Tag Archives: The Ages Before Moses

A New Perspective on the Genesis – Part 2

The following is the continuation from the excerpt of part one from The Ages Before Moses. Part one of this lecture covered the Genesis in its form, scope and substance. Part two will now cover the harmonies of Bible and Science, Man and, a lesson in Grace.


The Ages Before Moses

John Monro Gibson, 1879

The Harmonies of Bible and Science

 We have said that almost everybody knows about the difficulties, but how few are there comparatively that know about the wonderful harmonies? So much is said and written about the difficulties, that many have the idea that the narrative is full of difficulties—nothing but difficulties—nothing that agrees with science as we know it now; whereas, when we look at it, we find the correspondencies most wonderful all the way through. Let us look at a few of them. And first, the absence of dates. The fact is very noteworthy that there is such abundance of space left for long periods, not till quite recently demanded by science. And this does not depend on any theory of day-periods; for those who still hold to the literal days; find all the room required before the first day is mentioned. Not six thousand years ago, but “in the beginning.” How grand and how true in its vagueness.

Another negative characteristic worth noticing here is the absence of details where none are needed. For example, there is almost nothing said in detail about the heavens. What is said about the heavens in addition to the bare fact of creation, is only in reference to the earth, as, for example, when the sun and moon are treated of, not as separate worlds, but only in their relation to this earth as giving light to it and affording measurements of time. There is no attempt to drag in the spectroscope!

 Note: This is strikingly indicated in the Hebrew text, by the accent punctuation: “In the beginning-created-God-the heavens and earth. And the earth—it was without form and void;” which is, read in full: “And the earth” (for it is only the earth that this narrative has to do with),–etc. Bearing this in mind, it is evident that when heaven is spoken of again as in the eighth verse, it is not the universe at large, but the visible heaven, as the definition indeed most accurately points out: “God called the firmament (expanse) Heaven.”

A certain infidel lately seemed to think he had made a point against the Bible by remarking that the author of it had compressed the astronomy of the universe into five words. Just think of the ignorance this betrays. It proceeds on the assumption that the author of this apocalypse intended to teach the world the astronomy of the universe; and then, of course, it would have been a very foolish thing for him to discuss the whole subject in five words. Whereas, in this very reticence we have a note of truth. If this work had been the work of some mere cosmogonist, some theorist as to the origin of the universe, he would have been sure to have given us a great deal of information about the stars. But a prophet of the Lord has nothing to do with astronomy as such. All that he has to do with the stars is to make it clear that the most distant orbs of light are included in the domain of the Great Supreme, and this he can do as well in five words as in five thousand; and so, wisely avoiding all detail, he simply says, “He made the stars also.”  There was danger that men might suppose some power resident in these distant stars distinct from the power that ruled the earth. He would have them to understand that the same God that rules over this little earth, rules to the uttermost bounds of the great universe. And this great truth he lays on immovable foundations by the sublimely simple words, “He made the stars also.”

But passing from that which is merely negative, see how many positive harmonies there are. First, there is the fact of a beginning. The old infidel objection used to be that “all things have continued as they were from the beginning of the creation.” Nobody pretends to take that position now that science points so clearly to beginnings of everything. You can trace back man to his beginning in the geological cycles. You can trace back mammals to their beginning; birds, fishes, insects to their beginnings; vegetation to its beginning; rocks to their beginning. The general fact of a genesis is immovably established by science.

 Secondly, “The heavens and the earth.” Note the order. Though almost nothing is said about the heavens, yet what is said is not at all in conflict with what we now know about them. We know now that the earth is not the centre of the universe. Look forward to Genesis 4:2, and you will find the transition to the reverse order—quite appropriate there, as we shall see in the next lecture; but here, where the genesis of all things, the origin of the universe, is the subject, it is not the earth and the heavens, but “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

 Thirdly, there is the original chaos. “The earth was without form and void.” Turn to the early pages of any good modern scientific book, that attempts to set forth the genesis of the earth from a scientific standpoint, and you will find just this condition described. Observe, too, in passing, how carefully the statement is limited to the earth. The universe was not chaotic then.

