The Age of the Universe: What are the biblical Limits?
Chapter 1: THESIS AND INTRODUCTION
AN OPENING PARABLE
Falling snow and a brisk wind warn of the coming blizzard. Five Alaskan hunters cancel their plans for an overnight expedition and head for the 4X4 rigs parked at trailhead. Their record of landmarks should guide them through the maze of forest and hills to their destination. But a snow-white landscape introduces a brand-new world.
The first test comes when a hunter calls, “Wrong way, men, we must go right.” Discussion follows and the lead hunter explains, “No, Jack, with Mt. McKinley lining up with the broken tree on the hillside, we must go left.”
Jack explains reasons for his concern but four out of five elect left. Jack follows for a hundred yards but his misgivings overpower him. “You know, with evening approaching, a wrong turn in this wilderness could, literally, be a matter of life or death.”
“Don’t worry, Jack, I would stake my life on our record.”****
Jack is almost pleading now, “I want to cooperate, but I simply can’t go further. It just isn’t right. Please listen to my reasons.”
“No offense, Jack, but trust us, we can’t stop to explain again when our map is so plain. Please don’t go back or you will get lost.”
Jack sighs in resignation, “I am going it alone. I will send out the search party.” He finds his preferred trail and continues down the hillside. Everything seems to confirm his suspicions. Finally, he comes to another “Y” in the trail similar to the one disputed earlier. Mt. McKinley is obscure but dimly visible, as is the distant broken tree. Jack knows this view matches the instructions disputed earlier. “Surely at this juncture I do, indeed, go left,” he thinks.
Jack finds the rigs at trailhead and blows the horns hoping to reach his friends’ ears. Darkness falls and he reluctantly returns to town 50 miles away. He alerts search and rescue, saying, “They can survive overnight with the equipment they have but with this relentless blizzard they can’t last much longer.”
The next morning Jack leads the search party to the separation point and the search is on. Six grueling days later – celebration! The four hunters are huddled together in a snow cave, very cold, very hungry, and very much in despair. Jack takes turns hugging each one with tears of joy and gratitude. No blame, no hard words, just profound thanksgiving to God.
The message in this book is like “Jack,” warning origin theorists that many of us have taken a wrong turn. The four lost hunters represent the various misguided assumptions regarding origins, whether young-universe creationism, theistic evolutionism, progressive creation or raw atheism. The former needs adjustment, the latter three need abandonment.
A decision looms. Young universe or old? Flood geology or millions of years? A wrong turn (that is, a biblical misinterpretation) could mean disaster on a gigantic scale if continued further..
It will be shown in this book that the Scriptures leave the age of the stellar heavens and the planetary earth foundation undefined. However, the same Scriptures limit all biological life and the construction of the biosphere itself to less than 8,000 years.
The following positions are taken: 1) six literal, consecutive solar days of divine work took place after the original creation of the stellar heavens and planet earth; 2) the origin of man and everything biological is recent; 3) most geological features of the earth’s crust resulted from the world-wide cataclysm – the Genesis Flood of about five or six thousand years ago (including biological derivatives such as coal, oil and almost all fossils); 4) the biblical text does not allow more than about 6,000 years of geologic time for dry land, or about 7,500 years if the Septuagint text data are valid. Evolution of any type is, therefore, categorically impossible.
However, it will also be shown that the sun, moon, basic earth and stars are undefined in age, just as they are undefined in dimension, and possibly for the same reason. God may have left both age and dimension undefined in order to show His limitless nature, transcending time and space. The universe may be “old;” biology, including fossils, cannot be.
This book proposes a challenge to the young-universe view promoted today by many creationists. Because the age-of-the-universe issue is the primary force leading to rejection of biblical literalism, the correction of this error will neutralize that destructive tool and may even encourage theistic evolutionists to reconsider their assumptions. Many expositors attempt to reduce Genesis 1 to figurative symbolism or metaphors, thus excusing what they perceive as discrepancies with science (a perception mostly produced by peer fear rather than factual data). A young universe does, indeed, involve conflict with facts, causing some to resort to symbolism or other devices.
Hopefully, a literal interpretation of Genesis will demonstrate its credentials so indisputably, including an undefined age for the universe, that progressive creationists will melt under that warmth without a direct assault being necessary. Accordingly, few remarks will appear against theistic or atheistic evolution until late in the book. Even though exposure of theistic evolution and progressive creation errors is another major concern of this book, we will attack that objective indirectly, by establishing a credible, biblical literalism first.
