Choosing and using a wide-margin Bible for spiritual growth

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“Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” – Psalm 119:105 ESV

Among my most-treasured possessions are a small stack of wide-margin Bibles that I have been writing notes in for almost two decades. These Bibles contain much of what I have learned from my personal time of reading and studying God’s word, from numerous sermons and other messages I have heard, from books and articles I have read, and from interaction with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

One of my problems as a Christian is that I have forgotten far more than I remember. For instance, in the past forty years, I have listened to close to 2000 sermons on Sunday mornings. I still have notes for many of these, but I seldom go back through those notes. I know that the cumulative effect of all these sermons (and other inputs) has been significant, but there are things I have learned that I want to keep fresh in my heart and mind.

The solution God has led me to is to write notes in a wide-margin Bible. I do not keep these notes because I am smart but because I am forgetful, and need regular reminders of what God has taught me in the past. The advantage of using a wide-margin Bible instead of doing something such as a journal is that there is the potential that I will be reminded of the things God has taught me every time I read a passage. If something stood out to me, for example, in the second chapter of Ephesians back in 2001, I will conceivably see that note every time I read Ephesians 2 in that Bible. I am not downplaying the value of journals, but this is what works best for me.

I do not actually write down complete sermon notes in my wide-margin Bible. Usually on Sunday afternoon or evening, I will take a few minutes to transfer highlights from my sermon notebook into the margin of my Bible. That way there are key pieces of sermons that stick with me for the rest of my life.

Choosing a Wide-Margin Bible

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There are many wide-margin Bibles (sometimes called journaling Bibles) on the market. I use the two-column wide-margin Bibles from Cambridge University Press. Here are a few of the wide-margin Bible variations that are available on the market:

Translations — A quick search at a bookstore or online reveals that most major English-language translations are available as wide-margin Bibles: ESV, NASB, NIV, KJV, NKJV, NLT, CSB, and more. I alternate between using the English Standard Version (ESV) and the New International Version (NIV 1984) for my reading and study, but of course your preference may be different.

One-column or two columns — The page layout can be a make-it or break-it factor for you enjoyment of your wide-margin Bible. There are editions with two columns of text with two columns for writing, two columns of text with one column for writing, and one column of text with one column for writing. Some wide-margin enthusiasts insist on the one-column option. I really dislike the two text columns with one writing column option, as this does not allow one to write right next to the verse.

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This Bible has two columns but no room to write in the gutter, so your note won’t be next to the verse(s) you are writing about.

Width of blank space — My NIV Cambridge wide-margin Bible has 1.25 inches of blank space on both the left and right side, and about an inch on both the top and bottom of the page. This gives plenty of writing room on the right, left, top, and bottom of the page. There is additional space on the title page for each book of the Bible, which gives room for introductory comments. My ESV Cambridge wide-margin Bible has only one inch of blank space along the gutter, which makes it a little difficult to write notes. I would not purchase a wide-margin Bible that has blank space along the gutter that is less than one inch, as it would be too difficult to write notes.

Style of blank space — Some wide-margin Bibles are printed with faint (or not-so-faint) horizontal lines for you to write on. I would never purchase one of these, as the line spacing is not how I would naturally space my handwriting. Plus, I really don’t think I need lines to keep my writing straight for one inch! In addition, if you are going to include artwork in your margin notes, the lines might interfere with the aesthetics of your drawings.

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The natural spacing of my handwriting does not match the spacing of these lines.

Hard cover or leather — My wide-margin Bibles have hard covers, which are cheaper, but I’m sure less durable, than leather covers.

Red-letter or black letter — This is your preference. I choose only black-letter editions, as I think they are easier to read, and all Scripture is Scripture, not just the words of Jesus.

Paper — My Cambridge Bibles are printed with a heavier paper, which reduces bleed-through of ink.

Tools for Marking a Wide-Margin Bible

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Tools I use with my wide-margin Bible include pens, a highlighter, a ruler, correction tape, and an ink blotter. I keep these together in an old coffee mug.

I have learned by trial and error what tools I need for marking in my wide-margin Bible.

Pen (or pens) — It is best to give some thought to the type of pen you will use in your Bible. You certainly do not want to use a pen that will bleed through the page, and in general this means a ball-point pen rather than a felt-tip pen. Before using a new kind of pen in my Bible, I make some text marks in some obscure place in the concordance or map index in the back to make sure it does not bleed through. I prefer to use a fine ball-point pen, as opposed to medium. More specifically, I use a Pilot B2P blue fine ball-point pen, and have bought a whole box of them.

Highlighters — If you do highlighting in your Bible, I recommend testing the highlighters in someplace like the concordance or map index to see how much it bleeds through the paper. Some people prefer dry Bible highlighters that can be purchased at Christian bookstores or online. My experience is that the lead breaks too easily on these, but maybe you will have a better experience.

Ruler — I use a flexible 6-inch ruler so I can underline with straight lines. This, of course, is optional.

White-out tape — If you are at all like me, you will make mistakes, such as typos, as you write in your margin. I used to use white-out liquid, which was a real pain, but now I use the correction tape dispensers, which are ideal for this sort of work (unless you buy a Bible with off-white pages).

Blotter — Ball-point pens tend to get little globs of ink accumulating near the tip while underlining, and this can result in a smudge of ink on your page. After underlining a verse, I will blot the ink off the tip of the pen with a facial tissue or paper towel that I keep with my other supplies.

Wide-Margin Strategies

This is how I do my note taking, underlining and highlighting, and other things:

Notes — I write kind of small, which allows me to put a lot of notes on the page. I write a verse number to start the note, as it is not always possible to put the note right next to the verse if I have a lot of notes on the page. My notes might be from my personal meditations, copied in part from study Bibles (such as the ESV Study Bible) or from commentaries; things I have learned from books I am reading, or from sermons. I have a lot of notes in my Bible related to apologetics and the doctrine of creation, as those are two of my deeper interests.

Underlining — I am more of an underlining guy than a highlighting guy. I underline words, verses, or longer passages that are especially meaningful to me. I use blue ink, but that is entirely your preference. You may come up with some sort of color code instead.

Highlighting — In my current wide-margin Bible, I have used a yellow highlighter to mark verses I have memorized. This makes memory review easy, as I can just flip through my Bible rather than through a stack of index cards. In previous Bibles, I have used a color-code scheme, with red or pink marking the works of Christ and benefits of salvation, green marking the attributes of God, and so forth.

Topical marks — I put one- or two-letter marks in red in my Bible to mark verses for certain topics. A few of these marks include B (baptism), C (communion, or Lord’s supper), DC (deity of Christ), P (prayer), CR (creation), EV (evangelism), M (missions, God’s heart for all nations), and W (Word of God).

