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In the Bible it clearly states:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

and then in the same chapter:

And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.(Genesis 1:16)

But we've come to know that the Sun is much older than the Earth; is this a contradiction?

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  • The creation or account or anything else is not supposed to be scientific. Sun represents light; and moon the nightlight. The author is describing God is the creator of the universe.
    – Michael16
    Sep 4, 2022 at 11:33

7 Answers 7

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Let us be very clear that Hebrew has perfectly good words for:

  • The sun, שֶׁמֶשׁ (shemesh) which first appears in Gen 15:12
  • The moon, יָרֵחַ (yareach) which first occurs in Gen 37:9

Thus, while these perfectly well known words are available, the author of Gen 1 goes to some trouble to avoid using them.

Further, we note that the great lights to rule the day and night are placed in the firmament (Gen 1:14); now, according to Gen 1:6, the firmament is the space (sky) between the water below (rivers, seas, lakes, etc) and the waters above (clouds or the source of rain, hail & snow, etc).

Thus, if a pedant wanted to be really pedantic, then one might erroneously conclude several bizarre things:

  1. The sun moon and stars were created on day 4
  2. The sun and moon are within our atmosphere and travel trough it.

However, the author of Genesis carefully avoids this problem by saying that:

  1. It was the lights that were provided on day 4 and not the actual sun and moon themselves
  2. It is the light from these bodies that is within the atmosphere not the sun and moon themselves

The conclusion here is simple - the sun and moon might have existed well before the start of creation week having been created at an earlier unstated time.

Of course, the human author could not have known the full implications of what they wrote and this (I believe) is an evidence of the divine origin of the inspiration of the author of this part of Scripture.

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  • Thank you for your answer, well said to be honest lol. What is the source of the greater light that was provided on day 4? And the lesser light as well. And why were they provided on the 4th day? Not in the first since the Sun's light doesn't take long to reach the Earth, neither does the moon's.
    – Karim
    Mar 11, 2021 at 3:36
  • How does the sun exist before there was any light? Mar 11, 2021 at 6:11
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    @AnthonyBurg - the conditions on the earth at the beginning of creation week are not described but the account in Gen is written from a purely phenomenological point of view - the sun's light appeared in the 4th day.
    – Dottard
    Mar 11, 2021 at 10:00
  • @Dottard I do not understand what you're saying. 'purely phenomenological POV'? Mar 11, 2021 at 18:11
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    @AnthonyBurg - that is what appears to be implied - but be careful because very little is recorded here and I do not want to go too far.
    – Dottard
    Mar 11, 2021 at 22:00
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I think you have 2 options here.

  1. The Earth could form before the Sun because God is the creator, and God could create them in that order. Given that the Word of God is more certain than any recent scientific theory, not only could the Earth form first, but it did. So the scientific theory is wrong.

  2. The Earth didn't form before the Sun, because we know from certain scientific discoveries that the Sun is older. Therefore, either a) Genesis is wrong or b) Genesis must be read in some different way - in this case, perhaps 'heaven and earth' is a figure of speech.

IMHO this is one of the lesser problems with thinking of Genesis as a text on astrophysics, geology, biology, and so on.

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  • The first option is very outlandish, is science of any value in Christianity? You can't say that what scientists have worked to achieve is incorrect because god said something else. The second option leaves me hanging for an answer still, in what way should I read Genesis so it would make sense? Not even I alone, everyone should read it the same because if it's science, science is the truth. Hopefully you can understand my problem with your answer, and if you could provide with a solution.
    – Karim
    Mar 10, 2021 at 12:07
  • @Karim Re 'outlandish', lookup Ken Ham. He's fairly honest about the implications re science of taking Genesis literally and inerrantly. Re 2nd option, typical take is that that part of Genesis is a theological text, making claims about the nature of God and in particular vs. the other gods of the surrounding culture at the time - not a textbook on astrophysics. So God didn't intend for us to be debating astrophysics, geology, and so on because of Genesis, but rather to get certain lessons about the nature of God. Mar 10, 2021 at 18:21
  • And... where is your citation on how god didn't intend for us to not be debating astrophysics, geology so on? And citation for his intentions to get certain lessons about the nature of god.
    – Karim
    Mar 11, 2021 at 3:28
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    @Karim Yes, some of those people to some degree are motivated in their interpretation by a belief Genesis is problematic in terms of astrophysics, geology, hydrology, biology, and so on. Mar 11, 2021 at 6:07
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    @NihilSineDeo Not sure what you're referring to exactly, but I'm using 'formed' to mean 'created' or 'made'. If the Earth just popped into existence isn't meant to be excluded by the term 'form' here. Mar 11, 2021 at 17:35
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Another possibility is that there is an unknown period of time that passed between verse 1 and verse two, after which the earth became without form and void (tôhû bôhû)... if Isaiah is taken to mean that it was not created in vain (tôhû).

