Recently, I have been slowly picking my way through the Book of Genesis. To say Genesis is the most foundational book of the Bible is to put it mildly. Being the book of many kinds of beginnings, the book is well-named. It is from Genesis that every aspect of the Christian faith has its beginning. If, for example, the question is about origin, Genesis provides the answer on a number of different levels. Genesis 1:1 tells us about the existence of God, and about the world’s origin by His creative hand. It also explains in those opening chapters about the origin of the universe, of light and darkness, of life in its many forms including human life, and of marriage.
Genesis explains the creation of the world in terms of “days.” Naturally, in reading the account of creation in terms of “days,” we think of 24-hour days as we know them today. But the language of Genesis is sufficiently obscure to prevent us from necessarily coming to this conclusion in any dogmatic way. For example, the language of “days” is used even before the creation of the sun and moon which were created on the fourth “day” to “…mark off the seasons, the days and the years” (1:14). So, it’s possible, perhaps even evident, that the ”days” of Genesis 1 are actually much longer periods of time. Another evidence of this possibility is that the second chapter of Genesis explains all that was involved in Adam’s life including the naming of animals, feeling alone, and miraculously acquiring a wife — all in the course of the 6th day, according to chapter 1.
It is true that other Scriptures affirm the creation of the world in six days (i.e Exodus 20:11) and that the world came into being simply by God’s spoken word (Hebrews 11:3). Yet, my own personal conclusion, after considerable thought on the matter, is that it doesn’t compromise the validity and authority of Scripture to say that the language here may be less literal than we imagine. There is no reason why good scientific inquiries need to be in conflict with the account given here. It pains me that some conclude that the Genesis account of creation is invalid simply because it doesn’t give us a whole lot of detail about how creation took place. I think it is important for those seeking to understand origins from a scientific point of view not to feel that the creation account is “simply religious” (and therefore, irrelevant). At the least, it gives us a pretty good indication of the order in which different elements of the world came into being. The question of Agency is a settled one; but, I think the matter of detailed process is very much an open question.
But there are other important beginnings in Genesis — the beginning of work and industry, the beginning of marriage and the family, the beginning of sin and corruption, and the beginning of God’s plan of salvation and redemption. It’s from Genesis that we come to understand the reality and reason for the division of nations and languages. It’s from Genesis that we understand how the world’s earth masses (continents) became divided and how the world’s populations developed.
I am especially intrigued by the story of the beginning of God’s plan of salvation and blessing “for all the nations of the world” through His special grace toward Abraham and his offspring. It is absolutely amazing how God works with this man, in spite of his weaknesses, to make him into the father of a great nation, and one through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed. It is so fascinating to see how God communicates with him, leads him, and how Abraham experiences God in his life. It is at once, a very human story, and yet a very divine one as well — of how God singles out a man for His purposes.
I am blessed to know Genesis as the foundation for the validity of the Christian faith. I am inspired by the account of all the “beginnings” in this book that enable me to feel intellectually satisfied about life, and spiritually motivated to know God even better. I want to follow in the steps of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, hearing God’s clear voice, worshipping Him, and experiencing His guidance as they did.