in Christian Perspective
Space and Time in the Genesis
Meredith G. Kline
Westminster Theological Seminary in California
1725 Bear Valley Parkway
Escondido, CA 92027-4128
on Science and Christian Faith, 48:2-15 (1996)]
©1996 by the American Scientific Affiliation
[Text Only Version]
To rebut the literalist interpretation of the
Genesis creation week propounded by the young-earth theorists is a central
concern of this article. At the same time, the exegetical evidence adduced
also refutes the harmonistic day-age view. The conclusion is that as far
as the time frame is concerned, with respect to both the duration and sequence
of events, the scientist is left free of biblical constraints in hypothesizing
about cosmic origins.
The opening section gives a biblico-theological sketch of the two-register
nature of cosmology as presented in Scripture. The second major section
shows how two-register cosmology informs and shapes the treatment of both
the space and time dimensions in the Genesis prologue. It is found that
a metaphorical relationship exists between the two levels; the heavenly
level (upper register) is described in figures drawn from the earthly level
(lower register). As for the seven-day scheme, it belongs to the upper register
and is, therefore, to be understood figuratively, not literally. The point
of the concluding section is that Genesis
1, on any view that identifies the narrative order with the temporal
sequence, would contradict the teaching of Gen.
2:5 concerning the natural mode of providence during the creation process.
An apologia is needed for addressing again the question of the chronological
data in the Genesis creation account. Simply put -- the editor made me do
it. Over thirty years ago, I made an exegetical case for a non-literal interpretation
of the chronological framework.1 In the
interval, that approach has found increasing acceptance. Its most distinctive
argument, derived from Gen.
2:5, has occasionally been incorporated in studies with similar views
of the chronological issue.2 Advocacy of
the literalist tradition, however, is as clamant as ever, and it was thought
that a more accessible statement of my exegetical arguments could prove
In preparing the restatement another line of exegetical evidence has come
to the fore in my thinking. It concerns a two-register cosmological concept
that structures the whole biblical cosmogony. This idea developed into the
main point and has become the umbrella under which the other, restated arguments
are accorded an ancillary place here and there. My apologia concludes then
with a claim of adding something somewhat fresh to the old debate.
Central in biblical revelation is the relationship of God, whose dwelling
place is heaven's glory (
Ps. 115:16), to man on earth. A two-register cosmos is thus the scene
of the biblical drama, which features constant interaction between the upper
and lower registers.3
From the perspective of man (more precisely, of man in his pre-Consummation
state), the heavenly register is an invisible realm. However, heaven is
not to be thought of as occupying a separate place off at a distance from
the earth or even outside the cosmos. Heaven and earth relate to each other
spatially more after the manner of speculated dark matter and visible matter.
When earthlings experience a proleptic opening of their eyes, they see that
the very spot where they are is the gate of heaven (Gen.
28:16, 17), filled with heavenly chariots of fire (
2 Kgs. 6:17).
Reference to the invisible realm as "above is simply a spatial figure
based on a natural analogy between what is physically higher and what is
more exalted in dignity and honor. This same analogy accounts for the designating
of the invisible sphere by the name of the upper level within the visible
world. Visible space is itself divided into heaven and earth (and, in tripartite
formulations, the waters under the earth). The visible heaven consists of
the star-studded canopy of the sky overhead, with the clouds, the waters
that are above the earth. Taking its name from this above-section of visible
space, supernal space (the above-section of the two-register cosmos) is
then called "heaven.4 Further, when
the heavenly Glory is revealed in visible theophany, it is a manifestation
in clouds and related phenomena. So close is the association of God's dwelling
and actions with the visible heaven (cf., e.g., Ps.
104:2-4) that it may be difficult to determine in given cases whether
"heaven refers to the visible or invisible heaven, or both at once.5
The two-register character of biblical cosmology, relative as it is to man's
preglorification status, is not permanent. It belongs only to the first
stage of an eschatological movement that was integral to creation from the
beginning and leads to a final stage of Consummation. As we trace this eschatological
development, an important feature that emerges is the archetype-replica
(original-likeness) relationship between the upper and lower registers.
From the beginning, God's presence was peculiarly and preeminently associated
with the invisible heaven. That was where he dwelt, the site of his enthronement
(cf., e.g., Deut.
26:15; 1 Kgs.
8:39, 43, 49; Pss.
11:4; 102:20 ;
103:19; Isa. 66:1;
Matt. 5:45; 7:21). It was there that he manifested his Glory to the angels,
the Glory that fills invisible space and makes it a temple, the Glory-epiphany
that is itself God's temple. But though the invisible, upper register heaven
was God's true sanctuary, the earth also was at the first the scene of a
special visible divine presence.6 Invisible
space was the holy of holies; and visible space (visible heaven and earth)
was a holy place. Creation was sanctified in all its spatial dimensions,
with lower register space a replica of the upper register archetypal temple.
Eden was the sacred center of the earthly reproduction of the heavenly reality.
Here in the garden of the Lord, the Spirit-Glory that fills the heavenly
temple was visibly manifested on the mountain of God (cf. Isa. 51:3; Ezek.
28:13 ff.; 31:8f.), the vertical cosmic axis linking heaven and earth. The
revealed presence of the King of Glory crowning this sacred mountain marked
the earth as a holy theocratic domain. Reflecting the identity of Eden as
a sanctuary was the priestly responsibility assigned to man to guard the
garden from profanation (Gen. 3:15). The sequel underscores this. When man
forfeited his priestly role, guardianship of the holy site was transferred
to the cherubim (Gen. 3:24). They were guardians of the heavenly temple
throne and the extension of that function to Eden accents the identity of
this earthly spot as a visible reproduction of the temple above.7
Man's fall radically affected the way the replication of holy heaven on
earth was to unfold. As a consequence of the breaking of the creation covenant,
the Glory-theophany was presently withdrawn and the earth, though still
under the sovereign control of the King of heaven, was left an unsanctified
place. Only by way of redemptive intrusion does theophany-centered holy
place reappear in the otherwise non-holy, post-Fall world -- most prominently
in the history of Israel.
Where sanctuary does emerge again on earth, its nature as a copy of the
heavenly archetype is emphasized. The tabernacle and temple, restorations
of Eden's sanctuary with a cherubim-guarded throne of God, are made after
the pattern of the upper register temple revealed to Moses and Solomon.8
They point ahead typologically to the apocalypse of the heavenly temple
at the end of the ages. At that consummation of redemptive history, prefigured
by the Sabbath ordinance, the visible-invisible differentiation of space
comes to an end as the heavenly Glory is unveiled to the eyes of redeemed
earthlings, their perceptive capabilities transformed now by glorification.
The boundary of heaven and earth disappears. All becomes one cosmic holy
of holies. God's own Glory constitutes this final temple, the realization
of the hope symbolized by its earthly replicas.