Isaiah 45:18

For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.

If so, then all of the events described in verses 3 through Gen.2:1 would have mostly been a restoration of order, or reconstruction of some sort, after some cataclysmic event. Such an event could be exactly what is referred to in this section of 2 Peter.

2 Peter 3:5-7

[5] For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: [6] Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: [7] But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

This appears to describe a different event that what is subsequently attributed to being the flood in the days of Noah, when eight souls were saved (2 Pet.3:20.) After the flood in Noah's day, God made a covenant with Noah to never again destroy the earth with water (Gen. 9:11). Given this may have been the second time of doing so, this promise may have carried more significance than had it been the only time.

If water was used as the cleansing agent in Noah's day, it is reasonable to consider what (if anything) might have prompted a need for it prior to Genesis 1:2. Although it might not be considered by some to be a clear reference to the Satan, there are few other (if any) scriptures that allude to and/or better explain the origins of Satan, much less when this "annointed" cherub's rebellion against God may have occurred, other than these verses from Ezekial 28 and Isaiah 14.

Ezekial 28:13-15

[13] Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. [14] Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. [15] Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.

Isaiah 14:12-14

[12] How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! [13] For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: [14] I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High

Considering there does not appear to be anything in Genesis 1:2 through 2:1 that mentions this annointed cherub and "the day thou wast created," it seems reasonable that said creation occurred either as part of what is spoken of in Genesis 1:1, or at some point prior to verse 2. Likewise, given the uncertainty of when this pride and iniquity first appeared, it seems equally reasonable to think that it also occurred at some point prior to verse 2. And if these are both true, it offers a very plausible and reasonable explanation of the cataclysmic destruction that may have occurred between verse 1 and verse 2 of Genesis 1... which in turn offers a new perspective on what the verses following this might and/or might not mean.

In light of this, I think this section of Dottard's answer makes perfectly good sense:

**However, the author of Genesis carefully avoids this problem by saying that:

  1. It was the lights that were provided on day 4 and not the actual sun and moon themselves
  2. It is the light from these bodies that is within the atmosphere not the sun and moon themselves

The conclusion here is simple - the sun and moon might have existed well before the start of creation week having been created at an earlier unstated time.**

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  • Hugs, upvoted. There is a difference between the word created and made. It opens up a whole new vista to the past heavens and earth of old that once were. (2 Peter3:5-7)Before they became without form and were recreated where things were made out of their original creation of verse one. "The appearance of the sun and the moon on the Fourth day was not a new creation. They had existed in connection with the Pre-Adamite Earth.... The words translated 'made' in the 16th verse is not the same word as is translated "created" in verse one, and does not imply a creative act". Clarence Larkin
    – Sherrie
    Feb 17, 2022 at 21:29
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Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

This is the primordial earth. It is being developed.

Day 1, God made light.
Day 2, God made sky.

Next, the Earth is changing:

9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

You say:

the Sun is much older than the Earth

The Sun is much older than the Earth as we know it. Genesis 1:1's earth is not the earth as we know it.