Fourthly, the work of creation is not a simultaneous, but an extended one. If the author had been guessing or theorizing, he would have been much more likely to hit on the idea of simultaneous, than successive creation. But the idea of successive creation is now proved by science to be true.

Fifthly, there is a progressive development, and yet not a continuous progression without any drawbacks. There are evenings and mornings: just what science tells us of the ages of the past. Here it is worth while perhaps to notice the careful use of the word “created.” An objection has been made to the want of continuity in the so-called orthodox doctrine of creation, the orthodox doctrine being supposed to be that of fresh creation at every point. But the Bible is not responsible for many “fresh creations.” The word “created: is only used three times in the record. First, as applied to the original creation of the universe, possibly in the most embryonic state. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Next, in connection with the introduction of life (v.2), and last, in reference to the creation of man (v.27). In no other place is anything said about direct creation. It is rather making, appointing, ordering, saying “Let there be,” “Let the waters bring forth,” etc. Now, is it not a significant fact that these three points where, and where alone, the idea of absolute creation is introduced, are just the three points at which the great apostles of continuity find it impossible to make their connections? You will not find any one that is able to show any other origin for the spirit of man than the Creator Himself. You cannot find any one that is able to show any other origin of animal life than the Creator Himself. There have been very strenuous efforts made a great many times to show that the living may originate from the not-living; but all these efforts have failed. And the origin of matter is just as mysterious as the origin of life. No other origin can be even conceived of the primal matter of the universe than fiat of the Great Creator. Thus we find the word “creation” used just at the times when modern science tells us it is most appropriate.

Sixthly, the progression is from the lower to the higher. An inventor would have been much more likely to guess that man was created first, and afterward the other creatures subordinate to him. But the record begins at the bottom of the scale and goes up, step by step, to the top: again, just what geology tells us. All these are great general correspondencies; but we might,

Seventhly, go into details and find harmonies even there, all the way through. Take the fact of light appearing on the first day. The Hebrew word for “light” is wide enough to cover the associated phenomena of heat and electricity, and are not these the primal forces of the universe? Again, it used to be a standard difficulty with skeptics that light was said to exist before the sun was visible from the earth. Science here has come to the rescue, and who doubts it now? It is very interesting to see a distinguished geologist like Dana using this very fact that light is said to have existed before the sun shone upon the earth as a proof of the divine origin of this document, on the ground that no one would have guessed what must have seemed so unlikely then. So much for the progress TOWARD the Bible which science has made since the day when a skeptical writer said of the Mosaic narrative, “It would still be correct enough in great principles were it not for one individual oversight and one unlucky blunder!”—the oversight being the solid firmament (whose oversight?), and the blunder, light apart from the sun (whose blunder?).

I have spoken already about the words “created” and “made,” in relation to the discriminating use of them. This word raqia, too, how admirable it is to express the tenuity of our atmosphere, especially as contrasted with the clumsy words used by the enlightened Greeks (stereoma), the noble Romans (firmamentum), and even by learned Englishmen of the nineteenth century (firmament)! And not to dwell on mere words as we well might, look at the general order of creation: vegetation before animal life, birds and fishes before mammals, and all the lower animals before man. Is not that just the order you find in geology? More particularly, while man is last he is not created on a separate day. He comes in on the sixth day along with the higher animals, yet not in the beginning, but toward the close of the period. Again, just what geology tells us.

These are only some of the many wonderful harmonies between this old revelation and modern science. I would like to see the doctrine of changes applied to this problem, to determine what probability there would be of a mere guesser or inventor hitting upon so many things that correspond with what modern science reveals. I don’t believe there would be one chance in a million! Is it not far harder for a sensible man to believe that this wonderful apocalypse is the fruit of ignorance and guesswork, than that it is the product of inspiration? It is simply absurd to imagine that an ignorant man could have guessed so happily. Nay, more. Let any of the scientific men of today set themselves down to write out a history of creation in a space no larger than what occupied by the first chapter of Genesis and I do not believe they could improve on it at all. And if they did succeed in producing anything that would pass for the present, in all probability in ten years it would be out of date. Our apocalypse of creation is not only better than could be expected of an uninspired man in the days of the world’s ignorance, but it is better than Tyndall, or Huxley, or Haeckel could do yet. If they think not, let them take a single sheet of paper and try!


