Creation Research Society

Address to the Creation Research Society

Delivered at USCL 7-11-09
by Gorman Gray

A New Approach to the Interpretation of Genesis 1:16:  Same conclusions from a strengthened route


Books have been written and conferences devoted to detailing proper methodology for biblical hermeneutics. This presentation will attempt to emphasize the psychological barriers we humans encounter which sometimes prevent sound Bible interpretation. With that cautionary background, we will carefully observe the pattern of God’s procedures on each of the daily activities and apply it to Genesis 1:16, the fourth day, That pattern constrains and explains the interpretation of that very crucial verse of Scripture.

During the six day creation, in every case God 1) Decides to do something, then He 2) Does what He decided to do and finally, He 3) Delights in what He did after completion. This pattern effectively prohibits the commonly accepted interpretation that God created or made the two great lights and the stars on day four. Rather, I will show that God “gave them in the expanse of air” for signs, seasons, days and years on day four, having already, created those bodies with the stellar heavens and planet earth in verse one before any days were possible.

Shalom! I come with peace. From your point of view, I suppose, my coming here is almost like allowing the fox in the henhouse but really I am more like a benign, harmless rabbit. But I see you chickens don’t realize you are confined in a pen called the mandatory young universe. However, this friendly rabbit, so far from harming you, can dig a hole under the fence to release you from the pen you have been confined in these 50 some years. What a freedom that will be for you chickens if I can convince you to follow me under the fence.

I thank Danny Faulkner and the leadership here for allowing me this opportunity. I do regard it as a great privilege. I am not a teacher, or preacher or a public speaker so please defer to my limitations. I have a full blown power point program but pictures are ephemeral. I wanted the verbatim printout available to anyone who might want to dispute it, so I will not use power point today, so rest your eyes but tune your ears to listen carefully. Hard copy of the text is in the handout for your perusal and analysis later.

Points of Agreement

Here is what we agree on. We believe every word of Scripture in the original manuscripts down to the tiniest mark. We believe Genesis one is to be interpreted as literal history. The six days were literal, consecutive, 24-hour, solar days which took place less than 8000 years ago. There was a global flood about 4500 years ago which accounts for almost all the fossil record, the sedimentary deposits, today’s mountain ranges and the post flood ice age. We agree that evolution theory is preposterous and unscientific. While there may be much good science surroundingevolution theory as a persuasive front, yet at is core it is a scientific absurdity. We agree that the progressive creation of Hugh Ross is an unacceptable compromise with the mainstream evolutionary academy (even though Ross, to his credit, is not an evolutionist).

We further agree that Jesus is God, the eternal Word become flesh—the only hope for sinners. I’m sure that each of you remembers as I do, regeneration, when Jesus reversed your life direction by 180 degrees—from one of proud, ugly selfishness to beautiful, Holy Spirit love. That memory, even after 63 years still brings me to literal tears of profound gratitude.

That’s a lot of agreement so where do we disagree? In one sentence, I refuse to put a date on Genesis 1:1 and for good reason. Its date is not defined in the Bible whereas Genesis 1:3 and the first day are defined in the Bible less than 8000 years ago.

One problem in Bible interpretation comes when we address a portion to interpret, and then just begin interpreting it. I mean, before we have earnestly asked God what He thinks about it, we begin interpreting it. I do not mean a cursory prayer, Lord bless us, but Proverbs 2 searching, “Yes, if you cry after knowledge, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hid treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom.” Yes, the Lord does give wisdom but it comes in the context of one searching for it with all one’s heart.

Secondly,interpretive failure is certainif we approach Scripture with our particular system in mind and then seek to impose that system on the text. Presuppositions must be subdued before we open God’s word and that is easier said than done, for me as well as anyone else. Additionally, translation options selected from the various renditions are crucial to sound interpretation for those of us not fluent with Hebrew. Bad selections in the past by popular versions have led many interpreters far, far astray. Dear friends, we had better get all this right.

Have We Jumped to Conclusions?

