“For God so loved the world…”
Wait, that’s not now this starts.
Interestingly enough, yesterday, the first day that I wrote anything for this project was March 16th, 2014. 3/16. Or 3:16, for those of you familiar with the famous verse in John. I have no access to the Internet as I write this, so there may be a time difference between the writing date and the posting date. And so we begin with…
THE FIRST BOOK OF MOSES CALLED
“In the beginning” is a pretty good way to start any text, especially one that appears to be concerned with life, the universe, and everything. It is interesting that just yesterday, a Jehovah’s witness stopped by my house. He is an older gentleman and a man I have met often. I like him and I respect him and I hope he returns. Yesterday he gave me a copy of their publication, called “Awake!” which, appropriately enough, discusses “The Untold Story of Creation” as its main feature.
According to this pamphlet, here’s a rough outline of what the Jehovah’s witnesses believe about God and about the introduction of Genesis.
a) “is a person, an individual. He is not a vague force devoid of personality, floating aimlessly throughout the universe.” I’ve thought of God for quite some time as a force, but not as one devoid of personality. Perhaps I just haven’t given thought to what an infinitely powerful spiritual body would look like. In a way, God could have a spiritual body the size of the universe, and thus be “everywhere” so to speak. Anyway, let’s move on.
b) “has infinite power and wisdom. This explains the complex design found everywhere in creation, especially in living things.” Natural laws appear to account for this complexity as well but I am getting so far ahead of myself…
c) “created all physical matter. Hence, he (sic?) cannot be made of physical elements that he (sic?) himself (sic again?) created. Rather he (sic?) is of a spiritual, or non-physical, nature.” This is interesting to me. It has no scripture cited but this would explain why we feel God, via what some call the Holy Spirit, but we cannot study or test for God using scientific instrumentation. Also, I guess society has really drilled this into me because I feel weird referring to God without capitalizing His pronouns. I’ll have to ask the JW about that next time I talk to them.
d) “has always existed and will always exist.”
e) “has a personal name […] Jehovah.”
f) “loves and cares for humans.”
Alright, so that seems pretty straightforward. Regarding Genesis, the pamphlet also says that the Bible “frequently uses the term ‘day’ to designate various periods of time. In some cases these periods are of an unspecified length.” The man who came to my door likened this to saying “In the days of my fathers,” or “In the days of my youth.” So he, and apparently JW doctrine, assert that the days of creation are not literal 24-hour days, but instead extended periods.
Now I looked up a “Skeptic’s Annotated Bible” on my smartphone, and boy, do they rip into Genesis 1. Their website (skepticsannotatedbible.com) calls the creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2 “contradictory” and flat out states that it “conflicts with the order of events that are known to science.”
Now scientific research and observation tells us that the universe was likely created in a sudden expansion of material some billions of years ago, I believe somewhere to the tune of 13 or 14 billion years. The common age of the earth is estimated to be around 4 to 5 billion years. So the universal beginning, commonly referred to as “the Big Bang,” caused all this material to spread and spread and spread and potentially actually spread the fabric of spacetime itself. I’m not a physicist so I have no idea how that even works or what that would even mean. But universe starts small and gets bigger. Yay!
Until recently, we had very little conception of how planets and stars might form. It would seem like gravity would take way too long to gather enough random floating dust to create a planet, much less a star or collection of stars. A recent demonstration of static electricity aboard the ISS showed that in the absence of gravity, objects, in this case, grains of salt, get attracted to each other via the electromagnetic force. In the absence of gravity, static suddenly becomes a really big deal. So, perhaps the planets and stars, etc., formed in this way.
THE FIRST DAY
So on “day” one, the heavens and earth are created. Is that, “Heaven” heaven? Apparently not yet, according to the New King James Version. So maybe it’s just the sky?
Even though God created the heavens and earth at the same time, the earth is described as being “without form, and void.” I made dinner! Oh, where is it? Well, it’s without form. But I made it.
So what does this mean? Could God have created the idea of the earth, created the path by which He knew the earth would form? Or by which He would later form it?
In case you didn’t read the about page, I’m interpreting the Bible as I see fit, and not literally. Also, I didn’t expect this to be a play-by-play of verses, but with Genesis 1, how can I not?
Anyway, so earth is formless. But there are “waters.” Somewhere. Anyway, now we get to the good stuff.
“Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” Genesis 1:3, God creates light. Now if we mean literal physical light, then on the first day, God created photons. So I like my idea of: the heavens are created, that’s spacetime, and the earth is created, without form, so I guess maybe even just as energy, which will begin coalescing into matter right about… now! So there was light, and “it was good.” Sounds good. So we have light EVERYWHERE, because it’s not until Genesis 1:4 that God separates it from the darkness.