This writer holds to the plenary, verbal inspiration of Scripture and absolute authority of the “original manuscripts”. “Every jot and tittle” is inspired (Matthew 5:18) including the chronologies which establish Adam’s creation and all organic life less than 8,000 years ago. Since any chronology derived from the text of Genesis 5 and 11 is sufficiently accurate for our purpose, textual problems will not be examined. A discussion of the fossil record also lies beyond the scope of this investigation. Creationist writers have shown the entire fossil record to be recent and not involving millions of years but are the result of the Great Genesis Flood, hence we refer to “Flood geology.” There will be no discussion of “day/age” ideas where expositors assign a lengthy epoch to each of the days described in the first chapter of the Bible. This writing assumes that literal days, bounded by evening and morning, are specified there.
While this understanding does involve a time interval between the creation of the stellar heavens and a much later “first day,” the interpretation offered here is not to be confused with the “gap theory” (ruin/reconstruction) which supposes a creation of organic life long before the six days. Such a pre-Adamic creation of life cannot be allowed. No time passes between verses 1 and 2 as required by gap theorists but time for an inorganic earth is allowed between verse 2 and verse 3 as will be shown.
Readers unfamiliar with the historical background for this subject are directed to Appendix A which explains the history. Readers who cannot accept biblical authority (“So the Bible says it, so what?”) are directed to Appendix B. If that direction is pursued wholeheartedly, it cannot fail to dissolve doubts regarding the veracity of Scripture. Appendix C supplies help for those with questions regarding recent biblical geology resulting from the great, global Genesis Flood, an exceedingly important concept to grasp.
One must not underestimate the need to understand geology from a biblical view. If geology has been confusing or boring, appendix “C” gives an illuminating introduction. It is hoped that non-creationists and anti-creationists will “listen in” to the arguments and give renewed consideration to literal biblical claims including recent Flood geology.
A MAJOR SCIENTIFIC PROBLEM FOR CREATIONISTS
Dr. Duane Gish has authored a book entitled Creation Scientists Answer Their Critics. Dr. John Morris has published The Young Earth. Neither publication addresses the question of the speed of light and the magnitude of the universe. When asked, separately, why they did not pursue that topic, these well-known authors answered almost identically. Both simply asserted that they did not want to get into that subject. Explanations attempted by other writers leave thinking people uneasy. A large segment of creationists interpret Genesis as limiting the age of the universe to a maximum of 10,000 years. And yet galaxies exist whose light requires millions even billions of years to travel to earth. How can this be?
The question begs for an answer.
So far, no one has suggested a satisfactory response to this problem. Despite various attempts, doubts persist that this issue has been resolved. Barry Setterfield has proposed that light velocity has changed from near infinity at the original creation to the presently measured rate. His theory thrived for awhile among creationists, then was less popular, but at the present writing is still within consideration. Dr. Russell Humphreys, creationist astrophysicist, has offered the most recent attempt, and because it seems to be replacing the previous unsatisfactory answers in popularity, Chapter 7 will offer a more elaborate critique of his new idea. Dr. Humphreys, like Dr. Setterfield, tackles the problem head-on, but may be leading us down a dangerous, snowbound trail. Although the physics of Humphrey’s system may be worthy of consideration, the biblical basis for his cosmology is flawed, as we will see. (Because of changing usage, the word cosmology will be used for theories of origins involving astrophysics. Cosmogony will be used for biblically derived origin theories.) Setterfield, to my knowledge, has not provided a biblical exposition, but certainly his physics should be worthy of cautious consideration also — but we dare not jump to conclusions.
Creationists have a serious problem. Avoidance of the subject by some of the top leadership, a lack of consensus everywhere, and quick response to any glimmer of hope (such as the current interest in relativism or the changing speed of light) is a tacit admission that the answer has eluded us. Young-universe creationists are dogged by an unresolved problem. Any refuge appearing to give some hope seems to be welcome.
The thesis of the present work can be likened to Jack, the hunter, giving the warning, “You must be interpreting the landmark record incorrectly.” Creationists are trying to make the Bible say what it does not say in the same way that theistic evolutionists and progressive creationists are trying to make the rocks say what they do not say. A wicked devil, who inspired both errors, is equally pleased with either one, leaving those of us who hold mistaken ideas critically vulnerable to deception from our respective false assumptions. Whether promoting uniformitarian geology or a mandatory young universe, we are asking our listeners to believe something for which there is neither biblical nor scientific proof in either case.
