The meaning of Genesis 1

I’m personally of the belief that the meaning/teachings of scripture are more important than it’s literal truth. as such I no longer worry about reconciling Genesis with science, for I see doing such as pointless.

But what message can we gain from Genesis 1?

In the past I have tried to see an environmentalist message in the cosmic temple imagery. I now see this as untenable in light of the violent language used to describe man’s dominion over the earth (I do think we have a duty to treat nature responsibly, Psalm 104 is full of verses describing God’s care for creation, but I don’t think such a mandate is in Genesis 1). What is the meaning of this temple imagery? I would suggest that we look at what the temple was in Israel and the rest of the ANE. The temple was the dwelling place of God. By claiming that the whole universe is a temple, Genesis 1 is giving us the message that God is always with us and enthroned over the cosmos, meaning that we have nothing to fear.

What do you think?

Another part of the earlier, more fantastical chapters of Genesis which I think has a message still relevant is the story of the Tower of Babel, which is at heart a story about correct usage of power and prayer. Using it to do good and to honour God, not for selfish means such as making a name for yourself. The Babylonians built a Ziggurat so that God would come down to them. But they did it for their own selfish desires.

What if the literal meaning is the literal truth?
God created the cosmos, the heavens and the earth.
He details it for us, in simple terms.

Instead of trying to draw out some overspiritualized meaning-- just take it at face value.

on the rest… wow… Me thinks you’re trying too hard to over-dramatize it.

God told Adam and Eve to take care— overseers, and care takers of the earth.

You can find a lot of meaning in Genesis 1 by comparing it to its competition. At the risk of oversimplification, God opposes chaos, divides, and fills…but not by creating (or with the help of) other deities. He does not “battle other gods to overcome chaos,” he does it with his very Breath (or Spirit). The Hebrew word for “the deep” is analogous to (or even derived from) the Babylonian goddess of chaos, Tiamat. But in Genesis chaos is not deified or personified.

Reading back into Genesis 1 from the perspective of the rest of the Old Testament and the New Testament, we see proto-Trinitarian concepts–the sophia by which God creates everything (in Proverbs) I believe is revealed to be the Logos. So you see the Creator/Father breathing (Spirit) the Logos (Jesus, the Son) to create. Colossians affirms this as well as clarifies that “all things hold together” in Christ, implying (I think) the continued “holding back” of chaos.

Temple imagery is important. If I don’t have this wrong, in Middle Eastern paganism, the final stage in the consecration of a temple was to bring the image of the deity to “rest” in the place of prominence. In Genesis, God rests once his image has been established and confirmed–not deified sun, as in many Egyptian creation myths, but humanity itself (not an afterthought, as in Egyptian and Babylonian stories, but the very image of God, something that I believe implies both status and vocation). A final implication is that God does not dwell in a Temple–all the earth is his Temple (a concept that I believe is expanded in Genesis 2, along with an expansion of mankind’s vocation).

It’s possible, but the facts of the world tell us otherwise.

This topic kind of reminds me of these verses:

Luke 22…18For I tell you that I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.” 19And He took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body, given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you.…

Some people read this literally, and think that communion turns into Jesus’ actual flesh and blood as they take communion. It would seem to me that it was meant in a non-literal sense, as a symbol of what Jesus’ meant.

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Facts, or someone’s ideas, which fit their preconceptions?
It strikes me to be the latter.

I’m no longer bothered by this.
I wasn’t there to ask. I can speculate for entire lifetimes on end, without end, and never actually come to a valid conclusion.

It’s said that Mark Twain wasn’t bothered by what he did not understand. He was bothered by what he did (or believed he understood).
I think if we spent more time on what we’re to do, instead of what we think things say, we’d get a lot farther in doing the job of following Jesus.
Eg., 2 Peter 1:2-13.


That is one of the topics that Biologos attempts to discuss. Part of the mission given to Christians is to spread the word, and how is that helped if people interested in the faith are told that they have to abandon centuries of scientific findings in order to become a Christian?

