If God created the earth and if He described what He did in Genesis, why does the evidence not fit the Genesis account? The fact is that it does! The problem is that human beings misinterpret both records because of their preconceived ideas. Mankind tends to decide what they want to believe and then bend, distort, and twist what they read and observe to fit what they have all ready determined to be true. Sometimes called "the universal rule of graduate work," the situation is described as "make sure your data conforms to your conclusions." We have seen it used in studies of breast cancer, in the cigarette company's studies of the effects of smoking, and in all kinds of government evaluations of everything from presidents to the ecological studies of desert fish.
When considering the Genesis account, we find two groups who tend to be especially guilty of this "universal rule of graduate work." One group is the atheist who starts with the presupposition that Genesis cannot possibly be right because it is religious in nature. This view assumes that ignorance and religious superstition so dominates the Genesis account that whatever it says, it has to be wrong. With such a viewpoint, the most bizarre and ridiculous interpretation of a biblical word or phrase is always taken, no matter what violence that interpretation does to the context of the passage. The second group is the denominationalist who has accepted a particular religious viewpoint as to what, how, and when God has done the creating. All biblical statements are forced into the framework that the tradition of their denomination has established no matter how much the wording has to be distorted or ignored to make it fit the tradition.
To be honest, I have to admit that I too am guilty of interpreting the Genesis record in a way that fits my preconceived idea of what must (in my opinion) be true. I stated this viewpoint at the start of this article. It is my conviction that science and faith in God are symbiotic viewpoints--mutually advantageous and supportive of one another. I maintain that the God of the Bible did the creating and then told us about it in His Word. The skeptic may respond by saying, "Boy, you're going to have to do a lot of distorting and twisting to do that!" My response to that charge is that all I have to do is use the words given in Genesis consistently and not add anything to what is said. When I do those two things, I find the two records agree in every checkable detail.
An example of this principle is the description of the early condition of land and sea in Genesis 1:9-10:
And God said, let the waters under the heaven be gathered together into one place and let the dry land appear.
There are obviously a numher of possible interpretations that could he made of this statement. Some of them are preposterous scientifically. I have heard people propose that waters were a vault or canopy above the earth and that the land was under this canopy. Other writers have proposed that the waters produced soil and rock so the crust of the earth was produced from water. The scientific problems of proposals like these are enormous--caused by a preconceived idea of what should have happened.
The Hebrew word translated "place" in this verse is the word maqom--liteirally meaning "a place of standing." This word is used literally hundreds of times in the Bible and it always refers to a specific area or locality. It is never used to refer to a huge zone or region, but is much more specific. The word "earth" comes from the Hebrew word erets and refers to "something that people are living on, working on, walking on, and using to carry on their daily activities." Here are some uses of these two words:
"Unto the 'place' (maqom) of the altar..." (Genesis 13:4). "...spare the 'place' (maqom) for the fifty..." (Genesis 18:24). "...Abraham returned unto his 'place' (maqom)" (Genesis 18:33). "And the 'earth' (erets) brought forth grass,..." (Genesis 1:12). "...every thing that is in the 'earth' (erets) shall die" (Genesis 6:17). "...famine was over all the face of the 'earth' (erets)..." (Genesis 41:56).
To be consistent with this kind of usage, what must we understand Genesis 1:9-10 to be referring to? It seems difficult to escape the concept that, at the time being referred to, the water of the earth was in one place and the land was in another. There is nothing said or implied that would lead us to believe that the water was in many places or that there were many lands. I can remember being in a geology class in which the professor castigated the Genesis account for stating that there was one land mass and one body of water in the beginning. His explanation was that the Bible writer only knew of one continent and so he wrote from his own ignorance.
I am sure that the professor would not make that accusation today because we now have compelling evidence that early in the earth's history, there was a single land mass. The evidence is that convection cells caused by heat differences have produced forces which have broken the land masses apart and rafted them away from one another. Using the Genesis words consistently eliminates any conflict and produces an amazing symbiosis between the biblical account and the scientific evidence.
