Reasons to reject concordism in Genesis 1

From: Terry M. Gray (
Date: Tue May 28 2002 - 00:58:37 EDT

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    Jim has argued for the "amazing" harmony between the order of Genesis
    1 and what modern science claims. Below I cite some quotes from
    various critics of this claim, some from the literary view (or
    framework view) and some from young-earth creationists in their
    critique of day-age views.

    I understand that those who hold to the day-age view have attempted
    to answer these various objections--Jim will, I suspect, respond by
    telling us that he and others have answered them already in previous
    posts. Some of us do not find these answers compelling and thus, in
    good conscience for the sake of our understanding of the truth, must
    reject the concordist harmonizing of Genesis 1 in favor of some kind
    of literary view. (As I've indicated before, I espouse the so-called
    "framework hypothesis".) Others do find the answers given to these
    criticisms satisfying and they, in good conscience for the sake of
    their understanding of the truth, advocate the day-age view.

    As I've indicated in the past, this is a point of legitimate
    disagreement among Christians who seek to honor God in their
    understanding on this question. It is clear that one is wrong (or
    both are wrong). At times Jim has made it sound like an open and shut
    case and he bemoans the fragmentation among the Christian community
    on this point. I hope that the following will help him, and perhaps
    others, to see why some of us don't see it as an open and shut case.

    As I've suggested before, why one person finds a particular viewpoint
    persuasive and someone else doesn't is a fascinating question. I
    suspect that there are a host of religious, psychological, and
    sociological factors that come into play. I guess that's why there
    are Arminians and Calvinists; baptists and paedobaptist;
    premillennialists, postmillennialists, and amillennialist;
    charismatics and cessasionists; etc. (name your
    theological/eccesiastical issue). I'm resigned to tolerating such
    differences among Christians (although I may not tolerate them in my
    particular church or denomination).

    Here are the quotes:


      From Henri Blocher *In the Beginning* (1984) pp. 45-46. [Blocher is
    an advocate of the Literary View (a category missing from Jim's list
    of possible views, although I suppose it could be what he is calling
    "theologist view". I would recommend Blocher's book--he is a
    conservative scholar that rejects a literal view of Genesis 1 on the
    basis of arguments from scripture itself and not on the basis of any
    desire to force a view that is compatible with modern science.]

    After arguing that day-age interpreters have already equivocated on
    the meaning of the word day he writes:

    "Next, the agreement with the scientific view is not as easy and
    complete as at first appears. If we may pass over the problem of the
    unequal duration of the day-eras, there are noticeable differences in
    the order of the details. In the Bible, trees (Day 3) precede marine
    organisms (Day 5), and birds (Day 5) precede insects (Day 6);
    scientists think the opposite." (Here Blocher cites Morris in
    *Scientific Creationism* pp. 227f.--I will quote this later.)

    "But the biggest disagreement stares you straight in the face: the
    creation of the sun and stars on the fourth day, after the earth and
    its vegetation, even after the trees. On this reef the concordist
    boat is wrecked. The usual explanation, that at that particular epoch
    God dispersed a thick covering of cloud and *revealed* the luminaries
    for the first time, looks like an admission of failure. Once again,
    in order to get out of a difficulty, people would like to change the
    meaning of a word which is simple and well known. The geocentric
    viewpoint of the narrative gives no authority to turn 'make' into
    'reveal'. Genesis has a perfectly good word for 'appear' when it
    needs to use it (1:9). We join many writers in rejecting the proposed
    'solution'. Quite apart from the gratuitous nature of the 'cloud'
    hypothesis, the theory of day-eras does violence to the text with
    regard to the fourth day."


      From Henry Morris *Scientific Creationism* (1974) pp. 227-228
    [Morris is young-earth creationist; I do not endorse his reading of
    scripture or his science. Also I do not necessarily endorse each of
    the "contradictions" listed below, but I think that they do make a
    strong argument against the Day-Age view.]

