STUDY OF THE BIBLE (cont.)
2 – The Story of Creation.
B –The six days.
One of the most difficult obstacles for the understanding of the Creation account in Genesis is the six days of the process recorded in the first chapter.
For example: the obvious anomaly where the creation account in Genesis states that plants were formed on the third day of creation (Gen 1: 11,12) while the sun, on which plants depend for food production was formed on the fourth day (Gen 1: 16-18).
Many, faced with this sort of incomprehensible statement, who also are deeply aware of the reality of Jesus as God and Man – simply take refuge in assuming that the story of creation in the book of Genesis is a poetic myth that affirms the fact that God is the creator of everthing. However, a closer reading of the first chapter makes it clear that the Bible is talking about sobr reality trying to describe something far above human capacity.
To discuss this problem I will rely on ancient exegisis from the Fathers as discussed by Boismard ( in : Boismard,. M E., O.P. 1956. St. John’s Prologue. Translated by the Carisbrooke Domincans. London, Aquin Press.) as well as the commentary of Rabbi Nahum S. Sarna ( Sarna, N. S. 1989. The JPS Torah Commentary/ Genesis. The Jewish Publication Socity. Philadephia, New York, Jerusalem 5749)
We think of the days of creation as analogous to our week. The Jewish exegetes, generally think that our week is modled after that account and it is part of the usual understanding of the Hebrew Sabbath.
However, a close reading of the first chapter of Genesis reveals that the inspired author is talking about periods of time and that they are not necessarily sequential as in our concept of the week; nor do they fit into our modern notions.
The first three days of the account form a unit, having in common the fundamental act of creation which involves “separation.”
We can think of “separation” as putting order into something The First Day involves the separation of light from darkness. The Second Day describes the separation of the waters to form a terrestrial region separate from a heavenly region. The Third Day is the separation of the land from the sea.
The second three day, on the other hand, involve the providing of 3 dimensional bodies to inhabit the parts formed on the first three days.
Thus, it is very clear that the inspired author does not mean that the 3rd day is followed by the fourth. Instead the events of the fourth day take place after the formation of Light and Darkness, which occupied the first day; describing the creation of the sun,moon, and stars to govern (and inhabit) the day and night.
Thus the fifth day does not necessarily follow the fourth instead takes up the creation of the inhabitants of the upper and lower water formed on the second day. The birds to inhabit the clouds (the upper waters) and the fish to inhabit the seas.
Then the sixth day involves the formation of the animals and man to inhabit what was formed on the third day.
Thus we have not six sequential days of creation but three acts that take place during periods of time in a way different from our concepts
In the 5th verse of the first chapter of Genesis it is recorded: “And he called he light Day , and the darkness Night; and there was evening in morning one day.” Again, in verse eight records: “ And God called the firmament, Heaven ; and the evening and morning were the second day.
The same for each successive day – each is described as “evening and morning”.
This way of naming the days of creation has always been a great puzzle. This account was put in writing in the time of Moses. At that time the Hebrews considered a day as beginning wih evening and closing the following evening. Thus, in the torah, the Sabbath begins at 6 pm and ends the following 6 pm because the day went from sunet to sunset.
How to account for this strange thing in the first chapter has always has always been a challenge.
However, it is clear that the inspired authour wans to tell us that the first day (for example) begins at evening and goes through daylight but never ends.
I submit that the first day has never ended. We are still living in the first day where the Creator continually creates light.
That would be the same for each of the six days. They are periods of activity that are still in existence.
The concept of continuous creation has allways been a teaching of the Catholic Church. The fact that the Act of Creatiion never ceases means that this Universe, each moment, is created anew. This, as is well known, explains why miracles take place and are accepted as reality by the Church. The Enlightment idea of creation as somthing produced by the Creator a long time ago and subject to immutable laws has the corollary of the impossibility of miracles.
However, the truth of the matter is that each moment is a new beginning.
How, then, to account for the first three veses of the second chapter?
Here I quote form the Douay translation:
“So the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the furniture of them.
2. And on the seventh day God ended the work which he had made: and he rested on the seventh day from all the work which he had done.
3. And he blessed th seventh day, and sanctified it: because in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.”
The common explanation for the human Sabbath observance commanded by God in the Torah is based on the idea that we rest because God rested.
The inspired author is telling us of a concpt that is not comprehensible in human terms. He is trying to express something that takes place within the context, if you will, of eternity.
The scholars of the Hebrews knew that God still creates.
In the book of John , chapter five recounts a cure that Jesus performed at the pool of Bethsaida, just inside the Northeastern gate of Jerusalem. There he cured a man who had been unable to walk for thirty years.
The cure was peformed on the Sabbath and when the Jews found that out they questioned Jesus as to why he would do a “work” on the Sabbath.
In verse 17: “But Jesus answered them: My Father worketh until now; and I work.”
In verse 18 John comments: “Hereupon therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he did not only break the Sabbath, but he also said God was his Father, making himself equal to God.”
It is quite clear from the account that the Jews knew he was talking about God who works even now. The scribes of Jerusalem knew that God had not finished his work.
Therefore, the scribes and rabbis realized that the Sabbath was a commemeration of what was yet to come. That is, the Sabbath was observed as the fortaste of the “rest og God” in the next life. They used to call it the “Golden Sabbath”. This accounts for some of the strange Sabbath laws elaborated by the Pharisees and Scribes. For example, the prohibition of cooking — no one has to cook in heaven let alone light a fire. The prohibition against walking more than a short distance — because the fulfilled Jew would rest in heaven. The Jew spends the Sabbath within the family — because that is what we will do in Heaven.
In the three verses of chapter two of Genesis, the word Sabbath, according to Rabbi Sarna is never a noun but a verb form. Also, every verb in that account is of the past imperfect meaning past action uncompleted.
We really have to approach the Bible with humilty and not force it into our preconceptions. To do anything but let us tell the truth leads to grevious errors.
How Great is our Creator; how incomprehensible his ways.