Thursday, April 19, 2012

Answers to High Schoolers' Questions About the Earth

Alice C. Linsley

Part 5:  The Creation of Earth
This continues the series on Answers to High Schooler's Questions About Genesis.

Q:  How old is the Earth?

A:  The earth is about 4.5 billion years old. This is based on radiometric age dating of meteorite material and the earth's oldest rocks, and is consistent with lunar samples. Young-Earth Creationists argue that radiometric dating is not reliable because it contradicts what they believe the Bible says about the age of the Earth.  For the sake of argument, let us consider that radiometric calculations are off by 50%. Were this the case (and it is not), the earth would still be over 2 billion years old.  The oldest human fossils are about 3.6 million years.  Again for the sake of argument, let us consider that the carbon dating of the oldest human fossils is off by 50%.  These humans would still have lived over 1 million years ago

Young-Earth Creationists calculate the Earth's age at 6000 years on the basis of ages assigned to the rulers in the Genesis King Lists.  They assume that Bishop James Ussher's scheme is accurate.  However, Ussher didn't recognize that these lists are not generational, but regnal. The reigns of some kings coincided. For example, Tubal-Cain (Gen. 4) and Methuselah (Gen. 5) ruled at the same time.  Further, these rulers had two wives. The first wife was the bride of the ruler-to-be's youth.  The second wife was a patrilineal cousin and this wedding took place shortly before the heir ascended to the throne. This is why Abraham was anxious for Isaac to marry his cousin bride before he died (Gen. 24).

With two wives, there were two first-born sons.  They ascended to different thrones, but the ruling lines intermarried exclusively. Bishop Ussher didn't take this unique marriage and ascendancy pattern into consideration. He apparently was unaware of its importance.

Q:  How many times has God created Earth?

A:  The creation of the Earth was a singular event according to the Bible. John 1:3 says that everything that was created in the beginning was created from nothing (creatio ex nihilo).  In other words, God did not create from pre-existing elements or from the substance of a previous world.

The idea that God created more than one Earth developed out of Greek Philosophy and can be traced to the thought of Anaximander of Miletus (B.C. 610 – 546). He believed that the universe or “all the heavens and the worlds within them” came from “some boundless nature.” Their existence involved the interaction of the four elements of ancient physics: Earth, Water, Air and Fire.

Anaximander speculated that these elements constantly interact to produce new worlds. This is why some thought this world came about as the result of the explosion of a previously existing world.  He hypothesized that the world originated when a firey ball surrounded Earth like bark on a tree. When the ball broke apart it formed other worlds as hollow concentric circles or spirals, filled with fire.

In his first sermon on creation, Basil the Great argued against Anaximander's view that a world is created by the spiraling motion of the four interactive elements.  He declared, "Do not then imagine, O man! that the visible world is without a beginning; and because the celestial bodies move in a circular course, and it is difficult for our senses to define the point where the circle begins, do not believe that bodies impelled by a circular movement are, from their nature, without a beginning." (The Hexaemeron, Homily I)

This idea of previously existing worlds is not found in the Bible. According to the Bible, God fashioned all the worlds from nothing. Hebrews 11:13 says, "By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the Word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible."

Q:  What existed before God created everything?

A:  No matter existed. Only the triune God existed: Christ the Logos and the Spirit of God were one with God the Father. The Holy Trinity is evident in Genesis 1 and was manifested to John the Baptist and his disciples when Jesus was baptised in the Jordan River. (See Matthew 3:16,17; Mark 1:9-11)

Genesis 1:2 speaks of a void (bohu in Hebrew).  This may be the work of Hellenistic Jews who translated the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) into Greek. That version of the Old Testament is called the Septuagint and it appears to be influenced by Greek Philosophy which debated the idea of motion, matter and a void. John Sailhamer makes this point in his book Genesis Unbound.  The Greek-speaking Jews who translated the Old Testament were likely drawing on the thought of Democritus (460 – ca. 370 BC), a ancient philosopher who argued that any movement would require a void.  Since God is the Unmoved Mover, there was movement at the beginning and therefore a void.  This argument has been used to suggest that God as Unmoved Mover is illogical since, as Democritus asserted, a void cannot exist.

