Virtually all controversy in matters related to Genesis 1 relate in one way or another to the question of creation. Both atheists and creationists misunderstand the concept, and much conflict and misunderstanding have been caused because there has been very little careful study of the words of Genesis or what the biblical claim is about. There are some fundamental issues and nonissues that we would like to encourage our readers to look at to better understand what is going on and how the conflicts and disagreements swirling around us can be resolved or at least minimized.

There Is No Creation Involved in Evolution. It is most unfortunate that religious people allowed evolution to be confused with creation. There is no "evolution/creation controversy" because evolution does not attempt to explain creation. Evolution assumes creation. All evolutionary theories assume that certain conditions and materials exist. Among those conditions are space, time, energy, and matter. Biological theories also assume that certain elements and compounds are already in existence. The old Miller/Oparin hypothesis assumed that methane, ammonia, hydrogen, water vapor, and carbon dioxide were present. Even the "amoeba-to-man" phrase assumes that amoebas and everything necessary for an amoeba to survive were in existence! This is not creation! It is simply a discussion of possible changes in things already created!

It does not matter whether you accept the Bible or whether you listen to modern cosmologists, both sides agree that there was a point where space, time, and energy came into existence. The Bible uses two words to describe this point--bara and shamayim. Bara is used in the Hebrew language to describe something that only God can do. It is never used to describe something that a human can do. The Jewish Publication Society says it this way: "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 Hebrew word shamayim is used to describe the cosmos. Young's Analytical Concordance tells us that the word literally means "heaved up things." In other places in the Bible the cosmos is described as being "stretched out" from the Hebrew word natah which conveys much the same idea as heaved up things. (See Isaiah 40:22; 44:24; 45:12; 51:13, Jeremiah 10:12, Job 26:7, etc.) The point is that the Bible clearly states that God caused creation to come about by a means that is beyond man, and that God was active in the process of arranging the cosmos as we see it.

Cosmologists might not want to include God in their explanations of things, but cosmologist theories all say that time and space came into existence at a singularity. That means that there was a point where space and time came into existence by a process that is not in conformity with the physical laws that we now know govern the earth. This beginning was different, and while theories about how a singularity might be connected to other things abound, the fact is that it is considered to be the starting point for cosmological investigations of the universe around us. This is creation! This is the process of time, space, and energy coming into existence. Evolution is not involved and time is not an issue in this discussion. An atheist may not want to admit that God has a role in the creation process, but he has to admit that creation is real--something that is not a part of our traditional Newtonian physics understanding of what brought time, space, and energy into existence. This is creation and it has no evolutionary involvement.

Taking the Bible Literally. Fundamentalists like to say that they take the Bible literally, and all creationists seem to use that phrase whether they like to apply the label of fundamentalist to themselves or not. What does it mean to take the Bible literally? Does it mean that you take a particular translation of the Bible and use those modern words to determine what it says? In America there are many creationists who take the King James translation of the Bible and interpret what it says on the face value of the English words. This is not taking the Bible literally. A good example of why this is true is Genesis 6:4. In this verse the word "giant" is used in the King James translation. What is a giant? A super big human, right? We think of the "Jolly Green Giant" as a massive human who can cover a mile with each step.

The problem here is that this part of the King James translation came from the Vulgate (Latin). When the Vulgate translation was made, the Hebrew word nephilim was translated into the Latin word gigantus. Why this was done is a mystery, but when the King James translators in 1611 looked at gigantus, they did not know what to do with it so they just translated it giant. Nephilim has nothing to do with big humans. The word in Hebrew refers to "fallen ones"--people who have rejected God. Genesis 6 is easy to understand if you have this word straight in your mind, but if you leave giant in the verse all kinds of bizarre possibilities can be imagined.

Taking the Bible literally means looking at who wrote what you are reading, who they wrote it to, and why they wrote it. In our discussion of creation this point is crucial. In Genesis 1:1 we see the words Elohim bara used and translated "God created." The word Elohim is a title used for God that emphasizes the power, majesty, and magnificence of God. When the Jews wanted to talk about the promises of God they would use the word Yahweh. Different words conveyed different aspects of God's relationship to man. If I refer to my father as "my daddy" I think you get a different mental picture than you do if I refer to him as "my old man." Elohim emphasizes God's power and creative ability, and it is used with the Hebrew word bara which we have already pointed out is a word reserved for things God does that humans cannot do.

