This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Genesis the Book of Beginnings Part 6 - The Fifth Day of Creation (Genesis 1:20-25)

There are two things about the Creation that should make one pause and glorify God.  First is its immensity, as we saw on Day Four, and secondly is its abundance - God's Creation is not uniform, but is characterized by a rich diversity of scene as well as life.  As we now have reached Day 5 of Creation, today we will be looking at the diversity of life in its richness, as Day Five is when the first life aside from plants was created.

The Genesis account of Creation picks up at Day Five in verse 20, and one of the first things mentioned is aquatic life.  St Basil the Great poetically states that this life "ornamented the waters," and as St. Ambrose notes, this life was simultaneously created and didn't merely "evolve." Also created simultaneously with the life of the sea was birds, which St. Augustine notes generated from "air saturated with water."  Both of these life forms have some merit for being created in association with the waters first, in that if you will recall back on Day One, the Holy Spirit was "hovering over" the waters "of the deep" and in a sense was incubating them in anticipation of the life to come.  What is also interesting too is that many evolutionists also believe that the first life came from the waters - on that point they are correct.  Evolution, like other mythologies and false religious systems, does have kernels of fact within it, and in this case they do have the sequence right although they err when they address the process - for the evolutionist, all life evolves from the water, whereas in Biblical Creation what really happened was that life started first in the water as part of God's creative plan, and as we see later land-dwelling life was created.  One of the things St. Augustine notes too is that the vapor of the seas supported the flight of the birds.  After looking into that statement, I found out some interesting things from science about that.  Water vapor sustains the weather grid for the planet, and although at this point of time in creation weather and precipitation were not what they are now, you will recall that in the earliest part of Creation God sent a heavy mist upon the earth to moisten and sustain life.  The sustaining of avian flight by water vapor therefore may have something to do with how condensation directs ocean currents, and it would have been quite an insight for St. Augustine to know that in the 5th century, but it is something that has been proven by science.  So, in a sense, as condensation plays a role in the air currents, it could be said that indeed the "vapors of the sea" do sustain the flight of birds!  It is amazing how scientific principles were actually defined and identified by Holy Scripture many generations before modern science discovered them, and we see more of them as the Creation narrative unfolds.

The master allegorist Origen also reminds us that there are spiritual typologies in this as well.  Origen, as all the Church Fathers did, recognized the literal truth in God bringing forth life, and he takes it a step further by stating an allegory concerning the very aspects of our being, both positive and negative - God brings both forth, for the purpose of helping us to distinguish what is good from what is bad.  In doing so, we strengthen the good attributes, and work on the bad ones to improve them.  Both of these, as the water and land, day and night, etc., proceed from one source - in the case of our attributes, from the heart, but in the case of overall Creation, from its Creator.  This is a good spiritual lesson, and also reminds us that the Holy Spirit living within us helps in that discerning process too.

St. Lawrence of Brindisi also notes something else regarding verse 20 - as St. Basil noted that this life ornamented the waters, St. Lawrence with his insights into the Hebrew translation focuses here on an original Hebrew word in this verse, sharac - the word is translated "to bring forth in abundance."  The "creeping creature having life" noted in verse 20 refers to fish too, as fish are said to be creeping things because they "creep" through the waters.  Noting this also, St. Lawrence quotes a Rabbi Solomon who said that "every living thing that is not from high land is (this) sharac."  These things come forth in great abundance and they moved themselves, meaning that they receive the power and command of God to do so (Craig R. Toth trans., and Victor Warkulwicz ed., St Lawrence of Brindisi on the Creation and the Fall - Commentary on Genesis 1-3.  Mount Jackson, VA:  The Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation, 2009.  pp. 73-74).  It is also worth noting that although "flying things" (birds) were not mixed among things coming from the waters, their flight was nevertheless designed to be sustained by the waters - air current dictated by movements of the oceans, etc.

