The Mosaic record of Creation by Alexander McCaul
Alexander McCaul D.D. (1799–1863) was Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament Exegesis at King’s College, London, and Prebendary of St. Paul’s. He was the author of The Mosaic record of Creation, published in: AIDS TO FAITH; edited by William Thomson. [JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, LONDON. 1870. pp. 89-234.]
Greek and Hebrew text in the post below has been replaced by “***”. Footnotes are omitted. Place markers for footnotes are indicated by “[ ].”
THE MOSAIC RECORD OF CREATION
by Alexander McCaul
CONTENTS OF ESSAY V.
1. Introduction: The Creator, Elohim — Jehovah.
2. The Elohistio and Jehovistic theory, as stated by Bleek— Theories of Astruc, Eichhorn, Egen, De Wette, Von Bohlen, Gramberg, Ewald, Hujafeldt, and Knobel.
3. Want of unity- The most celebrated critics convict each other of false criticism— Their conclusions valueless.
4. “Elohim” and “Jehovah” not synonymous.
5. The Creation— Unity of the first two chapters of Genesis: they do not contain two distinct accounts of the Creation.
6. Assertion that the Mosaic cosmogony is contradicted by the discoveries and progress of science, and that, therefore, Moses could not have been inspired.
7. First supposed difficulty, the age of the world.
8. The words of Moses, though comprehensive as to time, are precise as to the fact of creation.
9. Meaning of the phrase “The heavens and the earth.”
10. Gen. i. 2: The state of the earth before the six days’ work.
11. Verse 3 compared with verses H-19
— Light and the earth before the sun— Theory of La Place.
12. Meaning of the word “day.”
13. The six days not the six Geological periods.
14. Supposed immobility of the earth.
15. The Mosaic firmament an expanse, not a solid vault.
16. Creation of one human pair — Statement in ‘Essays and Reviews’ that the original formation of only one pair of human beings is taught only in the 2nd chapter, and not in the 1st.
THE MOSAIC RECORD OF CREATION.
1. Almost all ancient nations have traditions respecting the origin of the universe. These traditions differ in detail and representation according to the genius of the people by whom they have been preserved, but they retain a family likeness, and certain points of contact with each other and the Mosaic cosmogony, with which some exhibit a striking resemblance. Thus the Etruscans relate that God created the world in six thousand years. In the first thousand He created the heaven and the earth; in the second the firmament; in the third the sea and the other waters of the earth; in the fourth sun, moon, and stars; in the fifth the animals belonging to air, water, and land; in the sixth man alone. [ ] The Persian tradition also recognises the six periods of creation, assigning to the first the heavens; to the second the waters; to the third the earth; to the fourth trees and plants; to the fifth animals; to the sixth man. [ ] Others mention the darkness, the chaotic mass of waters, the Spirit of God; so that even in the judgment of modern critics, there must have been “a primitive, cosmogonical myth, universally pervading antiquity.” [ ] How and when that universal myth arose, modern criticism does not say; and yet it is a striking fact that there should be such a tradition, and that amidst the variety of modifications the original identity should still be perceptible. Christian apologists have found in the resemblances a presumption of its being derived from the original revelation, and in the consent of the various human families, combined with the manifest superiority and historic character of the account in Genesis, a proof of the Divine origin of the Mosaic Record, and of the unity of the human race. [ ] Modern theology, on the contrary, teaches that the Mosaic cosmogony is only the Hebrew form of the original myth, bearing the palm indeed on account “of its simplicity, dignity, and sublimity,” but still unhistoric in its relation, and inconsistent with the results of modern criticism and science.
To discuss all the details of criticism would require volumes. But one alleged result, often stated in an off-hand, popular way, asserted with unhesitating confidence, and repeated as absolutely certain, requires notice. It is said that in the Book of Genesis there are some portions in which God is spoken of exclusively as Elohim — in others exclusively as Jehovah [the Lord in the Authorized Version]. This exclusive use of the one Divine name in some portions, and of the other in other portions, it is said, characterizes two different authors, living at different times, and consequently Genesis is composed of two different documents, the one Elohistic, the other Jehovistic, which moreover differ in statement, and consequently that this book was not written by Moses, and is neither inspired nor trustworthy. Now, not to notice the defectiveness of this statement as to the names of God, who in Genesis is also called El, El Elyon, Most High God; El Shaddai, God Almighty; Adonai, Lord; nor the fact that in other books, as Jonah and the Psalms, the same exclusiveness is found; let us look at this statement as a supposed result of criticism. It is generally urged as if on this point critics were all of one mind, agreed in the portions which are Elohistic or Jehovistic — unanimous as to the characteristic differences of style in the separate portions, in fact as if the theory came with the authority of universal consent. Were this the case, it would necessarily carry with it great weight. For, though the conclusions of criticism differ from the demonstrations of pure science and the inferences of induction, yet, when unanimously adopted by those competent to judge, they deservedly influence the minds of all reasonable persons. But this is not the case in the present theory. The popular statement given above does not represent the true state of the case. The fact is, that there is here the greatest variety of opinion, and the modifications of the above apparently simple theory are so widely divergent, as either to shake the value of the criticism, or to throw a dark shade of doubt on the competence of the critics. In the first place, there is a difference as to the extent to which the theory is to be applied. Some confine it to the Book of Genesis; others inchide Exodus to chapter vi.; others, as Knobel, Bleek, and Ewald, assert that the Jehovistic and Elohistic differences can be recognized through the whole Pentateuch to the end of Joshua. Some, as J. D. Michaelis, Jahn, Vater, Hartmann, regard Genesis as a loose and un systematic stringing together of disjointed fragments. 2. But passing these by, let us look at the state of the Elohistic and Jehovistic theory, as stated by Bleek in his Introduction.
i. In the year 1753, Astruc, a French physician, taught that the Book of Genesis is made up of twelve memoirs or documents, of which the two principal are the Elohistic and the Jehovistic. From these Moses composed the book, which he wrote in twelve columns. Copyists mixed these together, and hence the present form of Genesis.
ii. Eichhorn asserted that the present Book of Genesis is based upon two pre-Mosaic documents, distinguished by Elohim and Jehovah, and that the author, in relating any event, selected that document in which the fullest account was contained. Sometimes the accounts are mixed together. Some other documents were consulted.
iii. Ilgen supposes seventeen documents, but only three authors, one Jehovist, two Elohists, and is so acute in his scent as sometimes to divide even single verses between the three, and give to each his own.
iv. De Wette’s theory, in the first edition of his Introduction, is, that a continuous Elohistic document pervades and forms the basis of the whole book, and extends to Exod. vi. In this the author inserted what he found in one, or, probably, in several Jehovistic documents.
v. Von Bohlen believes in the same Elohistic basis, but denies the existence of Jehovistic documents. The author of the book in its present state is the Jehovist, so that only two persons are concerned.
vi. Gramberg makes three authors, — the Elohist, the Jehovist, and the compiler, who does not scruple sometimes to substitute one Divine name for the other.
vii. Ewald exhibits a variety of opinions: first, he began by holding the unity of Genesis, and proving it against both the document and the fragment hypothesis. His arguments have not yet been refuted, either by himself or others. Secondly, about ten years afterwards he taught that the basis of the Book of Genesis is an ancient writing, of which considerable remains are found in the whole Pentateuch, and which is distinguished by peculiarity of language, especially by the use of Elohim up to Exod. vi. 2. This author had incorporated into his book more ancient documents, as the Decalogue and Exod, xxi.-xxiii. At a subsequent period arose another work on the ancient history, which ascribed the use of Jehovah to patriarchal times. From this later work portions were inserted into the former by the author of the present Book of Genesis, so that here there are at the least four writers concerned. Thirdly, Ewald extended and modified this theory by supposing more than two treatments of the ancient history forming the contents of the Pentateuch, and the Book of Joshua. He ascribes Genesis in its present form to that writer, whom in his first edition he calls the fourth narrator, and in his second edition the fifth narrator of the primitive histories, who lived in the time of Jotham. This work had several predecessors; according to the first edition, three; according to the second, six. Three of these are Elohistic.
viii. Hüpfeldt takes as the basis of our Genesis three independent historic works; two Elohistic, one Jehovistic, and makes in addition a compiler.
ix. Knobel believes in two documents: first, the Elohistic, forming the basis of the Pentateuch and of Joshua; second, the Jehovistic, which again has two previous sources. There are, besides, free Jehovistic developments, in which the compiler sometimes followed hints in the two documents, sometimes popular tradition, and sometimes his own conceptions.
3. This enumeration is far from exhausting the varieties, but is sufficient to show the want of unity. The reader will perceive that some assert one Elohistic document — others, two — others, three. In like manner some make one Jehovist; some more. Some make the Jehovist identical with the compiler; others make him a different person. Some make two, others three, others four, Ewald seven documents by different authors the materials of Genesis. Now every one can understand that there is a great difference whether the Elohistic and Jehovistic portions be assigned to one or be divided amongst two, three, or more persons. He who says that there is only one Elohist must believe that in the whole Elohistic portion there is unity of style, tone, spirit, language. If there be two Elohists, then the former is mistaken as to the unity, and there must be two diversities of style; but if there be three Elohists, then both first and second critics are mistaken, and there must be three different styles. The portions assigned to each must also be smaller. Let the three Elohists be A, B, C. The first critic says that the whole belongs to A. The second critic says, No; part belongs to B. The third critic says part belongs to A, part to B, and part to C. And thus the most celebrated critics convict each other of false criticism. Hüpfeldt condemns Knobel; Ewald condemns Hüpfeldt and Knobel; Knobel condemns Ewald and Hüpfeldt. If Knobel’s criticism is correct, Hüpfeldt’s is worthless. If Ewald be right, the others must be deficient in critical acumen. They may all be wrong, but only one of the three can be right.
But take into account all the other differences enumerated above, one supposing that the documents are pre-Mosaic, another that they were written in the times of Joshua or the Judges, another in the time of David, another some centuries later; and how uncertain must the principles of their criticism appear, — how valueless their conclusions! With such facts can any sane person talk of the results of modern criticism as regards the Book of Genesis? or be willing to give up the belief of centuries for such criticism as this?
