Is Genesis 1 coincidentally accurate?

Genesis 1 is not a science text. The Bible is best thought of as a history book. Genesis 1, and possibly portions of Job, deal with the creation story. Genesis 1 gives us a straightforward historical narrative of the steps God took in forming and filling the earth over a six “day” period. I do not hold to a YEC viewpoint and consider the Hebrew word ‘yom’ should be translated as “epoch,” meaning a long period of time.

The real key to interpreting Genesis 1 correctly is make a change from the frame of reference a modern reader would assume to the frame of reference an ancient reader would assume. This is critical. Once that change is made, everything else falls into place. A modern reader knows all about God and his throne room in heaven. If you take the frame of reference in Genesis 1 to be heaven, you will misunderstand it. The earliest readers would have assumed the frame of reference is the surface of earth because that is where they live. When Genesis 1 is read in that light, it matches modern science. Is that a coincidence or intentional?

What you are about to read is not forcing the text at all. Neither am I claiming the human author knew more about science than is reasonable to believe. I am simply taking into account that Scripture is inspired by God. That is, God uses human authors to write a true account. I fully affirm authorial intent when interpreting any document. When interpreting the Bible, there are two authors. You must consider the fact the divine author may know more than the human author.

As the human author, who I take to be Moses, is writing Genesis 1, he thinks he’s writing a narrative about natural history. And so he is. But he has no idea than scientists in the future will be able to affirm what he has written. But God knows.

Physics professor Erica Carlson has said “The Bible is far more accurate scientifically than any human author could have made it.” I agree with her. The agreement with science cannot be explained by coincidence or lucky guesses. There are too many of them. Let’s count them up.

Genesis 1:1 - In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Until early in the 20th century, scientists almost universally believed the universe was eternal into the past. Then the Big Bang was discovered. NASA scientist Robert Jastrow wrote a compelling history of science book, God and the Astronomers, on the discovery of the Big Bang. Jastrow documented the reactions of scientists who were shocked to learn that the Bible had been right about the universe having a beginning and they had been wrong. Is it a coincidence that the Bible got it right? This is #1.

Genesis 1:2 - The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

Here the authors, human and divine, give us the initial conditions for what follows. Scientifically minded people love to know the initial conditions. Also, note that the first readers of this book would assume that the frame of reference would be where they live, the surface of earth. Modern readers, because of our more complete knowledge of God and his residence in heaven, tend to think the frame of reference is heaven - that this passage is describing events from somewhere else looking down on earth. This is wrong. The initial conditions of earth, that is empty of life, smooth because it is covered by water and there is no light reaching the surface. Indeed, this is what modern science tell us.

“At this stage the surface of the Earth is covered by a super-liquidus magma ocean.”

https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/1520-0469(1988)045<3081%3AEOAIGH>2.0.CO%3B2

After the moon-forming impact, the proto-atmosphere is believed to have held vast amounts of sunlight absorbing H20, CO, CO2 along with heavier particulate matter thrown into the atmosphere by the impact known as silicate vapor, making the atmosphere opaque and the surface of the earth dark.

Is it a coincidence that the Bible got it right that the early earth was dark and covered with water? Was this just a lucky guess by the human author of Genesis? Would you have guessed that the early earth was dark and covered with water?

Am I saying the Bible is a science text? Of course not. If it was, then it would have given us additional information about the temperature of the early earth ocean. It would have described why the surface of the earth was dark. We cannot expect precision from the text because that isn’t the purpose of the authors. But the statements made are accurate when understood properly. The initial conditions of proto-earth is #2.

3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. Genesis 1:3-5

Modern science tells us that sun began to shine before planet earth was formed. These verses are fully in line with that truth. This is not the first creation of light. Rather, this is the first time light has begun to shine on the surface of earth. These verses can be understood as correlating to the atmosphere turning from opaque to translucent. I don’t need to provide a science paper here. We know this must have happened because our atmosphere was opaque and not it isn’t. And these verses fit perfectly with science, because at this point in the creation week the earth was already spinning and the sun was already shining. The appearance of light, night and day all come at the same time simply because the atmosphere is no longer opaque. This would be coincidence #3.

6 Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. 8 God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day. Genesis 1:6-8

Again, we know that proto earth had a huge amount of atmospheric water vapor.

