A lot of ink has been given to the Creation account and how we should read it. In Seminary, I was taught to read it as a mythical account similar to other creation myths of cultures at the time of the Hebrews. This never set right with me, and the reasoning was not centered on the Word but on the understanding of science and the redefinition of the word in our day and age. In Seminary, I explored the idea of Intelligent Design with criticism and warnings from professors and other colleagues, most of those of that sought to influence me in my formation. Evolution was king because that is what modern science would show. The fact God created was still valid in their eyes, but they would point to the process and highlight how God had worked within the process of creation through evolution.
This never satisfied me, and I felt it was a diminishment of God and the Holy Word given to us in Christ Jesus. I further explored the Bible and other theologians to gain insight. I looked at the writings of Martin Luther and found agreement with his viewpoint. I began to look at the plain reading of Scripture and let that guide me. I also looked at various views and became interested in Answers In Genesis (answersingenesis.com) and as well as the Institute of Creation Research. Many of my colleagues from the Seminary would now call me a Fundamentalist, but I would disagree. I don't read the Bible literally, but more as it is written plainly, and I see the Creation account as a carried history, a narrative shared with Moses that was inspired by God and put to paper by one of His greater prophets, Moses. I also hold to the more traditional Mosaic view of the first five books of the Bible, i.e., the Torah or the Pentateuch. Another influence in my current reading would be the Rev. Dr. Chad Bird, who is with 1517.org.
So, let us look at Genesis 1 & 2. Beginning with Genesis 1, we have the words, "In the beginning God..." This is how most translations in English begin with the NRSV and NABRE, where they add the term "when" before God. Of course, these are all decisions made by the translators in which the Hebrew would be more written "In Beginning God..." All translations agree that God created and nothing is spoken of prior to God. Yes, one could argue that the addition of "when" may open that door, but one would have to do some linguistic gymnastics to argue for this point. Nowhere does it truly leave an opening in the text to say that anything existed prior to this moment.
Let's look at the Word and study -
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2 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.
3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
4 God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness.
5 God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.
Genesis 1:1–5, NASB95
One point of contention among biblical scholars is the understanding of the days of Creation. How do we understand the term "day." Contextually, we know that the term day can be utilized to mean more than just a twenty-four-hour period. Honest, biblically, that isn't how the day is defined, though, either. So, when we begin with the twenty-four-hour day, we enter into another rabbit hole. Biblically, day is defined from when the Sunsets to the Sunsets or darkness to darkness. Whether that be twenty-four-hours or twenty-three-hours-fifty-nine-minutes-fifty-eight-seconds is not the issue. I only address this because it has been so addressed with me in the past. Adding millions of years would be unimaginable in this understanding, which further becomes less of a defendable position as we move forward through Genesis 1.
6 Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”
7 God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so.
8 God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
9 Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so.
10 God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good.
11 Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so.
12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good.
13 There was evening and there was morning, a third day.
14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years;
15 and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so.
16 God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also.
17 God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth,
18 and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good.
19 There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
Genesis 1:6–19, NASB95
Now we begin to enter into the greater struggle with the Bible as we see the Creation account. The great issue that many think of is that we have light and dark prior to the creation of the sun, moon, and stars. In my opinion, this seems to be an odd struggle because God Himself is light and can create light from Himself. Yet, this is one aspect that many discuss. Many different views also confront the modern Christian in this day and age because there is a desire not to appear anti-science when reviewing the Creation account. This is nothing new in Christianity. Church Fathers are back and forth on this issue which Martin Luther addresses in his writings. More commonly at the time of the Reformation was the criticism of it taking six days for God to create. This is a dismissal of the order by which God created. The structure of Creation was also given to us as a method of how we can structure our time. God could have continued to be the only light that would stand before us, but He gives us the sun, the moon, and the stars to help us in the ordering of our days. We can still determine seasons by looking at the sky as we see the various placement of stars. The gift of the plants was done in preparation for all of creation, as this was meant for our food.
20 Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.”
21 God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good.
22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”
23 There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.
24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so.
25 God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;
30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.
31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Genesis 1:20–31, NASB95
We know from reading the words of Moses as he tells us about Creation that all the work we completed at the time of all things spoken. Plants were fully grown and full of fruit and seed. This was not as it would remain, but was done for the sake of Creation and showing God's glory. God's word is always whole and complete. The same is true with all the creatures in the air and those land animals to us who were created. They were fully grown and ready for fruitfulness. We find that even with the creation of humankind, which is created in the image of God, in parity. This we will see further developed in the Second Chapter of Genesis. Here we also have revealed to us the triune nature of God as the persons of the Godhead are heard clarifying the will of God to one another. Some also find this problematic and desire to add more to the words or have it explain something else. I think it best to keep to a plain reading to see this as a historical narrative. It would be not unlike many traditions that exist in cultures known today. Indigenous cultures commonly carried on histories through oral tellings that were carried down for generations, and these were not meant to be understood as tales or stories but as histories.
