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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Genesis The Book of Beginnings Part 3 - The Second Day of Creation (Genesis 1:3-10)

As we begin the third lesson of this series, I wanted to first of all review what has been taught so far from the previous lesson:

1.  On the first day of Creation, the earth was created but not yet formed - on the subsequent days of Creation we begin to see the formation of the earth.

2.  In verse 2, we also see a typology of the sacrament of baptism, and it is one of many Christological typologies we see in the reading of Genesis itself.

The discussion on the second day of Creation begins in Genesis 1:3 and goes through 1:10.  There are several things that were created on this day, and those are what will be discussed in detail in this lesson.

In verse 3, we note that God created a light, but it was not the sun as the heavenly bodies don't appear until Day Four.  As we again go back to the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture we cited in the last lesson, the Church Fathers had many things to say about this too.  In his writing On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis, St. Augustine affirms that God spoke ineffably, and the light appeared, simple as that.  And, St. Ephrem the Syrian, in his Commentary on Genesis, notes another fact we have already established - the light didn't come from the sun, but had to come from another source.  I would submit that the source of the light (and many of the Church Fathers referenced seem to concur) was God Himself.  Think of it this way - if you are constructing a house and have to work on a deadline, when you have the skeleton of the house up it isn't going to be wired for power yet, is it?  So, you need a source of light to work with as you continue the construction, correct?  Generally, that source is not going to be connected to the house itself, but will usually be the result of the contractor's generator.  It is a similar principle God utilizes too - God of course is not hindered by natural forces, but His earth needed a source of light to be formed, and God provided that through Himself.  That is why we read then in verse 4 that the light was good, because it comes from the ultimate source of good, God Himself.  With the creation of light, there was also now a distinction between light and darkness.   God of course called the light Day, and the darkness Night.  Many of the Church Fathers went into more specifics with this division too, in particular St. Basil the Great, who in his Hexamaeron noted that evening was the common boundary line established between day and night, and morning was the part of night bordering day.  St. Augustine, likewise, noted in his work On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis that God in His sovereignty spoke, and day and night were made in His power.  This pleased God in His goodness.  St. Augustine goes on further to note in another work entitled Against the Manichaeans that the "good" God finds at the completion of a given creative act is found in Creation's completeness, and in this context not necessarily in its being.  Again too, St. Augustine affirms that the presence of darkness doesn't mean that God created it, or that it is necessarily evil, but rather it just indicates the absence of light.   God Himself therefore made the division between light and darkness, and He called them what they were to be called.  St. Basil the Great again, in his Exegetic Homilies, also reaffirms that the sun at this point didn't exist, so solar motion has nothing to do with the beginning of day and night.  It was God Himself, St. Basil affirms, who created the first light, diffused it and redrew it according to a preordained divine measure so that "day came" and "night succeeded."  The most technical of these writings though is from a Father who in general is noted primarily for being a spiritual sage and hymnodist, St. Ephrem the Syrian (or Mor Aprem, as he is known in the Syriac Church spiritual tradition of which he was part).  He notes in his Commentary on Genesis that God created initially five "base elements," and those were heavens, earth, fire, water, and wind.  God created these initial elements ex nihilo, and would utilize them to create everything else.  That position does have some merit, as most of the created order of life which was to come later did have as its building-blocks pre-existing elements - God formed man, as we read later, from the dust of the earth, and even today our bodies are essentially composed of 95% water and 5% minerals such as sodium, iron, etc.  It is interesting that something a Church Father said over 1600 years ago has scientific authentication, and things like this should serve to remind us that maybe we in the 21st century have much to learn from people in the 4th and 5th centuries (and even earlier!).  As we have talked about many times before, this is still also something even later Church Fathers and saints - notably St. Thomas Aquinas - picked up on as well.  You may recall in previous studies how I mentioned that one principle of Thomistic philosophy is that God authored two "books" - one is the written Revelation (or Holy Scripture) while the other is what we call the "Book of Nature," and the Creation account we are studying now essentially chronicles the composition of the Book of Nature.  One thing about that too is what is called in Thomistic philosophy the Law of Non-Contradiction - what that says is that the Book of Nature (where created things speak to us directly) will never contradict the Book of Revelation (where God Himself reveals to us His own inner nature and his free gifts and special plans for humanity).  If an apparent contradiction does surface, then someone has made an error in interpretation and the evidence needs to be re-examined more carefully (W. Norris Clarke, The One and the Many.  Notre Dame, IN:  University of Notre Dame Press, 2001. p. 7).  What that means for us from a Creationist standpoint is this - God will ultimately prevail, and in time science will (and in many cases has!) confirmed what Scripture claims.  Even Scripture itself affirms this fact, as it says that in the last day "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" (Phillipians 2:10, NKJV).  At various points in this study, we will also see examples of where science is just now catching up to Scripture, and in days to come those who believe in silly lies like evolution will be made to look like the fools they have turned themselves into, as Scripture says of such people that they "profess to be wise but became fools" (Romans 1:22, NKJV).  Even the most naturalistic of philosophers, such as Descartes, recognized that an effect cannot be greater than its cause, and as God is the ultimate cause of all creation, its existence cannot make sense apart from Him.  

