THE STORY OF CREATION -- Gen.1 and 2.
Kent, Historical Bible, Vol. I, pp.1-7, 231-3.
Articles, |Evolution| and |Cosmogony,| in Ency. Brit. or Inter. Ency., or any standard encyclopedia.
God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. -- Gen.1:27, 28.
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, The moon and the stars which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him?
And the son of man that thou visitest him?
For thou hast made him but little lower than God,
And crownest him with glory and honor.
Thou makest him to have dominion over the works of thine hands, Thou hast put all things under his feet. -- Ps.8: 8-6.
God clothed men with strength like his own,
And made them according to his own image.
He put the fear of them upon all flesh,
That they should have dominion over beasts and birds. Mouth and tongue, eyes and ears,
And a mind with which to think he gave them;
With insight and wisdom he filled their minds,
Good and evil he taught them. Ben Sira.17, 3-7 (Hist. Bible).
All things were made through him; and without him was not any thing made that hath been made. -- John 1:3.
DIFFERENT THEORIES OF CREATION.
Every early people naturally asked the questions, How were things made? How were men created? First of all, Who made the world? They necessarily answered them according to their own dawning knowledge.
The most primitive races believed that some great animal created the earth and man. In the Alaskan collection in the museum of the University of Pennsylvania there is a huge crow, sitting upon the mask of a man's face. This symbolizes the crude belief of the Alaskan Indians regarding the way man was created. The early Egyptians thought that the earth and man were hatched out of an egg. In one part of Egypt it was held that the artisan god Ptah broke the egg with his hammer. In another part of the land and probably at a later date the tradition was current that Thoth the moon god spoke the world into existence. The earliest Babylonian record states that:
The god Marduk laid a reed on the face of the waters, He formed dust and poured it out beside the reed;
That he might cause the gods to dwell in the dwellings of their heart's desire,
He formed mankind.
Later he formed the grass and the rush of the marsh and the forest. Then he created the animals and their young.
The Parsee teachers held that the rival gods, Ahriman and Ormuzd, evolved themselves out of primordial matter and then through the long ages created their attendant hierarchies of angels. The philosophers of India anticipated in some respects our modern evolutionary theory. Brahma is thought of as self-existent and eternal. He gradually condenses himself into material objects, such as ether, fire, water, earth and the elements. Last of all he manifests himself in man. The Greek philosophers were the first to attempt to describe creation as a purely physical, generative process. They taught the evolution of the more complex from the simpler forms. Plato and Aristotle believed in a transcendental deity and found in the world indications of a vital impulse toward a higher manifestation of life -- man.
Michael Angelo, with wonderful dramatic power, in his painting in the Sistine Chapel at Rome has portrayed how lifeless clay in form of man, when touched by the finger of God, by sheer vitalizing power is transformed into a living soul.
Very different yet equally impressive is the modern scientific view. The origin of matter and of life is so absolutely unknown that scientists have not as yet formulated definite theories concerning it. Even the theories regarding the origin of the solar system are still conflicting and none is generally accepted. The old nebular hypothesis is discredited and the theory of the spiral movement of the solar matter seems to be confirmed by phenomena observable in the heavens. The one principle generally held by scientists is that, given matter and life and some creating force, our present marvelous complex universe has come into being according to laws usually called natural. These laws are so invariable that they may be considered unchanging.
Even more definitely established is the so-called theory of evolution which is based on the careful observation and comparison of countless thousands of natural phenomena. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica it is the history of the physical process by which all living beings have acquired the characteristics, physical, mental, moral, and spiritual, which now distinguish them. It recognizes the gradual development from the simplest to the most complex forms. It is merely an attempt to describe in the light of careful observation and investigation the process of growth by which the world and the beings which inhabit it have grown into what they are.
A comparison of the Hebrew account of creation with those of other races and times is extremely suggestive.
THE PRIESTLY STORY OF CREATION.
Note that the first and second chapters of Genesis contain two distinct accounts of creation.
Read Genesis 1:1 -- 2:3 (see Hist. Bib., I, pp.231-3 for modern translation), noting its picture of conditions in the universe before the actual work of creation began. The creative power is the spirit or breath of God. The Hebrew word for spirit (ruah) represents the sound of the breath as it emerges from the mouth or the sound of the wind as it sighs through the trees. It is the effective symbol of a real and mighty force that cannot be seen or touched yet produces terrific effects, as when the cyclone rends the forest or transforms the sea into a mountain of billows and twists like straws the masts of wood and steel. In the Old Testament the |spirit of God| or the |spirit of the Holy One| is God working (1) in the material universe, as in the work of creation, (2) in human history, as when he directs the life of nations, or (3) in the lives of men.
Note the method of creation and the distinctive work of each day. The process is that of separation. It is orderly and progressive. The first three days of preparation in which (1) light and darkness, (2) air and water (separated by the firmament) and (3) land and vegetation are created, correspond to the work of the second three days in which are created (1) the heavenly bodies, (2) the birds and fishes (which live in the air and water) and (3) land animals and man. The underlying conception of the universe is that held by most early peoples. Compare the diagram in Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible I, 503 or Kent's Student's Old Testament, Vol. I, p. 52 which illustrates it.
God's benign plan is revealed by the recurring words: |God saw that it was good.| What was the culminating act of creation? |Created man in his image| can not mean with a body like that of God (for in this story God is thought of as a spirit), but rather with a God-like spirit, mind, will, and power to rule.
