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Does Creation Day Four of Genesis Contradict Science?

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Arguably the most scrutinized book of the Bible is the Book of Genesis. Many skeptics will claim that the book of Genesis contradicts science and, as a result, it cannot be trusted. The proof text often cited is day fourth of creation in Genesis. Skeptics will reject Genesis because of the author’s apparent implicit claim that the sun was formed after the earth. Does the charge of the skeptic have merit? Or is there a way to reconcile the day four quandary?

What Does Creation Day Four of Genesis Actually Say?

First, those who object better be very clear in their representation of both the text they’re objecting to and their objection, lest they unwittingly (ignorance) or wittingly (straw man fallacy) misrepresent the claim and do some shadow boxing thinking to have knocked someone (in this case something) down. Let’s look closer at creation day four:

And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day. (Genesis 1:14-19)

At first glance, it appears as though God is creating the sun and moon and by this time the earth has already been formed. God said, “Let there be lights…to separate the day from the night.” The author also makes an allusion to two great lights – the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. This would seem to be a problem, right? Well…

Are We Sure the Sun and Moon Have Not Already Been Created by Day Four?

Let’s not waste any time. All it takes is just a quick skim of Genesis to see what appears to be something quite odd. Pick up your coffee and start reading Genesis as you drink. Before you put your cup down, you may have already seen it – the sun and moon appear to have already been created before creation day four,

“And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he 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—the first day.” (Genesis 1:3-5)

Notice in this passage that God has already created light and separated the light from the darkness. Not only that, but God called the light “day” and the darkness he called “night.” Weird, right? And all this happens in conjunction with the creation of the earth which precedes those passages. All of it happens on creation day one. So what’s this fuss about the sun and moon supposedly being created after the earth? I suppose one could split hairs about the order of the passages, but given the +/- error bars in science itself, this is of very minor consequence.

There must be something else going on here. It’s highly unlikely that the author of the creation account of Genesis is contradicting himself within a span of only a few sentences and millions of Jews throughout millennia would have been completely fine with the error.

The Telling Distinction Between Made and Created

In English we may use the words, “made” and “created” interchangeably, but we have to keep in mind that the original language of Genesis is Hebrew and the Hebrew language does not have as many words as we do in English. In light of this economy of word choices, it’s telling that the author of Genesis chose two distinct words – one for “created” and one for “made.” On day one, “God created the heavens and the earth…” (Genesis 1:1) The word used here is bara’, which means to create, fashion. On day four, “God made two great light…” (Genesis 1:16). The word used here is ‘asah, which means to do, fashion, accomplish. It’s at least feasible that God created the sun earlier and “accomplished” or finalized that creation with the intent he poured into the heavenly body. The bottom line is that if the sun and moon had already been bara’, there’d be no reason for God to bara’ again, but because of the distinction of the usage of ‘asah, there is likely something else being accomplished other than A to Z creation a second time.

Could Day Four Be Describing Something Other Than Creation?

But look, day four does contain a passage that states,

“Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night… “

What could that mean if not creation? It is at least conceivable that the lights in the sky were created prior to this and the revelation of the lights is what is actually happening with “let there be light.” What’s interesting is that there is some scientific credence to this. The early atmosphere of the earth appears to have had a thick haze that would have made the lights invisible. ISarah M. Hörst et al., “Exploring the Atmosphere of Neoproterozoic Earth: The Effect of O2 on Haze Formation and Composition,” Astrophysical Journal 858 (May 2018): id.119, https://doi:10.3847/1538-4357/aabd7d. Ironically, the science lends credence to the narrative instead of challenging it. IIHugh Ross, Hazy Early Earth: More Affirmation of Creation Day 4, https://www.reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2018/06/18/hazy-early-earth-more-affirmation-of-creation-day-4

Furthermore, science does not actually offer proof that the Sun formed before the Earth.

Regular Physical Mechanisms Can Be Overridden by God

If God created the universe, then he’s powerful enough to not only interact with any portion of what he created but also fully capable of overriding the mechanisms he originally set in motion. Unless there is ironclad proof of a certain natural process not only capable of causing some effect being objected to but also ironclad evidence that the same mechanism did cause the effect, we cannot completely rule out the divine imprint on how things have turned out.

This is the same principle at work in miracles. We know the natural mechanism; that is generally how nature works. An event is a miracle precisely because the general mechanism has been overridden. It is infrequent.

In his instance, the objector is the one who claims that God “could not have done x” and therefore, the burden of proving that claim lies squarely with the objector. As long as there is even a hypothetical way in which God may have interacted with a mechanism to bring about his will, the claim may stand unproven in and of itself, but it also cannot be as easily dismissed as skeptics often do.

There is No Conflict Between Creation Day Four and Science

A careful reading of Genesis and a careful assessment of the science provides no reason to dismiss the account of creation day four. There are ample ways in which the internal apparent difficulty can be resolved in Scripture and many conceivable ways in which to make sense of the information we have from science.

References   [ + ]

I. Sarah M. Hörst et al., “Exploring the Atmosphere of Neoproterozoic Earth: The Effect of O2 on Haze Formation and Composition,” Astrophysical Journal 858 (May 2018): id.119, https://doi:10.3847/1538-4357/aabd7d.
II. Hugh Ross, Hazy Early Earth: More Affirmation of Creation Day 4, https://www.reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2018/06/18/hazy-early-earth-more-affirmation-of-creation-day-4

About the Author Arthur Khachatryan

Arthur is an author, a former agnostic, and a current ambassador of Jesus of Nazareth who loves to share the best of reasons for God's ultimate reality. His love and passion are helping skeptics and Christians grow in their faith and knowledge of God through accessible materials.

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