A Sunny Conundrum
The sky plays an important role in answering a common challenge to biblical creation. In response to the Genesis creation account, people often wonder, if the Sun was created on day four, then where did the light come from on day one? And didn’t the plants created on day 3 need the Sun to perform photosynthesis?
Coming from an old-earth view, RTB offers a solution to this supposed inconsistency (outlined particularly well in Hugh Ross’ booklet Genesis One). To explain what happened on day four, we must start at the beginning with Genesis 1:1.
- Before day one: The Hebrew definition for “the heavens and the earth,” as used in Genesis 1:1, indicates that the entire physical universe was created prior to day one. That means the Sun was already in existence.
- A different perspective: Genesis 1:2 shifts the “view” from outer space to the surface of the “formless and empty” Earth. (Picture a film camera zooming in from a shot of the New York City skyline to the crowds walking along 34th Street.) This new frame of reference—vital for interpreting the following passages—puts readers (or listeners) in the position of an Earth-bound observer looking up at the sky.
- Initial conditions: In Job 38:9, God himself describes Earth’s initial atmosphere: “I made the clouds its [the sea’s] garment and wrapped it in thick darkness.” Science supports this description based on astronomers’ observations of protoplanetary (pre-forming) systems and extrasolar planets and theoretical studies of our own planetary neighbors.
- “Let there be light”: On day one, the opaque atmosphere became translucent, just clear enough to allow the passage of light. However, an Earth-bound observer would not, at this point, have seen the sources of this light. (As Hugh explains it, hāyâ—the Hebrew verb used in the phrase “Let there be light”—does not indicate that light came into existence for the first time on day one.)
- The Sun appears: Finally, on day four, the atmosphere cleared enough to become transparent and allow a terrestrial observer to see the sources of both daytime and nighttime light. The Hebrew verb used in Genesis 1:16 (‘āśâ) indicates the Sun, Moon, and stars had actually been created prior to day four.
Should someone ask about the Genesis creation timeline, you might say the celestial bodies had been around sometime before becoming visible from Earth’s surface. Hugh often points out that Earth is in the best position (and humans at the best point in cosmological history) to allow us to study the universe and learn about the ways God prepped the planet for our presence. Like a master engineer, the Creator fine-tuned Earth’s sky to clear at the just-right moments so that someday, we could savor and delight in His masterfully artistic sunsets and give Him glory for it.
Resources: Hugh’s booklet Genesis One: A Scientific Perspective provides a concise outline of RTB’s interpretation of the Genesis creation account. And for an intriguing study of the Scriptural support for this interpretation, I’d recommend our group Bible study The Bigger Picture on Creation by Krista Bontrager.