Regarding Man

Finally, what do we learn about Man? Here we have man in his heavenly relations. When we come to the narrative of the Fall we shall meet him in his earthly relations. But here he is introduced in his relations to God. “God created man in His own image. In the image of God created He him.”

Here, in the first place, we see man’s true place in nature. He is not altogether separated from the animals below him. As we have already seen, he was created on the same day with the highest group of animals. But while his lower earthly relations are not ignored, it is by his heavenly relations, his relations to God, that his place in nature is assigned him. “God created man in His own image; in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. (Gen. 1:27)” It is important for us to take firm hold of this truth in these days. When man’s place in nature is discussed nowadays, an anatomy seems to be the first and the last resort. It has even been suggested by a very eminent anthropologist (Haeckel) that the investigation would be more satisfactorily made upon subjects “packed into large vessels filled with spirits of wine!”  The corpus, the corpse, is the final appeal. No account is taken of man’s spiritual powers; no notice taken at all of his higher nature, by which he is related to God. Tell me which is the more important part of a man, his bodily organism, by which he is related to the beasts below him, or his spiritual nature, by which he is related to God above him? Is not the Bible, when it gives man his place in nature as created in the image of his Maker, far more rational than these materialists, who only give us his place in relation to the lower animals?

Let us look for a moment at this truth, of man made in the image of God, as a foundation truth in theological as well as anthropological science. In the first place, it is the only basis of Revelation. If it had not been true that man was made in the image of God, a revelation from God would have been an uttered impossibility. Just think of it for a moment. We are told in the Bible that “God is Love.” Would that convey any idea to our minds if there were no such thing as love in our hearts? Or when we are told that God is just, could we have any conception of the meaning if we did not know from our own natures what justice is? Or take the great and blessed truth of the Fatherhood of God; what possible notion of it could we have, if fatherhood were unknown among men? So you will find, when you think of it, that it would have been impossible to have any idea of God at all, unless we had been made in His image. The truth that man was made in the image of God is the only rational basis of revelation.

Further, we have here a rational basis for the Incarnation. What more natural, when God would reveal Himself in some way that would appeal to our senses, when He would come near to us and let us know Him as a Friend—what more natural than to take the form of a man, seeing man was made in the image of God? The doctrine of the New Testament is that the man Christ Jesus was “the Image of the Invisible God.” The doctrine of the Old Testament is that man was made in the image of the Invisible God. You see the harmony between the two: man in the image of God, and Jesus Christ “the Image of God.” Thus we find here a rational basis for the Incarnation.

We find, still further, a rational basis for the doctrine of Regeneration by the Holy Spirit. We are told there in Genesis, that “God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul,” and in another passage that “the inspiration of the Almighty gave him understanding.” Is it not, then, reasonable to suppose that the inspiration of the Almighty will be necessary to restore to him his understanding, to restore to him his true life, when he has lost it through sin? Do we not find again a beautiful correspondence between the Old Testament doctrine of man’s regeneration, as both requiring the inspiration of the Almighty, the inbreathing of the Spirit of God? So that in this old doctrine concerning man and his place in nature, as made in the image of God, we find the only rational basis for a revelation of God, for a revelation of God in Christ, for a revelation of God in Christ by the Holy Spirit: a trinity of truth in unity.

And still further in this old doctrine of man made in the image of God, we have the foundation laid for those glorious hopes that are set before us in the New Testament. When we look at man’s lower nature and his relation to the animals, it seems hard for us to believe the glorious things spoken in the Bible about the prospect that is before us of dwelling in God’s holy heavens and reigning with Christ upon His throne. What the Bible has to say about our future destiny as sons of God, seems too good to be true. And indeed so long as we dwell upon our earthly relations and have in view only our lower nature and our material bodies we cannot rise to these conceptions. But when we think of ourselves as being made in the image of God, it does not seem any longer unreasonable or extravagant that we should share the glory of God. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Let us only rise to our true dignity as sons of God, and then we shall be prepared to realize our lofty destiny as heirs of the glory of God!

