Gen 1 and Concordism

From: Peter Ruest (
Date: Tue Feb 26 2002 - 11:10:05 EST

  • Next message: Adrian Teo: "RE: [Fwd: RE: [Fwd: RE: [Fwd: RE: Darwinism/Compassion]]]" wrote:
    > Peter wrote,
    > << As the heavy bombardment of the early earth by planetesimals ceased only
    > very shortly before life arose, I think it is very unlikely that there
    > ever was a dry, cold earth enlightened by the sun, as Paul Seely seems
    > to conceive of. But please, John and Stephen, or other specialists,
    > would you like to comment? >>
    > I never said a dry, cold earth. I said an earth too hot to have an ocean.
    > Oceans develop after the crust solidifies. I do not believe anyone doubts
    > that a hot dry earth with a crust too hot to have an ocean preceded the
    > formation of the first ocean(s).

    Paul, you wrote (Mon, 18 Feb 2002 04:48:29 EST):

    "Assuming Gen 1 is written from the point of view of a person on earth,
    1:1-5 specifies that there was no differentiation between Day and Night,
    Light alternating with Darkness, that could be discerned by a person on
    until Day 1. So, in Gen 1:2, when an ocean covers the earth, dated c.
    3.5 to
    4.0 billion years ago, it was totally dark on the earth. This is c.
    500,000,000 years after sunlight appears. From what I have read, by that
    (after the earth cooled enough to have an ocean) the earth was no longer
    total darkness."

    I may have misunderstood what this says about what you really believe. I
    took it to mean that you think the first ocean appeared between 3.5 and
    4.0 Ga (billion years) ago, whereas sunlight appeared 0.5 Ga earlier, by
    far sufficient time for the earth to cool down. If this is not your
    opinion, I retract my statement "as Paul Seely seems to conceive of".

    > So, science is saying, First came dry land; after that came ocean(s), While
    > Gen 1 presents, First came an ocean before Day 1, after that dry land
    > appeared on Day Three.

    Has any "concordist" ever claimed Gen.1 (or any other biblical account)
    provides a _complete_ description of _all_ that happened? Of course, an
    earth aggregated by impacts between planetesimals could not have an
    ocean from the start. But Gen.1 does not claim so at all, unless you
    needlessly _assume_ that v.1 is the title and v.2 presents the very
    starting moment of creation, without any possibility of anything
    originating before the ocean-covered earth. But this is a straw man.
    > In John Wiester's book, the Genesis Connection, p. 59 he says,
    > "Initially, water in liquid form could not exist since the extremely hot
    > molten surface of the Earth prevented water vapor from condensing. It is
    > generally thought that this vapor, together with smog-like gasses (primarily
    > carbon dioxide) formed a hot, dense, continuous cloud surrounding the Earth.
    > In the gradual but continued cooling of the Earth's crust, the air
    > temperature finally lowered to the point (100 degrees C) where the
    > condensation from water vapor to liquid water took place. At first, rain
    > began to fall only to be reheated to new clouds of steam by the hot crust.
    > [NOTE: hot dry earth before ocean] Further crust cooling took place and
    > sheets of rain fell from the sky to accumulate on the cooling surface.
    > Volcanic action continued to outgas water vapor to the atmosphere and
    > gigantic cloud bursts sent the water back to Earth. The water accumulated
    > into shallow seas.
    > By 3.5 billion years ago, the Earth is thought to have been covered by a
    > shallow sea."

    More recent evidence than the one available to John Wiester in 1983 (or
    1992 for the 3rd printing I happen to have available) indicates that by
    4.4 Ga ago, the earth had an ocean and crust subjected to erosion of
    some kind: Wilde S.A., Valley J.W., Peck W.H., Graham C.M. "Evidence
    from detrital zircons for the existence of continental crust and oceans
    on the Earth 4.4 Gyr ago", Nature 409 (2001), 175-178. Halliday A.N. "In
    the beginning... (earth science)", Nature 409 (2001), 144-145,
    commented: "By 4.51 billion to 4.45 billion years ago, the Earth had
    reached its present mass... In its early stages Earth probably had a
    magma ocean, sustained by heat from impacts and the blanketing effects
    of a dense atmosphere, but much of that atmosphere would have been lost
    with the dispersion of the solar nebula and during planetary collisions.
    The earth would then have cooled quickly..." He indicates that by 4.47
    Ga ago, i.e. just 70 million years before the zircons indicative of
    crust erosion and ocean were formed, the Earth's accretion, core
    formation and degassing was essentially complete. This implies that the
    ocean itself was formed still earlier than the zircons. Sleep N.H.,
    Zahnle K., Neuhoff P.S. "Initiation of clement surface conditions on the
    earliest Earth", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 98
    (2001), 3666-3672, wrote: "Extensive surface water of indeterminate
    temperature and long-lived continental crust were present by 4.4 billion
    years ago. Surficial weathering by liquid water between 0 and 100C
    occurred by 4.2 billion years ago" (or earlier); and: "... likely a
    massive atmosphere blanketed the earth." Mojzsis S.J., Harrison T.M.,
    Pidgeon R.T. "Oxygen-isotope evidence from ancient zircons for liquid
    water at the Earth's surface 4,300 Myr ago", Nature 409 (2001), 178-181.

