Understanding Genesis 1, the state of early earth

Genesis 1:2
The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

If we assume that Genesis 1 was written by Moses and he received a revelation from God during his 40 days in mt Sinai and if we assume that Genesis 1 is what Moses was seeing in that revelation, we can check whether Genesis 1 and science of early earth are actually compatible. I must confess that i am not a scientist though I enjoy reading about science so I need input from the “know how” people about this.

In Genesis 1:2, the revelation was centered on earth. It was covered with water, and it was dark.
So, I assume that this is a stage where

  • the universe was about 9-10 billion years old already
  • galaxies had formed. The solar system was in place already
  • sun and all other planets had formed already though it was invisible for the reason that would follow.


  • was earth covered with water in the early period?
  • was the atmosphere covered with Co2 such as no light from sun or star can penetrate the surface hence the darkness?

Hey Miekhie, interesting topic for discussion. You said in your OP:

Often times a lot of disagreement can happen because discussion partners do not have shared assumptions. Or do not take the time to explain why they assume certain things.

There are a lot of big assumptions in the paragraph above, and most of the people who respond here will not share some or all of those. Perhaps, it would be useful to get some insight into what leads you to assume the above as a ‘givens’? Does that make sense?


You left out another major assumption. The revelation given to Moses was intended to convey scientific truth about the early Earth. There is no basis for making this assumption so everything after falls apart.


I don’t see why we would expect that given the assumptions. If we assume Revelation was written by John and he received a revelation from God during his time on Patmos and if we assume Revelation is what John was seeing in that revelation… then it still doesn’t mean Revelation is going to be a dry description of how things look scientifically.

If we expect Genesis 1 came about through a similar process of revelation, shouldn’t we also expect it to be a similar kind of hyper-real art that merges heavenly and earthly realities with symbolically rich imagery?


Whilst I 100% agree Marshall, I think many YEC might say that you are comparing apples and oranges. The genre of Revelation is apocalyptic literature, as such the genre is intended to communicate revealed realities impressionistically. They would likely see the genre of Genesis 1 (rightly or wrongly) as historical record, a genre intended to communicates factual information. In the case of AiG, that genre is seen as an eyewitness testimony of historical facts.


There is nothing in the Bible to support such an assumption for any of Genesis. Frankly that would make the Bible sound more like claims made for the Book of Mormon and for me would detract from the believability of its content rather than add to it.

Instead the assumption which I see as giving highest credit to the text is to assume these are stories passed down in oral traditions which are eventually written down much later than the time of Moses.


Perhaps, but that’s not the view @Miekhie is presenting. This is about Moses witnessing a vision from God on Mt. Sinai. That’s very much like what inspired John to write Revelation. John and Moses see the visions, but don’t personally witness the events those visions speak of.

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The consensus is that early Genesis was written down during or just post the Exile to combat Babylonian tradition and keep the Jewish faith alive.

The similarities between the two traditions is certainly striking.


Fair point. I think I’d want some some clarity about what is meant by ‘vision’.

For example, Calvin’s commentary on Genesis present Moses as seeing the events of Ch 1 by way of a vision but by that Calvin means what we might describe today as a watching a video rather than a mystical experience (for want of a better term) as per Revelation.

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BUT this doesn’t make any sense.

It is like claiming Walt Disney’s “Robin Hood” is a document of historical events.

All you have to do is compare the text to other texts and the only thing remotely similar are the dreams of Daniel.

You know what they say… “if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”

Revelation from chapter 4 on is definitely looking like a dream.

Interesting thoughts in the opening post, and I admit I have have similar thoughts in the past. It is reassuring to some extent to hold to the vestiges of concordance in the interpretation of Genesis when trying to make sense of it, but ultimately I came to the conclusion that those statements that seem to be scientific were probably more me reading something into the text that was never there rather than the ancient scribe penning a scientific truth, hidden in words that could not be properly understood until the year 2020 AD. Sort of like the proverbial stopped clockbeing right twice daily, there are certainly facts about our universe that can be read into the text, but that does not mean they were put there by God for that purpose.


I never said it made sense. People hold all sorts of views that don’t make sense and will selectively ignore all kinds of evidence to protect them.


Hi Liam, thanks for the reply.

This is my assumption:

  • Genesis was written by Moses. This is generally agreed.

  • Genesis 1 is the vision that moses saw. (we know that no human existed at the time, so anything that was seen must be a vision of the past. As God gave the vision to John about the future, it was also God who gave the vision to Moses about the beginning.

  • Moses is not trying to be scientific. He just wrote down what he saw on that vision. He wrote down what he observed in that vision step by step. Therefore, he only saw sun and moon on the fourth day when the atmosphere became transparent and clear as today.

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Thanks that’s helpful. A few further questions, if I may?

What leads you to believe that Genesis 1 can be compared to what we know through science?

How old do you believe the earth to be?

Appreciate you taking the time to help me understand your starting point.

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No longer. The idea that Moses wrote the Pentateuch has long been dismissed as fallacy.

And it has never been viewed as a vision or a direct image from God. Genesis 1 is an answer to the Babylonian creation story which has eight days. You will notice that the rhythm of Genesis 1 is broken twice when God does 2 things instead of one, giving HIm 6 days of work and time to rest on the 7th.


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This is inaccurate. Many have seen it this way in church history, whether they were correct to do so is another matter entirely.

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It wll be interesting to see if what Moses saw and wrote in Genesis 1 matches with our modern scientific understanding of early earth. For example, Moses saw that the earth was formless and water covered the face of the earth. Won’t that be amazing if our understanding of early earth was a water world? That is the compatibility that I am talking about.

Our current understanding of the early earth is it was a rocky ball with no water. The water came later.

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Not sure I believed it so I looked it up.

Apparently, scientists think the water on the earth (after the planet cooled down enough) came from asteroids from farther out in the solar system. This is because the deuterium concentration is lower than would be expected if the water came from the initial formation of the earth. And this deuterium concentration would be expected to increase rather than decrease due to leakage from the atmosphere into space.

I already knew that most of the heavy metals we mine are also thought to come from asteroids because the heavy metal would be expected to sink down to the center of the earth in its earliest stages.

The vision in Genesis 1:2 happened much later in earth history.

There was water, so we assume that this was after the earth cooled down after long period of bombardment from asteroid that brought water along. Once the earth was cool enough, water vapor began to turn into liquid water. That water filled the earth so much so that that Moses said it was formless and empty. No visible land perhaps. Just water. It was dark. Perhaps CO2 filled the atmosphere preventing sunlight to penetrate thru.

The problem is I have no idea whether being a waterworld was part of earth history.

“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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