The Bible’s Viewpoint
Did Each Creative Day Always Finish What It Started?
FROM time to time, Jehovah’s Witnesses receive questions about the order of creation as presented in their book Life—How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation? Some of these questions point to a difference between the order in the book and the order claimed for these events by most geologists.
As an example, it is observed that geologists list birds as appearing after mammals, whereas the Creation book, on page 37, shows birds as appearing before mammals.
Interestingly, while many geologists feel that birds came after mammals, others believe that mammals appeared after birds. An example of the latter case is found in the book Evolution, by Colin Patterson, page 132. This indicates that the evidence from the fossil record is not conclusive.
But did each creative day of Genesis chapter 1 always see the completion of what was started on that day, or did creative events continue beyond the day on which they began? Based on the Bible, the Creation book says that flying creatures began to be created before mammals appeared. The Hebrew word translated “flying creatures” at Genesis 1:20 is ʽohph and may include winged insects and flying reptiles, such as pterosaurs. The first insects may have preceded such creatures as the pterosaurs, and these membrane-winged flying reptiles may have appeared before both birds and mammals.
The Bible’s creation account does not record in great detail all the creative works of Jehovah God. It simply lists in succession some of the major developments with regard to the preparation of the earth for living things and shows the orderly appearance of large categories of plant and animal life. In keeping with that approach, the Genesis record does not separately list winged insects, flying reptiles, and birds but lumps them together under the general, all-embracing Hebrew term translated “flying creatures.”
In the Bible the imperfect state of the Hebrew verbs used in Genesis chapter 1 indicates that creation involved ongoing activity by God. And the creative days of Genesis chapter 1 were not 24-hour days, but they extended over many thousands of years.—See Life—How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation?, pages 26-7.
For example, Genesis 1:3 speaks of the creation of light on the first day. According to J. W. Watts’ translation, that verse reads: “Afterward God proceeded to say, ‘Let there be light’; and gradually light came into existence.” The translation by Benjamin Wills Newton gives the same picture of continuing development of a process once started: “And God proceeded to say [future], Let Light become to be, and Light proceeded to become to be [future].” (Brackets are Newton’s; italics ours in both texts.) The light that penetrated to the surface gradually increased in intensity, and the process proceeded on into the future.—See New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures—With References, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Appendix 3C, pages 1572-3.
The first day did not complete the “creation” of light with respect to the earth. The sources of it, of course, existed before that first day but were invisible from the surface of the earth. (Genesis 1:1) The first day saw only the penetration of diffused light to the surface of the earth, made possible by the thinning of obscuring layers that enveloped the earth like ‘swaddling bands.’ (Job 38:9) Illumination at the surface gradually increased with the thinning of the interfering layers.
On the second creative day, God caused a separation to develop between the waters on the surface of the earth and those above it, leaving an expanse, or atmosphere, between the waters above and the waters below. As Genesis 1:6, 7, Watts’ translation, expresses it: “Then God continued, saying, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, also let there be a separation between the waters.’ Accordingly, God proceeded to divide the waters which were under the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and gradually it came to be so.” (Italics ours.) Just as day one saw the first appearance of light at the earth’s surface but not its final state, so day two saw the start of the expanse. The completed state was not immediately reached
Genesis 1:9, 11, Watts’ translation, says concerning day three: “Then God continued, saying, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together to one place, and let the dry land appear’; and gradually it came to be so. Then God continued, saying, ‘Let the earth produce grass, herbs yielding seed, fruit-trees which have their seed in them bearing fruit according to their kind upon the earth’; and gradually it came to be so.” (Italics ours.) The use of the word “gradually” indicates progressive creative activity, as opposed to a single event at a single point in the stream of time.
Day four saw dramatic changes: “Then God continued, saying, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to divide between the day and the night, and they shall be for signs and for seasons and for days and years. Also they shall be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth’; and gradually it came to be so. Accordingly God proceeded to make the two great lights, the greater light as a ruler of the day, and the lesser light as a ruler of the night, likewise the stars.”—Genesis 1:14-16, Watts, italics ours.
Now, for the first time, more concentrated sunlight reached the surface of the earth. The sources of light—sun and moon and stars—could be seen from the surface of the earth. In the account of the first creative day, the Hebrew word for light is ʼohr, light in a general sense; but on day four, it is ma·ʼohrʹ, meaning the source of the light.
Day five was characterized by the creation of forms of life that live in the water, apparently including great aquatic reptiles. The Genesis record reads: “And God went on to say: ‘Let the waters swarm forth a swarm of living souls and let flying creatures fly over the earth upon the face of the expanse of the heavens.’ And God proceeded to create the great sea monsters and every living soul that moves about, which the waters swarmed forth according to their kinds, and every winged flying creature according to its kind. And God got to see that it was good.” (Genesis 1:20, 21) This, then, was also the period when flying creatures began to be brought into existence. The creation of “every winged flying creature according to its kind” continued after the opening of that creative period during the fifth day.
Genesis 2:19 seems to point to progressive creation involving flying creatures, for it states: “Yahweh God continued to form from the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds [“every flying creature,” NW] of the heavens and to bring them to the man to see what he would call them.”—Watts, italics ours.a
Thus the Bible record of Genesis chapter 1 indicates that broad categories of plant and animal life began to be created by God when the earth had been brought to a stage of development suitable for a given type of creature life. The filling of these broad categories with many individual kinds of life, such as “flying creatures,” was a progressive, ongoing activity of God. This ongoing divine activity may have continued beyond the end of the creative day on which it commenced.
The geologic record is incomplete and subject to interpretation according to the theoretical leanings of those seeking to unravel its tangled skeins. As demonstrated in the Creation book, the Bible is consistently accurate when it touches on scientific matters, including the order of creation.
a See “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial,” 1990 edition, published by Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., page 287.
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Progressive creative activity is indicated by the use of the word “gradually”
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The creation of various kinds of life was a progressive activity of God
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Light first appeared on earth on day one, but increased on successive days
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