(1.) the act by which God calls into existence things not previously in being-material or spiritual, visible or invisible, Ps 148:5; Re 4:11; (2.) the molding or reconstituting things, the elements of which previously existed; and (3.) the things thus "created and made," 2Pe 3:4; Re 3:14; 5:13. It is probably in the first of these senses the word "created" is to be understood in Ge 1:1, though some understand it in the second sense. In either case the idea of the eternity of matter is to be rejected, as contrary to sound reason and to the teachings of Scripture, Pr 8:22-31; Joh 1:1-3; Heb 11:3.
Creation is exclusively the work of God. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are each in turn named as its author, Isa 40:28; Col 1:16; Ge 2:2. It is a work the mysteries of which no finite mind can apprehend; and yet, as it reveals to us the invisible things of God, Ro 1:20, we may and ought to learn what he reveals respecting it not only in revelation, but in his works. These two volumes are from the same divine hand, and cannot but harmonize with each other. The Bible opens with an account of the creation unspeakably majestic and sublime. The six days there spoken of have usually been taken for our present natural days; but modern geological researches have given rise to the idea that "day" here denotes a longer period. The different rocks of our globe lie in distinct layers, the comparative age of which is supposed to have been ascertained. Only the most recent have been found to contain human remains. Older layers present in turn different fossil remains of animals and plants, many of them supposed to be now extinct. These layers are deeply imbedded beneath the present soil, and yet appear to be formed of matter washed into the bed of some primeval sea, and hardened into rock. Above this may lie numerous other strata of different materials, but which appear to have been deposited in the same manner, in the slow lapse of time. These layers are also thrown up and penetrated all over the world by rocks of still earlier formations, apparently once in a melted state.
There are several modes of reconciling these geological discoveries with the statements of Scripture: First, that the six days of Ge 1.1-31 denote six long epochs-periods of alternate progressive formation and revolution on the surface of the earth. To the Lord "a thousand years are as one day," Ps 90:2,4; 2Pe 3:5-10; Re 20. Secondly, that the long epochs indicated in the geological structure of the globe occurred before the Bible account commences, or rather in the interval between the first and second verses of Ge 1. According to this interpretation, Ge 1:2 describes the state of the earth at the close of the last revolution it experienced, preparatory to God's fitting it up for the abode of man as described in the verses following. Thirdly, that God compressed the work of those untold ages into six short days, and created the world as he did Adam, in a state of maturity, embodying in its rocks and fossils those rudimental forms of animal and vegetable life which seem naturally to lead up to the existing forms.
The "Creature" and "the whole creation," in Ro 8:19-22, may denote the irrational and inferior creation, which shall be released from the curse, and share in the glorious liberty of the sons of God, Isa 11:6; 35:1; 2Pe 3:7-13. The bodies of believers, now subject to vanity, are secure of full deliverance at the resurrection-"the redemption of our body," Ro 8:23.
In the beginning God created, i.e., called into being, all things out of nothing. This creative act on the part of God was absolutely free, and for infinitely wise reasons. The cause of all things exists only in the will of God. The work of creation is attributed (1) to the Godhead (Ge 1:1,26); (2) to the Father (1Co 8:6); (3) to the Son (Joh 1:3; Col 1:16-17); (4) to the Holy Spirit (Ge 1:2; Job 26:13; Ps 104:30). The fact that he is the Creator distinguishes Jehovah as the true God (Isa 37:16; 40:12-13; 54:5; Ps 96:5; Jer 10:11-12). The one great end in the work of creation is the manifestation of the glory of the Creator (Col 1:16; Re 4:11; Ro 11:36). God's works, equally with God's word, are a revelation from him; and between the teachings of the one and those of the other, when rightly understood, there can be no contradiction.
Traditions of the creation, disfigured by corruptions, are found among the records of ancient Eastern nations. (See Accad.) A peculiar interest belongs to the traditions of the Accadians, the primitive inhabitants of the plains of Lower Mesopotamia. These within the last few years have been brought to light in the tablets and cylinders which have been rescued from the long-buried palaces and temples of Assyria. They bear a remarkable resemblance to the record of Genesis.
