God's Revelation in His Rocks and in His Word
by John N. Clayton

The Need
What about Dinosaurs?
The Nature of Fossils
The Nature of Dating Techniques
Appendix A--Genesis 1:1-2:3
Biblical Time
Appendix B--Hebrew Definitions
The Nature of the Biblical Account
Appendix C--Animals of Genesis
The History of Creation according to the Bible and the Fossils

The Need

This paper is a part of the Does God Exist? program which was begun in 1968 by John Clayton as an attempt to show that intelligent, scientifically literate, thinking people can and should believe in God and in the Bible as His Word.  Your author, John Clayton, is a science teacher who began his teaching career in the public schools of South Bend, Indiana, in 1959 and has taught physics, chemistry, geology, astronomy, and physical science since that time.  Since I was an atheist for many years and came to believe in God through my studies in science, it frustrated me to see students and parents who viewed faith and science as enemies.  This was the basic reason for beginning the Does God Exist? work.  Since 1968, this program has expanded beyond our wildest dreams, and the need for this kind of work has been recognized by many individuals resulting in many other similar type of works being initiated.

The problem with many of these other programs has been that they have been rooted in religious doctrine to such an extent that all science has been interpreted by the religious doctrine that the author believed in.  Even when that is not the case, there has been a tendency for religious writers to quote people who came from a specific denominational tradition.  Ronald Number's book The Creationists (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1992) has shown that almost all creationists were from a millennial tradition and built their arguments against evolution or against a long age to the earth from that particular understanding.  The problem with this viewpoint is that, in addition to an incorrect understanding of the Bible, it frequently runs into a conflict with scientific evidence.  This has caused many religionists to invent a model that explains the evidence, but which embraces bad science.  Flood geology is perhaps the best example of this, in which the flood of Noah's day is used to reject all geological evidence which would suggest that the earth might be more than 6,000 years old.  An historically-based proposal could lead to scientific discovery, so if the historical event of the flood is accepted one could look at its effects and make some applications to geology.  What has happened in this case, however, has been that the model is accepted as fact even though it fails to deal with known scientific truth and this has infuriated many in the scientific community.  I suggest that there is a great weakness in taking a particular religious view and interpreting science in terms of what you already believe religiously or vice versa.

The purpose of this booklet is to take a literal acceptance of what the Genesis record really says in the original language and compare it with the scientific evidence--the purpose being to see how closely they match.  From a positive standpoint they must agree.  If God gave us the Bible which tells us about what He did, there cannot possibly be a contradiction.  If there is a contradiction, it is either because we have misunderstood the Bible or we have misunderstood scientific evidence.  The lesson of the past has been that mankind has misunderstood both and has pitted his human traditions against his bad science, resulting in total confusion.  It is bad enough that this has caused religious division and strife, but the damage it has done to the faith of young people makes it catastrophic in nature.

Several years ago I had a young man in my physics class who really brought this point home to me.  I had gotten to know and appreciate this young man as he took my class in Advanced Placement Physics at Riley High School.  He was a brilliant young man and a leader in the class.  He also was extremely gifted in science and especially in physics.  I had encouraged him to go on and make a career in science.  The last day of school he came in to say goodbye and, as he got ready to go he said, "By the way, I just wanted you to know that I would like to major in physics in college but my parents won't let me."  "What do you mean 'your parents won't let you,'" I asked.  "They say science destroys faith and morals, and they want me to be active in my church," he said.  "They want me to major in something that will not cause me to lose my faith, and they say science is 'Satan's tool.'"  I called the young man's mother and found that this was, in fact, their viewpoint, and they had convinced him that his talents would be wasted and be destructive if he went into science.  I have seen numerous cases like this one with parents and even had a counselor in my high school who had the same idea and steered many good, capable young people away from science.  This is not a trivial issue.  There is a great need to show that science and faith are symbiotic in nature--each beneficial to the other.  You can logically, rationally, and reasonably believe in God, and you can believe that the Bible is His Word.  It is my hope that this exercise will demonstrate that to you.

The Nature of Fossils

I am a high school earth science teacher.  I took my advanced degree work in a program sponsored by the National Science Foundation and, since it was government sponsored and involved locations all over the United States, I was able to see first-hand the geology of North America.  I have been blessed by being able to travel throughout North America, Europe, and Australia and have been able to see major points of geologic interest in those areas.  I also have been able to collect large numbers of fossils from all kinds of living things and all sorts of geologic formations.  Any standard geology textbook, museum, or encyclopedia will show you pictures of fossils.  The fossils have many stories to tell us about the past.  A fossil can be defined as any evidence of life that has lived on the earth in the past.  This means it can be a bone, a piece of skin, a footprint, the dung of an animal, a nest, an egg, or the imprint of one of these.