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  • The earth was barren and cratered.
    – R. Emery
    Mar 9, 2021 at 18:26
  • I have a few issues with your answer that hopefully you could help me understand them. "God created the heavens and the earth" God called it "Earth" still though? Just because stuff changed on the earth doesn't really mean that it isn't "Earth" still, and also, it was an 3 morning and evenings between the creation of the earth and the sun, meaning it's been 72 hours, and the difference between the age of the Sun and the Earth is much bigger than 72 hours? And the changes happened before the sun was created, the "Earth" with land and seas was an actual thing on the third day, sun was in 4th.
    – Karim
    Mar 10, 2021 at 12:24
  • I also called it "Earth".
    – user35953
    Mar 10, 2021 at 14:16
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The issue with your question and the reason for your dissonance is simply because you are injecting axioms from a modern secular cosmology into a Biblical cosmology which looks nothing like modern cosmology and has an entirely different origin, timeframe and volume.

One cannot mix paradigms and axioms and still expect to get compatibility.

The choice is simple, if you read the Bible and want to believe it then believe it all the way through. The earth is flat and circular, with raised edges holding in the ocean, is set on pillars, has a firmament and all the lights are in the firmament. Above the firmament is water. God did it this way.

If you want to inject modern cosmology into the text provided you don’t change the wording, if it aligns then fine. But the moment you change the text to suit what you want it to say, you might as well throw out your Bible and believe whatever you want. Don’t deceive yourself.

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    Can't really understand where you stand on this, am questioning why can't we (as you say) "inject axioms" into the Bible, when those "axioms" are our basic standard, and the bible was intended to all of us, at any age at any time.
    – Karim
    Mar 11, 2021 at 4:51
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    I’m saying the Bible has its own cosmology that is INCOMPATIBLE with modern cosmology. The earth doesn’t move in the Bible, but in modern cosmology it moves, it spins, it displaces itself. The sun, moon and stars are local in the Bible, meaning above the clouds in the solid structure called the firmament, but in modern cosmology the sun is far away, so is the moon and the stars are even further, plus there are planets and galaxies, nothing like the Bible. The axioms of modern cosmology can’t be inserted into the Bible. Simple. Stop trying. Accept or reject Bible but don’t change what it says. Mar 11, 2021 at 6:30
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    Why shouldn't the Bible be compatible with modern cosmology?
    – Karim
    Mar 12, 2021 at 7:03
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – C. Stroud
    Feb 18, 2022 at 14:09
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Genesis 1:14-18 could be interpreted as mentioning lights appearing in the sky to mark off days, seasons, etc. That's because the Hebrew verb wayya can be translated as had made. This is possible because the Hebrew language has no special word for the pluperfect tense but uses the perfect tense or the converse imperfect to express the English past or the English pluperfect. See S.R. Driver A Treatise on the Use of the Tense in Hebrew, (Oxford: 1892), p.86.

There are a number of viable ways of interpreting the creation account in Genesis. It's kind of like prophecy in reverse. Just like there are a number of end times interpretations, so there are also different interpretations of the creation account.

The origin of organic life began with the earth bringing forth vegetation (Genesis 1:11-12). One plausible scientific explanation would be how clay crystals served as a catalyst for organic molecules to develop. Later this would be the basis for land based plants in the Paleozoic era - e.g. lycopodiums, equisetums, ferns and other vascular plants.

Light appearing on the early could be explained by how photosynthesis by vegetation replaces CO2 by oxygen, lowering the temperature and clearing the atmosphere so astronomical objects can be visible to terrestrial observers.

In short, after the initial creation of the "heavens and earth" though a developmental process possibly lasting billions of years, there was the terraforming of the earth.

The creation week described in Genesis could have been done in a rapid manner in a period of 148 hours, in a series of lengthy developmental stages stretching eons of time, or even in one flashing moment in time (e.g. with the appearance of timeless age built into the fabric of reality). A good science fiction analogy, for a rapid speeding up of time view of creation, would be the "Genesis Effect" described in one of the Star Trek movies (Wrath of Kahn).