Illustration: Clay Tablet with Assyrian Account of Creation
Science and revelation being from the same God cannot be mutually opposed. But either, or both, may be misinterpreted; and there have been as many false interpretations of the book of nature as of revelation. As the Copernican theory was ultimately found not to militate against, but to harmonize with, Scripture, when the language of the latter was better understood; so no real scientific discovery ever since has been found adverse to full belief in revelation, when the latter has been better understood. The full knowledge of both has ever advanced side by side. The Bible, having not scientific but religious truth for its object, speaks in phenomenal language, which in part even the scientific have to do, as in the phrases sunrise and sunset. Creation, in the strict sense of the first origination of being out of nothing, does not come within the scope of science.
It is by the Bible alone, and through faith we understand that the worlds were framed (fitly formed) by the word of God, so that not (as, from the analogy of things reproduced from previously existing and visible materials, one naturally would suppose) out of things which appear hath that which is seen been made" (Heb 11:3). No human being was witness of creation (Job 38:4). Geology traces ages ascending backward, marked by animal and vegetable existence, less and less highly organized the further back we go; but at last comes to a point beyond which it has no light, and I must fall back on revelation and faith for information. "In the beginning God created" the world, "the heaven and the earth" (Ge 1:1): "In the beginning the Word WAS" (Joh 1:1). Bara', "created," used of creating (1) the universe; (2) the sea monsters whose vastness causes amazement at God's power; (3) man, in the image of God (Ge 1:27).
Everywhere else God "makes" ('asah), as from an already created material, the firmament, sun and stars, and the brute (Ge 1:7,16,25), or "forms" (yaatsar) beasts out of the ground (Ge 2:19), and "builds up" (Ge 2:22 margin) the woman of the rib from man. The three verbs occur together (Isa 43:7). Bara' is confined to GOD's acts; the other two verbs are used also of man's acts. Though bara' extends to other acts of God besides the original creation, it is only in a secondary application, without reference to preexisting materials; still, except in the original creation, they are not excluded. Moreover, the contextual "in the beginning" can only mean an absolute beginning, in contrast to the previous nonexistence of the world and sole existence of the Creator.
This creation of all things out of nothing distinguishes the Bible from all pagan cosmogonies and philosophical speculations, which make matter eternal. The Creator's mode of "creating" is not revealed, but simply the fact, that it was by the putting forth of His will. Two narratives of creation, the latter (Ge 2:4, etc.) the supplement to the former (Genesis 1-2:), appear at the forefront as the basis of the Bible revelation. That in Ge 2:4, etc., evidently continues and recapitulates that in Genesis 1-2:3, in order to prepare the way for the account of paradise and man's fall. The first gives a clear summary of creation, man included, down to the sabbath rest from creation. The second concentrates attention on man. Accordingly, in the first Elohim (from 'alah "strong"), the name for the mighty God of creation in general, appears. In the second Jehovah (Yahweh, the personal God in covenant relation to man, the unchanging "I AM."
To mark the identity of this personal Jehovah with the Elohim of the previous part, the two, the personal and the generic names, are joined, Jehovah-Elohim "the Lord God." The mighty Elohim who created all things is also the Jehovah, who from the days of paradise down to the days of Moses, the writer of the pentateuch, has been in personal and unchangeable covenant relation with His people. Moreover, Jehovah, being derived from hawah, the Syriac and Chaldee for the Hebrew hayah "to be," must have come down from a time prior to the separation of the Hebrew from the Aramaeans, i.e., prior to Abraham (for Syriac was soon after quite distinct from Hebrew, Ge 31:47). The accounts of creation and of the construction of the tabernacle resemble each other (the world being God's great tabernacle, Psalm 19); the general plan first (Genesis 1), then the actual creation of the first pair, Eden, etc., next.