The lessons in the fossils are many and varied.  We see animals that have lived in the past that are very different than animals living today, and we see that the conditions under which they lived were also very different.  I have seen the fossils of tropical animals in Alaska.  I have seen coal deposits with a dinosaur buried in the coal deep under the ground in several places.  I have seen the eggs of dinosaurs with the fossilized babies still inside at various stages of embryonic development.  Dinosaurs lived, and their fossilized remains tell us a great deal about them.  Michigan's state rock is the Petosky Stone, a tropical coral that will not grow in water colder than 68º F.  The tennis courts in Petosky, Michigan, have massive amounts of this material around them.  Few of us would believe that Petosky, Michigan, is a tropical paradise today!  I have seen drill cores from the north slopes in Alaska where there have been redwood deposits found.  Today, the intense cold prevents any plant like that from growing there.

Another lesson that fossils teach us is that there is such a thing as factual evolution.  On a trip in the Grand Canyon many years ago, a friend of mine named Alan Doty (who lives in Arizona and is an expert on the Grand Canyon) showed me a slab of brachiopod remains on an outcrop near the top of the Canyon.  All of the fossils were the same creature.  Some time later, Dr. John McDowell (a boatman for Hatch Expeditions and a geology professor from Tulane University) showed me a similar slab of brachiopods near the bottom of the Canyon.  The brachiopod is an ocean creature that looks a little like a clam.  These two slabs of brachiopods were about the same size, but the brachiopods were radically different and wear different names.  One is called eospirifer and the other is called olenothyrus.  They have different shapes, they have different grooves in their shells, and other cosmetic differences.  It is obvious that they are as different one from the other as a Chihuahua is from a St. Bernard.  These animals are different because of evolution.  Evolutionary change like this can be seen in everything from horses to bacteria, and we see it taking place today in cattle, dogs, and even the races of men.  The Bible also tells us about this kind of change when it records what Jacob did with Laban's flocks in Genesis chapter 30.  This is evolution.  There are many examples of evolution in the Bible.  Some may say that this is variation, not evolution; but to invent your own vocabulary just confuses the issues.  This is what the textbook from which I teach calls evolution.  There is the fact of evolution which can be seen in the fossils or on any farm today and which the Bible teaches.  There are the various theories of evolution which suggest that this kind of change can explain how every creature on the earth today came from a single cell in some distant ocean at a time long ago.  The fossils show us the fact that animals have charged.  The theoretical extrapolations made from this fact are the subject of debate among scientists and religionists, and the "in" theory changes from time to time.  The fact that living things can change is indisputable.  It might be useful to point out that the two brachiopod slabs could not have been produced by a flood.  Floods do not put one kind of animal in one layer and a different kind of animal with the same size, mass, and density in another.  Floods make a huge twisted mess of everything.  This is one of the many problems with flood geology.

One of the major lessons that fossils have to tell us is the nature of the history of planet Earth.  Evolution and much of geology has assumed that the nature of the history of the earth has been a constant history.  The snappy way of saying this is "the present is the key to the past."  The idea is that, when we look at a rock or a fossil, we assume that the processes that produced what we are looking at have been processes that are still operational today.  The processes may not have been functioning at the same rate that they are today, but that the processes are the same.  That means that all of the earth has been shaped and molded by volcanoes, glaciers, earthquakes, landslides, flash floods, water erosion, wind erosion, weathering, etc.  This assumption has been given the name uniformitarianism.

The alternative to this view would be that processes we do not see operational today have worked in the past and have been major players in shaping the earth.  The biblical flood of Noah would certainly not be a uniformitarian event.  The Bible actually tells us that God has created with consistency and uniformity (Numbers 23:19-20; Psalm 33:11; Psalm 119:89-91; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17; Deuteronomy 33:15; Psalm 104:5).  The Bible also tells us that, on rare occasions, God has punctuated history with catastrophic events that have an effect on large sections of this planet or even on the entire earth.  The flood of Noah is an example, as are the plagues in Egypt, the events when Jesus died, and certainly what will happen when He comes again.

What does the fossil record tell us about this question?  There are many illustrations that can be given on this question, but the best, in this writer's opinion, is the extinction of the dinosaurs.  The dinosaurs were wiped out along with numerous other plants and animals, by an event that is not taking place today.  When studies were made of the deposits in which the last remains of the dinosaurs are found, it was discovered that there were large amounts of the elements iridium, osmium, and rhenium in the deposits.  These elements are found on the earth in trace amounts, but they are found in the deposits of the rocks that contain evidence of the dinosaurs' destruction in concentrations 500 times higher than normal earth rocks.  These elements are found in asteroids--large chunks of rocks from outer space.  Most scientists now agree that, at the end of the time when the dinosaurs lived on the earth, a large asteroid hit the earth--perhaps off the Yucatan Peninsula.  There are a number of facts that support this event, and the event would explain the mass extinction of the dinosaurs and other things that disappeared from the earth.

