I’ll be presenting this topic in church next month, so this powerpoint video is a warm-up of sorts. It’s one the *real* issue in Genesis 1 with respect to the “timing” of creation: the clause structure. You probably just yawned, I know. But a majority of you asked for it! Maybe the fact that I don’t believe God’s first creative act in Gen. 1:1-3 occurred in verse 1 will prompt you to watch it.
About The Author
Mr. Potatohead Explains the Synoptic Problem
July 28, 2010
More Trouble for the “Jesus Wife” Fragment
April 22, 2014
Naked Bible Podcast Episode 53 – Q & A
June 14, 2015
Round Two with John Hobbins and the Bellingham Statement
February 13, 2009
Thanks Mike, this is very interesting.
Regarding the “yom” issue, I wonder if we can interpret Gen 2:17 as something other than a spiritual death, since Adam did not die that day and the next verse talks about physical death.
I think the point is that he and Eve were driven from the garden and (more importantly) the tree of life. I believe Adam and Eve had contingent immortality (they would live indefinitely given three conditions: they didn’t do anything stupid that would cost them their lives, they didn’t sin so as to be driven from the tree of life, and they ate from the tree). Once out of the garden, they began to age and die like all mortals. They had to be driven out, since to remain would thwart the curse.
Benjamin T says:”…Adam did not die that day…” (in Gen 2:17)
I think Adam may have very well died *that day* – according to Psa 90:4 “thousand years in Thy sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night” and 2Peter 3:8 “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. v9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness…”. Then in Gen 5:5 we learn that Adam died at age 930, just 70 years short of 1000 years=a day.
I hope I do not torture the scripture too much but it makes sense to me. Time may flow or be perceived differently in heaven than on earth.
The events were on earth in the story’s description, and the material was written on earth. I’m voting for an earth perspective. 🙂
Yes Dr H, I forgot you already wrote about this elsewhere. However, I still got lots of questions:
Can I say that the phrase “And there was evening and there was morning” are really markers for order and not lengths of periods? Using Logos to search for this phrase I did not find it outside of the Genesis creation account.
Also the first day is a numeral but are the other 5 also numerals or ordinals? if that is significant.
Another interesting thing that comes out of it is that if Adam had contingent immortality, animals did not, since they did not eat of the fruit of the tree of life. I note this because some hold the view that with Adam, death entered the world and they mean that there was no death of any living thing prior to Adam’s sin.
On the first question, I’ve not seen anything that would convince me there is anything significant about the first day being the numeral. One could say the numbers are about order because, well, what else would a numbered sequence (with no gaps) be about? If it has nothing to do with science, I would suggest the sequence doesn’t have a lot of meaning other than to say “this came after that.” On the second question, Romans 5:12 (I spend a good bit of time on that passage in this blog) clearly says that Adam’s sin brought death “to all men” (animals are not mentioned).
Excellent stuff. Psalms 74:12-17 would seem to agree with your line of thought with the imagery it portrays of the ordering existent matter.
The God of Israel is responsible for the world and order as we know it today. It begs the question….who/what was responsible for it being in the state is was in ? and how did the matter get there in the first place ?
I think this is the point were some teachers put the fall of satan, is there any credence to this ? just when you thought you were out, they pull you back into eschatology.
But seriously this does have the battle motifs of other ANE creation accounts also seen in Psalms 74:12-17.
I really don’t want to go back to eschatology either i love this kind of topic, but this to me leaves you with these questions ? perhaps your potential audience will feel the same way OR it may just be me. lol
yes, on Psa 74.
Talk about “let there be light”. You enlightened me on the grammatical structure of this passage that I’d never seen before. Your explanation makes perfect sense. Thanks. I look forward to more, in this eschaton. lol.
The noted first-century rabbi, Gamaliel, seems to have reflected this concept of creation in his thinking. A philosopher challenged him, “Your God was indeed a great artist, but he had good materials [unformed space/void, darkness, water, wind, and the deep] to help him.” Gamaliel, responded, “All of them are explicitly described as having been created by him [and not as preexistent]
Confronting Creation (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1991) 41-42.
