8

Genesis 2:1-7 NKJV

Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. 2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

4 This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, 5 before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; 6 but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.

7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground". Can this statement made in verse 7, given its context, reasonably accommodate a timespan of millions of years for this event, encompassing processes such as abiogenesis and evolution (see theistic evolution), or are the text and its context such that any possible interpretative wiggle room to fit millions of years into its interpretation is completely removed?


Motivation behind the question

This question is mainly motivated by the following statements made by this answer to the question How do Theistic Evolutionists interpret Genesis 2:7 in light of Ezekiel 37:1-14? on Christianity Stack Exchange:

Theistic evolutionists do not hold that God couldn't have created life on earth over a short span of time; rather, they hold that the evidence He has left for us to examine suggests that He didn't.

[...]

Re Genesis 2:7

The human body is principally made of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus (source), all of which are found in dirt. Theistic evolutionists have no difficulty believing that God used the dust of the earth to create the physical human body. Whether He did so in a single step or in a multi-step process is not specified by Genesis, and there is not a single view on this matter among theistic evolutionists.

But this particular clay creation was endowed with something unique - the neshamah ("breath" or "spirit"--Hebrew regularly uses these ideas interchangeably). And, specifically, a spirit which is not merely a creation but the very offspring of God (see Acts 17:29, Hebrews 12:9). Whatever God's creations on this earth prior to that time, in whatever process, sequence, and timespan over which He elected to create them, Genesis 2:7 describes a distinct act of creation: God endowed one of His children with life on earth by bringing together physical body and spirit.

To me, it sounds like the answerer is saying that Genesis 2:7 and its context are amenable to a theistic evolutionist interpretation that postulates millions (billions?) of years elapsing in the entire multi-stage process of formation of the first human from raw materials taken from the ground.


Is this question a duplicate of Does the Bible say the earth was created in six 24 hour days?

I don't think so. That's a question about Genesis 1. This is a question about Genesis 2. Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are different chapters. In fact, the answer I accepted argues that extrapolating chronology inferred from chapter 1 to chapter 2 may be an unjustified move. Having said that, those who think it's a duplicate are welcome to explain their reasons by posting answers to this question on meta: Can a question about Genesis 2 be a duplicate of a question about Genesis 1?

6
  • 1
    May I make a suggestion @Mark . If you wish to play what is called 'devil's advocate' (I apologise for using the term but can think of no better) then could you perhaps make it clear that you are doing so. I believe you would receive a better reception and I believe the answers would be of better quality rather than combative.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 30 at 15:24
  • 3
    @NigelJ An advocate presents arguments for the position they advocate. I have presented none for any position. My question is presenting two alternatives: there is enough wiggle room for interpretation or there isn't. Which one is it? I fail to see how I'm advocating a position.
    – user56622
    Commented May 30 at 15:27
  • 2
    I don't see the need, frankly. I have never heard anyone claim that God spent millions of years making a human body. It is too ludicrous to state. But some argue that animals evolved into humans. Which is not what your question is about.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 30 at 15:31
  • 2
    That answer contains reference to an undefined and unexplained 'multi-step' process. Which one assumes means evolution. The answer is so vague that I cannot perceive what the answerer believes about creation.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 30 at 15:40
  • 1
    @curiousdannii Question edited. By the way, the charge of duplicate in relation to a question whose focus is on Genesis 1 is rebutted, I think, by this answer that explains how applying the chronology of Genesis 1 to Genesis 2 can be an unjustified move.
    – user56622
    Commented Jun 1 at 15:22

10 Answers 10

1

Yes, Genesis 2:7 is ambiguous with respect to time. The verse itself says nothing at all about time, and any chronological standard being applied must be assumed from other passages.

The account of creation in Genesis 1 & 2 does not provide the same kind of details that are expected in a scientific paper, because Genesis was written for a purpose far more lasting, transcendent, and important than a scientific paper: it teaches man of his relationship with God, and that God created man in His own image.

The precise details of how and when are not stated, as they are secondary to why He created.

--

Multiple storylines?

It has long been observed that Genesis 2 does not appear to pick up and continue the story where Genesis 1 ended, e.g.:

  • Genesis 2:5 indicates that "there was not a man to till the ground" -- wait, how's that? Man is created in Genesis 1, granted dominion over the earth, and given herbs bearing seed.
  • Genesis 2:5 indicates that it hasn't rained yet, and verse 6 relates the provision of water. What then are the plants doing without water in chapter 1?
  • Genesis 2:7 relates man being formed from the dust of the ground...but wasn't man already created in Genesis 1:27?
  • Genesis 2:18 indicates that the man was alone, and 2:22 relates the creation of woman. But wasn't woman already created in 1:27 as well?
  • Etc.