It is self-evident that criticism leading to such inconsistent conclusions must be in a high degree imaginative: a little examination shows that it is also unreasonably arbitrary. In order to make out the theory that there are two authors, one of whom is known by the exclusive use of Elohim, and the other by the exclusive use of Jehovah, and that the former is more ancient than the latter, it is necessary to point out paragraphs in which those Divine names are exclusively used, and also to prove that the Elohist does not refer to the Jehovistic document; for if the Elohist plainly refers to what the Jehovist has related, the latter cannot be posterior to the former, and the theory fails. Now, unhappily for the theory, the word Jehovah does occur in ihe Elohistic passages, and the Elohist does refer to the Jehovistic narrative. Thus in Genesis ii. 4, the two names occur together. “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day when Jehovah Elohim made the earth and the heavens.” Now it this verse belongs to what precedes, then the following narrative, which has also the unusual union of the two names, was written by the Elohist, and the first three chapters are by one author. If it be written by the Jehovist, how comes it to have Elohim as well, and why does it differ both from Elohist and Jehovist documents by the union of the names? Here is a difficulty which has divided all Germany, and arrayed Rationalist against Rationalist, and Orthodox against Orthodox, and for which there seems no hope of solution, unless violence be offered to the text, and men be persuaded, against the evidence of manuscripts and ancient versions, that the words “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth” stood originally as the heading before the first verse of the first chapter, and that the word Elohim in ii. 4 is an interpolation of the Jehovist. Take another example: — Genesis v. is said to be Elohistic, and it is certain that Mohim, God, occurs five times; but in verse 29 appears the word Jehovah to disturb the theorist; and not only is this word there, but the verse refers to the Jehovistic chapter iii. 17. What is to be done? The verse stands in all the manuscripts and ancient versions. But, if the Elohistic theory is to stand, it must be got rid of somehow. It is an interpolation, says the theorist; it was put in by the compiler. In like manner the theorists cut off chapter vii. 9 — 24 from its context, and say, It is Elohistic. But lo! in verse 16 stands ” Jehovah.” The same canon of the old Socinian criticism is again applied; the unwelcome word is an interpolation. One instance more. The xlixth chapter is said to belong to a long Elohistic portion. But in the 18th verse occur those words of Jacob, “I have waited for thy salvation, O Jehovah,” Again the same violence is repeated. The disturbing verse is an interpolation. Is this criticism? Is it a fair and legitimate proceeding to alter the text, and that not once, but frequently, in order to make it suit one’s theory? To discard the consent of manuscripts, ancient versions, all printed editions, and cry out, Interpolation, interpolation, without any authority at all? There is no more certain sign of helpless prejudice or critical incompetence, than to have frequent recourse to violent and unauthorized alteration of the text; and yet without this the theory of the Elohistic and Jehovistic documents, even if it were unanimously received by modern critics, could not be made out. Arbitrary separations of what evidently belongs together, and unwarranted assertions of interpolation, prove its unsoundness. The variety of its modifications, one neutralizing the other, as has been shown above, demonstrates the uncertainty and untrustworthiness of the results.
4. But the theory rests upon an assumption totally false, that the names Elohim and Jehovah are synonymous, and that they can be used indifferently, one for the other. The names are not synonymous, and cannot be so used. There is the same difference between Elohim and Jehovah, as between Deus and Jupiter, or homo and Petrus. The one expresses the genus, the other stands for the individual, and is a proper name. Elohim answers to our own word God or Deity, and is, therefore, used of false Gods as well as of the true. Jehovah stands for the personal, living, self-revealing Being, and is explained in those two passages, Exod. iii. 14, “I am that I am;” and xxxiv. 6, when, the Lord having said, “I will proclaim my name before thee,” proclaimed “Jehovah, Jehovah, God [El] merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth;” and can therefore be applied to none but the one true and eternal God, as is said, “I am Jehovah; that is my name, and my glory will I not give to another.” This distinction is strongly marked in the words of Elijah, “If Jehovah be Elohim, follow Him; if Baal, then follow him.” Here it would be impossible to interchange Elohim and Jehovah, or to say, “if Baal be Jehovah.” There is an essential difference in signification, and, though Jehovah is the true God, and the true God Jehovah, and therefore sometimes either might be used, yet, in consequence of the essential difference, there are cases where there is a peculiar propriety in using one rather than the other; and there are other cases in which one must be used, and the other cannot. As Jehovah is the proper name of God, it does not take a genitive case or a suffix. It is, therefore, impossible to say in Hebrew, “the Jehovah of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” or, “My, thy, our Jehovah.” In such cases, Elohim must be used, as “The Elohim, God of Abraham, &c.” “My Elohim, my God, our Elohim, our God, &c.” Again, as Jehovah signifies the self-revealing, that word cannot occur in the mouth of those to whom He has not revealed himself, nor, ordinarily, in the mouth of Hebrews speaking to such; and, therefore, when Moses and Aaron use it to Pharaoh, they add “the God of Israel” to make it intelligible. But still Pharaoh asks, “Who is Jehovah? I know not Jehovah;” and they explain, “The Elohim, God, of the Hebrews hath met with us.” There is no room here to go through and illustrate all the peculiarities of these Divine names. But what has been said is sufficient to show that the exclusive use of Elohim cannot be received as a characteristic mark to distinguish one author from the other, inasmuch as, in the cases above enumerated and others, the use of Elohim is compulsory; and neither Moses, nor Samuel, nor Isaiah, could in these cases leave out Elohim, and substitute Jehovah. Thus, in Gen. xl. 8, the word Elohim occurs once, when Joseph says to the Egyptian prisoners, “Do not interpretations belong to God, Elohim?” Here Jehovah could not be used. Again, in xli., the word Elohim occurs eight times. In six of them the use was compulsory. In xliii. 23 it occurs twice with suffixes or genitive, and no other word could be used, and so in other instances. [ ] And, therefore, the use of the word cannot be the characteristic peculiarity of one author. In the first chapter of Genesis, Moses might have used either Elohim or Jehovah, except in the 27th verse, where Elohim was compulsory. But in the opening of the Divine teaching, it was necessary to make clear that God is Creator, that the world was not eternal, nor independent; and also that Jehovah is not one among many — not the national God of the Hebrews — but that Jehovah the Self-revealer, and Elohim the Almighty Creator, are one. Therefore, in the first chapter, Elohim is used throughout. The Deity is the Creator. But in approaching that part of the narrative where the personal God enters into relations with man, and where Jehovah was necessary, Moses unites the names, and says, “Jehovah Elohim, the Lord God.” Had he suddenly used Jehovah alone, there might have been a doubt as to whether Jehovah was not different from Elohim, The union of the two names proves identity, and this being proved, from the fourth chapter on, Moses drops this union and sometimes employs Jehovah, sometimes Elohim, as occasion, propriety, and the laws of the Hebrew language require. The use of these names, therefore, can prove nothing against the unity of the narrative.
5. But, in truth, independently of all philological criticism, the unity of the first two chapters of Genesis may be proved by comparing one with the other. They do not contain two distinct accounts of “the Creation.”
The second chapter does not narrate the creation of heaven or earth, or light, firmament, sun, moon, or stars, sea, or dry land, fish, or creeping things. The second chapter, therefore, is so far from being a cosmogony, that it is not even a geogony, and, therefore, the fourth verse of the second chapter, “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God (Jehovah Elohim) made the earth and the heavens,” cannot be the title or summary of what follows, but are an exact recapitulation of what is narrated in the first chapter. They mention first the creation of “the heavens and the earth;” second, the making of “the earth and heavens ” in the very order in which the process of creation is related in that chapter, but of which not one word is said in what follows. The second chapter is obviously not an account “of the creation,” but of the particulars of the formation of man, and his early history, Ewald said long ago, “The aim of the first connected narrative (ch. i, 1 — ii. 3) is to exhibit God as the Creator of the universe. . . The author then passes over from the perfected picture of the created universe, to that which must have been to him, as to all writers of history, the most worthy of note, to the history of man. Yet he closes the first picture with the words (ii. 4), ‘These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth.’ ” [ ] The second chapter is, therefore, an integral part of a relation contained in the three first chapters, connected with the chapter by verse four, and preparing for the account of the Fall by telling us beforehand of Paradise, of the tree of knowledge, the prohibition to eat of it, and of the formation of the woman. Indeed, most recent writers admit, that whether there be different sources or not, the author has formed them into one narrative; there cannot, therefore, be contradiction. There are differences to be explained by the different objects which the author had in view. In the first, his object was to give an outline of the history of the universe; in the second, to relate the origin and primitive history of man, so far as it was necessary, as a preparation for the history of the Fall. In the former, therefore, all the steps of creation are treated in chronological order. In the latter, only so much is alluded to as is necessary for the author’s purpose, and in the order which that purpose required.
6, So much for modern criticism. But the new theology also asserts that the Mosaic cosmogony is contradicted by the discoveries and progress of science, and that, therefore, Moses could not have been inspired. This is a straightforward objection, deserves a fair and full consideration, and ought not to be met with what objectors can only regard as evasions. Such are the assertions, that the first chapter of Genesis is poetry, or a series of seven prophetic visions, [ ] or the mere clothing of a theological truth. To urge such suppositions is not to defend the ark of God, but to abandon it to the enemy. If the first chapter of Genesis be poetry, or vision, or parable, it is not historic truth, which is just what objectors assert. There are in this chapter none of the peculiarities of Hebrew poetry. The style is full of dignity, but it is that of prose narrative. There is no mention of prophetic vision, no prophetic formula employed. It is not said, “The vision which Moses saw,” nor “I lifted up my eyes and behold.” The prophet or historian is kept entirely out of sight, and the narrative begins at once without any preface, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” and then goes to the account of Paradise, the birth of Cain and Abel, &c., without any break or note of transition from vision to history. The Book of Genesis is history. It is the historical introduction to the four following books of the Pentateuch, or, rather, to all following revelation, and the first chapter, as the inseparable beginning of the whole, must be historical also. When the Lord recapitulates its contents in the Fourth Commandment, and makes it the basis of the ordinance of the Sabbath, He stamps it as real history. To suppose a moral, or even a ceremonial command, based upon a poetic picture, or a vision, or an ideal narrative, would be absurd. The Lord also treats “the first chapters of Genesis “as real and authoritative history, when He makes Gen. i. 27, and ii. 23, 24, the foundation of His doctrine concerning marriage and divorce. As history, therefore, they must be received, whatever difficulties that reception may involve. Some, indeed, hold that in reading the Bible, a distinction is to be made between statements relating to religion, and those relating to physics, that the former are to be received, and the latter disregarded, as “The purpose of revelation is to teach man what he cannot find out by his unassisted reason, but not physical truths, for the discovery of which he has faculties.” But, what are we to do when a truth is both religious and physical, such as “God created the heavens and the earth?” And how are we to distinguish between what can be and what cannot be discovered by man’s natural faculties? On the one hand, the leading intellects of Germany are still disputing about the eternity of the universe, and the relation of the finite to the absolute; and on the other. Deists and Theists, and Rationalists, teach that all religious and moral truth can be discovered, and has been discovered, by man’s natural powers — can be known in no other way, and that, therefore, revelation is unnecessary. Besides, if the first chapter of Genesis be not given to teach us the facts and order of creation, why is it there at all in all its circumstantiality Are we to believe that Divine revelation begins with an unscientific misstatement of physical truth? If the first chapter be the offspring of human error, where does Divine truth begin? This principle raises many new difficulties, and removes none. We, therefore, adhere to the plain grammatical statement, as a Divine revelation of the origin of the universe, not yet superseded by the theories of the speculative philosophy, nor antiquated by the discoveries of modern science.