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There is an Old Earth Creation (OEC) perspective that provides an explanation for the OP question about these seemingly contradictory verses from Genesis 1. The most well known proponents of this perspective are from the scholars at https://reasons.org and is something that I have been trying to elaborate on in my website at https://big.bible. In this answer I will call it the OEC perspective for brevity, although there are other OEC perspectives among scholars.

This OEC perspective interprets Genesis 1:1 as describing the creation of the universe. This would include the creation of the stars and sun before any other events that are described in the following verses in Genesis 1.

This perspective then takes a special note of Genesis 1:2 (ESV).

"The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters."

From this OEC perspective, this verse sets the point of view or frame of reference for the rest of Genesis 1. The point of view is from the "Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters", where the "face of the waters" is the early water-covered earth. In other words, the rest of Genesis 1 is told from the point of view of being within the earth's atmosphere, where the Spirit of God is hovering over the waters covering the earth.

From this perspective, the day 1 description of "Let there be light" is the period in earth's transformation where the dense cloud cover changes from nearly opaque to more translucent. This causes the light of the sun to become more visible on the earth through the cloud cover. The day 2 description of "Let there be an expanse" is the formation of the atmosphere that separates the cloud cover above and the water-covered earth beneath the atmosphere. The day 3 description of "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear" is the appearance of the original continents along with the beginning of primitive plant life.

The day 4 event is initially described in Genesis 1:14-15 (ESV) as follows.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.

From this OEC perspective verses 14 and 15 describe the sun, moon, and stars being made visible on the earth because of a dissipation of the thick cloud cover and the greater clarity in the atmosphere. From a scientific perspective, this clearing of the atmosphere has been modeled from an increase in oxygen and a decrease in methane. This visibility of the sun and moon from the earth and the increase in oxygen allow plants to begin photosynthesis and sets the stage for the type of animal life that uses the diurnal cycle (i.e., regular periods of light and darkness).

The next verse of Genesis 1:16 is the origin of the quote in the OP which is consistent with the KJV. For consistency in this answer, Genesis 1:16 is shown below from the ESV.

And God made the two great lights — the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night — and the stars.

The word that is translated "made" here is the Hebrew word וַיַּעַשׂ which has the root of עשׂה (asah). This has Strong's number of H6213. Honestly, I am not enough of a Hebrew scholar to say much definitively about the nuances of this translation and I don't know how to link to references on the web that use Hebrew in this SE editor. But a search on the web for these Hebrew words does seem to show evidence that וַיַּעַשׂ might be rendered as "had made" instead of "made". If such a rendering were valid, then Genesis 1:16 could be rendered as "And God had made the two great lights...". Such a rendering would be consistent with the beginning of the description of the day 4 event in Genesis 1:14-15 as described above. The phrase of "Let there be..." in verse 14 would then describe the appearance of the lights. Verse 16 would then describe more specifically what those lights were - "the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night — and the stars". On the other hand I have not yet seen a commonly used translation that renders Genesis 1:16 with the words "had made" instead of "made". Note that the answer from @Jess in this post would also support the use of "had made", however.

It is also interesting to note that the Hebrew word עשׂה (asah) is different than the Hebrew word בָּרָא (bara) which is used in Genesis 1:1, 1:21, and 1:27 to denote significant creative events. This OEC perspective finds this important since עשׂה (asah) could be used to describe the lights appearing as described above. If the author of Genesis wanted to denote creation of the sun, moon, and stars, then the creative phrase בָּרָא (bara) could have been used instead. Other perspectives like Young Earth Creationism do not find this differentiation between עשׂה (asah) and בָּרָא (bara) to be significant (e.g., https://answersingenesis.org/genesis/did-god-create-bara-or-make-asah-in-genesis-1/).

This all explains how this OEC perspective supports the assertion that the two verses in the OP are not a contradiction. From this OEC perspective, these two verses describe events that are consistent with certain time periods during the creation of the universe and the 4.5 billion year transformation of the earth as described by science. And in this perspective, the order of the events as described in Genesis 1 also corresponds to the order of events as described by modern day science. Hence from this OEC perspective, the OP verses from Genesis are consistent with the scientific findings of the sun being created before the earth.

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