Creation was sanctified in all its
spatial dimensions, with lower
register space a replica of the
upper register archetypal temple.
Redemption is a way of achieving the original telos of creation despite
the Fall. A successful probation by the first Adam would have led through
a cosmologically two-register history to an eschatological climax at which
Eden's Glory would have been absorbed into the surpassing heavenly Glory.
At the dawning of the eternal Sabbath for humanity, all space, without distinction
any longer of upper and lower cosmological levels, would have become a consummate
revelation of the Glory of heaven's King. Because of the Fall, that eschatological
omega-point had to be won by the second Adam.
Two-register cosmologies left their imprint on the form of ancient graphic
and literary materials in a variety of ways. A quite literal case of the
two-register format is seen in graphic representations like the Assyrian
reliefs that picture the king in a lower register, whether driving forward
in battle or returning triumphantly, and in a higher register the god in
a matching stance.9 The Book of Job offers
a clear instance of the shaping of a piece of literature by the two-layer
cosmology. In the prologue, heavenly scenes (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6) alternate
with closely related earthly scenes (Job 1:1-5, 13-22; 2:7-10). A similar
movement from the upper to the lower register is found throughout the Book
of Revelation. Each series of visions of happenings on earth is introduced
by a disclosure of the heavenly control center of the universe, where the
earthly judgments are decreed and from where their executive agents descend.
With its characteristic opening of the heavens, the apocalyptic genre is
a place we naturally expect to find the formative impact of two-register
cosmology on literature. Another such place is a cosmogony like the Genesis
Cosmology of the Genesis Prologue
The creation prologue (Gen. 1:1-2:3) presents a theological mapping of the
cosmos with space and time coordinates. Both these dimensions exhibit the
biblical two-register cosmology, a construct that functions as an infrastructure
of the entire account. And this, we discover, has a decisive bearing on
the interpretation of the chronological data.
The Space Coordinate
Genesis 1:1. What this opening verse states is that God,
in the beginning,10 created both the upper
and lower spatial spheres. "The heavens and the earth is not just a
merismus, a pair of antonyms which as a set signifies totality. The phrase
rather denotes concretely the actual two components that together comprise
all of creation. That does indeed amount to everything, but in translating,
the separate, specific identity of each of these two components must be
preserved. One thing demanding this is that verse 2, resuming "the
earth of verse 1, treats it by itself as a distinct, individual sphere.11
More precisely, what Gen. 1:1 affirms is that God created not just the spatial
dimensions immediately accessible to man, but the heavens too, that is,
the invisible realm of the divine Glory and angelic beings. This interpretation
is reflected in the apostle Paul's christological exposition of Gen. 1:1,
declaring that the Son created "all things that are in heaven and that
are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions,
or principalities, or powers (Col. 1:16; cf. John 1:1-3). Similarly Nehemiah,
reflecting on the Genesis creation account, finds a reference there to the
invisible heaven of the angels (Neh. 9:6), and the only possible referent
is "the heavens of Gen. 1:1 (and the reference to that in Gen. 2:1,
if the latter summation does in fact include Gen. 1:1, not just 1:2-31).12
Moreover, in the context of Genesis 1 itself, the visible "heaven or
"firmament (v. 8) is derived from what is called "earth in verses
1 and 2. Hence, the "heavens that are distinguished from that "earth
in verse 1 must be the invisible heavens. This would not necessarily be
the case if verse 1 were a summary heading for the entire account. But what
Gen. 1:1 says about "the beginning cannot be summing up the entire
process of creation, for the allusions to the bere°ît of Gen.
1:1 in Prov. 8:22, 23 identify that "beginning as prior to (not coextensive
with) the developments traced in Gen. 1:2ff. Though it is an independent
statement, Gen. 1:1 is, therefore, not a heading but a declaration concerning
the initial phase of creation history.
Some oppose construing Gen. 1:1-2 as I have because, they insist, the phrase
"the heavens and the earth always signifies the finished product, the
well-ordered, occupied universe, and hence "the earth that appears
in that phrase in verse 1 cannot be the unfinished, uninhabitable place
called "earth in verse 2.13 But contrary
to this often repeated claim, in other appearances of the phrase "(the)
heavens and (the) earth in Scripture, the idea that these realms were finished
and inhabited is not what is signified by this phrase itself but would have
to be supplied by the context. Even if all references after Gen. 1:1 happened
to be to a heaven and earth in such a finished state, that would not be
determinative for the Gen. 1:1 context, which deals with the very process
of developing the product from an empty to a furnished condition.14
In fact, it may well be that in all the appearances of "(the) heavens
and (the) earth (over half of which are allusions to the creation account,
acknowledging the Lord as the maker of heaven and earth), the phrase signifies
precisely the invisible and the visible realms, and thus the whole two-register
There is, therefore, no reason to resist the clear direction of Prov. 8:22-23
for the interpretation of Gen. 1:1 as referring to an earlier juncture,
not to a later stage when the earth had become habitable for man. In point
of fact, though the visible realm, the "earth, was not completed until
the end of the creation "week, completion of the invisible heavenly
realm (with its angelic hosts) had evidently been accomplished "in
the beginning. Job 38:7 indicates that the celestial sons of God existed
point in earth's development described in Gen. 1:2ff. Thus, in view of the
close allusive relationship of Job 38 to Gen. 1, Job 38:7 also furnishes
independent support for the interpretation of "the heavens in Gen.
1:1 as the invisible sphere of the angels of God.
Gen. 1:1, therefore, states -- and how eminently fitting is this affirmation
for the opening of the canonical Scriptures " that God in the beginning
made the whole world, both its upper and lower spatial registers, both its
invisible and visible dimensions, heaven and earth, all.
Genesis 1:2. Both invisible and visible space, introduced
in Gen. 1:1 as "the heavens and "the earth respectively, appear
again in verse 2. Focusing on the lower register, this verse describes the
earth at an early inchoate stage (v. 2a and b). But it also prepares for
the following account of how this uninhabitable world was transformed into
a paradisiacal home for man by pointing to the God of the invisible heaven,
present above the darkness-enshrouded waters of the earth below (v. 2c).
This creative Spirit-Presence is depicted in avian metaphor15
as hovering in fostering fashion above the world. As shown (for one thing)
by the striking echo of Gen. 1:2 in Deut. 32:10, 11, the "Spirit here
refers to that heavenly epiphany which is known in its manifestation within
the visible world as the Shekinah, the theophanic cloud of glory.16
Including as it does then the Spirit-Glory of the temple in heaven along
with the earth below, Gen. 1:2 carries forward the two-register cosmology
contained in verse 1.
While the "let there be" is uttered
at the upper register, the "and it
was so" occurs at the lower
Genesis 1:3-2:3. The several creative fiats by which visible
space gets fashioned into a habitable world in the course of the six days
(Gen. 1:3ff.) are sovereign decrees. They clearly evoke the throne of the
King of Glory, the King invisible, the only God, dwelling in light unapproachable
(1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16). Each such fiat, therefore, signals the continuing presence
of the upper register sphere in the panoramic scenario of the creation narrative.
