The Bible Book of Genesis – Geology, Archaeology, and Theology – Part 1
Why Important? An Overview
When one speaks of the Bible book of Genesis to family, friends, relatives, workmates, or acquaintances, one soon realizes that it is a highly controversial subject. Far more than most, if not all, other books of the Bible. This also applies even if those to whom you are speaking may even have the same Christian faith as you, let alone if they have a different Christian religion or are Moslem, a Jew or agnostic or atheist.
Why is it so controversial? Is it not because our perception of the events recorded therein affects our worldview and our attitude to life and how we live it? It also affects our view as to how others should live their lives too. Of all the books of the Bible, therefore, it is vital that we make an in-depth examination of its contents. That is what the series “The Bible Book of Genesis – Geology, Archaeology, and Theology” will attempt to do.
What does Genesis mean?
Subjects covered in Genesis
Think of some of the subjects this Bible book of Genesis covers:
- The Creation Account
- The Origin of Man
- The Origin of Marriage
- The Origin of Death
- The Origin and Existence of Wicked Spirits
- The account of the Worldwide Flood
- The Tower of Babel
- The Origin of Languages
- The Origin of national groups – the Table of Nations
- The Existence of Angels
- The faith and travel of Abraham
- The Judgement of Sodom and Gomorrah
- The Origins of the Hebrew or Jewish people
- The rise to power in Egypt of a Hebrew slave, Joseph.
- The first Miracles
- The first prophecies regarding the Messiah
Within these accounts are prophecies regarding the Messiah that would come and then bring blessings to mankind by reversing the death brought early on in humankind’s existence. There are also clear moral and salutary lessons on many topics.
Should Christians be surprised at the controversy?
No, because there is something that is highly relevant to the whole discussion of these events. It is recorded in 2 Peter 3:1-7 as a warning to Christians both when it was written in the first century and on into the future.
Verses 1-2 read “I am arousing YOUR clear thinking faculties by way of a reminder, 2 that YOU should remember the sayings previously spoken by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through YOUR apostles.”
Note that the aim of these verses was a gentle reminder to the first century Christians and those who would become Christians later. The encouragement was not to sink into doubt about the writings of the holy prophets and the words of Jesus Christ as relayed through the faithful apostles.
Why was this necessary?
The Apostle Peter gives us the answer in the next verses (3 & 4).
” 3 For YOU know this first, that in the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires 4 and saying: “Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep [in death], all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning “.
The claim that “all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning”
Notice the claim of the ridiculers, “all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning”. It would also be because these ridiculers would want to follow their own desires, rather than accept that there is an ultimate authority of God. Of course, if someone accepts that there is an ultimate authority, then it becomes incumbent upon them to obey that ultimate authority of God. However, this is not to everyone’s liking.
Through his word God shows that he wants us to obey the few rules he set for our benefit, both now and in the future. However, the ridiculers will try to undermine the confidence others may have that God’s promises to humankind will come true. They try to cast doubt that God will ever fulfill his promises. We all today can easily be affected by this sort of thinking. We can easily forget what the prophets wrote, and also, we can also be persuaded by thinking that these modern famous scientists and others know much more than we do and that therefore we should trust them. However, according to the Apostle Peter, this would be a serious mistake.
God’s first promise recorded in Genesis 3:15 was about a series of events that would ultimately lead to the provision of the agent [Jesus Christ] by which it would be possible to reverse the effects of sin and death on all humankind, which had been brought upon all their offspring by the selfish act of rebellion by Adam and Eve.
The ridiculers try to cast doubt on this by claiming that “all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning “, that nothing was different, that nothing is different, and that nothing will be different.
Now we have briefly touched on a little of the Theology in or arising from Genesis, but where does Geology come into this?
Geology – What is it?
Archaeology – What is it?
Archaeology comes from two Greek words “arkhaio” meaning “to begin” and “logia” meaning “study of”, therefore ‘a study of the beginning’.
Theology – What is it?
Theology comes from two Greek words “theo” meaning “God” and “logia” meaning “study of”, therefore ‘a study of God’.
Geology – Why does it matter?
The answer is everywhere. Geology comes into the equation regarding the Creation account, and whether there was a worldwide flood.
Does not the rule quoted below, accepted by most Geologists, sound very much the same as what the Apostle Peter said the ridiculers would claim?
“Uniformitarianism, also known as the Doctrine of Uniformity or the Uniformitarian Principle, is the assumption that the same natural laws and processes that operate in our present-day scientific observations have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe.”[iii] (bold ours)
In effect are they not saying that “all things are continuing exactly as from“ the “beginning“ of the universe?
The quote goes on to say “Though an unprovable postulate that cannot be verified using the scientific method, some consider that uniformitarianism should be a required first principle in scientific research. Other scientists disagree and consider that nature is not absolutely uniform, even though it does exhibit certain regularities.” (bold ours)
“In geology, uniformitarianism has included the gradualistic concept that “the present is the key to the past” and that geological events occur at the same rate now as they have always done, though many modern geologists no longer hold to a strict gradualism. Coined by William Whewell, it was originally proposed in contrast to catastrophism by British naturalists in the late 18th century, starting with the work of the geologist James Hutton in his many books including Theory of the Earth. Hutton’s work was later refined by scientist John Playfair and popularized by geologist Charles Lyell‘s Principles of Geology in 1830. Today, Earth’s history is considered to have been a slow, gradual process, punctuated by occasional natural catastrophic events”.