“The atmosphere near the close of accretion is composed of 200 ∼ 300 bars of H2 and H2O, and several tens of bars of CO and CO2.”

I believe Hugh Ross identifies this as the beginning of the water cycle. I don’t think that’s right, because I take it that the water cycle as we know it didn’t really begin until Noah’s time. But I ask you, if you didn’t have Genesis 1 or science to tell you this, would you have guessed that early earth had such massive amounts of atmospheric water vapor? I would not. This is #4.

9 Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so.12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. 13 There was evening and there was morning, a third day. Genesis 1:9-13

Here we have the formation of land masses and the earth immediately began to produce vegetation. And again, the order is important. We had a planet that was dark and covered in water. Then it got sunlight. Then it got a landmass that so the land could grow vegetation. We don’t expect the human author of Genesis to know about photosynthesis, but the divine author certainly knew that sunlight had to come before vegetation. It wouldn’t work if the order were reversed. Coincidence #5.

14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. 17 God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. 19 There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day. Genesis 1:14-19

Here the atmosphere changed from translucent to transparent. While daylight was getting through, the sun, moon and stars were not clearly visible until the atmosphere became transparent. The author notes that now that the moon and stars are visible, they would be helpful for creating a calendar - “for signs and seasons and for days and years.” God is not creating the sun, moon and stars here. That would be the YEC interpretation of the passage and certainly doesn’t fit what we know from science at all. The passage is not claiming that the moon is a light source. Genesis is not a science text and would not make such a claim. Genesis uses everyday language just as we do when we sing about “the light of the silvery moon.”

20 Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.” 21 God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

Here God is giving life to the smallest and least complex life starting in the sea up to larger sea creatures and birds. Now I suppose it is possible for someone to argue that some of these creatures may be out of order, but the evidence isn’t overwhelming to my mind. The important thing is that the vegetation came before animals. If it didn’t, animals wouldn’t have anything to eat. Coincidence #6.

24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. 25 God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Genesis 1:24-31

During the final creation epoch, God created the higher animals and mankind. Interestingly, science tells us that no new animals have arrived on the scene since the appearance of man. God rested from his creative works. Could you have predicted that God had stopped his creative works? Coincidence #7.

What is the Bayesian probability all of these statements are coincidentally accurate?

I know that Hugh Ross would draw out more from the text than I did, but this is enough to prove the point. I have to agree with Dr. Carlson. Genesis 1 is far more accurate scientifically than any human author could have made it.

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That doesn’t sound straightforward at all to me. It’s (nearly?) impossible to separate human from divine authorship in this way. What purpose does it serve to embed hidden “accurate” science that isn’t going to be discovered for many centuries? It just seems to be asking too much of the text. I’m not trying to be sarcastic or facetious, I just don’t know how to get what you’re getting out of the Bible.

And what concerns me, personally, is that it’s so easy to let coincidental accuracy replace what does seem to me to be the true, inspired, divine, message of Genesis. I don’t believe the divinely inspired author was worried about the discoveries of 20th century science at all, I think he was concerned with saying:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

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@Ronald_Cram thank you so much for setting this stage. I am going to play total devil’s advocate here, but please know my appreciation for you beginning this discussion. I’m pushing the edge for the sake of discussion.

why?

On what basis is this “a straightforward historical narrative”?

On what grounds?

That’s only one “key” among many, many others

How do you know? (even though I agree) I’m looking forward to how “it” matches modern science.

Well, this really needs to be teased out…

why do you think this is his intent? (I won’t bother with the identity of the narrator.).

PROLOGUE

I’m almost willing to grant this one. However, it’s not clear that Gen 1 is teaching an absolute beginning to time-space-matter, i.e., creatio ex nihilo (thought the whole Bible does teach this).

Yes, but v. 2 may also give us the initial conditions for what precedes, i.e., v.1. It depends on how one considers the syntactical relationships of the various clauses in vv. 1-3 (check the alternative translations in NRSV, NJPS, NAB).

Maybe, maybe not…on both accounts.

Total assumption. Day 1 has light, so why assume it doesn’t reach the surface of the earth? (Of course, it can also be argued that “light” on Day 1 is a temporal unit rather than a physical unit.) I have no idea what “smooth” means here or why it’s relevant.

WTF???

