An Ancient Creation Record—Can You Trust It?
“WHO can say whence it all came, and how creation happened?” You find that question in the poem “The Song of Creation.” Composed in Sanskrit over 3,000 years ago, it is part of the Rig-Veda, a Hindu holy book. The poet doubted that even the many Hindu gods could know “how creation happened” because “the gods themselves are later than creation.”—Italics ours.
Writings from Babylon and Egypt offer similar myths about the birth of their gods in a universe that already existed. A key point, however, is that those myths could not say where the original universe came from. You will find, though, that one creation record is different. This particular record, the Bible, opens with the words: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”—Genesis 1:1.
Moses wrote that simple, dramatic statement some 3,500 years ago. It focuses on a Creator, God, who transcends the material universe because he made it and hence existed before it was. The same book teaches that “God is a Spirit,” which means he exists in a form that our eyes cannot see. (John 4:24) Such an existence is perhaps more conceivable today, since scientists have described powerful neutron stars and black holes in space—invisible objects that are detectable by the effects they produce.
Significantly, the Bible reports: “There are heavenly bodies, and earthly bodies; but the glory of the heavenly bodies is one sort, and that of the earthly bodies is a different sort.” (1 Corinthians 15:40, 44) That does not refer to the invisible cosmic matter that astronomers study. The “heavenly bodies” mentioned are intelligent spirit bodies. ‘Who, besides the Creator,’ you may wonder, ‘has a spirit body?’
Invisible Heavenly Creatures
According to the Biblical record, the visible realm was not the first thing created. This ancient creation account reports that the first step of creation was the bringing into existence of another spirit person, the firstborn Son. He was “the firstborn of all creation,” or “the beginning of the creation by God.” (Colossians 1:15; Revelation 3:14) This first created individual was unique.
He was the only creation that God produced directly, and he was endowed with great wisdom. In fact, a later writer, a king renowned for his own wisdom, described this Son as “a master worker,” who was employed in all subsequent creative works. (Proverbs 8:22, 30; see also Hebrews 1:1, 2.) Of him the first-century teacher named Paul wrote: “By means of him all other things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible.”—Colossians 1:16; compare John 1:1-3.
What are the invisible things in the heavens that the Creator brought into existence by means of this Son? While astronomers report billions of stars and invisible black holes, here the Bible is referring to hundreds of millions of spirit creatures—with spirit bodies. ‘Why,’ some may ask, ‘create such invisible, intelligent beings?’
Just as a study of the universe can answer some questions about its Cause, a study of the Bible can provide us with important information about its Author. For instance, the Bible tells us that he is “the happy God,” whose intentions and actions reflect love. (1 Timothy 1:11; 1 John 4:8) We can logically conclude, then, that God chose to have the association of other intelligent spirit persons who could also enjoy life. Each would have satisfying work that was mutually beneficial and would contribute to the Creator’s purpose.
Nothing suggests that these spirit creatures were to be like robots in obeying God. Rather, he endowed them with intelligence and free will. Biblical accounts indicate that God encourages freedom of thought and freedom of action—confident that these pose no permanent threat to peace and harmony in the universe. Paul, using the personal name for the Creator, as found in the Hebrew Bible, wrote: “Now Jehovah is the Spirit; and where the spirit of Jehovah is, there is freedom.”—2 Corinthians 3:17.
Visible Things in the Heavens
What are the visible things that God created through his firstborn Son? They include our sun and all the other billions of stars and materials that make up the universe. Does the Bible give us any idea as to how God produced all of these out of nothing? Let us see by looking at the Bible in the light of modern science.
In the 18th century, the scientist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier studied the weight of matter. He noticed that after a chemical reaction, the weight of the product equaled the combined weight of the original ingredients. For example, if paper is burned in oxygen, the resulting ash and gases weigh the same as the original paper and oxygen. Lavoisier proposed a law—‘conservation of mass, or matter.’ In 1910, The Encyclopædia Britannica explained: “Matter can neither be created nor destroyed.” That seemed reasonable, at least back then.
