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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Beginning: simple and profound

On January 1, 2008, my on-line Bible reading includes Genesis 1 and 2. This morning, I was struck by some passages that I had read many times before.

Here's how it begins:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (All quotations from the ESV, which allows such, if properly cited.) This simple statement doesn't say when, where, how, or why this happened. It does say Who. It doesn't lay out any proofs for the statement. It is to be taken on faith. (Hebrews 11:3) Simple, yet profound. Why profound? Read on:

Genesis 1:11-13: And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.


26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

That seems simple enough. Simple statements of fact. But then we come to Genesis 2, which includes this:
5 When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, 6 and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— 7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. 8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.

So it can't be quite so simple. Genesis 2 apparently describes the creation of a human as having occurred before the plants appeared, whereas Genesis 1 says that plants appeared on the third day, and humans on the sixth.

Much has been made of this, and related matters, by people much more equipped to discuss the possibilities than I am. See also here, here and here (and many other places). Suffice it to say that God's creative work was (and is -- see also here) not simple at all. It's profound enough that we will never achieve a full understanding of it, in this mortal life.

Thanks for reading.

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