Would you agree with this quote ? Just to be clear the materials/matter are not eternal and were created by Him. Just to calm those who are easily frightened like me.
right – I do not believe matter is eternal. There are “umbrella passages” that give God credit for creating “all things visible and invisible” which must refer to all matter – including that which was pre-extant at Genesis 1:1-3.
A few creatio ex nihilo verses i looked up.
right, which is why the text is not by necessity meant to answer or match scientific questions. Let’s praise and confirm its literary purpose first then secondarily look at 21st century questions. Not the reverse.
Science was not my concern here at all.
Nobunaga said “how did the matter get there in the first place?”
Since I was a physicist/engineer in my previous life (before retirement), I find it more interesting to ask how does this impact views of the “Big Band”? Chronologically, did God come upon the dust cloud and create our earth after the Big Bang…or did God actually create the Big Bang “from nothing”, starting from scratch? Or both. Of course, if you are a physicist into string theory, you could view our universe as a multi-dimensional universe, one of multiple universes, with maybe 10 or more dimensions. Thus the Big Bang could have originated from energy/material originating not from “nothing”, but from a parallel universe. OK – mixing science with religion is dangerous. However, science does indeed recognize the possibility of 10+ dimensions, and multiple universes. Also, there is NO scientist , even Steven Hawkins, who can say what happened before the Big Bang, or what really happens in the same type of singularity that occurs in a black hole (infinite energy and matter in a true point source – not likely). Only the mathmatical solutions go to infinity. Reality shouldn’t. Anyway, I find nothing inconsistent with the traditional or the alternate translations of Gen 1:1-3, with my view of the scientific creation of the universe. Of course, I view Genesis as an allegory for creation, but God was indeed behind it. Genesis was provided to Moses in a way Moses could understand it.
Thanks Gary, i tip my hat to your expertise.
I was thinking of the side issue and the impact on the Apologetics from the likes of Dr William Craig and his “from nothing, nothing comes” so there must be a finite beginning. But that aside i think the main problem is do we have matter as always existing (even as chaoskampf) if so, this has a bigger implications of matter being co-eternal with God, thats the only issue i have with the alternative view rather than the traditional view at first glance.
It occured to me today that you are teaching from Revelation to Genesis; yet this is not the usual direction most dispensers of truth move in (i.e Gen to Rev); one headed snake to 7 headed dragon.
Does this have anything to do with Hebrew being read from right to left? Evening and morning? Or iis it all in a day’s work?
I have hit the Canadian passport bureacracy; so I will be out to lunch sometime early in October. Interesting slide show.
funny – it’s random, I assure you.
The alternative view is very interesting and new to me. Since reading John Walton’s book “The Lost World of Genesis Chapter One”, I’ve come to believe that the purpose of Gen 1 is not to record the origin of physical matter for posterity so much as outlining the purposes of God in bringing about creation at all (and thus should not be taken literally by us moderns) so it doesn’t bother me if there was matter before God began or not–you don’t need to have a specific ordering of events to conclude that God created all matter at *some* point (like Dr. H said about “umbrella passages”). In the new view, the spotlight just shines on God’s making of earth as a step to His most important creation, man and is a very good translation…awesome how you point out that just as Adam was made from pre-existing materials then the earth could’ve easily been done the same (so bara is not necessarily creation from nothing). It also makes for a nice parallel throughout the text. Great lesson Dr. Heiser!
According to the text, one of the only things that God creates without pre-existing material is Light (and the stars/sun/moon)?
The typical scholarly explanation (we’ll get to how some of this works in the next post) is that the days of creation extending from Gen 1 are a recounting of how God ordered the pre-existing material in Gen 1:1-3. Since there is no effort on the part of the writer to elucidate science, the creation of light is viewed as part of that ordering (i.e, there is no explanation put forth as to God taking material particles – photons or smaller – to create light; it’s just the first step in the ordering process). Same for everything else – it’s bringing order out of chaos.