Scripture's design being to unfold redemption, only so much of the natural world is set forth as is needed for that design. Genesis 1 is not so much a full narrative of details as a revelation of the scheme in the Creator's mind, the archetype of the actual (Ge 2:4-5; Gesenius, Targum, and Syriac). "Now no plant of the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprouted forth, for the Lord God had not caused it to ram," etc. The earth already had brought forth grass (Ge 1:11); but no cultivated land and no vegetables fit for man's use existed yet; "plant," "field," "grew," do not occur in Genesis 1. In the pattern of the tabernacle shown on the mount the description begins with the furniture of the tabernacle, then goes on to the priests, and ends with the sabbatical law. So, in creation, the process begins with the lower creatures, plants, and animals, then, man, creation's priest, Eden, and lastly the sabbath.
Ge 1:1 teaches the religious truth needed for a right knowledge of God, that the world is not eternal, that God created it in the beginning; when that beginning was it does not state. But the high antiquity of the earth is expressly taught in Ps 90:2, where God's formation of "the earth" in general is distinguished from that of "the (Hebrew tebel) habitable world," Greek oikoumenee (Ps 102:25; Pr 8:22). Geology shows that creation occupied immense ages, but that man's creation was its closing act and at a comparatively recent date. Two views are held as to Genesis 1: The one that between Gen.1:1 and Gen.1:2 intervened the vast geological periods, and that these are undescribed in Genesis 1; and that Ge 1:2 describes the chaotic state which succeeded the last geological period before the earth's preparation for man; and that the description of the six days refers to this preparation.
If the seventh day sabbath in Ge 2:2 be an ordinary day, then the six days must be ordinary days and this view is favored. But geology seems to oppose any such state of the earth intervening between the preceding age and that of man's creation as could be described as" without form (desolate) and void." No universal convulsion (IF these words are to be pressed literally) separates the present orders of life from those preceding. No one series of stratified rocks is void of traces of life. Thus, we seem led to the conclusion (2) that the stage in the earth's progress when it became surrounded with chaotic waters (how long after "the beginning" we know not), described in Ge 1:2, is that which existed before the arrangement of its surface took place. (But see below.) The sabbath of God is described in Hebrew 3-4, as not yet ended; it will last until He who sitteth on the throne shall say, "Behold I make all things new."
God's creating this dark and desolate state of the earth was not in vain, but that in due time it might be "inhabited" (Isa 45:18). It was no "fortuitous concourse of atoms," or "laws of nature" acting independently of the continually active divine will of their Author. "The Spirit of God" as the Giver of life "brooded ('moved') upon the waters." Then began organic life, at first in the lower types. Sir W. Jones (Asiatic Researches) states that the Indian philosophers similarly believed (doubtless from the primitive tradition) that water was the first element and work of the creative power. "The waters are called Nara, since they are the offspring of Nera or Iwara, and thence was Narayana named, because His first moving was upon them. THAT WHICH IS (the exact meaning of the I AM or JEHOVAH), the invisible Cause eternal, self-existing, but unperceived, is Brahma."
This address of Menu, Brahma's son, to the sages who consulted him concerning the formation of the world, evidently corresponds with the revelation i
One of the most convincing proofs of the composite authorship of the Pentateuch has always been found in the existence side by side of two independent and mutually irreconcilable accounts of the creation of the world. The first, Ge 1:1 to Ge 2:4 a, forms the introduction of the Priestly Code (Priestly Narrative), which was compiled, as is now generally acknowledged, in the 5th cent. b.c. The second, Ge 2:4 bff., opens the Jahwistic document (Jahwist), whose latest portions must be dated at least a century and a half earlier than the compilation of Priestly Narrative. These two narratives, while expressing the same fundamental religious ideas, differ profoundly in their concrete conceptions of the process of creation. The account of Priestly Narrative starts with a description (Ge 2:2) of the primeval chaos
This word is principally applied to the act of bringing things into existence that did not exist before. This is expressed in Heb 11:3: "things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." It is also applied to making new things out of material already in existence, thus, though man was 'made' of the dust of the ground, Ge 2:7, he is also said to have been created, the same Hebrew word, bara, being used in Ge 1:1 for the creation of the world, that is used in Ge 5:1-2, for the creation of man. The passage in Heb. 11 is important, because as men have no idea how anything can be brought into existence from nothing, they have talked of 'the eternity of matter;' the passage says it is 'by faith we understand' that the worlds were made by the word of God, so that seen things were not made of what is apparent.
