THE CREATION DICHOTOMY
March 23, 2008
image: Fire And Ice (cc) Cayusa
I said in the previous theology post that the first day of the creation story shouldn't be understood as the creation of light, but rather the revelation of the light which already existed. Remember -- Genesis 1:1 fully covered the creation of the universe, which appears to have occurred a very long time ago. Given the way we understand how stars and planets formed, to say that light wouldn't exist prior to the creation of earth and the ocean described in Genesis 1:2 makes no sense.
So light is a reference to revelation from God. It was dark, physically, spiritually, and then there was light. But what of the rest of the creation process? Where does the storyteller take us after the illumination? Why, to the things we can can now see.
Day 1: Light.
Day 2: The separation of the atmosphere from the water.
Day 3: The separation of the water from the land, exposing vegetation.
Day 4: Lights in the sky -- the sun, the moon, and the stars.
Day 5: Creatures in the sea and in the sky.
Day 6: Livestock and other land critters, and man.
Day 7: And He rested.
Is this account the order in which God created the items on the list? Does it make sense to say that the sun, moon, and stars were created after the earth's oceans and atmosphere were created? That does seem like an odd interpretation, given the overwhelming scientific evidence against it.
It is interesting to note that the first three days of the story present to us three dichotomies:
- Atmosphere/Ocean (water above, water below)
We're shown sets of pairs, each item in the pair the opposite of the other. At a cursory glance, we see sets of opposites throughout much of the Bible -- Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Israel and the gentiles, Old Testament and New Testament, etc., etc. It can be very easy to conclude a "good/evil" motif in the text, which I believe to be erroneous. I think that the three original pairs of creation each tell their own story.
Light and Darkness
Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. (Gen 1:3-5 NASB)
The "good/evil" motif works with light and darkness, because God Himself is represented by that light. A lack of light (the darkness) gives us a lack of illumination, understanding, and relationship with God. Light is not born of darkness; light is the elimination of darkness. God calls the light good; he says nothing of the darkness.
Atmosphere and the Ocean
Then God said, "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day. (Gen 1:6-8 NASB)
Unlike light and darkness, the atmosphere and the ocean are the same. They are of the same substance, and one is not counted greater than the other. The NASB uses the word "expanse" to describe a foundation or base that sits in the midst of the ocean, supporting the atmosphere above it. In the same way that the text later describes woman coming from man, the atmosphere comes from the ocean.
Most interestingly, this day of creation is the only one throughout the account that God does not say is good. On every other day, the account states that "God saw that it was good." This day is different. Perhaps the separation is not good; perhaps it simply is.
Man and woman are made of the same thing, and the woman is to be lifted up and supported by the man, in the same way Christ lifts up and supports his bride, the Church. This theme is consistent with many passages in the text that place the burden of guilt and responsibility on the man; likewise, Christ bears the burden of guilt on the cross for His bride.
Ocean and Land
Then God said, "Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear"; and it was so. God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. (Gen 1:9-10 NASB)
In this separation, God calls both things good. The separation, the water, and the earth - all good. Earth and water are different, but both necessary. Both, we'll see, are teeming with life -- and both are good. The dry ground provides a firm foundation and a place for man to stand. The seas provide the origin of life. While the text doesn't explicitly state that life begins in the ocean, God's presence over the surface of the waters (Gen 1:2) throws us a hint at the beginnings of God's living handiwork which matches nicely with our understanding of how life came to be.
Three days, three sets of opposites, and each set intrinsically different than the next. This is the creation dichotomy.