A few years back, I spent a lot of time addressing the Creation Science myths. I put the series together because there are a great many professing Christians that truly believe the Inspired Word of God tells fantastic tales of geographically global flood, in which a wooden boat contained representative pairs of every living creature, navigating them to safety through seas so tumultuous that entire mountain ranges and oceans were formed. I made the series because it is generally taught that there was no sickness, pain or death prior to the fall of Adam, and that the physical universe came in to being in only six, consecutive 24-hour days. It alarmed me that well-meaning people actually believe that this universe is only a few thousand years old, and that all the races of peoples descended first from Noah and his family since approximately 2348 BC. I thought I could appeal not only to the Bible, but to the scientific method, history and common sense to expose the error in Creation Science. I was wrong. They are the real talking snakes!
Creation Science deserves what it is getting: common sense questions. However, those that ask the questions do not (and will not) get substantive answers. Perhaps I'm missing something, but it seems to me that intelligent, truth-driven, honest believers will not linger long in Creation Science. What they need is real meat; real answers.
It occurred to me that perhaps the most effective way to break through the logical logjam that organizations like Answers in Genesis has created would be to approach it from a perspective which assumes more of the Christian student.
Let's begin with a big question:
What if the Creation accounts of Genesis Chapters 1 and 2 do not represent a literal, material creation of the Universe at all?
To even ask this question might seem to you to border on heresy. But I want to propose that the unique language we find in the Creation accounts, as well as the story of the fall of Adam and the Flood are part of a narrative having roots in the way the Bronze Age peoples thought and wrote.
If the arguments I present are true, then the foundation of the generally-accepted Creation Science view is falsified. Once one idea falls, others fall which are based on it. They, in turn, drive us to consider logical paths which would otherwise remain unexplored.
The Hebrew teleological accounts did not concern material Creation.
The big word teleological is used purposely, because it means " ...an a posteriori [earlier] argument for the existence of God based on apparent design and purpose in the universe." (WikiPedia) What really matters to us is what the ancient Hebrew thinking was concerning the "design and purpose" of Creation. Many have written on this, but perhaps the clearest explanation is found in an excellent book by John H. Walton:
"...cosmic creation in the ancient world was not viewed primarily as a process by which matter was brought into being, but as a process by which functions, roles, order, jurisdiction, organization and stability were established." (The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, John H. Walton, 2009, Page 52)
In other words, these were people who viewed things from a functional perspective - not material. Things which can be seen, touched and felt have meaning only when they are applied in a practical, serviceable sense.
Today, in the 21st century, the western mind ponders the material elements, but the ancient near-eastern mind were more focused on their order and application. It was these people that, according to the 1st century Jewish historian Flavious Josephus, invented the "wisdom of the appearance and arrangement of the heavenly bodies" - a shadow of which we now call astrology. Persian and Arabic traditions associate what we now call astronomy to Adam, Seth and Enoch. The heavenly order represented imperishable Divine prophecy. The ancient concern was order - not the mechanism of physical creation. We don't have to dig very far to find confirmation of this.
He [Adam] was the first that discovered the motions of the celestial bodies and all other creatures. From his school proceeded whatever good arts and wisdom which were afterward propagated by our father unto mankind; so that whatever astronomy, geometry and other arts contain in them, he knew the whole thereof. (Baleus)
We have numerous historical evidences that, in the very least, Adam was considered not the first human being, but the originator of an ancient wisdom, which has since been perverted - the "fragments of a tradition, which transmitted the knowledge of divine things possessed in the earliest times" (Johann Neander, a 19th century German scholar).
We have Bible passages which make more sense in this light:
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.. (Genesis 1:14)
By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent. Lo, these [are] parts of his ways: but how little a portion is heard of him? but the thunder of his power who can understand? (Job 26:13,14)
The Mosaic account of Creation in Genesis Chapter 1 concerns God's revealing of His Divine Order to man; it is not a literal, scientific detail of physical creation of the Universe! The Hebrew account is not substantively different that other accounts of the period, such as the Chaldean Genesis tablets - which were found in both Babylon and Assyria. This leads us to the next argument.
The Hebrew teleological accounts of Creation did not occur in a vacuum.