However, the explosion of an atom bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945 publicly exposed a flaw in Lavoisier’s law. During such an explosion of a supercritical mass of uranium, different types of matter form, but their combined mass is less than that of the original uranium. Why the loss? It is because some of the mass of the uranium is converted into an awesome flash of energy.
Another problem with Lavoisier’s law on the conservation of matter arose in 1952 with the detonation of a thermonuclear device (hydrogen bomb). In that explosion, hydrogen atoms combined to form helium. The mass of the resulting helium, though, was less than that of the original hydrogen. A portion of the mass of the hydrogen was converted into explosive energy, an explosion far more devastating than the bomb released over Hiroshima.
As these explosions proved, a small amount of matter represents an enormous quantity of energy. This link between matter and energy explains the power of the sun, which keeps us alive and well. What is the link? Well, some 40 years earlier, in 1905, Einstein had predicted a relationship between matter and energy. Many know of his equation E=mc2.a Once Einstein formulated that relationship, other scientists could explain how the sun has kept shining for billions of years. Within the sun, there are continuous thermonuclear reactions. In this way, every second, the sun converts about 564 million tons of hydrogen into 560 million tons of helium. This means that some 4 million tons of matter are transformed into solar energy, a fraction of which reaches earth and sustains life.
Significantly, the reverse process is also possible. “Energy changes into matter when subatomic particles collide at high speeds and create new, heavier particles,” explains The World Book Encyclopedia. Scientists accomplish this on a limited scale using huge machines called particle accelerators, in which subatomic particles collide at fantastic speeds, creating matter. “We’re repeating one of the miracles of the universe—transforming energy into matter,” explains Nobel laureate physicist Dr. Carlo Rubbia.
‘True,’ one may say, ‘but what does this have to do with the record of creation that I can read in the Bible?’ Well, the Bible is not a scientific textbook as such, yet it has proved to be up-to-date and in harmony with scientific facts. From beginning to end, the Bible points to the One who created all the matter in the universe, the Scientist. (Nehemiah 9:6; Acts 4:24; Revelation 4:11) And it clearly shows the relationship between energy and matter.
For example, the Bible invites readers to do this: “Raise your eyes high up and see. Who has created these things? It is the One who is bringing forth the army of them even by number, all of whom he calls even by name. Due to the abundance of dynamic energy, he also being vigorous in power, not one of them is missing.” (Isaiah 40:26) Yes, the Bible is saying that a source of tremendous dynamic energy—the Creator—caused the material universe to come into existence. This is completely in harmony with modern technology. For this reason alone, the Biblical record of creation merits our deep respect.
After creating in the heavens things both invisible and visible, the Creator and his firstborn Son focused on the earth. Where did it come from? The variety of chemical elements making up our planet could have been produced directly by God’s transforming unlimited dynamic energy into matter, which physicists today say is feasible. Or, as many scientists believe, the earth could have been formed out of matter ejected from the explosion of a supernova. Then again, who is to say whether there might have been a combination of methods, those just mentioned and others that scientists have not yet unraveled? Whatever the mechanism, the Creator is the dynamic Source of the elements that make up our earth, including all the minerals that are essential for keeping us alive.
You can appreciate that founding the earth would have involved much more than supplying all the materials in the correct proportions. Earth’s size, its rotation, and its distance from the sun, as well as the inclination of its axis and the nearly circular shape of its orbit around the sun, also had to be just right—exactly as they are. Clearly, the Creator set in operation natural cycles that make our planet fit to support an abundance of life. We have every right to be amazed at it all. But imagine the reaction of heavenly spirit sons as they watched the producing of the earth and life upon it! One Bible book says that they “joyfully cried out together” and “began shouting in applause.”—Job 38:4, 7.
