Apologetics: The Bible and Science, Part 11 (The Cosmic Temple and “Day”)

Science and Religion“Day”

Let’s return to John Walton’s idea that God made the Creation to be his temple. The scriptures certainly point us in that   direction —

(Isa 66:1 ESV) Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?

(Act 17:24 ESV) 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man … .

But how does this impact the meaning of “day”?

Well, as we considered in the last post, the evidence is that the seventh day has not yet ended. What about the other days of creation?

God created day and night on the first day —

(Gen 1:3-5 ESV) 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

But the sun wasn’t made until the fourth day —

(Gen 1:16-18 ESV) 16 And God made the two great lights– the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night — and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

Well, it’s awfully hard to have day and night, evening and morning, three days before there is a sun! Even a primitive, enslaved race wandering the desert would know that day and the sun go together, and that “evening” is defined by the setting sun and “morning” by the rising sun.

This is not error. It’s highly figurative language. It was never intended to refer to the time-order of creation in the way we Modernists try to impose our understanding of the world on an Ancient Near East text. Rather, it’s about assigning the sun and the moon their appropriate functions within the cosmic temple.

to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness

I’ve read desperate efforts by Young Earth Creationists to defend the text as literal and chronological, in which they imagine a temporary light source, enough to give day, evenings and mornings, until God could get around to making the sun.

Is it possible? With God, all things are possible. Does it make even the least bit of sense? Of course, not. Why make a temporary sun only to make a permanent sun three days later?

The problem isn’t the three-day absence of the sun, but a misreading of the purpose of the text. John Walton suggests in The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate that the seven days, typical of such Ancient Near East (ANE) texts, speaks of the dedication or inauguration of the cosmos as God’s temple.

For example, Solomon’s temple required seven years to build (1 Kings 6:38), but the dedication was for a term of seven days, followed by a seven-day feast (2 Chron. 7:8-9).

In ANE thought, a temple is not a “temple” until the completion of the dedication, because until the dedication is complete, the god for whom the temple was built has not yet rested in the temple and the temple has not yet begun its functions as a temple.

Temples to those in the ANE were not just buildings but centers of civic, governmental, and religious life. They had functions, and those functions began with the dedication.

Hence, Walton takes the Hebrew bara, normally translated “create,” to refer to taking on a new function. He notes that Genesis 1 takes the creation from non-functional (“void and without form”) to fully functional. The sun and moon mark the day and night, the male and female humans function as images of God — and —

(Gen 1:29-30 ESV) 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

We Moderns miss this, but this was typical of the temple dedication literature of the ANE. They were not concerned with how the temple was made but with assigning each part of the temple to its intended function. We Moderns are engineers and scientists at heart. We want to know whether the pillars are strong enough to hold up the roof. The ancients wanted to know whether the pillars honored their god in a way that pleased their god. The function was paramount.

In the New Testament, Christians are “new creations,” but we aren’t destroyed and remade. Rather, we are repurposed and equipped by the Spirit for our new function.

Walton is cautious to declare that this interpretation does not require the earth to be old or young. Rather, the passage’s purpose is simply not to tell us how old the earth is. The Israelites did not need a lesson on cosmology. They needed to know that God is in charge of it all and that everything that exists serves God in his worship. It is all good — even if you are wandering in a hot, dry, dusty desert. God made it for mankind because of his love for man, and man serves in God’s temple to bring glory to God as his priests and image.

Most importantly, Genesis 1 assigns a function to man in relation to God. Being in God’s image isn’t just having a moral nature or being in relationship with God. It’s being charged to continue God’s work so that all of creation serves God’s purposes and all are drawn to worship the Creator God.

Walton explains it this way —

What would an observer see if able to observe the process of these seven days? On these we can only speculate, I will try to explore the implications of this view.

The functional view understands the functions to be decreed by God to serve the purposes of humanity, who has been made in his image. The main elements lacking in the “before” picture are therefore humanity in God’s image and God’s presence in the cosmic temple. Without those two ingredients the cosmos would be considered nonfunctional and therefore nonexistent [to those in the ANE].