We have finished what we had to say on the substance of this revelation. We have had important truth concerning God, concerning Nature, and concerning Man. Can we learn any lessons of Grace before we close? It is true that sin is not yet in the world. So grace is not needed, and accordingly has no place directly in this apocalypse. But cannot we learn some lessons of grace indirectly? May it not be that God’s work in nature is a picture of His work in grace? Look and see.


A Lesson in Grace

The first thing in the transformation of chaos to cosmos is Light. God said, “let light be, and light was.” That was the first thing needed to prepare the way for the coming order. And it is the first thing needed to illumine the chaos of the sinner’s heart. God must say, “let light be,” before the sinner can be brought “from darkness unto light and from the power of Satan unto God.” The next thing, after the production of light and the primal forces of the universe, is Order, advancing steadily from stage to stage. So God deals with the soul that comes to Him. He first gives light, gives it in a moment as by a word, and after the sudden change, follows a gradual transformation. Just as the Spirit of the Lord moved on the old chaos, and gradually it was reduced to order, so the Spirit of the Lord moves on the dark and troubled waters of the heart and restores it stage by stage to order; and at each stage He says, “It is good, it is good.” The Lord rejoices in His work.

We get still another view of God’s working when we reach the animate creation. The earth had not only been “without form,” but “void,” and now that Light has come, and Order has followed, it only remains that the void be filled with life. Light, Order, Life: these are the three remedies for chaos, with its darkness, confusion, and death. And we, too, want something to fill the void, and so God in Christ comes to us, and by His Spirit gives us life: a life which, following the order of the creation record, is gradually becoming higher and higher, nobler and nobler, until it reaches up to God Himself. Then, when all is finished, God says, “Behold, it is very good.” So shall it be at the last, when God has finished His work; when everything within has been reduced to order, when life has reached its culmination, when we have become at last like Him, who is “the Life.” Then the Lord will look upon His finished work in grace, and say: “Behold, it is very good.” What follows? “The rest that remaineth for the people of God.” Not the rest of inactivity. God has not been inactive during his seventh day. It was only rest from the work of reducing things to order. He no longer needed to reduce things to order. It was only the administration of that which was already brought to order that was henceforth necessary. So after God has come into our souls, and everything has been reduced to order, and we have been brought to that perfect day, we shall enjoy the rest of heaven, the rest of unwearied, active service, and onward, unobstructed progress that remaineth for the people of God. “There shall be no night there,” no confusion there, no death there. Light, Order, Life, all very good, for evermore! – pgs 55-76, Ages Before Moses.

A New Perspective on the Genesis

Every now and again, I come across an historical text that I find quite interesting. The following is an excerpt from The Ages Before Moses. The author wrote this somewhere between 1838 and 1879. The work itself was published in 1879 as a series of lectures, but the writings contained in it span many decades for this author. What stood out for me in this lecture was his perception of the seven days of creation and what he brings out regarding the harmonies of the Bible and Science. It is a most interesting perception for us to think upon and consider as we continue to weigh out evidences presented to us. Throughout this excerpt, many different things will strike a chord in the mind of the reader – an idea, a thought, a concept – all worth some serious contemplation on our part. Much of what this author has to say, one will notice, stands at odds with what many fundamentalist Christians teach in today’s churches. I put this here today, to allow readers to gain a new perspective and consider what this author has to say. There are many “truths” that this author brings to light in his many different works, some of which, I quote in my book, Religion’s Cell. Sometimes, it’s just refreshing to see some truths put in such a way that it brings the Bible and Science together in harmony. This author does just this. Because of the length of this lecture, I will put it out in two parts; both of which, will be worth reading just for the new concepts and ideas covered on this topic of Genesis and all that it involves. This first section will cover the Genesis in its form, scope and substance. Part two, to come, will cover the harmonies of Bible and Science, Man and, a lesson in Grace.


