Creation Creation is the absolute bringing into existence of the world by God. It is that act of God by which he, standing before and above all mundane and natural things, made and arranged the universe. It embraces everything which is not God.
I. The Idea of Creation. — In order to form a proper conception of what creation is, we must concede the absolute dependence of the world upon God. We err in limiting it to the mere beginning of the world. It is true that it was that divine act by which all objects were brought into being. It therefore stands as the beginning of all divine operation in the world, and of the universal development of the world. But that God created the universe implies not only that he gave a beginning to its existence, but that he continues that existence, and that he is the only fountain of its present being. The world is not self-derived nor self-sustained; it is only from and by God that it now exists. But creation is not a mere accident of the divine character, nor a temporary moment in the divine life, nor an impartation and manifestation of God, nor a blind, passive, and pathological evolution or emanation of the divine essence. Yet it is God's work alone, and was as unconstrained as any other deed performed by divine power. When we say that God created the world, we not only do not affirm, but actually deny that God has imparted himself, and passed into his own work. God is the absolute founder of the world, and he has not passed into its nature, but stands high above all the conditions of created being. Nor, while the world is not God himself, can it be said to partake of any other divine nature. It is simply God's work and manifestation; it is a creation which is from, by, and for God. Thus the full idea of creation implies that God is the absolute, impartial, and personal Spirit who, of his own free will, gave existence to the universe.
In the Mosaic account of the creation, we find that magnificent testimony of the faith which recognizes God's creation in the surrounding world (compare Heb 11:3, Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear). This testimony possesses a strong religious and canonical worth, apart from our views of the peculiar character of the cosmogony of Moses, whether we shape them according to the opinions of the old Church theologians, who held that the Mosaic account was actual history; or whether we harmonize with the modern allegorists, who claim that it is prophecy reversed, or prophetic vision; or whether we take the low view of attributing to it a mythical character. The most important portion of this, as of other scriptural statements concerning the creation, is contained in the proposition that God, in his eternal, infinite love, is the only highest cause; that he is limited by no principle beyond himself; that he is the independent Founder of the world. By world we mean κόσμος, αἰῶνες, Heb 1:2,11, or the universe, which is always described in the Old Testament, and usually in the New, as "heaven and earth," "heaven, earth, sea, and all which is therein." It is God alone who has brought all things into being (Heb 3:4; Ac 17:24; Ac 14:15; Re 4:11; Heb 11:3; Ps 33:6; Ps 102:26; Isa 45:18; Jer 10:12). Nothing has had a being without the Logos of God (Joh 1:3). Everything owes its existence and its life to the word of God. It is because God endowed it with entity; because he so willed it; διὰ τὸ θέλημά σου (Re 4:11); by his word, ῤῆμα, דָּבָר (Heb 11:3; Ps 33:6); by his speaking (Ge 1:3; 2Co 4:6); by his absolute power, παντοδύναμος χείρ (Wisdom of Solomon 11:18); and by his personal power (Jer 10:12), in which he needed no assistance whatever, but by which he was able to create whatever he desired (Ps 115:3; Ps 135:6). By this power he, in his own supreme majesty, evoked into existence that which was nonexistent (Ro 4:17; Ps 33:9), and by virtue of the same omnipotence is able to annihilate what he has called into being (Ps 104:29; Ps 102:26, etc.; Isa 51:6; Lu 21:33; Re 21:1,4). The Spirit of God, or "the breath of his mouth," which (Ps 33:6) stands parallel with the creative word that "moved upon the face of the waters," is nothing less than the active, forming, animating, divine power. The strength by which God creates takes its place beside his wisdom and knowledge (Jer 10:12; Ro 11:33); and the divine wisdom or intelligence appears to have been (Pr 8:22, etc.) the first ground and adjusting principle of creation. Instead, however, of reading in Joh 1:3, of this world-creative "wisdom," we find a description of the same eternal Logos of God who became flesh in Christ. Thus the creative principle is identified with that of redemption; and while the creation is distinguished as an act of love, the highest revelation of that love is to be found in the incarnation of God in the world. In both creation and redemption we perceive the thouguht that God, without the intervention and aid of any foreign power, gave existence to that which had previously no being; and that he did this by virtue of no blind necessity, but by his own volition alone.