That these fiats emanate from the invisible heavens is indicated with particular
clarity in the account of man's creation in God's image. For there (Gen.
1:26) the divine fiat takes the consultative "let us form that reveals
the setting to be the angelic council,17
the judicial assembly which is a regular feature in disclosures of the heavenly
reality denoted "Spirit" in Gen. 1:2.
Another index of the continued inclusion of the heavenly register in the
scene is the motif of the divine surveillance and judgment found in the
refrain: "and God saw that it was good (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25,
31). For repeatedly conjoined with statements that the invisible heaven
site of God's temple-throne is the declaration that from there he engages
in a judicial scrutiny of the world. From that throne "his eyes behold,
his pupils try the sons of men (Ps. 11:4c). It was from his throne in heaven
that the divine Builder looked down, saw the unfolding work of his hands,
and pronounced it "good, that is, in perfect accord with his master
plan (cf. Prov. 8:30, 31).
Further, the full two-register cosmology comes to expression in the fiat-fulfillment
format, which is the basic structure of each of the six day-stanzas. While
the "let there be is uttered at the upper register, the "and it
was so" occurs at the lower register. The fiat of the Logos-Word above
is executed by the Spirit in the earth below.18
Again, and quite directly, God's throne in the upper section of the two-register
cosmos is alluded to in statements about the Creator's seventh day rest,
which is his heavenly enthronement (Gen. 2:2b, 3b). The earthly register
is also included in the day seven section, for along with the Creator's
Sabbath of royal resting above, it also contains the appointment of the
Sabbath ordinance for human observance on earth below (Gen. 2:3).19
Two-register Space in Genesis Prologue
|Verse 2 |
|Day 7 |
The summary chart of the space dimension theme in the Genesis prologue
(Table 1) shows that two-register cosmology is present not only as a concept
but as a pervasive factor in the organization of the composition. Additional
evidence of its influence on the literary structure of the passage will
be noted below.
Replication Relationship of the Two Registers
The lower register relates to the upper as replica to archetype. Before
seeing how that comes to expression in the creation account, we must call
attention to how the six days fall naturally into two triads, one dealing
with creation kingdoms and the other with the creature kings given dominion
over them. As frequently noticed, the two triads run in parallel with obvious
correlation of their successive members.20
The earthly products of the first three days mirror one or another characteristic
of the invisible heaven, the above realm, the realm of light and overarching
Glory (Gen. 1:2). The day-light called forth on day one was a replica of
that Glory-light. The bright firmament-vault of day two was so
much the likeness of its archetype that they shared the same name, "heaven
(Gen. 1:8). The lofty trees, the climactic fruit of day three, are used
in Scripture as an apt figure for the cosmos (cf. Dan. 4:10-12). With their
high spreading branches a realm for the birds of the heaven, they are comparable
to the firmament-heaven in which the birds fly (Gen. 1:20), a towering image
pointing to the overarching Spirit-heaven above.
The six days fall naturally into
two triads, one dealing with
creation kingdoms and the other
with the creature kings given
dominion over them.
Moving on from copies of the heavenly kingdom to images of the heavenly
King, the second triad of days presents creature kings whose roles in the
hierarchy of creation are earthly reflections of the royal rule of the Creator
enthroned above. Royal terminology is explicitly used for the luminaries
of day four. In that they regulate the cycle of light and darkness, they
are said to "rule over the kingdom of day and night produced on day
one (Gen. 1:16; cf. Ps. 136:8, 9). God's blessing-mandate to the creatures
of day five closely resembles the dominion mandate afterwards given to man.
In each case royal occupation of the assigned domain is to be accomplished
by being fruitful, multiplying, and filling (Gen. 1:22, 28). So the birds
and fish would exercise their rule over the sky and sea, the
kingdom realms of day two. Incidentally, the birds of day five and the luminaries
of day four " both associated with the "firmament of heaven (Gen.
1:14, 15, 17, 20) " are like the King of heaven in other ways besides
their ruling function. The birds' overshadowing of their nests (Deut. 32:11)
and the luminosity of the sun and moon become biblical figures for the Glory-Spirit
as a protective covering, the heavenly Sun and Shield (cf. Ps. 84:12 ).21
Culminating the series of earthly replicas of the Creator-King is the final
creature of day six, man, the image of God and his holy angels (Gen. 1:26).
In this earthling, made like unto the Glory-Spirit with respect to the threefold
glory of royal dominion, moral excellence, and (in eschatological prospect)
visual luminosity,22 creaturely reproduction
of the heavenly King of kings is perfected.
The replication motif emerges distinctly on day seven in the Sabbath ordinance,
designed to call man to the imitation of the divine sabbatical pattern.
Discussion of this will be deferred, however, until we are dealing with
the time coordinate of the Genesis cosmology.
As a final illustration of replication in the spatial dimension, we turn
to the way the two-register pattern of the total cosmos, visible and invisible,
is repeated within the visible, lower register by itself in its subdivision
into an upper realm (heaven) and a lower realm (earth). This secondary,
replicated two-register structure is highlighted by the arrangement of the
contents of the two parallel triads of days according to their upper or
The first members of each triad are related to the upper level, the heaven:
the light of the sky on day one and the heavenly luminaries on day four.
The third members belong to the lower level, the earth: the land and its
vegetation on day three and the land animals and man on day six. And the
second members are strikingly designed to serve as links between the first
and third members. For these middle units of the two triads each combines
both upper and lower levels: the sky and the sea in day two and the birds
of the air and fish of the sea in day five.
Location of Triads' Productions
||Level ||Second Triad |
|day one |
Here again we see that the two-register cosmology construct was a decisive
factor in determining the literary shape of the Genesis prologue.23
The Time Coordinate
Space and time, the cosmological coordinates, are correlative. Interlocking
of the two is pronounced in God's seventh day rest, a temporal concept that
connotes the spatial reality of the holy site of God's enthronement. Also
indicative of their correlation is the giving of the temporal names "day
and "night to the spatial phenomena of light and darkness (Gen. 1:5).