As we move onto verse 21, the NKJV translates this verse as being "great sea creatures" which came into being.  Some historically have translated that to mean whales, and indeed whales are great sea creatures, but further study compels us not to limit the great sea creatures with immense bodies to just whales.  Throughout Scripture, there is reference to a sea-dwelling creature called a Leviathon, and one reference to this is in Job 41:1, where God asks Job this question: "Can you draw out Leviathon with a hook, or snare its tongue with a line which you lower?"  It doesn't take a Hebrew scholar to figure out that this is alluding to some sort of fishing, and apparently this "Leviathon" lived in the sea.  The word itself has a Hebrew root that means "twisted" or "coiled," ( - accessed 12/12/2015) and this definitely does not describe a whale, as a whale cannot curl itself up or twist - it just doesn't have the body to do so.  In the Byzantine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts which is celebrated during the Sundays of Lent, in the beginning of the Liturgy a lengthy Psalm, listed as 103 in the Liturgy but corresponding to 104 in Scripture, is sung that in essence sings praise to the Creator God who made all things.  At one point in the Liturgy at the singing of this Psalm, this verse is sung - "Upon it there are great ships a-sailing, and that great beast you made to have fun."  (Eparchy of Passaic, NJ, Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, Priest/Deacon Edition. Fairfax, VA:  Eastern Christian Publications, 1998.  p. 9).  In my NKJV translation, this verse is the same as Psalm 104:26, which in the NKJV reads like this - "There the ships sail about; there is that great Leviathan which you have made to play there."  I am about to introduce you to what I believe "Leviathan" actually is, and although some have translated it as "whale" over the years, the etymology and context of its references don't match the typical description of whales.  But, they do this:

This creature is the Pleisosaur, and it was a large ocean-dwelling dinosaur that many today think may still exist based on the Loch Ness Monster stories.  Back in the day, as a matter of fact and as we will also see momentarily, the word "dinosaur" was not in use (that term didn't come into common usage until the mid-19th century) but such things were called by another name - dragons.  These creatures lived on both land and sea, and the Pleisosaur was a sea-dwelling dinosaur which fits every possible description of the literal translation of the name leviathan.  And, despite what modern secular evolutionist "science" would have one believe, these things existed rather recently rather than millions of years ago, which is why God has taken such effort to document their existence in Scripture under names which would have been more recognizeable to the people at the time who wrote them.  There will be more of this later as we continue in the study, but it was worth mentioning here because not all immense sea creatures are whales. 

It is also important to know here that these creatures were created "of their own kind," and didn't evolve from one thing into something totally different. Now, that is not to say that adaptations (variations in kind, sometimes called microevolution) don't occur, because they certainly do and are observable.  For instance, a Chihuahua and a Great Dane are variations in kind, bred to produce their different sizes, traits, etc.  But, a Chihuahua and a Great Dane are both still dogs, and both of them are still "after their kind" despite the adaptations.  A Chihuahua didn't evolve from a rat, and a Great Dane didn't evolve from a horse.   This is also affirmed by St. Ambrose, who noted that living creatures were initially produced immediately by divine command of God Himself, and succeed each other (procreate) according to their kind. 

St. Lawrence of Brindisi, quoting a Rabbi bin Gabrirol, notes that the phrase "every living creature" implies a soul in which there is life (Toth and Warkulwicz, p.76).  There is a difference between animal soul, which contains the essence of life of all things, and the eternal soul, which lives on in man exclusively forever.  This has led to some debate over the decades about whether animals can go to heaven, and in recent years this has become a topic of discussion. Utilizing verses such as Job 12:10, Matthew 10;29, and Proverbs 12:10, a case can be made that animals share in some aspect of eternal reward, and as Tom Horn and Terry James point out in their book Do Our Pets Go to Heaven? (Crane, MO:  Defender, 2013) on pages 7-8. animals don't need salvation like humans do, but they can share in eternal life via a covenant relationship with us, thus experiencing a type of "salvation" but not in the same respect as we do by accepting Christ.  This is a topic that deserves a teaching of its own, but the important thing to note here is that animals have a soul (nephesh) with which they were endowed by God Himself at their creation.  