It may be proper here to treat briefly of the meaning of בָּרָא (bara', "create"), in Genesis, chap. 1. Gesenius and Furst agree in giving to this word bara, in Genesis 1, the sense of proper creating, although they seem to give that of cutting as the primitive (not usual) idea inherent in the root, comparing as cognate בָּרָה, to choose, בִּר, a son (which Furst, on the other hand, derives from בֶּן), and the Arab. bara, etc. Gesenius refers to the Piel form of the Hebrews root (בֵּרֵא, to fashion), as the most characteristic (?) conjugation. He concludes, however, with the following judicious note (Thesaur. Heb. p. 236): "In the trite dispute of interpreters and theologians concerning creation out of nothing, some appeal likewise to the word under consideration, as if it might be gathered from its very etymology and proper signification that the first chap. of Genesis teaches not a creation from nothing, but a conformation of matter eternally existing. On the contrary, from the instances we have given, it will abundantly appear that the actual use of this word in Kal is altogether different from its primary signification, and that it is rather employed with respect to the new production of a thing (see Ge 2:3) than to the conformation and elaboration of material. That the opening clause of Genesis sets forth the world as first created out of nothing, and this in a rude and undigested state, while the remainder of the first chapter exhibits the elaboration of the recently created mass, the connection of the whole paragraph renders entirely plain. So also the Rabbins (Aben-Ezra ad Ge 1:1: 'Most hold שהבריאה להוצוא יש מאין, that creation is the production of a thing from nothing') and the N.T. writers (Heb 11:3; Ro 4:17; comp. 2 Maccabees 7:28) teach, although the writer of the Book of Wisdom (11:17), following the Grecian dogmas, holds matter to be eternal. See on this question Mos. Maimon. in More Nebochim, 3, 13; Mosheim, De crertione mun. di ex nihilo, appended to Crdworth's Intellectual System; Beausobre, Hist. de Manichee et du Manicheisme, vol. 2, Luke 5, chap. 4." The examples to which Gesenius refers as sustaining this position are (in addition to the equivalent Arab. bariyun, creator, Koran, Sur. 2:51; bariyatun, creature, Abulf. Ann. 1:18'; Jauhar. Spec. ed. Schneid. p. 14; and all the other Shemitic tongues, which have the same usage), the following: "Spoken of the creation of the heaven and earth, Ge 1:1; Isa 40:26; Isa 45:18; of the bounds of the earth, Isa 40:26; of the wind, Am 4:13; of men, Ge 1:27; Ge 5:1-2; Ge 6:7; De 4:32; Isa 45:12; Ps 89:48; Mal 2:10; specially, of Israel, Isa 43:1,15; of beasts, Genesis 21; of light and darkness, Isa 45:7, etc. Add these examples: Ps 51:12 ('create in me a clean heart, O God'); Isa 45:7 ('I make peace, and create evil'); Jer 31:22 ('the Lord hath created a new thing;' comp. Nu 16:30). It is used with a double accusative, Isa 65:18 ('I create Jerusalem a rejoicing,' i.e. joyous); 4:5; 48:7. The participle (בּוֹרֵאֵיךָ, the plur. of majesty, but according to many MSS. in the sing. בּוֹראֶךָ) stands for the Creator (Ec 12:1). בָּרָא is joined with the words יָצִר [yatsar', to form], in Isa 43:7; Isa 45:18; and עָשָׂה [asah', to make, in Isa 41:20; Isa 45:7,12; generally as synonymous: with the latter it is not seldom interchanged, Ge 1:26 (comp. ver.
27); 2:4; but that there is nevertheless a difference at least between these two is evident from Ge 2:3 ('which God created and made, בָּרָא לִעֲשׂוֹת [where therof union is generally regarded as epexegetical]). These words, which have perplexed many, even Hebrew interpreters, L. de Dieu (ad loc.) has rightly explained by adducing parallel phrases (הֵרֵעִ לִעֲשׂוֹת, הַגרַּיל לִעֲשׂוֹת etc.), as meaning produced by making, i.e. made by producing something new; comp. Jero 31:22, and בּרַיאָה (ib. p. 235). The word occurs (in the Kal or simple form) likewise in Ps 89:12; Isa 42:5; Isa 45:8,18; Isa 54:16; Isa 57:19; Isa 65:17 (in the Niphal or passive) Ge 2:4; Ge 5:2; Ps 102:18; Ps 104:30; Ps 148:5; Eze 21:30; Eze 28:13,15 ("done"); Ex 34:10.
