Well actually just before the beginning of creation.
In this first part we will be exploring what happened just before God created the Earth.
So What Happened Before Creation?
Before starting in at the beginning of Genesis there is a common question that is worth addressing: “What happened before the beginning?” St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD) in his famous Confessions (his autobiography) quotes an old joke: “What was God doing before he made heaven and earth?” answer, “Making Hell for people who pry into mysteries like that!” (Confessions, Book XI, Canto 12; Augustine then goes on to have a profound discussions of the nature of time). The Bible does say what was happening before creation
John 1:1-2 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
John 17:24 Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
John 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
Ephesians 1:4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love
I Peter 1:20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
Titus 1:2 In the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time
When Was The Beginning? And Where Did “4004 BC” Come From?
Not from the Bible! The 4004 BC date originated with Irish scholar James Ussher (1581 – 1656). For an excellent article on Bishop (or Professor) Ussher see Sky & Telescope magazine, November 1981, p. 404 (400th anniversary of his birth). What Professor Ussher did was very scientifically respectable for his day (Kepler and Newton did it, for example). In fact, lots of people attempted to get dates of creation from the Bible. Alphonse des Vignolles in 1738 (writing what can be regarded as the first “review article” on the subject) claimed to have collected over 200 different dates from Jewish and Christian sources ranging from 3483 BC to 6984 BC! (– all supposedly based on the Bible!) For example, the traditional Jewish calendar starts in 3760 BC. The reason why Ussher’s date of creation became particularly well known is that some unknown person included his dates in the margin notes of a printing of the Authorized (“King James”) Version of the Bible.
While it is often believed that such dates are derived by adding up ages in the genealogies in the Bible and the reigns of kings, in actual fact, people’s ages and king’s reigns are often not given so people have to make pure guesses! Ussher got his date by assuming average reigns and life spans and finding when the autumnal equinox fell on a Sunday (people believed that the universe had to be made with the sun in a special place; Kepler had favored the summer solstice; Ussher had favored the autumnal equinox since there were fruit in the Garden of Eden! – an obvious British northern hemisphere bias!). Such things are clearly not “based on the Bible”.
A more serious problem is that if you inter-compare genealogies in the Bible you discover that there are large gaps in them. If you compare
I Chronicles 6:1-15 The sons of Levi:
Gershon, Kohath and Merari.
The sons of Kohath:
Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel.
The children of Amram:
Aaron, Moses and Miriam.
The sons of Aaron:
Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.
Eleazar was the father of Phinehas,
Phinehas the father of Abishua,
Abishua the father of Bukki,
Bukki the father of Uzzi,
Uzzi the father of Zerahiah,
Zerahiah the father of Meraioth,
Meraioth the father of Amariah,
Amariah the father of Ahitub,
Ahitub the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Ahimaaz,
Ahimaaz the father of Azariah,
Azariah the father of Johanan,
Johanan the father of Azariah (it was he who served as priest in the temple Solomon built in Jerusalem),
Azariah the father of Amariah,
Amariah the father of Ahitub,
Ahitub the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Shallum,
Shallum the father of Hilkiah,
Hilkiah the father of Azariah,
Azariah the father of Seraiah,
and Seraiah the father of Jozadak.
Jozadak was deported when the Lord sent Judah and Jerusalem into exile by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.
Ezra 7:1-5 After these things, during the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, the son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub, the son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth, the son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki, the son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest
you will discover that Ezra omits 6 generations in verse 3. Another example of missing generations is Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus
Matthew 1:17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.
In verse 8 Matthew omits the names of three kings who can be found listed in
I Chronicles 3:11-12 Jehoram his son,
Ahaziah his son,
Joash his son,
Amaziah his son,
Azariah his son,
Jotham his son,
In both of these specific examples I have given, we have someone described as “begetting” someone (to use the King James word) who is not their son, but some generations later. The Greek word used by Matthew is also used elsewhere in the New Testament to describe non-genetic relationships. The important point is that the Bible does not intend for a genealogy to be used as a chronology! (Its purpose is to show someone’s lineage). Note, in particular, that the Bible itself never adds up the ages and reigns.
So How Long Did It Take?
What is Meant by a “Day”?
The Hebrew word for day (Yom) has the same three meanings in the Bible as in English usage: the time when the sun is above the horizon and it is light; a period of 24 hours; and a more general period of time (“in so and so’s day”). The very first verse in the Bible which uses the word day
Genesis 1:5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
uses two meanings of the word (the first two meanings) and we only have to go as far as
Genesis 2:4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created,when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
to find the third meaning. The allowable interpretations of the word “day” do not require a 144 hour creation. The Hebrew words boger (morning) and oreb (evening) also have a number of meanings. The fact that the Jews adopted a seven day week is sometimes brought up as an argument for a six 24-hr period creation, but, as Hebrew scholar Gleason Archer puts it, this is no stronger argument for it than that the 8-day celebration of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles is a proof that the wilderness wanderings of Moses occupied only eight days!
tells us that
II Peter 3:8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
Psalm 90:4 A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
also says that a thousand years is like “a watch in the night” (about 4 hours.)
So How Did It Happen? – The Language Of Genesis I, “Form”, “Make” AND “Create”
“…God created the heavens and the earth.” The three Hebrew words used to describe God’s actions in bringing the universe, the earth, life and mankind to approximately their present state do not rule out the possibility that natural processes were involved once the realm of nature was brought into existence.
The Hebrew word yatsar (translated “formed”) can be shown in numerous usages in the Old Testament to describe actions that were not instantaneous but accomplished by the use of natural processes (e.g., molding).
The Hebrew word asah (translated “make” or “do”) has widely varying subjects in the Old Testament and the action often involves natural processes and materials.
The Hebrew word bara (translated “create”) is a special word in the Bible which only has God as its subject. The word itself does not imply whether an action is instantaneous or not, but the same action is sometimes also described by the other two words (yatsar and bara). The three terms bara, asah, and yatsar are used in
Isaiah 43:7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.
in parallel grammatical constructions where they are seemingly interchangeable.