Before we can say was scripture says about creation. It is important to understand what it does not say.
Genesis 1 tells a very different story than Genesis 2-3. Genesis 1 is the seven day creation story that starts with God creating the heavens and the earth and ends in Genesis 2:4 with God resting from all his work. Humans are created on day six and shaped in God’s image. The Garden of Eden story in Genesis 2-3 is typically squeezed into day six because it details the creation of man and eventually woman and the sin that resulted in them being cast from the garden. However, the differences in the stories point to problems with this typical interpretation.
The seven day account shows everything complete and “good” at the end of each day; however, the garden account speaks in imagery of infancy and incompleteness. The shrubs have not yet grown. Man takes his first breath as a newborn infant would. God says for the first time, “It is not good…” (Gen 2:18, NASB) After the creation of woman, they were naked and did not feel ashamed, like little children sharing the tubby time. The most striking imagery of infancy is detailed in My Story. Evil is already present in the garden before they eat of the forbidden tree because the serpent is there.
There is no mention of man’s god-likeness in the garden account. Man is made of dirt. His name is derived from the Hebrew name for dirt (ADAMAH). When God puts breath into Adam he becomes a “living being (Gen 1:7, NASB).” This is the same term used for the creation of all the “living creatures… cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth (Gen 1:24 NASB).” Paul confirms this interpretation.
- So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam (Christ), a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. (I Cor 15:45-47, NIV)
It is also important to note that the text shows the creation of man before planting the garden. Man is created outside the garden and placed there to take care of it.
“ADAM” is a very broadly used word in the Hebrew text. It is translated “man” frequently and is used to indicate a species, family line, or individual person as the following verses demonstrate.
- “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Gen 1:27, NASB)
- “This is the book of the generations of Adam.” (Gen 5:1a, NASB)
- Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam(Gen 5:2, KJV)
- “When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son… and named him Seth.” (Gen 5:3, NASB)
As an exercise, I recommend changing the words “man” or “Adam” to mankind to see if it could fit there. You will find in this exercise, that the scriptures can be much more broadly interpreted than the traditional view.
The solution is found when we view the Bible, from Genesis to Revelations, through a wide angle lens. One of the biggest questions posed against the inspiration of scripture is how to reconcile the God of the old testament with the Jesus of the new. If we can solve this problem and the assumed conflict between creation and science then we have something worth considering.
The seven day account of Genesis 1 parallels the prophetic verses of Revelation which presents seven sets of seven revelations. Some of them are historic, some of them are prophetic. If we look at Genesis 1 in the same way we find some surprising revelations. The gospel of John begins its creation account with the same words as Genesis 1, “In the beginning…” This gospel repeatedly speaks that Jesus is finishing the work that God began. Jesus’ last words are, “It is finished (John 19:29).” This parallels the last words of the seven day account when God finished his work and rested. The Hebrew writer expands on this theme saying that the seventh day rest still remains (Heb 4). Jesus also said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day. (John 5:17 NIV)” Hence, we find ourselves still in day six where God’s purpose, to make man in His image, is still being fulfilled.
Consider now the infancy picture of the garden account. Wayne Rice, a family counselor and author, documents five stages of parenting. Though they are laid out here very neatly, the transition points are not so clean.
- Catering: Newborn to toddler – The parent must provide every need for the child. The child makes no choices on their own. This parallels the Garden of Eden where God gave them food, clothing, and sensory stimulation. When the child can get in trouble, the parent must move to the controlling stage.
- Controlling: Toddler through Pre-K – Commonly called the terrible-twos, the child can now get into lots of trouble. The parent must constantly and directly intervene to provide distinct boundaries. Punishment and reward are quick. Explanations are not useful. Laws are only understood as No-No’s. This parallels the events between Adam’s sin and Israel’s exodus from Egypt. God knows how frustrating this time can be for parents for he “regretted that he had made human beings (Gen 6:6).” Punishment is quick and seemingly without notice. No law has yet been given except through experience.
- Coaching: Kindergarten through middle school – The parent can give laws. The laws are still simplified for the task at hand. Punishment and reward are quick and tangible and under the parents control, but are more suited to the situation. In most cases, the training is not exactly real life. God gave the ten commandments and hundreds of other written laws to explicitly specify every expected situation. He then walked with them across the wilderness for forty years training them in following that law. As they enter the promised land, God gradually begins to loosen the chains. They make more and more decisions. Judges are sent to rescue them and maintain order.
- Consulting: Middle school through high school or college – The child is now making more of their own decisions and living with real life consequences. Laws have now been abstracted to apply to more global situations. “Do not hit your brother” has become “Love your neighbor”. When the Israelites wanted a king, God warned them what it would bring but allows it to happen. Punishment and reward are now much further removed. The prophets bring continual words of warning, but the consequences are now from outside sources and often generation removed.
- Caring: The child is no longer a child, but an adult like the parent. The parent-child relationship is now about mutual respect and love, rather than a unidirectional teaching. The New Testament is full of references to god-likeness through the work of the Spirit. It is the final mature message, “Love God and love your neighbor.”
“What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (Gal 4:1-7)”