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LECTURE IV NOTE A.—P. 122.

THE CREATION HISTORY.

The rights and wrongs of the reconcilability of the creation narrative in Gen. i. with modern science have recently been discussed anew by Mr. Gladstone and Professor Huxley in the Nineteenth Century (vols. xviii and xix.). I do not enter into this discussion. But if the one disputant imports into this early narrative more than it will bear, the other surely does less than justice to it when he brackets it “with the cosmogonies of other nations, and especially with those of the Egyptians and the Babylonians,” as essentially of the same character with these.

I content myself with quoting on this point the tribute to this ancient narrative by Haeckel, surely an unprejudiced witness, in his History of Creation. He says: “The Mosaic history of creation, since, in the first chapter of Genesis, it forms the introduction to the Old Testament, has enjoyed, down to the present day, general recognition in the whole Jewish and Christian world of civilisation. Its extraordinary success is explained, not only by its close connection with Jewish and Christian doctrines, but also by the simple and natural chain of ideas which runs through it, and which contrasts favourably with the confused mythology of creation current among most of the ancient nations. First, God creates the earth as an inorganic body; then He separates light from darkness, then water from the dry land. New the earth has become habitable for organisms, and plants are first created, animals later; and among the latter the inhabitants of the water and of the air first, afterwards the inhabitants of the dry land. Finally, God creates man, the last of all organisms, in His own image, and as the ruler of the earth. Two great and fundamental ideas, common also to the nonmiraculous theory of development, meet us in the Mosaic hypothesis of creation with surprising clearness and simplicity—the idea of separation or differentiation, and the idea of progressive development or perfecting. Although Moses looks upon the results of the great laws of organic development (which we shall later point out as the necessary conclusions of the Doctrine of Descent) as the direct actions of a constructing Creator, yet in his theory there lies hidden 421the ruling idea of a progressive development and a differentiation of the originally simple matter. We can therefore bestow our just and sincere admiration on the Jewish lawgiver’s grand insight into nature, and his simple and natural hypothesis of creation, without discovering in it a so-called Divine Revelation.”—Hist. of Creation, i. pp. 37, 38 (Eng. trans.).

The grounds on which Haeckel concludes that it cannot be a Divine Revelation are—(1) the geocentric error that the earth is the central point in the universe; and (2) the anthropomorphic error that man is the premeditated end of the creation of the earth,—neither of which “errors” need greatly distress us. For the rest, the creation narrative certainly goes back on early tradition,894894Modern criticism would bring down the age of this narrative to the Exile, and explain its origin by late Babylonian influence; but the Dillmann and Delitzsch have shown strong reasons for rejecting this view, and for regarding the tradition as one of the oldest possessions of the Israelites.—Cf. Delitzsch’s New Com. on Gen. pp. 63–66; and Whitehouse in Introduction to Eng. trans. of Schrader’s Keilinschriften, i. pp. 18, 19, on Dillmann. and is not a scientific precis, written in the light of the latest discoveries of modern geology. Yet it is possible to hold that the Spirit of Revelation is active in it, not merely making it the vehicle of general religious ideas, but enabling the writer really to seize the great stadia of the creation process, and to represent these in such a way as to convey a practically accurate conception of them to men’s minds. Modern science may supplement, it is astonishing how little it requires us to reverse of, the ideas we derive from this narrative of the succession of steps in creation, assuming that we deal with it fairly, in its broad and obvious intention, and not in a carping and pettifogging spirit. The dark watery waste over which the Spirit broods with vivifying power, the advent of light, the formation of an atmosphere or sky capable of sustaining the clouds above it, the settling of the great outlines of the continents and seas, the clothing of the dry land with abundant vegetation, the adjustment of the earth’s relation to sun and moon as the visible rulers of its day and night, the production of the great sea monsters and reptile-like creatures (for these may well be included in “sheratzim”) and birds, the peopling of the earth with four-footed beasts and cattle—last of all, the advent of Man—is there so much of all this which science requires us to cancel? Even in regard to the duration of time involved,—those dies ineffabiles of which Augustine speaks,895895“Of what fashion those days were,” says Augustine, “it is either exceeding hard or altogether impossible to think, much more to speak. As for ordinary days, we see they have neither morning nor evening, but as the sun rises and sets. But the first three days of all had no sun, for that was made on the fourth day,” etc.—De Civitate Dei, xi. 6, 7. Cf. De Genesis ii. 14.—it is at least as difficult to suppose that only ordinary days of twenty-four hours are intended, in view of the writer’s express statement that such days did not commence till the fourth stage in creation, as to believe that they are symbols.—Delitzsch defends the symbolic interpretation in his New Commentary on Genesis, p. 84 (Eng. trans.).

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