Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):

Harmonizing Genesis 1
 (and Determining When the Messiah Might Return)

Noel Rude (As Edited by John D. Keyser)

There is an apparent contradiction in Genesis -- seemingly the atheists' favorite. For if you go to their websites the following typically heads the list: In Genesis 1 the birds and fish are created first, then the beasts of the land, and last of all Man and Woman. But in Genesis 2 Man is created first then the beasts and birds, and last of all Woman. 2

One way to resolve this conflict is to translate with the pluperfect in Genesis 2. Thus the NIV has (Gen 2:19): "Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air." But the verb here is a vav-consecutive, which is what ordinarily codes events in sequence. 3 Here are the relevant verses (Gen 2:18-19) from the King James with each vav-consecutive in bold.

18 And the LORD God said,
It is not good that the man should be alone;
I will make him an help meet for him.

19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed
every beast of the field,
and every fowl of the air;
and brought them unto Adam
to see what he would call them:
and whatsoever Adam called every living creature,
that was the name thereof.

The most natural reading is that first YEHOVAH God said what He was going to do, then He did it -- He formed the creatures -- and then He brought them to Adam to name.

Another Way of Harmonization

When things were brought forth and/or named in Genesis 1, this is not necessarily the beginning of their existence. For example, the dry land appears on the third day and is named "Earth" (Gen 1:9-10), yet it was already there at the beginning (Gen 1:2): "And the earth was without form..." And when YEHOVAH God says on the fourth day (Gen 1:14), "Let there be lights in the firmament...", this cannot mean that these luminaries were not already there on the first day -- else how do we explain the progression of day and night the first three days (Gen 1:5, 8,13)?

Genesis 1:14 must be understood in view of its purpose clause, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night..." The same could be said for Adam in verse 26 (Gen 1:26), "And God said, Let us make man in our image..." The primary assertion in Genesis 1:27, for example, is not, "And God created man," but rather, "And God created man in his image..." Therefore one also might interpret Genesis such that Adam actually originates earlier than the end of the sixth day.

The creation of the creatures begins with YEHOVAH's declaration on the 5th day (Gen 1:20), "Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life..." The very first "life" would have been Adam, which is what Paul appears to have in mind when he writes of Adam-Christ (Col 1:15), "Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature". Adam is formed first before any other creature, whereas last of all on the 6th day he and his bridle are made in the image of YEHOVAH God.

The Days of the Messiah are Two Thousand Years

There is a famous saying attributed to Elijah the prophet that is found in the Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 97a-b; Abodah Zarah 9a-b):

The words of Elijah were considered:
The world endures six thousand years --
tohu two thousand,
Torah two thousand,
the days of the messiah two thousand.

When James Ussher calculated Adam's creation as occurring exactly four millennia before the Messiah's birth, he was evidently guided by this interpretation of Genesis. 4 Today he is ridiculed at every mention of his name, something even the late Stephen Jay Gould considered unworthy (Gould 1991): "Ussher represented the best of scholarship in his time. He was part of a substantial research tradition, a large community of intellectuals working toward a common goal under an accepted methodology...Today we rightly reject a cardinal premise of that methodology -- belief in biblical inerrancy..." Gould was definitely mistaken to reject the authority of Scripture, but he was right about Ussher.

Thus in Genesis the six days of work represent six thousand years of YEHOVAH's labor and the Sabbath the millennium of His rest (Revelation 20:1-6). Church historian Jean Danielou (1964) sees such imagery based on Genesis as permeating early Jewish Christianity and the New Testament.

And so the tohu -- this word is from Genesis 1:2, "'And the earth was void (Hebrew tohu)..." -- is seen as extending to the beginning of the third day when YEHOVAH God says (verses 9-10), "...and let the dry land appear...And God called the dry land Earth..." Hebrew eretz '"earth" is better translated "land", as when YEHOVAH laments the destruction coming on Judah (Jer 4:23), "I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form..." Here the wording is exactly as in Genesis. Prototypically the "land" is the land of Israel, as in Rev 12:16, "And the earth helped the woman..."

Thus the tohu that was about to return to the land in Jeremiah 4 is what afflicted the land from Adam until the coming of Abraham at the beginning of the third millennium -- this is the ancient rabbinical interpretation. 5 Then begins the two millennia of Torah (teaching), and in this light we might read Luke 16:16, "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it."

The two millennia of the Messiah equate with Adam in the Garden with YEHOVAH God naming the creatures as they are brought forth on the 5th and 6th days of creation, and from a New Testament perspective we can see the Messiah at the right hand of the Father in heaven for the last two millennia.