7. The first supposed difficulty in the Mosaic statement is the age of the world. According to the teachings of Geology and Astronomy, the existence of the heavens and the earth is to be reckoned by myriads of thousands of years. According to Moses, it is alleged, they are of yesterday. To know whether this difficulty is real, it is first necessary to know what Moses has actually said. And here it is not intended to propose anything new, but to revert to the ancient exposition of the phrase, “In the beginning,” for upon this the question really turns. The first proposition is “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” and here it is necessary to observe that Reshith, the Hebrew word for “beginning,” is in the original without the definite article. Moses says, “In Eeshith [not in the Reshith], Elohim created the heavens and the earth.” The antiquity and correctness of this reading are proved by the Septuagint, Chaldee, and Syriac versions.
LXX. ***, Chaldee ***. Syriac ***, and so it is also found in the Evangelist’s allusion, John i. 1. The uniformity of the reading, and the care with which it had been preserved for centuries — notwithstanding the natural temptation to supply the article — testify that there was an uniform traditional meaning attached to it, different from that possible, if the word had the article. What this meaning is, is plainly seen in the first verse of St. John’s Gospel. Now that Socinian exegesis is a thing of the past, all divines, English and foreign, agree that St. John here makes a pointed reference to Gen. i. 1, and that in the words ***, “In the beginning,” he expresses Duration or Time, previous to Creation. So Dean Alford “***” “In the beginning” is equivalent to “Before the world was.” Tholuck says that the phrase expresses “Eternity a parte ante.” Meyer also takes it of duration before time, and translates it Vorzeitlichkeit (pre-temporality), and says that it is equivalent to the Septuagint version of Prov. viii. 23 “In the beginning, before he made the earth;” and to the words of our Lord “Before the world was;” and of St. Paul “Before the foundation of the world” (Ephes. i. 4). De Wette has nearly the same words and the same references. Lücke also says that the phrase “In the beginning” includes the idea of pre-mundane existence (des Vorweltlichen), and answers to “Before the world was ” (John xvii. 5). All are agreed that “Beginning” refers to duration or time, not to order, and that it is indefinite in its signification, and may mean previous eternity, or previous time, according to the subject spoken of. [ ] They who believe that St. John was inspired will receive his interpretation of the first words of Genesis as infallibly correct, and therefore interpret them there as in the Gospel. But even if St. John be regarded as an ordinary writer asserting an important truth, his adoption of the interpretation proves that it was known to the Jews of his time, and this is further proved by the nearly contemporary testimony of the Targum.
Its author Onkelos gives the same meaning, and proves that it was then the received interpretation. For the Hebrew B’reshith he gives B’kadmin (***) in antiquities, or former times. The word K’dam, equivalent to the Hebrew Kedem, signifies, as Buxtorf says, “ante, antiqitas, prioritas, principium.” In the plural number, as Onkelos here has it, it signifies, not order, but time, “ancient times, former times, eternity.” For example (Gen. xxviii. 19), ” Luz was the name of the city ***, from antiquities, or former times.” Again (Ps. lxviii. 33), “To him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens of antiquity,” the Chaldee has ***, “that were from antiquities, or former times,” which our translators followed, and have rendered, “the heavens of heavens which were of old.” Again (Deut. xxxiii. 27), “The Eternal God (literally, the God of antiquity or priority);” Onkelos has, ” The God who is from antiquities, ***.” Here the word is applied to eternity. [ ] When, therefore, Onkelos translates the first word of Gen. i. 1. by B’kadmin in the plural, and without the article, he meant, in antiquities, in former times or duration, of old.
The LXX. use *** in the same way, and thereby prove that this interpretation was far more ancient than Onkelos. Thus, in Ezek. xxxvi. 11, they employ *** to render Kadmah (former state), and give as the parallel *** for ***, nearly related to Beshith. ***.
Again, in Prov. viii. 23, they apply it to express duration antecedent to creation. ***.
In Deut. xxxiii. 15, it signifies antiquity. For “ancient mountains,” literally “mountains of antiquity,” the LXX. have *** parallel to ***. According, then, to the LXX., “in the beginning” means “in former duration, of old.”
This is also the meaning of the Hebrew. The word Reshith having, according to its form, an abstract meaning, and coming from Rosh or Resh, head, signifies first of all, as Gesenius says, “the being head; “and, therefore, applied to rank or quality, would express “superiority” — to order, “priority,” like its synonym ***, whose first meaning is priority— to time, “anteriority.” To “former time,” “state at a former time,” it refers in Job xlii. 12, “The Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning,” where the LXX. translate more exactly, ***, and so Hirzel has “***, die spatere, ***), die fruhere Lebenszeit.” So in Jer. xxviii. 1, “in the beginning (Reshith) of the reign of Zedekiah,” beginning does not mean the first day, nor the first year, but the former part of his reign, as the prophet immediately adds, “in the fourth year.” This is also the meaning in Isai. xlvi. 10, “declaring the end from the beginning,” properly, “declaring futurity from former time,” as is explained by the following clause — “and from ancient times the things which are not done.” According, then, to the Hebrew, the meaning of the first verse of Genesis is, “In Reshith (anteriority), i. e., in former times, of old, God created the heavens and the earth;” and the article is omitted to exclude the application of the word to the order of creation. This is also the sense given in other words by the Psalmist (cii. 26). “Of old (*** formerly) hast thou laid the foundation of the earth.”
The sum, then, of all that has been said is, that the words, “In the beginning,” refer to “time or duration,” not to order — and thus, therefore, the first verse does not mean, “At first God created the heaven and the earth,” nor, “In the beginning of creation he created the heavens and the earth,” but “Of old, in former duration, God created the heavens and the earth.” How long ago is not said. The Hebrew word is indefinite, and can include millions or milliards of years just as easily as thousands. The statement of Moses is, therefore, not contrary to the discoveries of geology, which alleges the earth to have existed for myriads of years before the creation of man. Moses’s words are big enough to take in times indefinite, exceeding the powers of human comprehension. They also answer the more ancient objectors, who found it absurd that God created nothing in previous eternity, and had remained inactive until a few thousand years ago. [ ] The words of Moses, rightly understood, say just the contrary. They leave “the when” of creation undefined.
8. But though thus comprehensive as to the time, they are precise as to the fact of creation. Moses says “God created,” and Bará, the word here used, is peculiar. There are three words employed in the Old Testament in reference to the production of the world — Bará, he created; Yatzdr, he formed; Asáh, he made — between which there is this difference, that the two last may be, and are, used of men. The first word Bará is never predicated of any created being, angel or man, but exclusively appropriated to God, and God alone is called Boré *** Creator. Creation is therefore, according to the Hebrew, a Divine act — something that can be performed by God alone. In the next place, though, according to its etymology, it does not necessarily imply a creation out of nothing, it does signify the Divine production of something new, something that did not exist before. See Numb. xvi. 30; Jer. xxxi. 22. And therefore Gesenius says, in his ‘Thesaurus,’ ” In that common disputation of interpreters and theologians concerning the creation out of nothing, some appeal to this word [Bará] as if it could be inferred from its etymology, or proper signification, that in the first chapter of Genesis, not a creation out of nothing, but a conformation of eternal matter is taught. But, from what has been said, it will be abundantly plain, that the use of this verb in Kal is altogether different from its primary signification, and that it is more used of new production (see Gen. ii. 3) than of the conformation and elaboration of matter. But that in the first verse of Genesis the first creation of the world out of nothing, and in a rude and unformed state, and in the remainder of the first chapter the elaboration and disposition of the recently created mass is set forth, is proved by the connection of tilings in this whole chapter. Thus, also, the Rabbis (as may be seen in Aben Esra to Gen. i. 1) say ‘that creation is a production of something from nothing.’ This is also the explanation given in the Psalms. In Ps. cxlviii. 5 we read, “For He, He commanded, and they were created.” The parallel passage (Ps. xxxiii. 9) says, “For He, He said, and it existed (***). He, He commanded, and it stood.” It is true that the how of creation, the link between the Divine will and the realisation, is not made known. Perhaps to finite minds it is incomprehensible. But, notwithstanding, the word creation is more than a name for our ignorance of the mode of production. It teaches that neither the world, nor the matter of which it is composed, is eternal or self-existent — that the universe is not a pantheistic emanation, but a work of the Divine will and power; and this Mosaic doctrine, in accordance with all sound reason, has not been shaken by any discoveries or theories of science. Even though the nebulous theory were demonstrably certain; though all the starry hosts were mere agglomerations of elementary matter, which was once diffused like “an universal fire-mist “throughout all space, and impressed with fixed laws, or endowed with self-evolving powers, yet there must be a maker of that fire-mist and its fifty-five elementary substances — there must be a lawgiver, who imposed those laws, or communicated those powers, and who produced that change of temperature, without which agglomeration would have been impossible — that is, there must have been a Creator, and therefore the words of Moses would still be true, “God created the heavens and the earth.” “Sic philosophi debuerunt, si forte eos primus aspectus mundi conturba-. verat, postea cum vidissent motus ejus finitos et aequabiles, omniaque ratis ordinibus moderata, immutabilique constantia, intelligere inesse aliquem non solum habitatorem in hac celesti ac divina domo, sed etiam Kectorem et Moderatorem, et tanquam Architectum tanti operis tantique muneris.” [ ]
9. In order to understand the Mosaic narrative, the next thing to be considered is the meaning of the phrase “The heavens and the earth,” and the purpose of the whole verse. Some take it as a title or summary of the contents of the chapter. But this view is forbidden by the conjunction “and,” with which the second verse begins. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2. And the earth was without form, and void.” This “and” makes the second verse a continuation of the narrative begun in the first. The proposition, “And the earth was without form, and void,” implies that the earth was in existence, and that something had been said of it with which the “and” is the connecting link. Besides, if the first verse be not a part of the narrative, but only a heading, the creation of the earth is not mentioned at all in the narrative itself. The first verse is, therefore, not a summary, but a part of the history of creation.
