It is widely accepted that Genesis was written by Moses; Jewish tradition and other biblical authors name Moses and Jesus himself confirmed Moses’ authorship (John 5:45-47).
The Bible is a library of books, the word Bible comes from the Latin biblia which means ‘library’. It consists of 66 separate books, the first of which is Genesis, which describes the origins of the universe and mankind, and the last, Revelation, describes the end of the world and beyond.
Throughout the Bible there are two central themes: what has gone wrong with our world and how it can be put right. The book of Genesis tells us exactly what is wrong – it paints a picture of the world, the human condition. It’s a story of jealousy, murder, corruption and sin, the world it creates is our world.
Myth or Fact?
There has been considerable debate over whether Genesis is fact or a collection of myths. While I believe in evolution and think the creation of the universe was far more complex than the 6 days explained in the first chapter of Genesis it is important to consider the following before completely dismissing Genesis as myth;
The whole of the Old Testament is built on the book of Genesis
Jesus himself references the characters of Genesis, he mentions Noah and the flood as historical events. In John’s Gospel he talks about being a personal acquaintance of Abraham
In Romans 5 Paul contrasts Christ’s obedience with Adam’s disobedience – there would have been no point in doing this if Adam wasn’t a real person
So if Genesis is factual about it’s characters why can’t the same be said about it’s description of the creation of the universe. Well I don’t think it is as simple as saying the earth can’t have been created in 6 days and therefore Genesis is wrong – let us examine some of differing theories around the 6 days claim;
Earth days – some take the word day literally as an earth day of 24 hours. The strength in this belief was heightened by the fact some Bibles used to be published with a date alongside the first chapter, 4004BC – calculated by an Irish Archbishop James Ussher to be the year the earth was created.
Yom – the Hebrew word for day ‘Yom’ can mean an actual day but it can also mean an era of time
Some believe there is a gap between verses 2 and 3, they argue that after we read that ‘the earth was formless’ in verse 2, there is a long gap before the six days when God brings everything else into being
The illusion of time – God made things look older than they are just as he created man as an adult rather than a baby.
One of the most intriguing approaches has been put forward by Professor Wiseman of London University. He believes that the days were education days. God revealed his creation in stages to Moses over a seven day period.
Maybe God wanted us to think of creation as a week’s work because he wanted to get down the important part, us living on planet earth. Out of all creation it is we who are most significant to him. He spends such little space in Genesis detailing creation and so much on mankind.
This theory can be extended. The seventh day has no end in the text, because it has lasted centuries. It lasted all the way through the bible until Easter Sunday, when God raised his son from the dead. All through the Old Testament there is nothing new created.
A valued Creation
From Chapter 2 of Genesis there is a massive shift in its style – in Chapter 1 God is at the centre, however, in Chapter 2 Man takes centre stage. Relationships are pivotal in Genesis 2; there are three key relationships explored. Firstly our relationship with nature – God created us to have dominion over nature, to be stewards. Secondly, God created us to have a relationship with him. In the garden of Eden there were two trees; the tree of life and the tree of knowledge, one gave eternal life and the other took it away. Rather than choosing to be in relationship with God we decided to pick the from the tree of knowledge and thus condemned ourselves to death. Before the original sin there was no death because man was in relationship with God through the tree of life. The break in this relationship is the foundation of our need of a saviour in the form of Christ. The third relationship is our relationship with each other – man needed a suitable companion. God therefore created Eve, we are told in Genesis 1 that male and female are equal in dignity and we shall see later that they are equal in depravity and in destiny too.
Everyone wants to be valued. Our value is given – and not earned. You do not have to achieve your value by being good, or by being popular, by hard work or by being impressive. The sense that our value has to be earned leads to either to workaholism or to despair.
Our value is not that vulnerable because there is a person behind creation who values us infinitely our value is secure. That does not mean that it changes, it can take a knock but our worth is still there. It remains a rock beneath our feet.
Take a look at Matthew 10:31 and Luke 12:7; what does this tell you about our worth?
It is not just human beings who are valued, though we do have a special value as those creatures who have been made in the image of God. Jesus shows us here that even the sparrows have an intrinsic value.
How about Genesis 1:31?
This shows that creation is not declared to be very good until human beings are part of it, but every stage of creation is assessed as being good in the eyes of its Maker. Creation also therefore has an intrinsic value of its own.