These details and others have spawned numerous hypotheses ("numerous hypotheses" is a euphemism for there are details which are sufficiently ambiguous that competing theories cannot be ruled out), including:

  • The view that Genesis 2 deliberately revisits ground already covered in Genesis 1 (sorry, pun intended), out of chronological sequence
  • The multi-stage creation view: Genesis 1 describes a spiritual creation and Genesis 2 describes a physical creation on the earth (see esp. Genesis 2:4-5)
  • The documentary hypothesis, which--among other things--sees chapters 1 & 2 as creation accounts written by different sources which do not fully agree with one another
  • And more

Although I am not endorsing everything upheld by proponents of each of these hypotheses (and others) regarding Genesis 1 & 2, the existence of these competing hypotheses is prima facie evidence that there is ambiguity -- and specifically, there is ambiguity on the exact relationship of Genesis 1 to Genesis 2. As such, using a chronology imported from Genesis 1 in order to apply a timeline to Genesis 2 is begging the question.

--

Genesis 2 is not a chronological account

  • In verse 1, the heavens & earth (and their hosts!) are finished.
  • In verse 2, God rests, having completed His work (the Hebrew word is כָּלָה, which Brown-Driver-Briggs defines as "be complete, at an end, finished, accomplished, spent"
  • In verse 5, the earth and its details are not yet finished
  • In verses 7-9 God is working--His work is not yet complete

This is not to say the record is unreliable; rather, it is to demonstrate that this is not a chronological record (the same could be said of the Gospel of Luke, which is a meticulous record that is not written in chronological order).

Trying to squeeze chronological precision out of a record that is evidently not written with that purpose in mind is unlikely to be a profitable exercise.

--

Some formal logic and..a trip to the moon

The following premises contain no contradiction:

  • P1: Man created the Saturn V rocket using raw materials from the earth
  • P2: The Saturn V rocket was designed in stages1 over multiple years
  • P3: The Saturn V rocket contains alloys of refined steel & aluminum which are not naturally occurring in completed form on the earth

There is likewise no contradiction in this set of premises:

  • P1: God created man using raw materials from the earth
  • P2: Man was designed in stages over multiple years
  • P3: Man is made up of parts (like DNA) which are not naturally occurring in completed form on the earth (Yes, the proponents of abiogenesis will get upset about this one -- my thoughts here).

One need not believe that any of the premises above is true to acknowledge that there is no logical contradiction within either set of 3. The Saturn V conundrum is easily resolved through a study of how refiners & smelters work, and a little history on the development of rockets between WWII and the late 1960s. However, a book about why man went to the moon would not necessarily contain such details.

--

Days

Genesis 2:7 does not mention days. In fact, the last mention of "day" before 2:7 and the first mention of "day" after it, do not help the 24-hour-day hypothesis2.

These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, and every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew... (Genesis 2:4-5a, emphasis mine)

Chapter 1 describes acts of creation which were only complete after 6 days. 2:4 fits it into only 1 day. The same Hebrew root is used for both. This is easy to explain if "day" is being used in a general, non-specific sense.

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Genesis 2:17, emphasis mine)

This verse has been interpreted many ways, but Adam's death is explicitly referenced in Genesis 5:5, at an age of 930 years (that would be a little over 339,000 days).

The meaning of "day" in Genesis 1 is not the direct focus of the OP's question. It is a matter of long-running debate, and my relevant thoughts are shared here. Assumptions the reader brings into chapter 2 from chapter 1 may limit the options available to consider, but unless one decides in advance--before reading chapter 2--that man was created within a single rotation of the earth, there is nothing in Genesis 2:7 to support that conclusion. And as noted above, Genesis 2 and Genesis 1 are not necessarily using the same chronological building blocks.

--

Conclusion

Can this passage [Genesis 2:7] reasonably accommodate a timespan of millions of years?

Maybe. It could be an instant. It could be eons. Or anything in between. We may be constrained by assumptions we choose to adopt from other texts, but Genesis 2:7 itself is chronologically ambiguous.



1 - Yes, for the space-exploration nerds, it also came apart in stages too =)

2 - They may not hurt the hypothesis either, but to the extent that Genesis 1 & Genesis 2 handle chronology differently, constraining events in Genesis 2 to a timeline derived from Genesis 1 is precarious

0
6

Mike's Answer is already good, but I'll expand on why other parts of Genesis preclude millions of years.