So now day and night have come into existence, and now that this distinction has been made, the next distinction is the division of the waters from the earth and from each other.  A major theme God seems to have on the second day of Creation is the creation of opposites and distinguishing them from each other.  This in no way implies the radical dualism espoused by heretical sects like ancient Gnosticism, for God actually sees these distinctions as both being good things rather than equal forces of good and evil, and the only reason He made these divisions was to form the earth He had created.  One of those things often talked about is something we see in verses 6-7 called the Firmament.  The word Firmament is taken from two Latin roots (firma "to strengthen" + mentum, denoting an action or resulting state) and together it could be literally translated as "a product (or process) of firmness."   In the original Hebrew text of the Torah, the word raqiya, meaning "an expanse," was used (Henry Morris III, The Book of Beginnings, Vol. 1. Dallas, TX:  ICR, 2012. pp. 67-68) and it appears 17 more times in the Old Testament.  The word raqiya, as Morris notes, is both a thing God created but is also used as an adjective to describe how this thing is used.  There are several types of this raqiya noted in Scripture, and in many cases they are synonymous with the word "heaven."  Here are some specific examples Dr. Morris gives us:

1. The solar system and the "starry universe" - in reference to Day Four of Creation.
2. The atmosphere above the earth (note Genesis 1:20).
3. The stars and galaxies of the universe - utilized by God Himself in Job 38.
4. The sun and moon specifically (Joshua 10:12-13)

However, it is also used to describe what is believed by many to be a canopy of moisture - either ice or water - that once existed above the atmosphere before the Flood, and this is the firmament we are going to discuss here.  The firmament in this context would be aptly described as a spherical band of water around the earth's atmosphere that may have been responsible to an extent for the "mist system" we will see that covered the ground in the days after the Creation and prior to the Flood (Genesis 2:5-6).  Some other translations of this Hebrew word raqiya, as Fr. Warkulwicz points out, are "dome" and "vault," although he notes that these terms may be misleading and the better translation would be as Dr. Morris suggested, namely "expanse" (Fr. Victor Warkulwicz, The Doctrines of Genesis 1-11.  Caryville, TN:  The John Paul II Institute of Christian Spirituality, 2007. p. 42).  This would mean then that before the Flood there was no rain to speak of, and the climatic conditions of the earth would have been much different, which may explain such megafauna we see in the so-called "fossil record" such as dinosaurs, mammoths, and creatures such as terrorbirds and Megatherium (giant ground sloths).  Another important fact about this firmament is that it was inserted in the waters, meaning some water was pulled above, and some below.  2 Peter 3:5 reminds us of this when it states "that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water."  Isaiah 40:22 likewise reminds us that it is God who "sits above the circle of the earth," and spreads the heavens "out like a tent to dwell in."  The firmament also had a necessary function to maintain the "breath of life" for the creation which was to follow, namely plants, animals, and mankind.  Below is a diagram I found that best illustrates the location of the firmament and how it functioned:

the firmament may also be illustrated in this way as well:

