In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

-Genesis 1:1

In this article I hope to make a sound argument for how the biblical story of creation can align with modern scientific theory. I suppose, in order to accomplish this goal, there is no better place to start than with Genesis 1:1.

This is the moment that has defined human curiosity for as long as we can remember. How did we get here? Modern thought has quite a few theories on this, but none are so prominent as the Big Bang theory. NASA describes the Big Bang as the beginning of the universe. All matter in the universe exploded from a single point, known as a ”singularity“ and rapidly expanded into our known universe. My first claim is that Genesis 1:1 is referring to the initiation of the Big Bang. Genesis 1:2 gives us a little more insight into how this may have looked.

The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

-Genesis 1:2

let‘s start with the first segment of this verse. The earth was formless and void. A common interpretation of this is that the earth is just a lump of matter covered with water, this is probably gleamed from the last portion of the verse but I think that this is a mistake. The earth is described as formless and void in this verse. Formless implies that it is shapeless and void could mean that this verse is describing an empty space where the earth would reside or it could even be referring to the particles that would eventually assemble to form our planet. The Big Bang theory claims that the beginning of the universe, the initial moment of the Big Bang, was not an explosion in the common sense but rather a moment where all of space came into existence at once. Then, a fraction of a second later, the building blocks of essential elements expanded into it. The initial elements of earth would have been a part of this giant, formless, darkness. 

The next part of that same verse, “and darkness was over the surface of the deep” gives us a little more insight about the state of the newly created universe. Modern theory indicates that the first few hundred thousand years of the universe it was intensely hot and, as the verse from Genesis indicates, dark. If there was light from the initial “explosion” the blob of material that filled in the void would have blotted it out. This material would eventually cool down and space would become transparent.

The final part of Genesis 1:2 is very misleading in its English translation. “and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” What exactly is meant by waters in this verse? Well, just a minute ago we were talking about the initial state of the universe being an intensely hot mass. As this mass cooled and eventually became transparent, it would have been a massive “sea” of fluid. While the English translations seem to use the word “waters” in this verse, the Hebrew text uses the word “Mayim” which could also be translated as “fluid”.  

Then God said, “Let there be light!” So there was light. God saw the light was good. So God separated the light from the darkness. God named the light day, and the darkness he named night. There was evening, then morning–the first day.

-Genesis 1:3-5

As we talked about earlier, the early universe was not transparent until about 300,000 years after the Big Bang. This would have been the first time that light could travel through the universe freely and is known as the Recombination Era. As a result of tests with Cosmic Background Radiation, it is generally agreed that light emanated from something during this time. Current theory suggests that it came from glowing hot plasma and ended as the plasma cooled. Some could call this the first day. It is important again to note the Hebrew being used in this verse. Yom is the Hebrew word for day, but it has several translations. Yom could represent an unspecific period of time, like an epoch or era.

Then God said, “Let there be a horizon in the middle of the water in order to separate the water.” So God made the horizon and separated the water above and below the horizon. And so it was. God named [what was above] the horizon sky. There was evening, then morning–a second day.

-Genesis 1:6-8

It is important to remember the state of space during this period, the heat would have been intense near these early stars and there would have been plenty of liquid plasma adrift, so separating fluid from fluid could have been quite literal. But wait, we haven’t mentioned water on any of these early lumps of space debris yet have we? About 10 million years after the Big Bang, there is an estimated 7 year period where the universe cools from above the boiling point of water all the way down to below freezing. This would have created a short period of time for water to have existed in a liquid state. So, given what we have discovered about this brief period, if there were planets that were able to form together during the early stages of the universe they could have had liquid water on them.

A Quick Recap

Here is what we have so far:

  1. A universe expands out of nothing. God identifies a space where earth will be (formless and void).
  2. The creation of the first light during the Recombination Era, which slowly fades. (Day “Yom or Era” One)
  3. At the 10 million year mark, we have determined that it is possible for planets to have emerged in more “remote” parts of the universe and that water and atmosphere could exist on those planets. (Day “Yom or Era” Two)

As you can see, a case can be made for how Biblical creation, using the actual Hebrew, could follow modern cosmological theory. Let’s continue on to the portions of Genesis that refer more specifically to earth.

Then God said, “Let the water under the sky come together in one area, and let the dry land appear.” And so it was. God named the dry land earth. The water which came together he named sea. God saw that it was good.

-Genesis 1:9-10

Genesis 1:9 is making a couple of separate claims here.

  1. Early earth was covered with water.
  2. God used some kind of process to move the water into isolated areas.

In order to address the first claim, we will need to provide a small amount of background. First, we need to address the age of the earth. It is currently estimated to be at least 4.5 billion years old. This estimate is derived from the age of rocks found on the earths surface and from sample of debris in our solar system. Additionally, there was a discovery early this decade that roughly 30-50% of the earths water is older than our sun. Of course, given the estimated age of earth, it is logical to assume that at some point water was carried to earth by means of space debris. However, given that the Bible is talking about an earth that existed prior to our solar system, not currently a widely accepted scientific theory, I would like to propose an alternate scenario. 