Additional Remarks

I am on my fourth wide-margin Bible. The first one was sort of a trial-and-error project in which I developed my wide-margin style. I do some note-copying between these four Bibles, and I’m pretty happy with how the most recent ones are going. I am hoping that these will be a blessing to my descendants somehow until Christ returns.

I am not an artsy guy, so you will not see any drawings or sketches in my margins. I have friends who love to express their insights from the Bible as illustrations. My Bible probably looks like it was produced by an engineer to them.

The purpose of taking notes in a Bible, of course, is not just to make us smarter (or make us look smarter to impress someone) but so that we would grow in our knowledge of God, and in our service to him as workers in his kingdom. My prayer is that your markings in a wide-margin Bible would accomplish these things in and through you.

Grace and Peace

Kevin Nelstead, GeoChristian.com


Notes

The NIV 1984 Cambridge Wide-Margin Bible is out of print, but unused copies are available:

I affectionately call the 1984 NIV the Old International Version (OIV).

My ESV Cambridge Wide Margin Reference Edition:

There are, of course, many additional options for purchasing a wide-margin Bible.

Back when I was in grade school through high school, an activity the first day of class was to put book covers on our textbooks to reduce wear and tear. I have started doing the same thing on my hardcover Bibles. My NIV Bible is now covered with a “Lands of the Bible Today” map from the December 1967 National Geographic magazine, and my ESV Bible is covered with a print of “The Garden of Eden” painted by Izaak van Oosten in the 1650s or 1660s.

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Putting a cover on your hardcover Bible will greatly reduce wear on the cover and spine.

 

The ESV Study Bible on creation — Dinosaurs in Job?

The ESV Study Bible is a theologically conservative Evangelical work, and is certainly one of the most comprehensive study Bibles ever produced. It has been out for only three years, but it looks like it will be a highly influential reference work for decades to come.One potential positive impact of the ESVSB relates to its treatment of the doctrine of creation. The ESVSB does not take a stand on geological issues such as the age of the Earth or the extent of the flood. In both of these cases it offers cautionary notes that could open the doors to old-Earth interpretations for many readers. The authors of the study notes, though firmly committed to the inspiration of the Scriptures, believe that it is not necessary to hold to the “literal” young-Earth interpretation of Genesis.My hope and prayer is that, just as the Scofield Reference Bible led many to accept the Gap Theory (rather than young-Earth interpretations) a century ago, so the ESVSB will introduce Christians of our day to alternative viewpoints on Genesis 1, such as the analogical days and day-age interpretations.

This is my fourth article on the ESV Study Bible’s coverage of issues related to the doctrine of creation. My previous posts were:

The ESV Study Bible on creation — Noah’s flood

The ESV Study Bible on creation — Introduction and Introduction to Genesis

The ESV Study Bible on creation — Genesis 1

ESVStudyBibleYoung-Earth creationists (YECs) commonly assert that dinosaurs lived in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, and that they are even described in the Old Testament book of Job. If the Earth is only six to ten thousand years old, as YECs claim, and if dinosaurs were created on the same 24-hour day as Adam and Eve, and if Noah took two of each kind of animal that lived on Earth onto the Ark, and if dinosaurs came off of the Ark and survived for some time afterward, then it follows that dinosaurs could have wandered the Earth for a while after the flood, only a few thousand years ago. Of course I disagree with most of these premises, as they are Biblically unnecessary. Because of this, I don’t have to be looking for dinosaurs in the Bible or anyplace else, other than in the fossil record.

Chapter 40 of Job describes a creature called “behemoth”, and Job 41 depicts another fearsome creature called “leviathan.” It is often claimed by YECs that both of these refer to giant extinct reptiles, such as dinosaurs, plesiosaurs, or giant crocodiles. Many Christians, raised on a steady diet of YEC materials, don’t know that most Biblical scholars (including conservative Evangelicals) offer alternative understandings of the identities of both behemoth and leviathan that make more sense than the YEC interpretations.

Behemoth

In regards to behemoth, Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis writes:

If the different kinds of dinosaurs survived the Flood, then they must have come off the Ark and lived in the post-Flood world.

In the Bible, in Job 40:15–24, God describes to Job (who lived after the Flood) a great beast with which Job was familiar. This great animal, called “behemoth,” is described as “the chief of the ways of God,” perhaps the biggest land animal God had created. Impressively, he moved his tail like a cedar tree! Although some Bible commentaries say this may have been an elephant or hippopotamus, the description actually fits that of a dinosaur like Brachiosaurus. Elephants and hippos certainly do not have tails like cedar trees!

Actually, very few animals are singled out in the Bible for such a detailed description. Contrary to what many may think, what we know now as dinosaurs get more mention in the Scriptures than most animals! So dinosaurs—all the different kinds—must have lived alongside of people after the Flood.

The ESV study notes on behemoth in Job 40:15-24 offer a more straight-forward interpretation of this creature:

Job 40:15 Behemoth usually refers to cattle, but in at least one other reference it most likely signifies a hippopotamus (see esv footnote). It is almost universally so interpreted in this passage, taking the description of vv. 16–18 as poetical extravagance. Some, however, suppose that the description requires some kind of mythical beast to be in view, as a parallel to Leviathan (41:1); the first option is simpler.

Job 40:17 tail stiff like a cedar. “Tail” is a common euphemism for phallus. It is to be so interpreted in this verse, considering the description of the anatomy of the animal. Potency is often associated with procreative power. In the medieval period, Behemoth was conceived as a symbol of sensuality and sin. sinews of his thighs. The word for “sinews” is otherwise unknown. Some ancient versions (see Targum, Latin) took it to mean “testicle,” in keeping with the interpretation of the first line.

There seems to be no reason to suppose that behemoth is a Brachiosaurus rather than a hippopotamus. YECs say that “tail like a cedar tree” points to a dinosaur rather than a hippo with its diminutive tail, but they may very well not even be thinking about the right piece of anatomy. “Penis” and “testicles” aren’t words you will find in any AIG/ICR childrens’ books, but the Old Testament authors weren’t squeamish about using such terminology.

Another difficulty of the “dinosaur” interpretation of behemoth, not mentioned in the ESVSB notes, is found in verse 21, which states

Under the lotus plants he lies,
in the shelter of the reeds and in the marsh.
For his shade the lotus trees cover him;
the willows of the brook surround him. (ESV)

With this description, it seems much more likely that behemoth is something like a hippopotamus. Brachiosauruses wouldn’t have been able to hide among the reeds along the Jordan River (v. 23)!