The Genesis

John Monro Gibson, D.D., The Ages Before Moses, 1879

–deeds and lives that lie Foreshortened in the tract of time.”

genesisOf this kind of foreshortening the book of Genesis is a remarkable example. The lives of the men that lived before Abraham, long as they were, pass so rapidly before the eye that it is difficult to realize that in the course of a few short chapters, many long centuries have been traversed. And the deeds of the Great Creator before the time of Adam, are recorded in such rapid succession, and with such sublimity of condensation, that it is only after the imagination has been thoroughly accustomed to the deep perspective, that we are able even to feebly realize that in the course of a few short verses whole ages of time have been compassed.

These earliest ages of the world’s history will come before us in proceeding to consider the Genesis proper, as we may call that portion of the larger Genesis contained in the first chapter and the first three verses of the second chapter, which ought by all means to have been included in the former.

In looking at this Genesis record we shall consider first the form of it, then the scope of it, and finally its substance.


It’s Form

 Here it is very important to notice that it is not historical in form. The book of Genesis as a whole is historical, and from this we are apt to suppose that every part of it is so. Now it is quite manifest that this portion of it is not historical. The histories of the Bible, as far as their human authorship is concerned, were produced just like other histories. They are the reports of eye-witness, or of those who obtained their information from eye-witnesses, or from persons competent to testify to the facts. The book of Genesis as a whole is historical, and from this we can suppose that every part of it is as well. But, who were the eye-witnesses to the first chapter of Genesis?  Obviously, there were none. Therefore it must have been an apocalypse. God must have revealed it to some of the prophets, in early times. (See Luke 1:70). We are not told how He revealed it, but it looks as if it may well have been in the usual way, namely, by visions. (See Num. 12:6). It would seem as though a series of pictures of creation had passed before the mind of the ancient seer. And, as in other parts of Scripture where God made known His will by visions, so here there are voices falling on the ear, as well as scenes presented to the eye. “God said: Let there be Light.” “God called the Light, Day,” etc.

And here it is most interesting to compare the apocalypse at the beginning with that at the end of the Bible. How natural it was, how necessary, that we should have an apocalypse at the beginning to tell us of that part of the earth’s history which transpired before man existed. And how necessary, too, that we should have an apocalypse to tell us what it was important for us to know about the undiscovered future.

The unknown past—the unknown future—both of these needed an apocalypse, and so we have it. And how numerous and striking the correspondencies between the two. For example, we have the seven days of creation at the beginning; and at the end we have the seven churches and the seven seals and the seven vials and the seven trumpets and the seven voices. Then again, when you compare the first few chapters of Genesis with the closing chapters of the Bible, you see the same great ideas reappearing. In the first apocalypse we have the heavens and the earth. In Genesis we have the Paridise of Eden; in Revelation the paradise of God. In Genesis we are told of the rivers of Eden, and the Tree of Life, and the Tree of Life “in the midst of the garden;” in Revelation we are told of the River of the water of Life, and the Tree of Life upon its banks, and “in the midst of the Paradise of God.” At the beginning of the Bible we have the institution of marriage; and at the end we have “the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Many other comparisons might be made between the two, showing the connection between the first and the last book of that wonderful Bible which opens with an apocalypse of the dateless past, and closes with an apocalypse of the dateless future. So much for the form of this book.


The Scope

Next let’s look at the scope of it:

First of all, it is dateless. There is no date at the beginning of it. It simply says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” There is no date at the end of it. This is not often noticed. We are told, “The evening and the morning were the first day,” the second day, the third, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth day, but we are not told that the evening and the morning were the seventh day. There is no date, then, at the end, any more than at the beginning of it. We shall see the importance of this a little later.

Next, it is measureless. There is nothing in it to measure the scope of it. It has been said that it is measured by the narrow boundary of six or seven days. There seems abundant reason to conclude that there was no such intention of limiting the scope of this chapter. In the first place, notice that three days are spoken of before any measures of time are given. So the first day and the second day and the third day were without measure. Again, in Gen. 2:4, the same word “day” is used to cover the entire time of the creation work. Then there is evidence to show that the Jews, and in particular the sacred writers, did not understand the day of creation in the limited sense of either twenty-four or twelve hours. Take the ninetieth Psalm for example. Observe that this Psalm starts from the idea of creation; and it is worth while to notice that the title of the Psalm ascribes it to Moses, so that we may have here the views of the author of the Pentateuch himself. Well, what does he say? “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from age to age Thou are God.” These words translated “everlasting” in our version refer to enormous periods. And observe there is no reference to the future, as many suppose. It is all to the past, to the past of creation, as its majestic history sweeps on “from Olam to Olam,” from age to age. And again in the fourth verse: “A thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past.” Or take the parallel passage in the New Testament, 2 Peter 3:8: “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” And observe that here, too, the mind of the writer has been carried back to the book of Genesis, for only a few sentences before he has been speaking of “the beginning of the creation” (v.4).

