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No. 251 "Vital Articles on Science/Creation" May 1994
Star Formation and Genesis 1
by James Stambaugh *
Copyright (c) 1994 by I.C.R.
All Rights Reserved
* James Stambaugh, M.L.S., M.Div., is Librarian for the Institute for
Most astronomers accept the idea that stars form by gravitational
collapse of a cloud of gas and dust, and that this process takes a
minimum of 210,000 years. The consensus is that it was the Big Bang
that made all this possible. There are Christians who assert that the
Bible can be harmonized with the Big Bang and this process of star
formation. Dr. Hugh Ross, an astronomer and minister, is the most
prominent spokesman for this position. He postulates that the sun was
formed before the earth and that it is wrong to view Genesis 1:14-19 as
an account of the actual creation of the sun, moon, and stars. All God
tD do was to clear the cloudy atmosphere so that these celestial objects
simply "appeared" or became visible. E. J. Young, a Hebrew scholar,
takes the opposite view: 'That the heavenly bodies are made on the
fourth day and that the earth had received light from a source other
than the sun is not a naive conception, but is a plain and sober
statement of the truth." These interpretations are at odds with each
other, so both cannot be true. At least one of them contradicts what
God said in Genesis 1:14-19 concerning Day 4.
Throughout the Genesis 1 narrative God speaks and something happens
as a result. These commands are characterized by the wording: "Let
there be ____." One such command appears in verse 3 (light); two in
verse 6 (expanse and divided waters); two in verse 9 (waters gathered
and appearance of dry ground); one in verse 11 (sprouting plants); one
in verse 14 (luminaries); two in verse 20 (sea creatures and flying
animals); one in verse 24 (land animals); and one in verse 26 (man).
All, with the exception of one, are used in the sense of God speaking to
His creation. In the exception, one gets the sense of one member of the
Godhead speaking to the others: "Let us make man." This command (i.e.:
"Let there be ____") is known as a _jussive_. God used this command
consistently in the first six instances to refer to something brought
into existence that did not previously exist. Regardless of whatever
these commands signify, _ex nihilo_ (out of nothing) or _de novo_
(something new), they represent a fundamental change in the object that
is "created." One may wonder, since no clues in the text suggest another
view, why in the command concerning the luminaries, Dr. Ross proposes
something radically different:
The sun, moon, and stars are mentioned on the fourth day, and the
opening sentence for the fourth day uses the Hebrew word "hayah"
-- "let there appear the sun, moon, and stars." So what the text
is telling us is on the first day, the cloud layer was
transformed from opaque to translucent so light could come
through; on the fourth day, the clouds broke so that the observer
on the surface of the ocean for the first time, could see the
sun, moon, and stars.
If this is truly the correct interpretation, then this exceptional
command on Day 4 would represent the only non-creative command God
issued in Genesis 1. All the other commands, as even Dr. Ross notes,
are a creation of something that was not in existence before the
command. We should ask: What is so exceptional about this command that
requires such a radically different interpretation? It would appear,
from reading Genesis 1, that each of God's commands brought something
into existence that did not previously exist!
Hebrew Verb Construction
While the Hebrew language may seem frightening to some, it really is
not. The style of writing of Genesis 1 is historical, using the
_waw-consecutive_ to express consecutive action (waw=and). Biblical
historians use this style to: "express actions, events, or states, which
are to be regarded as the temporal or logical sequence of actions,
events, or states mentioned immediately before." What this means for
Genesis 1 is that God describes a sequence of events that occur one
after the other throughout the creation week. We see this sequence
reflected in the English as "And God said," "And there was," or "And it
was," with which each verse in Genesis 1 begins. Each occurrence
signifies that some action followed another in a real time sequence.
This is very important as it relates to the events of Genesis 1.