Obviously there is a conflict between the Greek and the Semitic worldviews. As Genesis reflects a Nilo-Semitic worldview, we must look for another explanation of the word bohu.

Genesis 1 describes when God began the work of creation. It uses the words tohu (formless or confused) and bohu (empty or void). The Hebrew phrase "formless and void" (Gen. 1: 2) is tohu wa-bohu and is of Nilotic origin. The word tohu in Isaiah 34:11 means "confused" so it appears that Genesis 1 refers to matter in a confused or chaotic state before God set things in order.

In Nilotic mythology chaos or disorder preceded creation. The Egyptians believed that chaos (tehom) dwelt south of Yebu (Elephantine Island) as a great river serpent between the Nile's east (bahku) and west (manu) banks. The word bohu appears to be related to the word bahku, the direction from which the Sun rose and filled the valley with light - And God said, "Let there be light and there was light." (Gen. 1:3)

Q:  How did everything just appear when God spoke?

A:  The Word of God generates life. This is what John explains in the Prologue to his Gospel:  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men." John 1:1-4

Basil the Great explains, "It must be well understood that when we speak of the voice, of the word, of the command of God, this divine language does not mean to us a sound which escapes from the organs of speech, a collision of air struck by the tongue; it is a simple sign of the will of God."  (The Hexaemeron, Homily II)

Q:  Could God have created the world through evolution?

A:  Evolution is an explanation for how species emerge, adapt and survive. Darwin's observations about the complexity, diversity, adaptability and survival of species do not address the question of the origin of matter.  His hypothesis that humans and apes had a common ancestor has never been proven. There is no physical evidence that this is true.

Some Christians believe that God created the different species by the processes described in evolutionary theory. Their view is called "Theistic Evolution" and has grown in popularity among Evangelicals. 

Other theories held by Christians include Intelligent Design, the Framework Theory, Progressive Creationism, Age-Day Creationism, Gap Theory Creationism, and Young-Earth Creationism. These are described here.

Genesis tells us that God created in an orderly fashion over a period of time and according to a plan. It is the work of science to discover the order and the work of theologians and Bible scholars to discern the plan. For Abraham's ancestors the order was perceived as fixed, though they recognized flux within the fixed boundaries. Their acute observation of the patterns in nature suggested a divine plan.

If the biblical worldview is true, no discrepancy should exist between genetics and the biblical assertion that the order of creation is fixed with genetic boundaries between "kinds."  Specific fixed boundaries exist within the DNA code. This explains why humans reproduce humans and not some other animal. Further, while the similarity of humans to apes may suggest a common origin, this common ancestor is not known to have existed.  A common ancestor exists in the imaginations of artists who draw images for Biology books.

Evolutionary theory rests on many unconfirmed and often ludicrous assumptions.  For example, some assume that because nurse sharks and camels share an antigen receptor protein they are descended from a common ancestor. However, the DNA sequences that code for the proteins are different between sharks and camels. 

Q:  Why did God take seven days to create?

A:  Actually,the first creation story says that God created in six days and rested on the seventh.

According to Genesis 1, God created in an orderly fashion over a period of time.  Order implies duration of time.  Consider how time passes as you write the letters of the alphabet in order.  Seconds pass as you draw each on the paper.  Time began to pass, like a ticking clock, from the moment that God created matter and space.

Q:  Were the seven days of creation 24-hour days?

A:  Genesis 1 suggests that the seven days are to be taken as 24-hour days.  However, Genesis 2 says that God created everything in a single day.  In both creation stories the Hebrew word for day is yom. This word is used in the Bible to mean a 24-hour day or an unspecified duration of time.

Q:  When Genesis says "hovered over the waters" does that mean that water existed before God formed the earth? Or was this water over an unformed earth?

A:  According to the ancient Nilotic peoples, the world emerged as a dry mound rising up from the primordial ocean. Because the Sun is essential to life on earth, the first rising of Ra (the Creator whose emblem was the Sun) marked the moment of the world's emergence. This is why God's first words in Genesis are "let there be light" and why St. John says that Christ, the Word, was the real light that was coming into the world. (John 1:9)

Q: How could water come up from the ground if it hadn't rained yet?