From this examination, it is evident that although the word in question is etymologically connected with roots (like the Engl. pare, Lat. paro, etc.) that have a less decided import, yet its current and legitimate signification is that of creation in the modern and proper acceptation. As the Hebrews were not given to philosophical disquisition, their language is peculiarly barren in terms expressive of metaphysical or dialectical niceties, and hence they frequently employed this word in less exact applications. Moreover, as the act of creation was in the nature of the case but once performed, the term could only be used infrequently with reference to that event, just as "create" with moderns etymologically and even practically refers rather to production in a subordinate sense than to absolute origination. In both words, however, the higher and full sense is never lost sight of, and thus they appear as nearly synonymous in actual usage as any two in different and widely remote languages could well be. The translators of the Auth. Vers. have therefore done well by invariably (except in the single passage above noted) rendering בָּרָא (in Kal and Niphal at least), and no other Hebrews term, by create.
The N.T. writers employ in the same sense κτίζω (with the nouns κτίσις, creation, κτίσμα, creature, and κτιστής, creator) as the nearest equivalent in Greek, after the example of the Sept., in most passages (in Genesis it has ποιέω). See Macdonald, Creation and Fall (Edinb. 1856), p. 61-4.
That this absolute sense is the true one in Ge 1:1, at least, is demonstrable from the association there with the term "beginning." For if matter had existed eternally, there would have been no proper "beginning" at all of its existence; and to understand the mere arrangement of chaotic elements by the phraseology in question would be to confound something that is said to have taken place "in the beginning" with what is afterwards detailed under successive days. On the other hand, if matter be not eternal, it must at some time have been brought into being, and precisely that act would be the real "beginning" of all material things. This is obviously what the sacred writer intended to state: in opposition to the general belief of antiquity, he affirms that matter was originally the direct product of divine power, and from this event he dates the history of the physical universe.
II. God's Motive in Creation. — This motive has been ascribed by doctrinal writers to the free operation of God's love, his bonitas communicativa. He was not affected by any compulsion or selfish desire. In the essence and volition of divine love, all the much-discussed antagonism between freedom and necessity is canceled. To suppose that the creation could have been otherwise than it was is an abstraction of no utility whatever. We only speak relatively when we declare that God could not have created otherwise than he did. But if we make the same affirmation absolutely, we degrade God's freedom to abstract authority, and creation to accident or a mere experiment. The necessity in which God created the universe is the definitiveness of his own will, his self-determination which he possesses by virtue of his own divine character. It is not an external compulsion, but an interior impulse of the divine nature to manifest itself; a necessity of God's love to communicate itself. The question whether God could have created any other world than he has was discussed earnestly by the Scholastics, and later by Leibnitz in his Theodicy. If we imagine that God had a number of world-plans, out of which he selected the one which he consummated, we concede too much to the Optimists. That creation which he brought into being was the only one to which he was moved by the deep inner love of his infinite divine character. The aim which God had in view was not his own glory exclusively; he was not impelled by a purely egotistical power, but by eternal love; he desired the good of his creatures; and it was only as he wished his creation to be pure that he desired to be glorified by that purity. All created beings are not solely means for an end; but they have been created for their own sake, that they might receive the communications of God and be permeated by his goodness; not that they might subsequently be absorbed in him, but rest eternally happy in and with him. Creation reached its aim relatively in personal creatures and absolutely in Christ the God-man. The kingdom of the natural creation attains its perfection in the kingdom of grace and glory; the effulgence of the glory of God appears in, and concurs with, the happiness of his creatures; and the perfection of the Church takes place, not by the overthrow, but by the renewal and illumination of the world in God (2Pe 3:13; Isa 65:17; Isa 66:22; Re 21:1; comp. Ro 8:19, etc.; comp. Twesten, Vorles. fib. ud. Dogmatik, 2:89).
III. Time occupied in Creation. — La Place's theory of the formation of the whole solar system is that it was originally a mass of vapory or nebulous matter, which, according to the laws of gravitation, assumed the form of an immense sphere. This sphere received from without an impulse which caused it to revolve on its axis from west to east. In consequence of the revolution, the mass became flattened at the poles and swollen in the equatorial region. In consequence of the greatness of the centrifugal force at the equator, and the contemporaneous condensation and contraction of the nebulous mass, a free revolving ring, similar to that of Saturn, detached itself in the region of the equator. This ring, not being of uniform, density, and in consequence of contraction, broke in one or more places; and these fragments, in obedience to the laws of gravitation, became spheres or planets, all revolving from west to east around the parent mass. Another ring was formed in like manner, and another planet came into existence; and so on, until the whole solar system was complete. According to this theory, not only the earth, but all the planets, existed before the sun in its present condition; and thus some of the supposed difficulties of the Mosaic cosmogony are removed (M'Caul, Aids to Faith, p. 242, 243), for it is implied in this theory that the earth existed before the sun became the luminary of the system.