Leviathan

To some young-Earth creationists, the leviathan in Job 41 is not only a giant marine reptile, but a fire-breathing one at that! CreationWiki states:

Leviathan […] is an animal that is described by God in the book of Job as a terrifying fire-breathing sea monster. The creature is described as a strong beast with a tough outer “armor”. He cannot be pulled out with a fishhook and no one dares to fight him. It is also said to have breathed fire and snorted out smoke! (Job 41) Some believe that Leviathan is a reference to an extinct animal that was alive and known to those that lived during the days of the Old Testament. Some that hold to this view suggest it was a plesiosaur, such as the Kronosaurus, others have proposes it was the giant armored crocodile Sarcosuchus.

In regards to leviathan, the ESVSB notes are somewhat brief:

Job 41:1–34 The Lord describes the power of Leviathan by focusing on the inability of man to subdue him, then applies such power analogously to himself (vv. 9–11).

Job 41:1 Leviathan. The animal described in this section may be the crocodile (see esv footnote). Interpreters sometimes suggest it is a mythical creature representing forces overcome by God’s power in creation (see 3:8 and note). However, the focus of this section is on the fact that, whatever powerful creature is being referred to, it is a part of God’s creation and is governed by his power (see note on Ps. 74:14).

Job 41:9–11 If it is futile for people to presume that they could lay their hands on Leviathan, who is a part of God’s creation (vv. 9, 11), then how much more should Job be cautious about his presumption in wanting to bring his case and stand before God.

Again, it is quite possible that this refers to a crocodile, and it is unnecessary to see any sort of dinosaur or other extinct reptile in this passage.

The description in Job 41 seems to fit a crocodile pretty well:

  • lived in the area
  • fierce and quick
  • has a tough hide
  • has fearsome teeth
  • has a strong neck
  • has strong jaws
Credit: http://www.genesispark.org/genpark/fire/fire.htm

The ESVSB doesn’t comment on the “fire-breathing” passage of verses 19-21, but given the poetic nature of most of Job, there is no reason to read “fire-breathing dragon” into the the description of this beast. Most interpreters see this as a picture of the steam coming out of the creatures nostrils on a cool morning; no flames needed.

Conclusion

There are a number of reasons to question the YEC interpretation of behemoth and leviathan being dinosaurs. First, there are perfectly plausible options. We know that hippopotamuses and crocodiles lived in the area in the second millennium B.C., and the descriptions fit them well. Second, there is absolutely no evidence that organisms such as Brachiosaurus lived in the Middle East in historical times. If such organisms the size of school buses were around back then, we would surely find their remains somewhere, such as in archeological sites. And finally, this interpretation is only necessary if young-Earth creationism is true. If young-Earth creationism isn’t true—and I believe that it isn’t necessary Biblically nor plausible scientifically—then there is no need to try to read dinosaurs into the book of Job.

What does it matter? Many Christians are not harmed by accepting questionable interpretations on secondary (or even tertiary) matters such as the identities of behemoth or leviathan. On a broader scale, however, any time we use poor arguments to defend the reliability of the Bible, we create unnecessary stumbling blocks that make it harder for people to accept the gospel of Christ.

The notes of the ESV Study Bible make it clear that one can hold firmly to the truthfulness of the Bible, to the essential doctrines of the Christian faith, and not be a young-Earth creationist.

Grace and Peace

The ESV Study Bible on creation — Noah’s flood

The ESV Study Bible is a theologically conservative Evangelical work, and is certainly one of the most comprehensive study Bibles ever produced. It has been out for only three years, but it looks like it will be a highly influential reference work for decades to come. 

One potential positive impact of the ESVSB relates to its treatment of the doctrine of creation. The ESVSB does not take a stand on geological issues such as the age of the Earth or the extent of the flood. In both of these cases it offers cautionary notes that could open the doors to old-Earth interpretations for many readers. The authors of the study notes, though firmly committed to the inspiration of the Scriptures, believe that it is not necessary to hold to the “literal” young-Earth interpretation of Genesis.

My hope and prayer is that, just as the Scofield Reference Bible led many to accept the Gap Theory (rather than young-Earth interpretations) a century ago, so the ESVSB will introduce Christians of our day to alternative viewpoints on Genesis 1, such as the analogical days and day-age interpretations.

This is my third article on the ESV Study Bible’s coverage of issues related to the doctrine of creation. My first two posts were:

The ESV Study Bible on creation — Introduction and Introduction to Genesis

The ESV Study Bible on creation — Genesis 1

ESVStudyBibleThe ESV Study Bible‘s notes on the extent of Noah’s flood are not as comprehensive in some ways as were the notes on Genesis 1, but they still contain a lot of useful information to help the reader better understand the text. I have already noted that the ESVSB’s introductory notes to Genesis state that one should be cautious and not read too much into what the text of Genesis 6-9 says about the extent (global or local?) and work of the flood. The ESVSB Introduction to Genesis states:

One must take similar care in reading the flood story. The notes will discuss the extent to which Moses intended to describe the flood’s coverage of the globe. Certainly the description of the flood implies that it was widespread and catastrophic, but there are difficulties in making confident claims that the account is geared to answering the question of just how widespread. Thus, it would be incautious to attribute to the flood all the geological formations observed today…

The notes on 6:17 discuss the extent of the flood:

Although God intends the flood to destroy every person and his remarks have a strong universal emphasis, this in itself does not necessarily mean that the flood had to cover the whole earth. Since the geographical perspective of ancient people was more limited than that of contemporary readers, it is possible that the flood, while universal from their viewpoint, did not cover the entire globe. Indeed, Genesis implies that prior to the Tower of Babel incident (see 11:1–9), people had not yet spread throughout the earth. Many interpreters, therefore, argue that a huge regional flood may have been all that was necessary for God to destroy all human beings. The expression “all the earth” (7:3; cf. 8:9, “the whole earth”) does not exclude such a possibility: later, “all the earth” came to Joseph to buy grain (41:57), in which “all the earth” clearly refers to the eastern Mediterranean seaboard. In support of the view that the flood covered all the earth, other interpreters point out that the text says that “all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered” (7:19) and that the water was “fifteen cubits” above the tops of the mountains. If “the mountains of Ararat” (8:4) refers to the range that includes present-day Mount Ararat in Turkey (elevation 16,854 feet or 5,137 m), the amount of water necessary to cover it would be at least 16,854 feet above sea level.