In the Hebrew language there are words used to convey the idea of God molding, shaping, or forming something. The word yatsar in Hebrew is used to describe a process of forming or molding or shaping something into the desired form. In Genesis 2:7 this word is used to describe man's body as it is formed from the dust of the earth. The word bara is used when we are told that we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Being in the image of God has nothing to do with our body. This is a clear reference to man's soul and the identical makeup we all have in the image of our Creator. Bara is used because for us it is an impossible thing to do. We can do things to bodies, but we cannot do anything to our soul. That is totally God's territory, and we have a special relationship to God because of it.

A beautiful example of taking the Bible literally by looking at who wrote what we are reading, to whom, and why is seen in Genesis 1:26. You have to look at who wrote it, who he talking to, and why he said it in order to understand what is happening. The King James translates the verse "Let us make (asah in Hebrew--a word meaning to make or form, not to create) man in Our image, according to Our likeness:" If you do not take the passage literally you would assume that this is saying the same thing that verse 27 is saying and that create and make mean the same thing. The question is, however, who is God talking to? It is not to man. The statement is addressed to the other parts of the Godhead--to Jesus and to the Holy Spirit. This is God talking about God. Creating man in God's image is going to be something that deity working together does. From our perspective the process is creation; and since it is something we cannot do, bara is appropriate. For God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit the process is their process applying their action, and the word make (asah) is appropriate. Bara would be totally inappropriate since it is deity talking to deity. By taking the Bible literally we can see what a wondrous thing man's creation is, and how special we are to God. "God so loved the world" and loves us because of this special and unique action of the Godhead in creating and making us.

The Genesis Week Does Not Involve Creation. When we realize that verse 1 of Genesis uses the word bara we realize that the message is very simple. "Elohim bara shamayim erets" (Genesis 1:1 in Hebrew) simply tells us that God created everything above us--the heaved up things that are stretched out, and everything down here--the Earth. The word erets which is translated earth in Genesis 1 is used hundreds of times in the Old Testament. Throughout these uses the planet is being discussed--a working functioning earth on which humans and animals can and do live and function. The word erets does not mean "blob of spinning gook." There are words in Hebrew that could convey that meaning, but they are not used in Genesis 1:1. The message is that a living, working functioning planet was created.

 My mentally retarded son can comprehend this message, as could the ancient shepherds of Moses' day--God created everything. Not how, not when, not why--just that God did it. The important stuff is yet to come in the biblical account as God talks about man's salvation, but this prehistory is amazingly brief, amazingly accurate, and amazingly simple. This is the creation verse! Time, space, energy and all that they potentially can form came into existence. Science is trying to understand how God did what He did. What does it take to make shamayim? What does it take to make erets? Cosmology, astronomy, geology, chemistry, and physics are man's attempts to understand what God has done. What they learn will never change what the Bible says, because nothing the Bible says explains in technical terms what was done--it just says God did it As science comes to better understand what God did, it finds ways to use and control and change the creation so that mankind can be more comfortable and live in a more secure way.

After stating the prehistory of Earth, the Bible gives a discussion of the things that man was familiar with--man's animals. It is no accident that the words used in Genesis 1 for the animals are all animals that Moses and the people of his day knew. Behemah in Hebrew refers to cattle, and that is how it would have been understood by Moses and the people of his day. What Genesis describes are cattle, chickens, sheep, goats, and man. None of these words in Hebrew could be applied to a duckbilled platypus, an echidna, a penguin, a sloth, a dinosaur, or a mole. There have been over 20 million different kinds of animals that have lived on this planet, and Genesis does not try to explain them all. What Genesis describes are man's domesticated animals. The only time the word bara is used in the creation week is for animal life in verse 20 and for man's soul in verse 27. The rest of the verses in the Genesis account use the word asah to describe God's action of taking things already created and forming and fashioning them into things man can use. Taking the Bible literally and using the words to mean exactly what they say means that the creation week deals with man and man's world of domesticated animals--not the animal world as a whole. Plant life described in verses 11 and 12 also is described as having been made, not created. At the end of the creation week, the Bible states clearly in terms that none of us can miss unless we do not take it literally. "He rested from all His work which God created (bara) and made (asah)."

When biblical passages refer back to the creation week, they are very consistent in the way in which they describe the process. In Exodus 20:11 the creation week is referred to and the passage refers to what God made--not what He created. Hebrews 4:4 refers to God working in the creation week. The Greek word used is ergoa which is used for business or things done including those by man--certainly not for creating. 

Creationists who attempt to force the entire creation process into the seven days without considering what happened before that week and what happened after it are simply not taking the biblical account literally. By doing so, they find it necessary to place time constraints and methodology constraints on God. This is the root of much of the evolution/creation controversy, and the source of much of the loss of faith in God in our society. Let us go back to a literal view of what the Bible says and leave the human creeds and belief systems behind.

--John N. Clayton

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, MarApr06.