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Making Sense of Genesis 1
(Importance of Point of View)

by Dr. Hugh Ross, M.Sc., Ph.D. (from his book "Creation And Time")

The seeming futility of the attempt to integrate Genesis with the scientific record arises from an error in applying Galileo's rule: "Begin by establishing [not assuming] the point of view."1 Most Bible commentaries and commentators assume the point of view to be out in the heavens looking down on the earth. As a result, they present an order for creation that echoes Astruc's and is absurd next to established science.

Ironically, Genesis 1 precisely and clearly identifies the point of view for the creation account:

Darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (verse 2)

This simple statement suggests that the reader interpret the events of creation from the perspective of an observer on the surface of the earth.

The view looking upward and around from this vantage point makes a huge difference in understanding the sequence of creation events. From misplacing the perspective in the heavens, it appears that light was created after the earth. The creation of the sun, moon, and stars seems to take place after the creation of plant life and after the establishing of the water cycle. but with the point of view on the surface of the earth, looking up at the atmosphere of the earth, we recognize that God's miracles are taking place in the atmosphere of the earth, not beyond it in the galaxy and the solar system. Light was not created on the first creation day. On that day the light already created "in the beginning" suddenly broke through to the earth's surface. This break-through required the transformation of the atmosphere (plus the interplanetary medium) from opaque to translucent. On the fourth creation day we see yet another atmospheric transformation, this time from translucent to transparent. Through that transformation, the sun, moon, and stars became visible and distinguishable on that day.

Verse 16 reads, God made two great lights....He also made the stars" This sentence follows the opening statement for the forth creation day (verse 14), "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky," and is parenthetical note indicating that these heavenly bodies had been formed sometime in the past.

In the Hebrew language there are just three verb forms analogous to the verb tenses of the English language: (a) a verb form to express commands, (b) a verb form for action not yet complete, and (c) a verb form for action completed at some time in the past.2-3 The verb, 'asah, translated "made" in verse 16, is in the verb form connoting completed action. Thus the sun, moon, and stars either were made on the fourth day, the third day, the second day, the first day, or in the beginning. The latter must be the correct timing since the heavens and earth (shamayim erets) of verse 1 includes the entire physical universe of galaxies, stars, planets, etc.4

With the point of view fixed on the earth's surface, the "dark," "formless," and "empty" initial conditions make sense. It is dark in spite of the already existing heavens and earth because the earth's primordial interplanetary debris prevent the light of the sun, moon, and stars from reaching the surface of the earth. The earth's surface is empty of life and unfit for life, because without light photosynthesis is impossible.

Least anyone think that this interpretation of the point of view and the initial conditions is unique to me, and therefore suspect, let me remind the reader that the Old Testament scholar and Hebrew linguist Gleason Archer made the same discovery in 1955, seven years before I did. 5 Robert Newman, John Snow, Herman Eckelmann, William Henry Green, and Daniel Wonderly, all with advanced degrees in science, theology, or both, published a similar interpretation of Genesis 1 in 1977.6

To order this book "Creation And Time" go to: Reasons to Believe Catalog


Ross Hugh, Ph. D., "Creation And Time" Navpress, (1994) Reasons to Believe, p.149-151

Dr. Hugh Ross's References :

-1. Broderick, James , "Galileo: The Man, His Work, His Misfortunes (New York: Harper and Row, 1964), p.75-77

-2. Mansoor, Menahem, "Biblical Hebrew Step by Step", vol.1, second edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1980), p. 69-70

-3. Manssor, "Biblical Hebrew Step by Step", vol.2, second edition, p. 136-141.

-4. Waltke, Bruce, "Creation and Chaos: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Biblical Cosmogony" (Portland, OR: Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, 1974) p.20, 25-26. As Waltke explained in his Kenneth S. Kantzer Lectures in Systematic Theology given 8-10 January 1991 at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, III, the Hebrew words shamayim and erets when placed together form a compound word, which like the English compound word butterfly, takes on a meaning of its own.

-5. Archer, Gleason, communicated to me, Barry Beitzel, Walt Kaiser, Kenneth Kantzer, and Bruce Waltke on 9 January 1991 at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, III.

-6. Newman, Robert C., and Eckelmann, Herman, "Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth" (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1977), p.70-72, 80-81.

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