The first part of this note won’t make all old-Earth advocates happy, and is in line with the writings of Hugh Ross, a prominent day-age interpretation advocate. It does bring out some important considerations:

  • The importance of perspective: from Noah’s perspective, a vast flood in the Persian Gulf/Mesopotamian basin (if that is where the local flood occurred) would have seemed vast, covering everything as far as he could see. That doesn’t mean that the flood necessarily covered the entire spherical earth.
  • Clearly, “all the earth” doesn’t always mean “all the earth” in the Old Testament.
  • The flood did not necessarily have to be global in order to be universal in terms of humanity.

I’ve written more about the extent of Noah’s flood elsewhere.

The second part of the ESVSB note on 6:17 presents what many young-Earth creationists would consider to be a weak case for a global flood. Most of them acknowledge that the flood didn’t have to be over 16,000 feet deep to cover the entire planet if pre-flood mountains were not that tall. But even aside from that, there are other ways to read what the text says about the depth of the flood (click on the “elsewhere” link above).

The notes don’t say much more about the extent of the flood, and say nothing about its work. But enough has been said to show that the text of Genesis 6-9 does not require a global flood, and there is certainly nothing in the text that would lead us to assert on Biblical grounds that the flood laid down the sedimentary rocks that blanket much of the planet.

Grace and Peace

The ESV Study Bible on creation — Genesis 1

The following item was originally posted on The GeoChristian in November 2009, and I have added it to my blog recycling program. Because I have new readers of The GeoChristian, I will occasionally go back and re-use some of my favorite blog entries, with some editing.

I am re-using this post about the ESV Study Bible for a couple reasons. The first is because the ESV Study Bible is a theologically conservative Evangelical work, yet it presents a wide range of interpretations of the opening chapters of Genesis. The authors of the study notes, though firmly committed to the inspiration of the Scriptures, believe that it is not necessary to hold to the “literal” young-Earth interpretation of Genesis.

My other reason for using this post over again is because I feel that I didn’t really follow through on my original intentions. I had planned a multiple-part series on the doctrine of creation as presented in the ESV Study Bible, but ended after only two posts (this is the second of those). I plan on extending this series in the upcoming months.

ESVStudyBibleA few weeks ago, I looked at what the ESV Study Bible had to say about the doctrine of creation in its introduction to the book of Genesis (click here). The ESV Study Bible Introduction to Genesis gives an overview of the various interpretations (calendar-day, day-age, etc.), a discussion about the relationship between Genesis and science, a statement on the historicity of Adam and Eve, and cautionary notes about interpreting the account of Noah’s flood.

The ESV Study Bible is the product of theologically conservative Biblical scholars who are committed to the inerrancy of the Bible, but it clearly does not advocate young-Earth creationism. It does not endorse any of the old-Earth alternatives either, though the notes seem to point in some places to the “analogical days” interpretation (for example, see the notes on 1:3-5 below). I think this is highly significant. Just as the influential Scofield Reference Bible of 1909 lead many to accept the “gap theory” and dispensationalism, so the conservative credentials of the ESV Study Bible could open up the eyes of many to the merits of old-Earth interpretations in general, and more specifically, the analogical days interpretation.

Here are some highlights from the notes on Genesis 1 (emphasis in the original):

1:1-11:26 Primeval History — In contrast to the patriarchal stories, however, other ancient nonbiblical stories do exist recounting stories about both creation and the flood. The existence of such stories, however, does not in any way challenge the authority or the inspiration of Genesis. In fact, the nonbiblical stories stand in sharp contrast to the biblical account, and thus help readers appreciate the unique nature and character of the biblical accounts of creation and the flood. In other ancient literary traditions, creation is a great struggle often involving conflict between the gods. […] Reading Genesis, readers can see that it is designed to refute these delusions. There is only one God, whose word is almighty. He has only to speak and the world comes into being. The sun and moon are not gods in their own right, but are created by the one God. This God does not need feeding by man, as the Babylonians believed they did by offering sacrifices, but he supplies man with food. It is human sin, not divine annoyance, that prompts the flood. Far from Babylon’s tower (Babel) reaching heaven, it became a reminder that human pride could neither reach nor manipulate God. These principles, which emerge so clearly in Genesis 1–11, are truths that run through the rest of Scripture. The unity of God is fundamental to biblical theology, as is his almighty power, his care for mankind, and his judgment on sin. It may not always be obvious how these chapters relate to geology and archaeology, but their theological message is very clear. Read in their intended sense, they provide the fundamental presuppositions of the rest of Scripture. These chapters should act as eyeglasses, so that readers focus on the points their author is making and go on to read the rest of the Bible in light of them.

1:3-5 — By a simple reading of Genesis, these days must be described as days in the life of God, but how his days relate to human days is more difficult to determine.

1:6-8 — Water plays a crucial role in ancient Near Eastern creation literature. In Egypt, for example, the creator-god Ptah uses the preexistent waters (personified as the god Nun) to create the universe. The same is true in Mesopotamian belief: it is out of the gods of watery chaos—Apsu, Tiamat, and Mummu—that creation comes. The biblical creation account sits in stark contrast to such dark mythological polytheism. In the biblical account, water at creation is no deity; it is simply something God created, and it serves as material in the hands of the sole sovereign Creator.

Gen. 1:14–19 — This section corresponds closely with the ordering of Day and Night on the first day, involving the separation of light and darkness (vv. 3–5). Here the emphasis is on the creation of lights that will govern time, as well as providing light upon the earth (v. 15). By referring to them as the greater light and lesser light (v. 16), the text avoids using terms that were also proper names for pagan deities linked to the sun and the moon. Chapter 1 deliberately undermines pagan ideas regarding nature’s being controlled by different deities. (To the ancient pagans of the Near East, the gods were personified in various elements of nature. Thus, in Egyptian texts, the gods Ra and Thoth are personified in the sun and the moon, respectively.) The term made (Hb. ‘asah, v. 16), as the esv footnote shows, need only mean that God “fashioned” or “worked on” them; it does not of itself imply that they did not exist in any form before this. Rather, the focus here is on the way in which God has ordained the sun and moon to order and define the passing of time according to his purposes.