First off, the genealogy in Genesis 5 (along with later geneologies) absolutely fixes the Creation of Adam at circa 4,000 BC. There is some wiggle room here and many dates have been suggested, but none are able to accomodate more than ten thousand or so years; certainly not millions. Claims of missing generations are moot since dates are based on an ancestor's age at the time of a birth, which would not be affected by the elision of some ancestors.

Second, as mentioned, Genesis 1 goes out of its way to suggest that the "days" are synodic days; they are given ordinals, which almost always indicates synodic days, but the repetition of "there was evening and there was morning" is significant. In particular, the formulation for each day is "X happened. Then there was evening. Then there was morning." The exact wording used not only indicates a temporal ordering of events, but also suggests a transition; that is, evening wasn't just hanging around, but "it became evening". This phrasing would be incredibly bizarre if evenings and mornings had been occurring while X was happening, which strongly suggests that X happened in between a single morning and evening. (See Translation of "wayhî" (וַֽיְהִי־) in Genesis 1 for additional discussion. "X" is whatever God did on a particular day, e.g. making land, making plants, etc.)

It should also be noted that the idea of millions of years comes from two sources: distant starlight, and radiometric dating. Now, we know from the Horizon Problem that our understanding of energy propagation is incomplete, and anyway there are models in which the universe is "old" while Earth isn't. I won't go into the issues with radiometric dating specifically, but it should be understood that all "old" Earth claims necessarily deny the historicity of Noah's Flood. Moreover, there are many, many evidences that the Flood is a better explanation for the observed rock layers, fossils, etc. than millions and billions of years. Death occurring before the Fall also introduces theological problems.

In summary, while Genesis 2:7, by itself, doesn't preclude millions of years, Scripture as a whole certainly does.

8
  • Following your logic, if there was no land initially, how could there be a morning or an evening? So there must be some other kind of morning and evening. Commented May 30 at 22:04
  • 1
    @akostadinov But, the audience the writer is writing to understands what "morning and evening" refers to. Put yourself in the place of the audience; not in the place of watching creation occur. No human was there. The phrasing goes to great lengths to remove any ambiguity that there might be some way of referring to an enormous amount of time. Think narrator, not actor. Commented May 30 at 22:11
  • 2
    @MikeSangrey, enormous is very subjective. Also I wouldn't perceive this as an attempt to show how much time precisely passed. To an eternal being any finite time must be very little. Commented May 30 at 22:39
  • 1
    @akostadinov, what does land have to do with morning and evening? Does a ship at sea not experience morning and evening? You probably mean to ask about there being no sun... but there was light and there was darkness. See christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/1177.
    – Matthew
    Commented May 31 at 15:54
  • @akostadinov, at best, either the initial light was all around and variable, or the speed of Earth's rotation changed. But once you have plants, "night" must be about as long as it is now, or all the plants die. So there is no way to have plants around for millions of years. And it makes little sense that the length of days would change partway through Creation.
    – Matthew
    Commented May 31 at 15:55
6

Technically, given the way you’ve asked the question, and discounting any other relevant information, yes, the clause (which you call a ‘passage’) is ambiguous enough to coincide with such a viewpoint. Or, to state it differently, the clause says nothing about the time-span of the act of forming Adam. So, it’s ambiguous regarding length of time, by definition.

However!

That’s really using a tautology. That is, all clauses are ambiguous. The only exceptions are very highly technical statements like legalese. And, even then, there’s sufficient ambiguity in many cases (pun intended!) that the vast machinery of a court system must be in place to interpret the law. That is, the system is in place for the purpose of disambiguating the text (ie law) for a given situation.

Words are very highly ambiguous, phrases less so, but still ambiguous, clauses are ambiguous, but less so, and so on. Even entire paragraphs can be ambiguous, even purposefully so. There’s a song with a chorus that relates how Jesus’ mother listens to the hammer strikes as Jesus learns his father’s will. The song starts with Jesus as a young boy learning carpentry trade. Learning carpentry is his father Joseph’s will. It ends with Jesus being crucified on Golgotha. The chorus is sung again. Mary hears the hammer strikes. The entire chorus has now dramatically changed meaning. I wish I could find a link to that song since it so powerfully illustrates ambiguity (though obviously artfully intended).1 As context grows, greater amounts of disambiguation are applied.

Like they say, “context is everything”. And, as people here get to know me, they’ll learn that, for me, context is much, much more than the “text around the text”. It’s really the interpretive environment through which one derives meaning from a text. The point being: the purpose of context is to disambiguate the text. Context removes possible interpretations (ie. it removes ambiguity). Though, in the case of the Bible, through the entire interpretive process, the text remains in its authoritative position relative to the context.