If early earth was covered in water at the 10-17 million year mark of the universe, it is important to consider that earth could have been a much smaller planet. There are scientific examples of how our planet could have grown in its early history, one is referred to as the Late Heavy Bombardment Period. During this time, it is theorized that the earth was struck by a great number of large objects floating nearby in our early solar system. I would like to propose a similar event, happening much earlier in the history of our universe, as the method God may have used to create dry land and relative bodies of water. This would address the second claim made in Genesis 1:9 and the smaller earth, being formed by the core of a larger, water covered asteroid, would address the first claim. Of course, this would mean that if there were any indications of earths actual age, they would have been buried during this “bombardment period”. As a result, until new evidence is introduced, this is merely theoretical from a scientific perspective.

Then God said, “Let the earth produce vegetation: plants bearing seeds, each according to its own type, and fruit trees bearing fruit with seeds, each according to its own type.” And so it was. The earth produced vegetation: plants bearing seeds, each according to its own type, and trees bearing fruit with seeds, each according to its own type. God saw that they were good. There was evening, then morning–a third day.

-Genesis 1:11-13

Now, you may have noticed that Genesis is introducing life before introducing the sun. You may have also noticed that I have not mentioned the creation of stars, or the sun, at any point in the cosmological history up to this point. So here we have to answer a critical question. How can vegetation survive without proper sunlight? 

Temperature is the first piece of this puzzle that I would like to tackle. As mentioned earlier, the universe underwent a cooling period in its early history and this would have introduced the ability for liquid water to form. From this point, it is possible that excited particles in the atmosphere maintained a warm enough temperature to sustain life until the first supernovae and stars formed. It is important to note this is possible regardless of a planets distance from any star.

Photosynthesis is the second piece of this puzzle. The majority of modern plant life requires ultraviolet light in order to photosynthesize nutrients. Now, we could make the claim that this wasn’t always the case and that plants adapted to perform photosynthesis later on. This is certainly a possibility, but there is no supporting evidence that I am aware of to indicate this. So lets examine another possibility. There have been experiments conducted on plants to test their growth under varying UV radiation levels and they have shown a remarkable resiliency. This could indicate that even with low levels of UV radiation produced from sources other than the sun or stars, plant life could exist. Obviously man-made sources work, but I would be referring to naturally occurring sources. It turns out that mercury-vapor lights (man-made) are powered by providing electrical arcs through mercury vapor. In an early atmosphere, excited by the collisions of newer elements, is it unreasonable to think that small amounts of UV radiation could have occurred naturally as a result of electrical storms in mercury-rich clouds? If we can admit this possibility, then in conjunction with the experiment I mentioned earlier regarding UV radiation, it is also possible for plant life to have existed in this era. 

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the sky to separate the day from the night. They will be signs and will mark religious festivals, days, and years. They will be lights in the sky to shine on the earth.” And so it was. God made the two bright lights: the larger light to rule the day and the smaller light to rule the night. He also made the stars. God put them in the sky to give light to the earth, to dominate the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. God saw that it was good.

-Genesis 14-19

Current theory suggests that at some around 560 million years after the Big Bang, there was an era that is referred to as the Re-ionization Era. During this period, the very first stars were born, lived out their life cycles quickly, and then exploded. This would have been the first visible light in the universe, and until the end of this era there would have been a sort of battle between stars as they grew, exploded, and gave birth to new stars. One of these stars would have eventually been our sun. If earth had been close enough when to the area where the sun was born, life could have survived the process and earth would have ultimately been captured by the gravitational force of the newly created sun.

Final Recap

Here is the full outline of events that we have discussed:

  1. A universe expands out of nothing. God identifies a space where earth will be (formless and void). The creation of the first light during the Recombination Era, which slowly fades. (Day “Yom or Era” One)
  2. At the 10 million year mark, we have determined that it is possible for planets to have emerged in more “remote” parts of the universe and that water and atmosphere could exist on those planets. (Day “Yom or Era” Two)
  3. Following the 10-17 million year mark, we have determined that it is possible for live to have survived on planets regardless of their distance from a star (Day “Yom or Era” Three)
  4. The Re-ionization era would have created the first stars in the universe, potentially after life had begun. (Day “Yom or Era” Four)

As you can see, the Biblical creation model, if interpreted in proper context, can fit with modern cosmological theory. At the very least, hopefully I have outlined how it is a possibility that these separate ideologies do not have to be mutually exclusive. Of course, the probability of the events I have outlined is significantly small. However, the probability of any particular event happening at any specific time is also significantly small, so I prefer to focus on the realm of possibility rather than probability.

Continue on to evolution here.

References

  1. The habitable epoch of the early Universe https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/~loeb/habitable.pdf
  2. When was the first light in the early universe? https://m.phys.org/news/2016-11-universe.html
  3. Yom, Yowm. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yom
  4. The Yom Problem http://www.abarim-publications.com/YomProblem.html#.XTh2PHt7nDc
  5. Earth Has Water Older Than The Sun https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/earth-has-water-older-than-the-sun/
  6. Impacts of UV radiation on photosynthesis and growth of the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi (Haptophyceae) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0098847209001580

Written by James Dusenbery

I am the Founder/Lead Editor at CanonOfReason.com. I do not claim to be an "expert" at anything, although the title is afforded to me quite often. I simply want to spread understanding of different Biblical positions and shine some light on the versatility and brilliance of the Bible. You can follow me on Twitter (@JamesDusenbery) and Instagram (@CanonOfReason).

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