It is inevitable then that the two-register structuring of the spatial dimension
will also be found in the temporal dimension, and with it the archetype-replica
relationship between the two registers. We have seen that by reason of this
replication relationship earthly things are a rich source of metaphor for
the realities of the invisible heaven. God is portrayed as hovering like
an eagle over its nest and as resting like a man after his work is done
(cf. Ex. 31:17); upper register space is designated "heaven after the
upper level of visible space; etc. We naturally expect then that in the
case of time, as of space, the upper register will draw upon the lower register
for its figurative depiction. Therefore, when we find that God's upper level
activity of issuing creative fiats from his heavenly throne is pictured
as transpiring in a week of earthly days, we readily recognize that, in
keeping with the pervasive contextual pattern, this is a literary figure,
an earthly, lower register time metaphor for an upper register, heavenly
Lower Register Time
Twin Record. Earthly time is articulated in the astronomical phenomena that
measure off and structure its flow. It is the astral-solar-lunar relationships
of the earth that define the units, the years and the days, in which man
experiences (lower register) time. They produce the sequence of light and
darkness that marks the days. They arrange the signs in the sky that announce
the seasonal round of the years. Time is named, its meaning is expressed,
in this system of calibration. The establishing of this regulatory order
by which lower register time is defined and in which it has its being is
recorded in the creation account. Twice in fact: once at the beginning of
the first triad of days (Gen. 1:3-5) and a second time at the beginning
of the second triad (Gen. 1:14-19).
Temporal Recapitulation. The non-sequential nature of the creation narrative,
and thus the non-literal nature of the creation "week, is evident from
the recording of the institution of lower register time in both the first
and fourth day-sections. This point must be developed here because of its
importance as an independent argument against the solar-day and day-age
views and because the exegesis involved is preparatory to other arguments
The forming and stationing of the sun, moon, and stars are attributed to
day four. Their functions with respect to the earth are also stated here,
first in the fiat section (Gen. 1:14, 15) and again (in reverse order) in
the fulfillment section (Gen. 1:16-18). They are to give light on the earth
and to rule by bounding light/day and darkness/night, as well as by demarcating
the passage of years and succession of seasons. These effects which are
said to result from the production and positioning of the luminaries on
day four are the same effects that are already attributed to the creative
activity of day one (Gen. 1:3-5). There too daylight is produced on the
earth and the cycle of light/day and darkness/night is established. In terms
of chronology, day four thus brings us back to where we were in day one,
and in fact takes us behind the effects described there to the astral apparatus
that accounts for them. The literary sequence is then not the same as the
temporal sequence of events.
The non-sequential nature of the
creation narrative, and thus the
non-literal nature of the creation
"week," is evident from the
recording of the institution of
lower register time in both the
first and fourth day-sections.
To avoid this consequence, alternative interpretations of day four have
been sought. According to one proposal, the luminaries (though unmentioned
previously) were in existence before the point in time dealt with in day
four and were indeed present at day one as the source of light spoken of
there.25 Day four describes simply their
coming into sight, not their creation. Any such view is falsified by the
language of the text, which is plainly that of actual production: "Let
there be and God made and God set (lit., gave). The attempt26 to override
this language cannot be passed off as just another instance of phenomenological
description. The proposed evasive tactic involves a very different notion
-- not just the general denominating of objects according to their everyday
observed appearance at any and all times, but the relating of a specific
event at a particular juncture in the creation process as though witnessed
by an observer of the course of events, someone who at the moment reached
on day four is supposed to catch sight of the luminaries, hitherto somehow
hidden, perhaps by clouds. Disclaimers notwithstanding, this proposal is
guilty of foisting an unwarranted meaning on the language affirming God's
making and positioning of the luminaries. In the accounts of the other days,
everybody rightly recognizes that the same language of divine fiat and creative
fulfillment signifies the bringing into existence of something new, not
just a visual detecting of something that was there all the while. There
is no more excuse for reducing divine acts of production into human acts
of perception in day four than there would be elsewhere.
Some advocates of the controverted approach to day four acknowledge more
forthrightly its distinctiveness and develop more fully its peculiar feature
of the seer figure.27 An attempt is made
to explain the precise sequence of the entire creation narrative by the
exigencies of the visual experience of the hypothesized human spectator,
as he is conducted through all the successive scenes. Besides the basic
objection that it is belied by the language of origination used for the
day four event, this form of the observer hypothesis is beset with a special
problem of its own. Its suggested guided-tour perspective is a feature of
apocalyptic visions, and there the presence of the seer figure is plainly
mentioned. He is the one who narrates the visions unfolding before him.
No such figure is introduced in the creation account; the alleged human
spectator is a fiction imposed on the text contrary to its non-visionary
Recognizing that the actual making of the luminaries is related in day four,
but still trying to avoid the conclusion that the narrative order is thematic
rather than sequential, some would subordinate the statement about the making
of the luminaries (vv. 16, 17a) to the statement about their purpose or
functions (vv. 17b, 18a), alleging that the only distinctive new development
of day four is that these functions then become operational. But the primary
declaration that the luminaries were made cannot be eliminated as a day
four event in that way " no more so than the statement in the day two
account that God made the firmament may be reduced to the idea that a previously
existing firmament began to perform its stated purpose of dividing between
the waters above and below (Gen. 1:6, 7). Moreover, this minimalist view
of day four would share the fatal flaw of all views that eliminate the forming
of the luminaries from the happenings of day four: it would leave day four
with no new contribution, for all the functions mentioned there are already
said to be operative in day one.28
Also entailed in the minimalist interpretation of day four is the pluperfect
rendering of the verbs expressing the making of the luminaries in the fulfillment
section (vv. 16, 17), introduced by "and it was so (v. 15b). If adopted,
the pluperfect could not be restricted to these verbs. For consistently
in Genesis 1, what immediately follows the fiat and the "and it was
so formula that answers to the fiat is a detailing of what God proceeded
to bring into being in execution of the fiat. In day four then the verbs
of fulfillment in verses 16, 17 cannot be pluperfect with respect to the
fiat of verses 14, 15a. Temporally they follow the fiat, which means the
fiat would have to be put in the same pluperfect tense as its subsequent
fulfillment, yielding the translation "And God had said. That is, day
four as a whole would have to be cast in the pluperfect, and that with reference
to the time of the events in the preceding days. Ironically, such a translation
would make explicit the non-chronological sequence of the narrative, the
very thing the pluperfect proposal was trying to avoid.29
Understandably dissatisfied with the contrived nature of these attempts
to avoid acknowledging that the act of making the luminaries was a day four
event, other opponents of the non-sequential view of the creation narrative
have been driven to seek a solution in a reinterpretation of day one. They
would account for the presence of light and the cycle of day and night in
day one by positing for this point in time some light source other than
the one whose origin they admit is assigned to day four and which (according
to their commitment to the temporally sequential order of the narrative)
did not, therefore, exist until three days (or ages) after day one.
All indicators tell us that "in
beginning" belongs to the upper
register, where Father, Son, and
Spirit act together in sovereign
purpose, word, and power to
create the world.
Some speculate about a supernatural light source, a manifestation of divine
glory in space. But that distorts the eschatological design of creation
history, according to which the advent of God's Glory as the source of illumination
that does away with the need for the sun awaits the Consummation. 30
Indeed, the assumption of such a supernatural mode of ongoing providence
during the creation week is contradicted by the assumptions that inform
Gen. 2:5ff. 31
No more satisfactory is the suggestion that the hypothetical lighting system
was some natural arrangement. That would raise questions about the wisdom
of the divine procedure. Why would God create such a vast cosmic order only
to discard it three days (or ages) later? Why create a replacement cosmos
to perform the very same functions already being performed perfectly well
by the original system?32 Like the gap
theory of Gen. 1:2, this scenario, with
its mid-course cosmic upheaval and starting over, would introduce a jarring,
discordant note into the simple, stately symphony of the cosmic house-building
" planned, performed, and perfected by the all wise master builder.