Now, I know that some of you are thinking, “He believes in an old universe which is dangerous compromise with uniformitarian, evolutionary, big bang theory.” Well, I am as anti-evolutionary as anyone on planet earth. I have compromised with no one. But Scripture is plain as I hope to show today.

Oh, some will say, but don’t you know we have factual evidence of a young earth like the recession of the moon’s orbit or earth’s decaying magnetic field, or Russ Humphreys’ predictions of planetary magnetic fields. And as far as light from distant galaxies, maybe the speed of light was near infinite early in history as per Setterfield. Or maybe God created light rays enroute as Dr. Morris postulated, or maybe gravitational time dilation occurred so the earth’s view of time is 6000 years while billions of years of time transpired in the remote galaxies. Or maybe new evidence will emerge which we have not found out yet, or maybe new theories will be invented. Just wait and we will have the explanation. Just maybe, maybe – – Dear friends, just maybe we have jumped to conclusions about Genesis 1:16 and Exodus 20:11. Just maybe the galaxies are, in fact, old enough for light to arrive from the most distant galaxies and we have misinterpreted God’s word. I do not know how old the universe is and I am NOT suggesting big bang did it. But what I do know is that the Bible does not limit earth’s age nor the age of the universe to 6,000 or 10,000 years.

All of this is discussed in my book,The Age of the Universe: What are the Biblical Limits? But today, I will attempt a slightly different and new approach to interpretation of Genesis 1:16 which is one of only two centrally critical texts.

Exodus 20:11- Brief Comments

The other one, of course, is Exodus 20:11, also fully exposed in the book, but I cannot address that here except to briefly say that to be hermeneutically sound we must use the definitions supplied by God during the six day construction, namely air, land and sea in Exodus 20:11. A basic law of hermeneutics—context rules—will not allow us to use the very unclear “heavens, earth and sea” in that crucial verse. Hence, it ought to read, “For six days Yahweh worked on the air, the land and the sea, and all that is in them and rested the seventh day.” Check the text carefully of Genesis One and you will agree that days one through six describe ONLY work on living things and a home for living things, that is the biosphere. Day four describes clearing the atmosphere so we (and flying migratory birds) could navigateand see the sun, moon and stars.

What God created in six literal days was the biosphere, not the stellar heavens. Sun, moon and stars were created “in the beginning,” before day one was even possible. Do you know that God never defined words anywhere in Scripture other than here during the six day work? He left us with no excuse for interpreting the six day work other than directed to the biosphere only, namely, air, land and sea (and all that is in the air, land and sea, that is the biology of plants and animals). The creation of the stellar heavens occurred before a first day was even possible, in the undefined beginning. So that’s all I have time to mention relative to Exodus 20:11.

But regarding Genesis 1:16, I find I cannot provide this “new approach” which I promised until I provide the background foundation. So here that is, in a nut shell.

Abbreviated Background for Genesis 1:16

Earth’s universal ocean was shrouded in darkness after the planet’s creation. Although we do not need Job 38 to prove this, yet it is perfectly clear from Job that at thefoundation and birthof the earth God surrounded the earth with a cloud of thick darkness like a diaper and blanket surround a newborn. Genesis 1:2 reads, “the earth was uninhabited and empty and darkness was on the surface of the ocean” which confirms the same thing as the cloud of thick darkness described in Job.

Someone tell me how long darkness prevailed over the ocean surface, and I will tell you how old the earth is. Until someone can determine that, the age of planet earth will not be measurable for it is defined neither in Genesis nor anywhere else.

God stipulates that the ocean surface was dark, not the entire cosmos. Job 38:9 amplifies the picture of “darkness on the surface of the ocean” by describing how this darkness on the surface of the ocean was achieved. We don’t have time to prove it now but planet earth wascompletely formed and functioningin the solar system at verse one, orbiting in the completed heavens and earth system. To prove this, start with the perfect day six and carefully subtract each day’s work. When you reach verse one you will find that the earth throughout the six days was a completed planet. Any rational adolescent can conclude irrefutably by using the “subtraction method” that “without form” or “unformed” or “formless” are unacceptable translations for “tohu” in this context—rather use “uninhabited,” “deserted” or “waste.” There was a totally opaque atmosphere of pure water vapor, or fog, or whatever it was on the created earth, and it had to be cleared to translucence before day one was possible. Thus “Let there be light” on the ocean surface demands work by God to lessen or remove part of that cloud of thick darkness. Only intellectual acrobatics can deny the logic of the simple, child-understandable subtraction method.

