Among Bible-believing Christians there are currently at least four primary interpretations of the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2. Personally, we find the first view to be the most persuasive biblically. But, as Paul says, we now see only in part, and one day in Jesus’ presence we will know in full, and we will all be in complete agreement on this and other matters. Until that day, may we worship our Creator together and graciously discuss and debate our differences without unnecessarily dividing over them.
View 1: Historic Creationism
The word used for “beginning” in Genesis 1:1 is re’shit in Hebrew, which marks a starting point for what comes afterwards.There is no gap between verses 1 and 2. Rather verse 1 begins the Genesis story telling us that the God who created everything is the same God who creates His image bearers and the Promised Land where He will live with them. What God created in the first verse existed for an undefined period of time (which could be anywhere from a moment to billions of years) before God began the work of preparing the uninhabitable land for the habitation of mankind. The preparation of the uncultivated land and the creation of Adam and Eve occurred in the six literal twenty four-hour days of Genesis 1, as echoed in Exodus 20:11. This view leaves open the possibility of an old earth, six literal days of creation, and a young humanity on the old earth. It does have the biblical difficulty since it appears that sun and moon are created on day 4 rather than before the story begins.1
View 2: Young-earth Creationism
In this view, God created the entire universe, including Adam and Eve, in six literal twenty-four-hour days. As it seeks to be faithful to its reading of the biblical text, this view affirms that the entire universe is less than ten thousand years old. It interprets the data of science in terms of inspired Scripture, refusing to compromise God’s teaching about the date and divine methods of creation with naturalistic scientific theories. It does have some biblical difficulties, such as the creation of sun and moon on day four while there is evening and morning on the first three days.2
View 3: Old Earth Creation or Intelligent Design (no evolution involved).
The “days” of Genesis 1 are analogies of God’s workdays, setting a pattern for our rhythm of work and rest. They are understood in the same sense as “in that day” of Isaiah 11:10-11. They represent periods of God’s historical supernatural activity in preparing and populating the earth as a place for humans to live, love, work, and worship. These days are broadly consecutive periods of unspecified length. The biblical difficulty is that the days have evenings and mornings so would naturally be 24 hour days.3
View 4: Literary Framework View
In this view, Genesis 1 and 2 are intended to be read as a figurative framework explaining creation in a topical, not sequential, order. The six days of creation listed in Genesis 1 are also to be interpreted metaphorically, not as literal twenty-four-hour days. The literary framework view is outlined here:
Day 1: light and darkness separated Day 4: sun, moon, stars (lights in heaven)
Day 2: sky and waters separated Day 5: fish and birds
Day 3: dry land and waters separated; Day 6: animals and man
Day 3: plants and trees
Admittedly, God speaks of creation creatively by including poetry in the creation account of Genesis 1 and 2. Still, even when the Bible uses figurative and poetic language, it does so to communicate a literal truth, a fact that weakens this view.
View 5: Evolutionary Creation
In this view, God used the planned and purpose driven natural process of evolution to do His creative work of universe and life. The universe is a creation that is completely dependent for its continued existence on the sustaining power of the triune God of the Bible. God’s design is shown in the finely-tuned physical laws and the biological processes necessary for life to evolve through transitions which would be impossible without God’s involvement, culminating in humans with their incredibly complex brains and minds paired together in full image of God personhood. Humans evolved from pre-human ancestors and over a period of time the image of God and human sin were gradually and mysteriously manifested. While embracing the methodological naturalism of experimental science which searches for natural rather than supernatural processes, it decisively rejects metaphysical naturalism, which denies the existence of the God and the supernatural. It has biblical difficulties in that it usually does not hold Adam and Eve as literal parents of the human race though the New Testament takes it as literal history.4 It also has difficulties in explaining how one species can actually transition into another as Genesis 1:21,24, 25 all speak of God making fish, birds, and animals “according to their kinds”.5
Do you find any of these views most compelling? Why?
1Historic creationism is best articulated by John Sailhamer in Genesis Unbound: A Provocative New Look at the Creation Account(Dawson Media; 2nd edition, 2011), esp. pp. 44–45, and The Pentateuch as Narrative(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 81–100. Sailhamer sees the central idea as telling the story of humanity rather than the story of cosmos. He let the text itself define key terms like land and day.
2 Proponents include Creation Ministries International; http://creation.com; Henry Morris, Institute for Creation Research, http://www.icr.org; Ken Hamm, Answers in Genesis, https://answersingenesis.org
Proponents include Hugh Ross, Reasons to Believe, Stephen Meyer, Discovery Institute