Audio 1 – “God Who Made Heaven and Earth”
Audio 2 -“Length of the Creative Days”
“He … hangeth the earth upon nothing” (Job 26:7).
Man’s earliest questions “How and Why?” owe much to the inspired author of Genesis. When we contrast Genesis with creation accounts from other lands, it is apparent that the Bible’s account is anchored in rational thought. The nurturing of this rational thought coupled with experimental investigation—”the scientific method”—has been a dynamo for progress; yet, its biblical foundations are generally ignored.
By way of contrast, in the creation myths of Abraham’s Sumerian homeland, we are thrust into the world of symbolism and psychological archetypes focused on Tiamut, a demonic female whose dismembered body becomes the material for creation. A similar legend is taught in both faraway Japan and nearby Greece.
Since the work of Dr. Edwin Hubble in the 1930’s, our understanding of the creation of time and space opposes another ancient, non-biblical belief repeated by the Roman author Ovid that holds that time and space always existed as unorganized chaos, which were finally brought into order by the divine.
In contrast, the Bible presents a view of a Creator who stands outside of nature, and creates nature itself.
We live in a day of increased knowledge. For example, we now understand the sun is a hydrogen-based, nuclear fusion driven furnace, not a burning fire of wood and air. We should be respectful of the sincerity and faith of those who embrace Genesis in its simplicity, and dismiss as irrelevant any need for corroboration.
We also should be respectful of those in the scientific community whose lives are wrapped up in the inexhaustible intellectual challenge of uncovering ever more useful insights into nature, and experience religion only through its hostility. Properly understood, Christianity holds to a narrow course that appreciates, understands, and reconciles this estrangement.
Remembering the Sabbath
Direct scriptural support for the Sabbath system is sometimes presented as proof that the creative days were literal 24-hour periods (Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:11). When the observance of the Sabbath is introduced, Israel is told that the blessings of rest and refreshment on the Sabbath day had precedents in God’s design. However, the true Sabbath of God is perpetual (Hebrews 4:3-11). For God a day constitutes a period of time in which a work is accomplished. It is not limited to a 24-hour day. For this reason the scriptures elsewhere specifically refer to Israel’s 40-year “day of temptation” (Psalm 95:8-10) using the same Hebrew word yom translated “day” in Genesis. Peter, writing much later in Greek, refers to a 1000-year “day” (2 Peter 3:8).
It is distressing to hear it said that God created the heavenly bodies our telescopes view, and the rocks beneath our feet with the appearance of being ancient, as a test of our faith in the Bible. Surely, presenting one appearance of reality while doing something different is not how any of us would teach our children to trust us. Such reasoning is inconsistent with the clear principles laid down by Jesus (Matthew 7:8; Psalm 19:1). Observations of the universe’s most distant reaches by the Hubble space telescope suggest an age of the universe of over 13 billion years.
Establishing and managing the cycles by which life, air, land, and oceans interact to sustain each other may well be one of the most complicated and challenging acts of creation. Each day of this process had its own special adversities. The seemingly insignificant and often unclear start—at least from the testimony of the geological record—is followed by a triumphant finish. Most appropriately, these are designated “evening” and “morning.” This creative week with its Sabbath system serves as an appropriate memorial and celebration of God’s great work, though we recognize that great epochs of time much longer than 24-hours constitute these days.
Before the First Day
“In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1). The period before the “beginning” of Genesis 1:1 is unmeasurable. Although it is difficult for us to comprehend, time as we know it did not exist. However, God was active. He carried out his only direct creation, bringing into existence his only-begotten son, the “Word,” elsewhere called “Wisdom” (John 1:1; Proverbs 8:12-31).
“In the beginning [of our physical universe], God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1; Job 38:7). In collaboration with this master-builder, his only begotten son, God’s plans for creation were framed. The creative work began with the basics: time, space, energy, and matter. The “standard model,” sometimes called the “Big Bang,” is how physicists speak of the great singular event that created time and space. As of today, starting with an elegant set of equations on a blank sheet of paper, the model correctly predicts galaxies moving apart from each other; the observed ratios of the elements hydrogen, helium, and lithium that comprise 97% of all visible matter in the universe; the observed ratio of matter to radiation; and the current frigid average temperature of the universe.