1:27 — There has been debate about the expression image of God. Many scholars point out the idea, commonly used in the ancient Near East, of the king who was the visible representative of the deity; thus the king ruled on behalf of the god. Since v. 26 links the image of God with the exercise of dominion over all the other creatures of the seas, heavens, and earth, one can see that humanity is endowed here with authority to rule the earth as God’s representatives or vice-regents (see note on v. 28). Other scholars, seeing the pattern of male and female, have concluded that humanity expresses God’s image in relationship, particularly in well-functioning human community, both in marriage and in wider society. Traditionally, the image has been seen as the capacities that set man apart from the other animals—ways in which humans resemble God, such as in the characteristics of reason, morality, language, a capacity for relationships governed by love and commitment, and creativity in all forms of art. All these insights can be put together by observing that the resemblances (man is like God in a series of ways) allow mankind to represent God in ruling, and to establish worthy relationships with God, with one another, and with the rest of the creation. This “image” and this dignity apply to both “male and female” human beings. (This view is unique in the context of the ancient Near East. In Mesopotamia, e.g., the gods created humans merely to carry out work for them.)

1:28 — God’s creation plan is that the whole earth should be populated by those who know him and who serve wisely as his vice-regents or representatives. subdue it and have dominion. The term “subdue” (Hb. kabash) elsewhere means to bring a people or a land into subjection so that it will yield service to the one subduing it (Num. 32:22, 29). Here the idea is that the man and woman are to make the earth’s resources beneficial for themselves, which implies that they would investigate and develop the earth’s resources to make them useful for human beings generally. This command provides a foundation for wise scientific and technological development; the evil uses to which people have put their dominion come as a result of Genesis 3. over every living thing. As God’s representatives, human beings are to rule over every living thing on the earth. These commands are not, however, a mandate to exploit the earth and its creatures to satisfy human greed, for the fact that Adam and Eve were “in the image of God” (1:27) implies God’s expectation that human beings will use the earth wisely and govern it with the same sense of responsibility and care that God has toward the whole of his creation.

My purpose here is primarily to look at the ESV Study Bible as it relates to topics such as Earth history. It is certainly an excellent study resource, no matter where one stands on the age of the Earth issue, and will help anyone to grow in their knowledge of God and his Word.

Grace and Peace

The ESV Study Bible on creation — Introduction and Introduction to Genesis

The ESV Study Bible is a theologically conservative Evangelical work, and is certainly one of the most comprehensive study Bibles ever produced. It has been out for only three years, but it looks like it will be a highly influential reference work for decades to come.One potential positive impact of the ESVSB relates to its treatment of the doctrine of creation. The ESVSB does not take a stand on geological issues such as the age of the Earth or the extent of the flood. In both of these cases it offers cautionary notes that could open the doors to old-Earth interpretations for many readers. The authors of the study notes, though firmly committed to the inspiration of the Scriptures, believe that it is not necessary to hold to the “literal” young-Earth interpretation of Genesis.My hope and prayer is that, just as the Scofield Reference Bible led many to accept the Gap Theory (rather than young-Earth interpretations) a century ago, so the ESVSB will introduce Christians of our day to alternative viewpoints on Genesis 1, such as the analogical days and day-age interpretations.

This is my first article on the ESV Study Bible’s coverage of issues related to the doctrine of creation. Additional articles in this series include:

The ESV Study Bible on creation — Genesis 1

The ESV Study Bible on creation — Noah’s flood

The ESV Study Bible on creation — Dinosaurs in Job?

ESVStudyBibleThe ESV Study Bible (ESV is the English Standard Version translation) is a masterpiece of conservative Evangelical scholarship. The scholars who put this volume together are highly-qualified Bible experts who have a high respect for the Bible as the Word of God.

For those of you not familiar with the concept of a study Bible, this contains more than just the text of the Bible. It contains many thousands of cross-references and explanatory notes, plus drawings, maps, articles, and an extensive concordance (index). The ESV Study Bible is a massive work, with over 2,000,000 words on 2750 pages.

INTRODUCTION

The Introduction to the ESV Study Bible makes it very clear that the authors of the various articles and study notes share a commitment to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. The Introduction was written by Lane Dennis of Crossway Books and Bibles, and Wayne Grudem of Phoenix Seminary. Here are some quotes from the introduction:

The first kind [of words in the ESV Study Bible] is the actual words of the Bible, which are the very words of God to us. (p. 9)

The notes are written from the perspective of confidence in the complete truthfulness of the Bible. (pp. 10-11)

Because of this commitment to the truthfulness of the Bible, many would think that the ESV Study Bible would give a strong endorsement of the “literal” six-day interpretation of the young-Earth creationists, with a roughly 6000-year old Earth and a global flood that deposited most sedimentary rocks. The authors of the notes, however, take a cautious and broad approach to questions of the age of the Earth and the extent and work of the flood.

There are two groups of people who insist that Genesis teaches a young Earth. The first of these is the young-Earth creationists, led by organizations such as Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research. They are convinced that the Bible requires a young Earth, and distort science to make it fit their interpretation. The other group is the atheists and skeptics. It is in their interest to say that the Bible requires a young Earth, as it makes it easier for them to not believe. For the most part, neither group is willing to consider Biblical scholarship that would upset their preconceptions.

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS — Genesis and Science — Overview of interpretations

The ESV Study Bible‘s Introduction to Genesis (which is different than the Introduction I have quoted from already) was written by T. Desmond Alexander of Union Theological Seminary in Belfast. It has a section called “Genesis and Science,” which begins with an overview of the various positions that are held by theologically-conservative Biblical scholars.

The relation of Genesis to science is primarily a question of how one reads the accounts of creation and fall (chs. 1–3) and of the flood (chs. 6–9). What kind of “days” does Genesis 1 describe? How long ago is this supposed to have happened? Were all species created as they are now? Were Adam and Eve real people? Are all people descended from them? How much of the earth did Noah’s flood cover? How much impact did it have on geological formations?

Faithful interpreters have offered arguments for taking the creation week of Genesis 1 as a regular week with ordinary days (the “calendar day” reading); or as a sequence of geological ages (the “day-age” reading); or as God’s “workdays,” analogous to a human workweek (the “analogical days” view); or as a literary device to portray the creation week as if it were a workweek, but without concern for temporal sequence (the “literary framework” view). Some have suggested that Genesis 1:2, “the earth was without form and void,” describes a condition that resulted from Satan’s primeval rebellion, which preceded the creation week (the “gap theory”). There have been other readings as well, but these five are the most common.

None of these views requires denying that Genesis 1 is historical, so long as the discussion in the section on Genesis and History is kept in mind. Each of these readings can be squared with other biblical passages that reflect on creation. (pp. 43-44)

Note that only one of the five primary alternatives—the “calendar day” reading— requires a young Earth. The others each have room—or require—an Earth that is older than 6000 years. I personally make no commitment to a specific view, except to say that I rule out the calendar day interpretation based on external evidence (keeping in mind that all truth is God’s truth).