Any such approach that disconnects the luminaries of day four from the light
of day one, denying the cause-effect relationship of the two, violates the
overall thematic scheme of the creation narrative. As we have seen, the
successive members of the first triad of days correspond to the successive
days of the second triad, the relationship of each matching pair being that
of creation kingdom (theme of the first triad) to creature king (theme of
the second triad). The correspondence is especially close in the day one-day
four pair. It is clearly the light phenomena (kingdom) of day one over which
the luminaries (kings) of day four rule, producing and regulating it. Temporal
recapitulation most certainly occurs at day four and hence there is no escaping
the conclusion that the narrative sequence is not intended to be the chronological
Upper Register Time
The Beginning. As observed above, the allusions in Prov. 8:22, 23 to the
bere°ît of Gen. 1:1 show that this "beginning precedes the
situation surveyed in Gen. 1:2ff. It stands at the head of the creation
days. While belonging to the creation week,33
it marks the interface of precreation and the space-time continuum, pointing
back to what is signified by "was in the identification of God as the
one "who is, and who was, and who is to come (Rev. 1:8). In Gen. 1:1
the "beginning is peculiarly associated with God himself. Similarly,
echoes of bere°ît in the Scriptures focus on divine acts and
intratrinitarian relationships back of creation. Equating the beginning
with a stage "before the earth was, Prov. 8:23 asserts that the personified
divine Wisdom was present with God at the beginning (cf. Col. 1:17). The
prologue of John's Gospel identifies "the beginning in terms of the
relationship between God and the Logos, who was God and made all things
(John 1:1-3), the one who identifies himself as "the beginning of the
creation of God (Rev. 3:14; cf. Rev. 21:6; 22:13; Col. 1:15-18) and speaks
of the glory he had with the Father "before the world was (John 17:5).
All indicators tell us that "in the beginning belongs to the upper
register, where Father, Son, and Spirit act together in sovereign purpose,
word, and power to create the world. "In the beginning is a time coordinate
of invisible space. Entry into the six days that it is, "the beginning
serves to identify them as also belonging to the invisible cosmological
The six evening-morning days
then do not mark the passage of time
in the lower register sphere.
They are not identifiable in terms
of solar days, but relate to the
history of creation at the upper
of the cosmos.
The Seventh Day. God is present at the beginning of creation; he is "the
beginning. He is also "the end, for he appears at the completion of
creation as the Sabbath Lord. The seventh day has to do altogether with
God, with the upper register. The divine rest which characterizes the seventh
day is the reign of the finisher of creation, enthroned in the invisible
heavens in the midst of the angels.34 It
is precisely the (temporary) exclusion of man from this heavenly Sabbath
of God that gives rise to the two-register cosmological order. At the Consummation,
God's people will enter his royal rest, the seventh day of creation (Heb.
4:4, 9, 10), but until then that seventh creation day does not belong to
the lower register world of human solar-day experience. It is heaven time,
not earth time, not time measured by astronomical signs.
Not only the identification of the Sabbath rest with God's royal session
on high, but the unending nature of that seventh day of creation differentiates
it from earthly, solar-days. Consisting as it does in God's status as the
one who has occupied the completed cosmic temple as the King of Glory "
status without the possibility of any interruption or limitation "
the seventh day is in the nature of the case unending. This is confirmed
by the treatment of the theme of God's "rest in Hebrews 4. That rest
is identified in verses 3 and 4 as God's seventh day of Gen. 2:2 (which
is quoted). The passage then expounds God's rest as an ongoing reality,
entrance into which is the eschatological hope of God's people (see esp.
vv. 10, 11; cf. John 5:17). If the seventh day were not an unending Sabbath-rest
for God but a literal day, would the next day be another work day, introducing
another week of work and rest for him, to be followed by an indefinite repetition
of this pattern? Are we to replace the Sabbath-Consummation doctrine of
biblical eschatology with a mythological concept of cyclic time?35
In the Genesis prologue the unending nature of God's Sabbath is signalized
by the absence of the evening-morning formula from the account of the seventh
The Six Days. Under consideration here is the series of six numbered days
and the accompanying evening-morning refrain. This refrain is not to be
connected with the solar time phenomena of days one and four, for it is
not confined to those two contexts but is included in all six day-sections
and in every case is immediately conjoined to the numbered day. The imagery
of the evening and morning is simply a detail in the creation-week picture.
This refrain thus functions as part of the formularized framework of the
The question whether the references to the six days (with their evenings
and mornings) describe lower register time phenomena or whether they belong
to the upper register is answered in favor of the latter by the interlocking
of the six days on both sides with upper register temporal features. Certainly
the six days are part of the same strand as the seventh day, and the "beginning,
as suggested above, is to be taken as the threshold of the creation week.
Psalm 104 reflects this by similarly bracketing its treatment of the works
of the six creation days (vv. 5-26 or 30) with upper register scenes of
God in heaven, before (vv. 1-4) and after (vv. 27 or 31-35).
The six evening-morning days then do not mark the passage of time in the
lower register sphere. They are not identifiable in terms of solar days,
but relate to the history of creation at the upper register of the cosmos.
The creation "week is to be understood figuratively, not literally
" that is the conclusion demanded by the biblical evidence.
Replication: The Sabbath Ordinance
Rounding out the series of acts of spatial and temporal replication in the
Genesis prologue is the reproduction of the pattern of the Creator's time
in the instituting of the Sabbath ordinance. 36
This ordinance superimposed a special temporal grid on the calendar of days
and seasons marked by astronomical sequences. The Sabbath was designed for
symbolic purposes within the covenant community, as a sign calling to consecration
and the imitation of God and as a seal promising consummation of the kingdom
to the covenant keepers.37 By this promise
the Sabbath reminds us that lower register history as a whole is patterned
after upper register time in that it is a Consummation-directed eschatological
movement. The weekly scheme of the Sabbath ordinance portrays this overall
seventh-day-bound design of lower register time while it symbolically mirrors
the archetypal heavenly creation week itself.
Exod. 20:11 brings out explicitly that the continuing earthly pattern of
sabbatical weeks is a human copy of a divine original. Within the two-register
cosmology of the creation account with all its replications of upper register
realities in the lower register world, all of them reproductions with a
difference, there can be no doubt about the figurative nature of the relationship
of the Sabbath ordinance to God's upper register creation week. The gratuitous
insistence of literalists that the terms of the Sabbath ordinance in Exod.
20:11 demand that the creation week be one of literal solar days is contradicted
by the metaphorical character of the whole series of creational replications
to which the original Sabbath ordinance (Gen. 2:3) belongs. Like man's nature
as image of God, man's walk in imitation of God's sabbatical way is not
a matter of one-to-one equivalence but of analogy, of similarity with a
difference. Like all the other lower register replicas, the sabbatical week
of the ordinance is a likeness of its original, not exactly the same; it
is an earthly metaphor for the heavenly archetype.
The Genesis prologue thus concludes with the record of the instituting of
the lower register phenomenon that provides the figurative chronological
framework on which this literary composition has itself been constructed,
the seven-day metaphor for the time dimension of God's creating the heavens
and the earth.
Cosmogony and Providence
Our argument for the metaphorical nature of the creation week has included
evidence that the narrative sequence of Genesis 1 is determined by thematic
factors and is not intended to correspond to the actual temporal sequence,
as maintained by both the solar-day and day-age views. For further light
on this issue we now turn to Gen. 2:5-7.
The Genesis 2 Context
After the prologue, Genesis divides into ten sections with a refrain formula
("these are the generation of N. [lit.]) serving as the heading for
each.38 In keeping with the uniform meaning
of this formula, Gen. 2:4 signifies that what follows recounts not the origins
but the subsequent history of the heavens and the earth. Gen. 2:5ff. is
thus identified as a record of the
sequel to the world's creation, not as a second account of creation. This
section does, however, pick up the story within the creation period (as
does the next section at Gen. 5:1ff.). In doing so, it incidentally reveals
something about the nature of divine providence during the creation week,
something that cannot be accommodated by strictly sequential interpretations
of Genesis 1.
Genesis 2 fixes attention on the lower register and, more precisely, on
Eden as it sets the stage for the covenant crisis of Genesis 3. Here again
the arrangement of the narrative is thematic rather than strictly chronological.
At the beginning (vv. 5-7) and end (vv. 18-25) the man and woman, the human
principals in the probationary crisis, are reintroduced (cf. Gen. 1:27).
The middle of the chapter describes the site of the dramatic event (vv.
8-14), calling attention to the two critical trees in the midst of the garden
(v. 9). It reports the covenant stipulations on which the decisive testing
was based (vv. 15-17), here too emphasizing the probation tree (vv. 16,
17). Thus the scene with its major features " the man, the woman, and
the judgment tree " is set for the fateful action related in Genesis
The weekly scheme of the Sabbath
ordinance portrays this overall
seventh-day-bound design of
lower register time while it
symbolically mirrors the
archetypal heavenly creation
From this overview of Genesis 2 it is evident why, in the narrative of man's
creation (vv. 5-7), the origin of vegetation (and thus of trees) is intertwined
with his. Also, looking back at Genesis 1, we can now appreciate the artful
designing that brought the first triad of days to a climax in trees and
the second triad in man, so anticipating the crucial connection of the two
unfolded in Genesis 2 and 3.
Exegesis of Genesis 2:5-7
To bring out the sovereign lordship of Yahweh-Elohim in establishing the
covenantal order of man in the garden, under probation with its demands
and promises, both represented by trees, the account takes us back to a
time before there was a man or a garden and trees. It tells us how the Lord
proceeded to form the man, plant the garden, and make its trees grow.
Gen. 2:5a says that at a certain time and place within the creation process
vegetation did not yet exist. The language allows that the earth as a whole
is referred to but the area particularly in view might be the Eden region,
on which the following narrative focuses. Absent then were all plants, whether
belonging to the unpeopled wilderness or to cultivated areas.
Gen. 2:5b explains why Yahweh-Elohim had not yet produced the vegetation.
Rain is needed for the preservation and growth of plants, and God had not
yet initiated the rain cycle. Of course, man can compensate for the local
lack of rainfall by constructing an irrigation system, but man was not on
the scene either. It is the assumption underlying this explanation for the
timing of the creation of vegetation that confirms the conclusion that the
Genesis 1 narrative is not chronologically sequential. To this we shall
Gen. 2:6 tells of the provision of a supply of water, the absence of which
had previously delayed the appearance of vegetation. Whatever the meaning
of the Hebrew 'ed (traditionally "mist), this verse cannot be describing
another circumstance adverse to plant life (like chaotic flood waters),
for the effect of the 'ed was beneficial watering, such being the consistent
meaning of the verb saqa.39 Verse 6 must
then be relating a new development, not something concurrent with the situation
described in verse 5. For otherwise verse 6 would be affirming the presence
of the supply of water necessary for the survival of vegetation at the very
time when verse 5b says the absence of vegetation was due to the lack of
such a water supply. The context thus demands the translation: "but
an 'ed began to rise, an inceptive meaning that is agreeable to the usage
of the imperfect form of the verb employed here.40
The 'ed in verse 6 answered to the previous lack of rain in verse 5b. If
the 'ed does not refer to rain but to some satisfactory alternative, the
previous absence of that alternative should have been included in verse
5b in the listing of the missing sources of water. Indeed, if the 'ed solution
is not equatable with the rain whose absence was the problem, the citing
of the absence of rain in verse 5b would itself be stranded as an irrelevance.
These considerations argue in support of the identification of the Hebrew
'ed with the Eblaite i-du, "rain-cloud.41 Also, the one other context
where 'ed is found is all about rain-clouds. That passage, Job 36, extols
the greatness of God, who spreads the clouds abroad and sends down showers
on man, so giving food in abundance (vv. 26-33). Verse 27a speaks of God's
drawing forth the drops of water and then, repeating the image, the parallel
clause in verse 27b adds the source from which the rain is distilled, namely
the 'ed, apparently the rain-clouds. Similarly in Genesis 2 the originating
of the 'ed as a watering system (v. 6) is implicitly attributed to Yahweh-Elohim
by virtue of the previous tracing of the absence of that provision to his
determination (v. 5b). Another Joban echo of this is heard in Job 38:25-30.
Challenging Job's knowledge of storm phenomena, the Lord illustrates his
own creation-wide sovereignty by the example of his provision of rain and
vegetation, not just in agricultural areas but in the wilderness where no
Gen. 2:5 reflects an environmental
situation that has obviously
lasted for a while; it assumes a
far more leisurely pace on the
part of the Creator, for whom a
thousand years are as one day.
The springing forth of plants (at least the wild plants that need only the
rain, not man the cultivator) is taken for granted in Gen. 2:6 as a consequence
of the provision of the prerequisite water, a consequence occurring before
the creation of man (v. 7). Even the Lord's planting of the garden with
its trees (v. 8) is not to be located after the creation of man, since the
form of the verb for planting can express the pluperfect.42
In the absence of rainfall, man can dig irrigation ditches to bring the
necessary water to his cultivated land,43
and therefore, to round out the explanation of the absence of vegetation
in Gen. 2:5b, the absence of man was added to the absence of rain. But once
God had caused it to rain, the Eden-garden could be planted without man
being yet present.