As I see the Genesis 1 text that’s around the text offered in the OP question, it’s seems pretty obvious that the Genesis’ author has gone out of his way to point to a “single-day-ness” of those events. At a bare minimum, the overall text is quite clear that the events happened quite rapidly. And, for what it might be worth, from a science provided context perspective, I’ve often wondered how all the extremely complex interactions between the gravities of each hunk of mass, all expanding through 4 dimensions of space-time, performed a huge complex of many, many extreme time dilations. So, what might be one day in one place could, from a different relativity frame be something entirely different than a day. But, that’s an aside. Amusingly, Relativity is inherently ambiguous.

So, while the clause itself is ambiguous, the text around the text prohibits (or removes the possibility of) such an interpretation.

1 Found it (thanks to the wife). Audio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzCGcZ_HEUs Lyrics: https://genius.com/Bruce-carroll-driving-nails-lyrics

0
6

Regarding Genesis 2, we immediately encounter several issues:

  1. Does Genesis 2 begin a new separate account of creation? This question is hotly debated and I want to avoid covering questions that already address this issue.

  2. According to P.J. Wiseman's tablet theory (New Discoveries in Babylonia About Genesis, 1936), it seems that most of Genesis was originally written on clay tablets in the Babylonian format. He noticed that Babylonian tablets ended with rather than started with an attribution, and he noticed a similar practice in Genesis. Thus, according to this theory, each section in Genesis ends with a toledoth (toledot in Hebrew) as the attribution.

Wiseman’s theory is highly controversial, but in view of the presence of multiple toledoth divisions, the Babylonian tablet format, and the fact that the subject preceding a toledoth is more relevant than the subject following, hasn’t otherwise been addressed. Also, physical experiments conducted on clay tablets and the presence of catch-lines in the Genesis text is also compatible with the amount of cuneiform text that could fit on typical clay tablets found in Mesopotamia.

Thus, each “author” in Genesis ends with "This is the book of the generations of . . . " If true, then the first section of Genesis ends with “These are the generations of . . . ” in Genesis 2:4 and the second section in Genesis ends with “This is the book of the generations of Adam,” indicating that Adam was the author of the second section, perhaps hundreds of years later.

This is an interesting theory that supports multiple authors of Genesis. The pattern ends with the beginning of the story of Joseph, which would more likely have been written on papyrus or vellum in Egypt.

Here’s more detail that’s not arrogantly dismissive of Wiseman’s observations: https://trueorigin.org/tablet.php/

I’m bringing all this up to set a possible context that this was Adam’s account.

  1. What can we infer about Adam and Eve from the description in Genesis 2:5 – Genesis 5:1, focusing primarily on Genesis 2?

This section starts with a description of what Adam was told and what he saw. Adam notes the special creation of the Garden of Eden and the presence of two special trees, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

We learn that “YHWH Elohim” created Adam from dust and breathed into his nostrils (an allusion to birthing). Adam named each creature and possibly named the rivers, the land, and its resources, such as gold, bdellium (that might be an aromatic gum/resin) and onyx stone.

Adam then writes the commands given to him by YHWH Elohim regarding his purpose and his diet.

Unlike Adam, YHWH Elohim created Eve not from dust, but instead from the body of Adam using what we would now call cloning. Thus, we can infer that Adam and Eve had identical chromosomes (except for their sex chromosomes) and were heterozygous and interracially brown people.

We can also see that Eve was the last and most highest in the progression of God’s creations.

To your question, according to the text, Adam and Eve were a special creation, that can be placed in the first six days described in Genesis 1.

From Genesis 3:22, it seems that Adam and Eve would need to eat from the Tree of Life to prevent mortality. We have no information whether animals were also able to eat from the Tree of Life.

It would be difficult to make a case from the context of chapter 2 that the creation of Adam and Eve took millions of years. However it could and has been proposed that Adam, Eve, and the garden of Eden were all special creations outside of those listed in Genesis 1. This idea is highly speculative and I hold no further opinion on it.

As an aside, it’s also fun to imagine why Adam might have nicknamed his wife Chavah instead of her original name, which was Issah in Genesis 3:20. Was it because she mothered all the young animals? 😉

General Comments on Genesis 1

As a person with an educational foundation in the sciences, let me first say that I sympathize with the question you’re asking about the Bible and millions of years.

First, consider these definitions:

Exegesis is the exposition or explanation of a text based on a careful, objective analysis.

Eisegesis is the reading of one's own ideas into scripture.