Since the middle 19th century, we have known that the biblical account of Creation, and many other accounts in the Hebrew Genesis, have striking parallels in surviving myths and tales from the Babylonians, Assyrians, Hurrians, Hittites and Cananites. All of these have roots in ancient Sumerian thinking:
A knowledge of the Sumerian myths and legends is therefore a prime and basic essential for a proper approach to a scientific study of the mythologies current in the ancient Near East, for it illuminates and clarifies to no small extent the background behind their origin and development. (Samuel Noah Kramer, Sumerian Mythology: A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium B.C., 1944)
Creation Scientists are quick to point out that there are flood legends from many countries and peoples all over the world, but fail to grasp the significance of there also being a point of origin for the language of Babel, Cain, Abel, Tubal-Cain and many other familiar Hebrew narratives as well as familiar Bible characters like Nimrod. Investigation into the parallel texts certainly gives the honest Bible student reason to ponder whether the current, mainstream teachings of the Hebrew narratives are any way representative of the original intent.
Since Victorian times, great advances have been made in (what is now known as) comparative mythology. We have found that Egyptian and Babylonian accounts resembled the biblical accounts. We know now a great deal about Gilgamesh, Enmerkar, Lugalbanda. The biblical city of Ur (Genesis 11) has been unearthed. A huge number of tablets have been found in the Assyrian library of Asserbanipal excavations and are now in the British Museum, the Ashmolean Museum, the University of Jena (Germany) and the University Museum at Philadelphia, among others. The translation of the Behistun by Henry Rawlinson over 150 years ago has significantly added to our knowledge of who these peoples were and what they believed.
The more I uncover about what has been discovered in recent times the more I have come to realize that mainstream thought is very, very resistant to changing the way they think. One doesn't have to read very many books on archaeology to find this is a common lament in true scholarship.
Many pages can be filled with examples, but here are a few which serve to tie the ancient myths and legends to the respective Hebrew accounts in Genesis:
- The Sumerians believed that the temple was between "heaven and earth" and served a cosmic role, like the temples of Esharra and Etmenanki. When there was no temple, there had not yet been a Creation. Also, to the Hebrews, the place where God Dwelled was "heaven on earth." It is his footstool, where his reign was to endure forever over the adversary. The six days of Creation was a description of the building of His Temple. Before His Temple among man existed, the earth was empty and void.
- In Egypt, it was believed that the temples were built where land first emerged from the water (the primeval world.) This primordial sea was in opposition to the ruling gods; it was adversarial. This same imagery, which had roots in early Bronze Age Sumeria and Akkad, is found in virtually all the creation accounts of the ancients of the region - including the people from the line of Eber (the Hebrews). This is language of dominion and kingdoms - not the formation of large masses of rocks and dirt which overlook ocean surfaces. Don't miss this: the Apostle Peter associated ignorance of the Word to whether the earth stood above or below the water (2 Peter 3:5).
- Gods ruled over cities - each with their own creation. Elu presided over Nipur. Bel was the god over Babylon. The Hebrews had a city called Jerusalem. The God that presided over it was YHVH (Yahweh).
The Heavens and Earth Creation is the order that guides man.
We now know that the peoples behind the Creation legends were not writing a tale concerning material creation, but the revelation of God (or the gods) in the created order. The ancient Hebrews did not think differently in this regard. Did you know that not only were Chaldean/Babylonian, Hindu and Greek gods represented in the 12 signs of the Zodiac, but also the 12 tribes of Israel?
There were gods in Heaven and Earth (1 Corinthians 8:5) which are characterized by their nature (Galatians 4:8). Jesus Himself exploited this in the Gospel of John, Chapter 10: " Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken..." Jesus was speaking to the Jews who were going to stone Him. By the way: notice that he said that it was in their law that they were gods.
The nature of Yahweh is contrasted against the other gods in the context of "heavens and earth" here, when Solomon pondered what he was up against in building the Temple in the Holy City:
And the house which I build [is] great: for great [is] our God above all gods. But who is able to build him an house, seeing the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain him? who [am] I then, that I should build him an house, save only to burn sacrifice before him? (2nd Chronicles 2:5,6)
In the cosmic order, the tribes of Israel are found with roles of authority and dominion, with the adversary attempting to abrogate their authority. Zebulon and Naphtali fought from heaven as stars but lost (Judges 5:18-20) and the King of Babylon set his throne above the stars (Isaiah 14:3). The Apostle Paul directly associated levels of reward with the sun, moon and stars (1 Corinthians 15:41). Joseph had a dream in which his brothers, and their tribes, were stars, and his parents were the sun and the moon (Genesis 37:8-10). We find the fulfillment of his dream in Revelation 12:1 - with the same cosmic language.