In taking the undefined-age-of-the-universe position, no concession is made to popular scientific opinions regarding the age of the cosmos or world geology. Acceptance of Flood geology leaves one an outcast to evolutionists and rejection of a mandatory young universe leaves one an outcast among many creationists, hardly evidence of yielding to intellectual pressure. Allegations of accommodation to political pressures in this writing should be easy to refute. Some would like to think that intimidation from the establishment has influenced my thesis. I suggest that they walk in my shoes for awhile if they are so illusioned. The assertions of some scientists, which are contradictory to the word of God, simply reveal incomplete knowledge of either science or God’s word, or both. The straightforward Bible interpretation offered here solves all major problems by keeping us out of dangerous territory, namely, a universe required to be young and a fossil record required to be old. It is a simple, biblical solution for both errors, unpopular to both camps.
Many shades of creationism have arisen. This work is kindly and lovingly directed to the most visible segment of the creationist movement today, all of whom I regard as good friends. The detraction made here against a cherished doctrine of most creationists in no way diminishes love for them and in no way reduces the profound gratitude felt for their immeasurable contribution to creation science. I speak from the depths of my heart – my targets are treasured friends.
Other targets are non-creationists and anti-creationists who may be motivated to examine the case for a young geology and biology, literally derived from the Bible, once the stellar age obstacle is resolved. Theistic evolutionists,who believe that God guided Darwinian evolution to produce the biota, are invited to examine the evidence for a global Flood as a better explanation for the fossil record. Day/age people and gap theory proponents, who also want to square long ages of evolution with the Bible, should find this a much more satisfying message to bring to a skeptical world.
The subject matter here is controversial and emotionally charged. Some readers will approach it only with negatives and a singular purpose to refute — neither good science nor good exegesis. Rather it should provide an opportunity to demonstrate caring love and an open mind, thus proving that we have “passed out of death into life because we love the brethren.” “He who does not love, does not know God.” (I John 4 and 5). Discussion will be fruitless if controlled by a competitive, hostile, or closed spirit and mind.
The Bible was written for the common people as well as the scribe. Conclusions available only to an educated elite are probably wrong. Just as nonacademic men started the church under Jesus’ direction, so correct interpretations of Genesis are available to any rational person. Valid interpretations of the central themes will pass the test of simplicity and must be understandable to ordinary people including twelve-year-old youths. Because the conclusions drawn in this writing are so simple, appendix “F” provides a version of Genesis which is suitable even for kindergarten children, word-for-word from the Bible. Surprisingly, this is another major corroboration of the correctness of the interpretation presented here. The identical message is understandable and plain to children as well as college professors. Children need not learn an explanation one way in kindergarten and then abandon that for a complicated explanation of Genesis later. Please rank this of paramount importance.
The young universe theory rests upon a superficial reading of translations of Genesis 1:16, “And God made two great lights… the stars also” (on the fourth day) and of Exodus 20:11, “For in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, the sea…” It might appear from common translations of Genesis 1:16 that God created or assembled the stars on day four. Similarly, Exodus 20:11 could be read to mean that God created the entire cosmos in six days. It is understandable that some readers would draw these conclusions when the text is so rendered, and consider these verses “incontrovertible evidence” for a young universe.
Actually, the original Hebrew in both Genesis and Exodus says nothing about the time of creation for the stellar heavens. For that matter, rightly understood, neither do the common translations as will be shown.
Another major contributor to the mandatory young universe theory is the assumption that the Genesis 1:1 creation of heavens and earth took place as part of the first day. We will examine (and hopefully demolish) that assumption. Still another contributor is the concept of a formless, fluidic chaos instead of a tangible, planetary earth in verse 2. Another error assumes darkness throughout the cosmos until the command, “Let there be light.”
Without forcing the original language, let us consider a better representation of the Hebrew text. We should read Exodus 20:11 and Genesis 1:16 differently. The interpreter must work from Hebrew on disputed passages, not English or Chinese. Suppose we represent the verse in Exodus with more legitimate, contextually considered language. God Himself has provided the definition of “heavens” on day two to mean the air, and “earth” is defined for us on day three as the continental land (see Genesis 1:8-10). These are definitions quite different from those required for verse 1 because neither air nor dry land existed with verse 1. Consider Exodus 20:11 in Dr. Northrups’s rendition (Appendix “G”) combined with God’s definitions of heaven and earth (air and land):
For six days Yahweh worked on the air, the land, and the sea and all that is in them.
