So Many Questions

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.
Genesis 2:1, 2

Is the universe billions of years old? Did it all start with a Big Bang? Are the “days” of Genesis 1 and 2 literal 24 hour periods? Was creation fabricated in six 24 hour periods? Is Evolution true, that life began with a simple organism and billions of years later we have all the diversity of species we know of today? Or did God create everything literally as described in Genesis 1 and 2, that the sea creatures and birds were created “after their kind.” And just what does “after their kind” really mean? And did man really come from the dust of the earth at the word of God, and what does “make man in Our image, according to our likeness” really mean?

And was there a real garden of Eden that God made and in which He placed man? And was man indeed a vegetarian from the beginning? And was there really a tree of life and a tree of the knowledge of good and evil? And did Eve really come from a rib of Adam, after God brought all the creatures to Adam to be named and to see if any were a suitable help meet? And was Adam really commanded not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil upon pain of death?

These are just some of the questions Christians seem to have struggled with for centuries. There are many more questions in these two short chapters, but these are some of the highlights. Christians have lined up on both sides of these questions, and who is right?

Well I hope you aren’t expecting me to decide the final answer to the above questions. But I can tell you one thing. Even though there are a variety of schools of thought about how to interpret Genesis, from Augustine to Calvin, and beyond, from ultra literal to prosaically allegorical, and every shade in between, I do think there is an honest way to look at all of the statements made in these two chapters. And indeed every other chapter after that to the end of Revelation.

The words in Hebrew we read in the Old Testament today from which all our present translations are based can be determined with amazing accuracy, and we can be confident that the translations we read today are a faithful copy of the originals. You would do yourself a favor to research Biblical textual criticism for yourself. One good place to start is “The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable?” F. F. BRUCE, 1943. You will find that both the Old and New Testament documents are reliable to the highest degree. But don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself. Try this web site for some good reading: Bible Research, Internet Resources for Students of Scripture.

Since we have such confidence that the words we read in Genesis and the rest of Scripture are faithful to the originals, it seems to me a pretty simple thing to just read the words as written on the page. Is it stated the heavens and earth were created in six days? Then they were. But just how long a “day” was meant in this context is not really defined. Maybe 24 hours, maybe a thousand years. Just look at 2 Peter 3:8. Was all matter created out of nothing? That God can create the universe out of nothing should not be so shocking, since Jesus created bread and fish a number of times out of nothing, making them appear fully formed and of some age when they were handed out to the thousands who were fed with them.

And you can go verse by verse through the first two chapters of Genesis believing that since God is the one who is declaring how things came to be we can certainly be confident He knows of which He speaks. Right? Sure it is a different question concerning some of the details. But we can easily read these verses with an understanding of what is meant, that God created everything, that it was good, He created the heavens, the earth, the stars, the sun and moon, plants, and animals. And that He created man as a special creature since he was created “like Us.” And God, “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Gen. 2:7 Or literally a living soul. That all these things really did occur just as He states, we just need Him to someday clarify the details. But just because all our questions aren’t answered to our personal satisfaction surely does not diminish the power and awesome nature of this text, nor does it mean that since we don’t understand it all completely we can not understand it at all.

So if you are, like me, inclined to accept the words of Genesis at face value you will enjoy reading the commentary by C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, published in Germany and translated into English shortly after, in 1885. This volume still is the far and away best linguistic, evangelical, and reasonable discussion of the text of Genesis. It will open your eyes to the plain meaning of the text. 1

The creation account in Genesis, when read as a child of God, as a believer with the indwelling Spirit, is really not like some far fetched crazy mythology. It really does make sense. It is a believable foundation for the rest of the story as told in the next sixty-five books, a story of God’s continuing care for His creatures no matter how they live in His universe, no matter how they think or don’t think of Him.

So don’t get overly hung up on the minutia. If you find points of interest study them, ponder them, enjoy them as one more gift from a loving God who also enjoys a good discussion. Just don’t abuse the gift of reason. Avoid contention. Recognize the limitations of humanity. After all, if you could comprehend the fullness of the design of God’s creation, He wouldn’t be much of a god, would He? But in truth, He is a great God!

[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]


1 For those devoted to the veracity of the plain text of the verse it is worth reading the following long excerpt from the Keil & Delitzsch commentary from the latter 1800’s, remarkably still relevant today.