Biazogesis, a term I recently coined here, is the process of forcing or squeezing scriptures into a preconception or desired interpretation.

We want to focus on exegesis, but let me make some observations regarding science and the Bible.

Ancient cosmologies often describe warring gods, dismemberment, and repurposed body parts in their creation stories. The earth is supported on the backs of large animals such as tortoises and elephants. One of the Greek Titans, Atlas, holds up the heavens. The sun and moon are powerful deities.

In contrast, the Bible contains no similar stories. According to Genesis, the sun and moon are simply luminaries—lamps, not gods—and the earth is not supported by any giant animals. The ancient Septuagint translation of Genesis literally begins like this:

In the beginning, God made the heaven and the earth. But the earth was unseen and unready; and darkness was upon the abyss. And the Spirit of God bore upon the water. And God said, “Let there be light!” And there was light. – Genesis 1:1 (ABP)

Let’s compare this with a Wikipedia description of the early chronology of the universe, the initial “cosmic dark ages” that are believed to have lasted several hundred million years:

Before decoupling occurred, most of the photons in the universe were interacting with electrons and protons in the photon–baryon fluid. The universe was opaque or "foggy" as a result. There was light but not light we can now observe through telescopes. The baryonic matter in the universe consisted of ionized plasma, and it only became neutral when it gained free electrons during "recombination", thereby releasing the photons creating the CMB [Cosmic Microwave Background]. When the photons were released (or decoupled) the universe became transparent.

Thus, according to current scientific theory, which would be incomprehensible to 99.9% of all humanity, the universe was initially dark and fluid. Then, the universe is believed to have gone through an inflationary stage or two, changed from opaque to transparent, and light became visible. Multiple periods of light-dark cycles are certainly also possible. And regular cycles are absolutely necessary to define periods of time as well as all other measurements.

Thus, the light-dark cycles of Genesis are not necessarily the same as what we experience today. But they are cycles and it makes sense to call them days regardless of how long they might have taken originally.

Also note that time is relative. Near a black hole, time slows down to nearly a standstill as measured by an outside observer at a significant distance. The effect of gravity on the passage of time has been experimentally verified.

According to Genesis 1, God created space, time, and matter. Gravity, light, and the constants and laws of physics also emerged (emerged is a scientific euphemism for “we’re clueless”).

However, Science is always in flux. What’s commonly accepted today as Scientific Truth, will in a few years be considered incomplete, incorrect, or even . . . quaint.

As reported in Live Science in March 2020, a study published in Natural Geoscience, researchers lead by geoscientist Benjamin Johnson report that they have compelling evidence from isotope ratios. It reads

What did Earth look like 3.2 billion years ago? New evidence suggests the planet was covered by a vast ocean and had no continents at all.

So, scientific evidence now points to a water-world origin. Another recent discovery is that these isotope ratios seem to indicate that a significant portion of the water on earth is thought to be older than the sun!

And did you know that more water exists deep within the earth than in all of the oceans on the surface of the earth? According to NewScientist, June 2014:

A reservoir of water three times the volume of all the oceans has been discovered deep beneath the Earth’s surface. The finding could help explain where Earth’s seas came from.

The water is hidden inside a blue rock called ringwoodite that lies 700 kilometres underground in the mantle, the layer of hot rock between Earth’s surface and its core.

The huge size of the reservoir throws new light on the origin of Earth’s water. Some geologists think water arrived in comets as they struck the planet, but the new discovery supports an alternative idea that the oceans gradually [?] oozed out of the interior of the early Earth.

What would you call it if some of this newly discovered ocean of water under the earth gushed out rapidly? Could these be "the fountains of the great deep" mentioned in Genesis?

In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. - Genesis 7:11 ESV

My point is not that Genesis is a scientific account “after all”—the science referenced above will certainly change over time—but rather that it’s compatible with our scientific inquiries.

Regarding humanity and animal life, I’ll freely admit that I lost my faith (gasp!) in the naturalistic explanations of life when I was in college after studying the insane complexity of some of the primary chemical cycles of living organisms. A natural origin of a jet aircraft or supercomputer is far more likely than a so-called “simple” cell.

If you want to believe in macroevolution, let me suggest that from a naturalistic perspective that it’s far more likely that humans evolved from gut bacteria as a sort of biological exoskeleton than current explanations.

Finally Getting to the Point

So, to your original question. I’d say it’s not the “ambiguity” of Genesis that affords leeway in explaining how God created Adam from the dust of the earth, but it’s indicative of the level of abstraction communicated by God for our understanding of the perspectives we should have toward his creation.