This is a more legitimate translation. It is in perfect conformity to the original text, without any stretching, twisting, or forcing, as we will show, for this is exactly what God did for six days. He worked on the existing planet, giving it a life supporting atmosphere, dry land and seas and filling all those areas with teeming life – the biosphere. (The word “heavens” always occurs in the plural form in Hebrew, no matter whether singular or plural is meant.)
Suppose we would render Genesis 1:16 (day four) worded:
And God brought forth two great lights … the stars also … and gave them forth in the expanse of air …
The reader must visualize the verb “bring forth” as a single thought blended from English words commonly translated from the Hebrew asah, namely do, work, prepare, make, produce, bring forth, accomplish. Those words, blended into one idea, are actually closer to the Hebrew meaning than the English made; and do not specify assembly of the sun and stars on day four. The six day work simply reveals the creation of a perfect home for man, without predation or pain, before the fall. All six, never-to-be-repeated days relate to the biosphere, not the basic planet, and they fairly shout, “special creation.” The translations suggested above need to pass the tests of grammar, syntax, etymology and semantics and if they do, within their contextual setting, then these renderings are fully competitive with the older, standard renditions and should be carefully considered for replacement language. Rightly understood, the standard translations are okay, but they are not best if they can be misunderstood or misread. The purpose of translation is to supply the clearest possible language to suit the contextually mandated meaning. Since Hebrew has only about 20,000 words (versus half a million in English) interpretation is extremely context dependent. Each word must perform many duties so translation demands understanding even more than other languages.
Some may complain, “I don’t like it when you take our Bible, which has been with us for 400 years, and change it now.”
Whenever a translation is made, the original language is “changed” into a less-than-perfect representation of the autographs. The translations of the year 1611 or 1985 or of 2001 are no exception. The words suggested here represent an attempt to return to the original, contextually determined meaning, not a “change” at all. “Changes” made by translators exist throughout all Bible versions. In some cases these need correction, or at least explanation, to make the text better represent what the Holy Spirit gave to us.
The last people who would object to alternative translations of the Scriptures are those who made the common translations in the first place, such as KJV, ASV, RSV, NASB, NIV, CEV, NKJV, NCV, ESV and others. Similarly, top experts in Hebrew translation are usually the first to suggest alternative renderings, especially for passages in which they specialize. The fact that so many differing translations exist, all made by reputable committees of sincere scholars, is proof that the best choices were not all established in 1611 with the King James Version. No doubt the KJV is worthy of deep respect because of the place of honor history has given it.
Quite often, a single translated word cannot represent the particular nuance of the original word in its specific context. It is good to use several carefully chosen constructions to fully grasp the meaning of any Bible passage. This principle will be followed throughout this book. Multiple translations and mixed translations will be cited. All translations used are found in one or more of the standard versions, dictionaries, or lexicons. Because there will be many examples of this, it would be cumbersome to document all of them but they will be found in the versions already mentioned or specially noted. In that way they are fully documented.
On the subject of this book all common translations are acceptable, although the best interpretation is more easily obtained by clarifying the text from the original Hebrew.
Any translation offered here that is not found in one of the nine versions mentioned above will be duly noted by three asterisks (***). These are my preferred selections, but plenty of other selections from the standard translations are satisfactory. Any Bible quotation with no asterisks means that the words are found in one or more of the named versions. Very often the rendition will be a composite of several versions. One list of my preferred renditions is found on page 98A. In all cases, translations offered here are supported by the Hebrew reference material.
The translators of the King James Version said in their introduction, “Variety of translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures” (12, preface). Thus we have the most prestigious recommendation for multiple translations from the very translators of the most important document in the history of the English language, the King James Version of the Bible. The KJV has also exerted profound influence on many translations other than English but that influence includes some errors as well.
If the alternative translations of Genesis 1:16 and Exodus 20:11 suggested above had prevailed over the past 400 years, the present embarrassment regarding starlight might have been avoided and radioisotope dating ratios would have been immensely simpler to explain. But if the reader objects to using these renditions, any standard translation, old or new, will do. We will arrive at the same destination – an undefined age for the universe and planet earth mineral base.
COMMON ASSUMPTIONS QUESTIONED
Enumerated below are some commonly accepted assumptions which have led sincere readers astray in Genesis 1. This will focus the polemics engaged later in the book. Each assumption mentioned will be followed by a brief assertive disclaimer which will be fully exposed in following chapters.