Others suppose that the first verse describes the creation of the materials out of which heaven and earth were afterwards formed. But this is simply to put into the verse what is not there. “Heaven and earth” never mean materials, and if they did, that meaning would not agree with the context. The connecting “and” of the second verse shows that the earth of the second verse is that earth spoken of in the first verse, not the materials. Moses is very precise and clear in his statements, and as he names “the heavens and the earth,” no expositor can legitimately give that phrase a meaning which it has not in any other place in the Old Testament. The first question then, here, is, what Moses intended by “the heavens,” for the word is plural, and has no singular in Hebrew. That something different from the firmament is intended is plain from the order of the narrative. It is not said, God made the earth and the heavens, but of old, in former duration, God made the heavens and the earth. Then it is related that the earth was without form, and void; darkness was upon the face of the deep; the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters; God said. Let there be light. Then, on the second day, God made the firmament, and called it heavens. The heavens of the first verse were made in former duration, before the moving of the Spirit, before the appearance of light. The heavens of the seventh and eighth verses were made on the second day, after the earth and after light. The difference of time proves a difference of subjects, just as there is a difference between the earth of the first verse, which means the whole terraqueous globe, and the earth of the tenth verse, which is only the dry land. And this difference between the heavens of the first verse and the firmament is strongly marked in the fourth verse of the second chapter — “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth, when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.” In the first half reference is made to the primitive creation, and therefore the order of the first verse is preserved. In the latter half reference is made to the creation of the earth in its empty state, and the subsequent making of the firmament; and, therefore, earth is put first, before heavens, an inversion that must be intentional, as the phrase “heaven and earth” is in Scripture a standing formula, but the inversion “earth and heaven” occurs only once more in the Bible (Ps. cxlviii. 13). The first expression, “the heavens and the earth,” comprehends all created things, the universe; the second, “earth and heavens,” takes in only the earth and that portion of the universe immediately connected with it. The object of the historian is first to assert that God is the Creator of all created things, invisible as well as visible; then to narrate the manner in which this earth was prepared for the abode of man by the same Almighty Being, so as to leave no room for the eternity of matter, nor yet for two Creators, one of whom made the high and holy spiritual world, the other this lower and material world. The Jews knew that there were other heavens, as those where angels dwell, mentioned xxviii. 12-17, whither, perhaps, Elijah was carried (2 Kings ii. 1), and the heavens where is the throne of God (Ps. xi. 4; ciii. 19), called also the heavens of heavens. That these heavens and the angels were made before the earth and the firmament appears from Job xxxviii. 7, “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” They are, therefore, included in the statement of the first verse, “Of old God made the heavens and the earth,” as they certainly are in the first verse of the second chapter, where Moses, summing up the entire work of creation of the universe, the primitive creation and the six days’ work, says, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.” The expression “host of heaven” sometimes means the heavenly bodies, sometimes angels: thus, in Deut. xix. 4, it evidently refers to the former; in 1 Kings xxii. 19, Isa. xxiv. 21, Ps. cxlviii. 2, it as plainly refers to the latter, who are called “Jehovah’s host” (Josh. v. 14, 15), and “God’s host” (Gen. xxxii.), where the corresponding word *** is used. Therefore, in this summing up of creation, “all the host of them” is mentioned to include angels, often referred to in this Book of Genesis, and to teach that they were not independent beings, but creatures of God. According to the Bible, then, this earth is not the centre of the universe. Long before it was fashioned for man there were heavens, and morning stars, and angels; regions more glorious than the earth, heavens more ancient than the firmament, heavenly inhabitants who excel in strength, and who looked on in wonder and adoration when they beheld the earth fashioned by the Creator. The ken of Moses and the Hebrews was not limited to this earth, nor their idea of duration to the time that man has existed. They knew that the earth in its present condition was later than the heavens and their host, and the human race young when compared with the angels of God.
10. Verse 2. — The next statement made by Moses is so far from being in opposition to the discoveries of science that it is an extraordinary anticipation of what geology teaches. It presents to us the earth before its habitation by man, covered with water, and utterly devoid of inhabitants or life. ” The earth was [or, as others translate, had become [ ] ] desolation and emptiness, and darkness upon the face of the raging deep, and the Spirit of God brooding upon the face of the waters.” Very similar are the statements of geologists, who, though believing that the earth was first in a state of igneous fusion, suppose that before the various formations and deposits began, it was first entirely covered with water. So Pfaff says, “We soon perceive not only that by far the greatest part of our earth was under water, but that to water it owes its origin, and that under water the entire gradual formation of these mighty masses took place.” And again, “The earth was at first a molten fiery sphere, over which existed a thick atmosphere, containing all the water of the earth. In consequence of cooling a firm crust was formed, which was everywhere uniformly covered by water, condensed in like manner by the same cooling process.” [ ] The conflicts between the waters and the fiery heat, as the crust of the earth was broken, fell in, or was upheaved, are vividly described by M. d’Orbigny, and his account answers well to the words of Moses, “The earth was desolation and emptiness, and darkness upon the face of the raging deep.” It is not necessary to accept this theory of “a molten fiery sphere,” as the Neptunists describe a somewhat similar state, produced by water only, and a sober though able author speaks of it only as a guess. “Geology . . . may guess at conditions of original igneous fluidity or aqueous plasticity in the mass, and may hint at some great law of secular contraction; but it must be confessed that on these and similar points science is yet unable to offer anything like the certainty of demonstration.” [ ] But the great facts of the submersion of the earth, and its desolation and emptiness, were stated by Moses more than 3000 years ago, and his statements have not only not been disproved, but have been confirmed, by the deductions of modern scientific research. But how this state of “igneous fluidity or aqueous plasticity,” and consequent desolation and emptiness, arose; whether God created the earth desolate and empty, or whether it became so in consequence of some mighty catastrophe, neither Neptunists nor Vulcanists can tell us, nor has Moses expressly declared, though the latter appears to some to be implied in his words. There seems to be a contrast between the state of the heavens and that of the earth. “Of old God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was desolation and emptiness,” not so the heavens. If Dathius’s translation, “The earth had become desolation and emptiness,” [ ] be correct, it would follow this was not the earth’s original state. How the change from the chaotic, the desolate and the empty, was effected, science cannot tell. Moses informs us that it was by the action of the Divine Spirit. “The Spirit of God, brooding on the face of the waters,” not “the wind of God,” as the verb rachaph [to brood] is never used of wind. “The Spirit streamed forth from God upon the chaos, communicated to it life-power, and made it capable of development at God’s bidding, and of bringing forth plants and animals. For, according to the Old Testament, the Spirit of God is the quickening principle of the world, and all life is an outgoing from God; according to Psalm civ. 30, even the life of the vegetable kingdom.” [ ]
11. Verses 3, and 14-19. — The next Mosaic statement is found in verses 3-5, “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good, and God separated between the light and between the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And evening happened, and morning happened, one day,” [ ] and has given occasion to many objections. Celsus found it strange that Moses should speak of days before the existence of the sun. [ ] “How did God create the light before the sun?” asked Voltaire. “How did He make the day before the sun was made ?” [ ] “Modem astronomy,” says D. F. Strauss, “found it contrary to order, that the earth should not only have been created before the sun, but should also, besides day and night, have distinction of the elements and vegetation before the sun.” [ ] “Light and the measurement of time are represented as existing before the manifestation of the sun, and this idea, although repugnant to our modern knowledge, has not in former times appeared absurd,” is the objection of ‘Essays and Reviews;’ and, as is evident, is not the result of modern science, having been broached already by Celsus. As, however, recent writers give modern science the credit of it, it becomes necessary to ask, what does modern science teach with regard to the relative ages of the earth and the sun? The answer is. Nothing, absolutely nothing as a scientific certainty. Whether sun and earth were created simultaneously, and in their present relations — or, whether the earth, already created, wandered within the range of solar attraction, or whether, after the sun existed, the earth was called forth within that range, science does not know. It has, however, without any reference to the Book of Genesis, proposed a theory, which has been accepted by some of the most scientific men of these days as highly probable. [ ] Had it been devised for the express purpose of removing the supposed difficulties of the Mosaic account, it could hardly have been more to the purpose. It supposes that the whole solar system was originally one mass of vapoury or nebulous matter, which, according to the laws of gravitation, assumed the form of an immense sphere. This sphere received (from without) an impulse which caused it to revolve on its axis from west to east. In consequence of this revolving motion, it became flattened at the poles and swollen in the equatorial region, and in consequence of the greatness of the centrifugal force at the equator, and the contemporaneous condensation and contraction of the nebulous mass, a free revolving ring, similar to that of Saturn, detached itself in the region of the equator. This ring not being of uniform density, and in consequence of contraction, broke in one or more places, and these fragments, in obedience to the laws of gravitation, became a sphere or spheres, that is, a planet, or planets, all necessarily revolving from west to east, round the parent mass. Another ring was formed in like manner, and another planet came into existence, and so on until the whole solar system was complete. A similar process took place with regard to some of the planets, and thus they got their moons. [ ]
Now, according to this theory, not only the earth, but all the planets of our system, existed before the sun in its present condition. As these planets are now not self-illuminating, it may be supposed that the rings, when detached from the original nebulous mass, were dark also, and therefore that tlie equatorial matter of the parent nebulous sphere of which they were composed was also devoid of light — that therefore the sun did not receive its luminous atmosphere until all the planets had been detached. But, until this luminous atmosphere existed, they could not derive their light from the sun. If, on the other hand, it be supposed that these detached rings were luminous, and that the planets formed from them were luminous also, then the planets had a light of their own, independent of the sun. But however that be, so much follows from this theory, that the earth existed before the residuary parent globe could be called the sun, or could perform its office of luminary to the system. If the earth therefore had light dm-ing this period, it must have been derived from some other source. That this is possible cannot now be denied. The discoveries with regard to heat, combustion, electricity, galvanism, show that there may be light independent of the sun. It is also now generally received that the sun itself is an opaque body, and that solar light proceeds from a luminous atmosphere by which it is surrounded. [ ] The progress of science has, therefore, neutralized the objection that hght could not exist before the sun. Indeed it has done more — it has proved the accuracy of the Mosaic language. Moses does not call the sun ” Or, light,” but ” Ma6r, a place or instrument of light,” a luminary, or candlestick,! just what modern science has discovered it to be. Thus, so far is the Mosaic doctrine of light from being opposed to recent discoveries, that if Moses had wished to describe the modern doctrine concerning light, he could not have expressed himself more happily. ” Scripture does not say that God created the light, or made it, but said, ‘ Let it be, and it was ! ‘ If, then, light be not a separate and definite body, but only vibrations or undulations of ether, somehow set in motion, the sacred writer could not have expressed its appearance in words more beautiful or more agreeable to truth.” [ ]
Now, this theory of La Place may or may not be true, [ ] but it is an offspring of modern science, and implies, just like the Mosaic account, the pre-existence of the earth before the sun became the luminary of the system. It does, indeed, also imply the pre-existence of the great parent nebulous globe, but this is not contrary to the Mosaic account. Moses does not say that the body of the sun or moon and stars were created on the fourth day, but according to the Hebrew, “God said, Let there be light-holders in the firmament of the heaven, …. and let them be for light-holders in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and God made the two great lightholders and God gave *** them in the firmament of heaven to give light upon the earth, and the stars.” The Hebrew word, Asah, make, may signify “make ready, prepare, dress” (see Gesenius’s ‘ Lexicon,’ in verb.). The creation of the sun or parent globe may be included in verse 1, and the work of the fourth day consisted in furnishing it with its luminous atmosphere. When this took place, and the sun began to shed its light, then the moon, and the earth’s fellow planets, “the stars,” of verse 16, became luminaries also. The stars of this sixteenth verse are certainly different from those morning stars of which Job speaks, which were in existence long before, and, as connected with the sun and moon, seem naturally to mean those belonging to the solar system, and which received their light on the fourth day, when the sun became luminous. Having thus seen how modern science proves that the earth and light might exist, and, according to scientific theory, probably did exist before the sun, it is no longer difficult to conceive, how there might also be a measure of time. What that measure was, the length of that “one day,” of which Moses speaks, it is now necessary to inquire.
