Did Moses edit Noah?
Defending a literal Genesis 1 through a speaking and inscripturating God
By GARY VANDER HART; WORLD MAGAZINE
Westminster Theological Seminary graduate Gary Vander Hart recently wrote to me, saying that “the study of creation vs. theistic-evolution has been one of my passions since 1958 when I was a student at Calvin College.” He’s concerned that BioLogos, a promoter of theistic evolution funded by the Templeton Foundation to proselytize for evolution by sending speakers to churches, is on the march. He sent me his story of how he came to believe in a literal Chapter 1 of Genesis, and we present excerpts of it below. I found many interesting points, including the idea that Moses edited earlier work, instead of Moses being the writer edited a millennium later. —Marvin Olasky
I first heard in 1959 a challenge to the teaching of a literal interpretation of Genesis when I took a physical science class from John De Vries, a Calvin College professor of physics, a great teacher who was deeply loved by his students for his care for them. For 25 years he taught all Calvin pre-seminary students this required course, and I learned recently that his main goal in this course was to wipe out of our minds any possibility that the earth was young and to convince us that science had proven the earth was billions of years old.
I remember on my first day of class how he said he would not be a Christian believing in the Bible as God’s Word had he not found out from a Calvin Seminary Hebrew professor that the word “day” in Genesis could mean not only 12 hours, not only 24 hours, but also a long period of time. He was so convinced by the sure results of the radioactive decay rates in the rocks that the earth was billions of years old, that either the Bible was telling a lie when it said God created in six days or each of the days of Genesis 1 meant billions of years. When I left that class I had no scientific information to refute him.
But it seemed strange to interpret “day” as billions of years when Genesis 1 defines the word “day” over and over with “evening and morning,” “evening and morning,” “evening and morning,” and “first day,” “second day,” “third day,” etc. Later I learned that every time the word day is used with ordinal numbers, such as “first day,” “second day,” “third day,” etc., such as in the story of marching around Jericho (Joshua 6) or the week of making sacrifices (Numbers 29), it always means a literal day. It seems like the good professor had forgotten that words are defined by their near context, not a distant context. For example, we don’t sing, “We’ll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home” to mean we’ll all feel homosexual when Johnny comes back from the Civil War.
Though some of my seminary classmates thought it didn’t matter how long it took God to make the earth, as long as God did it, it seemed to me it was not right to use “day of the Lord” with a meaning that could be more than 24 hours to interpret Genesis 1, because that interpretation was using a far context rather than a near one to define the word “day.”
I was not as prepared (as many of my friends seemed to be) to accept the “sure findings of science,” because by God’s providence during my oft wanderings through the stacks of the Calvin College library in the late 1950s I had happened upon and read several books on the history of science, and it was clear how often scientific theories completely changed over time. Spontaneous generation was believed for centuries, to be refuted by the theory that life can only come from life. The four elements (earth, air, fire, and water) theory lasted for centuries, until a few generations ago we learned about 114 to 118 elements. There were various theories on what caused objects to fall before Newton’s theory of gravity, and even now no one completely understands why gravity works or what it is.
But most of all it seemed strange that—in as much as God created the world to give a bride to His Son and to get praise from angels and men—He would spend 99.999 percent of that creation time evolving non-image bearers—namely the rocks, plants, and animals, but not man. That prolonged survival-of-the-fittest kind of creation process seemed like a person making a violin who carves it, glues it, varnishes it, but doesn’t put strings on it until he is 99 years old and can finally have it fulfill its purpose to please the violin maker’s ear with beautiful music.
It bothered me to imagine an earth with mankind (or a Stone Age half-developed man) on it for 150,000 years, living ignorant of God. It bothered me because Genesis 5 and 11 state that it was around 2,000 years between Adam and Abraham (the Septuagint allows a few more years in Genesis 11).
But more than that, it contradicted the God revealed in the Bible as aspeaking God, or to use Francis Schaeffer’s apt expression: “God is there and he is not silent.” By the “speaking God” of the Bible, I mean not only the wordless speech of the sun, moon, and stars of Psalm 19, but also the kind of covenant speech in human language found already in Genesis 1, 2, and 3: God speaking directly to Adam in the cool of the day and God giving His covenant commands to rule and care for the earth and to refrain from eating from that one tree. This began on Day 6 of creation. It continued on right up to the coming of the Seed of the Woman, 4,000 years later, as Hebrews 1:1-2 states, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,” who is the Logos, the speaking Word.
However, the evolutionary long-age view of man teaches there was some 150,000 years of mankind on earth where man had not heard God speak to them directly. Such a nonverbal God does not fit the Bible when we take the Bible’s dates literally in the Old Testament. For the Bible tells us early man always lived among those who had heard God speak directly to them: Adam had heard God speaking directly to him and could witness that to others for 950 years, explaining how a holy God who righteously condemned all to die for rebellion in the Garden is a loving God who promised a Victor over death. Enoch did the same, as did Noah.