    Collerson K.D., Kamber B.S. "Evolution of the continents and the
    atmosphere inferred from the Th-U-Nb systematics of the depleted
    mantle", Science 283 (1999), 1519-1522, and Nyblade A.A. "Hard-cored
    continents (Earth science)", Nature 411 (2001), 38-39, indicate that the
    growth of the continents occurred unevenly, greatly increasing between 3
    and 2 Ga ago, combined with an increase in tectonic activity (with its
    mountain building), in atmospheric oxygen (at 2 Ga ago), in weathering
    and sedimentation.

    The dry land capable of carrying land plants required some geochemical
    preparation through these processes. Certainly, "day 3" represents a
    very long epoch which began around 4.47 Ga ago (or later) with the
    formation of the first continents, and plant colonization of the dry
    land starting before 1.2 Ga ago.

    > There is still the question of whether the earth was in total darkness at the
    > time of the first ocean, but in order to avoid the clash of the scientific
    > cosmology with the biblical account, Concordism is forced to ignore the first
    > time dry land appears, and begin the story of creation after the first
    > ocean(s) forms.

    Robert F. "The origin of water on Earth (perspectives: isotope
    geochemistry)", Science 293 (2001), 1056-1058, indicates that, according
    to the D/H isotopic signal, the water of the present oceans was probably
    derived from a few late giant impactors from the Kuyper belt. As such
    impacts would melt the earth's surface and vaporise any water on it,
    this means that the water of the present ocean was present as thick
    water vapor clouds when the earth cooled sufficiently to let an ocean
    condense (alternatively, the water-containing impactors might have been
    incorporated into the earth's mantle, and the water would have
    resurfaced through many volcanoes). Both impacts and volcanic eruptions
    would have enriched the atmosphere with many other materials, in
    addition to the water, and all this would certainly have produced
    darkness. So, an ocean covered by darkness cannot, at present, be
    excluded. There certainly was an ocean before continents arose, but it
    is still unknown whether there ever was a _global_ ocean. But as most of
    the water arrived through giant impacts melting the entire earth's
    surface, leveling it out evenly, an initial global ocean appears likely.

    > But this just causes more problems:
    > Concordism interprets the creation of the firmament on the second Day as the
    > creation of the atmosphere, with the seas below and the clouds above. But,
    > note Wiester's description: the atmosphere (water vapor, carbon dioxide, and
    > a few more gases he did not mention) existed BEFORE the ocean was formed.

    You apparently misunderstood Wiester's (and others') description. Not
    all systems we call atmospheres today are the same thing. A hot mix of
    water vapor and various other gases and dust beginning directly above
    the earth's hot surface is not identical to a clear gas mix without any
    condensed water droplets between an ocean and a cloud cover. Would the
    raqia' have to refer to both? I don't think so. The Bible is not a
    science textbook! Its language is phenomenological (which is not the
    same as accommodating myths!) and describes things as they would appear
    to human observers. What was new on "day 2" was the separation between
    the waters below the expanse and the waters above the expanse. An
    observer would have seen the sea, the clouds, and the room in-between.
    The latter is what is new. I.e., God made [or developed, 'asah] this
    expanse in-between, by letting the earth cool down sufficiently to start
    the water cycle between the now clearly separated bodies of water (and
    tuning the chemical element cycles to keep it going). The raqia' would
    not be co-extensive with the atmosphere in the modern scientific sense,
    whose density decreases continuously with hight, with no definable upper
    limit. The raqia' is what is experientially defined by the ocean below,
    the clouds above, the air (which can be felt) in it, and the flying
    creatures in or on the air or seen in front of e.g. the clouds.
    > And, there is another problem with the Concordist interpretation: the waters
    > above the firmament are ABOVE it, not in it. The prepositional phrase in Gen
    > 1:7 describing the position of the waters above the firmament is identical to
    > the prepositional phrase used in Ezek 1:25 to describe the position of the
    > voice above the firmament; and there is no question that the voice is coming
    > from literally above the firmament, not from within it.
    > If then the firmament is really the atmosphere and the waters above are
    > really clouds of water vapor, these clouds must be _above_ the atmosphere,
    > some 30 miles up! But, the highest clouds do not rise much over one third
    > that high.