12. The question, then, naturally arises, How are we to understand the word “day?” Is it a period of twenty-four hours, or is it an indefinite portion of time? It is quite certain that the Almighty could not only arrange the earth in six ordinary days, but that He could create the whole universe by a momentary exertion of His power. The shortness of the time, therefore, is no valid objection. The contrary objection that six ordinary days are too long, and that instantaneous creation is more worthy of Omnipotence, is just as strong. But nature and Scripture both teach us that it has pleased God to work gradually. His purpose was to fill the earth with inhabitants, and yet only a single pair was created. He announced the Redeemer in Paradise, but 4000 years passed away before the fulness of the time was come. It is His will that the whole earth shall be filled with the knowledge of Himself; but the diffusion of that knowledge has been left to gradual preaching and human instrumentality. So in nature, trees, animals, and men have small beginnings, and require time to attain to perfection. This twofold course of the Divine procedure, in grace and in nature, guards us against the necessity of supposing that the arrangement of the earth was of necessity sudden, or a series of instantaneous exhibitions of Omnipotence. The facts of creation, however, must be gathered from the Mosaic statement. Moses undoubtedly reckons six days. But it is an old and true observation, that in the Bible the word “day” often signifies undefined periods of time, as, “the day of the Lord,” “the day of vengeance,” “that day,” “the night is far spent, the day is at hand.” In this narrative (ii. 4) the word takes in the whole time of the creative work. The first three days were certainly not measured by the interval between sunset and sunset, for as yet the sun was not perfect, and had no light. The first day consisted of an alternation of light and darkness. But how long the light lasted, and how long the darkness until the next dawn, is not said. That there was an alternation of light and darkness, is related in the words, “And God divided between the light and between the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night.” First there had been universal darkness. “Darkness was upon the face of the deep.” Out of this darkness God caused the light to shine. “God said, Let there be light, and there was light.” It might, then, be supposed that this light being as universal as the darkness had been, there was now only continued, uninterrupted light in the world, and no darkness more until the new order of things commenced in the fourth day. The sacred historian guards against this supposition by relating that God divided between the light and the darkness, and that, in consequence of this division, evening happened, and morning happened, so that one stage of creation was divided from the other by an interval of darkness. The time of light in which the Divine work proceeded, He called Day, and the time of darkness He called Night. [ ] It was not a day measured by the presence of the sun’s light, nor a night measured by the absence of that light. There was light and there was darkness, and God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. The union of these two periods of light and darkness He calls “one day,” “a second day,” “a third day,” to mark the distinctive breaks in the progress of the development of the world. In this fifth verse “day” is taken in two senses, — first, of the duration of the light; and secondly, of the whole time of light and darkness together. But how long the light continued before it was evening, or how long the darkness continued before it was morning, or what was the duration of the two together, we are not told; and so far there is nothing to cause us to conclude that the whole was equal to twenty-four hours. It is true that David Strauss [ ] urges the mention of “evening and morning,” and thence concludes that they must be common days; and there is a general persuasion that Moses here reckons according to the usual custom of the Hebrews, from evening to evening, supposing that the original darkness is the first evening, and that the space of time occupied by it and by the light which succeeded, is described as the first day. But this mistake arises from confining the attention to the English translation, which says “And the evening and the morning were the first day.” But the Hebrew and the ancient versions have “And evening happened, and morning happened, one day.” Now if the first day begins with the original darkness, then the first day consists of the original darkness, the light, and the evening that followed, ending with the morning, and thus the first day would have an evening at the beginning and an evening at the end. The mention of morning, “evening happened and morning happened,” ought to have guarded against this mistake. Evening and morning do not together make a day, but only a part of a day. The whole day is not complete until the following evening. But that Moses does not here reckon from evening to evening is proved from the account of the first day. The evocation of light is the prominent object of the first day’s work, but it is after this evocation of light that it is said “And there was evening, and there was morning, one day.” If, therefore, the day began with the evening, light was created before that first day began, and there would be no account at all of what was done the fii’st day. The first day must, therefore, be reckoned as beginning at the appearance of light, and continuing through the evening to the dawn. The appearance of light, with the darkness that followed the evening until the next dawn, is the first day. With that dawn the second day begins. This mode of reckoning, unique in the Bible, and peculiar to this first chapter of Genesis, suggests that the days are peculiar too. To know the length of the first day, it would be necessary to know how long the light continued after its first appearance until the evening came, and then how long from evening until the first dawn. But this is not told us. The ordinance concerning the reckoning of time, “Let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and for years,” was not given until the fourth day, and could have no application until after the creation of Adam. Not by the sun, then, were the days measured, but by the light and darkness, which God called Day and Night, of the length of which we are not informed; and, consequently, there is nothing in the text to compel us to restrict the days to the time of the earth’s diurnal motion. If the length of the days is to be measured by that of the seventh, the day of God’s rest, those days must be indefinite periods, for that day of rest still continues. It is said, chap. ii. 2, “And He rested on the seventh day from all the work which He had made,” without any mention of evening and morning. The day of rest, therefore, still continues, and this is plainly expressed and argued in the Epistle to the Hebrews, “Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it,” or, as some moderns translate, “Let us then be careful, lest as a promise to enter into His [God’s] rest still remains, any of you appear remaining behind.” On which words Stuart says, “In chapter iv. 1, he brings forward the assertion that the promise of entering into the rest of God still remains, addressed to the Hebrew Christians as it was to the Israelites of old. . . . But what is the rest in question? Is it quiet possession of the land of Canaan? No, says the Apostle. Believers now enter into the rest (verse 3), i. e. (adds he) the same kind of rest as was anciently proffered. Moreover, God calls it ***, My rest, i. e. (adds he) such rest as God enjoyed, after He completed the creation of the world, consequently spiritual, heavenly rest. This is plain (as he goes on in verse 4) from what the Scripture says. Gen. ii. 2, concerning the rest of God.” According, then, to this declaration that God’s rest or Sabbath still continues, the seventh day of creation is an indefinite period and the other days may be also. The six days are days of the Lord, God’s days, as the first Sabbath was God’s rest, and, therefore, as God rested on His seventh day, man is commanded to rest on his seventh day, and God blessed and sanctified it.