So carefully tuned are the constants of physics that even small deviations in their values would fill the cosmos with space, time, energy, and matter, just different enough in their properties to prohibit life as we know it. Calculations by the world’s leading cosmologists find the probability that the universe would turn out this way by chance is infinitesimal. It is like throwing darts at random and hitting the bull’s eye which is just one part in 10 with 120 zeroes following, writes Geoff Brumfiel, senior writer for the international science journalNature. So infinitesimal is the possibility of this happening by chance that those dismissive of God such as Dr. Richard Dawkins have to assume that there are the extraordinary number of universes—10 with 500 zeroes following it. Of course, we know of only one universe for certain, and Prof. Burton Richter of Stanford dismissively says of this that much of what passes for theory these days is more like theological speculation.
Of course, it is unwise to conclude that life might not appear in some other strange and wonderful form such as the angels; it simply would not be composed of atoms or molecules!
In time following the “Big Bang,” matter coalesced into short-lived stars distinctly unlike our long-burning sun. These early stars hold an important role as the factories that formed most of the 89 natural elements heavier than lithium. Around five billion years ago the gases and ashes created in the supernovae deaths of these early stars hurled across space. Under the influence of gravity they again clumped together forming our own sun and earth. The proto-earth, composed largely of asteroid-type material rich in water, slowly cooled.
At this juncture a statistically rare and critically important event took place to make Earth habitable. A planetoid once thought to be the size of Mars crashed into the earth. Our moon was formed from the material that splashed off. Moon rocks, undisturbed until scooped up by the Apollo astronauts, testify to this cataclysm. As refinements in the observations linked to this hypothesis have continued over the last 50 years, we are at a point where in December 2013 Prof. Sarah Stewart of Harvard wrote that while everything we know about the formation of the moon is physically plausible, the probability of “the required sequence of events [is] vanishingly small.” Wherever science looks, once again God’s skillful hand is visible!
An ocean was needed for the cooling of the earth. Distinguished geophysicist Professor James C. G. Walker of Yale University concluded that nearly all the atmosphere (and the ocean) has been released from the solid earth. This is consistent with the words of Job: “Who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth as if it had issued out of the womb” (Job 38:8- 11)? Without inspiration, how did this marvelous detail of geophysics get transmitted to us? Challenges to this view appeared in the early 21st century, only to be refuted by the scientific community. With the presence of a sea, the earth, “without form and void,” was now ready for active creation.
The First Day
“And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2 ASV). All of the geophysical evidence concurs with Genesis that life began in the oceans and was not dependent on light through the pioneering efforts of archaebacteria and other “chemoautotrophs” that feed directly off chemicals and do not require light. The evidence lies in rocks older than the continents themselves that have retained compounds that are produced only in the presence of life. The world’s great ore deposits of iron show this evidence. But again we ask, without inspiration, how did this marvelous detail, namely, that life could exist without light, get transmitted to us?
“And God said, Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). The sun had long existed, but until now “swaddling bands” (Job 38:9) of thick clouds shrouded the ocean surface. These swaddling bands are predicted in studies of the earth’s early atmosphere. As the archeabacteria continued their monumental work of clearing and forming the atmosphere, soon follows evidence for plants— simple sea-dwelling algae.
The earth occupies a uniquely favored position around the sun. If its orbit were as little as 4% closer to the sun, the oceans never would have condensed.
One of the greatest crises for life on Earth was its narrow escape from turning into a runaway greenhouse like Venus. By design, life appeared just when it was needed to prevent this catastrophe by modifying the greenhouse effect. A popular report on the studies of Dr. Michael Hart of NASA identifying this issue simply dubbed it “a lucky fluke,” giving no credit to the author of creation.
The Second Day
“And God said, Let there be a sky” (Genesis 1:6-8 RVIC).
Now there was a crisis for the archaebacteria. Algae grew near the surface of the ocean and in the available light, so the atmosphere steadily accumulated oxygen, a highly reactive waste product of photosynthesis that is deadly to the archeabacteria pioneers. Much work continues to be spent in understanding how the “Great Oxidation Event” of this era would lead to an atmosphere we can breathe. But the essential work in the divine program was now finished for these early pioneers, and they retired from a place of prominence to deep ocean volcanic vents in communities that still constitute nearly half the life on Earth.