The material phase nonetheless could have been under development for long eras and could in that case correspond with the descriptions of the prehistoric ages. There would be no reason to think that the sun has not been shining, plants had not been growing, or animals had not be present.

These were like the dress rehearsals leading up to a performance of a play. The rehearsals are preparatory and necessary, but are not the play. They find their meaning only when the audience is present. It is then that the play exists, and it for them that the play exists.

(pp. 96-97).

A group of buildings is not a college until it has a faculty and students. The material elements do not a college make. The college doesn’t even “exist” until its first class is enrolled and in attendance.

Hence, to the ancients, the cosmos did not “exist” until filled with its God and humans in God’s image. The cosmos had to be assigned a function — to serve mankind and God — before it was anything but void.

By the way, when we wonder about the significance of the number 7, we have to realize that the seven is important to the ancients for its symbolic meaning. According to Richard Middleton, The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1, as quoted by Scot McKnight at The Jesus Creed,

Middleton points as well to the sevenfold structure of Genesis 1. There are seven days of creation, seven execution reports (it was so) and seven evaluation reports (it was good). The literary structure of sevens extends deeper into the artistry of the text – there are multiples of seven throughout the text: 5×7 occurrences of God, 3×7 of earth,  67×7 for the whole text, 3×7 in the preparatory preamble (1:1-2), and 5×7 in the description of the seventh day. This could be coincidence, but those who study such things in ancient literature tend to think it unlikely.  (p. 83)

Seven is the number for God. The seventh day is God’s day. God’s temple must have a seven-day dedication, whether it’s Solomon’s temple or the cosmos, because to the ancients, numbers mattered.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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22 Responses to Apologetics: The Bible and Science, Part 11 (The Cosmic Temple and “Day”)

  1. Skip says:

    I am not sure I agree with the premise that day and night automatically means the sun must exist and thus the first day must be figurative. Obviously night means darkness but doesn’t necessarily mean pitch black (our nights always have stars and the moon and the aurora etc…). Day means light but it doesn’t mean that a sun has to provide the light. In the beginning with the “big bang”, there was a glowing plasma created. Why can’t day and night the first day be the result of the “big bang” and subsequently God “stretching” out the heavens (Isaiah 42:5)?

  2. SteveA says:

    I liked the book that Middleton coauthored with Brian Walsh “Truth is Stranger than it Used to Be: Biblical Faith in a Postmodern Age”. They said in the late nineties that the Christianity of the present time is too much affected by the modern way of thinking and that a turn to the postmodern will be beneficial to Christianity.

  3. “Light” on the first day refers to light itself, similar to John’s use when he said, “God is light.” “Lights” on the 4th day refers to light sources or luminous bodies. The light of the first day could be God’s light.

  4. laymond says:

    Isa 65:17 For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.

    2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
    2Pe 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
    2Pe 3:11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
    2Pe 3:12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
    2Pe 3:13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

    I understand God is to build a new new heaven and a new earth where he will dwell with his people.

  5. Price says:

    According to some, specifically Jon W. Greene, “The Six Days of Creation: A Closer Look at Scripture”, the Hebrew in Gen 1:1-2 indicates that all the elements of creation were created prior to their description in the creation “days.” If God created all these things in an instance and then used the Laws of Physics, etc., to direct the creation, then Science and the Original Hebrew of the Bible agree.. Here is an excerpt from the above mentioned article.. I’m no Hebrew expert…

    “The verbs used in Genesis 1:1-2 (i.e., God “created” and earth “was”) are in the perfect tense and distinct from the wayyiqtol verb form used in the remainder of Genesis 1. As Hebrew linguist C. John Collins notes, the wayyiqtol verb functions as “the backbone or storyline tense of Biblical Hebrew narrative discourse,” while the perfect verb “denotes an event that took place before the main storyline got underway.” Thus, the verb forms indicate the creation of “the heavens and the Earth” was separate from, and preceded, the events of the first creation day.