3
  • I wish I had unlimited upvotes... Commented May 31 at 15:49
  • Thank you--I'm delighted you found the perspectives helpful!
    – Dieter
    Commented May 31 at 16:49
  • Great answer, +1. And I love the line emerged is a scientific euphemism for “we’re clueless” =) Commented Jun 1 at 1:42
4

Context matters - it seems odd to ask about this specific verse, and not the preceding verses about this same event (Genesis 1:24-31). 1:31 says it happened on the sixth day, and to be doubly explicit clearly defines that day as "evening and morning". So either you accept the whole Genesis account as literal and true, or you don't. If you do, then there's your answer - it happened in one day. If you don't, why would 2:7 be a problem?

I hold to YEC, but if I was going to argue for Theistic Evolution, I'd say that God formed man through a process of evolution over millions of years, and the "breath of life" could equally refer either to abiogenesis or to the beginning of the life of the specific person. If you've already accepted the "day" of 1:24-31 as being a condensed/poetic description of a process that actually took millions of years, this doesn't seem like any additional stretch at all.

I'll note that some Theistic Evolutionists argue that the breath of life refers to Adam receiving a soul. This seems problematic to me, because the result is that Adam becomes a "living being" (also applied to animals in 1:24) and animals also have the "breath of life" (6:17 and 7:15,22). That would seem to make it pretty clear that it refers to physical, rather than spiritual life. But that doesn't seem like a problem for 2:7 - if you can make chapter 1 fit Theistic Evolution.

2

The answer depends on whether one takes the Bible literally or not, as pertains to these verses. The text does not imply "a timespan of millions of years for this event." But to the question of whether "this passage reasonably accommodates" such a timespan the answer is yes - as long as the descriptions are not understood literally. Since a thousand years are like as single day to the Lord (Psalm 90:4, 2 Peter 3:8), many would say that the "days" of Genesis 1 may even be thought of as millions of years.

In defense of the latter proposition, we should keep in mind that this part of the Bible is a spiritual revelation, not science or even history in the academic sense of the word. Indeed, the scientific disciplines of geology and evolutionary biology did not exist when Genesis was written. To many, it is amazing that the Bible so closely approximates the order of the Universe's formation. To others the discrepancies between the biblical viewpoint and modern science necessitate choosing one and rejecting the other.

Conclusion: If the answer to the OP's question is "no," then either the findings of much of modern science or the Bible itself must be rejected. If the answer is yes, then Gen. 1 cannot be taken literally.

6
  • 2
    In comparison to other creation legends and other ancient records, the account in Genesis reads much more like a historical record than a mythological story.
    – Jed Schaaf
    Commented May 30 at 21:07
  • @Danfefferman As to "modern science" being ablolute; The findings of modern science are constantly in flux, it is constantly added to, revised and long held 'truths" are constantly rejected as false. However the truth of God is eternal and unchanging. Therefore if that is true, it is more reasonable to accept God's word as truth and modern science as suspect. As Isaiah 26:4 AS states "Trust ye in Jehovah for ever; for in Jehovah, even Jehovah, is an everlasting rock."
    – ACME
    Commented May 30 at 23:41
  • I did not say that modern science is absolute. I said that it is not compatible with a literal interpretation of Gen. 1. Commented May 31 at 2:53
  • @Dan, with all due respect, I think the secular scientific narrative is now considerably closer to the creation account in Genesis than it's ever been! Read my answer above to see some supporting evidence--I have a lot more.
    – Dieter
    Commented May 31 at 23:40
  • @Dieter... I must be among the 99.9 percent of humanity who don't understand modern science! I upvoted your answer from making me thing again, but do not withdraw my own. Commented Jun 1 at 15:24
0

If the account is taken to be a period of millions of years, Then Gen. 2:21 would mean that the man slept millions more years for the Creator to form the woman. This seems rather ridiculous. Although many view the concept of a quick creation of mankind (Adam) as "unscientific" we must acknowledge our own limited comprehension of the physical universe and God's wisdom and power. The power of God's spirt as related in the Bible consistantly expresses what God's spirit is able to accomplish as far beyond our understanding as Romans 11: 33 KGV says.....his ways are past finding out.... Human knowledge is extremely limited and if we do not accept this we will distance ourselves from understanding the true God's ways as presented in the Bible. As Proverbs 3:34 RO clearly says, Those humbled will be granted favor, which clearly shows that in order to gain understanding of His ways, we must acknowledge our limits and accept there are many things we have yet to learn throughout eternity as we are led to a continuously greater understanding of his marvelous works.