“If the tenets of young earth creationism were true, basically all of the sciences of geology, cosmology, and biology would utterly collapse. It would be the same as saying 2 plus 2 is actually 5. The tragedy of young-earth creationism is that it takes a relatively recent and extreme view of Genesis, applies to it an unjustified scientific gloss, and then asks sincere and well-meaning seekers to swallow this whole, despite the massive discordance with decades of scientific evidence from multiple disciplines. Is it any wonder that many sadly turn away from faith concluding that they cannot believe in a God who asks for an abandonment of logic and reason?”–Dr. Francis Collins, “Faith and the Human Genome”

I’ve been waiting for over 50 years, and have yet to actually see them. I’m sure not allowed to test them for myself, and according to 1 Thess 5:21-22, as well as other passages, until I can, I’m not to rest my faith on them.

actual evidence is not the interpretation of evidence. At a certain point, you have to decide-- whom are you going to believe?
People who were present, or people who were not, but have really great imaginations?
As God is the only one who was present for creation, how can you rely on the interpretations of people who’ve previously rejected God, outright, and have chosen, as Paul said in 2 Thess. 2— chosen rather to believe the lie, because they take pleasure in unrighteousness?

The problem I have with “science” is not the actual evidence. Rather, it’s the propogation of speculation, and dreamy ideas which claim things took place in a manner which removes God from the picture altogether.
This requires that I believe THEM, instead of acknowledging that the evidence exists, and doesn’t fit the preconceptions, and biases.

You’re assuming I believe something I’ve not stated.
I don’t simplistically buy James Ussher’s explanation of the age of the earth. Nor do I buy the simplistic explanation of the “scientific” community of the age of the earth.
Both leave far more questions than answers.
Here’s a novel thought.
How about dump them both, and start with the actual facts.
Rocks, fossilized bones, God’s testimony that he spoke the cosmos into existence, etc…

In my experience— people who turn away from faith do so not because the evidence disagrees with the bible, but that the bible and the evidence do not fit the simplistically developed explanations developed by simplistic minds on both arenas, and they’re too small-minded to take the time to learn the truth.

When Ockham developed his “Ockham’s Razor” hypothesis, he said simple, NOT easy.
People today conflate the ideas of simple and easy all too often.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to a deeper realm of thought, and reality.
We do not… well, no one actually does… get off easy, because it did not fit our biases and preconceived notions.

God neither asks, nor commands people to abandon logic and reason. That you’ve said this is a demonstration that you’ve completely missed it.
According to 1 Cor. 1:18-29, Isaiah 29, and copious other passages, God commands that we abandon MAn’s ideas of logic and reason.
We see in Isaiah 55, that God’s thoughts, and God’s ways are far superior to man’s, in as much as the heavens are higher than the earth.
The 1 Cor. 1 passage, quoting Isaiah 29 says that man’s ways are foolish to God’s, and that God will show man’s folly for what it really is. It further states that the wisdom of God is viewed as folly to man, but God’s folly is so far superior to man’s greatest wisdom as to be incomparable.

Jesus rebuked Peter in Matthew 16 because he “saw as man sees, and not as God sees”, just a few brief moments after Peter did see as God sees.

This is why Adam failed in the garden. He did not believe God, but rather believed his wife’s testimony of the fruit, AFTER she was deceived by the serpent.

You have a choice… whom shall you believe?
Man? The opinions of men? Those who’ve rejected the life of God, because it does not fit their biases, and preconceived notions of how things “should be”?
Or do you take the time to stop, listen, and come directly to the throne of God, through Jesus, in prayer, on bended knee, acknowledging the lack of knowledge you possess, and the infinite knowledge God does possess?

He’s opened up his word, welcoming all who will come. As he said in Isaiah 57:15–
God, the High and Holy One who inhabits eternity, dwells with those who are of a contrite spirit, and a humble heart.
He tells us in Jeremiah 24:7— I will give them a heart to know me…

He welcomes, and invites us in Isaiah 55— ho, you who are thirsty, and hungry, why do you spend your wealth on that which does not saitsfy? Come, and buy for free that which fills the soul.