The discoveries made by geologists of the various strata of the earth, the fossils found therein, together with the time that would necessarily be required for the formation of those strata, raised a cry that scripture must be incorrect in saying all was done in seven days. This led Christians to compare these works of God in creation with His words in scripture; and the principal question resolved itself into this: where in scripture could be found the many thousands of years which were apparently needed under ordinary circumstances for the formation of the strata? Putting aside the theories of the geologists, the facts are undeniable. There are the various beds of different substances in layers, which any one can see for themselves.
There are two ways in which Christians who have studied the subject hold that all difficulties are overcome.
1. That a long gap, of as many thousands of years as were necessary for the formation of the earth's crust, may be placed between verses 1 and 2 of Gen. 1. That Ge 1:1 refers to the original creation of the heaven and earth out of nothing; that the different beds were formed with the varying objects that are found therein as fossils, occupying a very long period. Then in Ge 1:2 another condition is found: the earth by some means had become without form and void.* It was then ordered in view of the creation of man; and the various things were arranged and formed in the six days as detailed in Gen. 1, as they are now found in and on the earth.
*Some suppose this to have been the work of Satan.
The principal objection to this is, that though there had been upheavals, depressions, earthquakes, sudden deaths, as evidenced by the contortions of fishes, in some of the early strata, there is no appearance after the various beds had been formed of what would answer to Ge 1:2, which says "the earth was without form and void."
2. The other theory is that Ge 1:1 and Ge 1:2 refer to the formation of the earth as matter, or that Ge 1:1 refers to the creation of the earth, and that Ge 1:2 refers to its being disordered by some means, as in the above theory, but that the various beds were formed with the fossils found therein during the six days recorded in Gen. 1; and that the days were of any needed indefinite length. It has been shown that the first things named as on the earth were grass and herbs, and these are always found in the lowest beds; and the other things created are found exactly in the same order upwards from the lowest, until man appears. These, in short, form three divisions: plants in the lowest beds; reptiles in the middle; mammals in the highest, with man the most recent. It is also asserted that no break has been discovered, as would be the case if after the beds had been formed destruction had come in, and an entirely new work of creation had begun again in what is recorded in Gen. 1. Many of the existing species are contemporaneous with those that we know have ceased to exist. It is maintained that the term 'day' is often used for indefinite periods of time in scripture, and therefore may be so in Gen. 1; that they refer to God's days, and not to natural days, seeing that 'the evening and the morning' are spoken of before the sun, which naturally causes the evening and morning. Also that it is not consistent to hold that God's rest on the seventh day only alluded to 24 hours.
(The creation of all things is ascribed in the Bible to God, and is the only reasonable account of the origin of the world. The method of creation is not stated in Genesis, and as far as the account there is concerned, each part of it may be, after the first acts of creation, by evolution, or by direct act of God's will. The word create (bara) is used but three times in the first chapter of Genesis-- (1) as to the origin of matter; (2) as to the origin of life; (3) as to the origin of man's soul; and science has always failed to do any of these acts thus ascribed to God. All other things are said to be made. The order of creation as given in Genesis is in close harmony with the order as revealed by geology, and the account there given, so long before the records of the rocks were read or the truth discoverable by man, is one of the strongest proofs that the Bible was inspired by God. --Ed.)