When, therefore, the creation of man is narrated in Gen. 2:7, this act is
not subordinated to the theme of the production of vegetation. However symbiotic
the relationship of man and the cultivated plants, man was not made for
the plants but the plants for man. The report of man's creation (v. 7) stands
apart as an independent statement announcing the presence of the main party
in the upcoming probationary crisis to take place in connection with the
trees of the garden " the theme of the following narrative.
Genesis 2:5 and the Creation "Week"
What was the nature of divine providence during the creation "week?
More specifically, by what means did God preserve such things as he had
brought into existence? Embedded in Gen. 2:5 is an answer to that question
that has decisive implications for the interpretation of the chronological
framework of the creation account.
Whatever uncertainty may perplex the exegesis of various details in Gen.
2:5-7, the point I am now making does not depend on the adoption of a particular
interpretation of any of these details. It rests on " indeed, consists
in " the simple, incontestable fact that Gen. 2:5 gives an explanation,
a perfectly natural explanation, for the absence of vegetation somewhere
within the creation "week. 44 Gen.
2:5 tells us that God did not produce the plants of the field before he
had established an environment with a watering system, the natural, normal
precondition for plant life. The assumption underlying Gen. 2:5 is clearly
that a natural mode of divine providence was in operation during the creation
Acts of supernatural origination did initiate and punctuate the creation
process. And had God so pleased, his providential oversight of what he had
created might also have been by supernatural means during that process.
Gen. 2:5, however, takes it for granted that providential operations were
not of a supernatural kind, but that God ordered the sequence of creation
acts so that the continuance and development of the earth and its creatures
could proceed by natural means. This unargued assumption of Gen. 2:5 contradicts
the reconstructions of the creation days proposed by the more traditional
The scenario conjured by the literalists' solar-day interpretation is, in
fact, utterly alien to the climate and tenor of Gen. 2:5. Within the flurry
of stupendous events which their view entails, each new cosmic happening
coming hard on the heels of the last and all transpiring within a few hours
or days, the absence of vegetation or anything else at any given point would
not last long enough to occasion special consideration of the reasons for
it. Within that time-frame such a question would be practically irrelevant.
Gen. 2:5 reflects an environmental situation that has obviously lasted for
a while; it assumes a far more leisurely pace on the part of the Creator,
for whom a thousand years are as one day. The tempo of the literalists'
reconstructed cosmogony leaves no room for the era-perspective of Gen. 2:5.45
And in specific contradiction of the disclosure of Gen. 2:5, both the solar-day
and day-age theories must assume that God used other than the ordinary secondary
means in the providential sustaining and further shaping of what his creative
word had called into being.
The more traditional
interpretations of the creation
account are guilty not only of
creating a conflict between the
Bible and science but, in effect, of
pitting Scripture against Scripture.
We have already seen that any view that insists day four presents events
chronologically later than those in day one must posit some means other
than the sun, moon, and stars of day four, something extraordinary or even
supernatural, to account for the effects of light and the day-night cycle
mentioned in day one. It would also have to be by some such means that the
vegetation whose production is described in day three was sustained apart
from the presence of the normally prerequisite sun of day four. Likewise,
on any strictly sequential interpretation of the narrative, the existence
of all flora (day three) before any fauna (days five and six) would include
extraordinary means of preservation in those symbiotic situations where
the survival of a particular kind of vegetation is dependent on the activity
of animal life. And of course the existence of the earth itself on day one
confronts the traditional approaches with a gigantic exception to normal
providential procedure. For according to them the earth would have come
into existence by itself as a solitary sphere, not as part of the cosmological
process by which stars and their satellites originate, and it would have
continued alone, suspended in a spatial void (if we may so speak) for the
first three "days of creation. All the vast universe whose origin is
narrated on day four would then be younger (even billions of years younger)
than the speck in space called earth. So much for the claimed harmony of
the narrative sequence of Genesis 1 with scientific cosmology.46
In short, if the narrative sequence were intended to represent the chronological
sequence, Genesis 1 would bristle with contradictions of what is revealed
in Gen. 2:5. Our conclusion is then that the more traditional interpretations
of the creation account are guilty not only of creating a conflict between
the Bible and science but, in effect, of pitting Scripture against Scripture.
The true harmony of Genesis 1 and Gen. 2:5 appears, however, and the false
conflict between the Bible and science disappears, when we recognize that
the creation "week is a lower register metaphor for God's upper register
creation-time and that the sequence of the "days is ordered not chronologically
1"Because It Had Not Rained",
The Westminster Theological Journal 20 (1958):146-157.
2 Cf. H. Blocher, In the Beginning
(Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1984); C. E. Hummel, The Galileo Connection
(Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1986); R. Maatman, The Impact of Evolutionary
Theory: A Christian View (Sioux Center: Dordt College Press, 1993).
3 Theological differences aside,
the cosmology of mythology is analogous. Indeed, mythology may be defined
formally precisely as a portrayal of human affairs in terms of a dynamic
interrelating of divine and human realms.
4 Similarly, the depths of the
sea or subsurface earth metaphorically signify the infernal realm.
5 "Heaven of heavens (cf.
Deut. 10:14; 1 Kgs. 8:27; Neh. 9:6; Pss. 115:16; 148:4) apparently distinguishes
a "higher heaven, possibly the clouds of heaven (the waters "above
the heavens, cf. Ps. 148:4) or the invisible heavens.
6 For elaboration of this theme
see my Kingdom Prologue (privately published, 1993), pp. 31, 32.
8 The tabernacle and temple were
so designed that both in their horizontal and vertical sectioning they also
portrayed the visible register of the cosmic temple with its corresponding
partitioning. Cf. my Images of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980),
pp. 39-42 (hereafter, Images).
9 This example thus contains
the additional feature of the likeness of the lower to the upper phenomenon.
Comparison of these reliefs with literary accounts of warfare as a two-level
affair involving earthly conflict of nations below and divine or angelic
contention in the heavens (cf. Dan. 10:12, 13, 20, 21; Zech. 9:13, 14) illustrates
how these cultural media can be mutually illuminating.
10 For a discussion of bere°ît,
11 See further W. P. Brown,
Structure, Role, and Ideology in the Hebrew and Greek Texts of Genesis 1:1-2:3
(Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1993), p. 102, n. 12.
12 The same question arises
in Exod. 20:11. On this, see the discussion of the phrase "the heavens
and the earth below.
13 If one does so insist, then
recognition of what Proverbs 8 reveals about bere°ît in Gen.
1:1 would compel adoption of some variety of the discredited gap theory
to account for the earth in Gen. 1:2.
14 Cf. the observations of A.
Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis (Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1963), p.
15 On the common use of avian
imagery for deity in the ancient Near East see my "The Feast of Cover-over,
Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 37 (1994): 497, 498 (hereafter,
"Cover-over). Cf., e.g., in pharaonic nomenclature the Horus (or serekh)
16 For an extensive treatment
of this see my Images.