Yeah, I studied physics. I studied math. Actually did fairly well at both. I learned something during my studies, partly due to my cancer, and the doctor’s reactions to my repeated recurrences, and ongoing longevity— science doesn’t know as much as some folks like to claim. I stopped buying their claims well over a decade ago, because of that. Thankfully, my oncologists, and doctors were honest enough to tell me— we have no idea why you’re alive. According to medical science, you should be dead. So, whatever you’re doing— keep at it.
The only thing I was doing was praying, and reading my bible, learning to understand who God is, and what he wants of me.
I’ve learned something there that no scientists have ever understood—
God dwells with the humble and contrite. According to Psalm 25:14, he shares his secrets with those who fear him. According to Psalm 147:11, he delights in those who fear him.
As such, I’ll start as a child, and learn to first crawl, then walk, then run. I’ll continue my education, and when I arrive in his presence, I’ll learn what I could only speculate about here on earth. Thankfully, I’ll have all eternity to do that.

That’s a good idea. Take a look at the Hebrew verbs in Genesis 1:28 generally translated into English as subdue and rule over, see how they’re used in other Bible passages, and tell us what you find. I think you will be quite surprised.

I would suggest Radiometric Dating: A Christian Perspective by Dr. Roger C. Wiens. The concept is pretty simple. When molten rock solidifies it locks in radioactive elements, and we can determine the age of the rock by the buildup of daughter products as the parent product decays. The decay rates of these isotopes are facts. The ratio of isotopes in these rocks are facts. The process of how parent isotopes are included in rocks and daughter isotopes are excluded during formation are facts. You can test all of these things yourself.

Again, we are talking about facts.

Do you apply the same level of scrutiny to this statement as you do geology?

The strange thing is you can’t really tell us what these speculations, preconceptions, and biases are. Why is that?

Until I became a home owner, and began my own gardens, I had little understanding of this idea. I thought the terms were those used by tyrants, and brutal dictators.

But over the years, I came to understand that the idea of rule and subdue was more to bring under my control, to tend and care for a garden. The soil where I live is clay, and sand. I have to break up the clay, and mix it with sand so I can get it to do what I want.
It does not mean that I act as a tyrant to my neighbors, or brutalize them. It means that I get the soil to do what I want, so I can grow a garden, lawn, get the fruits, vegetables, and plants to grow that I want to grow.
There are some places where it’s pretty clear that certain plants grow wild, and thrive. Other places where other plants do the same. But the plants that we want may not be indigenous to the regions where we live.
As I see it— God designed the planet to grow everything he made, wherever we may live.
So, I was able to grow grapes in the desert, along with blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, a large variety of vegetables, etc…
The subdue, and taking dominion I did of the soil in my yard consisted of breaking up the hard pan, mixing it with the sand, removing the plants I considered weeds, tilling, planting, and grooming my yard the way I wanted it to be.
So… yeah… if you’ve never gardened before… I can fully appreciate the lack of understanding of the sheer force of will, and work it takes to create a paradise of your choosing in your own yard.
And lest you think such is ludicrous, back in 1984, I had purchased some Hawaiian Rosewood seeds, and planted them in my apartment, in southern california. I started off in a pot, and once they started growing, they took off. By summer’s end, they’d grown 50 feet, and were a massive collection of vines. It was quite impressive. They’d grown out my apt window, along the fence, which was some 15 feet, up the wall, about 6 feet, along the roof of the garages/carports, towards the telephone pole, at which point the landlord implored me to stop it. Once I saw they were going towards the pole, I began to really encourage them, because I wanted to see how far they’d go. He said it was pretty, and very cool, but too dangerous, and needed to stopped.
So… when I consider what is said there, and based on my own experiences of gardening, take dominion, and subdue… it actually makes sense.
I have to take dominion of the soil, and forcefully subdue it to get the kind of garden I want.
It’s got nothing to do with people over people. It’s not about tyranny, nor dictatorship. And those who think it does have never understood.


Science should NEVER be made a hermeneutic in interpreting Genesis or any of God’s word. I do not see the word, ‘TRUTH’. I want the truth, not something that allows me to placate my my flesh with my Christian faith. You do that, and I promise, you are no closer in finding the truth of scripture.

So what’s the epistemology of your hermeneutic and what informs that hermeneutic? Most literalists belong to something like Scottish common sense realism, an epistemology that was prevalent in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Ok. As I recall from my physics classes, those radioactive elements are about the number of them, not the level of energy contained within. I.e., we have say… 10,000 atoms of a specific parent element, and upon reaching the half-life, there are now 5,000 atoms, and 5,000 of the daughter elements, etc…
And as those “parent elements” decay, they become daughter elements, and so forth, until they wind up as some final element…
Do we actually know the original count of the parent elements, or more importantly… was there some earlier elemental decay, of which we’re not yet aware?