Here is a case where the Bible was thought to have been in error about the nature of events that have occurred in the past.  As the evidence has become stronger, the integrity of the biblical record has been proven.  Most fossils show us a past with conditions like what we see happening today, but God has interrupted his normally hospitable conditions with an occasional catastrophe which does have a significant affect upon life.  The fossil record also shows that animals very different than animals living today have existed in the past--animals that we call dinosaurs.  I have met people who wanted to deny that dinosaurs ever lived on this planet, but I have seen dried out specimens in the ground with skin on their bodies.  I have looked at the dung of dinosaurs and I have seen how easy it is to tell what they ate--some of the dung being full of plant material, and some of it being full of the remains of the bodies of other animals.  Most of the dinosaurs were very small animals being no larger than a collie, but I have seen the remains of huge animals dwarfing most land animals of today.  It is interesting to note that the largest animal ever to have lived on this planet still lives on the earth today--the blue whale.  The aorta of this giant animal is so large that you could swim through it.  For land animals as large as a brontosaurus to have lived on the earth, the land must have been very different than it is today.  Land plants that we know today would have a hard time reproducing and growing fast enough to satisfy these animals' food needs.  The plants that the dinosaurs ate were gymnosperms--fast-growing plants like ferns and conifers.  Temperatures must have been high to minimize metabolic problems in the animals.

In spite of these obvious problems, there have been those who have tried to maintain that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time.  The first time I heard of any claims like this was in reference to a park in Glen Rose, Texas.  A man named Jake McFall who lived near the state park just outside of Glen Rose had been involved in a film titled Footprints in Stone in which human and dinosaur tracks were claimed to have been found in the same rock.  For a nominal fee, Jake took me to the tracks and to a number of other tracks on his farm.  The tracks were sandal shaped tracks some 16 inches long, with a few of them having erosion grooves in the front that looked a little like toes.  The tracks were obviously not human tracks to me, but I went on to town and the Somerville County Museum where other materials were displayed.  A local man who spent a great deal of time in the museum assured me the human tracks were not real.

During the next several years, I made many more trips to Glen Rose looking at other claimed tracks and even had contact with Carl Baugh who has attempted to keep this story alive.  Gene Kuban, a science teacher in Waxahatche, Texas, released a study of the tracks in 1986 in which he demonstrated that, if one cut the rocks parallel to the surface of the ground, one could see that the tracks were clearly dinosaur tracks with a three-toed imprint at the bottom.  The soft mud had fallen into the track leaving a sandal shaped impression that looked like a human footprint, but clearly was not.  Everyone associated with the situation seemed to be in agreement.  John Morris of the Institute for Creation Research was quoted in Time (June 30, 1986, page 75) as agreeing that there were no human tracks at Glen Rose and the film Footprints in Stone was withdrawn from circulation.  There are still people today who are trying to maintain that humans and dinosaurs lived together, and films like Jurassic Park have not changed that view any.  I believe that the major problem is that the only way certain religious views can be seriously entertained is to refuse to admit that the earth is much more than 6,000 years old, and that view requires dinosaurs and humans to be contemporaries.

The Nature of Dating Techniques

We are not just interested in what the stories are that the fossils have to tell us, but we are also interested in when those stories took place.  When we find a plant-eating dinosaur with a T. rex tooth imbedded in its hip bone, we would like to date the bite.  There are several problems in embarking on this subject.  One of them is the question of uniformitarianism discussed earlier.  How long did it take to produce the Grand Canyon?  I have a commercial filmstrip that I was given by the school system to show in my classroom that makes the calculation this way:  it assumes that the Canyon was produced by the Colorado River eroding down through an uplifted plateau.  At the present time, the Colorado River is eroding about one half a foot every 1,000 years.  That means it takes 2,000 years to erode each foot of rock.  If there is 6,000 feet of rock missing and it takes 2,000 years for each foot, then obviously the time to erode the Canyon is 6,000 feet times 2,000 thousand years per foot or 12,000,000 years.

What assumptions are made in this calculation?  The reader might wish to stop and write down the ones they see.  First of all, we have to assume that the Colorado River did in fact cause the Canyon.  It is undoubtedly one agent, but not the only agent.  The whole Canyon is a monocline (a fold) which affects the erosion rate.  There are literally hundreds of faults in the canyon which changes the ease of erosion.  The rock types in the Canyon vary with some being softer than others and thus are easier to erode.  The volume of water in the Colorado River is certainly not constant and, before the dams were built on it, certainly had greater cutting ability.  There have been lava flows which dammed up the river and made a lake which would profoundly alter the rocks in the area.  The list of assumptions that have to be made goes on and on--all of which would alter the calculated age of the Canyon.  All dating methods have similar assumptions and are based on uniformitarianism.  There have been creationists who have attempted to compare erosion rates on Mount St. Helens to the Grand Canyon, but St. Helens is a volcano.  Volcanic rocks are much easier to erode than sedimentary rocks, so assumptions are being made in the creationist camp that are as bad as those incorporated by those attaching long ages to the production of the Canyon.

There are some dating methods which are better than others and some that have fewer assumptions than others.  In polar areas, there is an interesting phenomena associated with snowfall.  In the winter it snows, and in the summer it does not snow.  It never gets very warm in many areas during the summer, however, and the accumulation of snow from the previous winter does not melt.  It snows again the next winter so the snow piles up on the last snow and the next summer it does not melt again.  The total pile of snow gets higher and higher, and the snow gets fused into ice.  During the summer months when the snow does not melt, it does get covered with summer debris--insects, dust, pollen, and a variety of plant material.  This means that there are lines in the snow and ice that can be looked at with a microscope and the lines can be counted like the growth rings on a tree.  This is a method that is much different than some of the others we have mentioned.  There are over 500 methods of dating used by scientists, historians, archeologists, and chemists.  When more than one of these methods are used, they usually give similar results, and none of them give an age to man or to life as small as 10,000 years.