Did you know that here was a sun, moon and stars for each nation? In Deuteronomy 4:19 and Deuteronomy 17:3, it is often overlooked that Moses directly associates heavenly bodies with nations and their gods. Joshua called upon the Sun and the Moon to do his bidding in the sight of Israel (Joshua 10:12). Yet Baal was also associated with the sun, the moon and the planets which were not to be worshipped (2 Kings 23:5). There was therefore a creation - a heavens and earth- for each nation!
Here are important heavens and earth concepts which you will not hear preached from behind mainstream pulpits:
- Concepts like Covenant, redemption and eschatology is manifested in the Heavens. Specifically, they don't exist outside of a declaration in the Heavens.
- Our God brings order out of disorder in His Creation. To do this, He must Dwell among man, on the earth. Where He dwells on earth is "the Heavens and Earth." From where He Dwells Holy Cty - comes Divine rulership and Judgment. The New Covenant implications of this are profoundly important, and totally escape mainstream Christian "scholarship":
... I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God (Exodus 29:45)
But this [shall be] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Ezekiel 11:19)
It is within the chiefs and priests, the Elect, where Yahweh now Dwells. It is they who are set apart to rule and reign with Yahweh in His Kingdom order forever!
- His ultimate goal (as revealed in Revelation) is part of a purpose, which logically has to have a beginning (as revealed in Genesis). These two bookends of our canonized texts must be in harmony with each other in our interpretation. The scope of Creation and Judgment are then the same between the beginning and the end. Preterists are fond of asking concerning the Last Days: "the Last Days of what?" Similarly, we need to ask the question concerning the Beginning: "the Beginning of what?"
- The order is sustained by our God. It is governed the Sons of Jacob, and we are also now under it. In the New Covenant, the "better" city is not a physical city with walls. Where He dwells is no longer temples built with human hands (2nd Corinthians 5:1, Hebrews 8:2). There will, then, be no future physical temple in Jerusalem that can be defiled.
- The Creation story culminates in God dwelling in His Temple, after six days of Creation. The entire story leads up to where He dwells. Temple creation and inauguration accounts of nearly all the cultures of the region include the number seven, and include depictions of heavenly bodies. The Temple, to the Hebrew mind, is also related to the cosmic order:
And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the Temple was rent in the midst. (Luke 23:45)
- The Hebrew word used in the Creation story, bara (Strong's H1254) does not have the meaning of material creation. Its meaning is to transform, shape or fashion. In fact, days 1, 3 and 7 have no references to anything material at all.
- The origin of the Sabbath is found in the Genesis Creation account, which culminates in the 7th day. But His "resting" does not imply inactivity:
To say that God rested does not mean primarily that He ceased labor, but that He began a new phase of creative activity. In particular, it means that the work of construction or building was over, so now the work of fulfillment, control and reigning could begin. To say that God rested is to say that He took the throne as King of the Universe and is now exercising His reign. (Daniel Jepsen on The Meaning of Genesis 1)
The material elements of the cosmos are represented in the Temple, which was a model of the Heavens (the center tabernacle) and the earth (the outer courts):
Every one of these objects [in the tabernacle] is intended to recall and represent the universe” (Flavious Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 3, 180)
...God is deliberately using the pattern of the building of the tabernacle (and, looking ahead, the Temple) to be the pattern by which He describes the meaning of creation itself. Or, another way to put it, the earthly temple was in some way patterned after the spiritual nature of the cosmos, and that therefore the cosmos itself is in some ways designed to be understood as a temple... The seven days are not intended to convey the scientific progression of creation, but the theological meaning of creation. It uses the literary structure of a seven day week both to tie into the imagery of the number 7 in the temple and to give us the Sabbath. (Daniel Jepsen on The Meaning of Genesis 1)
These elements were reflected in the law and the observances:
...the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. (2nd Peter 3:!0, pertinent portions)
Images of the sun, moon and stars are found on near-Eastern and Greek temples for a reason: the temples represented a creation. The creation language culminates in the establishment of the temples! When the old temple is done away, and a new one is created; there is a new creation:
Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. (2 Peter 3:13)