A:  Genesis 2:4-6 says "On the day that God made earth and heaven there was as yet no wild bush on the earth nor had any wild plant sprung up for Yahweh God had not sent rain on the earth, nor was there any man to till the soil. Instead, water flowed out of the ground and watered the whole surface of the soil."

This picture of the primeval Earth as a watery world is consistent with the cosmology of Abraham's Nilotic ancestors from whom we receive this account. They believed that the dry ground emerged from a universal ocean.  It is also consistent with scientific findings that suggest that 2.5 billion years ago oceans covered most of the planet. Just 2% to 3% of the Earth's surface would have been dry land, compared with 28% today.

Q: Where was the Garden of Eden?

A:  Eden is described as a vast watery region that extended from the Nile to Mesopotamia.  The writer of Genesis 2-3 says that God prepared a garden somewhere in this region and placed the first humans there.  This is also the region where the oldest human fossils have been found. This is the ancient Afro-Asiatic Dominion and the place of origin of the Genesis rulers and of "him that holds the scepter from the house of Eden" (Amos 1:5).

Genesis 2:10-14 says that Eden was watered by four rivers: the Tigris, the Euphrates, the Pishon and the Gihon. The Tigris and Euphrates are in Mesopotamia and the Pishon and Gihon are in Africa. The Ethiopians identify the Gihon with the Abay River, which encircles the former Kushite kingdom of Gojjam. The Pishon "flows through the whole land of Havilah" (Gen. 2:11). Havilah is a son of Kush (Gen. 10:7) and the "Kushites" lived in the Upper Nile region and the Sudan. Kushite kings also ruled in Egypt.

The description of Eden as a well-watered region is supported by climate and geological studies. These four rivers encompass the heart of the ancient Afro-Asiatic Dominion which was ruled by a network of chief priests. They controlled the major water systems and built shrines along the rivers.

Q: Where do dinosaurs fit in the story of creation?


Dinosaurs are not mentioned in the Genesis creation accounts. These accounts speak of great diversity and an hierarchy within the animal world, but the peoples from whom we receive the creation stories did not have any direct experience of dinosaurs. Likely they had oral traditions about great creatures that once lived on the Earth. They may have associated the avian dinosaur with the serpent-dragon. This dragon was called by the RahuKetu (drawing from the Ancient Egyptian words Ra and Ketu). The avian dinosaurs survived after the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Scientists have identified seven major global and local dinosaur subgroups during the latest Cretaceous period. The large herbivores, such as ceratopsids and hadrosauroids, appear to have been in decline for some time before their extinction. Carnivorous dinosaurs, mid-sized herbivores, and some Asian species appear to have fared better. Their populations were thriving and appear to have disappeared rather suddenly.

The reason for the extinction of the dinosaurs is still a mystery.  However, most scientists believe that their extinction was environment and likely triggered by the impact on Earth of a large asteroid or comet.  Evidence for such events have been identified in the Yucatan and in Siberia. An object 10 kilometers across struck Earth off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula 65 million years ago.

It is believed that this caused dense clouds of dust that blocked the sun's rays. The darker and colder environment caused many plants to die and these were the food source of the large bulk-feeding herbivores.  According to this theory, once the dust cleared greenhouse gases caused temperatures to skyrocket and the frigid and sweltering climatic extremes caused the extinction of up to 70 percent of all plants and animals living at the time.

Another theory involves global volcanic activity. Massive beds of ancient lava found around the world depict an Earth where volcanic eruptions were commonplace. According to this theory, volcanic activity spewed gas, ash, and dust into the atmosphere, blocking light from the sun. Plant production plummeted, and dinosaurs that were poorly adapted to the harsh conditions perished.

Related reading: YEC Dogma is NOT BiblicalTehut's Victory Over Tehom; Bishop Ussher Goofed; The Nilotic Substrata of Genesis 1; Biblical Anthropologists Discuss Darwin


DDeden said...

Interesting parallels, Kush/Goshen/Gojjam/Gihon/Cohen/Coptcian/Egyptian;

udan/sudan (black soil)/hujan (rain in Malay)/eden/danu/dhennu/
udar/udra/hadra/hydor (water related)

Alice Linsley said...

Indeed. The linguistic connections suggest the existence of an older Proto-language(s) with probably about 70 single and 2-consonant roots.