reformed-theology.org/ice/newslet/bc/bc.98.02.htm.

Morris, H. M. 2000. Biblical Creationism: What Each Book of the Bible Teaches about Creation and the Flood. http://intelmin.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/BiblicalCreationismLO727.pdf pg. 15.


(Matthew Pevarnik) #2

Mostly curious… what are atheistic Cosmologies?


(Daniel Pech) #3

My being YEC, I predictably mean ‘atheistic cosmologies’ for any non-YEC cosmologies.

But, of course, my being a social creature in face of non-YEC fellow theists, I mean these especially that ring true to Carl Sagan’s line about ‘The cosmos is all there is, all there ever has been, and all there ever will be.’

It’s just part of my argument against what presumably is the status quo among YEC’s regarding what ‘heavens’ and ‘light’ physically means in Genesis 1:1 and 3, contra/relative to what vs. 14-18 means.

The God-given basic human terrestrial frame of mind does not see vs. 1-13 in light of what vs. 14-18 might seem to say. What I mean is, without any manner of exposure to 14-18, the terrestrially normalized human will perceive all prior verses in terms of what vs. 1-2 normally suggests to that frame of mind.

But, according the status quo version of the YEC paradigm regarding vs. 14-18, when such a God-given normative perception of vs. 1-13 finally arrives at vs. 14-18, the human being necessarily shall make a radically retroactive reinterpretation of all prior verses: all the way back to, and including, v. 1. But, such a ‘rad-retro-reinterp’ is like being slowly commanded, over the space of a full fifteen minutes, the following twelve-word sentence.

Run! …run! …run! …run! …run! …run! …run! …run! …run! …run! …run! …not!

So the position that the luminaries are created on Day four renders the prior portion of the account like a backwards version of the ‘I am not a robot’ street-sign selection test that is part of CMI’s comment-form program on its website. Except, instead of the objects that are not to be selected from a view-field of grass and pavement being street signs, the objects not to be selected are yummy ripe fruits hanging from fruit trees. Finally, instead of the selection parameters appearing explicitly next to the ‘I am not a robot’ selection field, those parameters are left for the human being to deduce, as best as he can, from the picture itself.

The status quo among YEC’s ignores for Genesis 1:2 the rest of the Bible’s equal use of ‘darkness’. (see Luke 23:44, Exodus 14:20, Deuteronomy 4:11, Joshua 24:7, 2Samuel 22:12, Job 3:5, Job 17:12, Job 22:11, Job 38:9, Psalm 18:11)


(James McKay) #4

Ever noticed that what God created on Day Four was exactly the same as what He created on Day One, except going into a bit more detail? Verse 18 even talks about separating light from darkness. But we read that He’d already done that on Day One in verse four! What happened on Days Two and Three? Did light and darkness get all mixed up again?

Personally, I think that fact alone indicates two things. First of all, that the Framework Interpretation has a lot going for it. But secondly, that there’s no such thing as a “plain reading” of Genesis One. However you make sense of it, you’re interpreting it.


(Daniel Pech) #5

Yes, the ‘Framework’ interpretation, as you call it, makes sense of a particular version of the Day One + Day Four combo.

The problem is, the actual Hebrew of the account itself does not give any easy place to that particular version. There are three essential reasons why:

  1. The instance of ‘heavens’ in v. 1 is the Hebrew hassamayim. Same for all other instances save one: that in v. 8. This is samayim. This one most easily is to the atmosphere, not to any larger subject such as a general ‘sky’ or outer space.

  2. The final two instances of hassamayim (not samayim) most easily are the context-dependent general ‘sky’, because they are in the simply phrase, ‘birds of the hassamayim’. (they are in vv. 26 and 28)

  3. Therefore, and for normal sense alone, the instance of hassamayim in v. 20 is clearly that same general sky. This places that verse’s ‘raqia’ as the account’s own descriptive term for the atmosphere, (same as that for ‘raqia’ in vs. 6-8) in its description of the location of birds’ flight:

“birds fly above the Earth in the lowest portion of the atmosphere (raqia) of the sky (hassamayim)”

Notice that it makes no normal sense (if any sense) for either the raqia or the hassamayim of this description to be outer space.