Here is a truth that cannot be understated: when we misidentify the heavens and earth as being physical in nature, we deny the New Covenant reality! Peter was talking to living, breathing Israelites, and telling them that Yahweh's new dwelling place was the new heavens and earth! When was this to happen? Paul said it was to happen 2000 years ago:
For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. (Romans 8:22)
Truly, when we do not honor the language of the prophets, and the Inspired writers, we mangle the "heavens and earth" meaning behind both Creation and "Last Days" Judgment. The significance of this has not been missed by some modern Christian scholars:
In Isaiah 51:15-16 Jehovah, speaking to Israel , said he gave them the Mosaic Covenant, "that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say to Zion , You are my people." (More on Heaven and Earth, Don K. Preston)
The Bible references Creation in functional terms
The ancient language of Creation is found in the Inspired Word:
Thus saith the LORD, The heaven [is] my throne, and the earth [is] my footstool: where [is] the house that ye build unto me? and where [is] the place of my rest? For all those [things] hath mine hand made, and all those [things] have been, saith the LORD... (Isaiah 66:1,2, pertinent portions)
The prophet Jeremiah lamented the condition of the Jerusalem, and wrote concerning their destruction. Often overlooked is his description of the condition of the city:
I beheld the earth, and, lo, [it was] without form, and void; and the heavens, and they [had] no light. (Jeremiah 4:23)
Jeremiah uses the very same language we find in the Creation account to describe the covenant condition of the "Jews." He continues with language of their impending destruction:
I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly. beheld, and, lo, [there was] no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. (Jeremiah 4:24,25)
We know that the House of Judah was taken into captivity by the Babylonians in the 6th century BC, and was ultimately destroyed by the Romans in 70AD. In either case, we have no evidence of hills moving, and complete desertion of life. Even more catastrophic language is used to describe the destruction of Edom and Babylon (Isaiah 13:10-13), which paints a picture in the western mind of the annihilation of the physical universe.
If the language of Creation concerns God's interaction with covenant man in practical, functional ways, then we should see some evidence of it in the Inspired text. Indeed we do! Here is some interesting insight:
We know that the year is based on the relationship between the sun and earth, as is the day. The months are based upon the relationship between the earth and moon. But the week has no basis at all. Except in Genesis one. (Daniel Jepsen on The Meaning of Genesis 1)
Authors Tim Marin and Jeff Vaughn, in their groundbreaking book Beyond Creation Science, rolled up the significance of these things in this statement:
This will change the way Christians live out their faith. Christians will inevitably become more future-oriented, and think, plan and work for this long future rather that dwell slothfully in the shadow of a supposed imminent end of history. (Beyond Creation Science, 3rd Edition, Page 431)
In reality, we've been hoodwinked. Organizations like Answers in Genesis claim that a literal interpretation of the opening chapters of Genesis is warranted, and demand that the faithful Christian accepts their interpretation. If a faithful Christian challenges their interpretation, their faith is called actually into question. "The Bible say what it means, and means what it says!" they cry.
Ken Ham, the popular author and founder of Answers in Genesis said, upon building the 70000 square foot monument to hermeneutic failure, the Creation Science Museum, that you can trust the science of the Bible. However, these Hebrew accounts are not science at all! They weren't intended to be read as science, and the faithful Christian does not error in rejecting fundamental Creation Science views.
The Bible does not demand that we hold to a literal six, 24 hour per day Creation of the physical universe. We don't have to struggle with the capacity of the ark at all, or how all the races of humankind came from one man and his family only 4500 years ago. We don't have to wonder where Cain got his wife, or how the hippopotamus, penguin and giraffe descended the steep Ararat mountain range and made their way to the separate, newly-formed continents. Don't try to explain how the Bronze Age Egyptian dynasties continued uninterrupted in spite of the fact that every person on the planet was wiped out.
To continue to identify and address all the obvious problems with the Creation Science fantasies is a waste of time, because these people do not feel compelled to justify their ridiculous claims. Like a cult, honest discourse is carefully avoided. Their books, museums, videos and Web sites are presented as the opposition to evolution, yet it can be demonstrated that Creation Scientists hold to an accelerated form of evolution that would make Darwin himself wince. Of course, neither Creation Science or evolution is science. They are made-up myths and fairy tales that serve to undermine the Christian message of hope, salvation, redemption and dominion.