Assumption 1) Genesis contains the only primary creation passage in the Bible. Not so. Job 38:1-11, probably written before Genesis, contains important explanatory data from the lips of Yahweh God Himself as it relates to the earth’s foundation. Describing the earth at its birth God says, “I made the clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling clothes.” We will refer to this neglected passage frequently.
Assumption 2) Verse one is merely a summary of the coming chapter – not actual creation. We will see that it is neither summary nor introduction but rather it announces the creation of actual celestial bodies.
Assumption 3) The darkness of verse two permeated the entire cosmos before the command for light came. Not if we carefully read the text. Darkness is specified on the surface of the ocean only. The rest of the heavens were burning brightly with orbiting celestial bodies, obscured from an earth bound observer by the “cloud of thick darkness” which surrounded the primeval earth according to Job 38:9, making a perpetual night on the earth before Day one. Until the surface can be illuminated there can be no days at all.
Assumption 4) Day one cannot be preceded by any cosmological time. Not true, the “cloud of thick darkness” (called “waters that were above” in Genesis 1:7) may have continued for a short time enveloping the earth or for millions of years before the command came for light to illuminate the ocean surface. Furthermore, the stars may have been created long before the earth was created. The time durations before day one are not defined. Therefore, eons of time may have transpired before day one occurred on earth even though no life had yet been created.
Assumption 5) Because the great lights and stars are located “in” the raquia (expanse v6 and v16) we know that the expanse extends out to cosmic distances, not just our atmosphere.
This false assumption (literally) misses the point by billions of light years. The significance of the continuous action participle of verse 6 must be exploited. Literal translations render it, “Let (the expanse) be dividing (or be separating) between the waters and the waters”, a continuous action perfectly describing the hydrologic cycle of earth weather. (Ocean to vapor, to clouds, to precipitation, then returning to the earth surface.) This continuous cycle is absolutely essential to a functioning biosphere.
When clouds obscure them, the light from celestial bodies is obviously not in the air for signals and seasons. Sun and stars require earth based visibility before they can function for signals, seasons, days and years. When the local water cycle is admitted for the verse 6 description, then the speculation that the raquia (expanse) extends to cosmic distances is totally falsified and far, far from the intent of Genesis. The participle represents an action or condition in its unbroken continuity, “Let the expanse be continually dividing the waters below from the waters above,” which is exactly what the water cycle does and has been doing ever since day two of creation week. (See Job:26:8, Jer. 10:13 vapors ascend, etc.) Today the “waters above” fall as rain, snow and dew. Pre-flood they were a “mist which watered the entire face of the ground.” The entire globe, pre-flood, was probably a uniformly pleasant terrarium, without deserts or ice fields, without mountain ranges, storms or weather extremes.
Thus, Genesis 1:6 records God’s creative work on the firmament in earth’s biosphere–the same realm of activity involved on day four (vv.14-18) when He made the sun, moon and stars visible to the literary spectator.
Assumption 6) Exodus 20:11, “For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth and the sea and all that is in them,” leaves no doubt that the entire cosmos was created within six days. Admittedly, when the text is rendered as stated, using definitions contrary to those supplied by God Himself during the six day record, that assumption might appear correct. But the original text coupled with God’s own definitions, which He gave us during and within that identified six-day period (air, land and sea) limit the six-day context to the construction of the biosphere. Sun, moon and stars were created in verse one before there were any “days” on earth. On day four they were made visible to the earth’s surface (the frame of reference of Moses and readers of scripture).
Assumption 7) Genesis 1:16 plainly states that God made the celestial lights and the stars on day four. If by “made” one means “create” then the text does not say that at all. The surrounding text must be utilized to determine the proper translation of the Hebrew verb. God brought forth the celestial lights on day four. He created them in verse one. Some translate it, “God had made” (the sun and stars) using the pluperfect tense which is permitted grammatically. But with or without the pluperfect tense, the meaning is NOT creation of stars on the fourth day but visibility for signs and seasons. The viewing perspective is phenomenological, as an observer from man’s home, the earth, the only sensible reference point. Since the writer of Genesis 2 describes the primeval garden as “eastward in Eden,” it is clear that local surface orientation prevails. It is a It is a “Moses'” eye view or an “Adam’s” eye view. Just as God made light on the ocean surface (day one) by thinning the cloud of thick darkness, so He “made” the stars on day four by clearing the skies.