Ummm…I don’t see any of this in Gen 1.

Have you considered the ANE context that would describe this as chaos? And that other ANE creation texts describe the same situation (were they secretly inspired by God too?)

What is the purpose of the authors? How do you know? (and why the plural “authors”?)

What exactly is “proto-earth”? Is it an initial creation, or something that existed before “the creation” began? How do you know?

DAY 1

Since the sun appears on Day 4, you’ll need to explain how “these verses are fully in line with that truth.” This is not the first creation of light? How so? In fact, “let there be light” could easily be taken as non-created light…it would make a better parallel to John 1:1 (and fit some early Jewish interpretations). Moreover, how exactly should we understand “light” on Day 1. If we think of the physicist’s light (the “wavicle”), then I struggle to conceive of how “light” is separated from “darkness” in physical terms (v. 4). But the real conundrum is v. 5, where “llight” is a temporal (rather than physical) unit identified with “Day.” Now, the interpreter needs to decides: do I assume “light” means the same thing in each of the verses for Day 1, or do I let the word mean different things (i.e., physical unit in vv. 3-4 vs. temporal unit in v. 5)? This is NOT an easy or obvious answer.

“Can”…with a whole lot of assumptions. Since when did ancient Israelites understand “atmosphere”? (I guess you can fall back on the notion that God knew. But I wonder what “Moses” was thinking.)

I see no spinning earth or shining sun at this point in Gen 1.

DAY 2

How do we go from “covered with water” to (we know that) “atmospheric water vapor”?

I’m honestly glad to see you not following Ross in a servile fashion.

How do “we” know this?

Where does the text speak of “atmospheric water vapor”? It speaks, as other ANE accounts do, of an earth original submerged in water. That’s it. (If you want to press, this has to do to the common ANE view that water symbolizes chaos or disorder.)

DAY 3

Where is the sunlight? The sun does not appear until Day 4 (at least in a straightforward reading of the text).

But if we’re positing God here, then why does he have to work in ways that are “natural” to us? Why could’n’t he make it work in the reverse?

DAY 4

Total eisegesis. The text says “let there be” as it does elsewhere (e.g., v. 3). How do you know this is not a creative act (see vv. 16-17) rather than something less?

I tend to agree, but what exactly is the text claiming? And how do you know? The YECs have logical case here.

DAY 5

I guess this is where the scientists need to pine in. And where you should show how “the evidence isn’t overwhelming.” And why is the textual order important? Why assume it should match historical reality? (Of course, there’s that nagging question why Gen 2 has things in a different order than Gen 1.)

Interesting that what you really find important is that vegetation precedes animals. Why aren’t the other issues (that you recognize as less than obvious) as important? BTW, many animals don’t live off just vegetation (but, boy, that opens up another can of worms).

DAY 6

I’ll let the scientists chime in on the first assertion, though I read about “new species” all the time. Should consider what “rest” means; it may not mean what you think.

Sorry, not swayed at all (but I love you!)

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I don’t see a need to separate human from divine authorship. I’m not even certain what that means. I’m simply recognizing that both authors had a hand in writing Genesis 1. This is a straightforward doctrine regarding inspiration. I’m simply recognizing that it is true.

I must have written the OP very poorly indeed if you think I’m pleading for incidental accuracy. I’m trying to show that Genesis cannot be incidentally accurate. It must be inspired by God because it is far to accurate for any human author to have written it when it was written. We have learned much about nature over the last 3,500 years. There is no way I could have guessed those conditions or the order of events at creation.

I love Psalm 8, but I think Genesis 1 is closer to Psalm 19, the psalm that encourages us to do science - especially astronomy.

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
2 Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
4 Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.

There is no question about it. The creation shows that God exists and it shows how powerful and wise he is. I believe Paul had Psalm 19 and Genesis 1 in mind when he wrote Romans 1:20.

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I appreciate your thoughtful response and your expression of love at the end. I expected to read a few comments that didn’t agree with me and make a few responses. But I don’t have time to mount a worthy response to your comment. I’m meeting kids at the beach today. Hopefully, I can find some time tomorrow to respond.

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@Ronald_Cram thanks for the work you put into this and your effort to engage. This is turning out to be really interesting.

@Jordan and @deuteroKJ and @Philosurfer thank you also for your engagement on this.