Note also that the Introduction to Genesis indicates that even Exodus 20:11 does not require a literal, seven consecutive day interpretation:

The most important of these [passages] is Exodus 20:11, “in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day”: since this passage echoes Genesis 1:1–2:3, the word “day” here need mean only what it means in Genesis 1. Therefore, it does not require an ordinary-day interpretation, nor does it preclude an ordinary-day interpretation. (p. 44)

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS — Genesis and Science — Is Genesis 1 a scientific account?

Genesis gives a true account of the origin of the universe, but one should be extremely cautious when attempting to correlate the words of Genesis to specific scientific concepts. Genesis 1 wasn’t written to tell us about the degree to which populations can vary (reproduction “according to their kinds” doesn’t place any kind of limit on variation), Genesis 2 wasn’t written to tell us that it never ever rained before the flood, and Genesis 3 wasn’t written to tell us how snakes lost their limbs.

Should Genesis 1 be called a “scientific account”? Again, it is crucial to have a careful definition. Does Genesis 1 record a true account of the origin of the material universe? To that question, the answer must be yes. On the other hand, does Genesis 1 provide information in a way that corresponds to the purposes of modern science? To this question the answer is no. Consider some of the challenges. For example, the term “kind” does not correspond to the notion of “species”; it simply means “category,” and could refer to a species, or a family, or an even more general taxonomic group. Indeed, the plants are put into two general categories, small seed-bearing plants and larger woody plants. The land animals are classified as domesticable stock animals (“livestock”); small things such as mice, lizards, and spiders (“creeping things”); and larger game and predatory animals (“beasts of the earth”). Indeed, no species, other than man, gets its proper Hebrew name. Not even the sun and moon get their ordinary Hebrew names (1:16). The text says nothing about the process by which “the earth brought forth vegetation” (1:12), or by which the various kinds of animals appeared—although the fact that it was in response to God’s command indicates that it was not due to any natural powers inherent in the material universe itself. (p. 44)

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS — Genesis and Science — The purpose of Genesis

The primary purpose of Genesis 1 seems to be to identify God as the Creator of everything who is completely separate from the creation, and to contrast him to the gods who appear in the creation accounts of the nations the Hebrews had contact with.

This account is well cast for its main purpose, which was to enable a community of nomadic shepherds in the Sinai desert to celebrate the boundless creative goodness of the Creator; it does not say why, e.g., a spider is different from a snake, nor does it comment on what genetic relationship there might be between various creatures. At the same time, when the passage is received according to its purpose, it shapes a worldview in which science is at home (probably the only worldview that really makes science possible). This is a concept of a world that a good and wise God made, perfectly suited for humans to enjoy and to rule. The things in the world have natures that people can know, at least in part. Human senses and intelligence are the right tools for discerning and saying true things about the world. (The effects of sin, of course, can interfere with this process.) (p. 44)

The doctrine of creation is much richer than merely addressing questions of how and when God created the universe, life, and human beings.

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS — Genesis and Science — Adam and Eve

I often state my position as “I believe in a real creation of the universe by the Triune God of the Bible, in a real Adam in a real garden, committing a real sin with real consequences, and in Jesus Christ as God’s only solution to those consequences.”

It is clear that Adam and Eve are presented as real people. Their role in the story, as the channel by which sin came into the world, implies that they are seen as the headwaters of the human race. The image of God distinguishes them from all the animals, and is a special bestowal of God (i.e., not a purely “natural” development). It is no wonder that all human beings share capacities for language, moral judgment, rationality, and appreciation for beauty, unlike and beyond the powers observed in the animals; any science that ignores this fact does not faithfully describe reality. The biblical worldview leads one to expect as well that all humans now share a need for God and a bent toward sin, as well as a possibility for faith in the true God. (p. 44)

Young Earthers often say that to accept an old Earth undermines the foundations of the gospel, but it is clear that one can accept an old Earth, a real Adam, a real Fall, and therefore a real need for a Savior.

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS — Genesis and Science — The flood

Young Earth creationists insist that the Bible requires a global, catastrophic flood. Many conservative scholars, including the editors and contributors to the ESV Study Bible, have looked closely at the text and determined that this is not necessary.

One must take similar care in reading the flood story. The notes will discuss the extent to which Moses intended to describe the flood’s coverage of the globe. Certainly the description of the flood implies that it was widespread and catastrophic, but there are difficulties in making confident claims that the account is geared to answering the question of just how widespread. Thus, it would be incautious to attribute to the flood all the geological formations observed today—the strata, the fossils, the deformations, and so on. Geologists agree that catastrophic events, such as volcanic eruptions and large-scale floods, have had great impact on the landscape; it is questionable, though, whether these events can in fact achieve all that might be claimed for them. Again, such matters do not come within the author’s own scope, which is to stress the interest that God has in all mankind. (p. 44)

Conclusion

Could the introductions and notes in the ESV Study Bible be wrong on these things? Yes. Could the young-Earth creationists be wrong in their interpretation of these things? Also yes. But it is clear that there are a number of conservative, Bible-believing scholars who either advocate or are willing to accept an old Earth and local flood. Based on external evidence, as well as Biblical exegesis, I choose to side with the old-Earth Biblical scholars.

Grace and Peace

The ESV Study Bible on creation — Genesis 1

ESVStudyBibleA few weeks ago, I looked at what the ESV Study Bible had to say about the doctrine of creation in its introduction to the book of Genesis (click here). The ESV Study Bible Introduction to Genesis gives an overview of the various interpretations (calendar-day, day-age, etc.), a discussion about the relationship between Genesis and science, a statement on the historicity of Adam and Eve, and cautionary notes about interpreting the account of Noah’s flood.

The ESV Study Bible is the product of theologically conservative Biblical scholars who are committed to the inerrancy of the Bible, but it clearly does not advocate young-Earth creationism.

Here are some highlights from the notes on Genesis 1:

1:1-11:26 Primeval History — In contrast to the patriarchal stories, however, other ancient nonbiblical stories do exist recounting stories about both creation and the flood. The existence of such stories, however, does not in any way challenge the authority or the inspiration of Genesis. In fact, the nonbiblical stories stand in sharp contrast to the biblical account, and thus help readers appreciate the unique nature and character of the biblical accounts of creation and the flood. In other ancient literary traditions, creation is a great struggle often involving conflict between the gods. […] Reading Genesis, readers can see that it is designed to refute these delusions. There is only one God, whose word is almighty. He has only to speak and the world comes into being. The sun and moon are not gods in their own right, but are created by the one God. This God does not need feeding by man, as the Babylonians believed they did by offering sacrifices, but he supplies man with food. It is human sin, not divine annoyance, that prompts the flood. Far from Babylon’s tower (Babel) reaching heaven, it became a reminder that human pride could neither reach nor manipulate God. These principles, which emerge so clearly in Genesis 1–11, are truths that run through the rest of Scripture. The unity of God is fundamental to biblical theology, as is his almighty power, his care for mankind, and his judgment on sin. It may not always be obvious how these chapters relate to geology and archaeology, but their theological message is very clear. Read in their intended sense, they provide the fundamental presuppositions of the rest of Scripture. These chapters should act as eyeglasses, so that readers focus on the points their author is making and go on to read the rest of the Bible in light of them.

