Aldus the Reader

I read the Bible

Genesis 1 cont.

Part two. Day two and three.

Day two is here. God begins his creative work by ... well ... OK, making an atmosphere. There are a couple of things: first, 'firmament' — we know it is not firm at all; arguably, the sky is the least firm thing we have on this planet. Luckily, this word can be easily translated as 'expanse', so it sounds better and not so embarrassingly silly as to think that either God himself or his chosen scribe think that the sky is somehow solid. Then there is the issue of water sandwiching our 'expanse' from the top and bottom. It is not a current feature of our planet, but if we run ahead a bit and think of the Flood, we realize that having lots of water above the atmosphere is not necessarily a crazy idea. We shall discuss it in more details later.

The naming ceremony, where this new expanse is called 'Heaven' brings the second day to its conclusion.

Day three begins with an action that more or less allows us to keep a straight face when we say the name of our planet — 'Earth'. Comparing to most heavenly bodies found in the Solar System, our planet has two very peculiar characteristics: one — the overabundance of water, the second one — life itself. Logically, our planet should bear the name 'Ocean', especially considering what it looked like before Day three. In any case, God speaks the creative words and the dry appears. God speaks again, and the earth yields vegetation. As we carefully read the words, two things jump out from the page: one, we see strong allusions to what people have known for centuries "like begets like" and we call it 'genetics' nowadays; two (it becomes glaringly obvious as we continue reading), there is no Sun. Think about it, third day is about to finish, there are all those plants springing from land, but there still is no sun.

Genesis 1

Part one. Introduction and day one.

Genesis 1, all but two verses of it, covers a very short period of time. Specifically, verses 3-31 (last one) cover just under 144 hours, yet so much was done.

First and, possibly, second verses may describe events that lasted the amount of time similar to 13.8 billion years — the current scientific estimate of the age of the universe. If so (and there is nothing definitive to indicate that it could not be so), then the God of the universe is capable of either serious planning ahead or of major bouts of contemplation, perhaps even both.

The first verse is rich in its ambiguity — and it is ambiguous (and rich) only for the Modern Man, since our understanding of the vastness of universe is relatively new. Assuming 'the heavens' does refer to our universe, the Creator is immediately introduced in his Mighty aspect, also known as Omnipotent — the Almighty. 'The earth' here is seemingly an anthropocentric feature, but this anthropocentrism is warranted, since the Omnipotent becomes the Revelator (not John) and speaks to us — mankind — about the mysteries of creation. It is ironic that creation of the fairly insignificant Earth is given in great detail while '... God created the heavens ...' meaning had to be figured out over the last century or so using, among other things, satellites.

The second verse possibly could be split into two parts: first describes the Earth before the creation proper, so to speak, when it is just a prefabricated blank* to be shaped later**; the second may be an introduction to the process that is about to happen.

So finally we approach verse three. "Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light." Simple, concise, powerful — also not very clear. If the universe did exist before, then the light as such was not created on day one. Add to the confusion that the Sun is apparently created on day four. Yet in literary sense these words work: the idea of creative word, later referred by John (the Revelator) as 'Logos', simply working is a sublime one.

The process continues: after speaking light into existence God performs quality check "God saw the light, that it was good", separates newly created light from an apparently intrinsic darkness and names them Day and Night.

☯ It is hard to read this passage and not think of the yin-yang. Day-night cycle is one of the clearest, most vivid visualizations of this principle, but it (day-night cycle) is made by God and does not demonstrate the great foundational truth of dualism and necessary duality. The Bible account (as it describes reality) is choke-full of dual things: day/night, water/land, man/woman (these are just from this very first chapter of Genesis), good/evil, truth/lie, victory/defeat; but it also is deliciously unbalanced: at some point there will be no night, albeit locally (Rev. 21:25), good will triumph evil for eternity globally, recreation one final time will follow destruction. Duality in general is not an underlying Biblical principle.

How exactly God separated Day from Night? How exactly was night followed by day? Modern day cycle is the direct result of our planet spinning around its axis and there is nothing suggesting that it was different then — God started our planet's rotation on day one.

The final sentence of verse five establishes the beginning to the day-night cycle, and it is actually a night-day cycle — "So the evening and the morning were the first day." While modern-day conventions make midnight the moment when "today becomes tomorrow", the Bible uses less precise, but much easier observed delineation: your day basically begins with preparations for sleep.

*the word 'blank' here is something of a misnomer, since a couple of paragraphs (or verses in the Bible) down we see that it was shrouded in darkness.

** "The earth was without form" is another example of misnomer since, presumably, it was a sphere — a form or shape often considered to be the symbol of perfection. And since it was covered in water and (supposedly) not rotating, it is not even a spheroid — it was the perfect sphere. Then again, maybe it tells us something about our Creator that featureless sphere in His estimation is 'without form and void'.