In order to arrive at some conclusion harmonious at once with the results of modern science and the account of Moses, we must determine the meaning of the terms "in the beginning" and "day." The Hebrew word for "beginning," רֵאשַׁית (reshith'), is in the original without the definite article; so that Moses really says, "In reshith (not in the reshith) Elohim created the heavens and the earth." The Septuagint, Chaldee, and Syriac versions corroborate the antiquity and correctness of this reading. Thus there is an indefiniteness of the time of creation. It may have been millions of years ago just as easily as thousands, for the Hebrew word is indefinite, and the verse reads in substance thus: "Of old, in former duration, God created the heavens and the earth." Arguing from analogy, many contend that the term "day" does not mean literally twenty-four hours. That word often signifies in the Bible undefined periods of time, as the "day of the Lord," "the day of vengeance." "that day," "the night is far spent, the day is at hand." The first day consisted of an alternation of light and darkness; but how long the night lasted, and how long the darkness until the next dawn, is not stated, The whole time of light in: which God's creative work proceeded he called "day," and the whole time of darkness he called "night." It was not a day measured by the presence of the sun's light, nor a night measured by the absence of that light. (Compare M'Caul, Aids to Faith, p. 231, 246, '47.) The name "day" is therefore regarded as given, not as a measure of extent — which is a later and a subordinate idea — but as denoting a wondrous phenomenon, marking the first great transition, and calling up the dual contrast which has entered into the corresponding name ever since, "God called the light day, and the darkness he called night." He called it YOM, and from that has come the lesser naming. We now indicate the gradual, developing character of the creation. It was not the work of six ordinary days, measured by twenty-four hours, but a series of supernatural growths extending over vast periods of time. (Comp. Prof. Tayler Lewis, Meth. Quart. Review, April, 1865.)
Others maintain that, while it is true that, the word "day" (q.v.) is sometimes used (e.g. in relation to the whole cosmogonal period, Ge 2:4) in a vague sense for an indefinite period, or for some set occasion without regard to its length, such a signification in the first chapter of Genesis is emphatically forbidden by the following explicit circumstances subjoined in the context itself:
(1) The several demiurgic days are regularly numbered — "first," "second," etc., till the last — making an exact and obviously literal week.
(2) Each is divided, in the usual Hebrew style, into "night" and "morning," constituting undoubtedly a Jewish νυχθήμερον, or night-and-day, like the modern phrase "twenty-four hours."
(3) To prevent all misconception, these alternations of light and darkness are distinctly called in the same connection "night" and "day."
(4) The institution of the Sabbath is based upon the correspondence between this and each of the six preceding days in point of length. To these philological and exegetical considerations, requiring the word יוֹם to be here taken in its strictly literal sense as an actual day, might be added others derived from scientific investigations. (See Hitchcock's Elementary Geology, 3d ed., p. 283 sq., and the article SEE COSMOGONY. )
IV. Eras of Creation. — The Mosaic account recognizes in creation two great eras of three days each — an Inorganic and an Organic. Each of these opens with the appearance of light: the first, light diffused; the second, light from the sun for the special uses of the earth. Each era ends in a day of two great works; the two shown to be distinct by being severally pronounced "good." On the third "day" — that closing the Inorganic era — there was, first, the dividing of the land from the waters, and afterwards the creation of vegetation, or the institution of a kingdom of life — a work widely diverse from all preceding it in the era. So. on the sixth day, terminating the Organic era, there was, first, the creation of mammals, and then a second far greater work, totally new in its grandest element — the creation of Man. We have, then, the following arrangement:
I. The Inorganic Era.
1st Day. — Light, general. 2d Day. — The earth divided from the fluid around it or in dividualized. 3d Day. —
1. Outlining of the land and water. 2. Creation of vegetation.
II. The Organic Era.
4th Day. — Light, direct. 5th Day. — Creation of the lower orders of animals. 6th Day. —
1. Creation of mammals. 2. Creation of Man.
In addition, the last day of each era included one work typical of the era, and another related to it in essential points, but also prophetic. Vegetation, while for physical reasons a part of the creation of the third day, was also prophetic of the future Organic era, in which the progress of life was the grand characteristic. The record of Moses thus accords with the fundamental principle in history, that the characteristic of an age has its beginnings within the age preceding. So, again, man, while like other mammals in structure, even to the homologies of every bone and muscle, was endowed with a spiritual nature, which looked forward to another era — that of spiritual existence. The "seventh" "day" the day of rest from the work of creation — is man's period of preparation for that new existence; and it is to promote this special end that, in strict parallelism, the Sabbath follows man's six days of work.