“Let the sky be a means of dividing between waters and waters.” Atmospheric changes now cleared the heavy clouds and fog which had enshrouded the earth. With amazing accuracy, the Bible account calls attention to this marked change that was not clearly accounted for by scientists until elucidated by intensive studies of Earth’s ancient atmosphere during the 1970s. Once again, anticipating science by over three thousand years, the Bible and current scientific studies harmonize.
The Third Day
“And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry ground appear” (Genesis 1:9 RVIC).
Early continental plate tectonics do not exhibit the current well-established cycles of continent subduction and renewal. “Let the earth bring forth tender shoots” (Genesis 1:11 RVIC). The Bible account speaks of the first plant colonization on the land, specifically called “tender grass,” or “shoots,” because of their appearance. Paleobotanists call these early land plants “cooksonia,” and they do indeed appear as “tender grass,” although they are not true modern grasses which prosper as a consequence of a photosynthesis cycle especially adapted to our current low levels of carbon dioxide. Soon followed the great forests that eventually left the world its extensive coal beds.
The Fourth Day
“And God said, let there be lights … to divide the day from the night” (Genesis 1:14 ASV).
The “heavens and the earth” of Genesis 1:1, including the sun and moon, were in existence and influencing life on Earth long before they became visible to surface observers. Possibly there was still some partial obscuring of their light by resid- ual clouds much thinner than the swaddling band clouds that cleared at the start of the second day.
Our sun appears to be an average star. However, to be capable of having a planet suited to life, scientists believe that the sun could be no more than 17% smaller or 10 % larger. In addition, our sun occupies a favored position half way to the edge of the Milky Way galaxy in an orbit far out on what is called the “Orion Spiral Arm.” This position isolates it from the high intensity radiation and cataclysmic deaths of nearby stars when they turn into supernovas. In the 1970s astrophysicist Carl Sagan estimated that there were many thousands of planets in our galaxy capable of sustaining life. Today, Prof. Ben Zuckerman of UCLA suggests that Earth is unique in our entire galaxy.
Most remarkable is our unusually large moon when compared to the moons of our sister planets, which are trivial in weight compared to their mother planets. This leads to a significant consequence. The energy of our earth-moon system has very strongly influenced the magnetic field of the earth, making it one hundred times larger than it should be. This magnetism wraps the earth in an invisible wind-shield that deflects most of the life-threatening particles periodically streaming from the sun.
The importance of the earth-sun-moon interaction does not end there. This interaction is one of the major forces driving the rapid exchange of mantle material and the gases trapped in the interior of the earth—usually to the benefit of life by bringing fresh minerals to the surface where they may be used to form new soils. Districts enriched with volcanic ash tend to have productive soils. The Permian period of the fourth day is an exception.
An elegant study published by Marianne Greff-Lefftz at the Paris Institute of Global Physics directly links “oscillations of the fluid core induced by luni-solar tidal forces,” directly to the end of this era. These forces created a resonance amplification factor of about 10,000 with respect to present values and drove the extensive volcanism and geological instability that ended the entire Paleozoic, or “old life” era which lost between 80% and 95% of all species. Following day four, these “resonances” came to an end—and stable, modern orbits for the moon have ensued.
From this period forward, trees that lose their leaves in the fall and show strong seasonal growth patterns became an important part of the ecosystem. The earth now exhibited a structure and dynamics, not substantially different from those of the present day, even though the species were all different. At this juncture the Bible specifically calls out these two powerful forces, the sun and the moon, that have been so critical to the course of life on Earth.
The Fifth Day
“And God created great sea-monsters, and every living soul that creepeth … and every winged fowl” (Genesis 1:21 RVIC).
Dinosaurs fascinate us, as they did the inspired writer of Genesis. In almost everyone’s imagination, mentioning them spawns vivid images of these dread-inspiring beasts who once ruled Earth. Dinosaurs belong to the fifth creative epoch, and the original Hebrew employs awestruck language to describe them: “great monsters,” “swarming sea creatures,” and “winged creatures.” (The translation of “whales” in the King James Version is simply incorrect.)
