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Genesis 1:1-13 – The First Three Creation Days

In this episode we discuss verses 3–13 of Genesis 1: the first three creation days. We discuss the covenantal character of creation, the theological dimensions of these days, God’s dominion and interpretive prerogative in naming and ordering the days. We also look at the significance of those things which are the focus of each day: light, the separation of the waters above and below, the separation of the seas and try land, the creation of vegetation, and many other things. We welcome your questions and feedback in the comments.

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Proclaiming Christ is an audio program focused upon biblical preaching. In each episode we will discuss the process, method, and goals of preaching biblical texts from a uniquely Reformed perspective. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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Mark G

7 years ago

I appreciate the way you guys focused on the theology of Genesis 1. I’ve often felt there is a richness there that too often gets lost in contemporary debates. For example, one could point out that in the contemporary scientific understanding of origins of the universe fantastic amounts of energy (including light in “visible” spectrum) were released before there was any universe as we know it. Although that might be interesting it is much more important to understand how the use of “light” in Genesis 1 relates to the use of “light” in the rest of scripture.

Could you flesh out some the significance of the “two story,” “two register” picture of creation as “earthly” and “heavenly” realms? Apparently God dwells with creatures in a heavenly created realm (although infinately transcendant to it) in a different way than he vistits Adam in the earthly realm. This seems to become especially significant in terms of future biblical events such as God visiting Moses/Israelites at Sinai, the Incarnation, resurrection and session of Christ, the Lord’s prayer that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, and the new heavens and new earth. It seems there is a lot to think on there. I find it remarkable how these themes in Genesis develop throughout the remainder of Scripture.

Adam York

7 years ago

Hi Mark,

Thanks for the feedback, and I’m glad you enjoyed the episode. You raise a lot of important points. All I can say for now is that I think we’ll be discussing those issues more as more episodes are released, so stay tuned!

Blessings,

Adam

Chris

7 years ago

I certainly don’t want to cause strife, but I do have a genuine question. Is at least part of the methodology of this series to avoid differences in order to focus on points of agreement? I know that a show like The White Horse Inn does that, what with two Reformed guys, one Lutheran and one Baptist participating.

But what should happen when a point of view is taken for granted by the show host with which there is not agreement? I don’t begrudge Mark holding to a 6/24 day view, but I also don’t agree that light was created chronologically prior to the creation of the luminaries. Especially given his follow-up remarks on that, I am concerned to say that to introduce the eschatological light of Revelation 22 here in Genesis 1 “jumps the eschatological gun.”

Please help me to adjust my expectations.

Thanks,
Chris

Mark Winder

7 years ago

Hello Chris,

Thanks for your comments. I think a reasonable expectation for the program is that each member of the panel will express his opinion, but not necessarily engage in debate at every point of disagreement. Part of our methodology is to focus on points of agreement – only natural because we will agree 95% of the time – and try to produce a program which brings Scripture itself to light – and do so with a focus toward showing Christ. This is not to say that we won’t discuss differing perspectives when they arise, but we are not trying to use the program as a debate forum or a lightning rod for pet issues, which unfortunately is what the creation days can be reduced to.

When it comes to the length of creation days, it isn’t necessary that we become evangelists of our particular understanding of “yom,” or what sort of chronology is intended. There is no shortage of material out there, and we didn’t think that rehearsing the various positions would provide for the listener anything he or she couldn’t get elsewhere, and in far more detail than is practicable for this format. We did not want the program to descend into a lengthy debate over the days of creation – which would take half a dozen episodes to cover responsibly. We thought it best to encourage the listener to seek out the plethora of easily accessible resources and come to some firm conclusions. Speaking personally, I don’t think the length of days must necessarily affect your theology in a material way, and I think there are better themes to explore.

We also mentioned that our individual views of the days will unfold as we move through the early chapters, and I think that’s exactly what happened. I do sort of play a moderator role in the discussion, but I am not the host. Like anyone else I will express my viewpoint – which may or may not align with other views on the program. In stating my view of the days (which I didn’t intend to do, but as I was speaking it started sounding oddly ambiguous) I was not expecting it to be taken for granted as the view of the panel. Each participant is free to interact as he wishes, and if one thinks that an important element of the text is being compromised, he may speak up and give his view.

Regarding your concern that “the eschatological light of Revelation 22 here in Genesis 1 “jumps the eschatological gun,” I understand and appreciate the notion that prior to the fall there is no redemption and no gospel – there is no need for it. But I would also suggest that redemption is patterned after creation, and when we read of the creation account it is appropriate to discuss redemption as the creation account gives us a fuller understanding of redemption.