1:3-5 — By a simple reading of Genesis, these days must be described as days in the life of God, but how his days relate to human days is more difficult to determine.

1:6-8 — Water plays a crucial role in ancient Near Eastern creation literature. In Egypt, for example, the creator-god Ptah uses the preexistent waters (personified as the god Nun) to create the universe. The same is true in Mesopotamian belief: it is out of the gods of watery chaos—Apsu, Tiamat, and Mummu—that creation comes. The biblical creation account sits in stark contrast to such dark mythological polytheism. In the biblical account, water at creation is no deity; it is simply something God created, and it serves as material in the hands of the sole sovereign Creator.

Gen. 1:14–19 — This section corresponds closely with the ordering of Day and Night on the first day, involving the separation of light and darkness (vv. 3–5). Here the emphasis is on the creation of lights that will govern time, as well as providing light upon the earth (v. 15). By referring to them as the greater light and lesser light (v. 16), the text avoids using terms that were also proper names for pagan deities linked to the sun and the moon. Chapter 1 deliberately undermines pagan ideas regarding nature’s being controlled by different deities. (To the ancient pagans of the Near East, the gods were personified in various elements of nature. Thus, in Egyptian texts, the gods Ra and Thoth are personified in the sun and the moon, respectively.) The term made (Hb. ‘asah, v. 16), as the esv footnote shows, need only mean that God “fashioned” or “worked on” them; it does not of itself imply that they did not exist in any form before this. Rather, the focus here is on the way in which God has ordained the sun and moon to order and define the passing of time according to his purposes.

1:27 — There has been debate about the expression image of God. Many scholars point out the idea, commonly used in the ancient Near East, of the king who was the visible representative of the deity; thus the king ruled on behalf of the god. Since v. 26 links the image of God with the exercise of dominion over all the other creatures of the seas, heavens, and earth, one can see that humanity is endowed here with authority to rule the earth as God’s representatives or vice-regents (see note on v. 28). Other scholars, seeing the pattern of male and female, have concluded that humanity expresses God’s image in relationship, particularly in well-functioning human community, both in marriage and in wider society. Traditionally, the image has been seen as the capacities that set man apart from the other animals—ways in which humans resemble God, such as in the characteristics of reason, morality, language, a capacity for relationships governed by love and commitment, and creativity in all forms of art. All these insights can be put together by observing that the resemblances (man is like God in a series of ways) allow mankind to represent God in ruling, and to establish worthy relationships with God, with one another, and with the rest of the creation. This “image” and this dignity apply to both “male and female” human beings. (This view is unique in the context of the ancient Near East. In Mesopotamia, e.g., the gods created humans merely to carry out work for them.)

1:28 — God’s creation plan is that the whole earth should be populated by those who know him and who serve wisely as his vice-regents or representatives. subdue it and have dominion. The term “subdue” (Hb. kabash) elsewhere means to bring a people or a land into subjection so that it will yield service to the one subduing it (Num. 32:22, 29). Here the idea is that the man and woman are to make the earth’s resources beneficial for themselves, which implies that they would investigate and develop the earth’s resources to make them useful for human beings generally. This command provides a foundation for wise scientific and technological development; the evil uses to which people have put their dominion come as a result of Genesis 3. over every living thing. As God’s representatives, human beings are to rule over every living thing on the earth. These commands are not, however, a mandate to exploit the earth and its creatures to satisfy human greed, for the fact that Adam and Eve were “in the image of God” (1:27) implies God’s expectation that human beings will use the earth wisely and govern it with the same sense of responsibility and care that God has toward the whole of his creation.

My purpose here  is primarily to look at the ESV Study Bible as it relates to topics such as Earth history. It is certainly an excellent study resource, no matter where one stands on the age of the Earth issue, and will help anyone to grow in their knowledge of God and his Word.

Grace and Peace

 

The ESV Study Bible on creation — Introduction and Introduction to Genesis

ESVStudyBibleThe ESV Study Bible (ESV is the English Standard Version translation) is a masterpiece of conservative Evangelical scholarship. The scholars who put this volume together are highly-qualified Bible experts who have a high respect for the Bible as the Word of God.

For those of you not familiar with the concept of a study Bible, this contains more than just the text of the Bible. It contains many thousands of cross-references and explanatory notes, plus drawings, maps, articles, and an extensive concordance (index). The ESV Study Bible is a massive work, with over 2,000,000 words on 2750 pages.

INTRODUCTION

The Introduction to the ESV Study Bible makes it very clear that the authors of the various articles and study notes share a commitment to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. The Introduction was written by Lane Dennis of Crossway Books and Bibles, and Wayne Grudem of Phoenix Seminary. Here are some quotes from the introduction:

The first kind [of words in the ESV Study Bible] is the actual words of the Bible, which are the very words of God to us. (p. 9)

The notes are written from the perspective of confidence in the complete truthfulness of the Bible. (pp. 10-11)

Because of this commitment to the truthfulness of the Bible, many would think that the ESV Study Bible would give a strong endorsement of the “literal” six-day interpretation of the young-Earth creationists, with a roughly 6000-year old Earth and a global flood that deposited most sedimentary rocks. The authors of the notes, however, take a cautious and broad approach to questions of the age of the Earth and the extent and work of the flood.

There are two groups of people who insist that Genesis teaches a young Earth. The first of these is the young-Earth creationists, led by organizations such as Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research. They are convinced that the Bible requires a young Earth, and distort science to make it fit their interpretation. The other group is the atheists and skeptics. It is in their interest to say that the Bible requires a young Earth, as it makes it easier for them to not believe. For the most part, neither group is willing to consider Biblical scholarship that would upset their preconceptions.

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS — Genesis and Science — Overview of interpretations

The ESV Study Bible‘s Introduction to Genesis (which is different than the Introduction I have quoted from already) was written by T. Desmond Alexander of Union Theological Seminary in Belfast. It has a section called “Genesis and Science,” which begins with an overview of the various positions that are held by theologically-conservative Biblical scholars.