Biblical Time

How old does the Bible say that man, life in general, and the earth are?  The first point that needs to be made is that God can do whatever God likes!  God has the power to create the cosmos as it is, with you sitting there reading this, the paper in your hands, the memories in your head, and all that surrounds you good and bad--all of that could have been created two seconds ago or even less.  God does not need time at all!  If we understand God as the Bible defines and describes Him, then time is a creation of God and does not control God.  The issue is not what God could do but what He did do.  The evidence is that you have been sitting there more than three seconds, and the evidence is that the Creation happened more than 10,000 years ago.

Any attempt to date the earth biblically has to make assumptions just as the scientific methods have to make assumptions.  In 1650, Archbishop James Ussher of the Episcopalian Church stated beautifully the most fundamental assumptions:

  1. There are no undated verses in the biblical account.
  2. There are no missing people in biblical genealogies.
  3. The purpose of the genealogies was chronological.
  4. No historical period is missing from the Bible.
  5. The genealogies are all written in chronological order.

Any dating method that attempts to use the Bible as a basis will have to use these assumptions, and yet all of these assumptions are wrong!  Let us take a look at them:

Assumption 1.  There are many undated verses and events in the Bible.  How long were Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?  I have a male chauvinistic friend who says, "Knowing my wife, it couldn't possibly have been more than 10 minutes"; but that is an assumption with great consequences.  I would suggest that Adam's age was measured from the time he began to die--not from his creation, so the time in the Garden cannot even be related to his age.

Another example of an undated verse or event in the Bible is Genesis 1:1-3.  Denominational tradition has taught us that the first three verses of Genesis are a summary of the rest of the chapter.  For years, people have read Genesis 1:1 like this:  "In the beginning God created the heaven and earth and, in the next 31 verses, I am going to tell you everything God did."  That is simply not what it says.  These verses are a historical narrative written in a historical style.  Notice the wording:

When? "In the beginning"
Something happened. "God created the heaven and the earth"
What happened next? "The earth was (or became, as some versions say) without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep."
What happened next? "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."

These are historical events written in a historical sequence.  These are not summary verses of what is to follow.  Something is happening in each of the statements that are made, and the things that are happening are undated and untimed.

Assumptions 2 and 3.  It is clear that biblical genealogies were not written for chronological purposes nor are they supposed to be interpreted as being complete.  In the book of Ezra, for example, there are four people listed in the genealogy between Azariah and Amariah.  In 1 Chronicles 6:3-14, the same genealogical sequence is given, but this time there are 12 people listed in the same sequence.  The genealogy of 1 Chronicles 3:11-12 does not agree with Matthew 1:1-17 which has Uzziah's father, grandfather, and great-grandfather omitted.  In fact, Matthew gives 42 steps in the same genealogy for which Luke gives 55 steps.  Some have pointed out that Luke records Mary's side of the family instead of Joseph's, but that does not explain 13 missing generations.

The point is that these writings were not written by people living in the twenty-first century.  In ancient times, people did not give complete listings of their family tree when giving their ancestry.  What they usually listed were the famous people in their lineage.  In Matthew 1:1, for example, the genealogy of Jesus is given as follows:  "Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham."  It is obvious that Jesus was not Abraham's grandson, but that is in fact what the passage says.  It is not an error; it is simply that genealogies were never written in the Bible with the idea that it would be used to calculate time or to establish chronology.  Ancestry (lineage) is the only message of the biblical genealogies.

Assumptions 4 and 5.  It is totally obvious that the Bible does not include a number of historical events.  The time between Malachi and Matthew is an obvious example, but there are many others that can be given.  There are cases in the Bible where genealogies are reversed; for example, Noah's sons are listed in reverse order.

The point of this discussion is that, like the scientific methods of dating, biblical methods of dating involve a large number of assumptions which make any attempt to give a biblical age to the creation or to Adam doomed to failure.  There is no reason to use the Bible in this way unless your denominational tradition forces you to.  If your denominational creed teaches that the history of the earth involves even time periods of about 1,000 years each, the last of which is said to be the physical reign of Christ upon the earth, then you have to find a way to limit the age of the earth to a relatively small number.  This is a case of a human belief system forcing something on the Bible which the Bible does not say.  It seems to this author that it is more logical and consistent to simply admit that this is not a biblical issue, and whether the earth is 6 seconds old, 6 days old, 6 millennia old, or 6 trillion years old does not matter.

What we have suggested in this discussion is not new.  Many years ago, conservative biblical students who took the Bible literally instead of accepting the teachings of human beings said the same thing we have tried to articulate.  David Lipscomb said in 1921, "I have no way of knowing how long the world was created before man was created.  The Bible does not tell.  It only says, 'In the beginning' and that afterwards He created the plants and animals, and last of all man.  But it gives no intimation how long the earth was created before these other things were" (Questions Answered by Lipscomb and Sewell, Gospel Advocate Co., Nashville, TN, 1974, page 747.  Originally published by McQuiddy Printing Co. in 1921).  Foy E. Wallace said, "There is no statement in the Bible which indicates the age of the earth ... .  If the scientist or pseudoscientists want to ascribe to the earth an age of a million, a billion, or three hundred billion years, I will not pause to argue ... .  'In the beginning God.'  That is all the Bible affirms on the question" (God's Prophetic Word by Foy E. Wallace, The Roy E Cogdill Publishing Co., Lufkin, TX, 1946, page 6).