13. But though the Mosaic language implies that the six days of which he speaks are six periods of time, it does not follow that they are to be identified with the six periods commonly received in geology. Indeed, to those who have no theory to establish, it is apparent that they do not agree, neither is it necessary that they should. That the Mosaic account is not contradicted by modern discovery is quite sufficient. The impossibility of identifying these periods is evident from the fact that of the work of two days in the Mosaic account geology knows nothing, and astronomy nothing certain; namely, that of the first on which the light was called forth; and of the fourth day, when the sun and the planetary system were perfected. Moses gives an outline of the history of creation, such as would be intelligible to those for whom he wrote, and suitable as an introduction to Divine revelation, and on both accounts necessarily limited in the matter and brief in the narration. He, therefore, notices only those things necessary to a true religious system, or perceptible by men. After the original creation of heaven and earth, and the condition of earth, he mentions the evocation of light and the creation of the ether, in which the heavenly bodies move, as effected in the first two days. Whether anything else was created in those two days, he neither affirms nor denies. So far therefore as the Mosaic record is concerned, these two days may include the whole of the primary, secondary, and tertiary formations, with all their products, their flora and their fauna. The products of those periods, buried in the earth, were, so far as we know, utterly unknown to the Israelites and their contemporaries, and to mankind for many ages after. Even to ourselves the knowledge is recent. For Moses to mention them, was not only unnecessary, but would have been altogether out of place. Such details would have encumbered the outline, and turned away the attention from God the Creator to things at that time invisible and unintelligible. The object of the Mosaic narrative is to explain the origin of the universe and of its parts, as they were known or visible to men of that day. So soon, therefore, as he has mentioned the light and the ether, he advances at once to the preparation of the earth for man; and thus the third day presents the dry land in its present state, with its flora differing from the preceding geological stages. Of this state of things, Page says: “At the close of the Pleistocene period the present distribution of sea and land seems to have been established; the land presenting the same surface of configuration, and the sea the same coast line, with the exception of such modifications as have since been produced by the atmospheric, aqueous, and other causes, described in chap. iii. At the close of that period, the earth also appears to have been peopled by its present flora and fauna, with the exception of some local removals of certain animals, and the general extinction of a few species.” [ ] According to the Mosaic account, the growth of grass, herb and fruit trees, begun on the third day, must have gone on through the fourth. Then on the fifth day the marine, and on the sixth the land animals of the present period were called into existence. The words of Moses, “Let the dry land appear,” are in exact accordance with what geology relates. The rise of the ocean had buried the tertiary world in its waters. “The disruption of the earth’s crust, extending W. 16° S., and E. 16° N., through which the chain of the great Alps was forced up to its present elevation, which, according to M. d’Orbigny, was simultaneous with that which forced up the Chilian Andes, a chain which extends over a length of 3000 miles of the western continent, terminated the tertiary age, and preceded immediately the creation of the human race and its concomitant tribes. The waters of the seas and oceans, lifted up from their beds by this immense perturbation, swept over the continents with irresistible force, destroying instantaneously the entire flora and fauna of the last tertiary period, and burying its ruins in the sedimentary deposits which ensued When the seas had settled into their new beds, and the outlines of the land were permanently defined, the latest and greatest act of creation was accomplished by clothing the earth with the vegetation which now covers it, peopling the land and the water with the animal tribes which now exist, and calling into being the human race. . . . The most conspicuous condition which distinguishes the present from all past periods is the existence of the human race among its fauna, the attributes of which are so peculiar as to place it out of all analogy with the other classes of animals. Another striking physical difference between the present and all former periods consists in the different divisions of the earth’s surface into climatological zones, each zone having its peculiar fauna and flora. In all former ages and periods, including those which immediately preceded the present, no traces of climatic difference have been found.” [ ] In all this there is nothing inconsistent with the Mosaic statement. There is one most striking and extraordinary coincidence: Moses represents the earth as existing for a long period before the sun became its source of light and heat. During that period there could have been no climatic difference, as this depends upon the position of the earth with reference to the sun. Now this exactly agrees with the conclusions of geology, which asserts, as we have seen, that before the human period there was no difference of climate, that the earth was not dependent on the sun for its temperature, that there was apparently one uniform high temperature over the whole earth, and consequently that the flora and fauna of warm climates are found, in the prehuman period, in latitudes where they could not now exist. Here then is an instance of the extraordinary scientific accuracy of the Mosaic account.
14. Another objection to Scriptural cosmogony is, that the Bible asserts that the earth is immovable. “The Hebrew records, the basis of religious truth, manifestly countenanced the opinion of the earth’s immobility.” [ ] The proofs of this proposition are not taken from Moses, who says nothing on the subject, but from such passages as Ps. xciii. 1, — “The world also is established that it cannot be moved;” and Ps. civ. 5, — “Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be moved for ever.” See also Ps. cxix. 90, 91. According to this mode of interpretation, it can also be proved that the Hebrews also held that a pious man was an immovable fixture; for it is said, Prov. x. 30, ” The righteous shall never be moved,” the same word in Hebrew. But this objection rests on simple ignorance of the Hebrew word translated “moved.” This word, ***, signifies, as Gesenius says, “to waver, to shake, to totter,” and, therefore, it is applied to the feet of one in motion in Ps. xvii. 5 — “Hold up my gomgs in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not;” or, as the margin has it, “be not moved.” Can any one be found so silly as to suppose that David prayed that his feet might be immovably fixed? The whole prayer implies motion, walking in the Lord’s ways; and the latter part of the petition is that his feet might not “totter,” that he might not stumble. So far, therefore, are the above passages from declaring that the earth is immovable, that they necessarily imply its motion. “The world is established that it cannot totter,” not even in that velocity of motion with which it compasses the sun. A totter, a slip, would be of dreadful consequence to its inhabitants; but the Lord has so arranged and steadied its motions, that no totter is possible. The wonderful mode of its suspension in space, as well as that of the heavenly bodies, as necessarily implied in the Scriptural doctrine of an ethereal expanse, is also beautifully expressed in Job xxvi. 7. “He stretcheth out the north over the empty place; he hangeth the earth upon nothing.” To infer that Scripture teaches the immobility of the earth because it speaks of sunrise and sunset, or because Joshua said, “Sun, stand thou still,” is just as fair as to attribute the same error to the compilers of almanacks and astronomical tables, or to scientific men in their common parlance. There are certain popular phrases which no universality of science will ever banish from general use. The great historian of the Inductive Sciences, like all other people of common sense, uses the popular language. “The motions of the sun, the succession of the places of his rising and setting at different times of the year, the greatest height which he reaches …. would all exhibit several cycles. . . . The turning back of the sun, when he had reached his greatest distance to the south or the north, as shown either by his rising or his height at noon, would perhaps be the most observable of such circumstances.” [ ] If Copernicus himself bad been in a similar position with that of Joshua, he would have used just the same language. To the end of time the most scientific of men will continue to speak of sunrise and sunset — the sun passing the meridian, or sinking below the horizon; and he who would try to substitute a more exact phraseology would be regarded as more of a pedant than a philosopher.
15. Verses 6-8. — The Mosaic firmament not a solid vault. — In close connection with this objection is that directed against the Mosaic account of “the firmament.” It was already urged by Voltaire, and in recent times oft triumphantly repeated, to show the supposed ignorance and gross conceptions of the Hebrew people. Gesenius, Winer, Knobel, &c., have patronised it; their statements have been transferred wholesale into popular English works, and lately repeated in ‘Essays and Reviews’ (pp. 219, 220):— “The work of the second day of creation is to erect the vault of heaven (Heb., rakia; Gr. ***; Lat., firmamentum), which is represented as supporting an ocean of water above it. The waters are said to be divided, so that some are below, some above the vault. That the Hebrews understood the sky, firmament, or heaven, to be a permanent, solid vault, as it appears to the ordinary observer, is evident enough from various expressions made use of concerning it. It is said to have pillars (Job xxvi. 11), foundations (2 Sam. xxii. 8), doors (Ps. Ixxviii. 23), and windows (Gen. vii. 11). No quibbling about the derivation of the word rakia, which is literally ‘something beaten out,’ can affect the explicit description of the Mosaic waiter, contained in the words, ‘The waters that are above the firmament,’ or avail to show that he was aware that the sky is but transparent.
“Note. — The root is generally applied to express the hammermg or beating out of metal plates; hence something beaten or spread out. It has been pretended that the word rakia may be translated expanse, so as merely to mean empty space. The context sufiiciently rebuts this.”
This objection, if well founded, would be conclusive proof of the opposition between astronomic science and the Mosaic cosmogony. But, happily, it is the weakest of all the objections, and the most easily refuted by Scripture statement, and by the history of interpretation. “The Hebrews,” says Mr. Goodwin, [ ] “understood the sky, firmament, or heaven to be a permanent solid vault.” Here are two assertions: First, that the Hebrews understood the firmament or heaven to be a vault. Secondly, that they regarded that vault as solid. The first assertion, a repetition of Gesenius’s hemisphcerii instar, is totally without foundation. The word rakia signifies not vault, but, as all allow, an expanse, something spread out, whether solid or unsolid, and therefore incompatible with the idea of vault or arch. But the main part of the objection is that the firmament, or heavens, are solid or firm. Now, according to Scripture, the firmament, or heaven, is that space or place where birds fly. They could not fly in a solid vault; therefore the firmament cannot be a solid vault. This is proved by the following references. In Gen. i. 28, birds are called “the fowl of the heavens ” (not “air,” as the Authorized Version has it) — a description utterly inapplicable if the heavens be a permanent solid vault, in which the heavenly bodies were fixed. “The fowl of the solid vault” would be nonsense. If the heavens be the expanse, beginning at the earth, extending to the stars, and including the air, the description is appropriate; and so convinced were our translators that the heavens have this meaning, that they have here and elsewhere translated “fowl of the air,” not “fowl of the heavens.” The reason why Moses calls birds fowls of the heavens is because they fly in the heavens, as we read, Deut. iv. 17, “any winged fowl that flieth in the heavens.” And again, Prov. XXX. 19, “The way of an eagle in the heavens.” And again, Jer. viii, 7, “The stork in the heavens knoweth his appointed time.” In all these passages, “heavens” means the place where birds fly. [ ] In Psalm lxxviii. 36, the word means the place where winds blow — “He causeth a wind to blow in the heavens;” in both cases the region of the atmosphere. The Biblical writers must, therefore, have considered the heavens or firmament as something analogous to the air, an expanse, or ether, not a hard, solid vault.
The idea of expanse, independent, or even exclusive of solidity, is also to be inferred, from the manner in which other verbs [ ] simply signifying to extend or spread out, are applied to the heavens: as, for instance, Isaiah xlviii. 13, “My right hand hath spread out (tippechah) the heavens.” Isaiah xl. 22, “That stretcheth out (***) suggest solidity — the comparison with a fine curtain excludes it. The Hebrew word (Dok) here used for curtain, is cognate with Dak, ” fine dust,” and signifies, as Gesenius says, “Fineness — hence *** cloth, garment, a curtain.” The same idea of something unsolid, un-permanent, and movable, is conveyed in the similar figure, Ps. civ. 2, “Who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain [Yerihah].” The Hebrew word here used for curtain means “something tremulous,” and, as Gesenius gives it, ” a curtain, hanging, so called from its tremulous motion ” — a simile most unsuitable for a solid vault, most appropriate for an ethereal expanse or fluid.