It does not say that light was created new on day one. That is a fallacy. You cannot have “heavens” as defined in the Bible by David and others as sun, moon and stars (Psalms 8 and 19) without having light from those bodies. Otherwise you are not describing “heavens” at all, but rather something quite different and it certainly should not be named “heavens.”

All languages have multiple meanings for the same word, easily determined by context. The “heaven” of verse one refers to the stellar heavens whereas on days two through six, “heaven” refers to the air where birds fly as stated unmistakably in verse 20 and shamayimshould be translated “air.”

On the second day, God created the air and established the hydrologic cycle. Again, I cannot argue it here, but please don’t read into the text that “raquia” extends to the end of space as Russ Humphreys claims or the raquia extends past the Kuiper belt of orbiting ice bodies as John Hartnett has it. No, the “raquia shamayim”is the expanse of air where birds fly.(Read it from verse20) which accomplishes the continual hydrologic cycle. That’s what God created on day two. Ocean evaporation ascends to upper atmosphere, then it is collected and returns to the earth as mist or dew (and after the flood as rain) thus replenishing the ocean—the hydrologic cycle, absolutely essential to a functioning biosphere. Birds fly in the air, through the air, over the air, under the air, across the air, and birds fly nowhere else.

Significance Of Day Three for Interpreting Day Four

Then on day three, God depressed the ocean floor into a sea or bowl shaped container or else elevated the land masses or both, to allow dry land to “appear.” By the way, it was Jonah who stated that God “made” the sea and the dry land. Thus He made the sea and the dry land without necessarily creating anything, by merely rearranging the already existing materials. “Let the waters be gathered together in one place and let the dry land appear.”

In the same way,God did notmakeanything on day four, but only rearranged the obscuring cloud which had been translucent but now must inescapably and certainly become transparent. No matter whenGod created the stellar heavens, they could not be seen until the atmosphere was transparent. God of necessity did this on day four, allowing visibility of the greater and lesser lights and the stars for signs, seasons, days and years and to divide the day from the night and to give light upon the earth. That explains why God did not express, “It was good,” after the day two work. Because on day two God was making the air and the hydrologic water cyclebut the air was not complete. It had to wait until day four to become transparent. That’s why He did not say “it was good.” He simply wasn’t done with it on day two.

God’s Procedure During the Six Day Creation

Three activities by God are common to every day’s work, 1) God Decidesto do something “Let there be…” 2) Then God Doeswhat He decided to do “it was so,” or He describes doing the items 3) Then God Delightsin the resulting creation—”It was good.”

So what did God decide to do in verses 14 and 15? “Let there be luminariesin the expanse of air, to divide the day from the night. And let them be for signs, to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be for lights in the expanse of the air to give light upon the earth.”

What Goddecided to doin verses 14 and 15 should be our guide as to what He actually did in v16 ff. For example, if the record of God deciding something had read, “Let there be apples, rivers and rainbows.” But if the record of God’s doing what He had decided reads differently, “So God made beautiful red apples, swiftly flowing rivers, a pile of gems and beautiful rainbows.” The pile of gems was not listed in the “Decided” phase and therefore ought not to be in the “did” phase because God “decides”everything perfectly and completely before He “does”anything.

Which brings the question: Did God decide to create or make the sun, moon and stars on day four in the “decide” phase? Let’s read again what He decided to do. “Let there be lights in the expanse of air to divide the day from the night and let them be for signs and seasons and days and years and let them be for lights in the expanse of air to give light upon the earth.” All of these functions are accomplishedonly by human observersviewing things from man’s home, the surface of the earth. The seasons are only meaningful to earth dwellers.