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My central issue with interpreting the Bible this way is that because (by your admission) it is not a science text so it is not precise, the seeming correspondence between science and the Bible becomes less striking, because there are multiple ways to interpret the latter. In the case of the formation of the Earth, I’m not an expert on geology but it seems that there are multiple points where the science is not 100% settled and there are competing models. The impact hypothesis for the origins of the Moon, for example, seems to have great support, but it also cannot explain other things such as why Venus does not have a similar moon.

My point is do we need to tie Scripture to a certain interpretation if even the science is not settled? Will our faith in the infallibility and authority of Scripture go up and down as confidence in a certain scientific model oscillates?

To take another example:

How do you explain this paper then (news article), which argues that the Earth switched back and forth between hazy and clear atmospheres every 2-4 million years during the Archaean age (4-2.5 billion years ago), before finally clearing up permanently right before the “great oxygenation” that allowed life to develop on Earth?

Now you could argue that “let there be light” refers to the final clearing up of the atmosphere. But that means Scripture could be interpreted in multiple ways depending on what the science says, weakening your argument that the correspondences cannot be coincidental.

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@deuteroKJ

Again, thank you for a thoughtful response. I appreciate you playing devil’s advocate because we are more certain about truth after it has been tested and come through. At the outset, let me say that I did not expect you to be persuaded on the first reading of my explanation. Belief revision simply doesn’t happen that quickly. It takes time to learn to see things from a new perspective.

I will also say that your comments have not dissuaded me from my position, nor should you expect that to happen on my first reading. It seems to me that the way to defeat my view would be to show a fatal error in my prologue which lays out the interpretative guidelines or to show that my view is in some way contrary to the prologue. But if my prologue is reasonable and my explanation of the verses is consistent with the interpretive guidelines discussed, then the conclusion that Genesis 1 is far more accurate scientifically than any ancient human writer could have made it is a reasonable view.

For space considerations, I won’t use the quote feature. I will number the answers and try to make it clear which question I’m answering.

  1. Why is the Bible best thought of as a history book?

This is an important question. The answer is because it contains history from beginning to end. And while it contains parables and figures of speech, it does not contain mythology or non-history. I’m sure you are aware of the strong evidence for the historicity of the Bible, but for other readers I will provide three links in order of their length.

Top OT Archaeological Finds by Ron Cram

This is a very short document I wrote that contains clickable links to learn about OT archeaological finds. I’m familiar with the competing camps, the minimalists and the maximalists. The minimalists claim that certain personalities in the OT are mythological, Adam, Noah, Moses, David and Solomon to name a few. While we don’t expect to find archaeological evidence for Adam and Noah and evidence for Moses is highly unlikely due to the ancient period in which he lived, we have found archaeological evidence for David and Solomon and so, in my mind, the minimalist position has been defeated.

Identifying Biblical Persons in Northwest Inscriptions of 1200-539 B.C.E. by Lawrence Mykytiuk

This is an extraordinary book by my friend at Purdue. He has identified hundreds of inscriptions with individuals named in the Old Testament.

On the Reliability of the Old Testament by K.A. Kitchen

Kenneth Kitchen is a top scholar. Yes, he can be a little grumpy when lesser scholars who haven’t done their homework challenge his conclusions, but he is still the top Egyptologist and Old Testament scholar alive today. He clearly believes the Old Testament is historically reliable.

More importantly, Jesus believed Adam, Noah and other OT people were historical.

  1. Why is Genesis 1 a straightforward historical narrative?

Because that is the way it reads… The only portion of the early chapters of Genesis that one could argue does not read like straight history is the talking serpent in Genesis 3 and Eve’s nonchalant response to it. While that passage does seem very odd, what would you have done if you were Eve? You are new to the garden and no one ever told you that serpents don’t talk or that any talking serpent would be Satan himself. The theological importance of this passage (the fact it explains how evil has entered the world) is enough for me to accept this as a straightforward historical narrative.

  1. On what grounds should ‘yom’ be translated ‘epoch?’

There are several answers that could be given here. First, OT scholars such as Gleason Archer, Walter Kaiser and Bruce Waltke accept that it should be translated epoch. Second, the seventh day in Genesis 1 is not described as having “evening and morning.” There doesn’t seem to be an end to the seventh day. In other words, God is still resting from his creative works. Hebrews 4 notes this.

