The Creation Account in Genesis 1:1-3 Part I: Introduction to Biblical Cosmogony -- By: Bruce K. Waltke
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The Creation Account in Genesis 1:1-3
Introduction to Biblical Cosmogony
[Bruce K. Waltke, Professor of Semitic Languages and Old Testament Exegesis, Dallas Theological Seminary.]
[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles first delivered by the author as the Bueermann-Champion Foundation Lectures at Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, Portland, Oregon, October 1–4, 1974, and adapted from Creation and Chaos (Portland, OR: Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, 1974).]
Until about a century ago, most persons living within Western culture found their answer to the question of cosmogony in the first words of the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” But today their descendants turn more and more to encyclopedias or other books on universal knowledge. There, both in text and in picture, an entirely different origin is presented. In place of God they find a cloud of gas, and in place of a well organized universe they find a blob of mud. Instead of beginning with the Spirit of God, the new story begins with inanimate matter which, through some blind force inherent in the material substance, brought the world to its present state during the course of billions of years. This substitution of matter for spirit accounts for the death of Western civilization as known about a century ago.
Why has the new generation turned from the theologian to the scientist for the answer to his nagging question about the origin of the universe? In a provocative work D. F. Payne addressed himself to this question.1 He concluded that the switch came about because of a threefold attack on the first chapter of Genesis during the latter half of the last century.
Challenges To Biblical Cosmogony
First, there came the challenge of the scientific community. In the wake of Charles Darwin’s revolutionary hypothesis of
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evolution to explain the origin of species, the majority of the scientific community fell in with Darwin’s hypothesis against the Bible. They believed they could validate Darwin’s theory by empirical data, but they thought that they could not do the same for the Bible.
The second challenge came from the comparative religionists who sought to discredit the biblical story by noting the numerous points of similarity between it and ancient mythological creation accounts from various parts of the Near East being studied at that time. If Darwin’s work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, was the bellwether for the scientific challenge, Hermann Gunkel’s work, ...
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