Therefore, if we try to think that God createdthe universe on day four, we are adding to the stipulation of what God decided to do. If we think that on day four, God created the heavens, when He  unmistakably says that He did that before day one as plainly as words can be spoken, then the record of what God “did”does not match what He “decided to do.” What He decided to do was simply to “give luminaries into the expanse of air” to divide day and night and for signs, seasons, days and years.

Translation of “Asah”

Furthermore, the mistaken idea that God created the universe on day four is predicated on the word “made” (Hebrew “asah”) which is translated dozens of different ways in all versions. That should warn us not to dogmatize on English translations or any other translations by themselves. Not only does the correct translation have to conform to the Hebrew text but, if this is God’s word, it will not contradict scientific facts either, if those facts are, indeed, true facts.

So let’s substitute in verse 16 several of those many dozens of options that all versions use to render this verb in other places and insert them here in verse 16. When I make the quotations, I will include the parenthetical phrase “in the expanse of air, for signs, seasons, days and years” to remind us of what God decided to do.

Instead of “God made” let’s read, Then God brought forthtwo great lights and the stars. Or, Then God prepared two great lights and the stars (in the expanse of air for signs and seasons and days and years—I won’t let you forget that). Esther prepared a banquet for Haman and Ahasuerus but she did not create any of the food or ambiance, she just arranged things.

That happens to be another rendition used for asah. Then God arranged two great lights and the stars, or, then Godexecutedtwo great lights and the stars.

Think of this last one. The Levites executed the priest’s office. David executed judgment and justice. The Lord executed His fierce wrath on Amalek and so on. All it really means is that God or David or the priests simply “did” all those things.

Which brings me to suggest another simple word and perhaps best of all, even though somewhat awkward for English speaking readers. It is only awkward because we have so many substitutes for do, did or done.

And God did two great lights and the stars (and remember it was in the expanse of air for signs and seasons and days and years that God did this). “Do, did or done” is the way this verb is translated most often (by far) well over twice as often than the common “made or make.” It is a little awkward for us to choose that word here, but remember that it was not awkward at all for Hebrew linguists. They had only one word to perform all these functions and they were able to communicate, in some senses as well as we. Biblical Hebrew had only about 20,000 words whereas English, just recently, passed the half million mark, so biblical Hebrew has to depend on context much more than we do.

God “made” the sun, moon and stars is okay if we add the caveat that such a making was like God made the sea and dry land on day three without creating anything but just rearranging existing material. But “made” tends to mislead readers, and for that reason, other options are better.

All it means is that David did justice and judgment or the priests didtheir priestly duties or God commands us to doHis will. Asah is the “Do” word of Hebrew far more than any other depiction, “Do, Did, or Done” captures the sense of the original and in Genesis 1:16 God “did” the great lights and the stars (in the expanse of air for signs, seasons, days and years and to divide the light from the darkness and to give light on the earth.)

After studying hundreds of uses for “asah,” if I were compiling a lexicon, I could not assign the basic meaning of “asah” as do or makeas many dictionaries do. Rather give the basic meaning as “Do” and assign “make” as one of six dozen nuanced uses of the word.

What God Accomplished on Day Four

God did not create the universe on day four. He did that in the undefined “beginning” of verse one as it plainly states. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” What He did on day four was to execute the great lights and the stars for the function of visible signs “in the expanse of air” for observers on earth. And He did that by clearing the atmosphere to transparency—an inescapable, unavoidable, logical necessity resulting from the initial cloud of thick darkness. When the atmosphere is occluded there is no way that the stars can function for signs and seasons in the expanse of air.

Now this is only another small point added to the multitude of reasons which are enunciated in the book. Genesis 1:16 does not tell us the age of the universe or planet earth. Biblically, earth could be old enough to generate those isotope ratios which indicate great age for the dikes and sills found within magmatic intrusions. Even though the intruded flood strata is only 4500 years old, the magma itself would contain isotope ratios as old as the planet.

Let me repeat the question, Was there, or was there not, a cloud of thick darkness surrounding the earth at is foundation and birth like swaddling clothes and a blanket surround a newborn? Was there, or was there not such a cloud of thick darkness? We had better say, yes, there was, because it came from the mouth of Yahweh God Himself and it changes everything interpretively in Genesis one.