Job 9:7 illustrates. “He speaks to the sun and it does not shine; He seals off the light of the stars.” The “sun stopped shining” at the crucifixion (NIV, CEV). All agree it was blocked, not extinguished. Similarly, sun and stars were “sealed off” from visibility by the blanket of clouds. As at Calvary, the celestial bodies existed but did not locally “shine” until day four. They were “sealed off” by a simple, easy to understand cloud.
A father tells his son to “make” paths in the snow to give walking access to the neighborhood. So the son finishes the project and reported back to his father: “I made two great paths, the greater path to serve the school children and the lesser path to serve the post office. I made paths to some houses also.”
How did he “make” these paths? Not by importing ground to walk on but by clearing away the obscuring snow. So God “made” the great lights and stars on day four, not by creating them at that time but by clearing away the obscuring cloud cover. He also “made” the dry land the day before by merely “gathering the water in one place” allowing the wet land to emerge and dry out (see Jonah 1:9). Bezaleel “made” the tabernacle courtyard by merely fencing it in (Exodus 37:1;38:22). Every time the tabernacle moved, a new courtyard was “made” over already existing ground. The verb is better translated “brought forth” or “established” or “did” to avoid confusion with “create.” God created the stars long before the first day. He “did” them for signs, seasons, days and years on day four.
Assumption 8) Mark 10:6 leaves no doubt that Adam and Eve were married “at the beginning of creation” and therefore the cosmos cannot be more than six days older than they are. Proverbs 8 speaks, “Yahweh possessed me (Wisdom) in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before the earth was.” So there was a beginning before Adam and even “before the earth was.” Our first parents participated in the beginning of creation regarding the human race and marriage. Stars have no relevance to marriage.
Assumption 9) To accept an old universe jeopardizes the creation message. Precisely the opposite is true. To accept an old geology and fossil record would indeed strike at the creation message but the age of the universe carries no such liability. Rather, for creationists to demand that scientists believe galaxies must be less than 10,000 years old is an inexcusable offense to the scientific community. Had the Scriptures taught a young universe we should be obliged to accept that, but, as we will show, Scripture defines neither the age of the universe nor the age of planet earth mineral base.
A MISSING KEY
Job 38 is a critical creation passage yet almost totally ignored by origins theorists and, as one might expect from such an obvious and fundamental omission, major errors have resulted. The concept of a “cloud of thick darkness” enveloping the earth is critical to understanding Genesis 1, but this concept is missing from the plethora of origins books available today whether creationist or intelligent design. As Columbus sought India and discovered two continents in between, so origin theorists need to discover Job 38:9 and a multitude of overlooked realities. The message is plain enough just from reading Genesis 1 with no reference to Job, but Job enhances and explains the “waters that were above” in Genesis.
No “day one” can occur until that primeval cloud is at least partially dispersed to a heavy overcast to allow light to penetrate to the “surface of the ocean” and there can be no sun, moon and stars visible until until full transparency is achieved on day four. The “darkness” before day one must have been total, like that of the three day judgment over Egypt (Exodus 10:21). The duration of this state is not defined. Biblically, darkness on the ocean could have lasted two weeks or four billion years. God may have used the cloud of thick darkness as an insulator to preserve the planet’s heat and chemistry while He “waited” for light to arrive from the distant galaxies. That is sheer speculation, of course. The only certain thing is that a cloud of thick darkness enveloped the ocean-covered earth, and no one knows the duration of that darkness. Also, it should be noted that the record does not prohibit a much later creation of earth than that of the stars. We are not informed on that question.
Readers must forgive me if I hammer on the Job passage and if I hammer on other items which have been missed or ignored by popular expositors. Some readers will not need such repetition – others will – so please allow occasional returns to crucial themes as I attack the same subjects from many different angles.
SPECIAL INTERPRETIVE DEVICES
Special devices are employed in this book which constrain the interpretation and illuminate the meaning. All of them are simple and difficult to refute – equally useful to peasant or Ph.D. Some of them are particularly effective in exposing fallacious assumptions relating to Genesis 1.
The “subtraction method” explained below is one of those interpretive devices which will be introduced here to complete this chapter. The list of assumptions disclaimed above requires logical answers from the Scripture – much more than the supplied assertions.