    "2. Contradictions between Genesis and the Geological Ages. Even if
    it were possible to understand "day" in Genesis as referring to
    something like a geological age (and it is not hermeneutically
    possible, as just seen), it still would not help any in regard to the
    concordist motivation. The vague general concordance between the
    order of creation in Genesis and the order of evolutionary
    development in geology (and as noted earlier such a vague concordance
    is to be expected in the nature of the case and thus proves nothing)
    becomes a veritable morass of contradictions when we descend to an
    examination of details.

    "At least 25 such contradictions exist. Note just a few of them.

    Matter existed in the beginning Matter created by
    God in the beginning
    Sun and stars before the earth Earth before the sun and stars
    Land before the oceans Oceans before the land
    Sun, earth's first light Light before the sun
    Contiguous atmosphere and hydrosphere Atmosphere between two hydrospheres
    Marine organisms, first forms of life Land plants, first life
    forms created
    Fishes before fruit trees Fruit trees before fishes
    Insects before birds Birds before
    insects ("creeping things")
    Sun before land plants Land vegetation
    before the sun
    Reptiles before birds Birds before
    reptiles ("creeping things")
    Woman before man (by genetics) Man before woman (by creation)
    Rain before main Man before rain
    "Creative" processes still continuing Creation completed
    Struggle and death necessary Man, the cause of
    struggle and death
            antecedents of man

    "The above very sketchy tabulation shows conclusively that it is
    impossible to speak convincingly of a concordance between the
    geological ages and Genesis. Apart from the question of evolution or
    creation, the Genesis record is stubbornly intransigent and will not
    accommodate the standard system of geological ages. A decision must
    be made for one or the other--one cannot logically accept both."


    Here is a paragraph from David Siemens critique of Dick Fischer's
    argument for a day-age interpretation giving some conflicts between
    the order of events in Genesis 1 and the order proposed by modern
    science. [Original Fischer article:; Siemens
    Fischer's response:; Armstrong
    article on Buckland: ]

    "There is a further problem with this interpretation, popular though
    it be. In the same issue of the journal, John R. Armstrong noted
    Buckland's 1837 objection that the "order of appearance in the strata
    did not match the order in Genesis 1" (p. 36). This difficulty cannot
    be met by explaining how there could be days before the appearance of
    the sun (p. 17). What is needed is an explanation of how there can be
    seed-bearing herbs and trees (polycots, Permian, 250 million years
    before the present; dicots, Jurassic, 200 m.y.b.p.-dates are rounded
    off very roughly) and grasses (monocots, Cretaceous, 100 m.y.b.p.)
    before fishes (Cambrian, 550 m.y.b.p., or Ordovician, 450 m.y.b.p.);
    and birds (Jurassic, 150 m.y.b.p.) before "creeping things"
    (amphibia, Devonian, 400 m.y.b.p.; reptiles, Carboniferous, 325
    m.y.b.p.). Adding the insects (Carboniferous, 300 m.y.b.p) as "flying
    things" (p. 15) and creepers (cf. Leviticus 11:20-46, where words
    from two roots are intermingled-Strong's 7430f, 8317f; Genesis
    1:24-26, 30, uses the former) does not help sort things out. Can the
    Author of Scripture be that confused, not knowing what the Source of
    terrestrial life did?"


    Finally, here is Meredith Kline's argument against the concordist
    proposal that the sun, moon, and stars weren't created on the fourth
    day, but merely came into sight or began to function as luminaries to
    counter the somewhat obvious conclusion of "light before the sun"
    objection to the concordist scheme. The is from "Space and Time in
    the Genesis Cosmogeny" (PSCF (1986)) on the web at This is a long
    and difficult read, but with patience and some work it will yield to
    even the stubbornist of intellects.