Francis Andersen observes: "A string of WP (waw-consecutive) clauses in
narrative prose (historical) stages events as occurring in a time
sequence one after another. It is implied that one is finished before
the next begins, so it is possible to speak of the verbs as 'perfective'
in aspect." So the events of Genesis 1:14-19 have an opening
waw-consecutive "And God said," and a closing pattern of
waw-consecutives "and it was evening, and it was morning" separating the
4th day from the previous and subsequent commands God issued. The point
for the interpreter is that each day in Genesis 1 must be a completed
event! So God began His creation of the sun, moon, and stars on Day 4
and finished them on that same day. This also rules out the concept that
the days may overlap in some manner.
Appeared or Established
If the syntax and context suggest that God created the sun, moon, and
stars in Genesis 1:14-19, how do those who maintain that they were
created earlier argue their case? Dr. Ross would suggest that a key
word in this passage is _nathan_, which appears in Genesis 1:17
translated "set." Here is how he defines this word: "set; put; place;
appoint; bring forth; apply; ascribe; cause to appear; show." The
word, _nathan_, does have a broad semantic range, as Dr. Ross observes.
However, its usage falls under three basic categories: "give, put or
set, make or constitute." In Genesis 1, God is establishing or
setting the functions of these celestial bodies. However one may view
the definition of _nathan_, it is not used with the significance "cause
The second word of importance is _hayah_. Dr. Ross defines this as
"become; cause to appear or arise; cause to be made or done; come into
existence; come to pass; make into something." This word also has a
wide semantic range, of which "to appear" is part. Yet, its basic
meaning is one of existence: "It seems, however, that from the very
outset, _hayah_ was used to refer to 'being' in the sense of 'exist, be
present' and of 'come into being, happen'." If "to appear," as the
sense that Dr. Ross suggests, is the interpretation of _hayah_ in 1:14,
then one must consistently apply this meaning in 1:3 (let light appear),
and twice in 1:5 (let an expanse appear and let a dividing appear).
These four occurrences must be interpreted in a consistent manner. But
Dr. Ross does not do this. He interprets the word to mean "appearance"
on Day 4, but interprets it to mean "come into existence, on all the
The Stars "Made" Earlier?
Those who believe that the stars were formed before Day 4 make a
point from Hebrew syntax. Hebrew does not have a specific way of
communicating a pluperfect tense. A pluperfect is: that which denotes
that an action or event was completed before a given time. So, in
Genesis 1:16, some would translate the first portion of the verse "now
God had made the two great luminaries." The argument is that God made
the stars before He created the earth, and now simply describes their
function for the earth. Note Dr. Ross's explanation:
Now you'd also see in the fourth day it uses the word _asah_ for
the Sun, Moon, and stars, but it's in the past tense. God made
-- past tense -- and it's in a parenthetical context after the
_nathan_ usage. Which means that it could have been made any
time before.... There is only one past tense in the Hebrew, you
can't tell if its pluperfect or whatever.
The point is that if _made_ is pluperfect (i.e., had made) in verse
16, then it must be referring back to an earlier "making," but how much
earlier? Some have proposed the events of verse 1 or verse 3, but it
could just as well be simply referring back to verse 14.
The word _made_ occurs two other times in Genesis 1. Each one could
possibly be translated as a pluperfect, so if verse 16 is pluperfect, we
would expect the others to be pluperfect also. But how does this effect
our understanding of Genesis 1?
The first occurrence is on the second day (verse 1:6), when God said
"let there be an expanse." Then we see in verse 7, "and God made the
expanse." This should then be translated "and God had made the
expanse." But this seems unnatural and contradictory. The other
occurrence is on Day 6 (verse 1:24), when God said, "let the earth bring
forth living creatures." Then we see in verse 25 "and God made (or _had
made_) the beasts of the earth." Yet even if we accept the pluperfect
tense in these instances, they are simply pluperfect to the previous
command. The uses of _made_ function as a description of what was
accomplished as a result of His command. We can see this kind of
function with other verbs in Genesis 1 that could be translated as
pluperfects (verses 12, 21, and 27 are results of verses 11, 20, and
26). So what God _made_ in verse 16 is clearly intended to be the same as
that which God spoke into existence in verse 14. To conclude that the
pluperfect refers to a long-ago, unrelated event, introduces
meaninglessness to Scripture, and introduces a concept totally foreign
to what God is telling us!