Understanding Genesis Chapter 1
The first chapter of the Bible gives partial details of some vital steps that God took to prepare the earth for human enjoyment. The chapter does not give every detail; as we read it, we should not be put off if it omits particulars that ancient readers could not have comprehended anyway. For example, in writing that chapter, Moses did not report the function of microscopic algae or bacteria. Such forms of life first came into human view after the invention of the microscope, in the 16th century. Nor did Moses specifically report on dinosaurs, whose existence was deduced from fossils in the 19th century. Instead, Moses was inspired to use words that could be understood by people of his day—but words that were accurate in all they said about earth’s creation.
As you read Genesis chapter 1, from Ge 1 verse 3 onward, you will see that it is divided into six creative “days.” Some claim that these were literal 24-hour days, meaning that the entire universe and life on earth were created in less than a week! However, you can easily discover that the Bible does not teach that. The book of Genesis was written in Hebrew. In that language, “day” refers to a period of time. It can be either a lengthy one or a literal day of 24 hours. Even in Genesis all six “days” are spoken of collectively as one lengthy period—‘the day in which Jehovah made earth and heaven.’ (Genesis 2:4; compare 2 Peter 3:8.) The fact is, the Bible reveals that the creative “days,” or ages, encompass thousands of years.
A person can see this from what the Bible says about the seventh “day.” The record of each of the first six “days” ends saying, ‘and there came to be evening and morning, a first day,’ and so on. Yet, you will not find that comment after the record of the seventh “day.” And in the first century C.E., some 4,000 years downstream in history, the Bible referred to the seventh rest “day” as still continuing. (Hebrews 4:4-6) So the seventh “day” was a period spanning thousands of years, and we can logically conclude the same about the first six “days.”
The First and Fourth “Days”
It seems that the earth had been established in orbit around the sun and was a globe covered with water before the six “days,” or periods, of special creative works began. “There was darkness upon the surface of the watery deep.” (Genesis 1:2) At that early point, something—perhaps a mixture of water vapor, other gases, and volcanic dust—must have prevented sunlight from reaching the surface of the earth. The Bible describes the first creative period this way: “God proceeded to say, ‘Let there be light’; and gradually light came into existence,” or reached the surface of the earth.—Genesis 1:3, translation by J. W. Watts.
The expression “gradually . . . came” accurately reflects a form of the Hebrew verb involved, denoting a progressive action that takes time to complete. Anyone who reads the Hebrew language can find this form some 40 times in Genesis chapter 1, and it is a key to understanding the chapter. What God began in the figurative evening of a creative period, or age, became progressively clear, or apparent, after the morning of that “day.”b Also, what was started in one period did not have to be fully completed when the next period began. To illustrate, light gradually began to appear on the first “day,” yet it was not until the fourth creative period that the sun, moon, and stars could have been discerned.—Genesis 1:14-19.
The Second and Third “Days”
Before the Creator made dry land appear on the third creative “day,” he lifted some of the waters. As a result, the earth was surrounded by a blanket of water vapor.c The ancient record does not—and need not—describe the mechanisms used. Instead, the Bible focuses on the expanse between the upper and surface waters. It calls this the heavens. Even today people use this term for the atmosphere where birds and airplanes fly. In due course, God filled this atmospheric heavens with a mix of gases vital for life.
However, during the creative “days,” the surface water subsided, so that land appeared. Perhaps using geologic forces that are still moving the plates of the earth, God seems to have pushed ocean ridges up to form continents. This would produce dry land above the surface and deep ocean valleys below, which oceanographers have now mapped and are eagerly studying. (Compare Psalm 104:8, 9.) After dry ground had been formed, another marvelous development occurred. We read: “God went on to say: ‘Let the earth cause grass to shoot forth, vegetation bearing seed, fruit trees yielding fruit according to their kinds, the seed of which is in it, upon the earth.’ And it came to be so.”—Genesis 1:11.
As discussed in the preceding chapter (“The Handiwork—What Is Behind It?”), photosynthesis is essential for plants. A green plant cell has a number of smaller parts called chloroplasts, which obtain energy from sunlight. “These microscopic factories,” explains the book Planet Earth, “manufacture sugars and starches . . . No human has ever designed a factory more efficient, or whose products are more in demand, than a chloroplast.”