In further thoughts of this verse, we now look at the Hebrew word asah, which implies "making" or "doing."  The Maker (God) is using material already available to produce something more specific to a divine purpose.  This is where the evolutionist often goes wrong, because they point to the fact that humans and chimpanzees have so many similarities that they therefore must have either evolved from one another, or evolved from a common ape ancestor.  In reality, they miss the point - it is not a common ancestor which humans and chimps have, but rather a common Designer!  Remember the earlier studies, where many Church Fathers believed that God created base elements (heavens, wind, fire, earth, water) and formed life out of those?   Well, this verb asah implies exactly that - all life has a certain chemical makeup which suggests that natural elements were used in their creation, and indeed this is true when one studies biology.  But, that common construction doesn't mean we "evolved" from rocks, water and dirt - rather, a Creator God designed life by building-blocks utilizing these things, and then He added the miracle of life to it to animate it (God added nephesh).  That mark of a common designer is Asah (Henry Morris III, The Book of Beginnings Vol. 1. Dallas:  ICR, 2012. pp. 111-112).  Look at this from the perspective of the corporate world - Yamaha is a company that manufactures many things, and it manufactures both saxophones (I used to play a Yamaha baritone sax in high school) and motorcycles, in many cases using some of the same material.  Now, does that mean that a motorcycle evolved from a saxophone?  No, and it would be ridiculous to think they did!   It means they had a common designer.  In the same way, God created animals and humans - a common designer for two unrelated creatures.  In the case of humanity though, God's creation is described by another Hebrew verb, yatsar - this has a more personal dimension to it in that it is used in the same context as an artist who forms and sculpts (we discussed that term earlier also).  Man, therefore, in God's image has a creative attribute as well which testifies of this yatsar. To simplify what we have studied so far, God created the earth on Day One, formed the universe on Days 2-4, and on Days 5-6 He created life to ornament and animate His creation.  And, this all initiated ex nihilo, or in the Hebrew bara - God utilized a power unique to Himself to bring something into existence that was not there before, and this term bara appears, according to Dr. Morris, 54 times throughout the Hebrew Old Testament.  Therefore, as Dr. Morris continues, there are four observations to make here at this point:

1. Life is unique (independently functioning, reproducing after its kind)
2. Life has independent movement.
3. Life has blood
4. Life has nephesh (soul) - also used in same context as "heart." 

In the discussion of verses 22-23, we take a small rabbit-trail on the part of the Church Fathers to discuss why hybridization is wrong, and it sort of reminds us that we face some serious issues regarding this subject currently with the rise in recent decades of both the Eugenics movement and its 21st-century successor, transhumanism.  I am not going to get into a discussion of transhumanism here, as it is more appropriate when we get to Genesis 6, but the Church Fathers saw it largely in a negative light.  St. Ambrose attributes hybridization to the efforts of humans (or later, demonic entities inspiring humans to create "freaks" for pride and profit).  It is also scientifically proven that inter-species hybridization produces barrenness - a horse bred with a donkey for instance produces a sterile mule, as one example, and being the horse and donkey are of the same "kind," it substantiates that there are even limits to breeding within kinds as God ordered procreation within species.  Ambrose also reminds us too that the seeds are prefigurements of the Resurrection too.  As a "seed," we die corrupt but are raised incorruptible despite still being of the same substance.  However, this in no way implies evolution - a species doesn't produce a separate species, in other words.  St Gregory of Nyssa likewise picks up on this Resurrection allegory when he notes that we don't change in nature (of our being - my add) at the General Resurrection, but rather we are restored to something nobler.  St. Gregory also refutes reincarnation - the transmigration of souls is not only a heretical doctrine, but is an impossibility.  St. Augustine also notes something of interest in regard to the sanctity of life, procreation, and the sacrament of traditional marriage and its role - succession of offspring is to be seen as a blessing, and in a sense a type of immortality; the kind is preserved through procreation, a blessing given by God to both animals and humans. This is also picked up on by St. Lawrence of Brindisi, who notes that God is the one giving the command to "increase and multiply," and he utilizes a word based on his studies of the rabbinical writings, peru.  Peru implies "to be fruitful," and is used primarily for trees while another use of the same word means "to grow," and is used for animals.  The indication here, as St. Lawrence quotes from Rabbi ibn Ezra, is that God in effect said "You will increase and you will multiply." (Toth and Warkulwicz, p. 76).  The animals it mentions in verses 22-23 are classified by distinctions in the following way:

1.  Cattle - those things which dwell with the sons of man for their needs.
2. "Crawling creatures" - small animals which walk on the earth.
3. "Wild animals" - those animals living away from the dwellings of man.