    (beginning of Kline quote)

    Lower Register Time

    Twin Record. Earthly time is articulated in the astronomical
    phenomena that measure off and structure its flow. It is the
    astral-solar-lunar relationships of the earth that define the units,
    the years and the days, in which man experiences (lower register)
    time. They produce the sequence of light and darkness that marks the
    days. They arrange the signs in the sky that announce the seasonal
    round of the years. Time is named, its meaning is expressed, in this
    system of calibration. The establishing of this regulatory order by
    which lower register time is defined and in which it has its being is
    recorded in the creation account. Twice in fact: once at the
    beginning of the first triad of days (Gen. 1:3-5) and a second time
    at the beginning of the second triad (Gen. 1:14-19).

    Temporal Recapitulation. The non-sequential nature of the creation
    narrative, and thus the non-literal nature of the creation "week, is
    evident from the recording of the institution of lower register time
    in both the first and fourth day-sections. This point must be
    developed here because of its importance as an independent argument
    against the solar-day and day-age views and because the exegesis
    involved is preparatory to other arguments below.

    The forming and stationing of the sun, moon, and stars are attributed
    to day four. Their functions with respect to the earth are also
    stated here, first in the fiat section (Gen. 1:14, 15) and again (in
    reverse order) in the fulfillment section (Gen. 1:16-18). They are to
    give light on the earth and to rule by bounding light/day and
    darkness/night, as well as by demarcating the passage of years and
    succession of seasons. These effects which are said to result from
    the production and positioning of the luminaries on day four are the
    same effects that are already attributed to the creative activity of
    day one (Gen. 1:3-5). There too daylight is produced on the earth and
    the cycle of light/day and darkness/night is established. In terms of
    chronology, day four thus brings us back to where we were in day one,
    and in fact takes us behind the effects described there to the astral
    apparatus that accounts for them. The literary sequence is then not
    the same as the temporal sequence of events.

    To avoid this consequence, alternative interpretations of day four
    have been sought. According to one proposal, the luminaries (though
    unmentioned previously) were in existence before the point in time
    dealt with in day four and were indeed present at day one as the
    source of light spoken of there.25 Day four describes simply their
    coming into sight, not their creation. Any such view is falsified by
    the language of the text, which is plainly that of actual production:
    "Let there be and God made and God set (lit., gave). The attempt26 to
    override this language cannot be passed off as just another instance
    of phenomenological description. The proposed evasive tactic involves
    a very different notion -- not just the general denominating of
    objects according to their everyday observed appearance at any and
    all times, but the relating of a specific event at a particular
    juncture in the creation process as though witnessed by an observer
    of the course of events, someone who at the moment reached on day
    four is supposed to catch sight of the luminaries, hitherto somehow
    hidden, perhaps by clouds. Disclaimers notwithstanding, this proposal
    is guilty of foisting an unwarranted meaning on the language
    affirming God's making and positioning of the luminaries. In the
    accounts of the other days, everybody rightly recognizes that the
    same language of divine fiat and creative fulfillment signifies the
    bringing into existence of something new, not just a visual detecting
    of something that was there all the while. There is no more excuse
    for reducing divine acts of production into human acts of perception
    in day four than there would be elsewhere.

    Some advocates of the controverted approach to day four acknowledge
    more forthrightly its distinctiveness and develop more fully its
    peculiar feature of the seer figure.27 An attempt is made to explain
    the precise sequence of the entire creation narrative by the
    exigencies of the visual experience of the hypothesized human
    spectator, as he is conducted through all the successive scenes.
    Besides the basic objection that it is belied by the language of
    origination used for the day four event, this form of the observer
    hypothesis is beset with a special problem of its own. Its suggested
    guided-tour perspective is a feature of apocalyptic visions, and
    there the presence of the seer figure is plainly mentioned. He is the
    one who narrates the visions unfolding before him. No such figure is
    introduced in the creation account; the alleged human spectator is a
    fiction imposed on the text contrary to its non-visionary genre.