But besides Rakia and Shamaim, there is another word, Sheehakim, said to be used sometimes for heavens, which also excludes the idea of solidity. Gesenius thus gives the meaning: ***. 1. Dust, fine dust. Isai. xl. 15; 2. A cloud, Arab, thin cloud, pp., as it would seem, cloud of dust, or the like. Mostly in plural, clouds. Metonym. for the firmament, the heavens, the sky, i. q. *** and *** comp. in English the clouds. Job xxxvii. 18, ‘Hast thou like him spread out the sky ***, which is firm like a molten looking-glass?” A cloud of dust is nothing solid, and, therefore, when the word Shachak, signifying cloud of dust, is transferred to the clouds of heaven, it implies that, in the mind of him that transferred it, the clouds of heaven are also devoid of solidity. But here it will be replied. In the passage of Job, just referred to by Gesenius, “the sky” is compared to a molten metallic mirror — it must, therefore, be firm, like a metal plate. Now, granting for a moment that “sky” is here a possible translation, the conclusion drawn does not follow. If the sky be solid and firm, and able to bear up a whole heavenly ocean of water, is it not rather a descent from the poetic, indeed a very considerable bathos, to compare its strength to that of a woman’s metal mirror? The beauty of the simile is lost. Luther’s poetic mind and shrewd common sense saw this, and, therefore, when there was no dispute about the matter, showed that here there is a contrast rather than a comparison. The expanse, he says, is rarer and finer than the atmosphere in which we live, and yet, through the power of the Divine word, strong as if it were metal. [ ]
Take into account the exact meaning of Shechakim, clouds, or substances unsolid as a cloud of dust, and the beauty and force of the figure come out still more strongly. When, therefore, it is remembered that “the Hebrews” regarded the heavens or firmament as including the place where birds fly — that they liken it to fineness or fine cloth, that they regard it as tremulous, like a tremulous curtain, and thought that it was of the nature of the clouds, ***, and that the clouds were of the nature of a cloud of fine dust, and might be called by the same word, it will be seen that they did not consider the heavens as a solid vault, but as an ether similar to the atmosphere.
That the word Rakia signifies expanse is also proved by Jewish tradition. It is that sense which appears when the Jews began to write lexicons and grammars, and is preserved to this day. David Kimchi, in his Book of Roots, explains the word Rakah first by Paras, to spread out, and he is followed by both Spanish and German Jews, who translate Rakia expanse.
The Jewish-Spanish version has “Espandidura ;” the Jewish-German “Ausspreitung;” the Pentateuch by Zunz, Arnheim, and Sachs gives “Ausdehnung.” The ‘Jewish School and Family Bible,’ by Dr. Benisch, has “expanse.” At the revival of letters Christians learned Hebrew from the Jews, and received the old Jewish interpretation “expanse.” So Vatablus and Peter Martyr have “Sit expansio in medio aquarum.” Calvin has both extensio and expansio — “Sit extensio in medio aquarum et fecit Deus expansionem ;” and so Sebastian Munster, Mercerus, the Geneva French Bible of 1588, Luke Osiander, 1597, and Cypriano de Valera, 1602, who has “Sea un estendi- miento en medio de las aguas.” And Luther, though he retained the word “Veste,” answering to ” firmament,” explains it as a fine and subtile expanse. In his Commentary to verse 6, he says, ” God takes this thick and shapeless lump of vapour, nelel (nebula), created the first day out of nothing, and commands it to spread itself out for the word Rakia signifies among the Hebrews something extended and spread out, and comes from Raka, to spread out …. when, therefore. Job says, xxxvii. 18, ‘ The heavens are made firm as with iron,’ he has respect not to the material, but to the Word, which can make the softest thing in nature into the strongest and the firmest, …. for we know how subtile the air is in which we live But the heaven is naturally still more subtile and thin.” [ ] Vatablus gives a similar explanation. Having remarked that heaven is by the Hebrews sometimes called Shamaim, sometimes Rakia, he says, “It is distinguished into two parts, the upper part, which is called ether, which is fire, and the lower part, which is called air.” Calvin (in loc.) gives a similar interpretation. “Moreover, the word Rakia comprehends not only the whole region of the air, but whatever is open above us, as the word heaven is sometimes understood by the Latins.” Now, it is to be remarked that these interpretations were given when the old system of astronomy was still in fashion, and received by those who give these interpretations, as the Jewish Rabbis and the Reformers. They cannot therefore be accused of quibbling, or of advocating a new interpretation to help them out of difficulties arising from the discoveries of Copernicus and Galileo. This sense continued to be received by Hebrew scholars until the infection of Deistic infidelity fully influenced the minds of men to make out a case of ignorance against Moses and the Hebrews. It is found in Mariana, 1624; Hottinger, 1659; Seb. Schmidt, 1697; Baumgarten and Rom. Teller, 1749; J. C. F. Schultz, 1783; Dathius, 1791; Ilgen, 1798. Even in the first edition of Gesenius’s ‘Lexicon,’ 1810-13, though he says that the Hebrews looked upon heaven as solid, he explains rakia, not as a solid expanse, but “Etwas ausgebreitetes.” In later editions he wavers, sometimes inserting, sometimes omitting, the word “solid” or “firm.” [ ]
But, it may be asked, if such be the Jewish tradition, how the LXX. and Vulgate came to render Rakia by ***, firmamentum. The answer is, that by *** the LXX. also understood a fine and subtile ether which held the heavenly bodies in their places. Stereoma was chosen not to express something itself solid, but something that strengthened or made firm the heavenly bodies. They took the word in the transitive sense, like ***, ***, ****, &c. and this is proved by the Vulgate having firmamentum, which form of word signifies something that makes firm, like ornamentum, complementum, alimentum, monumentum, &c. In this sense stereoma is elsewhere used by the LXX., as Ezek. iv. 16: “I will break the staff of bread, ***;” and Esther ix. 29: “And the confirmation of the letter, ***.” And again Ps. xviii. 3: “The Lord is my rock, ***,” where the Vulgate has firmamentum meum. That Jerome took firmamentum in the same sense appears from his Commentary on Isa. XX vi. 1, where for ***, bulwark, Symmachus has ***; and Jerome remarks: “Pro eo quod nos vertimus antemurale, Symmachus firmamentum interpretatus est,” And again on Ezek. iv. 16, on the words “staff of bread:” ” Verbum Hebraicum Matteh prima Aquilse editio haculum, secunda et Symmachus Theodotioque a-repecofia, id est firmamentum interpretati sunt.” The Septuagint adopted the word, as Le Clerc has shown in his Commentary, from the Oriental or Chaldaic philosophy: “Hinc coelos *** Rekihin, et ut loquuntur Graeci eorum interpretes, ***, quod inferiora comprimerent ac firmament, deosque prsesides uniuscujusque coeli ***, sustentatores et coactores appellabant.” He refers in proof to a passage in Thomas Stanley’s ‘History of Philosophy,’ in which, though that writer calls stereoma a solid orb, yet he shows that this stereoma was of the nature of an ethereal fluid: [ ] “The first of the corporeal worlds is the empyreal (by Empyrseum the Chaldaeans understood not, as the Christian theologists, the seat of God and the blessed spirits, which is rather analogous to the supreme light of the Chaldaeans, but the outward sphere of the corporeal world). It is round in figure, according to the oracle, ‘enclosing heaven in a round figure.’ It is also a solid orb, or firmament; for the same oracles call it ***. It consists of fire, whence named the Empyreal, or as the oracles, the fiery world, which fire, being immediately next the incorporeal supramundane light, is the rarest and subtilest of bodies, and, by reason of this subtilty, penetrates into the aether, which is the next world below it, and, by mediation of the sether, through all the material world.
“Chap. xiv. — The aether is a fire (as its name implies) less subtile than the empyraeum; for the empyraeum penetrates through the aether; yet is the aether itself so subtile that it penetrates through the material world. The second aethereal world is the sphere of fixed stars. . . . The third aethereal world is that of the planetary orb, which contains the sun, moon, and planets.”
According, then, to this meaning of stereoma the word gives no countenance to the idea that the firmament is a solid vault, capable of sustaining an ocean of water above it. On the contrary, it conveys the idea of a fuie, subtle fluid pervading space, and agrees, therefore, with the Biblical usage, which makes it an expanse extending from the earth to the heavenly bodies, including the airy space in which birds fly.
Having thus shown, from the usage of the Biblical writers, the uniformity of the Jewish tradition and the LXX., that the meaning of Rakia is an expanse, not a solid vault, the fiction of “an ocean of water above it “falls of itself. That rests upon the supposition of a “permanent solid vault,” and is altogether incompatible with the true meaning of an ethereal expanse. But independently of this incompatibility, the theory of “an ocean” above the firmament is a mere fiction. There is not one word about it in the Bible. The sacred text says that the firmament was to separate the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. It also relates the gathering together of the waters under the firmament and the formation of the ocean, but it says not one word about the gathering together of the waters above the firmament into an ocean or reservoir; that is pure invention of those who wish to burden upon “the Hebrews” what they are entirely innocent of. Indeed it is admitted by Gesenius and others, though not noticed by the Essayist, that the Hebrews knew better, and were acquainted with the true origin of rain. Gesenius says that the Hebrew poets describe a firmament, “Super quo oceanus coelestis existat, apertis firmamenti cancelhs pluviam demittens in terram (Gen. i. 7, vii. 1 1; Ps. civ. 3; cxlviii. 4) vulgarem nimirum intuitionem secuti, licet vera rerum ratio iis minime incognita sit.” (Vide Gen. ii. 6; Job xxxvi. 27, 28.) He does not ascribe the fiction of an ocean to the Hebrews generally, but only to the poets following popular notions. It is therefore unfair to charge it upon “a Hebrew Descartes,” who must have been up to the science of the day.