The second illustration shows us that the firmament not only produced a sort of beneficial "greenhouse effect," but also may have shielded early life from the harmful rays of the sun which came later - the lack of exposure to UV radiation may also be a contributing factor to the longer life spans of many people we read about later in Genesis, some of whom reached almost one thousand years in age.  The speculation as to what the firmament was and what it did was also something many Church Fathers discussed as well.  St. Basil the Great, in his Hexamaeron, explores the possibility for instance of the firmament being a canopy of ice, and it was he as well who understood the scientificl principle that water flows downward naturally - could St. Basil have understood gravity?  If so, maybe those "primitives" from ages past had more insight into scientific laws than we give them credit for, and if they can be right about that, why not trust them to believe what Scripture literally teaches then!  Origen too, writing earlier in his Homilies on Genesis, noted that there is a distinction between the firmament and the heaven where God dwells, in that the firmament is what he describes as a "corporeal heaven."  St. Augustine elaborates later on that too, in that he calls all matter below the firmament "corporeal."  Evidence from both scientific hypothesis and the writings of the Church Fathers indicate that a firmament did exist, and even secularists who espouse evolution acknowledge that at one time the earth was more humid and warmer - perhaps this firmament is why.  It would also mean no polar ice caps at this juncture, less ultraviolet radiation, and no deserts to speak of.  With the absence as well of precipitation, it would mean the air currents would be reduced and therefore no danger of cyclonic storm activity (such as hurricanes) or other disastrous environmental forces would be evident.  Again, at this point, God was creating a perfect world that He saw as "good," and also no sin or death had entered the picture yet either, making the earth a much different place at its beginnings.

With the separation of the waters and the creation of the firmament then, dry land was also separated from the seas, as we read in verse 9 - the dry land was called Earth, and the gathering of waters in specific places were called Seas.  St. John of Damascus, in his writing entitled Orthodox Faith, noted this plurality of seas - there was more than one sea from the beginning, although I would personally suspect the globe looked much different at that time too though. St. Augustine, in concordance with the idea that God was forming the earth, believed that the separation of dry land from seas was a part of God's formative process.  Likewise, St. Chrysostom goes further by noting that God didn't name the land or seas until they had been formed and put in their proper places. Origen, in his notably allegorical style, also saw a typology of the sacrament of holy baptism in this as well too - for Origen, as he wrote in his Homilies on Genesis, the dry land emerging from the waters symbolizes for us our new bodies and souls emerging from the waters of baptism, thus now possessing the ability to bear spiritual fruit.  There is also an important point in Origen's allegory that can be applied to the literal as well - God separated the dry land to prepare for it to bear fruit, as soon He would create plant life which would literally bear fruit.  As far as this is concerned too, St. Gregory of Nyssa also offers us some valuable advice in his writing On the Soul and Resurrection when he states that it is not as important to know how God did what He did, but rather the fact He can will something into existence in nature and it comes forth.  That is good advice, and it also reminds us that oftentimes the atheist and non-believer waste a lot of energy on trying to "prove" God doesn't exist when in reality it just reveals something in their nature that is warring with them - despite their denials, they can't get away from the fact that nature itself reveals God to us, and it therefore makes them obsessive with trying to prove the unprovable.  It honestly does take much more faith to believe as an atheist in many cases than it does to just see the evidence that creation points beyond itself to an ultimate Creator God who loves us and seeks to bring us into relationship with Him.  

There are some summary observations I want to make as we conclude this lesson.  First, on the second day, God created opposite spectrums (day/night, water/land, light/darkness) as He began to form His Creation.  Secondly, Patristic writers generally agree thatthe base elements that God created on the first day were formed on the second, and out of those He would create everything else.  Finally, we keep seeing these connections with the sacramental life of the Church, in this case Baptism, and that too points us back to Christ.  Out of the waters of baptism the Church therefore becomes likewise a "fruitful land."  In the next study, we will continue with Day Three, and soon we begin to see life coming into existence on this great planet God created for us.  God bless until next lesson.

(References to the Church Fathers in this study are taken from Andrew Louth and Thomas C. Oden, eds. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Old Testament Vol. I  - Genesis 1-11.  Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2001.  pp. 6-13 for this particular lesson)