    Recognizing that the actual making of the luminaries is related in
    day four, but still trying to avoid the conclusion that the narrative
    order is thematic rather than sequential, some would subordinate the
    statement about the making of the luminaries (vv. 16, 17a) to the
    statement about their purpose or functions (vv. 17b, 18a), alleging
    that the only distinctive new development of day four is that these
    functions then become operational. But the primary declaration that
    the luminaries were made cannot be eliminated as a day four event in
    that way " no more so than the statement in the day two account that
    God made the firmament may be reduced to the idea that a previously
    existing firmament began to perform its stated purpose of dividing
    between the waters above and below (Gen. 1:6, 7). Moreover, this
    minimalist view of day four would share the fatal flaw of all views
    that eliminate the forming of the luminaries from the happenings of
    day four: it would leave day four with no new contribution, for all
    the functions mentioned there are already said to be operative in day

    Also entailed in the minimalist interpretation of day four is the
    pluperfect rendering of the verbs expressing the making of the
    luminaries in the fulfillment section (vv. 16, 17), introduced by
    "and it was so (v. 15b). If adopted, the pluperfect could not be
    restricted to these verbs. For consistently in Genesis 1, what
    immediately follows the fiat and the "and it was so formula that
    answers to the fiat is a detailing of what God proceeded to bring
    into being in execution of the fiat. In day four then the verbs of
    fulfillment in verses 16, 17 cannot be pluperfect with respect to the
    fiat of verses 14, 15a. Temporally they follow the fiat, which means
    the fiat would have to be put in the same pluperfect tense as its
    subsequent fulfillment, yielding the translation "And God had said.
    That is, day four as a whole would have to be cast in the pluperfect,
    and that with reference to the time of the events in the preceding
    days. Ironically, such a translation would make explicit the
    non-chronological sequence of the narrative, the very thing the
    pluperfect proposal was trying to avoid.29

    Understandably dissatisfied with the contrived nature of these
    attempts to avoid acknowledging that the act of making the luminaries
    was a day four event, other opponents of the non-sequential view of
    the creation narrative have been driven to seek a solution in a
    reinterpretation of day one. They would account for the presence of
    light and the cycle of day and night in day one by positing for this
    point in time some light source other than the one whose origin they
    admit is assigned to day four and which (according to their
    commitment to the temporally sequential order of the narrative) did
    not, therefore, exist until three days (or ages) after day one.

    Some speculate about a supernatural light source, a manifestation of
    divine glory in space. But that distorts the eschatological design of
    creation history, according to which the advent of God's Glory as the
    source of illumination that does away with the need for the sun
    awaits the Consummation. 30 Indeed, the assumption of such a
    supernatural mode of ongoing providence during the creation week is
    contradicted by the assumptions that inform Gen. 2:5ff. 31

    No more satisfactory is the suggestion that the hypothetical lighting
    system was some natural arrangement. That would raise questions about
    the wisdom of the divine procedure. Why would God create such a vast
    cosmic order only to discard it three days (or ages) later? Why
    create a replacement cosmos to perform the very same functions
    already being performed perfectly well by the original system?32 Like
    the gap theory of Gen. 1:2, this scenario, with
    its mid-course cosmic upheaval and starting over, would introduce a
    jarring, discordant note into the simple, stately symphony of the
    cosmic house-building " planned, performed, and perfected by the all
    wise master builder.

    Any such approach that disconnects the luminaries of day four from
    the light of day one, denying the cause-effect relationship of the
    two, violates the overall thematic scheme of the creation narrative.
    As we have seen, the successive members of the first triad of days
    correspond to the successive days of the second triad, the
    relationship of each matching pair being that of creation kingdom
    (theme of the first triad) to creature king (theme of the second
    triad). The correspondence is especially close in the day one-day
    four pair. It is clearly the light phenomena (kingdom) of day one
    over which the luminaries (kings) of day four rule, producing and
    regulating it. Temporal recapitulation most certainly occurs at day
    four and hence there is no escaping the conclusion that the narrative
    sequence is not intended to be the chronological sequence.
    (end of Kline quote)


    Terry M. Gray, Ph.D., Computer Support Scientist
    Chemistry Department, Colorado State University
    Fort Collins, Colorado  80523
    phone: 970-491-7003 fax: 970-491-1801

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