As a good exercise on this subject, let me recommend you take some of the numerous references to creation in the Scriptures and see if you can find a single one that conveys the idea that the work of creation transpired in a short space of time. If the sacred writers had really entertained the idea that so great a work was done in so short a time, would not some notice have been taken of so wonderful an act?  Whereas, if any reference to time is made at all, it is the thought of ages rather than of days that is impressed on the mind. In this connection it may be well to refer to the ideas about creation which are found outside of the Jewish people; and here the remarkable fact meets us that, while the heathen traditions of the creation have so much resemblance to the Mosaic Revelation, as to indicated identity of origin, the idea of long periods is quite familiar. Take the following sentence from the Brahminical records as a specimen: “One thousand divine ages are a day of Brahma, the creator.” These are very ancient authorities you will see, for the extension of time expressed in the word day; and by no means liable to the suspicion of their being driven to it in order to escape geological difficulties! And in the same way sufficient evidence has been adduced to show that Josephus and many of the old Jewish rabbis, and some of the early Christian fathers too—Irenaeus in the second century, Origen in the third, and Augustine in the fourth—did not regard the Bible as committed to literal days in the creation narrative.

Further, what if the days instead of representing the periods of creation represented the time of the vision? May it not have been a seven-day vision, and this only a brief account of it? And if it took so long a time for the vision to pass before the seer’s mind, what a conception of age-long periods would it give him. If a scene passing before your mind should occupy only fifteen minutes in passing, it would appear a long time. If it took an hour, it would seem very long; and if it took an evening and a morning, it would seem almost interminable. I do not urge this very strongly, but it seems to me not by any means unreasonable.

Note: While we hold very strongly to the interpretation of the days above given, we have nothing but respect for the views of those who interpret the days literally and bring in the periods of geology between the first and second verses. It is of course impossible for both to be right; and yet either may be a tenable hypothesis. And it is very important to remember that while different hypothesis necessarily discredit each other, they by no means discredit the sacred text. No one pretends that there was any intention of teaching geology. All that is wanted is room for the discoveries of science: and the greater the number of so-called “reconciliation” hypothesis, provided only they be tenable, the more evidence have we of the wisdom displayed in presenting the truth so as to be final spiritually, and yet so singularly OPEN for future physical investigation.

Let us now revert to the fact already notice, that the seventh day is left open. It is not said of the seventh day as of the others, “the evening and the morning were the seventh day.” Why not? Because all the rest of the Bible is included in the seventh day. This is evidently the thought in the Saviour’s mind, when in defending Himself for healing a man on the Sabbath, He says: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work’ (John v. 17). It is as if He said: “My Father’s Sabbath has been in process all these years since He rested from His creation work as Sustainer and Redeemer: and so may I; My Father worketh hitherto and I work.” And the very same idea is full wrought out in the intricate, but interesting passage in the fourth chapter of Hebrews.

We are living, then, in the seventh day. In what part of it? Remember the order. It is “the evening and the morning.” The Hebrew order—through darkness to light—is the divine order, which ends in the darkness of midnight. Is it the evening still? Or did the morning break when the Sun of Righteousness appeared upon the horizon eighteen centuries ago? If so, we are only in the early dawn as yet. There is a great deal of darkness about us. But the Day of the Lord is coming, a day which shall know no ending, for “there shall be no night there.” The path of the exalted Saviour through the ages, however obscure it now may be to sight, will be shown at last to have been like that of the true disciple in his day and generation, “as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the Perfect Day.” So much for the magnificent scope of the Bible “Genesis. We come now to the substance of the revelation. Here we have three great subjects: God, Nature, and Man.