Genesis 1, however, is from the perspective of Adam and Eve being given dominion over all the creation just before the onset of the seventh day/millennium, in which light also we might see the Messiah's words in Mark 2:27-28, "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath." Think Genesis 1:28: "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and [fill] the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion..."

The most quoted and alluded to scripture in the New Testament is Psalms 110:1 -- "The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." If Paul, for example, did not understand this to mesh with the 5th and 6th days in Genesis, there is the fact that nearly two millennia have now passed wherein our Lord has remained at the right hand of his Father in Heaven. Nevertheless he is prophesied to sit upon his own throne in Jerusalem (Luke 1:32): "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David..." And when he does he will say (Rev 3:21), "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne; even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne."

Why Two Perspectives?

Why would YEHOVAH God provide us with two seemingly contradictory perspectives on the creation? The answer is that YEHOVAH speaks to us via human language. Only in the ineffable, mystical experience does one (so it is said) encounter the whole of reality at once. But we meet the God of Israel through his Bible, and the human mind and language are such that reality is grasped bit by bit and from varying perspectives none of which are entirely complete in themselves. One cannot take a picture, for example, without positioning the camera somewhere. And for a more complete picture we often take photographs from more than one angle. So it is in Scripture,

The ancient rabbis saw a clue as to the differing perspectives offered by the two accounts of creation in the names employed for YEHOVAH God. God, throughout Genesis 1, is Elohim, which is observed to be associated with justice, and beginning in Genesis 2 the Tetragrammaton (YHVH) is added, which is understood to be associated with mercy. Thus, for example, many cite Exodus 21:6 -- "Then his master shall bring him unto the judges..." -- where elohim is translated as "judges". 6 And then Exodus 34:6 connects YHVH with mercy: "And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth."

From the perspective of justice each step of the creation appears perfected -- seven times in Genesis 1 YEHOVAH God pronounces things "good". But from the perspective of Genesis 2 we see behind the scenes where everything is not necessarily good all at once (verse 18), "It is not good that the man should be alone... " Or as Paul puts it in Ephesians 5:32, "This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church."

And so the atheists' favorite contradiction can be answered from more than one perspective, and the book they scoff at turns out to be more subtle then they suspect.

Notes:

1. This article appeared in ACTS 58.3 (March 2008), pp. 3-6, 15. ACTS is a publication of the Church of God, 7th Day, which is headquartered in Meridian, Idaho.

2. See, for example, the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/accounts.html); Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bible_contradictions); http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html; http://www.krysstal.com/contradi.html; etc. Self professed "skeptics" invariably believe passionately and dogmatically in a whole host of things -- most notably that the Bible is false and that Darwinism is true.

3.  See, for example, Weingreen (1959:90).

4. See Leeman (1977) and Barr (1984-85).

5. See, for example, Nachmanides commentary to Genesis 2:3, which is available in the original Hebrew with English translation and commentary in Bulman et al (2004).

6. Interpreting Elohim as judges is old here -- the Septuagint has, "his lord will bring him to the judgment-seat of God," and Targum Onqelos has, "And his master will bring him before the judges..." Compare, however, JPS 1917, "then his master shall bring him unto God," and JPS 1985, "his master shall take him before God."

References:

Barr, James. 1984-85. Why the World Was Created in 4004 BC: Archbishop Ussher and Biblical Chronology. Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 67:575-608.

Bulman, Yehudah, Avie Gold, Avrohorn Kleinkaufman, eds. 2004. RAMBAN -- Bereishis Volume 1: Chapters 1-25. The Torah with Ramban's Commentary translated, annotated, and Elucidated. ArtScroll.

Danielou, Jean. 1964. The Theology of Jewish Christianity. The Development of, Christian Doctrine Before the Council of Nicaea, Volume One. Translated and edited by John A. Baker. Chicago: The Henry Regnery Company.

Gould, Stephen Jay.1991.  Fall in the House of Ussher. Natural History 100 (November 1991): 12-2 1. Appears as Chapter 12 in Gould's (1993) book, Eight Little Piggies (New York: W.W. Norton & Company).

Leeman, Saul. 1977. Was Bishop Ussher's Chronology Influenced by a Midrash? Semeia 8:1. 27-129.

Weingreen, Jacob. 1959. A Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew. Oxford University Press.

 

Hope of Israel Ministries -- Preparing the Way for the Return of YEHOVAH God and His Messiah!

Hope of Israel Ministries
P.O. Box 2186
Temple City, CA 91780, U.S.A.
www.hope-of-israel.org