Scientists estimate that the Earth came into existence about 4.59 billion years ago. If we were to position ourselves on the face of the earth during the first few hundred million years of the earth, what would we see? Nothing. It would be pitch dark and we would be under water. We would need a boat, a protective suit with oxygen, and a light source. Scientists believe the entire planet was covered with water and the atmosphere was mixture of deadly gases. So thick was the atmosphere that no sunlight could reach the surface.
2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
“Formless void” is translated from the Hebrew tohu wabohu. Borrowing from Greek cosmology, some have taken this phrase to suggest Earth was a chaotic swirl of gasses and matter without form. Actually, taken at face value, the phrase essentially means barren and empty of life. Describing his vision of Judah after it is conquered, Jeremiah says:
I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. Jeremiah. 4:23
“Waste and void” is tohu wabohu. Verses 2 is describing a lifeless planet covered in water with God hovering above, suggesting he was actively involved in the proceedings.
About 4.25 billion years ago, scientists suspect a planet, at least the size of Mars, collided with Earth. The impact altered the Earth’s axis and rate of rotation. It blew away much of the gaseous atmosphere. It also added certain minerals and ores to the Earth’s content. All of these alterations had a direct impact on the Earth’s ability to support life. The debris from the collision eventually coalesced into the Moon.
While the collision blew away much of the atmosphere it initially caused a massive debris cloud to envelope the earth. Had we been on the surface of the Earth before and after the collision, we would have noticed a transformation from an opaque atmosphere to a translucent atmosphere. Light would have been visible but we would not have been able to see anything in the sky.
3 Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
Scientist believe that a little more than 4 billion years ago, atmospheric conditions emerged conduceive to photosynthesis. The troposphere formed. This is the layer of the atmosphere closest to the earth’s surface. Evaporation, condensation, and precipitation, (the water cycle) began to happen. If you recall from yesterday’s post, the atmosphere was the dome shaped area between the earth and the “waters above,” or sky, for the Hebrews.
6 And God said, "Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." 7 So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8 God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
The word “made” in verse seven is asa which means to fabricate or manufacture.
At some imprecisely known time, scientists believe land appeared as one contiguous unit. Eventually it broke apart and drifted in to the various continents. Scientists have also found fossils indicating life in the sea dating back 3.5 billion years ago. However, there are other measures that date back to 3.86 billion years ago. Life far from any light, like that found in deep ocean trenches, indicates the possibility of life apart from photosynthesis, so it is possible that the first life extends back 4 billion years or more. The first spore produding plant life is a much more recent phenomena having its beginning about 420 million years ago.
9 And God said, "Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it." And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
Genesis is not a science textbook. No mention is made of microscopic life. How would you explain microscopic life to an ancient audience? What would it add to the story? The story is focused on those aspects that directly affected the lives of the listeners. Plants would have been understood as requirement for animal and human life. Again, we must read the story through the eyes of the intended audience.
This passage is the first mention of life. It is important to note something that may escape our notice. It does not use bara or ex nihilo to describe the emergence of life. It suggests that life somehow came from existing material. If so, than a scientist, with the appropriate tools, would be able to observe how the event happened. A scientist would be able to observe the consequences of God’s action, but speaking scientifically, they would not be able to see God’s action. Is this evolution?