The Substance

First, what do we learn from God? His existence is simply postulated: “In the beginning God”—How much grander, stronger, and better than any argumentation would have been. The existence of God really needs no argument. It comes to us in the shape of an intuition. It is inborn in us, and those who are atheists, are atheists in spite of themselves, I was going to say. They have struggled away from their natural convictions. Atheism is not natural. And downright atheism is a very rare thing indeed. We have also the unity of God as against the polytheism of the heathen world; and the spirituality and personality of God as against all pantheistic notions of Deity. Then, finally, His supremacy as “God over all.” If we could realize the extent of the evil arising out of the superstitions of the ancient world, we should see how important it was to set forth the conception of God’s supremacy over all in the beginning. Take the superstitious notions about the weather as an illustration. What a comfort to all to whom this Revelation came, to be assured, long before there was or could be any science of meteorology, that all these changes, that seemed so capricious, were under the control of One intelligent and beneficent Power. Or, again, think of the tendency to worship the heavenly bodies. What a complete antidote to this tendency was the announcement of the fact that all these came into existence by the fiat of the Almighty, and were consequently under His absolute control. The supremacy of God is a very important part of the apocalypse of Genesis.

Have we anything about the Trinity? Attention is often called to the plural form of the name of God, used with a singular verb, the idea being that the plural form gives the conception of trinity and the singular verb that of unity. I do not think we should lay much stress upon this, however, because the plural in the Hebrew language is often used as signifying the excellence, the greatness, the majesty of the subject in reference to which it is used. So the plural may be used here to signify the greatness of God. But the apostle John has called our attention to the presence in this narrative of Him whom we call the Second Person of the Trinity. “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1). God SAID: “Let there be Light.” And we can see for ourselves “the Spirit of God moving upon the face of the waters.” We have then God, the Word, and the Spirit, all brought before us in the work of creation. As we review the truth about God contained in this apocalypse, we should feel constrained to bow the knee in lowly adoration. What a well-spring of worship is there in these opening sentences of the Bible, and how the solemnizing and elevating effect of them appears in all the subsequent literature of the Hebrews. Hence comes that lofty appreciation of nature which is found nowhere else in the ancient world, and is so conspicuous and so inspiring throughout the pages of the Bible. Read the one hundred and fourth Psalm for example, the fortieth chapter of Isaiah, and the closing chapters of the book of Job, and you will hear the majestic echoes of that voice of majesty that speaks so grandly in the Genesis. “Hallelujah!” “Hallelujah!” is the never-dying refrain of the Creation Epic: “Praise ye the Lord.”

Next, what do we learn about Nature? Here, unhappily, the attention of Bible students has been almost exclusively directed to certain difficulties. These difficulties all arise, as it seems to me, from three sources, and the Bible is not to blame for any of them. First source: treating the passage as if it were history, whereas it is apocalypse. Second source: taking it as intended to teach science, especially astronomical and geological science. Third source of difficulty: the mistakes of translators. For example, the unfortunate word firmament continually comes to the front as one of the “mistakes of Moses.” Strange that a Latin word should be a mistake of Moses! Did Moses know Latin? Did he ever write the letters f,I,r,m, etc.? Not only is the word “firmament” not in the Hebrew Bible, but it does not represent the Hebrew word at all. The word firmament means something strong, solid. The Hebrew word, for which it is an unfortunate translation, signifies something that is very thin, extended, spread out; just the best word that could be chosen to signify the atmosphere.

Note: The mistake is really a mistake of science. It was the false astronomy of Alexandria that led the Septuagint translators to translate raqia, expanse, into arepewya, firmament. Then there is the word “whales,” that Professor Huxley made so merry over a year ago. But the Hebrew does not say whales. The Hebrew word refers to great sea monsters, and is just the very best word the Hebrew language affords to describe such animals as the plesiosaurus and ichthyosaurus and other creatures that abounded in the time probably referred to there.

Let us only guard against these three sources of error, and we shall not find many difficulties. If we would only avoid the mistakes of Moses’ critics, we would not show our ignorance by talking about the mistakes of Moses.

Click Here for Part 2