Dear friends, we only differ on one huge point. Can we put a date on Genesis 1:1 or not? Of course, how we interpret Exodus 20:11 and Genesis 1:16 impinges on that question. But even if a researcher should scientificallyprovethe earth is 6036 years, 210 days and 3 minutes old or proveit two billion years old, it would not change the interpretation offered here. Genesis does not assign a date to the first verse and, using the Bible texts, neither should we.

David Corson’s Commentary

Now I must read portions of an article written by a brilliant man whose name is David Corson, from Portland, Oregon. He is an expert historian and chronologist with especial emphasis on Egyptian chronology as it relates to biblical chronology. The article I quote from does not relate to that, but is entitled Chaos in Creationism. I will quote some beginning paragraphs but the entire article is available free of charge after this session. Without distracting from the towering stature of Dr.Henry Morris and fully recognizing the deep indebtedness that all of us have to him, nevertheless, David’s article hits pretty hard at Dr. Henry Morris and also Russell Humphreys interpretation of the first few verses in Genesis. I must preface it by firmly stating again my deep and abiding appreciation for Drs. John Whitcomb and the late Henry Morris. They have a well-deserved place of honor among us. All of us here today are deeply indebted to their work and insight and I treasure them. Is that clear? Now here comes the “but.”

But Dr. Morris has made some serious mistakes and in our deep appreciation for his work we tend to automatically accept those mistakes. Who would ever dare to question the conclusions of such giants in the creation movement?

Well, David Corson does and, very humbly, so do I. So here goes. Here, I quote excerpts from pages one to three of “Chaos in Creationism” (See the entire article after page 2 of the handout or order from address below $5 ppd.)

Clear, Plain, Straightforward and Literal?

I hear it claimed over and over, “We young earth creationists believe the literal Bible from the very first verse and we take the plain, clear, straightforward, literal words just as God said it from the very first verse.”  I respectfully dispute that claim.  I agree that you are plain, clear, straightforward and literal after verse 20, but the opening verses have been garbled, confused and misinterpreted by some of the leadership and are anything but plain, clear, straightforward and literal. This is well established by Corson’s article. It is theyoung biosphere view which can claim those depictions. We claim the plain, clear, straightforward and literal understanding from the very first verse, clear enough and plain enough for small children to understand. Drs. Morris and Humphreys, certainly cannot say that, with heaven defined as the “space-time continuum” from Dr. Morris, and “relativistic, gravitational time dilation” by Humphreys, difficult even for theoretical physicists to understand and hotly disputed as well.

Author’s Preferred Translations

In this address, I have used my preferred translations throughout. Instead of “the deep,” I render it ocean. “Without form” is rejected for the preferred, uninhabited or deserted or waste; “heaven” on days two through six is air;the “raquia shamayim”is the expanse of air(after all the birds fly in it so how can that rendition be disputed)? Some of you are Hebrew scholars or you know such. If you can find someone who can control his or her biases, and who thoroughly knows the Hebrew idiom, please have them read this address and appraise the faithfulness I have achieved in these and all my renditions.

We are still friends if we disagree, but secretly I wish I had more time to chew you out, my dear brothers and sisters, lovingly and kindly, of course, but I have to quit. By all means get David’s work. The handout is free of charge and includes this lecture verbatim plus an essay called, Mutually Incompatible Philosophies: Why they seldom resolve. That last is the cautionary background I promised in the abstract but was not able to incorporate here. Also included is my preferred translation of the entire chapter one of Genesis. Then, of course, get the book The Age of the Universe: What Are the Biblical Limits?and, if you can, provide better answers to it than heretofore have been offered by detractors. Any sensible attempt at refutation is welcome. We fully agree that this is a very important question. Dear friends, we had better get it right.

When everything fits with no apologies for a word of Scripture and no apologies for a single fact of science, confidence in the word of God is strengthened. I submit, the young biosphere view is elegantly simple, with every major problem explained satisfactorily.

I love you all and deeply appreciate your indulgence today. Thank you so much.

Gorman Gray
1420 N.. “Q” Circle, Washougal, WA 9867
1-8356 360-835-8361

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