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Evolution/Creationism. Bible themes and stories

Comparing origin stories: Genesis
1 & 2 vs. the theory of Evolution

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How Christians and Jews view the creation story of Genesis 1.1 to 2.3:

Religious conservatives -- both Jewish and Christian -- generally believe that the Bible is inerrant, and that God directly inspired its authors. Thus, they believe that the creation story in Genesis must have been absolutely true, in its original or autograph copies: God formed the world, its life forms, and the rest of the universe in one continual act of creation. Conservatives have developed conflicting theories concerning the number of years in the past that creation happened; they range from 3615 BCE  to the interval measured by scientists: 4.5 billion years. They also differ in their estimate of the time interval taken for the creation sequence to be finished; these range from six 24-hour days to billions of years. In those verses where Genesis conflicts with the theory of evolution, religious conservatives assume that the scientists must be wrong. Given sufficient time, they expect the scientists to see the light and discover the truth.

Religious liberals, Agnostics, Atheists, Humanists, secularists, etc. generally reject the inerrancy and inspiration of the Bible. Most believe that the first creation story in Genesis is actually a re-written version of a Babylonian creation myth, which was composed many centuries before Genesis was first written down. They believe that the Theory of Evolution gives an accurate overall description of the development of species of life on Earth. Most also believe that the universe is on the order of 13 billion years of age, and that the earth coalesced about 4.5 billion years ago.

Sources of information:

Religious conservatives generally believe that the five books from Genesis to Deuteronomy -- the Pentateuch -- were written by Moses and that he was inspired by God to write the books without error. The first two chapters in Genesis, in their original or autograph version, thus provide a precise step-by-step account of God's creation process.

Religious liberals generally reject the belief that the Bible is inerrant and that its authors were directly inspired by God. Most liberal sources accept the Documentary Hypothesis: that the Pentateuch was written by a number of authors from four different traditions, who imported some material from Pagan sources in nearby cultures. They typically believe that there were three authors involved:

bullet Genesis 1:1 to 2:3: This was written by an anonymous writer or group of writers from the 6th Century BCE, generally referred to as "P."  He/they were of the priestly tradition. Most religious liberals believe that the first creation story in Genesis was based upon earlier Babylonian Pagan myths of origins.

bullet Genesis 2:4a: This was written by an anonymous writer, called "R," a redactor who joined the writings of "P," "J" and two other writers or groups of writers into the present Pentateuch.

bullet Genesis 2:4b to 2:15: This was written by "J," an anonymous writer or group of writers who lived in the sourthern kingdom of Judah, and wrote parts of the Pentateuch between 848 BCE (when King Jehoram gained power in Judah) and 722 BCE when the Assyrians destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel, taking its people into exile. Some scholars date J to the 10th century BCE.

About the origins story in Genesis:

Genesis 1:1 to 2:3 describes the creation of the earth, its life forms, and the rest of the universe. it happened in six intervals of time, each defined by the Hebrew word "Yom." Conservative Christians differ on the precise meaning of "Yom," which is generally translated as "day." Various groups define "day" as representing:

bullet A standard 24 hour day.

bullet Indefinitely long intervals, perhaps hundreds of millions of years duration. All intervals are not necessarily of the same length.

bullet A 24 hour day, but with the first and second day separated by a very long time interval.

About origins from the Theory of Evolution:

The Theory of Evolution normally describes the gradual change in species of plants and animals, starting with a very primitive single-celled life form, and ending -- at least currently -- with human beings. Humans and higher apes are believed to have had a common ancestor. For over a century, many supporters of creation science have often stated that promoters of Evolution believe that humans are descended from apes; however this is not true.

Radiometric measurements on rocks indicates that the Earth coalesced about 4.6 billion years ago. Fossil records of primitive live date back to about 3.5 billion years ago.

The sequence of creation in Genesis does contain some incompatibilities with the theory of evolution.

bullet Light was listed as being created on day 1, but its primary source (the sun, planets, and stars) did not appear until day 4. Most creation scientists, who generally support the literal interpretation of this creation story, have a solution to this puzzle. Many say that light initially came from God, before he created the sun and stars.

bullet The Genesis account states that birds were said to be created before other land animals. Paleontologists, who almost universally support the theory of evolution, point out that  the fossil record shows the opposite order. Creation scientists discount this belief. Most regard the rock layers containing the fossil record as having been laid down during the flood of Noah; thus, the fossils do not represent the evolution of the species of animals and birds. They were laid down during a single year and include all of the species that existed at the time of the flood.

bullet The most controversial debate over this creation story relates to its time span. Genesis 1 and 2 explain how Creation of Earth's life forms, the Earth itself, and the rest of the universe took six "days." Supporters of the theory of evolution find evidence for a universe that has been evolving for about 14 billion years.

Comparison of 1st creation story with the theory of evolution:

There are many discrepancies between the first creation story (derived from the Bible) and evolutionary theory (derived from astronomical observations, the fossil records, radiometric dating of rocks, etc.):

Item According to Genesis According to Evolution Theory
Source Genesis 1:1 to 2:3 Paleontologists, Biologists, Astronomers, Geologists, etc.
Sun Created after the world Present before world coalesces
Grass, land plants, trees Created before the sun Evolved after the sun
First forms of life Land plants Marine organisms
Birds Created before land animals Evolved from land animals
Fruit Trees Created before fish Evolved after fish
Initial diet of animals Restricted to plants Animals evolved as meat, plant eaters, and omnivores.
Age of the universe Less than 10,000 years About 14 billion years
Age of the Earth Less than 10,000 years About 4.5 billion years
Age of earliest life forms Less than 10,000 years About 3.5 billion years
Where humans came from From Adam who was created by God(s). Genesis 1:27 does not explain the method. Genesis 2:7 explains that Adam was made from dust, the ground, or soil (translations differ). Evolved; higher apes and Homo Sapiens share a common ancestor. Actually, any two species of life have a common ancestor, even humans and cabbages, or dogs and sharks.

The theory of evolution concludes that all life forms can be traced back to a primitive one-cell animal. Exactly how that simple animal developed out of non-living matter is beyond the scope of the theory evolution. The origins of life are the subject of a separate field of science, called: abiogenesis.

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Related essays:


  1. H.C. Kee, et al, "The Cambridge Companion to the Bible", Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, (1997), Page 45 to 46
  2. The age of the earth is about 4.6 billion years according to radiometric measurements accepted by almost all scientists; its age is less than 10 millennia according to most creation scientists; this is a ratio of 1:460,000.

    A ream of 500 sheets of 20 lb. paper is close to 2" in thickness. Each sheet is about 0.004" thick. Thus the ratio of 51 yards to the thickness of one sheet of paper is the same as 4.6 billion years is to 10 millennia.

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Copyright 1996 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-FEB-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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