Making Sense of Genesis 1
(Importance of Point of View)
by Dr. Hugh Ross, M.Sc., Ph.D. (from his book "Creation
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.
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,
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:
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.