Barry Newman's Blog

November 4, 2010

Science and Genesis 1: 1 – 2: 3 (part IX)

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 10:09 pm

Genesis 1: 20-23 – Day 5

As Day 1 was “fulfilled” in Day 4 so Day 2 is “fulfilled” in Day 5.  In Day 2, the firmament was made to move the water above it away from the water below it. One of the results of this movement was to bring about “space” between the firmament (the raqia) and the water below.  The space itself is not given a description but arguably its existence is implied.  It is that “space” and the water below that is now addressed in Day 4.  Birds fly above the earth and across the face of the “raqia” (that is within the “space”) and the waters teem with living creatures.  The “structures”, the form, brought about by the “raqia”, is now utilised and the original void is further diminished as both “structures” are filled.

With respect to Day 5, the word “bara” (create) appears for only the second time in Genesis 1: 1 – 2: 3, its first occurrence being in 1: 1 (“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”) and we might well ask why it appears here.  It is to be found again in 1: 27, for the third and last time in this opening segment of Genesis, in connection with the coming into being of mankind.  It might be that from a literary point of view, the writer has an interest in certain numbers and in this instance displays an interest in the number “three”.  While this may be so, perhaps it is more likely that he chooses to use the word, only ever used in the O.T. of the activity of God, in the passages under discussion because of the great significance of the events to which it is attached.  As argued previously, 1: 1 is a type of introductory summary.  Its use there is understandable. The coming into being of mankind is unquestionably of great significance so its use there is also understandable. But what makes the events of Day 4 so significant?  Could it be because of what is signified by the term “living creatures”, that first makes its appearance in Day 5?  The term will again appear in Day 6 of animals and later will be used of man in 2: 7.  The plants of Day 4 are not termed “living creatures”.  It is a term only applied to what we would describe in general terms as the animal world.  Compared to plants, animals are “mobile” (the term “moving” is applied to the creatures of the waters in 1: 21) and perhaps it is something of that idea that underlies the difference between “living creatures” and the plant world.  It is true that in 1: 20 the term does not appear to be directly associated with the bird life but only the life of the waters.  However in 1: 21 it is used to cover both.  Living creatures because of their so obvious “life” stand out as being of great significance and so understandably, “bara” is to be used of them to highlight that significance.  This matter of the distinction in Genesis between the plant world and the animal world, as we term them, should remind us of the difference between the way the Genesis document classifies these “worlds’ and the way modern man does, ascribing “life” to both animals and plants

What description over and above “living” is given to the creatures of the waters? They are intended to be prolific – the waters are to swarm with them and some of them are especially designated, “the great ‘tannin’”.  Walton (Genesis, p. 127) argues that “tannin” is to be understood as referring to “the chaos monsters that were believed to inhabit the cosmic waters” but in Genesis, contrary to how they were commonly thought of, they are not creatures that are “antagonists that need to be defeated”.  They simply fulfil the purposes of their creator.   It is quite possible that the term “the great ‘tannin’”, while having a reference to such was also intended to include creatures such as whales, sharks etc.

Both birds and water dwelling creatures are referred to in terms of being created “according to its kind”.  As mentioned previously, “kind” (min) is not to be associated with any one of the taxons of a modern taxonomic system.  Seely in “The Meaning of Min, ‘Kind’” (see above) argues that an examination of the use of “min” throughout the O.T. and a consideration of certain anthropological data indicates that its application varies greatly depending upon what particular animals or plants (to use our nomenclature) are being referred to.  With regards to fish and appealing to modern classificatory terms, he believes that “as a general rule min would land sometimes on the family level and at other times on the genus and even the species level.”  In his discussion on birds, he maintains that in their case, “min” may refer “on a rare occasion to the family level and at times to the genus level but the reference will usually be to the species level.” 

Seely also believes that underlying “min”, a word never used of inanimate objects, is the notion of reproduction.  On this basis, though of course there is no mention of seeds in relation to the creatures of Day 5 as there was to the plants of Day 4, the creatures of Day 5 are to be conceived of as able to reproduce.  In fact 1: 22 makes it clear that God’s blessing upon them was for them to reproduce, in fact, in large numbers.   The waters in the seas are to be filled with the water dwellers and the birds are to multiply on the earth.  As with the plants the creatures of Day 5 have a type of permanence. Indeed in their case they not only reproduce, they increase in numbers.

The reference to “earth” in the case of the birds might entail an understanding that birds are in general associated with the earth (they land on the earth, they nest in trees etc.) though they fly across the “raqia”, whereas, the water dwellers are associated with the “seas” and not the earth.  That God blesses them but not the plants is a further indication of how special these “living creatures” are that God “created”.

And God said, “Let …” And it came to be.  And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening and there was morning – the fifth day.


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