One of the first interpretive demands will be to define what is meant by “heavens,” and what is meant by “earth.” Every language has multiple meanings for certain words so how are we to determine shamayim (heavens) and eretz (earth) in the various contexts? We must further determine whether verse one is a summary/introductory statement or whether actual celestial bodies were created there. Next, what is meant by tohu wabohu in verse two? Is darkness pictured throughout the cosmos or is it local? The subtraction method resolves these questions with a surprising degree of simplicity.
Expositors have argued over the meaning of tohu wabohu (KJV without form and void) without unanimity for centuries. But by starting at day six, when we know the earth was “very good” and subtracting each day’s work, we are able to forcefully evict the “fluidic chaos,” or a vague ball of water concept. “Without form and void” is also unacceptable. This “subtraction method” requires a fully formed, coherent, ocean-covered planet, all created at verse one with the heavens. Here is the rather simple reasoning.
Subtracting day six, we lose Adam and much animal life. The loss of day five leaves plant life untouched but no fish or birds remain. With day four subtracted we lose the stars, and the greater and lesser lights – at least they are not “given forth” (nathan) in the air. But the planet is very much intact. We still have an ocean, continental lands, the rocky mantle and the gaseous, biologically favorable atmosphere.
Even when we lose day three, only plant life is missing and the continents become submerged. The planet is now totally covered with a sterile ocean but it is very much the same planetary base. As we subtract day two, only the nonaqueous atmosphere is lost. The waters are divided between the ocean below and an atmosphere of pure water in some clouded form above the ocean. The “waters above” now contact, but remain above, the ocean surface. But light is permitted through this exclusively water-laden atmosphere and we have never lost day and night. An observer riding on the rotating planet would experience evening and morning.
Now subtract day one and we will be at the condition called tohu wabohu. Let us be careful not to extinguish all light throughout the universe with the loss of day one, because the plain description only specifies the ocean surface as being dark – nothing more. “The earth was deserted and empty and darkness was on the surface of the ocean.” Light was absent from the ocean surface because the “cloud of thick darkness” surrounded the newborn earth like “swaddling clothes and a garment” clothe a newborn baby. Apparently, the “waters above” must become so dense, if we subtract day one, that light cannot penetrate and there are no evenings or mornings for an observer to experience.
What do we have left? We have a genuine planet, with its rocky crust enveloped in water, a featureless ocean which itself is also enveloped in an opaque water cloud, giving total darkness to the surface. The earth is barren and empty, waste and void, desolate and waste, in short, the earth is tohu wabohu.
Now, where is the fluidic chaos imagined by some? It is nonexistent. God did not create a completed biosphere but neither did He create a chaotic earth. It was not “unformed and unfilled” or “without form” or “a formless mass” or “formless.” It was barren and empty, yes, but, make no mistake, it was an earth – perfect, fully formed, uninhabited, without chaos, and without a biosphere. Tohu may mean chaos in other settings but here it is constrained by the context to mean barren or uninhabited, desolate or deserted. It is a created planet – not a blob of fluid, thus answering the question, “What is meant by earth” in the opening verse.
The subtraction method appears to be an infallible device for interpretation with no way of squeaking out of the conclusion that tohu wobohu, describing the earth, means “deserted and empty” or similar renditions. By no means does this described earth mean “chaos,” (early Greeks) or a mere “mass of water,” (Humphreys 6, p32) or “all the matter in the universe” (Morris 8, p50) or “unformed and unfilled” (Fields 14, p129). It simply does not mean “formless” and when that idea crumbles, ancillary arguments collapse forever with it. Rather the earth is a full-fledged planet, created and complete (although minus a biosphere) at verse one.
If the subtraction method can be established, many other conclusions are established, like freight cars follow the locomotive. One of those conclusions invalidates the idea that verse one is only a summary statement because actual hardware is shown to have resulted from creating the heavens and the earth. This eliminates the summary or introduction assumption because a summary deals with topical ideas – not hardware. Another of those conclusions is that tehowm, while it does, indeed, mean “abyss,” is merely another name for “the ocean” as in almost all usages and should not be translated with an obscure “the deep.” There is nothing obscure about the earth described here. Furthermore, the subtraction method logically limits the raquiya (expanse) to the local atmosphere where birds fly.