0

Answer

Unless someone goes for eisegesis, Genesis 2:7 does not provide room for millions of years in forming Adam’s body from elements (dust).

Explanation

Guillermo Gonzalez (who was denied his tenure) and Jay W. Richards argue in their popular book “The Privileged Planet” that the earth is not only placed in the only habitable zone in the solar system but the earth is also placed in the “cockpit” of the Milky Way Galaxy as if ‘Some One’ wanted man “to live abundantly” as well as to explore the space!

The Judeo-Christian founding fathers of modern science right from the 17th century quoted St. Augustine who said God gave man 2 books; the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature.

Some of them also said that the same God who created the Universe also created man’s rational mind (in His image and likeness) so that man can think rationally and find out about how the Universe (Nature) works.

Crazy God?!

So let us use the same rational mind – after all, Apostle Paul said we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16) – and make a “thought experiment” made famous by Albert Einstein:

Which man will build a house in 50 years when he can build the same in just 6 months?

Why will God form man in millions of years when He can do so in just a day?

The Book of Scripture

The Bible is a jigsaw puzzle where the whole information of a single topic is scattered all over the Scripture as “a little here, a little there” (Isaiah 28:13).

So, first, God created the angelic realm because the Scripture says that when God created the Earth, the angels shouted for joy and sang together (Job 38:7). This proves very clearly that the angels were existing before Genesis 1:1.

Secondly, God created the Universe and the earth (Gen 1:1). The earth was so breathtakingly beautiful that the angels sang together and shouted for joy (Job 38:7). Originally the Earth was not empty and formless because Isaiah says that God ‘did not create it empty but formed it to be lived in’ (Isaiah 45:18).

Thirdly, the Earth was given under the jurisdiction of Lucifer who was the chief among the covering Cherubs. He was a perfect being “until iniquity was found in “him (Ezek 28:15). What was his iniquity? He thought he was so perfect that he could be equal to Almighty God ruling all the angels (Isaiah 14:13-14). Some angels (the devils in the New Testament) followed him.

The Earth was given to him to maintain. This is why Jude says: “those angels not having kept their first place, but having deserted their dwelling-place” (Jude 1:6).

If Adam’s one sin corrupted the ground (Gen 3:17; 4:11; 5:29), how much more corrupted would be the whole Earth because of Lucifer’s (now Satan or Dragon) open rebellion?

So, fourthly, the earth became “without form and empty with darkness covering” (Gen 1:2).

How long did it take for the earth to become waste and empty from its former pristine status? Billions of years, millions of years, thousands of years, Old Earth (OEC), Young Earth (YEC) etc are all possible here! The Scripture doesn’t say anything.

But it says one sure thing:

“You send out Your Spirit, and they are created; and You renew the face of the earth” (Psalms 104:30).

This is exactly what we find in Genesis 1 and 2 chapters! “The Spirit of God moving gently on the face of the waters” (Gen 1:2). “They” are created!

[It is wonderful that the same creatures (in water, land and air) including man are again described throughout Psalms 104!]

So, Genesis 1:3 (bringing light on earth) to 2:25 (creation of all life forms and man) are a RENEWAL OF THE EARTH.

(I will complete this post tomorrow)

0

Primary Message
No. The text is not ambiguous; it meshes perfectly with Genesis 1. The point of the repetition is not how long it took to make man but who in particular made man.

Genesis 1 (ESV)

26 Then God said, “Let us make man[h] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
[h] The Hebrew word for man (adam) is the generic term for mankind and becomes the proper name Adam.

Genesis 2

4 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. 5 When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, 6 and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— 7 then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

With respect to Adam, the primary difference between Genesis 1 and 2 is the plans to make man are given as plural: let us, our image, our likeness. In Genesis 2 the plural Elohim is made singular when prefaced by the name, YHVH Elohim. Just as in John where ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν is explained in more detail.

John 1

3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

Time
The element of time is explicit at the beginning of the explanatory narrative: in the day the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.

From Genesis 1, the earth was completed during the third day when the physical place necessary for life, dry land surrounded by waters (sea) was finished. It was during the third day vegetation was made. Since a day is 24-hours, the day in which the earth and heavens were made was the 24-hour period which began during the second day and was completed during the third day.

Note how Genesis 2 reverses the order from heavens and earth (1:1) to earth and heavens (2:4) and in doing so uses the measurement of time as a 24-hour day. Genesis 1 counts the days as 24-hour periods which requires them to be placed in order; Genesis 2 generalizes a 24-hour period by stating the ability to "start the clock" at any point and complete work 24-hours later.