Indeed, later animal life would depend upon chloroplasts for survival. Also, without green vegetation, earth’s atmosphere would be overly rich in carbon dioxide, and we would die from heat and lack of oxygen. Some specialists give astonishing explanations for the development of life dependent on photosynthesis. For example, they say that when single-celled organisms in the water began to run out of food, “a few pioneering cells finally invented a solution. They arrived at photosynthesis.” But could that really be so? Photosynthesis is so complex that scientists are still attempting to unravel its secrets. Do you think that self-reproducing photosynthetic life arose inexplicably and spontaneously? Or do you find it more reasonable to believe that it exists as a result of intelligent, purposeful creation, as Genesis reports?
The appearance of new varieties of plant life may not have ended on the third creative “day.” It could even have been going on into the sixth “day,” when the Creator “planted a garden in Eden” and “made to grow out of the ground every tree desirable to one’s sight and good for food.” (Genesis 2:8, 9) And, as mentioned, the earth’s atmosphere must have cleared on “day” four, so that more light from the sun and other heavenly bodies reached planet Earth.
The Fifth and Sixth “Days”
During the fifth creative “day,” the Creator proceeded to fill the oceans and the atmospheric heavens with a new form of life—“living souls”—distinct from vegetation. Interestingly, biologists speak, among other things, of the plant kingdom and the animal kingdom, and they divide these into subclassifications. The Hebrew word translated “soul” means “a breather.” The Bible also says that “living souls” have blood. Therefore, we may conclude that creatures having both a respiratory system and a circulatory system—the breathing denizens of the seas and heavens—began to appear in the fifth creative period.—Genesis 1:20; 9:3, 4.
On the sixth “day,” God gave more attention to the land. He created “domestic” animals and “wild” animals, these being meaningful designations when Moses penned the account. (Genesis 1:24) So it was in this sixth creative period that land mammals were formed. What, though, about humans?
The ancient record tells us that eventually the Creator chose to produce a truly unique form of life on earth. He told his heavenly Son: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and the domestic animals and all the earth and every moving animal that is moving upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26) Man would therefore reflect the spiritual image of his Maker, displaying His qualities. And man would be capable of taking in huge amounts of knowledge. Thus, humans could act with an intelligence surpassing that of any animal. Also, unlike the animals, man was made with a capacity to act according to his own free will, not being controlled mainly by instinct.
In recent years, scientists have researched human genes extensively. By comparing human genetic patterns around the earth, they found clear evidence that all humans have a common ancestor, a source of the DNA of all people who have ever lived, including each of us. In 1988, Newsweek magazine presented those findings in a report entitled “The Search for Adam and Eve.” Those studies were based on a type of mitochondrial DNA, genetic material passed on only by the female. Reports in 1995 about research on male DNA point to the same conclusion—that “there was an ancestral ‘Adam,’ whose genetic material on the [Y] chromosome is common to every man now on earth,” as Time magazine put it. Whether those findings are accurate in every detail or not, they illustrate that the history we find in Genesis is highly credible, being authored by One who was on the scene at the time.
What a climax it was when God assembled some of the elements of the earth to form his first human son, whom he named Adam! (Luke 3:38) The historical account tells us that the Creator of the globe and life on it put the man he had made in a gardenlike area “to cultivate it and to take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15) At that time the Creator may still have been producing new animal kinds. The Bible says: “God was forming from the ground every wild beast of the field and every flying creature of the heavens, and he began bringing them to the man to see what he would call each one; and whatever the man would call it, each living soul, that was its name.” (Genesis 2:19) The Bible in no way suggests that the first man, Adam, was merely a mythical figure. On the contrary, he was a real person—a thinking, feeling human—who could find joy working in that Paradise home. Every day, he learned more about what his Creator had made and what that One was like—his qualities, his personality.
Then, after an unspecified period, God created the first woman, to be Adam’s wife. Further, God added greater purpose to their lives with this meaningful assignment: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:27, 28) Nothing can change this declared purpose of the Creator, namely, that the whole earth should be turned into a paradise filled with happy humans living at peace with one another and with the animals.