But it is said that the Hebrews believed that heaven had pillars and foundations, that there were windows and doors in heaven, on the opening of which the rain descended. With equal reason might these wise interpreters say that the Hebrews believed that there were bottles in heaven, and that the celestial ocean, or part of it, was first bottled off before the earth could be supplied with ram, or that “the waters are bound up in a garment” (Prov. xxx. 4), or that the ocean has bars and doors (Job xxxviii. 10, 17), or that the shadow of death and the womb have doors (Job iii. 10), for all these are spoken of. If these are figurative, so are the windows and doors of heaven. As in Job xxxviii. 37, “Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven?” bottles are parallel to and explained by “clouds;” so in Ps. lxxviii. 23, there is a similar explanatory parallelism — “Though He had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven;” and few children in a Sunday or National school would take bottles or doors literally. The common people are not so dull as Gesenius and some other intellectual wonders of the day think. Who ever met a rustic, accustomed to look at the heavens, who thought it was a solid vault, and that the stars were fixed in like nails? The common people are not so silly: they judge by what they see. They do not see a solid vault, but they see the lark and the eagle soaring aloft in the air, and they think that all beyond is just alike. They never dream of a solid obstacle in the way. That solid vault savours much more of the fancy of the poet adding a trait of grandeur to a description, or of the school of the philosopher inventing a theory to account for the motions of the heavenly bodies, than of the practical common sense of the common people. The most uneducated know very well the connexion between clouds and rain, and in this the Hebrews were not behind other people. The two passages pointed out by Gesenius — Gen. ii. 6, and Job xxxvi. 27, 28 — prove that the Hebrews knew the connexion between evaporation and rain, especially the latter. “For he maketh small the drops of water; they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof, which the clouds do drop and distil upon man abundantly.” The Hebrew language has various words for “cloud” or “clouds;” they are all found in connexion with rain. Thus, Gen. ix.: “When I bring a cloud, ***, over the earth, my bow shall be seen in the cloud.” The clouds might excite apprehension of another deluge; the bow dispels it. Deborah was able to tell how, when the Lord went out of Seir, ” the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped (distilled); the clouds, ***, also dropped water.” (Judges v. 4.) In 1 Kings xviii. 44, 45, the little cloud, ***, rising from the sea, was recognized by Elijah as a sign of coming rain; and when the heavens were black with clouds and wind, “a great rain” followed. Solomon says (Pro v. iii. 20), “By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds, ***, drop down dew,” which reads very like a commentary upon Gen. vii. 11, “the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.” These are only a few specimens of the many passages that bear upon the subject; but sufficient to show that “the Hebrews” knew very well that rain did not come from a celestial ocean, through windows and doors, nor yet from bottles in the heavens, but from the clouds. Indeed, the connexion between the two furnished materials for the proverb, “Clouds, ***, and wind, and no rain; such is the man whose promise of a gift is a lie.” (Pro v. xxv. 14.)
But though there be no ocean above the firmament, may there not have been, may there not still be, waters above the firmament? Such was the opinion of the learned F. Von Meyer, adopted by Kurtz in his first edition of ‘Bible and Astronomy,’ and lately advocated by Delitsch. That such a supposition is not unscientific, appears from Dr. Whewel’s ‘Theory of the Solar System:’ — “The planets exterior to Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn especially, as the best known of them, appear, by the best judgment which we can form, to be spheres of water and of aqueous vapour, combined, it may be, with atmospheric air . . . Can we see any physical reason for the fact, which appears to us probable, that all the water and vapour of the system is gathered in its outward parts? It would seem that we can. Water and aqueous vapour are driven off and retained at a distance by any other source of heat. … It was, then, agreeable to the general scheme, that the excess of water and vapour should be packed into rotating masses, such as are Jupiter and Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. . . . And thus the vapour, which would otherwise have wandered loose about the atmosphere, was neatly wound into balls, which again were kept in their due place by being made to revolve in nearly circular orbits about the sun.” Perhaps, when science knows a little more about the ethereal medium which fills space, and in which the heavenly bodies move, it may also learn something more about “this water and aqueous vapour,” and be better able to understand the Mosaic statement about the waters above the firmament. But, however that be, Biblical usage, Jewish tradition, the reason that moved the LXX. to adopt stereoma, and the Vulgate firmamentum, the current of Protestant interpretation until a recent date, concur in proving that “the Hebrews” did not believe in a solid heaven, like the brass or iron heaven of the heathens, but in an expanse of something like the atmospheric air. [ ] This is not contrary, but rather agreeable to the discoveries of modern science, which attributes the retardation of the heavenly bodies to some resisting medium, and light to the undulations of some subtile fluid.
16. Verse 27. Creation of one human pair. — This subject has been so fully discussed by Prichard that it is not necessary to enter upon it here. [ ] It may be well, however, to notice a statement in ‘Essays and Reviews’ which says that the original formation of only one pair of human beings is taught only in the second chapter, and not in the first. “Man is said to have been created male and female, and the narrative contains nothing to show that a single pair only is intended.” [ ] “It is in the second narrative of creation that the formation of a single man out of the dust of the earth is described, and the omission to create a female at the same time is stated to have been repaired by the subsequent formation of one from the side of the man.” — Note in ‘Essays and Reviews,’ p. 222. But the text in Gen. i., if carefully examined, proves that only one pair of human beings is intended, and that the formation of the two was not simultaneous. In verse 26 we read, ” And God said, Let us make man (Adam without article) in our image, after our likeness, and let them have dominion,” etc. Here the language is indefinite. It refers to the whole human race. But then follows, “And God created the man (Adam, with the article) in his image, in the image of God created He him: male and female created He them.” Here the language is definite, “the man,” and in the first half of the verse the pronoun is in the singular number, and the masculine gender, ” In the image of God created He him.” If the author had intended briefly to have stated that at first only one human being, and that one the male, was created, what other language could he have employed? Then, having spoken in the singular number, and the masculine gender, he as briefly but clearly describes the subsequent distinction into sexes. ”Male and female created He them.” The plan of this chapter forbad his entering into the detail of the creation of woman, just as much as it hindered him from describing the varieties of herbs or trees, or fowls or fishes, or of beasts of the earth and cattle. As he merely says that God created them, so here, after the mention of “the man,” he just notices the fact that God created them male and female; but in that very notice he implies that there is something peculiar, for with regard to fish or beasts or cattle he does not mention that God created them male and female, or, as it may be rendered, “a male and a female.” With regard to man, short as is the notice, he does relate, first, that “in the image of God created He him,” that is one male; and then “male and female created He them.” Even according to the opinion of those who make the first and second chapters of Genesis two accounts, written by two authors, the fifth chapter was written by the author who wrote the first chapter (the Elohist, as they say). But in the fifth chapter the creation of one pair only is plainly implied. “This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created Adam, in the likeness of God created He him; male and female created He them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. And Adam lived an hiuidred and thirty years,” etc. In all this Adam is one person, and yet the first and second verses are a recapitulation of chapter i. 26, 27, in the very words of those verses. Therefore in i. 27, the author took Adam as one individual male human being, as Knobel fairly admits in his commentary on chap. v. 1-5: —
“Adam is here a proper name, as iii. 17. The author designedly repeats the statements of i. 27, 28, as his purpose is here to narrate how the first human pair propagated the species by generation, and brought forth children of the same form which they themselves had received at the creation from God. The passage teaches that the Elohist, who here attributes to his Adam the begetting of a son in his loOth year, also believed in one first human pair, though in i. 26 he had not plainly said so.”
On this point, therefore, there is no discrepancy between the first and second chapters. The first chapter, as is proved by V. 26, 27, relates, first, the creation of Adam, and then mentions the distinction of male and female. The second chapter gives the particulars, first, of the creation of Adam, then of the creation of Eve.
17. Thus a comparison of the actual statements of Moses with the discoveries and conclusions of modern science is so far from shaking, that it confirms our faith in the accuracy of the sacred narrative. We are astonished to see how the Hebrew Prophet, in his brief and rapid outline sketched 3000 years ago, has anticipated some of the most wonderful of recent discoveries, and can, ascribe the accuracy of his statements and language to nothing but inspiration. Moses relates how God created the heavens and the earth at an indefinitely remote period before the earth was the habitation of man — geology has lately discovered the existence of a long prehuman period. A comparison with other scriptures shows that the “heavens” of Moses include the abode of angels, and the place of the fixed stars, which existed before the earth. Astronomy points out remote worlds, whose light began its journey long before the existence of man. Moses declares that the earth was or became covered with water, and was desolate and empty. Geology has found by investigation that the primitive globe was covered with an uniform ocean, and that there was a long azoic period, during which neither plant nor animal could live. Moses states that there was a time when the earth was not dependent upon the sun for light or heat, when, therefore, there could be no climatic differences. Geology has lately verified this statement by finding tropical plants and animals scattered over all parts of the earth. Moses affirms that the sun, as well as the moon, is only a light-liolder. Astronomy declares that the sun itself is a non-luminous body, dependent for its light on a luminous atmosphere. Moses asserts that the earth existed before the sun was given as a luminary. Modern science proposes a theory which explains how this was possible. Moses asserts that there is an expanse extending from earth to distant heights, in which the heavenly bodies are placed. Recent discoveries lead to the supposition of some subtile fluid medium in which they move. Moses describes the process of creation as gradual, and mentions the order in which living things appeared, plants, fishes, fowls, land-animals, man. By the study of nature geology has arrived independently at the same conclusion. Where did Moses get all this knowledge? How was it that he worded his rapid sketch with such scientific accuracy? If he in his day possessed the knowledge which genius and science have attained only recently, that knowledge is superhuman. If he did not possess the knowledge, then his pen must have been guided by superhuman wisdom. Faith has, therefore, nothing to fear from science. So far the records of nature, fairly studied and rightly interpreted, have proved the most valuable and satisfying of all commentaries upon the statements of Scripture. The ages required for geological development, the infinity of worlds and the immensity of space revealed by astronomy, illustrate, as no other note or comment has ever done, the Scripture doctrines of the eternity, the omnipotence, the wisdom of the Creator. Let then Science pursue her boundless course, and multiply her discoveries in the heavens and in the earth. The believer is persuaded that they will only show more clearly that “the words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of fire, purified seven times.” Let Criticism also continue her profoundly interesting and important work. Let her explore, sift, analyse, scrutinize, with all her powers, the documents, language, and contents of Scripture, and honestly tell us the results. Since the day when Laurentius Valla exposed the fiction of the Imperial donation, she has contributed much to the removal of error, and the advancement of literary, patristic, and historic truth; and Divine revelation has also been illustrated by her labours. It might be shown that even the hostile and sceptical have involuntarily helped in the confirmation of the Christian verity, and that even then labours cannot be neglected without loss. But the student must carefully distinguish between the speculations of individuals and the ascertained, settled results of criticism. The theory of any one individual, however learned, laborious, and genial, is only an opinion, perhaps only one of a chaos of conflicting opinions, where sound criticism has found no sure footing. The settled results are those which, after severe testing, have been unanimously accepted by the competent, the sober, and the judicious. The former may be popular for a while, and seem to shake the faith; but they are gradually overthrown by the progress of critical investigation, and take their place in the record of things that were. The history of the last hundred years, since modern criticism took its rise, is sufficient to quiet the believer’s mind as to the ultimate result. It tells of theory after theory, propounded by the critics of the day, first applauded, then controverted, then rejected, just like the philosophic systems of the same period, and yet a gradual advance from anti-Christian hostility to an effort after scientific impartiality, and a large amount of positive gain for the right interpretation of Scripture and the confirmation of the old Christian belief. Faith, therefore, feels no more fear of Criticism than of Science, being assured that neither can “do anything against the truth, but for the truth.”