Another example of the benefits of consistency in the use of words in Genesis concerns the dinosaurs and the fossil record. In spite of a constant barrage of fakes, mistakes, and exaggerations by religious extremists, no evidence has been found supporting the notion that hunnan and dinosaurs lived at the same time. The evidence leads to just the opposite conclusion. looking at the animals described in Genesis 1, a person has to deal with which of them might include the dinosaurs. There have been several candidates, but most suggestions do not work. The word translated "creeping thing" is the word remes which refers to an animal close to the ground and was something the ancient Israelites could eat (Genesis 9:1-3. The water creatures of verses 20 and 21 certainly do not include the land-dwelling dinosaurs or flying creatures like the pterodactyl. Probably the leading candidate in Genesis 1 is the word behemah translated "cattle" in Genesis 1:24. An enlarged form of this word is found in Job 40:15. Can this word include dinosaurs? How is it used elsewhere in the Bible? Consider the following examples of uses:
"...my lord also hath our herds of 'cattle' (behemah)..." (Genesis 47:18). "...smote all the firstborn ... of 'cattle' (behemah)" (Exodus 12:29). "...shall rob you of your children, and destroy your 'cattle' (behemah)..." (Leviticus 26:22). "...and the 'cattle' (behemah) of the levites..." (Numbers 3:45). "...only the spoil thereof, and the 'cattle' (behemah)..." (Joshua 8:2).
It seems obvious that the word refers to cattle, to an ungulate. To force this word to include a dinosaur or a pterodactyl or a duckbill platypus is to do violence to consistent use of the word. Even attempts to find dinosaurs as contemporary with man outside of Genesis run into the same problem. The word leviathan used in Job 41:1, for example, is used in Psalm 104:26 in reference to a "creature of the deep ocean"-- an environment which the dinosaurs did not inhabit in significant numbers.
The conclusion of this kind of examination of Genesis leads us to believe that the animals of Genesis were aninnals that Moses and the Israelites were familiar with--not viruses, dinosaurs, pterodactyl, platypuses, and the like. By taking this consistent use of these words, we find we have eliminated the conflict that many see between the scientific evidence and the biblical record. This approach also leads to a number of theological implications and even doctrinal considerations. A good example is the use of the word "church." There can be no question that the word referred to people who were "called out" of the world in passages like these:
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall he one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committed fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's (1 Corinthians 6:16-20).
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people (2 Corinthians 6:16).
What is being referred to in these passages is obviously the people--those who are called out of the world and into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. How can we possibly then ever make the interpretation that a building or a corporation is the church? We can only do this if we assume the word means something different than it does in its use in the passages we have cited. People have argued about what can be in the church or by the church because they have assumed that the church is brick and mortar instead of people. Similar discussions have gone on about baptism, adultery, the Holy Spirit, and a variety of other issues because of inconsistent uses and meanings of words.
The second thing which we made reference to in the third pararaph of this article was to not add anything to what is said in the Genesis account. This has been an equally common problem in people's misunderstanding of the Genesis record. The Bible has not given a method of creation that God used to bring things into existence. Some have felt that a theory like the Big Bang is a threat to Genesis when, in reality, all it does is give away that what the Bible describes as "the heaved up things" (shamayim in Hebrew translated "heaven" in most translations) could have come to be. Well-educated atheists hate the Big Bang theory because they know it assumes creation. What exploded is not addressed by the theory.
Another exaanple is the question of the age of the earth and what is on it. Many theologies give a very specific time reference to biblical events. Some hold to a denominational view that the whole history of this planet is divided into 1,000-year periods--the last of which is believed to be the physical reign of Christ on earth. For this view to be true, the earth's age has to be relatively young. Many views of the book of Revelation put very specific restraints on the timing of biblical events.
The fact is that, to establish any kind of a time reference for the natural history of this planet, a variety of assumptions of the Bible have to be made. These assumptions and the time limitations that denominational views put on events in the Bible are what create the conflicts with scientific evidence. Why not be silent where the Bible is silent and refuse to allow denominational tradition and human religious theories to create conflict with the scientific evidence?
-JNCBack to Contents November/December 1995