THE EARLY PROPHETIC STORY OF CREATION.
The opening words of the second account of creation, which begins in the fourth verse of the second chapter of Genesis, imply that the earth and the heavens have already been created.
|In the day that Jehovah made earth and heaven, no plant of the field was yet on the earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprung up, for Jehovah had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole face of the ground.|
It is possible that here only a part of the original story is preserved. What is the order in the story of creation found in this second chapter? The method of man's creation?
According to this account, the tree of life was planted in the garden that man, while he lived there, might enjoy immortality. Was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil placed in the garden to develop man's moral nature by temptation or merely to inculcate obedience?
The love between the sexes is apparently implanted in all living beings primarily for the conservation of the species, but the early prophet also recognized clearly the broader intellectual and moral aspects of the relation. |It is not good for man to be alone| were the significant words of Jehovah. Hence animals, birds, and, last of all, woman, were created to meet man's innate social needs. Man's words on seeing woman were:
|This, now, is bone of my bone
And flesh of my flesh.
This one shall be called woman,
For from man was she taken.|
What fundamental explanation is here given of the institution of marriage? Compare Jesus' confirmation of this teaching in Matthew 19:4-5:
|And he answered and said, Have ye not read, that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and the two shall become one flesh?|
A COMPARISON OF THE TWO ACCOUNTS OF CREATION.
The account of creation found in the second chapter suggests the simple, direct ideas of a primitive people; while the account in Genesis 1 has the exact, repetitious, majestic literary style of a legal writer. Are the differences between these two accounts of creation greater than those between the parallel narratives in the Gospels? We recognize that the differences in detail between the Gospel accounts of the same event are due to the fact that no two narrators tell the same story in the same way. Are the variations between the two Biblical accounts of creation to be similarly explained? A growing body of Biblical scholars hold, though many differ in judgment, that the account in the first chapter of Genesis was written by a priestly writer who lived about four hundred B.C., and the second account four hundred years earlier by a patriotic, prophetic historian.
Observe that the two accounts agree in the following fundamental teachings: (1) One supreme God is the Creator; (2) man is closely akin to God; (3) all else is created for man's best and noblest development.
Is the primary aim of these accounts to present scientific facts or to teach religious truths? Paul says in Timothy that |Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness.| Is their religious value, even as in the parables of the New Testament, entirely independent of their historical or scientific accuracy? Is there any contradiction between the distinctive teachings of the Bible and modern science? Do not the Bible and science deal with two different but supplemental fields of life: the one with religion and morals, the other with the physical world?
MAN'S CONQUEST AND RULERSHIP OF THE WORLD.
In the story of Genesis 1 man is commanded to subdue the earth and to have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that creeps upon the earth. How far has man already subdued the animals and made them serve him? How far has he conquered the so-called natural forces and learned to utilize them? Is the latter day conquest of the air but a step in this progress? Are all inventions and developments of science in keeping with the purpose expressed in Genesis 1? Does the command imply the immediate or the gradual conquest of nature? Why? Do science and the Bible differ or agree in their answers to these questions?
MAN'S RESPONSIBILITY AS THE RULER OF THE WORLD.
Consider the different ways in which the Biblical accounts of creation state that man is akin to God. In the one account man was created in the image of God; in the other Jehovah formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils his own life-giving breath. In what sense is man God-like? Are all men |made in the image of God|? Does this story imply that every man has the right and capacity to become God-like?
A high official of China, whose power of authority extends to questions of life and death, is called |the father and mother of his people.| If he fails in the responsibility which his authority imposes upon him, and the people in consequence create a disturbance, he is severely punished, sometimes by death. Does authority always imply responsibility? Of what value to man is the conquest of the forces of nature? President Roosevelt said that he considered the conservation of the natural resources of the United States the most important question before the American people. Is this political question also a religious question?
Why did God give man authority over the animal world? Does the responsibility that comes from this authority rest upon every man? One of the laws of the Boy Scouts reads:
|A scout is kind. He is a friend to animals. He will not kill nor hurt any living creature needlessly, but will strive to save and protect all harmless life.| Is this a practical application of the teaching in Genesis 1?
If God's purpose is to make everything good, man's highest privilege, as well as duty, is to co-operate with him in realizing that purpose. Are men to-day as a whole growing happier and nobler? In what practical ways may a man contribute to the happiness and ennobling of his fellow men?
Is your community growing better? What would be the result if you and others like yourself did your best to improve conditions? If so, how?
Questions for Further Consideration.
Is man's possession of knowledge and power the ultimate object of creation? If not, what is? Does human experience suggest that man's life on earth is, in its ultimate meaning, simply a school for the development of individual character and for the perfecting of the human race?
Is there any other practical way in which a man can serve God except by serving his fellowmen? If so, how?
Subjects for Further Study.
(1) The Origin and Content of the Babylonian Stories of Creation. -- Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible, 1, 501-7; Kent, Student's O. T., I, 360-9.
(2) The Relation of the Biblical Story of the Creation to the Babylonian. -- Kent, Student's O. T., I, 369-70.
(3) The Seeming Conflict Between the Teachings of the Bible and Science and the Practical Reconciliation. -- Sir Oliver Lodge: Science and Immortality, Section 1.