The Nature of the Biblical Account

We have spent a great deal of time discussing what the Bible does not say.  The remainder of this discussion is about what the Bible does say.  Before we start a verse-by-verse examination of the Genesis account, there are a number of basic understandings about the nature of the biblical account that need to be understood.  The first of these is that we are not reading a document written in the twenty-first century for one scientific scholar to communicate with another.  We are reading a document that is designed to be read by the ancient shepherd in the hills of Judea as well as by the scholars of the twenty-first century.  To write a document that both will understand is a formidable undertaking.  Some people in our day complain because Genesis does not say something like "In the beginning God synthesized DNA in a kaolinite matrix, enzymatically catalyzed by ... ."  You can almost picture Moses trying to understand what was being said to him.  This is not a scientific treatise written to challenge the technological minds of our day.  It is an account for the common man as well as the scholar.  The basic message is that God created everything, and that God created man as a special being in His image.  When, where, how, and why are not spelled out for us.  In spite of this, every checkable detail that is given in the account turns out to be correct--a point I hope to show you shortly.

Another point that needs to be understood is that this is not written in English for an American audience.  It is written in Hebrew for all audiences and that means translation is necessary.  Any time a translation is done, there are certain problems that arise.  Let me demonstrate this to you in Spanish.  I know nothing about Spanish, so when I hear "Juan tiene frio," I have to look up what it means.  What I find is that the words literally mean "John has cold."  To me, that could mean that John has a cold (that he is ill) or it could mean John is cold (he is shivering).  Which does it mean?  My wife, who took Spanish in high school, tells me that it means John is cold.  "How do you know that," I ask.  "I took it in high school and they explained that the culture would understand it that way," she replies.  Another example that is more complicated: "Juan me cae bien gordo" literally translates "John me falls well fat."  This is not a comment on my weight; it simply means "I don't like John very much."  Literal translations can give mistaken concepts if the culture in which the translation is made is not considered.

This becomes very relevant to a literal understanding of Genesis 1.  In the original Hebrew language, there are two concepts about how God brings things into existence.  One way God does things is by a miraculous process that only God can do.  The Hebrew word bara was used to indicate this process.  This word is never used in reference to something that man can do.  It is a term reserved exclusively to describe God's actions in the Creation.  The Jewish Publication Society says, "The Hebrew bara is used in the Bible exclusively of divine creativity.  It signifies that the product is absolutely novel and unexampled, depends solely upon God for its coming into existence and is beyond the human capacity to reproduce" (Sarna, Nahumn M., Genesis, the JPS Torah Commentary, Jewish Publication Society, 1989).  The Jewish scholar Jacob Newman Leiden says in his Commentary of Nahmanides on Genesis 1-6 (Brill Publishing, 1960), "We have in our holy language no other term for 'the bringing forth of something from nothing' but bara."  In Appendix A is a writing of the King James Version of Genesis with the Hebrew words written above the English wording of Genesis. You will notice that bara is used in Genesis 1:1 and again in Genesis 1:20 and 1:27.

There is another way that God brings things into existence.  This is a process that does not involve a miracle but rather is a shaping or molding of something already created.  The Hebrew words used to describe this process are asah and yatsar.  These words are not just used in reference to things that God can do; they are also used in reference to things that men can do.  We see it used in phrases like "make me to laugh," "make a feast," "make war," etc.  These are not miracles--these are things that man can do.  God is described as having asahed things in the biblical record with everything from verse 2 through verse 19 being included in this process.  Yatsar is used in Genesis 2:7, 8, and 19 meaning to mold or squeeze into shape as a potter would work with clay.  Denominational creationists have refused to take the Bible this literally.  They attempt to suggest that bara and asah mean the same thing.

One of the texts that is used to argue against what has been said here is the discussion of the formation of man.  In Genesis 1:27, we are told that God created (bara) man in God's image; and yet in Genesis 2:7, the Bible says God formed (asah) man of the dust of the earth.  Are these two verses referring to the same thing?  The answer is emphatically NO!  Genesis 1:27 is referring to that which is in God's image--man's spiritual make up.  Genesis 2:7 is referring to man's body--that which is made of the dust of the earth and will return to the dust.  The two words are describing completely different subjects.  A further challenge might come from Genesis 1:26 where God says, "Let us make (asah) man in our image ... ."  But the statement is made to the Godhead, not to the physical world.  The us in the passage is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so the process is not miraculous.  From their perspective, this is a making--not a miraculous creating.  From our perspective as three-dimensional beings who are not divine and cannot really create anything, what God does is miraculous.  From the perspective of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, that is not the case.  To make sure we do not misunderstand this vital point, the Bible ends the creation story by saying that God "rested from all his work which God created (bara) and made (asah)."  According to God, both processes were used.