Other changes of consequence were taking place in the cycle of life. Flowers and flowering trees, from which all our fruits come, and modern grasses adapted to new low levels of carbon dioxide, now spread throughout the earth. From these grasses come all our grains. For the first time the earth could grow a food resource capable of meeting the incredibly high energy demands of mammals and birds. With these critically important works accomplished, the world of the dinosaurs abruptly ended from a world wide devastation that the scientific community now believes was caused by asteroid impacts. Such catastrophism is so startling that it took the scientific community some time to accept the idea when it was put forward by Walter Alvarez and Nobel prize-winning scientist Luis Alvarez in 1980. The dinosaurs did not all go extinct, although certainly the large ones did for reasons still being debated.
Dinosaurs did not go extinct because birds, “winged fowl,” are dinosaurs. The legacy of the dinosaur world and dinosaurs themselves are still with us for our enjoyment. As we gaze on the sight of a flock of birds in flight, walk through a meadow, pause to enjoy the beauty of a field of flowers in the spring, and taste honey and sweet fruit on breads made from grain, we are looking on a world prepared for modern animals.
The Sixth Day
“Let the earth bring forth the living soul after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast” (Genesis 1:24 RVIC).
The fertile work of the first five epochs of creation successfully brought into existence many interwoven life cycles. These cycles now maintained the atmosphere, temperature, and movement of chemicals essential to life. Microorganisms and insects, which generally escape our attention except as nuisances, are integral to these cycles and continue to constitute the bulk of Earth’s life. And yet, we cannot feel the sense of kinship with these creatures that we do with mammals. It is in the sixth day that the familiar mammals now come to prominence on the earth.
“And God said, Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26 RVIC). The earth was now ready for the creation of a life with sufficient intelligence, sentience, and moral capacity to appreciate the Creator. Here, the claims of science and the authority of scripture come into conflict, for the concept of man’s evolution from the lower primates cannot be reconciled with the Bible. We rest on the simple statement of scripture that man was created perfect and sinless by God to exercise a benevolent dominion over the earth. Sadly, this bliss was not to endure. The rest of this story is contained in the remaining chapters of the Bible.
(1) Editor’s note: Even the Sun would have been unresolvable until the atmospheric pressure had been reduced to about 10 atmospheres.
(2) Editor’s note: The solar magnetic field also partially protects from galactic cosmic rays
Length of the Creative Days
The importance of the Jubilee cycle in the Times of Restitution appears in the earliest writings to which Bro. Russell’s name is attached. However, connecting the Jubilees with the creative week first appears in the Watchtower by J. H. Paton, April 1880, and then was amplified by Wm. Imre Mann, in December 1881. Using Biblical Chronology, Pastor Russell reconstructs the length of the last creative day and shows that its length — 6000 years — when linked to “venerable tradition” that the 6000 years is followed by a 1000 year Millennium gives an ideal creative day length of 7000 years. When linked to the Sabbath Year and Jubilee system (7 x 7 = 49 + 1 = 50), this pointed to a wonderful antitypical fulfilment of restoring and blessing the earth (the details are covered in the study “Earth’s Great Jubilee,” Volume Two, Studies in the Scriptures). We may take refreshment from this picture while at the same time reserving scientific judgment as to whether all the “days” in this picture were as brief or equal in length.
The evidence of the geophysical record would not support the conclusion that all the days were either of the same length or equally brief. At the same time, the faith-strengthening lessons in Genesis present a rational and scientific explanation for the creative process and much of the scientific support that harmonizes science and Bible based on scientific insights that have not even been understood until the last few decades. Both faith and reason can rest assured in a patient and careful creator and skilful master builder who plans His work over billions of years, starting with a Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago, the formation of the solar system about 4.5 billion years ago, His spirit moving upon the face of the waters about 3 billion years ago, and who will see the creative process through until the earth—his footstool—is finally made glorious
(1) The Three Worlds, 1877, N. H. Barbour, C. T. Russell, Rochester, NY, “Jubilee,” page 93.
(2) Zion’s Watch Tower, “Number Seven,” J. H. Paton, Reprint page 91.
(3) Zion’s Watch Tower, “The Creative Week,” Wm. I. Mann, Reprint pages 299, 300.
Categories: 2014 Issues, 2014-May/June 2014
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