Some interpreters contend that the whole account is to be taken together; that the days are to be understood as literal days; but that the whole, how. ever, is to be interpreted as referring to a more remote period than is commonly imagined, and as not intended to describe the existing species of plants and animals, but various other species, now extinct, which have been, by subsequent convulsions of nature, destroyed, while others have been successively, by fresh acts of creation, introduced in their place." "Another interpretation, that of Dr. J. Pye Smith in his volume on the Relations of Scripture to Geology, etc., is briefly this: the separation of the first verse he adopts as above: this refers to the original universal creation; and in the vast undefined interval an almost unlimited series of changes in the structure and products of the earth may have taken place. After this, at a comparatively recent epoch, a small portion of the earth's surface was brought into a state of disorder, ruin, and obscuration, out of which the creation of the existing species of things, with the recall of light, and the restored presence of the heavenly bodies, took place literally, according to the Mosaic narrative, in six natural days." "Lastly, others have thought that the whole description must be taken literally as it stands; but yet, if found contradicted by facts, may, without violence to its obvious design and construction, be regarded as rather intended' for a mythic poetical composition, or religious apologue, than for a matter of fact history." (See Kitto's Jour. 3, 159; v. 186; Lit. and Theol. Rev. 4:526; New Englander, 9:510; Meth. Rev. 6:292; 12:497; De Bow's Rev. 4:177; Hitchcock's Religion and Geology, § 2; Biblioth. Sacra. 12:83, 323; 13:743; Jour. Sac. Lit. 1855; Amer. Bibl. Repos. 6:236.) SEE GEOLOGY.
To sum up, there are three theories of creation:
1. The old orthodox view. This has been most recently defended by Keil. It claims that the world was created in six ordinary, literal days.
2. The Restitution Hypothesis. According to it, the theosophic declaration of the Tohu va Bohu is accepted. The geological epochs which extend from the first earth-formations down to the diluvium form an incalculably long period before the creation of light, and before the other creative acts recorded in Ge 1:3, etc. Therefore the Mosaic six days' work is but the restitution of a preceding organic creation which had been previously many times disorganized and overwhelmed. Chalmers and Buckland were the first to advocate this hypothesis. They have been followed by Hengstenberg, Kurtz, Andr. Wagner, and partially by Delitzsch.
3. The view of the Harmonists or Concordists, such as Cuvier, De Serres, Hugh Miller, Ebrard, and others. They hold that the six days are periods of great indefinite length, and are therefore reconcilable with the creative epochs of geology. Parallel with these days are the long geologic formations. Schultz has just written in advocacy of this theory. His work is one of the most satisfactory and exhaustive of all the writings on this important branch of scientific theology.
See, in addition to the works already cited, Hugh Miller, Testimony of the Rocks; Dana, Manual of Geology; Riehers, Die Schoiifungsgeschichte (Leipzig, 1854, 8vo); Keerl, die Schsopfingsgeschichte u. d. Lehre vomn Parad.'es (reviewed by Warren, Bibliotheca Sacra, Oct. 1863, art. 3); Nath. Bohner, Natusforsschung u. Culturleben, 2d ed. 1863; Giov. Pianciani, Cosmogania nautrale comparata col Genesi (Roma, 1862); P, Laurent, Etudes Giologiques sur la Cosmogonie de Moise (Paris, 1863); F. H. Reusch, Bibel und Natur (Freiburg, 1862); F. Michelis, the chief advocate of the Restitution theory, in his Journal, Natur und Oqenbarung; F. W. Schultz, Die Schopfungsgeschichte nach Naturwissenschaft und Bibel (Gotha, 1865); Baltzer, Die biblische Schöpfusqsgeschichte (Leips. 1867, vol. 1); Wolff, Beduutung der Weltschopfung nach Natur und Schrift (Frankfort, 1866); Zockler, in Der Beweis des Glaubens, No. 1, translated in Meth. Quart. Rev. April, 1866, art. 2; Tayler Lewis, Six Days of Creation. SEE GENESIS; SEE MAN; SEE SPECIES.