More fully than redemption, however, is the matter of eschatology. While biblical theology recognizes where we are in redemptive or pre—redemptive history, it also recognizes a fundamental unity in pre-redemptive and redemptive revelation. As Vos put it, “there was something in the pre-redemptive eschatology that was not eliminated but reincorporated into the redemptive program.” In his chapter “Eschatology in Its Pre-Redemptive Stage” in The Eschatology of the Old Testament, Vos points out that a whole “chapter of eschatology” is written in pre-redemptive history. The universe is moving toward a goal even before and apart from sin – a goal not only previous to sin, but irrespective of sin. In fact, the original goal of the created order remains regulative for the redemptive development of eschatology, but now with a soteric force added to it. It is because of this that I believe there are numerous eschatological elements present even in pre-redemptive history. Or to put it another way, I believe the eschatological gun is being loaded in Genesis one.

We could also note that, Peter takes up the theme of the pre-redemptive order of creation – the world that then was – and sees it as a pattern for the flood – (as Kline puts it) as a “virtual re-enactment of Genesis 1:3-2:3.” Peter takes that theme and applies it redemptively and eschatologically. Thus (Kline again), Peter presents the “over all, complete world history from the creation to the flood as a paradigm that is followed again in the history of the present world,” and anticipatory of the consummation (II Peter 3:5-7). This is one of the reasons why we are tracing out redemptive and eschatological (both as separate and united categories) patterns throughout Scripture, the history of redemption, and to the consummation. From the existence of the glory cloud hovering over an inanimate mass to the pronouncement of the seventh day, those things that are patterned after creation, are “redemptive reproductions” (Kline) of the creation scene.

Regarding the existence of light before the luminaries, in my opinion, the existence of the light is not a redemptive element added, but an eschatological element anticipated. In the eschaton, the luminaries, which are temporary and provisional, give way to the eschatological light. And if there will be light extending out into infinity future, light can (and in my view, does) exist before the temporal luminaries are created.

It seems to me that the preexistence of light – God himself being the source of that light – deepens our appreciation for the light/darkness motif found throughout Scripture. On that first day that light breaks through the formless and empty mass. Note that the text does not expressly state that God created (“barah”) this light. In the Hebrew, “let there be” (light) has a jussive force to it, indicating that God is imposing his will on something he controls. He has called the light into existence, but it is not a natural, ordinary light resulting from the luminaries, shining naturally – but a light specifically called out and directed by God. By implication, I believe that the light is God himself (cf. John 1:1-5) breaking into the chaos of creation. The light of the glory of the cloud in 1:1 – giving life to the lifeless – essentially a pre-redemptive appearance of the consummation light, where “the Lord God will be their light” (Isa 60:19, 20; Rev. 22:5). The protological and eschatological light are the same. This theology is also compatible with the redemptive theme of light. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2Co 4:6; cf. Isa 60:1).

Whether you hold to the light being called out before the luminaries are created or not, I don’t think it substantially affects your theology of what’s going on in Genesis one, which is probably why you didn’t see much argument on this point. What I think this program will continue to provide is more daylight than fireworks – and we hope that the listeners are being introduced to a few things they might not have seen, and will be motivated to explore them more fully on their own.

Chris

7 years ago

Thanks for your response, Mark.

My concern is not at all about the length of days. I’m sure I’m just as tired of that debate as everyone on the panel. I’m not even agitating for a debate to break out every time the panelists have a difference of opinion.

My concern was simply that it wasn’t being taken for granted that one person’s point of view was everyone else’s point of view – and I think you’ve put that concern to rest. I won’t use this as a forum to debate the light of Genesis 1. Perhaps we can do that over a friendly pint sometime.

Chris

Adam York

7 years ago

Hi Chris,

There hasn’t been any methodological decision to avoid differences. I think there was a consensus however that there was a lot of weighty theological material to discuss even apart from differences we may have on the length of the days. Also, given the status of all of the members of the panel as OPC ministers, we felt comfortable in referring folks to the very well stated report of our denomination on this matter. It’s available here for anyone who’s interested.

Jeff Downs

7 years ago

this new book and review might be of interest.

Mark G

7 years ago

How well can one distinguish between God’s supernatural works and God’s providence in the Genesis creation account? For example, it is pretty clear that God created the intitial stuff supernaturally out of nothing. However, what about when it comes to the days, or the pairs of days in the framework view, where God is working with that pre-existing stuff. That does not preclude supernatural creation, but how much information does the text give us about the relative contributions of supernatural creation and providence between the days (or pairs of days)? I’m aware of the “because it had not rained” evidence/argument indicating providence at work in the creation story.

Chris Schroeder

6 years ago

After listening to this episode I too was going to recommend the recent book by Paulin Bedard (In Six Days God Created), but I notice I’ve been beaten to it! Amazon has a Look Inside preview.

The opening verses of Psalm 19 also seem to require Creation ready to speak from ‘day one’, rather than slowly finding its voice over time. The book was a really good read and helpful in worshiping our great God for the things He has made.

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