The History of Creation According to the Bible and the Fossils

It may be helpful to the reader to use the biblical text with the Hebrew words that are listed in Appendix A to follow this discussion.  The first verse of Genesis is a creation (bara) verse, not a making (asah) verse.  The things created, according to verse 1, are the heaven (shamayim) and the earth.  What this means is that everything above and everything below were brought into existence by a miraculous act of God.  It is interesting that the Hebrew shamayim, according to Young's Analytical Concordance, has a root that means "heaved up things."  Whatever the understanding of the ancients might have been, today it is clear that the expanding universe fits such a description.

If the shamayim includes everything in the sky, this includes the sun, moon, and the stars.  Someone might argue that these objects are described in verses 14 through 19, but notice that the word used in these verses is making (asah) not creating (bara).  The objects were created in verse 1, the light reached the earth from these objects in verse 3, but you could not establish "signs, seasons, days and years" until verses 14 through 19.  Those who argue that bara and asah mean the same thing have to invent a light for verse 3 because they claim the sun and moon came into being in verses 14-19.  If we take the account literally and do not compromise the use of these words, we do not have to invent a light for verse 3.  Verses 6-7 indicate that a change took place in the waters and indicates that three zones were produced--waters above the earth, water in the earth, and waters below.  This is strongly suggestive of our modern understanding of hydrosphere, lithosphere, and atmosphere.

Is there any evidence to support the above description?  The answer is a strong yes.  First of all, we have good evidence that the universe had an explosion or expansion at its beginning that imparted an expansion to it that we see today.  The age of our solar system seems to be sequentially as the Bible describes it.  There is even a phenomenon that might explain the creating and making of the sun and its light.  Those who have travelled in desert areas are familiar with the fact that it frequently is too hot in the desert to rain.  Many times, I have seen rain fall in the Grand Canyon or the Mojave and found that it evaporated before it hit the ground.  If the earth was hot early in its history (and every indication is that it was) and if it tried to rain, the same thing would happen.  Genesis 2:5 tells us that before there were plants and before man existed, "the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth."

If the water cannot exist on the surface of the earth where will the water be?  The only place cool enough for water to exist in a stable form thermodynamically would be the atmosphere.  If that volume of water is in the atmosphere, there are heavy clouds and you would not be able to establish "signs, seasons, days, and years."  There is a perfect fit between those few things that the Bible does say and what the evidence shows.  This is also true in the sequence of life.

We emphasize the word sequence in this discussion.  The chart in Appendix C gives a listing of the words used in the Genesis account and what those words generally apply to.  There is also an indication of how many times the words are used.  As you look down the list, you will notice that all of the animals described are familiar.  The word behemah, for example, always refers to an ungulate and is rendered cattle in most translations.  The clearest way to see the accuracy of the sequence that is given in the biblical record is to look at the order Genesis gives.  The reader might wish to begin by looking at our discussion of Genesis 1:1-3 on page 19.  After these events, verses 6-10 tell us that the physical earth was modified.  There is no indication of creation here--only modification.  Before life could exist on the earth, there had to be an environment that could support life.

We have already made reference to the division of the waters vertically.  There is also a reference to the division of waters horizontally.  Verses 9-10 tell us that land and water were separated, and that the water was in one place and the dry land was in another.  Every geological evidence we have indicates that this is true.  The current situation of many bodies of water and many land masses is the result of change.  A casual look at the edges of North and South America, Europe, Africa, and the range of mountains in the center of the Atlantic Ocean, called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, shows them all to be roughly parallel.  If you take a pair of scissors and cut all of the land masses out along their continental shelves, you can actually fit them together like a jigsaw puzzle.  Rocks on opposing shorelines usually match, and measurements from space and on the earth tell us that they are still moving today.  (The reader may feel that Genesis 10:25 describes this process too, but it is our persuasion that this refers to the division of the languages--not the division of the land masses.)

The Bible then tells us about the sequence of the formation of plants.  The first living thing we are told was grass.  The Hebrew here is deshe and the word literally means tender grass.  This is not the grass you mow with your lawnmower; that word is chatsir.  Tender grass is described as being easily broken.  The second plant material produced in the sequence is the herb from the word eseb.  A former student of mine who is Jewish tells me that, in his understanding, this word referred to a plant without hard seeds--a spore bearing plant, for example.  That cannot be proven, but it is a different thing than the "tree yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself."  This is a clear reference to an angiosperm--a tree with fruit and seed--not a fern or moss.  It seems that there are three kinds of plants given in the biblical sequence--the tender grass, the herb, and the flowering tree with fruit in itself.  I am sure that any student of botany reading this paragraph has recognized the process of succession.

This sequence is something that God has created and used over and over in the history of this planet, and it still takes place today.  My brothers and I own a fishing camp in Canada.  Many years ago there was a terrible forest fire that burned the area right down to bed rock so that not a blade of grass nor a crumb of organic material remained.  The area has recovered over the years.  The first several years, there were mosses and lichens that covered the rocks in some of the shaded places.  These simple plants certainly fit the description of "tender grass."  In one place the moss grew so thick that, when you walked on it, you sank deep into it; and you could lie down on it and it would seem like a thick soft mattress.  Eventually we began to see a few ferns, some conifers and horsetail beginning to grow in places where the mosses and lichens had accumulated enough organic material to enable the gymnosperms to grow.  These certainly fit the definition of herb given in the Bible.  In just the last few years, we have seen aspen, oaks, and birch trees starting to grow where the gymnosperms have established a base for them.  This succession is in exact accord with what happened in the primitive earth, and it continues to take place today.

The sequence of the Bible continues to flow in exact accordance with the evidence seen in the fossils.  Animal life begins in water, and in the Genesis account, the Hebrew suggest a wide range of swarming creatures began in the sea,  The fossil record confirms this with every phylum of life known to man being found in the earliest rocks--even backboned animals, seen in the graptolite (an index fossil for the Cambrian period), the acorn worm, the lancelot, and other forms.

We also see other examples of the sequence accuracy of the Bible in other forms.  According to the Bible, the first warm-blooded creatures were the birds.  In the fossil record, we see the archeopteryx, protoavis, and several finds recently in China backing the biblical statement.  Mammals are described next, with man being the last thing to be described in the Bible.  The Biblical sequence agrees with the fossil sequence; and since the Bible is not attempting to give us the time of these events, we can only be impressed with its accuracy and integrity.  It is interesting that evolutionary models come and go, with one of the more recent of these being punctuated equilibrium.  Yet with all of this change in scientific theories, the Bible from the beginning has given a model that still stands as credible with all available scientific evidence.

When I was an atheist, I was in the process of writing a book titled All the Stupidity of the Bible.  I taught myself Hebrew, went back to Genesis 1:1 in the original manuscripts, and attempted to show that the biblical account was pure garbage.  What I ran into were the kinds of things that we have discussed.  I finally gave up after almost seven years of trying to prove the Bible wrong, and decided that the Bible was credible and that I needed to look into what being a Christian was all about.  I would recommend that same step to you.

What About Dinosaurs?

The one remaining question in our study of the Genesis account is the question of how prehistoric creatures like the dinosaurs fit into the Genesis account.  Before tackling this subject, it is important to present an explanation of our approach to the words of Genesis.  It is our belief that, in order to have any meaningful understanding of the Bible, we must understand words to always have the same meaning unless there is an unquestionably unique reason why they do not (such as the biblical writer redefining a term).  A New Testament example might be useful.  What does the word baptize mean?  Greek scholars tell me the word is derived from a Greek term meaning to immerse.  In Acts 8:38, people went down into the water and John was said to be baptizing in the Jordan River "because there was much water there" (John 3:23).  There are many places where there is no way to tell from the description whether the method of baptism was by sprinkling or pouring or some other method.  If the word baptize is clear in most cases, I assume it must mean the same thing in all the other places.  Those who maintain that there are innumerable interpretations of the Bible do so primarily because they have refused to recognize the consistency of words in the biblical account.  Much of the confusion about the Genesis account among people in the religious world has taken place because words are not used consistently.

What do words like behemah, kanaph, remes, etc., in Genesis mean?  If you look at appendices A and C you can see these words being used.  I suggest that these words are used in Genesis the same way they are elsewhere in the biblical record.  Behemah is used 51 times in the Bible.  All of the times outside of Genesis that the word's use can be determined, it is used in reference to an ungulate--an animal that nurses its young.  (The reference usually is to a cow.)  What does behemah mean in Genesis 1:24-25?  Can it refer to a Tyranosaurus rex?  To be facetious, I seriously doubt that anyone has ever attempted to milk a T. rex!  Behemah cannot refer to a dinosaur.  In Job 40:15, there is another reference to a large version of behemah.  A giant ground sloth is a real possibility for the meaning of this word, but a dinosaur is not unless the words are being used in a very inconsistent way!  The leviathan of Job 40 is described in Psalm 104 as a creature of the deep ocean.  Dinosaurs were not deep ocean creatures.  The context of the passage is the struggle between good and evil, and the language certainly gives us a vivid picture of evil.  Most dinosaurs were harmless cocker spaniel-sized reptiles.  Words like behemoth and leviathan cannot be dinosaurs.  All of the animals in Genesis 1 are animals that Moses was familiar with--his cattle, his poultry, etc.

It is a major error to assume that these words can include the amoeba, virus, duckbilled platypus, echidnas, bats, etc.  There have been some 26 million different species of living things that have existed on this planet.  If Genesis used half a verse to tell us about each of these, the Genesis account would be 13 million verses long and you would need a fork lift to pick up your Bible.  That is not the purpose for which the Bible was written!  Genesis is saying two things:  (1) that God created everything and (2) that God created man special in His image.  When, where, how, and why are not spelled out and are not relevant to the purposes for which the Bible was written.  God has not told us when the dinosaurs were created.  Like a lot of things, dinosaurs were created for a reason, fulfilled that reason, and then disappeared.