Noah, who heard God speak directly to him, lived until the time of Abraham, according to the Hebrew text of Genesis 11, and could witness that God’s judgment of a flood was righteous because of man’s violence and that God is good for He promised long-suffering and no more universal floods. Near the time that Noah died, Abraham often heard God speaking to him, as did his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob. The verbal revelations they received contained promises that no general revelation could reveal, such as, “… as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided’” (Genesis 22:14), which is a prophecy of Christ dying on Mount Moriah, which He did.
These men who lived from Adam to Abraham not only had the testimony of a speaking God but also of an inscripturating God, which flies so completely in the face of evolution and the positing that writing only took place around the time of Moses, almost 150,000 years after Homo habilis or Homo erectus or Homo sapiens or whatever appeared.
When I was a boy in Denver, Mrs. Post, my eighth grade teacher, taught us that writing was invented around the time of Moses because man had discovered the Hammurabi code of that time, but nothing earlier. Since then, the Amarna tablets have been found from Abraham’s time, as well as Hittite and Egyptian writings going back to a time close to that of Noah.
But if one knows the Hebrew language and reads Genesis 5:1, one discovers that writing was probably invented and used during Adam’s 930 years, for Genesis 5:1 says, “This is the book of the generations of Adam.” The Hebrew word for book is “ס פר,” a word used around 300 times in the Hebrew Bible that always refers to writing, such as a book of the law, scroll, register, book of the kings, letter, or written order. Genesis 5:1 is the heading for one of 10 little books or “generations of” found in Genesis, starting with Genesis 2:4. It is only under the constant barrage of evolutionary thinking that we have been convinced that Adam and his descendants were too stupid to invent writing, even though we have Genesis 4:21-22 telling us of harp and flute makers, bronze and iron makers, and Noah as builder of a boat equal in size to 550 railroad cattle cars.
So when Noah went on the ark, he took Book 1 (Genesis 2:4-4:26) and Book 2 (Genesis 5:1-6:8) with him. And by the time of Moses there were 10 of these books Moses edited (see Genesis 22:14) and called “Genesis.” If this is indeed how Genesis came to be, then another false idea of theistic evolution promoter BioLogos is refuted, namely that Moses copied or modified Babylonian myths for his creation story. If Adam, Noah, Abraham, and others were the authors of some of these 10 books, and if God gave Genesis 1:1-2:3 as His own introduction dictated to and written by Adam, then the sources were thousands of years before the Babylonians wrote their creation myths, for Babylonians didn’t exist until after the flood. Then Moses did not write Genesis 1 as a contrived apologetic to refute pagan myths, but he wrote what God revealed as the way it really happened.
In this perspective, God is both a speaking God and an inscripturating God, so that when the Pharaohs oppressed the Israelites before Moses arrives they have the first book of Scripture to give them hope. This is the Bible’s view of a covenant-making God, not the far-off deistic God of theistic evolution. Because Abraham had these Scriptures of the speaking God, he could pray on Lot’s behalf: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25), for Abraham had read Genesis 3:15, and Genesis 6-9 with its promises.
But the evolution picture portrayed God as far off, a deist God not speaking directly, not caring whether people understood that the God of all the earth does right, that He is holy and good.
People would say to me, “God gets the glory for the long time it took because it reveals His infinity.” I would respond, “God gets little of what He mainly glories in, for Ephesians 1:1-11 tells us what He mainly glories in is ‘to the praise of his glorious grace.’ The 150,000 years of Homos habilis to Homo sapiens sapiens with its struggle for death and absent a speaking redeeming God gets Him no praise for His glorious grace but a scoffing for His bungling trial-and-error miseries.” This BioLogos view has no place for the Logos, the personal loving Word whose cross predicted in Genesis 3:15 will one day display His grace.
These theological thoughts of “He is (and was) not silent,” however, do not deal directly with “the sure proofs of evolution” that everyone seems to accept: the radioactive decay rates, the distant starlight, the so-called “missing links,” the thousands of feet of rock layers, the fossils in the rocks, the supposed early rock layers having simpler fossils, etc., etc.
It was only after reading The Genesis Flood (1962) that I learned that the sure proofs of evolution from science were refuted by hundreds of scientific facts. Indeed, there are so many refuting facts that I now view evolution as the grand myth of the past 150 years. I am convinced of what Malcolm Muggeridge (the C.S. Lewis of England after C.S. Lewis died) said in his Toronto lectures: “The theory of evolution will be one of the great jokes in the history books of the future. Posterity will marvel that so flimsy and dubious an hypothesis could be accepted with the incredible credulity that it has.”