Since the earth is shown to be a completed body and entirely covered with ocean, then we must ask, “Does it follow that the heavens were also created at verse one in a similar state of completion, shining and orbiting with the earth?” The answer is, “Yes.” David defines celestial heavens as sun, moon and stars (Psalms 8 and 19). “When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained, what is man that you are mindful of him?” No exegetical basis exists for defining “heavens” as space or the space-time continuum using twentieth century concepts meaningless to Moses. To take such liberties in word definition is nothing short of bad, and misleading exegesis. Why would the earth be created as a planet (established firmly by the subtraction method) and the stars not be corporeally created, when the text intones both earth and stars? If the sun and stars were created on the fourth day then would not verse one read, “In the beginning God created the earth and the heavens?” Rather it reads, In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Stars first, then earth. The six day activity refers to the earth, the whole earth and nothing but the earth including day four when cloudy translucence yielded to transparency.
The subtraction method forcefully evicts the chaos idea of primordial earth and many erroneous concepts prevailing today. Any Bible translation that renders verse two as “without form, formless, a formless mass, or unformed” is thus shown to be in basic error with inevitable consequent confusion, perhaps the all time champion of misleading translations. The subtraction method establishes a completed, non-chaotic planet before day one and proves that respected translators, like the rest of us, can err big time.
It is amazing how astute and learned theologians can take such simple language and turn it into an incomprehensible fog. How many brilliant thinkers have seen chaos and disorder from verse two when the planet should be described as “uninhabited and empty” or similar renditions-certainly not chaos. How misleading is a poor translation! One must ask, “How many other errors have been promoted by well-meaning but mistaken expositors?” I include myself in that caution.
THE ROAD TO HARMONY OF SCIENCE AND THE BIBLE
The Bible reveals a God who can make the sun stand still and raise the dead. If He can command the sun to stand still, then His pronouncements which relate to science are reliable whether reasonable to us or not. One could ask, “Which miracle, on days one through six, is the one which God could not do?” No escape is possible from special supernatural intervention in the creation record.
Consider all the attempts to harmonize science and the Bible. In almost all of them, either science is bent to suit an interpretation of Scripture or Scripture is bent to suit an interpretation of science. This need not be, but concessions must be made from each camp to achieve harmony. The current polarization of ideas is not only unnecessary but very damaging as well. Creationists must abandon the mandatory young-universe dogma and non-creationists must accept recent, global Flood testimony difficult concessions, indeed, for educators who are fixated on a particular paradigm. With wrong premises, wrong conclusions are inevitable. Major mistakes at the beginning of a project beget continuing anomalies thereafter, like an early accounting error mars all the following computations. We must never believe something merely because we want to believe it. To do that is to be a prisoner of our unproven assumptions. Sadly many on both sides of this conflict cannot escape that prison.
The true interpretation of the Bible together with the true interpretation of science will result in perfect harmony, repeat, perfect harmony with no disservice to either. Regarding the age of the universe, the Scriptural testimony is first – good science and reason will follow in a veritable choral symphony composed of the messages from both disciplines. That will result in a great outpouring of praise to God. Recent Flood geology is perfectly rational, abundantly evidential and verifiable. But so is an old cosmos and it has biblical credibility. United together, beautiful music will welcome a pleasant, new morning of intellectual dialogue.
This book addresses the biblical interpretive errors which prolong dissonance between the Bible and science. For solutions to the scientific sources of conflict, Ariel Roth’s book, Origins: Linking Science and Scripture (28) is highly recommended as an introduction. Another basic introductory help would be, Grand Canyon, Monument to Catastrophe edited by Steve Austin (29). Origin by Design by Harold Coffin (21) is also highly recommended. Understanding of Flood geology and the creation view of nature are equally necessary with Scripture for completion of the harmony between the Bible and science. Mainstream evolutionary geology and their theistic children will never allow such harmony. Having invested so much, they have a lot to lose and will not yield to the facts easily.
One final reminder. Young universe people often use the expression “old earth” to include the millions of years of Darwinian evolution and its assumed geological ages. Thus the term “Old Earth” is synonymous for them with millions of years of fossil ages. We must differentiate between the sterile mineral base of planet earth which this book can allow as possibly being millions of years old and the recently created biological world including all the fossils which we agree were mostly deposited recently in the biblical Flood of Noah. This book promotes a young biological earth but an undefined-in-age planet earth and universe.
Young-earth proponents deserve commendation for their confidence in the absolute truth of Scripture. That are plenty of good reasons for that confidence. But let us examine the original text with our thought systems open to revision when confronted with the word of God. What did the Holy Spirit really say? If a mistake is made on this critical subject, all should agree, it can only be described as a grave and grievous blunder. Sad that many have “bet the farm” on two badly interpreted scripture verses.****