This allows that the phrase raqia hassamayim found in relation to the luminaries (i.e. v. 14) is using ‘raqia’ as we would use ‘window’ in the phrase

“The sun is in my bedroom window”

…That is, the normal human frame of reference for outer space and its normal members is that through the atmosphere. This puts the proper nuance to what we today seem usually to mean by ‘sky’: the thing through which we are looking when we see the Sun, the Moon, and the stars.

The only way rationally to deny the above argument is to presuppose that the basic human being (without using any artificial instrumentation) has no way even to arrive at the mere idea that the sensible substance of breath and breeze may well not extend to the luminaries. It escapes me how anyone can think that the ‘raqia’ (“samayim”) of v. 8 is outer space. Seen ‘from a distance’, so to speak, the account’s first ten verses has only one appearance: the formation of the geophysical part of Earth’s hydrological cycle. And is not the account, anyway, itself about forming Earth’s habitability, and then filling it with life?

So the hassamayim (not samayim) of v. 1 is likewise context-dependent. This is how it is legitimate to interpret the English rendering, ‘heavens’, according to local context.

Only, since the debate over the subject of ‘raqia’ is so troubled, most or all English translations, to date, do not specifically render the samayim of v. 8 as ‘atmosphere’. This is because, as much as the committees see fit, readers are to be allowed to make up their own minds.

But the account itself is not a preemptive description. It is an answer to the most basic central implicit questions of every normal human: “How did the basic natural world come to be, how does it function-cohere, and what is my relation to it?”

Outer space has no central function here, and we do not live in space ships.

Therefore, what you are thinking of that ‘God did on Day One’ is only:

  1. what He did on the latter half of Day One,

and

  1. Is the introduction to the Earth itself of the day/night cycle.

2 is clearly most natural if 1:1 is allowed to be what it seems in itself to be: the creation of the starry universe and its special subject, Earth. This is further supported by the facts that:

(A) the term ‘darkness’ (upon) for a physical terrestrial subject normally implies in ANE languages a dense cloud (many verses throughout the Bible are agreed to imply just that)

(B) the end of v. 2 thereby implies the location of God’s next action.


(George Brooks) #6

@Daniel_Pech

Your posting makes for a fine Apologia. But your conclusions are only possible in hindsight. This is hardly what the ancient readers of Genesis would have concluded (since they had no benefit of hindsight).

So what you are doing is arguing In Favor of ancient texts benefiting from a modern audience’s superior (ie., ‘more realistic’ ) understanding of the real world which nobody expects the writers of Genesis to have had.

I see no reasonable requirement to be bound by the demonstrably limited and flawed perspectives of some Biblical texts.

Do you, Daniel? Do you, @Mike_Gantt?


(James McKay) #7

Yes, but you’re still doing a lot of interpreting there, and this is my whole point — that there is no such thing as a “plain reading” of Genesis 1. Even if you insist on the LSD (Literal Sequential Days) approach to it, you still end up slathering a whole layer of interpretation on top of it.

There are several points that you haven’t addressed here. The fact that we see the light from darkness being separated out on Day Four when it had already been separated out on Day One is one such point. Another one is what the waters above the raqia refer to. The nearest you’ll get to a “plain reading” would suggest that they’re being held back by a solid dome. Other interpretations that have been put forward over the years include a vapour canopy and the atmosphere itself. But the fact remains that they are interpretations, one way or another.


(George Brooks) #8

@jammycakes… uh-oh … you said “dome”!

We could also use the phrase “solid ceiling”…

:slight_smile:


(Mike Gantt) #9

This chastisement guides my perspective of biblical texts:

Luke 24:25 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!”


(George Brooks) #10

And your rationalization for why it is Okay, even commendable, to rely on error is why millions of people oppose allowing religion to be paid for by school taxes.

I hope this will help you understand the deep divide between YECs and Christian theistic evolutionists.

