Sunday April 19, 2015 | Vanessa Williams
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.
Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.”
And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day.
Then God said, “Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.” And that is what happened. God made this space to separate the waters of the earth from the waters of the heavens. God called the space “sky.”
And evening passed and morning came, marking the second day.
Then God said, “Let the waters beneath the sky flow together into one place, so dry ground may appear.” And that is what happened. God called the dry ground “land” and the waters “seas.” And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the land sprout with vegetation—every sort of seed-bearing plant, and trees that grow seed-bearing fruit. These seeds will then produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came.” And that is what happened. The land produced vegetation—all sorts of seed-bearing plants, and trees with seed-bearing fruit. Their seeds produced plants and trees of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.
And evening passed and morning came, marking the third day.
Then God said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years. Let these lights in the sky shine down on the earth.” And that is what happened. God made two great lights—the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set these lights in the sky to light the earth, to govern the day and night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.
And evening passed and morning came, marking the fourth day.
Then God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.” So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply. Let the fish fill the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.”
And evening passed and morning came, marking the fifth day.
Then God said, “Let the earth produce every sort of animal, each producing offspring of the same kind—livestock, small animals that scurry along the ground, and wild animals.” And that is what happened. God made all sorts of wild animals, livestock, and small animals, each able to produce offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”
So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”
Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened.
Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!
And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day.
Many people face a “crisis of faith” when it comes to understanding the story of creation as told in Genesis 1. When read as a chronological account of events and compared to modern-day science, it’s often reduced to an angrily defended “matter of faith.” But the creation story is not a scientific journal – it’s a beautifully poetic account of a good God and His love for us!
The story of creation from Genesis 1 is often seen as an opposing view to science – an alternative chronological account of events that must be vehemently defended or rejected. Sadly, this causes us to miss the beauty of the Biblical narrative, which was not written as a chronological account of events at all.
One of the things that many people get “hung up” on is that God created the world in 6 days according to the biblical narrative, while science tells us it took billions of years. But ironically, before science suggested the world took longer than 6 days to create, people got “hung up” for the opposite reason – they wondered why they should believe in a God who needed 6 days and couldn’t create things in an instant! In either case, the issue isn’t the chronological accuracy of the narrative, it’s that people are interpreting poetic language in a literal sense.
In ancient Mesopotamia there were many gods and goddesses. They were seen as rulers over a certain geographic area or a certain aspect of life, and often needed to be appeased. These people also had many different stories of how things came to be, including the world, and their gods and goddesses. These stories of origin and creation are known as “cosmology”. The words that we know today as Genesis, Chapter 1, boldly confronted all other cosmologies at once, right from the first sentence where it speaks of there being only one God – not many gods and goddesses – and that this God didn’t need to be created. In order to be understood in the ancient near-east (where none of the cosmologies of the day had a literal timeframe), this cosmology was written in a poetic style. Therefore we must move beyond hearing it as God’s “scientific process” of creation, and discover something more profound – that we have an amazing God who is filled with love for all of His creation.
The ancients understood the poetic structure. For example, in the narrative, days 1, 2, and 3 talk of God creating spaces (light/dark; sea/sky; land), then days 4, 5, and 6 mirror them, this time describing how God filled those spaces (sun/stars; fish/birds; animals/people). The poetic structure starts each day with “God said,” and ends with, “it was morning, and it was evening…” These poetic refrains indicate theological importance, not chronological time.
Also, notice that the poetic structure changes when God talks about creating mankind “in our image” – the narrative changes cadence, and switches from third-person to first-person. This poetically emphasizes us being chosen to be God’s image-bearers on this earth, simply because he loves us. And it’s at this point that God looks over all he has done, and proclaims “it is VERY good.”