“The biblical account of the creation can also vindicate its claim to be true and
actual history, in the presence of the doctrines of philosophy and the established results
of natural science. So long, indeed, as philosophy undertakes to construct the universe
from general ideas, it will be utterly unable to comprehend the creation; but ideas will
never explain the existence of things. Creation is an act of the personal God, not a
process of nature, the development of which can be traced to the laws of birth and
decay that prevail in the created world. But the work of God, as described in the history
of creation, is in perfect harmony with the correct notions of divine omnipotence,
wisdom and goodness. The assertion, so frequently made, that the course of the
creation takes its form from the Hebrew week, which was already in existence, and the
idea of God’s resting on the seventh day, from the institution of the Hebrew Sabbath, is
entirely without foundation. There is no allusion in Gen. 2:2, 3 to the Sabbath of the
Israelites; and the week of seven days is older than the Sabbath of the Jewish covenant.
Natural research, again, will never explain the origin of the universe, or even of the
earth; for the creation lies beyond the limits of the territory within its reach. By all
modest naturalists, therefore, it is assumed that the origin of matter, or of the original
material of the world, was due to an act of divine creation. But there is no firm ground
for the conclusion which they draw, on the basis of this assumption, with regard to the
formation or development of the world from its first chaotic condition into a fit abode
for man. All the theories which have been adopted, from Descartes to the present day,
are not the simple and well-established inductions of natural science founded upon
careful observation, but combinations of partial discoveries empirically made, with
speculative ideas of very questionable worth. The periods of creation, which modern
geology maintains with such confidence, that not a few theologians have accepted them
as undoubted and sought to bring them into harmony with the scriptural account of the
creation, if not to deduce them from the Bible itself, are inferences partly from the
successive strata which compose the crust of the earth, and partly from the various fossil
remains of plants and animals to be found in those strata. The former are regarded as
proofs of successive formation; and from the difference between the plants and animals
found in a fossil state and those in existence now, the conclusion is drawn, that their
creation must have preceded the present formation, which either accompanied or was
closed by the advent of man. But it is not difficult to see that the former of these
conclusions could only be regarded as fully established, if the process by which the
different strata were formed were clearly and fully known, or if the different formations
were always found lying in the same order, and could be readily distinguished from
one another. But with regard to the origin of the different species of rock, geologists,
as is well known, are divided into two contending schools: the Neptunists, who
attribute all the mountain formations to deposit in water; and the Plutonists, who trace
all the non-fossiliferous rocks to the action of heat. According to the Neptunists,the
crystalline rocks are the earliest or primary formations; according to the Plutonists,the
granite burst through the transition and stratified rocks,and were driven up from within
the earth, so that they are of later date. But neither theory is sufficient to account in this
mechanical way for all the phenomena connected with the relative position of the
rocks; consequently, a third theory, which supposes the rocks to be the result of
chemical processes, is steadily gaining ground. Now if the rocks, both crystalline and
stratified, were formed, not in any mechanical way, but by chemical processes, in
which, besides fire and water, electricity, galvanism, magnetism, and possibly other
forces at present unknown to physical science were at work; the different formations
may have been produced contemporaneously and laid one upon another. Till natural
science has advanced beyond mere opinion and conjecture,with regard to the mode in
which the rocks were formed and their positions determined; there can be no ground
for assuming that conclusions drawn from the successive order of the various strata,
with regard to the periods of their formation, must of necessity be true.”

Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, the Pentateuch, pp.40-42, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1976

“But if the biblical account of the creation has full claim to be regarded as historical
truth, the question arises, whence it was obtained. The opinion that the Israelites drew
it from the cosmogony of this or the other ancient people,and altered it according to
their own religious ideas, will need no further refutation, after what we have said
respecting the cosmogonies of other nations. Whence then did Israel obtain a pure
knowledge of God, such as we cannot find in any heathen nation,or in the most
celebrated of the wise men of antiquity, if not from divine revelation? This is the source
from which the biblical account of the creation springs. God revealed it to men,–not
first to Moses or Abraham, but undoubtedly to the first men, since without this
revelation they could not have understood either their relation to God or their true
position in the world. The account contained in Genesis does not lie, as Hofmann says,
“within that sphere which was open to man through his historical nature, so that it may
be regarded as the utterance of the knowledge possessed by the first man of things
which preceded his own existence, and which he might possess, without needing any
special revelation, if only the present condition of the world lay clear and transparent
before him.” By simple intuition the first man might discern what nature had effected,
viz., the existing condition of the world, and possibly also its causality, but not the fact
that it was created in six days, or the successive acts of creation, and the sanctification
of the seventh day. Our record contains not merely religious truth transformed into
history, but the true and actual history of a work of God, which preceded the existence
of man,and to which he owes his existence. Of this work he could only have obtained
his knowledge through divine revelation, by the direct instruction of God. Nor could he
have obtained it by means of a vision. The seven days’ works are not so many
“prophetico-historical tableaux,” which were spread before the mental eye of the seer,
whether of the historian or the first man. The account before us does not contain the
slightest marks of a vision, is no picture of creation, in which every line betrays the
pencil of a painter rather than the pen of a historian, but is obviously a historical
narrative, which we could no more transform into a vision than the account of paradise
or of the fall. As God revealed Himself to the first man not in visions, but by coming to
him in a visible form, teaching him His will, and then after his fall announcing the
punishment (2:16,17; 3:9ff.); as He talked with Moses “face to face, as a man with his
friend,” “mouth to mouth,” not in vision or dream: so does the written account of the
Old Testament revelation commence, not with visions, but with actual history. The
manner in which God instructed the first men with reference to the creation must be
judged according to the intercourse carried on by Him, as Creator and Father, with
these His creatures and children. What God revealed to them upon this subject, they
transmitted to their children and descendants, together with everything of significance
and worth that they had experienced and discovered for themselves. This tradition was
kept in faithful remembrance by the family of the godly; and even in the confusion of
tongues it was not changed in its substance, but simply transferred into the new form
of the language spoken by the Semitic tribes, and thus handed down from generation
to generation along with the knowledge and worship of the true God, until it became
through Abraham the spiritual inheritance of the chosen race. Nothing certain can be
decided as to the period when it was committed to writing; probably some time before
Moses, who inserted it as a written record in the Thorah of Israel.”

Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, the Pentateuch, pp.44-46, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1976
Commentary on the Old Testament, Keil and Delitzsch, William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, reprinted 1976 (the English publication of 1885 is available as a PDF file at this link), translated from the German. The finest biblical exegesis of the Old Testament produced to date. The six volumes were originally published in Germany in the 1860s and 1870s and translated into English very shortly thereafter.

This entry was posted in Creation and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.