    The Hebrew phrase “the heavens and the earth” (hashamayim we ha ‘erets) is known as a merism, where words coupled together have a different meaning than the individual words. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament defines hashamayim we ha ‘erets as “all the raw materials needed to make sun, planets, stars, nebulae, galaxies, molecules, atoms.” Similarly, Vine and Grudem each equate hashamayim we ha ‘erets with “the entire universe” and “entire creation.” This further supports the old-earth view that the entire universe–including the Earth, Sun, Moon, and stars–were created prior to the first creation day.”

  6. laymond says:

    Jay said, “Hence, to the ancients, the cosmos did not “exist” until filled with its God and humans in God’s image. The cosmos had to be assigned a function — to serve mankind and God — before it was anything but void.”
    Question Jay, are you saying humans were created before angels, if that is so, how were we created lower than something that did not exist.? Even God can’t do that. humans would have to be lower than nothing, but we are referred to as God’s Image.
    Careful, careful, I have heard of people being carried away in a paddy wagon from trying to hard to figure out God. 🙂

  7. Skip says:


    Job says the angels preexisted creation: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7).

    God always has existed. The angels were created but who knows when. Satan was in the garden tempting eve so we know that the devil existed either before creation or at least in time to tempt Adam and Eve.

  8. Alabama John says:

    I keep waiting for the thinking of humans since they have the spirit of God in them and were made in His image (which has a lot of meaning other than looks) has not drifted to us living somewhere else before the earth was created. How many times, and where and by what name?

    Jesus lived as Gods son before he was born of woman, maybe we as His children did too. God called us humans His children and so did Jesus.

    Time might not mean as much to us as we seek through the time according to God. If the galaxys are as old as some guess, we may be too!

  9. Skip says:

    Price, It does say in Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Thus the heavens and earth were created before the first day. Verse 3 can be interpreted as being a later time and separate and apart from vs 1 and 2.

  10. Alabama John says:

    Skip, well put, that is my meaning. In the beginning couldn’t mean the real beginning as God was there and who knows what or who else and was existing before. Genesis is talking about the beginning of this earth and area for better words.

  11. laymond says:

    Skip, do you really think I was asking an inquiring question, one I didn’t know the answer to. ?
    The real question was where did the angels live, if the heavens and earth were non existent
    before humans.

  12. laymond says:

    AJ, you could be closer than most of those who wrote books, look at all the pictures of spacemen in caves, and look at landing strips on top of mountains. there are many things that just can’t be explained.

  13. Alabama John says:

    We are pretty ignorant on many things. Remember it was the experts, educators, etc. that taught the earth was flat.

    Even in my time, in grammer school we were taught no man could ever go to the moon as he would die of old age before getting there.

    We must take those experts with a large grain of salt as in history they too will be wrong on most things.

    Better to just leave it alone and trust God to do what is right by all humans that ever lived and live as happy as we can while we can. When God says welcome, how did you enjoy your time on earth? We should want to be able to answer in the positive rather than in the negative due to worrying about things we cannot change or didn’t have any hand in creating.

  14. Jay Guin says:

    Laymond asked,

    Question Jay, are you saying humans were created before angels,

    Why on earth do you suppose I would teach such a thing. I don’t follow you at all. Remember, “exist” is how something is thought of by the ancients, not us. Our thought patterns are very different. Don’t try to blend the two.

    A “church” does not exist until there are people who have a shared purpose or function. Merely being in a room together does not cause the church to exist. The assignment of purpose is essential to existence in that case.

    Just so, Christians are called “new creations” even though we have the same bodies and same brains and same soul. The change is one of purpose and function. The “new creation” exists when a purpose is assigned a new function by God and equipped with the Spirit to perform that function.

  15. Jay Guin says:

    Jerry wrote,

    The light of the first day could be God’s light.