So maybe we have, the all the light and energy from the Big Bang, and then a moment later (or whatever) there are areas of the “heavens” without light. So later in the “day” we have empty space. Which isn’t really empty, yadda yadda yadda, I know, but this isn’t a physics textbook.
THE SECOND DAY
“A firmament in the midst of the waters”? So what’s a firmament? The New International Version uses the word “vault.” NKJV says that the firmament was called Heaven, with a capital H. The NIV says that the vault was called sky. Oh, boy…. And so it begins….
There are waters above and below this firmament, apparently.
THE THIRD DAY
So, here God separates the water from the land. So we have “Earth” and we have “Seas.” Or in the NIV, we have “land” and “seas.” The JW gentleman said that he’s going to bring me a copy of their translation of the Bible, which is written in plain modern English, translated as best anyone can tell from older Greek and Hebrew texts. I can’t wait to see that one.
But I digress. So on this “day” we get plants. Grasses, trees, and fruits, to yield seed “according to their kind.” So we have some biology now: life creating life. Apple trees do not bear seeds that grow peach trees, and vice versa, and so on and so on.
And everything is pretty good. Haha.
THE FOURTH DAY
So today we have day divided from night, and the Sun and the Moon are created. At least, that’s the implication, since it never says “sun” or “moon” anywhere in here. But it is pretty heavily implied since the lights are “‘for signs and seasons, and for days and years.'” So sayeth the Lord, Genesis 1:14. Some people interpret this as astrology, at least the “signs” bit. But anyway. Signs, seasons, days, years. So this is how we figure out a calendar. This is how we figure out holidays. Etc., etc.
The JW pamphlet states that on the fourth day, “the sun and moon become discernable [emphasis added] from the earth’s surface.” So, their interpretation is that prior to this, the atmosphere of the earth was such that they were not visible. Now it seems that in the early days of the earth, there were clouds of dust and volcanic ash, violent storms, and the like. But there probably wouldn’t have been plants at this time, at least not as we know them. If there were plants before the “sun and moon [became] discernable” then they would be little rinky-dink single-celled organisms. At least, in my opinion and understanding. But whatever.
One of the main things I talked about with the JW gentleman is that the Bible doesn’t need to be a science textbook. There is a difference between physical and spiritual things, as elaborated upon by their pamphlet describing God’s spiritual body. The Bible is a great book, but its concern is with spiritual matters. It is not a medical text, a science text, a biology text, and so on. Can we learn some things from it, or at least compare it to what our observation of the world tells us? I’ve believed for a long time that it would be a cruel or mischievous God that makes a universe that operates on a series of natural laws that are designed to trick and confuse its inhabitants (humans). And I don’t believe that God is like that; I don’t believe God would punish people for having the audacity to better understand how creation works. If you put an animal in an enclosure, it’ll probably try and assess the limits and contents of its domain, and humans are no different.
Anyway, day four, everybody.
THE FIFTH DAY
So now we have animal life in the waters, and birds in the skies. For some reason, birds come before land animals in Genesis 1. Modern birds appear to have evolved (gasp, I said it!) from dinosaurs as far as we can tell, and so likely came much later in this process. But again, not a science book.
THE SIXTH DAY
Now we get animals and beasts of the earth. Things again reproduce according to their kind. Perhaps this is where some of the evolutionary criticism comes from. If things reproduce according to their kind, then how can anything evolve? Anyone ever breed dogs? Or cattle? Or anything?
Given time and careful breeding, it’s possible to get something different from what one starts with. So even though it’s not in the Bible because who would have understood it when this book was written (or transcribed, or whatever), there is such a thing as mutation and genetic variation within a breed or species… and over time….
But here’s the first thing that made me go, “Huh?”
Genesis 1:26. “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” So I find the first-person plural interesting. God basically says “Let’s do this thing,” but who’s the “Us”? Not, “Let Me,” but “Let Us”. So perhaps this involves the idea of the trinity, what people would call a Godhead. That God is one but also more than one. Or maybe I’m complicating the narrative.
So anyway, God makes man. This is not really shown as that big of a deal… He “created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27.
Wait, what? And then He tells them to go and have kids and be fruitful and he just gives everything to man! God gives man the herbs and the plants and the animals and He says, that man should “fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over […] every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Now this is a lot of responsibility to give one’s children or creations! Take care of the whole world! Be good!
But at least Genesis 1:27 might provide the answer to “Who was Cain’s (or any Old Testament man’s) wife?” Because apparently God just created a bunch of people!
And that wraps up the first six days of creation. Genesis 1.
Anyone who can provide insight or opinions or interpretations, please do so below! This is a project of discourse and understanding, as best I can accomplish it. Full disclosure, I am a man often swayed by logic, or at least by things that appear to make logical sense when held up to scrutiny. If this logic happens to come in the form of verses, so be it. I’m just trying to learn.
Peace be upon you.