The Big Bang Theory may be true – I believe it is – but it provides no basis for morality, it doesn’t tell you how to live. However, if there is a person at the heart of things; then personal qualities like value can come into play. With value we have the building blocks of morality. Belief that there is a God and that He values His creation puts ground under our ethical feet. Human beings have value – intrinsically, absolutely and unconditionally – because God values them. And therefore we have to treat one another accordingly.
How should we respond to creation?
Creation should inspire wonder – the end chapters of Job (38-41) is a barrage of questions designed to bring home to Job how minuscule is his own perspective, and how
total is God’s. But God is also applying the beauty of His creation to Job’s pain.
Creation is to be enjoyed – (1 Timothy 4:4) our job is to receive It with thanksgiving. And to remind us to do that God gave us the Sabbath. We are not just here to do ‘religious’ things we are here to enjoy all that creation has to offer
Creation is to be meditated upon – (Matthew 6:28) do we do this? No we don’t because we’re too busy. We are to linger over the things of creation, to ponder them, and to meditate upon them. That is how good science is done (remember Newton’s apple), it is also how good poetry is written
Creation is to be explored – (Genesis 2:19-20) we are meant to discover more about the world around us, to classify it. Science and Religion should be one. Not warring with each other
Creation is to be ruled – (Genesis 1:26), however, what kind of leadership are to exercise over creation. To know we look at Christ and his servant leadership
Creation is to be cared for – (Genesis 2:15)
If the universe is the deliberate creation of a good and loving person you would expect it to be a lot less violent and tragic and frustrating than it is – unless something has gone seriously wrong with it, so that it is no longer the way it was intended to be. The Fall explains that something has gone seriously wrong with creation, and that as a result it has got cut off from the person and purposefulness of God.
What does the Fall tell us about the role of God on earth?
It means that God is not the only one who acts in His world – this is a simple by crucial point God told Adam and Eve not to eat fruit from one particular tree (Genesis 2:17) and they did (3:6) – this is the main point of creation we are free
The doctrine of Fall is a protest against all forms of determinism – not to be confused with providence.
The doctrine of the Fall is a protest against all tyrannical views of God – the scriptures present us with a God who is almighty. In the New Testament Jesus calls God ‘The Power’ (Matthew 26:64) and He tells us that His Father has more angels at His disposal than Rome has soldiers (Matthew 26:53) – Although all power is His, He is the sort of God who lets us make mistakes, who lets us rebel, who lets us go our own way – He is no despot.
The story of the Lazarus gives us an insight to nature, death and the Fall (John 11:33) this reaction to death shows us that death is not a natural part of God’s plan, if it was why is he crying. His grief comes from the knowledge that of what has been done to God’s creatures and God’s world. Jesus therefore raises Lazarus without any apparent fear that in so doing He might be opposing God’s will. And this therefore gives us hope that even though the Fall has happened we have salvation and the chance to conquer death through Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.
How many falls have there been?
I would argue that there have been three falls;
A natural Fall – (Genesis 1:26) – in many translations this is translated as subdue, now if there has not been a natural fall why would God need to subdue nature. Could this be an explanation for Evolution? Which is a very ungodly why of developing
The Fall of the Angels – (Genesis 3:1) – who tempts Eve to eat the fruit? The serpent or the Devil, his appearance before the Fall of Man would suggest that the Fall of Angels has already happened
The Fall of Man (Genesis 3:6)
If this interpretation of the Fall is correct, are human beings victims or culprits?
How does the doctrine of the Fall help us interpret the entire Biblical story?
Once you see the Christian journey through the context of the Fall it is clear that the rest of the Bible is working towards a correction of this original sin and rejection of God;
Leviticus – The primary purpose of Leviticus was a way of flagging up the wrongs of many features of our world.
The covenant of peace (Ezekiel 34:25) – the covenant is not just relevant of their relationship with God but of that with nature. This covenant of peace with God is achieved through Christ (Romans 5:1)
Visions of a healed and harmonious future (Hosea 2:18 and Isaiah 11:6-9) – that’s how God wants the world to be. It also proves that the Fall is not God’s intention for the world
The nature of healing miracles of Jesus – show us that God does not like disease or danger or death deforming His Creation
And finally the Cross and Resurrection are the most indicators that something has Fallen or why else would Christ need to bridge the gap between God and His creation.
The concept of the Fall is central to the Christian faith and just as important as the Cross but it does raise the question was Jesus plan A or B?