By forceful promotion of this “slow, gradual process, punctuated by occasional natural catastrophic events” the scientific world has poured scorn on the account of Creation in the Bible, replacing it with the theory of Evolution. It has also poured scorn on the concept of a worldwide flood of judgment by divine intervention. How? Because only “occasional natural catastrophic events” are accepted and obviously, in their view the Bible account of the worldwide flood is not such a natural catastrophic event.
Issues arising from predominating theories in Geology
For Christians, this then starts to become a serious issue.
Who will they believe?
- Modern scientific opinion?
- or a modified version of the Bible accounts to fit in with the prevailing scientific opinion?
- or the Bible accounts of divine creation and divine judgment, by remembering “the sayings previously spoken by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through YOUR apostles”?
Jesus, the Flood, Sodom, and Gomorrah
It is important to remember that if Christians accept the records of the Gospels, and accept that Jesus was God’s son, regardless of whatever understanding they have of the exact nature of Jesus, the Bible record shows Jesus accepted that there had been a worldwide flood sent as divine judgment and also that Sodom and Gomorrah were also destroyed by divine judgment.
In fact, he used the flood of Noah’s day as a comparison to the end of the system of things when he returns as King to bring peace to the earth.
In Luke 17:26-30 he stated “Moreover, just as it occurred in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of man: 27 they were eating, they were drinking, men were marrying, women were being given in marriage, until that day when Noah entered into the ark, and the flood arrived and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise, just as it occurred in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building. 29 But on the day that Lot came out of Sodʹom it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 The same way it will be on that day when the Son of man is to be revealed”.
Notice that Jesus said that life was going on as normal for both the world of Noah and the world of Lot, Sodom, and Gomorrah when their judgment came. It would also be the same for the world when the Son of Man was revealed (at Judgment day). The Bible record shows that Jesus believed that both of these events, mentioned in Genesis, were indeed facts, not myths or exaggerations. It is also important to note that Jesus used these events to compare with the time of his revealing as King. In both the flood of Noah’s day and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, all the wicked died. The only survivors Noah’s day were Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives, totaling 8 people who heeded God’s instructions. The only survivors of Sodom and Gomorrah were Lot and his two daughters, again those who were righteous and heeded God’s instructions.
Apostle Peter, the Creation, and the Flood
Notice what the Apostle Peter went on to say in 2 Peter 3:5-7,
“5 For, according to their wish, this fact escapes their notice, that there were heavens from of old and an earth standing compactly out of water and in the midst of water by the word of God; 6 and by those [means] the world of that time suffered destruction when it was deluged with water. 7 But by the same word the heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire and are being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.”
He explains that there is an important fact that these ridiculers overlook deliberately, “that there were heavens from of old [from creation] and an earth standing compactly out of water and in the midst of water by the word of God”.
The account of Genesis 1:9 tells us “And God went on to say [by the word of God], “Let the waters under the heavens be brought together into one place and let the dry land appear” [an earth standing compactly out of water and in the midst of water] And it came to be so”.
Notice that 2 Peter 3:6 continues on to say, “and by those [means] the world of that time suffered destruction when it was deluged with water”.
Those means were
- God’s Word
Therefore, was it a local flood only, according to the Apostle Peter?
A close examination of the Greek text shows the following: the Greek word translated “world” is “kosmos”[iv] which refers to literally “something ordered”, and is used to describe “the world, universe; worldly affairs; the inhabitants of the world“ according to the exact context. Verse 5 is therefore clearly talking about the whole world, not just some small part of it. It states, “the world of that time”, not any world or a part of the world. Rather it is all-inclusive, before going on to discuss the world of the future as a contrast in verse 7. Therefore, in this context “kosmos” is referring to the inhabitants of the world, and it cannot be understood to be just the inhabitants of a local area.
It was the entire order of humans and their way of life. Peter then goes on to parallel the Flood with a future event that will involve the whole world, not just a small, localized part of it. Surely, if the flood was not worldwide then Peter would have qualified his reference to it. But the way he referred to it, in his understanding it was comparing like with like, the past whole world with the future whole world.
God’s own words
We cannot leave this discussion about the flood without pausing to review what God himself said when giving a promise to his people via the mouth of Isaiah. This promise is recorded in Isaiah 54:9. Here God himself says (talking about a future time regarding his people Israel), “This is just as the days of Noah to me. Just as I have sworn that the waters of Noah shall no more pass over the [whole] earth[v], so I have sworn that I will not become indignant toward you nor rebuke you.”
Clearly, to understand Genesis accurately, we also need to keep in mind the whole context of the Bible and be careful not to read into the Bible text things which contradict other scriptures.
The purpose of the following articles in the series is to build up our faith in God’s word and particularly the Book of Genesis.
You may wish to look at these additional articles on related subjects such as
- Confirmation of the Genesis Account: The Table of Nations[vi]
- Confirmation of the Genesis Record from an Unexpected Source [vii] – Parts 1-4
This brief look at the creation account sets the scene for the future articles in this series.
Subjects of future articles in this series
The forthcoming articles of this series will examine each major event recorded in the book of Genesis, particularly those mentioned above.
In doing so we will take a closer look at the following aspects:
What we can learn from:
- a closer examination of the actual Bible text and its context.
- examining references to the event from the context of the whole Bible.
- Ancient History.
- What lessons and benefits we can reasonably draw from the Bible record based on what we have learned.
To be continued in parts 2 – 4 – The Creation Account ….