CREATION, in its primary import, signifies the bringing into being something which did not exist before. The term is therefore most generally applied to the original production of the materials whereof the visible world is composed. It is also used in a secondary or subordinate sense, to denote those subsequent operations of the Deity upon the matter so produced, by which the whole system of nature, and all the primitive genera of things, received their forms, qualities, and laws. The accounts of the creation of the world which have existed among different nations, are called Cosmogonies. Moses's is unquestionably the most ancient; and had it no other circumstance to recommend it, its superior antiquity alone would give it a just claim to our attention. It is evidently Moses's intention to give a history of man, and of religion, and an account of creation. In the way in which he has detailed it, it would have been foreign to his plan, had it not been necessary to obviate that most ancient and most natural species of idolatry, the worship of the heavenly bodies. His first care, therefore, is to affirm decidedly, that God created the heavens and the earth; and then he proceeds to mention the order in which the various objects of creation were called into existence. First of all, the materials, of which the future universe was to be composed, were created. These were jumbled together in one indigested mass, which the ancients called chaos, and which they conceived to be eternal; but which Moses affirms to have been created by the power of God. The materials of the chaos were either held in solution by the waters, or floated in them, or were sunk under them; and they were reduced into form by the Spirit of God moving upon the face of the waters. Light was the first distinct object of creation; fishes were the first living things; man was last in the order of creation.
2. The account given by Moses is distinguished by its simplicity. That it involves difficulties which our faculties cannot comprehend, is only what might be expected from a detail of the operations of the omnipotent mind, which can never be fully understood but by the Being who planned them. Most of the writers who come nearest to Moses in point of antiquity have favoured the world with cosmogonies; and there is a wonderful coincidence in some leading particulars between their accounts and his. They all have his chaos; and they all state water to have been the prevailing principle before the arrangement of the universe began. The systems became gradually more complicated, as the writers receded farther from the age of primitive tradition; and they increased in absurdity in proportion to the degree of philosophy which was applied to the subject. The problem of creation has been said to be, "Matter and motion being given, to form a world;" and the presumption of man has often led him to attempt the solution of this intricate question. But the true problem was, "Neither matter nor motion being given, to form a world." At first, the cosmogonists contented themselves with reasoning on the traditional or historical accounts they had received; but it is irksome to be shackled by authority; and after they had acquired a smattering of knowledge, they began to think that they could point out a much better way of forming the world than that which had been transmitted to them by the consenting voice of antiquity. Epicurus was most distinguished in this hopeful work of invention; and produced a cosmogony on the principle of a fortuitous concourse of atoms, whose extravagant absurdity has hitherto preserved it from oblivion. From his day to ours, the world has been annoyed with systems; but these are now modified by the theories of chemists and geologists, whose speculations, in so far as they proceed on the principle of induction, have sometimes been attended with useful results; but, when applied to solve the problem of creation, will serve, like the systems of their forerunners, to demonstrate the ignorance and the presumption of man.
3. The early cosmogonies are chiefly interesting from their resemblance to that of Moses; which proves that they have either been derived from him, or from some ancient prevailing tradition respecting the true history of creation. The most ancient author next to Moses, of whose writings any fragments remain, is Sanchoniatho, the Phenician. His writings were translated by Philo Byblius; and portions of this version are preserved by Eusebius. These writings come to us rather in an apocryphal form; they contain, however, no internal evidence which can affect their authenticity; they pretty nearly resemble the traditions of the Greeks, and are, perhaps, the parent stock from which these traditions are derived. The notions detailed by Sanchoniatho are almost translated by Hesiod, who mentions the primeval chaos, and states ????, or love, to be its first offspring. Anaxagoras was the first among the Greeks who entertained tolerably accurate notions on the subject of creation: he assumed the agency of an intelligent mind in the arrangement of the chaotic materials. These sentiments gradually prevailed among the Greeks; from whom they passed to the Romans, and were generally adopted, notwithstanding the efforts which were made to establish the doctrines of Epicurus by the nervous poetry of Lucretius. Ovid has collected the orthodox doctrines which prevailed on the subject, both among Greeks and Romans; and has expressed them with uncommon elegance and perspicuity in the first chapter of his "Metamorphoses." There is so striking a coincidence between his account and that of Moses that one would almost think that he was translating from the first chapter of Genesis; and there can be no doubt that the Mosaic writings were well known at that time, both among the Greeks and Romans. Megasthenes, who lived in the time of Seleucus Nicanor, affirms, that all the doctrines of the Greeks respecting the creation, and the constitution of nature, were current among the Bramins in India, and the Jews in Syria. He must, of course, have been acquainted with the writings of the latter, before he could make the comparison. Juvenal talks of the writings of Moses as well known: