I’m not here to make enemies or stir the pot on this one. I know it’s popular at one extreme to defend the literality of the Genesis creation account even to the length of a 24-hour-day. I know it’s popular at the other extreme to see it as two accounts, mythic in nature and structure, and both meant to be allegorical in their meaning.
What if it’s possibly all of those things — and much, much more?
(I’m not an extremist on matters of theory. More of a collectivist.)
I find great value in seeing the deep meaning in the creation account, but I see it as a single account, inspired by a single Author. After all, it’s not likely that there were eyewitnesses who recorded the creation story in writing, is it?
We’re dealing with a God who could have created (and still can) in any way He wishes. He doesn’t have to follow what we have defined as the laws of the universe, and He doesn’t have to limit Himself to what we have decided are His boundaries by what we deduce from scripture.
This God created all things in seven days. I don’t know how many hours long those seven days/ages/epochs of creation were. I don’t know how fast the earth was rotating then, or how much time passed between sunrise and sunset. I really don’t care. There weren’t any clocks then, or any writers that we know of to watch them. I believe it means “day” because it says “there was evening and morning” … I suppose that means “sunrise” and “sunset” … six times. That’s pretty definite. Moses quotes it twice in establishing Sabbath: “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth ….” (Exodus 20:11; 31:17)
He created it and He related it — presumably through His Holy Spirit to the writer (quite possibly Moses; it isn’t exactly autographed, is it?) — to benefit all of us. He created it and He related it, so I see no reason why God couldn’t have been truthful in relating it exactly as He created it. It’s written in the simplest possible language, structured as a gorgeous cosmic poem, telling the Story exactly as He wanted it told. Children memorize it. They sing songs about it. (“Day one; day one …”) It’s clear and pointed and colorful and memorable.
If you were God and wanted your Story passed down from one generation to the next, isn’t that the way you’d want to do it? Especially to that first generation, who literally woke up in a new world every morning?
And about that. I said I believe there is one account. I don’t divvy up the account into two parallel and somewhat contradictory stories, one ending at Genesis 2:3 and the next beginning at Genesis 2:4. It’s all one Story.
God created in seven days, culminating in mankind on that sixth day (and much of the animal kingdom over which mankind — male and female — was to rule). But Genesis 2:4 — as nearly as I can tell — backs up to focus in on a special creation moment within that larger story in which God created A MAN, male, before there was even vegetation and living creatures to tend. At some time on that third day …
Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. ~ Genesis 2:5-7
Whether geysers, springs or both watered the earth, I do not know and have no need to speculate. The fact is that God created a caretaker for the garden He was about to plant in the east, and He provided the man with an eyewitness point-of-view for the remaining days of creation. My picture — totally interpretation! — of the days that follow (four, five and six) is that God creates fantastic new living things: plants, fish, birds, animals; and asks Adam what he would like to name each one as He does so. Adam has a function in creation, of giving name and meaning to what God creates.
God also gives the man a choice between two trees in the center of the garden that would determine his destiny. The man could eat of the tree of life and live forever (though no mention is made of that option expressed to him), or eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil — and die that day.
Choice. Now whether you take this account literally or allegorically, that point is indisputable. The man could choose to obey or not. This was real choice, life-or-death choice, and it comes in the simplest terms available.
But in those days that followed, there was one thing not good: the man was alone. God was not alone; had never been alone. (The Hebrew word for “God” in the creation account is actually plural, elohim … “Gods.”) His Spirit had hovered over the waters at the beginning (Genesis 1:1-2) and the Word was with Him and was Him and everything was made through Him and for Him (John 1:1-4) — and the Word would one day be named “Jesus” (14-16). Yet the man was alone, and God formed Eve for Adam from his very own side, to be at his side, and to be the mother of all living. You can’t have “mankind” without a mom.
After all things are named and the couple are settling in, they are naked before God because they have no knowledge of good and evil and therefore no shame — they only know God and the goodness He has created and provided.
That gives the Accuser an opportunity — to provide another point of view, to lie, to create doubt, to tempt … and to ruin, destroy and eventually kill. He strikes at their innocence; their Achilles heel.
Why is that choice provided by God? Why was the temptation permitted?
God is love. Love is choice. Real choice. Life-or-death choice. The Accuser had made this choice, and chose self … and in Eden, God has created a crucible of choice to vindicate His love for (and goodness toward) others against the Accuser’s selfish desire and evil intent toward others.
At some point in the future, the Word would become flesh and receive the name “Jesus” (“God saves!”) and fully vindicate with a crushing blow to the Accuser’s head, destroying death once and for all.
That’s my take. It may be pure speculation, but — as I have said in other contexts — it fits all the known facts and I think William of Occam would be willing to shave with it.
You don’t have to agree with me. We’ll still be siblings in Christ if you believe but disagree with me.
But this view of the creation account makes a lot of sense to me … and makes a lot of other things in scripture make more sense.
Do me a personal favor. Before you write it off or fly into paragraphs of objections, think about it for a couple of days. Read the account again. Study it. Pray about it. Ask God for clarity on the matter.
Then feel free to leave a comment, okay?
It’s not like this all came to me in seven days, you know.