“4 For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; 5 and again in this passage, “They shall not enter My rest.”6 Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience.” Hebrews 4:4-6

If the seventh day is not a 24 hour period, why should the other six days of creation week be 24 hours long?

  1. How do I know it is the intent of the human author of Genesis 1 to write an historical narrative of the creation story?

Because the entire book of Genesis is an historical narrative. Genesis 1:1 may or may not be a description of the entire universe. Verse 2 on deals specifically with the forming and filling of planet earth, including a brief description of creation of man. Chapter gives a fuller development of the creation of mankind, including naming them and giving them responsibilities in the garden. This is all straightforward history. Chapter 1 is natural history. Chapter 2 is the beginning of human history.

  1. When I wrote that the divine author knows more than the human author, you commented “this really needs to be teased out.”

I’m happy to answer any specific questions you can think of. To me, it seems pretty straightforward that God knows more than humans. Most of the time when people push back against Hugh Ross’s interpretation of Genesis 1, they are saying “The Bible is not a science text.” While that is true, it doesn’t argue against Ross’s interpretation. The human author of Genesis doesn’t need to know modern science. The human author can write a historical narrative of creation week as inspired by God without knowing that science would eventually prove his narrative to be true.

  1. You asked me to check the alternative translations in NRSV, NJPS, NAB.

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. NRSV

I could not find the NJPS online. I did find the JPS of 1917. Here it is:

1In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters. 3And God said: ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light.

I also could not find the NAB, only the NAB Revised Edition:

1 In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth— 2 [b]and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters—

3 Then God said: Let there be light, and there was light.

I identified as Coincidence #1, the ultimate beginning of the universe in verse 1.

So these other translations seem to argue that it possible that verse 1 is not describing the ultimate beginning of the universe. That may be true, but not really significant as you mention the Bible teaches creation of the universe in other passages.

I identified as Coincidence #2, the initial conditions for creation week.

These translations do not argue against my explanation of verse 2 as describing the initial conditions for creation week, i.e. that earth is covered in water and the surface of earth is dark.

We know from science that the sun was formed prior to earth. But Genesis 1:2 can still be true and accurate even though the sun is shining. As the science papers I linked show, science tells us earth was covered by a watery magma. As time passes, the rocky material in the magma sinks to the bottom of the ocean. Also, earth’s atmosphere was opaque due to silicate vapor and particulates after the moon-forming impact.

The fact the initial conditions in 1:2 are proving to be true by science earns a great deal of capital for Ross’s interpretation.

  1. Regarding the initial conditions in 1:2 (formless and void, darkness covered the waters), you asked why I would describe the earth as “smooth” and why the light from Day 1 doesn’t reach the surface of earth.

The earth is smooth because the ocean seeks its own level and no mountains were sticking up. Genesis doesn’t give us this much detail. It only says the earth was formless, but science gives us more detail about what formless means. Genesis 1 tells how God brought form, separating the the oceans from the land. In the initial conditions, light doesn’t reach earth’s surface. But on Day 1, the light does reach the surface of earth. God’s first act in creation week is to turn the opaque atmosphere into a translucent atmosphere so light reaches the surface of the planet.

  1. You comment “ummm, I don’t see any of this in Genesis 1.”

Genesis 1 is not a science text. We should not expect a lot of detail. The detail I’m giving you is coming from the science papers I linked. Genesis 1:2 describes an ocean covering the planet. The science paper describes a magma ocean covering the planet. Genesis 1:2 describes the surface of the planet being dark. The science paper explains why the planet was dark, because of the silicate vapor and particulates in the atmosphere. Science gives us more detail and more precise language, but Genesis is shown to be basically true.

  1. You ask “Have you considered the ANE context that would describe this as chaos? And that other ANE creation texts describe the same situation (were they secretly inspired by God too?)”

We should expect there to be similarities between oral traditions in different cultures that are eventually written down. The creation story and the flood story appears in many ANE cultures. As one generation hands the story down to the next in each culture, minor discrepancies creep into the stories. But the similarity in the stories is evidence that something like these stories really did happen in history.

  1. “What is the purpose of the authors? How do you know? (and why the plural “authors”?)

