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Some authors think the word "day" should be interpreted figuratively, i.e. it means directly an indefinite period, and not at all a common day. It is then necessary to attach definite significations to the mornings and evenings, which is done clumsily. It is better to adopt the symbolical theory which gives all the advantages of both the figurative and literal significations. The figurative sense is occult and abstruse; the symbolical does not nullify the obvious meaning.
Thus the most important peculiarities in the form or style of the first few chapters of Genesis are these. It was written by different authors; it is retrospectively prophetic; it is a pictorial history of the creation, and the word "day" is used in a symbolic sense.
Design of the Creative Account. The account of the creation was probably designed to teach several important religous truths:
(a) The creation of all things is ascribed to God. It is repeated again and again that God commanded so and so; God created; God saw; and God approved. The word "Elohim" is used thirty-five times in thirty-four verses. As God created the animals and heavenly bodies, men are taught to worship him who made all else.
(b) It was designed to teach that the creative work was performed in a manner worthy of God. It was accomplished with infinite ease. What can be more admirable than the creation of light? The atoms were all emptiness and desolation, but God says: "Let there be light," and the universe was instantly illuminated. There is no machinery, no visible exertions; but God speaks, and it is done. No agent is anywhere employed. Even where the expression seems to imply the aid of instrumentalities, the waters commanded to bring forth the moving creature, the air to abound with fowl, and the earth to produce quadrupeds, the context declares immediately that God made the great whales, the fowl, and cattle. That God is the energy enabling second causes to act is the plain doctrine of Genesis. We derive the impression that the creative work was performed in
accordance with a predetermined plan. Each days' work is approved, as if the result corresponded with the purpose; and the plan is evidently progressive, with a growing fitness for the introduction of moral beings. There is no creation of organic life until the continents are finally separated from the oceans, and no animals until sustenance is prepared for them. And when the six days' work is completed, the several parts are seen to be combined into one perfect whole, "very good."
(c) It was designed to show the superiority of man over the brute animals. They were commanded to be fruitful and multiply, but man was to have dominion over them.
(d) It was designed to show what was the natural and proper food of man- the fruits, grain, and vegetables. This was his sustenance in paradise, and it was not till after the flood when sin had grown so mighty as to overwhelm the world that the use of animal food was allowed.
(e) It was designed especially to remind men that a portion of their time must be consecrated to the service of God. The very first families were distinctly notified that the example of their Maker must be imitated. Six days had been spent in fitting up this beautiful world for their residence, and the day succeeding the cessation of labor was sanctified, forever set apart from other days for sacred employments. The only other reference in the Bible to the divine work is the command to remember the seventh day to all generations. Here we conceive, is the origin of the use of the number "seven" to denote perfection. The work of creation was perfect, and hence it was natural for men to transfer the idea of perfection to its most conspicuous feature. We cannot, therefore, so invert the order of the symbol as to suppose the use of the number "seven" simply denotes the perfection of the creative work, while there is no truth in the special acts of each day, or that the creative document is merely a poetical fiction, designed to teach great truths, but with no foundation in facts.
God was not satisfied with ordering the observance of the seventh day; the law of the Sabbath was written in the con
stitution of the animal kingdom. Its violation is visited with a penalty. The week is thus a natural as well as a positive institution, and from its origin is commemorative of the creative work. We have really, therefore, an argument for the truth of the creative narrative in the constitution of men, animals, and society.
(f) We believe the creative chapter was designed at the outset to confirm the truth of the sacred narrative in a remote sceptical age. A modern science, born fifty-five centuries after the art of music, illustrates the earliest inspired record, so that it is better understood than at any intermediate period. Though not given to teach scientific principles, the fact that the incidental statements of the document designed to illustrate the power, wisdom, and benevolence of God are properly understood only till the fifty-ninth century, while whole systems of false creative philosophy and pretended revelation intermediate have been overwhelmed, proclaims unmistakably the truth and inspiration of the scriptures. Gladly would irreligion convert the substantial foundations of the biblical edifice into airy myths, that the superstructure might crumble at their blasts; but the corner-stones have been planted upon a rock, and will not yield to storms and floods. The first chapters of Genesis are at the foundation of religion. If we call them myths we destroy the obligation of the Sabbath, the doctrine of human depravity, and the sanctity of the marriage relation.
With these preliminaries we now propose to state briefly how the science of geology confirms the truth of the incidental statements of the Bible concerning the antiquity of the earth, the order of creation, and the time of the introduction of man.
There is a presumption in favor of a notice of the geological history, arising from the character of the rest of Genesis. The sacred writings of the Jews describe the early history of the human race, while those of every other nation are limited to the events pertaining to themselves. Hence we should expect to find a description of the creation of all things in the creative chapter.
We present five columns in which we have endeavored to give the true order of the succession of events, both according to scripture and science. The last three are paralleled according to their geological age. The third represents the geological order of the inorganic acts, and the first appearances of the different classes of organisms. The fourth gives the classes predominating in the several periods. No events have been moved up or down for the sake of manufacturing an agreement. It will be noticed that the order of the events, both as respects the times of introduction and predominance in the two geological columns, agrees with that in the scriptural account. No attempt is made to specify from geological data the time when the heavenly bodies first gave light to the earth. It was probably not later than the dawn of the Silurian period. (See Table, p. 437.)
First Day. So far back as we can be carried by the formation of strata we have a sure guide to the general physical structure of the earth. Beyond that the hints are mostly of the probable, and will be viewed differently. We think that matter came into existence chiefly as original elements, in their various forms of solid, liquid, and gaseous, or perhaps all were expanded to the gaseous condition. These particles of matter did not long remain quiescent. Having mutual affinities, contiguous atoms immediately united to form compounds, and this union was attended with intense light and heat. At the same time the universal law of gravitation affected the mass it began to revolve, portions of it were detached to be developed into planets and satellites, while the large nucleus remained as the sun. For all the particulars consult the Nebular Hypothesis.
Our planet was a mass of rarified, intensely-heated, revolving matter. It continued to revolve and condense till reduced to igneous fluidity. Still condensing and cooling it attained its present sphericity and rotatory speed. Hence there were days of twenty-four hours established thus early, with intervals of darkness as soon as light came from the sun. Were the early days of different length, the polar diameter