A careful reading of Genesis 1 reveals that it begins with a creative prologue (Gen 1:2) before the narrative of the Creation week (Gen 1:3-2:3). This has great importance in understanding God’s works as well as the significance of them.
THE CREATIVE PROLOGUE
The Bible begins with some of the most beautiful and important words: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. Placed before us as certain fact is:
- The existence of God
- His power to create
- Everything in “heaven and earth” has come from Him
The “heavens and earth” are realms in reference to mankind, who (as the record goes onto show) is the primary focus of creation and the very reason this revelation of creation is written.
When we read v2 there is an astounding fact revealed. Different versions highlight this:
- “The earth was without form and void” (KJV)
- “The earth had become without form and void” (Roth)
- “When the earth was yet unformed and desolate” (ISV)
The word “was” can mean and be translated “become”. So the earth had become formless and empty. This means that the age or even history of the earth before God began to form and fill the earth, as recorded in the narrative of the creation week from Gen 1:3-2:3, is unknown to us because God has not revealed it, and as such is not relevant for His purpose with us.
This could be further supported in the words to the first humans, Adam and Eve, in Gen 1:28 where they are commanded to “replenish the earth”. The word itself just means to ‘fill or make full’, but one other occurrence of this word is in Gen 9:1, in reference to Noah, after the flood where he was to “replenish” the earth. It is possible the earth was inhabited at a time previous to this Creative week of Gen 1:3-2:3 unknown to us.
IS THIS IMPORTANT?
If Genesis 1v2 is describing the state of the earth before the creative week begins in v3, there is no conflict with the current scientific estimates about the age of the universe being 13.8 billion years, and the age of the earth being 4.5 billion years. Regardless of their accuracy, there is no contradiction.
Furthermore, it demonstrates to us that there may be a history of the earth totally outside of our knowledge or ability to find or at least differentiate. There may have been a pre-Adamic creation that filled the earth. However these are uncertain details, and as they have not been revealed to us in the Bible we ought to be careful extrapolating on that which we don’t know.
This means that we ought to be careful with the evidence that we “dig up” in the earth as we know little of the experiences or forces that may have once existed or impacted the earth. What impression this would have on the “evidence” in the earth today we would struggle to know.
For example, the “bomb spike” effect on the atmosphere from the testing of nuclear bombs in the 1950’s and 1960’s affected the number of Carbon 14 atoms in the atmosphere. We can calibrate carbon 14 dating samples because of our knowledge of its occurrence and effect on the earth.
IN THE BEGINNING?
The New Testament helps establish this structure of Genesis when we read the 1st chapter of John’s Gospel.
You will notice that there is a reference to “the beginning” in v1 AND v2.
“In the beginning was the Word” (v1)
The Word is God’s reason, purpose and plan (wisdom). This is not a separate part of God, but integral to His
character and a part of His very being, as John goes onto say “the word was with God and was God”.
This plan and purpose existed BEFORE God created, as we see in Gen 1:2:
- “Spirit of God brooded” excitedly over the earth in anticipation of the events God was about to do
- Like an eagle over its young (Dt 32:10), God the great Father had a purpose with us in mind
“The same was in the beginning with God” (v2)
This is now speaking of Creation, as John goes onto say “all things were made by it”. God’s plan and purpose was the foundation of everything God created. This is exactly the point that Solomon makes about “wisdom” in Proverbs 8:22-32. Look at how they parallel:
|Genesis 1||John 1||Proverbs 8|
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”
“Earth became without form and void…Spirit of God brooded above the waters” (Gen 1:1-2)
|“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God” (John 1:1)|
“Yahweh possessed me (wisdom) in the beginning of His way, BEFORE His works of old…I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was”
“Before the mountains, I was there…” (Prov 8:22-26)
|“God said…let there be…and there was…and it was good” (Gen 1:3-2:3)||“The same was in the beginning with God, all things were made by it and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:2-3)||“When He prepared the heavens, I was there…when He gave…Then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him, and I was daily His delight” (Prov 8:27-32)|
The Bible shows that as God is from everlasting to everlasting. There is so much outside of our capacity, ability and understanding. Without His revealed Word in the Bible we know nothing about His purpose with us. What lies in the past and the future is in God’s hands. Truly “the secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Dt 29:29)