Plural because there is one human author and the divine author. The purpose of the authors in Genesis 1 is the same as the purpose of the authors in the rest of Genesis, to record the history of beginnings - the beginning of the universe and planet, the beginning of vegetation, animals, humans, the beginning of evil, the beginning of civilization, the beginning of technology (metallurgy - Tubal-Cain in Genesis 4), and the ultimately the beginning of the nation of Israel.

  1. Since the sun appears on Day 4, you’ll need to explain how “these verses are fully in line with that truth.”

Okay. Let me take another run at it. God has written both the book of nature and the Bible. They cannot be in conflict. If we think they are, then we misunderstand one or the other. We know from science that the sun started shining before the earth was formed. The surface of the earth was dark because the atmosphere was opaque. God’s first act was to turn the atmosphere from opaque to translucent so light could reach the earth, enough light for vegetation to survive. On day 4, God did not create the sun. Rather, he turned the atmosphere from translucent to transparent so that the sun, moon and stars were visible.

  1. I see no spinning earth or shining sun at this point in Gen 1.

We know from science that the sun was shining before the earth was formed. Let’s look at Genesis 1:3-5 again:

3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

How was the light separated from darkness on the surface of the earth? The same way as now - the earth is spinning. In daytime, the surface is full of light. At nighttime, the surface is much darker. That’s all these verses are saying.

  1. How do we go from “covered with water” to (we know that) “atmospheric water vapor”?

We know from the science papers I linked that there was a huge amount of H20 in the atmosphere of early earth. A lot more than we have now. This is not mentioned as part of the initial conditions in Genesis 1:2, but is mentioned as something God did on Day 2 in Genesis 1:6-7.

  1. ““Can”…with a whole lot of assumptions. Since when did ancient Israelites understand “atmosphere”? (I guess you can fall back on the notion that God knew. But I wonder what “Moses” was thinking.)”

I don’t think Moses was thinking in terms we would call scientific today. And I’m not sure how God inspired Moses to write this. He might have inspired him through a dream or a vision. It could have been handed down through a divinely-protected oral tradition. We don’t know. The Bible doesn’t really tell us.

  1. But if we’re positing God here, then why does he have to work in ways that are “natural” to us? Why could’n’t he make it work in the reverse?

If ‘yom’ means ‘epoch,’ then vegetation could not survive without sunlight for a long period of time. If someone was a YEC and believed the creation days were 24 hour periods, then plants could last for a few days without sunlight. But then you have all kinds of problems like what is the light on Day 1 if it isn’t sunlight?

  1. Regarding Day 4 and my belief that God has turned the translucent atmosphere into a transparent atmosphere, you write, “Total eisegesis. The text says “let there be” as it does elsewhere (e.g., v. 3). How do you know this is not a creative act (see vv. 16-17) rather than something less?”

I think of the seven epochs of creation week as forming and filling a planet that was previously “formless and empty.” Turning the atmosphere from translucent to transparent is an act of creation, not something less.

I may not have covered all of your questions and comments, but I think I’ve covered enough to advance the conversation.

Love you back!

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@Ronald_Cram, how do you distinguish your approach to Genesis from “Scientific Prophecies in the Koran”? See for example this link:

https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Qur'anic_scientific_foreknowledge

It seems that your hermeneutic is:

  1. No different than a Muslim making the same claims about the Koran.
  2. There is no consistent rule that shows how you are right, and they are wrong.
  3. I’ll assume that you do not accept the Koran as inspired.

So how do you resolve that mess? It seems to lend a lot of credence to…

How do you know you aren’t doing anything different than a Muslim reading the Koran?

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First, there are multiple ways to interpret the Bible but there are multiple ways to interpret science. That’s why we have scientific debates, a fact your comment seems to admit. The impact that formed our moon doesn’t say anything about a moon for Venus. I’m certain Venus experienced a heavy bombardment but I’m not certain it ever experienced an impact with a planet-sized object as the earth did in the moon forming impact. However, even if it did, we should not expect Venus to have gained a moon by such an impact. It all depends on the impact angle. I believe I read that most impact angles would not have created such a large and close moon as we have. The formation of the moon is very fine-tuned.

I think that different people can come to their own conclusions on these matters. I’m committed to the biblical truth that God is the author of both the Bible and Nature. I think this doctrine encourages us to find harmony between science and the Bible.

