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What does the Creation story in Genesis mean?

What is the argument?

The Creation story in Genesis seems to say that God created the Universe during a six-day period. There are arguments about how to interpret this timeline.

One group of Christians called Creationists take a more literal view with some believing that the universe was made in six days. The majority of Church leaders in Christianity and also in Judaism (including the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbi) see the time-line as figurative.

The perspectives of a scientist

In the video below, Dr Denis Alexander sets out a number of different perspectives on how life began and explains which he – as a Christian and a scientist – finds most convincing.

Not a new debate

Did you know that people were debating the best way to interpret the Biblical account of Creation long before Galileo challenged the notion of an Earth-centred Universe … and long, long, before Darwin worked on the theory of evolution.

Augustine of Hippo (a 4th century Bishop and Philosopher) argued that the Biblical account is allegorical not literal, on the basis that it then fitted better with a bigger theological picture of the nature of God.

Dr Rowan Williams addresses this issue

As Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams was the senior bishop of the Church of England. Here are his responses, whilst archbishop, to the questions, “Why do you read the Bible?” and “How do you understand the story of Adam and Eve?”

Arguments for a Figurative Reading

The Reverend Dr Ernest Lucas began his career as a scientist and is now a minister in the Church. In his view, we need to take into account the reasons why the Creation story was written.
He argues for a figurative reading of the text and says that there are a number of clues in the text that show this is the way it should be understood such as the text says the Sun, Moon and Stars were created on ‘Day’ 4 – but how can there be a ‘Day’ before the Sun and Earth exist.


The Sun and Moon are ‘Lamps’

Ernest Lucas also highlights that the Sun and Moon are described as ‘lamps’ – one lamp for daytime and one for night. We now know that the Sun is a star and the Moon is a sphere of rock which reflects light. Why would the writer of the Creation story describe the Sun and Moon as lamps?

The answer, he says, is that the writer is using the language of appearance – this is how the Sun and Moon look. Scholars also say that this wording carried a message to people at the time. Living around the Jews were people who believed that the Sun and Moon were gods. The Creation story writer is saying that the God of the Jews is the creator of everything. God created the Sun and Moon which in turn are not gods but just beautiful ‘lamps’.

© 2011 LASAR (Learning about Science and Religion)