Why do Hebrew and Semitic translators and commentators continue to translate “In the beginning” if it isn’t correct? Do you really think the vowels matter here and why assume (unless there is evidence in contra) the Massoretes pointed it correctly? What about Genesis in the Dead Sea Scrolls?
The scrolls are unpointed.
Translators often opt for familiarity to avoid controversy (the kiss of death for publishing something like a Bible translation) and because they believe it’s logically defensible.
duh. What’s “umpointed” mean in relation to Dead Sea Scrolls?
Its means that the Dead Sea Scrolls (300 BC – 100 AD) do not have vowel pointings as in the Massoretic text family (~100 AD – 1000 AD?) with vowel pointings, cp. Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia / Leningrad Codex. Dont know what vowel pointings (nikkud) are? Then Google is your friend 🙂
I got it! thx
The “duh” belongs to me — it should say “unpointed” – it means the Hebrew text is only consonants — no vowel or accent marks added by scribes.
Could this be THE END of the unending debate on geological age of the earth and creation days?
In Gods answer to Job:
Job 38:4 I laid the foundation of the earth?…
Could the above verse also imply that God has done preparatory or previous to Gen 1 work?
Time, age of the earth (or universe), length of days does not exclude God of being The Creator – we just don’t know exactly when and how.
Thanks MSH – very interesting.
you’re welcome. And no, the debate will always be there.
A, too, appreciated this lesson. Thanks. It makes sense. Will you address those “umbrella passages” that support Yahweh as Creator “ex nihilo” (Creator of all things/”matter”) sometime in the future?
sure; I’ll note some of them.
Thanks. Looking forward to it. I’m linking your presentation for folks in my congregation to review to piggy back off our discussion on the meaning behind God as “maker of heaven and earth” (Apostles’ Creed) and of “all things visible and invisible” (Nicene Creed).
blop2008 says, “According to the text, one of the only things that God creates without pre-existing material is Light (and the stars/sun/moon)?”
Just for fun, you might note that light, i.e. photons, do not have a rest mass (the “material” you refer to), only energy. Although photons do have a mass provided by motion.
Sounds right, I’ve heard something similar from a physicist before (as you are, right)?
Been a lot of years since I graduated, but on this I know I am right, photons have zero rest mass – a fall out from the relativity theory. As things approach the speed of light, their mass increases, their dimension along the axis of path decreases, and their time slows down, all by the factor 1/
the square root of 1-v squared over c squared…which as you approach the speed of light, c, ends up being a singularity (divided by zero, thus goes to infinity). Thus if a photon had a rest mass, it would also have infinite mass at c, as well as take an infinite amount of energy to get it there. Thus zero rest mass for a photon, since none of these properties at c really exist (i.e. infinite mass) for a photon.
Whatever you 🙂
Oops…I just noticed there is now a reply function on the blog…amazing technology.
Hebrews 11:1-3 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. creatio ex nihilo
Might note, dark matter cannot be seen. Either can anything be seen or detected directly that might exist in a dimension beyond our dimensions of X, Y, Z, and Time.
I am not sure that Heb 11:3 is talking about “creatio ex nihilo”… because the words are different than the translation given… the word for “universe” is the word for “age”… and the word for “created” (katartizo) is better translated “restore to original state or purpose, mend,prepare”… it is given in lexicons as “create” and the only scripture ever given for this meaning is Heb 11:3 which makes me think that it is being “shoehorned” into this meaning because that is what the translators believe that this scripture is talking about… but anywhere else katartizo is used it is never translated create… and should the author of Hebrews had wanted to convey create there are at least a couple of other words that could have been used… like ktizo… which is translated all over the place in the New Testament as “create”… I believe this passage could be talking about something different than the Gen 1 event… but I could be wrong…
WHICH Genesis 1 event? (Or which verse in Genesis 1:1-3)?) Per my initial post on this, we need greater precision now that we are into the discussion.