An Historical Interpretation
It would be useful to gain some insight from an early church father,
Theophilus. He differs greatly from the views of Dr. Ross and the modem
cosmologists as he says:
On the fourth day the luminaries came into existence. Since God
has foreknowledge, he understood the nonsense of the foolish
philosophers who were going to say that the things produced on
earth come from the stars, so that they might set God aside. In
order therefore that the truth might be demonstrated, plants and
seeds came into existence before stars. For what comes into
existence later cannot cause what is prior to it.
It appears that Theophilus clearly understood the significance of
this passage and would dispute current theories. We realize that when
all the facts are discovered and rightly interpreted, science and
Scripture will be in full agreement. Until that time, we must "take
every thought captive" (II Corinthians 10:5) and make it obedient to
Christ. The Bible is to be the standard for all thought! This means
that we must not seek to insert foreign ideas into the Biblical text.
In the beginning of this article, we drew attention to two vastly
different interpretations of Genesis 1:14-19. If current theories of
the origin of the universe and star formation are correct, then the
Bible is wrong. God did not say exactly how He created the stars, so we
should attempt to build scientific models describing His actions, which
utilize the best scientific data and that are consistent with Biblical
revelation. The purpose of this article was to examine the Biblical
data and determine what the Bible says about the creation of the stars.
This article should be thought of as establishing a Biblical foundation
upon which a scientific model can be built.
1. R. Kippenhahn, _Stellar Structure and Evolution_ (New York:
Springer-Verlag, 1990), p. 260.
2. One can examine any of Hugh Ross's books to substantiate this point:
_Genesis One: A Scientific Perspective_, revised edition (Sierra
Madre, CA: Wiseman Productions, 1983); _The Fingerprint of God_,
2nd edition (Orange, CA: Promise Publishing Co., 1991), _The
Creator and the Cosmos_ (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1993);
_Creation in Time_ (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1994).
3. Hugh Ross, _Genesis One_, p. 10.
4. E. J. Young, _Studies in Genesis One_ (Phillipsburg, NJ:
Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1964), p. 95.
5. Bruce Waltke & M. O'Connon, _An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew
Syntax_ (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), p. 568. See E.
Kautzsch, _Genesius' Hebrew Grammar_, 2nd edition revised by A. E.
Cowley (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910), p. 320.
6. Hugh Ross, _Resolving The Timescale Issues_, Creation/Evolution
audio tape (Pasadena, CA: Reasons to Believe, 1990.
7. Kautzsch, _Genesius' Hebrew Grammar_, p. 326.
8. Francis Andersen, _The Sentence in Biblical Hebrew_ (The Hague:
Mouton Publishers, 1980), p. 87. See also Thomas J. Finley, "The
WAW-Consecutive with 'Imperfect' in Biblical Hebrew," in
_Tradition and Testament_, ed. by J. Feinberg (Chicago: Moody
Press, 1981), pp. 241-262.
9. Hugh Ross, _Word Studies in Genesis One_ (Pasadena, CA: Reasons to
Believe, 1983), p. . This is the same response he gave at a
lecture: _Genesis One: An Ancient Earth -- Recent Man
Interpretation_ (audio tape), 1989. He says that: "according to
the lexicons _nathan_ has 36 definitions so it's not that
well-defined a word. But you will see 'to set, to allow to appear'
at the top of the list."
10. _Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament_, S. V. "Na~ta~n" by
Milton C. Fisher, 2:608.
11. Ross, _Word Studies_, p. .
12. _Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament_, S. V. "Ha~ya~h" by K.
H. Bernhardt, 3:372.
13. Ross, _Genesis One_, p. 7.
14. Ross, _Genesis One: An Ancient Earth -- Recent Man Interpretation_,
1989 (tape 2).
15. Theophilus, _To Autolycus_ 2.4, Oxford Early Christian Texts, as
cited in Louis Lavallee, "The Early Church Defended Creation
Science' Impact 160 ICR _Acts & Facts_ (October 1986): ii.
This "Impact" was converted to ASCII, for BBS use,
from the original formatted desktop article.
Comments regarding typographical errors
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