    No, it doesn't follow that clouds "above" the raqia' would have to be 30
    miles up, see paragraph above. Scientifically, the atmosphere is
    operationally divided into several domains for which typical altitudes
    may be given, but there are no visible or otherwise definite delimiters,
    certainly not for an earthly observer. The Bible's language is
    phenomenological, not scientific.
    > (Paul Seely:)
    > > >Hebrew does not say birds fly _in_ the firmament, but _in front of_ the
    > > >firmament. What is _in_ (in the sense of within the confines of) the
    > > >firmament is the sun, moon and stars (Gen 1:17); but the waters are _above_
    > > >the firmament (same prepositional phrase with the same object) as in Ezek
    > > >1:25 to describe the location of a voice above a firmament, and that voice
    > > >is clearly from a person on a throne which is literally above, over, on top
    > > >of the firmament, not in it in any sense. The biblical description of a
    > > >solid firmament with an ocean above it and the sun, moon and stars under it
    > > >is exactly the cosmology of the ancient Babylonians, albeit they sometimes
    > > >have more than one solid firmament.
    > In A. Held & P. Ruest, "Taking Genesis as Inspired", PSCF 52/3 (Sep
    > 2000), 212, (and referring back to our "Genesis Reconsidered", PSCF 51/4
    > (Dec 1999), 231), we wrote:
    > << The same preposition _'al_, which usually means "on" or "above", is
    > the subject of Seely's next concern, his belief that the ancients
    > believed in a solid dome as a firmament above the earth. His argument
    > that _raquia'_, which he translates as "firmament", rather than
    > "expanse", and all of its cognate words _always_ refer to objects which
    > have solidity is not compelling, as we indicated in our endnote 34
    > [previous paper]. We don't quarrel with his idea that the preposition
    > _'al_ in Gen.1:20 _can_ mean "in front of", and we agree that the text
    > adds _pnee_, "face", before _raquia'_. But although _pnee_, when used
    > without _'al_, can mean "before", "in front of", the prepositional
    > phrase _'al-pnee_ means "over", "on", "in", or "over against", rather
    > than "in front of". But even this translation of _'al-pnee_ would not
    > indicate a solid firmament, "in front of" which the birds fly. The
    > sunlit atmosphere looks to us like a blue backdrop, "in front of" which
    > we see birds flying. No matter whether they fly "on", "over", "above",
    > or "in front of" the "expanse" or atmosphere, there is nothing in the
    > expression to suggest a solid dome _under_ which they would fly. By
    > substituting "surface" for "face", in order to yield "on the surface of
    > the firmament", Seely is similarly unsuccessful, as this would make the
    > birds fly _above_ the solid dome, making nonsense of the statement. >>
    > My point was that since Gen 1:20 really says, Let birds fly "in front of" the
    > firmament, the "blue backdrop "in front of" which we see birds flying," as
    > Peter says, the verse cannot be used as evidence that the firmament is not
    > solid. The "blue backdrop" could be solid, as I have no doubt the writer
    > believed. But, I also made the point earlier that the addition of the word
    > "surface" in the Hebrew text did not cohere well with a non-solid "backdrop"
    > but very well with a solid one.

    Our point was that the birds flying "in front of" the raqia' cannot be
    used as evidence that the raqia' is solid, and the compound phrase
    'al-pnee can, in different biblical contexts, be translated "over",
    "on", "in", or "over against" (although pnee alone means face) and does
    not provide any evidence for the solidity of the raqia', either.
    > With a solid firmament in mind, it makes sense that the text literally says
    > the birds are to fly "in front of the surface of the firmament." But, if a
    > modern view of the sky is in mind, one gets a contorted almost nonsensical
    > statement: The birds are to fly "in front of the surface of the atmosphere",
    > or "in front of the surface of the sky." What surface? No one with a modern
    > view of the sky in mind would talk like that. "Oh, look at the airplane, it
    > is flying in front of the surface of the sky." Come on. You've got to be
    > kidding. Nor does translating the word panee, "surface," mean that the birds
    > are flying above the surface of the sky: When combined with panee, the
    > preposition 'al means, as Peter, admitted, "over against",that is, in a
    > position opposite to the object named, hence in this case, "in front of."