I am not sure Heb 11:3 is talking about creation of anything at all… perhaps, but perhaps not… another interpretation of this verse is that these “men of old” received a rhema from God, acted upon it, and “restored” their “age”…. and perhaps the rest of the faith chapter here is speaking of what they did to receive a witness of that restoration… I find it interesting that the two words used here are neither strongly “create” nor “universe”…
Im curious to know why you started your analysis with the Christian version (which is several layers of translations) of the Torah, and not an original Hebrew to English?
Both my Plaut commentary (page 18) and my JPS Tanach (both direct translations from Hebrew) are as follows:
When God began to create the heaven and the earth the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water God said Let there be light; and there was light.
The JPS translation is in the presentation. I started with the other since that is FAR more familiar to readers. I’m moving from the familiar to the unfamiliar.
Just a quick comment since I’ve studied a lot on the issues of physics, quanta, astrophysics as they relate back to the origin of our universe. It is a mistake IMHO to try to torture the scriptures for information on what YHWH drew upon to fling the stars into existence. We are inside the terrarium, and no instrumentation has been conceived of that can peer beyond the limits of physics to see whether there is such a thing as “substance” outside our u. In short, what He drew upon to ‘create’ matter, or better put, physics, is not knowable via science. Secondarily, the element of time is not as important as we biblicists try to make it because time is not fixed. We seem to want to fix it! Time is strictly in the ‘eye of the beholder’. If one is located at the point of the initial spark of energy at the initiation of the universe, the length of time that has since lapsed is dramatically shorter than what can be observed from our planet. Shockingly so.
YHWH drew a ‘substance’ of reality from Himself to forge creation. If you want a good example of “something from nothing”, check the Federal Reserve!
Cognus, I agree. It is a mistake to view the bible as a science book, since that is not its purpose. It is also a mistake for atheist scientists to “try” to disprove the existence of God, which is impossible (a scientist trying to disprove something he cannnot measure). A good example is a rather arrogant Richard Dawkins in “The God Delusion”, stating without any proof that the anthropic principle proves that God doesn’t exist. He then dismisses some physicists that think it does indeed give credence to the existence of God. Dawkins, as a biologist, gets into probability and quantum theory, which he has no idea what they are about. He should stick to biology.
As MSH says about people – Dawkins should take a course in logic and critical thinking. One of his chapters is “Why there is almost certainly no God”. “Almost certainly”? Like being a little bit pregnant. Dawkins knows evolution, but he “certainly” does not know probability theory. A much better book is “Finding Darwins God”, by Kenneth R. Miller, who knows biology and also has a better grasp of probability and quantum theory than Dawkins.
hahaha the federal reserve
Biblical theology is actually pretty clear on a separation of the Creator and the created. Reality is not made “from” Yahweh in biblical theology.
Mike, is there an implication in the text that “Light” was being employed for the first time?
If so, I’m not yet seeing it.
A language question, if I may? I understand the absence of the definite article, however, that seems to force you to translate “reshyt” as a verb, “began” and “bara” as an infinitive. Is this then preferable to inserting an article?
Thanks, great topic!
Jim W (not the one everyone knows on the web)
I was wondering if you were the blogging Jim West of web fame.
“Workable” is probably better than “preferable.” One could have the beth preposition as temporal (“when”) and reshyt as “beginning” — but note how the combination “forces” reshyt the noun to a semantically verbal idea (“when beginning, God created….” is also “workable” but like the other, a bit awkward).
Finally indented replies, GOOD JOB! 🙂
I’m relieved – didn’t want to search for a solution!
im watching the video right now….. wow….great information!!!! its being posted on my facebook!