There are several possible ways to explain the dinosaurs and how they fit into Genesis.  The Bible says that God does not do anything in vain (Isaiah 45:18), and that is true of the dinosaurs.  There is considerable evidence that the dinosaurs were major influences in the preparation of the earth for man.  The dinosaurs ate gymnosperms--sporebearing plants like ferns, conifers, etc.  You and I eat angiosperms--plants with fruit and seeds, not gymnosperms.  The whole dinosaur ecosystem led to the successful preparing of the earth for man to be able to live and eat.  If the dinosaurs were created for this purpose, then they must have been brought into existence by God in verses 1-3 of Genesis 1.  The word translated earth in Genesis 1:1 does not refer to a blob of gook.  In the rest of the Bible it refers to a functioning, life-bearing planet.  The word was in Genesis 1:2 is translated became in Genesis 19:26.  Whether this has reference to the asteroid collision mentioned earlier is problematical, but the eradication of the dinosaurs by some process cleared the way for man and his world.  The prehistory of the earth is in Genesis 1:1-3, while man and his world are created in what may have been a literal week, and man and his animals occupy the rest of the chapter.

The Bible not only gives us an account, which is checkable in every detail of the history that it gives, but also a checkable means of taxonomical classification.  The figure below shows the well-known Tree of Evolution as it is portrayed in Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History.  In this tree, the oldest and simplest forms of life are found at the bottom of the tree, and the more complex and the more recent forms of life are at the top.  There are a number of problems with this model.  Animals like the trilobite have been placed at the top of this tree.  This has been done because the animal is so complex.  The trilobite eye is sometimes referred to as nature's most perfect eye.  The eye of the trilobite was so good that it could look at something a foot away and something a mile away and they would both be in focus at the same time.  Needless to say, this is not something that you and I can do.  The problem with this is that the trilobite is one of the oldest animals to have ever lived on the earth.  The trilobite is an index fossil for the Cambrian period which is the period when life began.  There is no way this complex animal can logically be at the bottom of the evolutionary tree; so even though it is very old, it is placed near the top of the tree in the museum chart.  Other examples exist that have similar problems.  The bryozoans are one of the simplest animals to have ever lived on the earth, but they are not found in the earliest rocks.  There are a large number of cases like these that violate the assumptions of Neo-Darwinism.

There is also the problem of the ease with which animals can be classified.  Classical evolutionary neo-Darwinism suggests that there should have been a large number of transitional forms between groups.  These would have been animals that could not be classified easily, because they were an evolutionary "experiment" between orders or phyla.  There should have been thousands of evolutionary dead ends--animals who were unsuccessful and died out, but were links between related taxonomical groups.  What could you have that would be in between the cold-blooded animals and the warm-blooded animals?  Can we logically believe in luke-warm-blooded animals?  Rather than engage in a running gun battle, both scientists and more open creationists have looked at other options.  An option suggested about 40 years ago by Dr. George Kerkut in his book Meanings and Implications of Evolution involves a forest model instead of a tree model.  Another name that has been applied to this model in recent years is the lawn of evolution.

The concept being proposed here is that life started in many different trees of evolution.  Each tree started independently, but the changes in the tree eventually led to a diverse population of animals who were uniquely linked.  Dr. John Bonner of Yale commented on Kerkut's suggestion by saying "This is a book with a disturbing message.  It points to some cracks in the foundations.  The truth of the matter is that we do not know whether the transition from nonliving to living occurred once or twice or many times ... ." (American Scientist, volume 49, June 1961, page 240 and Scientific American, November 1992, page 84).  The really interesting thing about this model is that it is extremely close to what the Genesis account has been saying all along.  The word kind in Hebrew is the word min, and it is a broad term.  In the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 15:39 says that there are four kinds of flesh--the flesh of birds, the flesh of beast, the flesh of fish, and the flesh of man.  The same system of classification is used in the first chapter of Genesis and in the flood chapter.  We would suggest that the biological community has finally caught up with Genesis and that this division matches the fossil record better than any model that has ever been proposed.


God created basic animals in a number of groups.  The flesh groups are identified while insects, worms, etc., are not.  Changes have occurred within these groups.  An understanding of these changes allows a great deal of biological understanding.  In the prehistory of the earth in Genesis 1:1-3 the earth went through an undated, untimed period in which the resources man would need were produced.  They were produced by the original materials being created and then being altered by natural processes so that man could find them.  As our knowledge gets better, we find more and more ways to understand these things and have even learned to copy them so we can produce them artificially.  Genesis makes perfect sense when it is followed in a literal and careful way, recognizing that the sequence given was used initially and still takes place today in processes like succession.  The creation week, which may well have been a normal week, describes man and the animals man domesticated and was familiar with.  If we free ourselves from human traditions and creeds and look open-mindedly and fairly at the evidence, we can see that science and the Bible are friends--not enemies.  Bad science and bad theology have caused an unnecessary conflict with enormous damage being done to both science and theology.  If we look at these two areas as if they exist in a positive symbiotic way, we can see that the written word revealed in the Scriptures and the created message in the world around us have the same message and compliment one another in a beautiful way.

Appendix A--Genesis 1:1-2:3
Appendix B--Hebrew Definitions
Appendix C--Animals of Genesis

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