In some cases,  after the Fall increased multiplication was needed for some creatures because man's dietary needs necessitated the protein the consumption of these creatures provided, and thus they were endowed with capacity for increased multiplication by God Himself to meet that demand.  While man is to be a wise steward over the earth which God gave him dominion, oftentimes the radical environmentalists tend to demean and denigrate man in deference to nature by fabricating extinctions of some creatures and human-instigated "climate changes."  Radical environmentalism is a type of paganism unfortunately which practically worships the environment over the Creator of the environment, and they are misled often in their own efforts to "preserve the earth" in that they forget God is still ultimately in control of His own creation.  There are many creatures which will never be extinct because of their importance to the food chain for both humanity and other animals, and although man has done some stupid things with pollution, etc., the earth can and will heal itself - it has before.  It is time many recognize that valuable revelation, as it is the message of Genesis itself.  Procreation therefore is a blessing, and it is guided by an unerring intellect and spoken word of God Himself. 

In verses 24-25, we get to the creation of the beasts.  The first and foremost thing to understand here is that the souls (nephesh) of beasts did not pre-exist before Creation - St. Basil the Great affirms that they wer called into existence by the command of God Himself.  All life was created by divine decree, and God's command remains constantly active even today.  St. Basil said that "from the beauty of the visible things let us form an idea of Him who is more than beautiful."  St. Chrysostom likewise concurs that these animals are not created just for our use however, but also for our benefit in that we shold be overwhelmed by the Creator's power.  In the earliest days of the earth's existence, for instance, animals often grew to immense size, a phenomenon we call megafauna.  Some of the greatest of these megafauna were what we know today as dinosaurs, but the ancients called them "dragons."  Testimony of this can be found again in Job 40:15, where when Job was feeling a little down God had to give him a pep talk to remind him of who was in charge, and one way He did this was by reminding Job of exactly what the quote from St. Basil was talking about.  He told Job to look at some creature hanging around out there called a behemoth, and God gives Job a pretty good description of this beast in the verses following verse 15:

1.  It is herbivorous ("eats grass like an ox.")
2.  His strength is in his hips (large legs)
3.  His power is in his stomach muscles (it has a big gut!)
4.  He moves his tail like a cedar (HUGE tail!)
5.  His bones are like beams of bronze (this thing was massive, in other words)
6.  His ribs are like bars of iron. 

Apparently, when reading further in the passage, this thing lived near river banks too, and the torrential rapids of the rivers didn't bother it.  Some people have historically tried to associate this beast with an elephant or a hippopotamus, but the description (in particular the tail) doesn't add up to support that.  However, in recent Creationist teachings a creature has been identified which does meet the description, and here it is: 

This is the Brachiosaurus, and it was a huge land-dwelling dinosaur that pretty much fits the bill of the description in Job.  Looking at this, we can see why God used it to remind Job that He is in control because He created this immense beast, and it reminds us as St. Chrysostom said to be overwhelmed by the Creator's power.  There are some who would oppose this, in that they have been taught for several decades now that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago and didn't cross paths with humans.  However, unfortunately for them the various "dragon" legends of diverse cultures around the world, as well as even artwork (a temple in southeast Asia even had a perfect replica of a stegosaurus on it, something one cannot draw up from a pile of bones, and the Incas have artwork of men fighting with and even riding large dinosaurs) speak otherwise.  An important part of this study is that we need to read the Bible as its original audience understood it, and not with a lot of the 21st-century skepticism we often presuppose when we read things like the Creation narrative.  This being said, it is to be noted from Scripture that there is a created order to the animal kingdom as well:

1.  Class 1 - Quadropeds (lizards, amphibians, etc.)
2.  Class 2 - Those that prowl about with fearsome mouths and claws
3.  Class 3 - The herds - those which are not fierce or violent by nature, but can defend themselves if necessary.

Now, for some concluding thoughts to the study.  First, God created various kinds of animals on the fifth day by divine decree and "according to their kinds."  They were given the ability from the start to procreate and bring forth offspring "after their kind" to continue their species.  Second, God created a great abundance of some animals in anticipation of nourishing and serving other animals and humans, as the Fall would eventually alter animal and human physiology to require animal protein for nourishment.  The plants were created on Day Three to intially feed and nourish all other life.  Finally, the creation of animals, as in all Creation, points to a sovereign God who by His very word brings life into existence.  Now, with everything else in place, it was time for mankind to make an appearance on the timeline of Creation, and that is where Day Six leads us in the next study.  God bless you until the next lesson.