These truths speak directly only to the creation of the earth. However, since there is no ambiguity either in how time was measured or how the measurement was used with respect to the earth, there is no justification for claiming what was plain in Genesis 1 and what is plainly used in Genesis 2 becomes something entirely different when man is created.

-1

According to the law of conservation of mass and energy, matter is eternal, whether it is in the shape of atoms, or indirectly in the shape of energy. Scientists believe that the universe originated from a singular point they call ‘singularity’. They believe that this compact point exploded into a ‘Big Bang’, and that the galaxies, including ours came from the leftover fragments of this explosion.

The bible seems to indicate that God did not create the foundation/s of the earth; but, that he merely “laid” it/them, (Job 38:4; Ps 102:25; Prov 3:19; and, Heb 1:10). His biggest achievement, however, would have been the creation of life on earth, and the ultimate goal in this project would have been the creation of man. However, the first man Adam would not have been created from dust as stated in the Bible, but from small particles. Today we call these particles subatomic particles. This phrase, or its concept, was not understood by technology-primitive man, so God would simply have chosen to name them after the smallest known thing at the time – "dust".

According to the Bible statement “I Am A and O, the Beginning and the End”, God must have created the world from a far distant future. And the creation of life on earth would have to have required six terraforming space time travel ventures. This idea is consistent with the Bible statement that one day for God is like a thousand years for man (2 Pet 3:8). Thus, each creation day would have lasted an equivalent to a thousand earthly years.

In Joshua 10 God lengthened the day by stopping the rotation of the earth. And in 2 Kings 20 he made the sundial go backwards by stopping the earth and rotating it in the opposite direction. Thus, to get the six long terraforming tweaks to match the days of Genesis 1, God simply would have adjusted the spin of the earth. So producing very very long days, with very very long hours, but with only six evenings and six mornings.

Scientists believe that a single super continent once existed. They call this super continent ‘Pangea’. This also seems to fit into the Bible’s creation narrative. If we can glean from Gen 1:3,4 that God separated the day from the night, because he liked it more (Gen 1:3,4) then God would have made Pangea to be in almost perpetual daylight, during each creation day. God would have made this happen by simply reversing the spin of the earth, making dusk to instantly transfer into dawn, at the end of each creation day.

“In the beginning God created the sky and the earth” (Gen 1:1; ICB). In accordance with this heading from The International Children’s Bible, God created the sky first and then the earth. The sky he created on day two, after having established the tweaked parameters of the globe’s rotation the day before, on day one. God then went on to create the earth at the beginning of day three, having it covered by vegetation before the end of the same day. Photosynthesis from vegetation of day three would have cleared the air to make the heavenly bodies to be visible on day four. The sun to be visible during the day and all other sky objects to be visible during the end of dusk and beginning of dawn. That the moon perfectly fits the size of the sun at lunar eclipses could have been fashioned by God during day four, if it was not a natural phenomenon.

In conclusion, the text in Gen 2:7 had to be ambiguous, since man had a limited amount of scientific knowledge, and would not be able to understand the scientific explanation. Furthermore, support for millions of years in the creation of man, or anything else on earth for that matter, can not easily be gleaned from the Bible. However, having a nonperfect understanding of 'the creation' should not nullify one's salvation, because God looks at other criteria when determining people's eternal destiny.

11
  • 2
    "atomic particles are eternal"... except e=mc² and 'anti-particles' say they aren't.
    – Matthew
    Commented May 30 at 14:54
  • @Matthew: Thx. I will tweak my answer. Commented May 30 at 22:59
  • 1
    "subatomic particles such as protons and electrons, are eternal" — still not true. All matter is capable of decay (e.g. Proton decay - Wikipedia), and the "Heat death of the universe - Wikipedia" is the inevitable result of all matter having decayed into energy. ¶ But consider matter simply as a specific form of energy, and then it's true that energy can change form, but is eternal. Commented May 30 at 23:47
  • @Ray Butterworth.Thx. The theory about Proton decay could be true, but it is also stated in the article that this theory has not yet been successfully proven. And according to the second link, there is a section about “Opposing Views” further down in that Wikipedia article. Your last sentence is interesting. Do you think that the opposite is true too? That energy can turn into matter? Commented May 31 at 0:35
  • 1
    @Constantthin, within our normal practical experience, there are two conservation laws, "conservation of mass" and "conservation of energy". At the atomic physics level, mass is simply a form of energy, so there is really only one conservation law, one that allows mass and energy to individually not be conserved, while the total amount of both forms is conserved. Commented May 31 at 13:48