Regarding my claim that Genesis 1 fits with earth’s atmosphere changing from opaque to translucent to transparent, you write:

I think my view fits that paper extremely well. Notice that it claims the atmosphere switched back and forth between hazy and clear. Hazy equals translucent and clear equals transparent. If it was switching between opaque and translucent back and forth, then all of the vegetation would die off. A hazy atmosphere would still allow enough light for photosynthesis.

Yes, if the science claimed the atmosphere was switching between opaque and hazy, then I would claim “let there be light” referred to the last such switch to hazy. This paper is not a problem and requires no modification of my view of Genesis 1.

Hi Joshua. I read your link but it didn’t give any quotes from the Koran about science. I read about a number of topics that are claimed, but I can’t evaluate the claims unless i have actual quotes to examine.

I seriously doubt there is anything in the Koran as specific as Genesis 1:2 regarding the initial conditions before the start of creation week.

“The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” Genesis 1:2

That’s pretty specific. It isn’t something I would have guessed. Learning that science has justified that claim is shocking to me and should be shocking to every educated reader.

Look at the links therein that publication. Though, you could just google for it. See for example:

https://www.alislam.org/library/articles/fulfilled-prophecies-of-holy-quran/

http://www.answering-christianity.com/sci_prophecy.htm

You should read up. Some of them are better than others. Many of them look very much like your original post.

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There is a fairly entertaining bylaw to this whole conversation. When I do Veritas Forums, it is not uncommon for me to be “evangelized” by an eager muslim student about the scientific prophecies in the Koran. They tend to focus on astronomy, and particularly on geocentrism vs. heliocentrism, though that is certainly not everything.

What immediately changes the conversation is when I ask about where the Koran predicts evolution. They do not accept evolution, so they go from saying that the Koran is confirmed by mainstream science to (usually) being silent, or arguing against evolution. The irony is that the same is true for most Christians that take a concordist approach (as you @Ronald_Cram are).

I’m not sure how to precisely pin this down, but it seems that the evidence for evolution, and solid conclusion within mainstream science, would significantly undermine OEC’s trying to take this hermeneutic. On the other thand, there is text in Genesis 1 that allows for evolution (i.e. “the land and sea brought forth plants and animals of many kinds.”) Whatever the case, it does not seem you can take this tact wihtout both carefully dealing with:

  1. The scientific prophecies in the Koran.
  2. Evolution.
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Here’s is what I’ve found so far:

Verse 4 – “And when the mountains are made to move – this could relate to when mountains will be blown away by dynamite and roads will be made through them.
Verse 5 – And when the she-camels ten month pregnant are abandoned – this could relate to the fact that camels were the mode of transport in those days, but more better, faster and powerful means of transport will have been invented.
Verse 6 – “And when the wild beasts are gathered together-this could relate to when animals will be collected in zoos.
Verse 7 – And when the seas are made to flow forth one into the other – this could relate to the joining of two different seas, the Suez Canal joining the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea and the Panama Canal joining the Pacific Sea with the Atlantic Sea.

Nothing here even comes close to Genesis 1:2, which is not a prediction (psychics make a fortune off of ambiguous predictions) but a description of an initial condition confirmed by science.

Do you see the difference? Can you find anything in the Koran that describes early earth, could not have been known by people of that time and has been confirmed by science? I don’t think so. I don’t think the Koran’s supposed predictions are analogous to my view at all.

What text is that?

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It is a mash up of key Hebrew phrases from Genesis 1. Haven’t you seen it before?

No, I haven’t. But I would be interested in examining the phrase and the context or, in the case, the mashup.

Okay, I think I see where it’s coming from now.

1:11 - Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so.

1:20 - Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.”

1:24 - Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so.

I see what you are saying now.

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And “according to their kind” is better translated as “of many kinds”. No mention of reproduction. No mention of fixity of species.

I don’t remember seeing these verses used to support evolution, but my opposition to evolution is not based purely on the Bible. It is based on the science. If we didn’t have different schools of thought, like punctuated equilibrium, etc, then it might be easier for me to accept. But I have a hard time accepting the huge diversity that came in the Cambrian period followed by very little added diversity. I’ve never seen a valid explanation for it.

And you know about my problems with abiogenesis.