    But there was evening and morning and day and night before there was a sun. Isn’t God present on all sides of the planet at once? How could his light shine on only half the planet? (And “God is light” is really a metaphor and not be taken too literally.)

    In the Big Bang Theory, the universe begins as chaos, with intense energy but no visible light because other particles get in the way so that light cannot be seen. It is dark.

    But then, the dark and the light are separated, so that the light of the newly created matter becomes visible. But there are no stars just yet. Hence, there is light but no stars — which come later.


    For the first 380,000 years after the Big Bang, however, the intense heat from the universe’s creation made it essentially too hot for light to shine. Atoms crashed together with enough force to break up into a dense, opaque plasma of protons, neutrons and electrons that scattered light like fog.

    About 380,000 years after the Big Bang, matter cooled enough for electrons to combine with nuclei to form neutral atoms. This phase is known as “recombination,” and the absorption of free electrons caused the universe to become transparent. The light that was unleashed at this time is detectable today in the form of radiation from the cosmic microwave background.

    Roughly 400 million years after the Big Bang, the universe began to come out of its dark ages. This period in the universe’s evolution is called the age of re-ionization.

    This dynamic phase was thought to have lasted more than a half-billion years, but based on new observations, scientists think re-ionization may have occurred more rapidly than previously thought. [Full Story]

    During this time, clumps of gas collapsed enough to form the very first stars and galaxies.

  16. Jay Guin says:


    As noted in my previous comment, I agree that “let there be light” can be read as a reference to the creation of light early in the universe’s history. While I don’t take each “day” of Genesis 1 to match particular, chronologically ordered events in the universe’s history (as some Intelligent Design theorists do), I do think that the Cosmic Temple language of Genesis 1 likely carries with it echoes of the creation event — the Big Bang — because God authored both the Big Bang and Genesis 1. It was just too cool for him not to drop a few hints in the text.

  17. R.J. says:

    If we find out that there is intelligent life out there. Would Jesus’s blood atone for them too when they come to him in faith?.

  18. Robert Baty says:


    I don’t follow your blog that closely, but I did try to do a search and couldn’t find anything on Presuppositional Apologetics.

    If you have posted something could you reference it for me.
    If you haven’t, maybe you can put it on your list of things to cover.
    I’d certainly be interested in your take on it.

    In case y’all didn’t know, there’s a big to-do coming up pitting the atheist Matt Dillanhunty against the Presuppositionalist Sye Ten Bruggencate.

    I have an article out on that today posted at:


  19. Alabama John says:

    R.J. their Adam and Eve might not of sinned as ours did.

    To believe we are all there is in the whole universe is about as accurate as thinking throughout time, the children of Abraham, Jews, were the only ones going to heaven out of all the other civilizations on this earth. Gods spirit was and is in us all.

  20. cthoward says:

    Day1 Light & dark – Day4 Sun, moon, stars
    Day2 Seas & sky – Day5 Fish & birds
    Day3 Land & plants – Day6 Creeping things and land animals

    You’ll probably get there, Jay, but there is a poetic symmetry in the creation account. The environments are created, then filled (given purpose?).

  21. R.J. says:

    Genesis 1:1-2 could also be translated “In the beginning When God began to create the heavens and the Earth, the Earth was without form and void. Then The Spirit hovered over the Waters. So God said, ‘Let there be light’ and light appeared”…

  22. Jay Guin says:


    Thanks for the note. Genesis 1 isn’t Hebrew poetry in the style of the Psalms or Isaiah, but neither is it prose as in Exodus or Judges. It is filled with figures of speech and is highly stylized. It may be a type of poetry unlike the Psalms (just as our modern blank verse is unlike the sonnets of Shakespeare). But whether or not called “poetry,” it is plainly highly figurative.

    The structure you point out shows a parallelism typical of Hebrew poetry and shows that the chapter was structured for literary purposes — which would fit Walton’s cosmic temple interpretation quite well.

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