Facts according to whom? Again… whom shall we believe?
According to you, evolution is objective truth.
To what I read in the bible, evolution is a lie. I.e., the phrase— he spoke, and it stood, in psalm 33:9 pretty much kills the concept of evolved.

I can tell you this— according to my observations, it’s sunny right now where I live-- that is a FACT. But I know for a fact that a blind person does not know this, and would require to take by faith my “fact”, based on the testimony of all seeing people. Sure, the blind person would be able to go outside, and feel the warmth of the sun, but the cold air would put them into a quandary.
Would the sun’s warmth overcome the coldness of the air?

I’ve run across people who are blind who outright reject the idea of color. Others can observe colors, and have even attempted to give colors a sensation, but everyone who sees, can tell for themselves that color does not have a specific sensation of feel/touch associated with it. A red rose does not have the same sensation as a red mustang, or red jeans, or a red shirt/blouse.

So, the fact of the matter is— what you say is truth/fact, is only so based on prior interpretations of the actual facts. I.e., someone else’s belief, based on how they perceive the data. Not the actual data itself.
The data you claim proves, definitively, evolution to be real, is the same data I, and documents long into antiquity, say definitively proves creation. It’s whose interpretation of the data we must decide we’re going to believe!
As I have not grown a second set of arms, nor my wife a second set of eyes in the back of her head, I reject evolution as a farse. Indeed, because multiple-generation craftsmen have not grown them, I continue to reject evolution as a farse.

You’ve not asked.
Simple— you assume that because others have a what you think is a sound argument, and a really impressive imagination, they’re right.
According to Proverbs— there is a way which seems right to a man, but it leads to death.
Or, in Steve’s modern language— there is a way which makes sense to a man, but in the end, its end game is wrong.

We see ideas of delusion, which have the appearance of truth all the time in life, and yet prove themselves false. The magic acts in Las Vegas casinos. Slight of hand, tricks of illusion, poor investigation, or assuming ideas, because they seem to make sense. The police have to overcome this all the time, and we see it played out as convictions based on a lack of evidence. Only to find later that once DNA is actually testable, they find they convicted the wrong person for the crime. Or gun ballistics, now that it’s usable, they find that just because the gun used was a .45 caliber, they convicted the wrong guy.
I like cop stories, and CSI shows. They constantly show these ideas, raising the spectre of delusion, falsehood, and following the evidence, not the interpretation of the evidence.
Intellectual laziness, because people who are intellectually lazy find the apparent obvious easier to believe than the actual truth.

So… no. I do not buy evolution. It’s filled with assumptions, biases, and preconceived notions.
Simple is NOT easy. That was the first lesson I learned in my physics studies. Physics was by far and above the simplest, yet most complicated, or difficult experiences I’ve ever had.

We can use zircons as our example. These are tough little crystals that incorporate uranium when they form but exclude lead due to its size and charge. Uranium isotopes decay to lead through a chain of intermediates, so we know that any lead we find in zircons was the result of uranium decay. It is then a simple matter of doing the math to figure out how many uranium atoms were present when the zircon formed.

If you have to deny the facts discovered by scientists, what does that tell you about your position?

A blind person can use instrumentation to detect the sun. We humans are blind to many different wavelengths of light, yet we use instruments all of the time to detect them, everything from radio antennas to infrared cameras. Your example just doesn’t work.

Even color blind people can use a spectrophotometer to determine what wavelengths of light are present.

These aren’t interpretations. These are measurements. These are facts.

These aren’t imagined things. These are real things that are measured.

It is strange that you think forensic evidence is valid in a court of law, yet reject the very same forensic evidence when it comes to geology.

Like what?

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Hi Steve,

Hope you and yours are doing well today.

The application of particle physics to radiometric dating is a specialized application that doesn’t get much attention in most physics courses. You would do well to gain further background.

You asked some questions about precursor elements that geophysicists have already answered in the scientific literature. Again, some additional background would prove useful.

Since you like to talk about the subject, the Wiens article would no doubt prove very interesting to you.

Chris Falter

I agree. Who is promoting the idea of science as a hermeneutic? How about using the cultural context as a hermeneutic instead, as suggested by many Evangelical Bible scholars.

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