    See above; 'al-pnee also means "over", "on", "in", any one of which
    makes a solid firmament impossible. Only if you _presuppose_ that the
    raqia' is solid, you have to translate "in front of the face (surface?)
    > <<Previously, light of celestial bodies had reached the earth's surface
    > only in scattered form, such as on an overcast day. The text does not
    > say that bodies were "affixed to the firmament", but that God "gave" the
    > lights (the light rays, _not_ their sources) "into the _raqia^_ of the
    > skies", the region which previously could not be reached by direct
    > light. Now changed atmospheric conditions caused the previously
    > permanent cloud cover to break open, so that for the first time the
    > celestial bodies appeared as "lights in the sky". Over some time, the
    > lights were being "prepared" [_^asah_], coming through hazily first,
    > more clearly later. Literally, God said "Let it be (singular): lights
    > (plural)!" The single process of the atmospheric change caused the
    > appearance of a multitude of lights. They were to provide space and time
    > indications required by many organisms. >>
    > I agree that Gen 1:17 does not say God "affixed the lights to the firmament"
    > any more than Gen 40:13, placing the cup into Pharaoh's hand (very same verb
    > and preposition), means that the cup was affixed to Pharaoh's hand; but, it
    > does mean that the lights, like the cup, were placed into the confines of the
    > firmament, which hence could not be the atmosphere.
    > As mentioned earlier, the context of v. 16 demands that the "them" of verse
    > 17 be the sun, moon and stars, not their light rays. It is bad enough that
    > "firmament" is taken out of its historical context, to go on and take 1:17
    > out of its biblical context as well is a clear evidence that the theory is
    > determining the interpretation. And, even if the firmament were the
    > atmosphere, the light rays would already be present in the two thirds of the
    > atmosphere before Day 4 because only the lower third of the atmosphere was
    > clouded over.

    If you don't take the entire body of our interpretations in Gen.1-2 as a
    whole, but pick individual statements out of the context, you can
    produce one straw man after another... Could it be that your theory is
    determining your interpretation? I agree that the "them" in v.17 refers
    to the "lights" prepared in v.16, but these are not the heavenly bodies,
    but their light coming to the earth. The context of v.16 doesn't force
    us to see in it the creation of heavenly bodies ('asah, not bara'). The
    heavens, with stars, sun, earth and moon, originated in the creation and
    subsequent development "in the beginning" (v.1). In v.16, God developed
    their lights, or the effects of their light coming to the earth, by a
    development modifying the properties of the atmosphere, into which these
    lights now were given (v.17), so that they could penetrate down to the
    earth's surface. This also fits with the raqia' being the expanse below
    the clouds, not the scientifically defined atmosphere extending far into
    space. I don't see why "the lights" (ma'orim) cannot be "the light of
    the sun and the light of the moon and the lights of the stars". It is
    certainly these which give the space and time orientation they are
    supposed to provide.
    > Finally, the use of the singular verb, "let there be" in v. 14 by no means
    > necessitates that a single process like clearing the atmosphere must be
    > intended. As Westermann says (p. 129, Genesis 1-11) "God orders that there be
    > lights in the firmament of the heavens, that is, that they are to come into
    > being. The verb is in the singular. According to Ges-K (Gesenius-Kautzsch, a
    > primary Hebrew reference grammar) section 145o there are many exceptions to
    > the basic rule that the gender and number of the predicate should follow
    > those of the subject, "when the predicate precedes the subject."
    > As one reviews the many preferences for the improbable over the probable
    > meaning of the biblical text which dot the Concordist landscape, one can
    > hardly avoid the awareness that the methodology in back of Concordism is
    > identical to that in back of creation science, except that the latter
    > distorts the scientific data much more often than the biblical data. They are
    > both founded on the same unbiblical but popular idea that the inspiration of
    > Scripture does not allow for accommodation to the science of the times. The
    > fact that Scripture must be subordinated to the doctrine of absolute biblical
    > inerrancy (even in creation science when it comes to the firmament and the
    > rest of the biblical cosmology) is clear evidence that the doctrine stands
    > above the Word of God; and that is the root problem.
    > Paul

    What if I returned the compliment? Shall I ask whether biblical texts
    presenting themselves as narratives must be subordinated to the doctrine
    of absolute divine accommodationism? Or, whether this accommodationism
    doesn't turn these biblical narratives into irrelevant myths covered by
    a thin theological veneer? Or, whether the current accommodationist
    dogma must never be challenged by any ideas that don't jibe with it? I
    don't claim to have a perfect, water-tight interpretation of everything,
    but the mere possibility of finding a feasible harmonization between old
    texts (which we know to be inspired by God) and new science going far
    beyond mere coincidents (in contrast to all pagan myths!) should make us
    aware that there may be more in these texts. At least, one should be
    free to investigate possibilities of unconventional interpretation,
    without being treated with depreciative language or charged with
    unreasonable rigidity.

    On the theological level, I probably have very much less disagreement
    with you. Perhaps we should reconsider what divine inspiration really


    Dr Peter Ruest, <>
    CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland
    Biochemistry - Creation and evolution
    Creative providence in biology (Gen.2:3):
    "..the work which God created (in order) to (actively) evolve it"

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