Excellent, clear, sensible presentation! Two questions (one of which I assume you might discuss/clarify a bit more in an upcoming article/presentation):
1.) You’ve noted that “Yom” doesn’t have to be a literal, 24-hr. day, and that when paired with a number, more often than not represents the “daylight” period of a day. You also note above that you hold that what’s being presented here is more of the “sequence” of the ordering process rather than the specifics of “how” it is done. Many Creationists note that trees & plants were made before the sun and moon, and as a result, there couldn’t have been “millions of years” because the plants would have long since died without the chlorophyll cycle aided by the sun. SO, is your viewpoint that the entire ordering sequence roughly corresponded to a few days (maybe not exactly 6, but a short number)?
2.) I’ve often wondered if the earth itself could be viewed somewhat as a “stage” upon which is enacted the drama of human history, and that this stage might itself be immensely old, with God periodically “redressing” (i.e., “ordering”) it in preparation for the next “drama”, and that each drama’s “players” have no knowledge of the “plays” that have preceded them, but rather their “drama” begins with a brief account of the “stage set-up” leading to the beginning of their “story”. This could well be pure speculation, but it would seem – prima facie – to mesh well with your explanation of the pre-existing matter (i.e., the “stripped-down stage”) as well as providing an explanation as to why the earth/universe seemto be “billions” of years old,and yet human history is comparatively quite brief. I’m curious as to your take. Do you give any credence to an “old earth” as would seem to be the case according to science, or do you think such age estimates are in error? Sorry for the long post; just didn’t know how to make it shorter and keep my questions clear. Thanks!
My view is that the ordering sequence is purely literary — it doesn’t say anything scientific. It shows a deliberate literary intent. I’ll hit that on the next post.
How did ancient commentators view the Genesis days (morning and evening was the first day) ?
Josephus in “The Antiquities of the Jews” said, “God commanded that there should be light; and when that was made, he considered the whole mass, and separated the light and the darkness; and the name he gave to one was Night, and the other he called Day; and he named the beginning of light and the time of rest, the Evening and the Morning; and this was indeed the first day: but Moses said it was one day,”…. just one commentator. Remember that the MSH attachment said that Josephus paraphrases verses, I guess that be considered free, not literal.
I would very much agree with Josephus that evening + morning = one day, although it implies it’s the first day as well. In Hebrew “Echad” is an cardinal number, not ordinal and thus is supposedly defining the first day as One Day.
The upcoming ISV translates it this way and not has “first day”.
But Dr. Heiser should comment on this as well and clarify this for us.
or “Day One” – the fact that the numeric formula is not consistent is interesting as well.
Again on Josephus, as just one commentator, in his preface to the Antiquities, he says, regarding the “legislator”, Moses, “while our legislator speaks some things wisely, but enigmatically, and others under a decent allegory, but still explains such things as require a direct explication plainly and expressly. However, those that have a mind to know the reason of everything, may find here a very curious philosophical theory, which I now shall indeed waive the explication of; but if God afford me time for it, I will set about writing it after I have finished the present work.” The translator’s note on this says that this was never produced, as far as they know. Sounds like Josephus would explain what is allegorical, philosophical, and his theory, in his opinion. However, section 1.2 states “Moreover, Moses, after the seventh day was over, begins to talk philosophically; and concerning the formation of man, says thus: That God took dust from the ground, and formed man, and inserted in him a spirit and a soul.” So – one commentator’s view…
There was a good bit of diversity. It depends where you look at what they wrote. You can pretty much find all the views in the fathers.
So then could we almost say it ran like a run on sentence? For example:
When In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, [it] was without form, void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep
The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, and God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
You could almost split verse two in half. Because it was describing what the heaven and earth (atmosphere and land) were like already when the true work was taking place, halfway through verse two.
Or am I butchering it?
if you view verse two as a parenthetical thought, you could make verses 1-2 an entire sentence. In Hebrew, v. 3 begins as a new sentence.
A question: What are the implications of your reading of Gen 1 for John 1:1?