If we believe, as people who see the Bible as the sole norm of our faith and life and as the Word of God, that the Bible is true, would it not be easy to see how the traditions that we have seen in other cultures would have grown from the tradition of the first people? Sadly, we often see the reverse in some of the modern scholarship that attributes the way in which the Creation account is written to the other Mesopotamian cultural accounts of peoples that grew around the Hebrews and were there at the time of Moses. Particularly the Enuma Elish that was found in some ancient Akkadian hieroglyphics and highlights the Babylonian God of Marduk (many consider it the oldest story that has been discovered). I find it tragic that modern scholars would not attribute the similarities to the Biblical account to the reality of the Tower of Babel, which will be further studied later, and the great dispersion that would have occurred. Instead, the Bible is relegated to be a compilation influenced by other cultures.
The one difficulty with modern interpretations that want to make millions of years and evolution as being able to be reconciled to Scripture is the issue of death and disease. If there were millions of years prior to the creation of humankind or if all things evolved, we also have the issue of the lack of completion, which God speaks of at the end of the sixth day. God saw all of creation as good, but would we be able to say that disease, death, and illness were good? How do we reconcile the first blessing of God to eat all the fruit of the land? In the biblical account, when put in juxtaposition with an evolutionary worldview, how do we reconcile the eating of meat prior to Noah? At the point of Creation, this was not something allowed, and we are met with the question, was Creation rebelling against God prior to the Fall?
I have had discussions with those that wish to tell me how wrong a young earth creationist viewpoint is, but the answers are based on the challenges that one will find within the poetic writings of the world and not with the account of Genesis 1 directly. Yes, it is a challenge to evolution, but most that defend evolution here, at the same time, defend the inconsistencies within evolution that are often occurring when the timeline is found to be in err or things are found that cannot fit within an accepted timeline.
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts.
2 By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.
3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven.
5 Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground.
6 But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground.
7 Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
8 The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.
9 Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers.
11 The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.
12 The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there.
13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush.
14 The name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.
16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;
17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”
19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.
20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.
21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place.
22 The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Genesis 2, NASB95
Some like to call the account given in Genesis 2 a second creation. This was taught to me when I was in seminary. Much of this was utilized to minimize the Creation account in Genesis and place it in line with the myths. There are those that would argue that we should read it poetically, similar to the Epic poems of the Greeks and Romans. Anyone who has studied the Greek Epics will know the Illiad and Oedipus Rex stories, including the accounts of many mythical creatures and encounters with the various gods and goddesses. Though the United Bible Society explains it this way,
The book of Genesis is dominated by narrative discourse. The other discourse types that occur have their place and significance in relation to the narrative story line.
Speiser and others call the narratives in chapters 1 to 11 “Primeval History.” These are essentially separate narratives, but they are linked together and to the rest of the book by a line of descent traced from the beginning of the human race down to Abram, who is first named in 11:26.
Two other types of discourse that also have an important place in the book are poetry and family records. Passages that are recognized as poetic by more than one English version are: 1:27; 2:23; 3:14–19; 4:23–24; 8:22; 9:6; 9:25–27; 12:3; 14:19–20; 15:1; 16:11–12; 24:60; 25:23; 27:27–29; 27:39–40; 48:15–16; 48:20; 49:1–27. The majority of these are words of promise, blessing, or curse, and are closely related to the narrative story line. A poetic form may or may not be appropriate for such words in other languages.
Reyburn, W. D., & Fry, E. M. (1998). A handbook on Genesis (pp. 5–6). United Bible Societies.
Within the narrative are poetic elements, but the majority of the writing is not poetic. Now we can ask the question, "What kind of narrative?" Since it is dealing with past events, what one would normally call history, we can easily deduce that what we are reading is a historical narrative. So, we begin the second chapter of Genesis with a closure of the first and the finalization of the first week of Creation. Now I am not going to laud all that the United Bible Society puts out since they are not friends of Creationism. In fact, quite the opposite. They would put Creationism as equivalent to the current Flat Earth Movement that has gained notoriety in recent years. As a Young Earth Creationist, I have little in common with the Flat Earth Movement, though I don't desire to go into that now. What I have found in my studies is that the more we look at creation and science with the Bible in mind we find that there are many things that truly do come together. The greatest difficulty for evolution is the timeline. Science continually shows that adaptation can be had in a relatively short period of time, but there are no instances that show something evolving (not that there haven't been great attempts; here is the PBS Nova Series with explanations of how Dr. Owen Lovejoy had to reconstruct Lucy's pelvis beginning at 28 minutes into the episode in which he had to "correct" it so Lucy would be able to walk upright and not be like a Chimpanzee).
The second chapter of Genesis gives us the full story of the creation of Adam and Eve. It is similar to the focus window one might find on a map to highlight and give a greater depth of understanding. We find how man and woman were created as complementary. We also are given the full dictates of God to humankind as caretakers for all of God's creation. At the end of the chapter, we find the definition of marriage of a union meant for one man and one woman. In these chapters, we find the proper order for creation prior to the Fall and the entrance of sin into the world.