17 Cf. Images, pp. 22, 23.
18 This alternating sequence
of heavenly and earthly scenes is similar to the pattern of the prologue
to Job. The similarity is not just formal, for in each case what takes place
in the lower register is determined by the sovereign word of God revealed
in the heavenly council.
19 Space and time are conceptually
correlative in the Sabbath. In our analysis of the time coordinate of this
cosmological charting the Sabbath will be given closer consideration.
20 This will be spelled out
in our discussion of the replication relationship of the two registers.
Evidence will appear there for preferring the kingdom-king analysis of the
themes of the two triads over something more general, like regions and their
occupants or habitations and inhabitants.
21 Cf. my "Cover-over.
22 Cf. my Images.
23 These data also attest further
to the parallelism between the successive members of the two triads of days.
24 Following nineteenth century
theologian W. G. T. Shedd, C. J. Collins identifies the creation days as
an anthropomorphism, part of an extended anthropomorphic portrayal of the
Creator as the worker-craftsman; cf. "How Old Is The Earth? Anthropomorphic
Days in Genesis 1:1-2:3, Presbyterion 20 (1994): esp. 117, 118 (herafter,
"How Old). As over against the literalists, this is moving in the right
direction. But the explanation needs adjustment, for not all the metaphors
used of God are anthropomorphic (cf., e.g., the avian image in Gen. 1:2)
and some of them refer to heavenly realities other than God. It is rather
a matter of two-register cosmology and an archetype-ectype relationship
between the entire two registers in both their spatial and temporal dimensions.
25 I would agree that this is
in fact a correct view of the day one situation, but not that that situation
was before day four.
26 For a recent example, cf.
Collins, "How Old, p. 123, n. 55.
27 A recent case is D. L. Roth,
"Genesis and the Real World, Kerux 9 (1994): 30-54.
28 The role of ruling cannot
be isolated as a new function distinct from those mentioned in day one.
In Gen. 1:18 ruling the day and night is explicated as dividing the light
from the darkness (equivalent to dividing the day from the night, v. 14).
29 A pluperfect rendering of
the wayyiqtol-form introducing this section is grammatically defensible,
precisely because it begins a paragraph, and that would bring out the true
temporal relationship of Gen. 1:14ff. to what immediately precedes. But
though this would establish my thesis without more ado, I would retain the
translation, "And God said (v. 14) and God made (v. 16) in order to
preserve the picture of seven successive days, leaving it to the other available
evidence to demonstrate the figurative nature of this picture and the dischronologized
sequence of the contents of the days.
30 Note also that the presence
of this divine Luminary puts an end to the cycle of day and night instituted
on day one (Rev. 22:5).
31 On this, see below.
32 Indeed, in line with the
anthropic principle, the original system would necessarily have been virtually
the same as its replacement. Cf. R. Maatman, The Bible, Natural Science,
and Evolution (Sioux Center: Dordt College Press, 1970), p. 111; A. Lightman,
Ancient Light (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard U. Press, 1991), pp. 117-121.
33 This conclusion is required
by Exod. 20:11, particularly if the "heaven it refers to as being made
during the "six days includes the invisible heavens, whose formation,
unlike that of the earth, was exclusively within "the beginning.
34 Cf. my Kingdom Prologue,
35 The issue of creation-consummation
eschatology is theologically crucial, for bound up with it is the Bible's
doctrine of the covenant with its decisive probationary crisis and the principle
of federal representation.
36 For a discussion of the Sabbath
as a creation ordinance, see my Kingdom Prologue, p. 50.
37 Ibid., pp. 51, 52.
38 Cf. ibid., pp. 6, 7.N
39 Ancient Near Eastern cosmogonies
contain the motif of an absence of water that is subsequently remedied,
with fruitful fields resulting. Examples are the Sumerian myth of Enki and
the World Order and the Akkadian Myth of Anzu. For discussion see R. J.
Clifford, Creation Accounts in the Ancient Near East and in the Bible (Washington,
DC: The Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1994), pp. 34f., 84.
40 See the discussions of preterital
yiqtol in P. Joüon and T. Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (Rome:
Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1993), pp. 368-9 and of incipient past non-perfective
in B. K. Waltke and M. O'Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax
(Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1990), pp. 503-4. Cf. S. R. Driver, A Treatise
on the Use of the Tenses in Hebew2 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1881), pp. 27, 36ff.
Suggested examples, besides cases involving stative verbs, include Gen.
37:7; Exod. 15:5, 12, 14; 2 Sam. 15:37 (cf. 16:15); 1 Kings 7:7, 8; Jer.
41 Cf. M. Dahood, "Eblaite
ì-du and Hebrew 'ed, `Rain Cloud,' Catholic Biblical Quarterly 43
(1981): 534-38. Other suggested etymologies for 'ed produce meanings like
flood or subterranean rivers, which break through and water the surface.
On such interpretations (and on the rain-cloud view too) the 'eres from
which the 'ed ascends could be the deeps beneath the earth (cf. Exod. 15:12).
42 Compare the similar grammatical-compositional
situation in Gen. 2:19, which surely does not intend to suggest that the
animals were made after the creation of Adam and his experience in the garden
described in verses 7-18.
43 This is a function of mankind
featured in the ancient cosmogonies.
44 One thing showing that the
situation described is within the six-day era is that man was not yet present.
My essential contention is not affected whether the lack of vegetation mentioned
be earthwide or local (the Eden area) and no matter to which "day the
vegetationless situation pertains.
45 Endorsing my argument as
originally published, H. Blocher examines the criticism of it by E. J. Young
(Studies in Genesis One [Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1964],
pp. 58-65) and concludes that Young "misses the main point (In the
Beginning, p. 56, n. 56).
46 Some of these problems of
sequence (but not the major one involving days one and four) would be resolved
by a variation on the day-age view which allows that the days may overlap.
The idea is that while what is described as happening on a given day must
have begun to happen before the next day's developments began, the completing
of the earlier day's creative work would have overlapped the activity of
subsequent days. This contrived interpretation not only fails to salvage
the chronological sequence even in the compromised overlapping form proposed,
but it actually amounts to a virtual acknowledgment that chronological sequence
yields to thematic interests in the ordering of the days.
47 In this article I have advocated
an interpretation of biblical cosmogony according to which Scripture is
open to the current scientific view of a very old universe and, in that
respect, does not discountenance the theory of the evolutionary origin of
man. But while I regard the widespread insistence on a young earth to be
a deplorable disservice to the cause of biblical truth, I at the same time
deem commitment to the authority of scriptural teaching to involve the acceptance
of Adam as an historical individual, the covenantal head and ancestral fount
of the rest of mankind, and the recognition that it was the one and same
divine act that constituted him the first man, Adam the son of God (Luke
3:38), that also imparted to him life (Gen. 2:7).