The relation of Genesis to science is primarily a question of how one reads the accounts of creation and fall (chs. 1–3) and of the flood (chs. 6–9). What kind of “days” does Genesis 1 describe? How long ago is this supposed to have happened? Were all species created as they are now? Were Adam and Eve real people? Are all people descended from them? How much of the earth did Noah’s flood cover? How much impact did it have on geological formations?

Faithful interpreters have offered arguments for taking the creation week of Genesis 1 as a regular week with ordinary days (the “calendar day” reading); or as a sequence of geological ages (the “day-age” reading); or as God’s “workdays,” analogous to a human workweek (the “analogical days” view); or as a literary device to portray the creation week as if it were a workweek, but without concern for temporal sequence (the “literary framework” view). Some have suggested that Genesis 1:2, “the earth was without form and void,” describes a condition that resulted from Satan’s primeval rebellion, which preceded the creation week (the “gap theory”). There have been other readings as well, but these five are the most common.

None of these views requires denying that Genesis 1 is historical, so long as the discussion in the section on Genesis and History is kept in mind. Each of these readings can be squared with other biblical passages that reflect on creation. (pp. 43-44)

Note that only one of the five primary alternatives—the “calendar day” reading— requires a young Earth. The others each have room—or require—an Earth that is older than 6000 years. I personally make no commitment to a specific view, except to say that I rule out the calendar day interpretation based on external evidence (keeping in mind that all truth is God’s truth).

Note also that the Introduction to Genesis indicates that even Exodus 20:11 does not require a literal, seven consecutive day interpretation:

The most important of these [passages] is Exodus 20:11, “in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day”: since this passage echoes Genesis 1:1–2:3, the word “day” here need mean only what it means in Genesis 1. Therefore, it does not require an ordinary-day interpretation, nor does it preclude an ordinary-day interpretation. (p. 44)

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS — Genesis and Science — Is Genesis 1 a scientific account?

Genesis gives a true account of the origin of the universe, but one should be extremely cautious when attempting to correlate the words of Genesis to specific scientific concepts. Genesis 1 wasn’t written to tell us about the degree to which populations can vary (reproduction “according to their kinds” doesn’t place any kind of limit on variation), Genesis 2 wasn’t written to tell us that it never ever rained before the flood, and Genesis 3 wasn’t written to tell us how snakes lost their limbs.

Should Genesis 1 be called a “scientific account”? Again, it is crucial to have a careful definition. Does Genesis 1 record a true account of the origin of the material universe? To that question, the answer must be yes. On the other hand, does Genesis 1 provide information in a way that corresponds to the purposes of modern science? To this question the answer is no. Consider some of the challenges. For example, the term “kind” does not correspond to the notion of “species”; it simply means “category,” and could refer to a species, or a family, or an even more general taxonomic group. Indeed, the plants are put into two general categories, small seed-bearing plants and larger woody plants. The land animals are classified as domesticable stock animals (“livestock”); small things such as mice, lizards, and spiders (“creeping things”); and larger game and predatory animals (“beasts of the earth”). Indeed, no species, other than man, gets its proper Hebrew name. Not even the sun and moon get their ordinary Hebrew names (1:16). The text says nothing about the process by which “the earth brought forth vegetation” (1:12), or by which the various kinds of animals appeared—although the fact that it was in response to God’s command indicates that it was not due to any natural powers inherent in the material universe itself. (p. 44)

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS — Genesis and Science — The purpose of Genesis

The primary purpose of Genesis 1 seems to be to identify God as the Creator of everything who is completely separate from the creation, and to contrast him to the gods who appear in the creation accounts of the nations the Hebrews had contact with.

This account is well cast for its main purpose, which was to enable a community of nomadic shepherds in the Sinai desert to celebrate the boundless creative goodness of the Creator; it does not say why, e.g., a spider is different from a snake, nor does it comment on what genetic relationship there might be between various creatures. At the same time, when the passage is received according to its purpose, it shapes a worldview in which science is at home (probably the only worldview that really makes science possible). This is a concept of a world that a good and wise God made, perfectly suited for humans to enjoy and to rule. The things in the world have natures that people can know, at least in part. Human senses and intelligence are the right tools for discerning and saying true things about the world. (The effects of sin, of course, can interfere with this process.) (p. 44)

The doctrine of creation is much richer than merely addressing questions of how and when God created the universe, life, and human beings.

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS — Genesis and Science — Adam and Eve

I often state my position as “I believe in a real creation of the universe by the Triune God of the Bible, in a real Adam in a real garden, committing a real sin with real consequences, and in Jesus Christ as God’s only solution to those consequences.

It is clear that Adam and Eve are presented as real people. Their role in the story, as the channel by which sin came into the world, implies that they are seen as the headwaters of the human race. The image of God distinguishes them from all the animals, and is a special bestowal of God (i.e., not a purely “natural” development). It is no wonder that all human beings share capacities for language, moral judgment, rationality, and appreciation for beauty, unlike and beyond the powers observed in the animals; any science that ignores this fact does not faithfully describe reality. The biblical worldview leads one to expect as well that all humans now share a need for God and a bent toward sin, as well as a possibility for faith in the true God. (p. 44)

Young Earthers often say that to accept an old Earth undermines the foundations of the gospel, but it is clear that one can accept an old Earth, a real Adam, a real Fall, and therefore a real need for a Savior.

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS — Genesis and Science — The flood

Young Earth creationists insist that the Bible requires a global, catastrophic flood. Many conservative scholars, including the editors and contributors to the ESV Study Bible, have looked closely at the text and determined that this is not necessary.

One must take similar care in reading the flood story. The notes will discuss the extent to which Moses intended to describe the flood’s coverage of the globe. Certainly the description of the flood implies that it was widespread and catastrophic, but there are difficulties in making confident claims that the account is geared to answering the question of just how widespread. Thus, it would be incautious to attribute to the flood all the geological formations observed today—the strata, the fossils, the deformations, and so on. Geologists agree that catastrophic events, such as volcanic eruptions and large-scale floods, have had great impact on the landscape; it is questionable, though, whether these events can in fact achieve all that might be claimed for them. Again, such matters do not come within the author’s own scope, which is to stress the interest that God has in all mankind. (p. 44)

Conclusion

Could the introductions and notes in the ESV Study Bible be wrong on these things? Yes. Could the young-Earth creationists be wrong in their interpretation of these things? Also yes. But it is clear that there are a number of conservative, Bible-believing scholars who either advocate or are willing to accept an old Earth and local flood. Based on external evidence, I choose to side with the old-Earth Biblical scholars.

Grace and Peace