Can we then translate John 1:1 something like: When in the beginning was the Word, [at that time] the Word was with the God and [as well as] the Word was God ?
LXX translates Gen 1:1 “ev arche”, John begins his gospel with “ev arche” (I suppose deliberatelly, he knew Greek and Hebrew OT very well, he knew what it meant).
And thank you for that video!
Greek grammar doesn’t work quite the same way as Hebrew. For a fairly detailed discussion of the grammar of John 1:1, see Dan Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 255-270.
Thank you, Mike, I’ll check it out.
How do we respond to the LXX when it uses “en” (in) as the preposition and not some version of “ote” (when)… am I reading the greek preposition wrong or do the Masoretic text and the LXX disagree here?
There is no way to be sure if there is a textual difference. It could be translation style. However, if this were the ONLY place where it appeared that “en” is used to translate a Hebrew word that is always elsewhere translated with ote, that would create suspicion (but not certainty) that there was a textual difference.
Excellent presentation. I’ve been saying the same thing for years.
Excellent presentation, Dr. Heiser, I really enjoyed watching it.
1. Could it be, the “yom + numeral” mean “not more than 24 hours, but not less than a sun-lit day”? This would make creationists position still possible. The examples in your presentation refer to a period of time that is not longer than “time between two consecutive sunrises”, although can sometimes be “time between consecutive sunrise and sunset”.
2. I have heard a position that the very existence of fossils makes accepting evolution impossible for a believer: the fossils are dead, and death comes only after a sin of a fully formed (evolved?), conscious man. Ergo the fossils cannot precede the man. If the animals however were not immortal (interesting discussion earlier in this forum) then evolution is still a concept open for Bible believers.
Would be interesting to hear your, and others opinion.
This misses the real issue of Genesis 1, which is Gen 1:1-3 and its syntax. That has nothing to do with yom.
Rom 5:12 refers to human death, not animal death, and so you can have plenty of animal death before the fall as we know it.
Yup, *that* John Young. 🙂 Hi, Mike. Great presentation. I really appreciate the work guys like you and Walton and others are doing. I would be interested in hearing your take on the Hebrew behind the word “firmament” which was created on Day 2. I understand a number of Hebrew scholars (probably the majority if we look beyond evangelicalism) read this to be the transparent dome that covered the earth like a tent in ANE cosmology and not “the sky/atmosphere of the earth” as many traditional creationists read it today (both those who hold to Henry Morris’ crazy idea about a water canopy and those who just think God made the atmosphere and clouds as we see them today).
John – didn’t realize this was here as well. I just sent a reply to Randy via email for the Potts (I presume). Let me know if you don’t see that.
Where are you at now? What are you doing?
Yes, Randy just sent that around. You apparently read my mind regarding “raqia”. That one is a great example of traditional creationists missing the forest for the trees.
Anyway, I have been in Rochester, MN for the last 17 years after marrying Amy Niedfeldt. I work in IT at the Mayo Clinic. It pays the bills, but certainly is not nearly as fun or exciting as stuff like OT cosmology, Hebrew grammar and syntax, or figuring out new ways to still be a creationist apart from accepting Ken Ham’s false either-or choice of being either a YECist or a Richard Dawkin’s style atheist. Amy and I have 4 kids (ages 11 down to 3) who keep life fun and interesting for us. Oh, and we have a dog, anole lizard, and a dwarf Russian hamster. The family is growing, but not in terms of any more human beings. 🙂
I know you are busy, so I just want to say thanks for sharing some brief thoughts with the Potts. It helps keep the discussion lively and keeps guys like Randy humble. He never listens to me and still hasn’t read anyone but Ken Ham. 😉
Hope your wife (Dreena?) and family are doing well. Those kids must be practically grown up and taking care of you now!
Loved the Ken Ham / Richard Dawkins line! Tell Randy he has my pity! Still two kids at home – 15 and 12; two out. Doing well (Drenna). Thanks for the update. Would love to connect again at some point.