@Marty, you arrived just in time!


(Mike Gantt) #11

Your objection to school taxes allowing religion is no more or less valid than someone else’s objection to school taxes allowing secularism.

The religion most competitive with Christianity in America today is not Islam; it is secularism.


(George Brooks) #12

Wrong again. During the American Revolution, the American clergy knew well the difference between the two positions. The prohibition gives fair equal footing to all denominations… while merging religion with public schools would allow some denominations to be oppressed by the hegemony of the local majority.

And yet conversely, should YECs ever succeed in allowing religious instruction in public schools it will only be a matter of time before Satanists will also win equal treatment!

Secularism is not a denomination…it is not a local church. It is a legal stance that many of our Founding Patriots died defending.


(Daniel Pech) #13

@gbrooks

You and I disagree on what ancients necessarily did not and could not know.


(Mike Gantt) #14

At our country’s founding, “secular” was understood to be that which was “outside of church” - the point of which was that we wouldn’t have a national church like the mother country we were leaving. Instead, all denominations would be on equal footing. In our time, “secular” has come to mean that which is “outside of God” - that is, that way of speaking and acting that makes no reference to God. Denominations have no footing at all. Thus the Declaration of Independence and Constitution could use terms such “Creator,” “our Lord,” and “Divine Providence” which are routinely omitted or frowned upon in public discourse today. Failing to distinguish what secularism allowed in late 18th-century America and what it allows in early 21st-century America permits the secularist grip on the current American consciousness to tighten. It is suffocating the life out of us.


(George Brooks) #15

@Mike_Gantt

You seem to think there is a way of avoiding the latter while defending the former.

Those who know constitutional law know this is not possible.

Defend your churches IN the churches!


(Daniel Pech) #16

@ jammycakes

The status quo YEC notion of ‘plain reading’ is little use to itself, since all readings must rely on somebody’s knowledge of the Hebrew.

But there is a common humanity, per that physical terrestrial world on which we all are born and grow up. The only way to deny that there is a basically normal reading is to deny that the account is addressed to humans’ universal normal desire to have a physical and biological terrestrial cosmology.


(Daniel Pech) #17

What, is it a random shot in the dark? Are you saying that all sense-making interpretations are equally likely?


(Mike Gantt) #18

This demonstrates yet another fundamental difference between America in the beginning and America now. In the beginning, we were a constitutional republic. We are now a post-constitutional republic. I say this because while people still give lip service to the constitution, it is clear we are no longer governed by what it says. Instead, we are governed by whatever the Supreme Court says it says. That’s a big, big difference. The preservative to our republic has been that the SC can only make so many decisions at a time. But over time, they can transform, and are transforming, the country into an oligarchy with the executive and judicial branches vying for power - the legislative branch, that one designed to be closest to the people, losing power with each passing presidential and SC term.

(I can’t, and don’t try, to respond to every single post you direct to me @gbrooks9. I just don’t have the time. Moreover, secularism (as in my last response) and the constitutionalism (as in this response) are far afield from what brought me to BioLogos. Nevertheless,both subjects were important enough to me to momentarily digress. I shan’t do it often.)


(Daniel Pech) #19

I thought I answered that, too. It boils down to two facts. One, Hebrew is a different language, not an alternate lexicon for modern English conceptual systems. Two, the Hebrew of the Bible may well be humans’ most terrestrially-focused conceptual system.


(George Brooks) #20

@Mike_Gantt

And so we find the merging of politics and faith.

You write:
"…it is clear we are no longer governed by what it says. Instead, we are governed by whatever the Supreme Court says it says. "

If what you say is true, it happened wayyy back with the Dred Scott Supreme Court ruling!.. prior to even the Civil War.

But I think your notion of a “post-Constitutional Republic” is more heat than light, more fiction than fact.

Once again, you confirm the bias of many BioLogos supporters - - who see a toxic link between Young Earth Creationism and the political zeal to tear down the bastion of famed American Pragmatism with consitutional revisions “in the image” of Puritan theocracies!