The material universe, including our planet and life on it, clearly testify to God’s wisdom. So he obviously could foresee the possibility that, in time, some humans might choose to act independently or rebelliously, despite his being the Creator and Life-Giver. Such rebellion could disrupt the grand work of making a global paradise. The record says that God set before Adam and Eve a simple test that would remind them of the need to be obedient. Disobedience, God said, would result in their forfeiting the life that he had given to them. It was caring on the Creator’s part to alert our first ancestors to an erroneous course that would affect the happiness of the whole human race.—Genesis 2:16, 17.
By the close of the sixth “day,” the Creator had done everything necessary to fulfill his purpose. He could rightly pronounce everything he had made “very good.” (Genesis 1:31) At this point the Bible introduces another important time period by saying that God “proceeded to rest on the seventh day from all his work that he had made.” (Genesis 2:2) Since the Creator “does not tire out or grow weary,” why is he described as resting? (Isaiah 40:28) This indicates that he ceased performing works of physical creation; moreover, he rests in the knowledge that nothing, not even rebellion in heaven or on earth, can thwart the fulfillment of his grand purpose. God confidently pronounced a blessing upon the seventh creative “day.” Hence, God’s loyal intelligent creatures—humans and invisible spirit creatures—can be certain that by the end of the seventh “day,” peace and happiness will reign throughout the universe.
Can You Trust the Genesis Record?
But can you really put faith in this account of creation and the prospects it holds out? As we noted, modern genetic research is moving toward the conclusion stated in the Bible long ago. Also, some scientists have taken note of the order of events presented in Genesis. For example, noted geologist Wallace Pratt commented: “If I as a geologist were called upon to explain briefly our modern ideas of the origin of the earth and the development of life on it to a simple, pastoral people, such as the tribes to whom the Book of Genesis was addressed, I could hardly do better than follow rather closely much of the language of the first chapter of Genesis.” He also observed that the order as described in Genesis for the origin of the oceans and the emergence of land, as well as for the appearance of marine life, birds, and mammals, is in essence the sequence of the principal divisions of geologic time.
Consider: How did Moses—thousands of years ago—get that order right if his source of information were not from the Creator and Designer himself?
“By faith,” the Bible states, “we perceive that the universe was fashioned by the word of God, so that the visible came forth from the invisible.” (Hebrews 11:3, The New English Bible) Many are not disposed to accept that fact, preferring to believe in chance or in some blind process that supposedly produced our universe and life.d But, as we have seen, there are many and varied reasons to believe that the universe and terrestrial life—including our life—derives from an intelligent First Cause, a Creator, God.
The Bible frankly acknowledges that “faith is not a possession of all people.” (2 Thessalonians 3:2) However, faith is not credulity. Faith is based on substance. In the next chapter, we will consider additional valid and persuasive reasons why it is possible to put confidence in the Bible and in the Grand Creator, who cares for us personally.
a Energy equals mass multiplied by the speed of light squared.
b The Hebrews counted their day as commencing in the evening and running until the following sunset.
c The Creator could have employed natural processes to lift these waters and keep them aloft. These waters fell in the days of Noah. (Genesis 1:6-8; 2 Peter 2:5; 3:5, 6) This historic event left an indelible mark on the human survivors and their descendants, as anthropologists confirm. We find this event reflected in flood accounts preserved by peoples earth wide.
d For a further study of the history of life-forms on earth, see Life—How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation?, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
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Dust disks, such as this one in galaxy NGC 4261, are evidence of powerful black holes, which cannot be seen. The Bible reports the existence, in another realm, of creatures that are powerful but cannot be seen
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Experiments supported the scientific theory that mass can be converted into energy and energy into mass
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Creative works on “days” one through three made possible vegetation in awesome variety
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The Bible accurately describes in simple terms the sequential appearance of life-forms on earth
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“As a geologist . . . I could hardly do better than follow rather closely much of the language of the first chapter of Genesis.”—Wallace Pratt