Bibliotheca Sacra 42 (1885) 201-24.

                                                   Public Domain

 

 

                                                    ARTICLE I.

 

CREATION; OR, THE BIBLICAL COSMOGONY

        IN THE LIGHT OF MODERN SCIENCE.1

 

   BY JAMES D. DANA, LL.D., SILLIMAN PROFESSOR OF GEOLOGY AND

                                         MINERALOGY, YALE COLLEGE.

 

            THE grand history of creation with which the Bible

opens is thrown into the region of myths or dreams by

two classes of writers: the scientific, who know the many

positive scientific errors in the accepted interpretation,

and see no method of harmonizing the two diverse

records; the exegetical, who hold that exegesis alone

should determine the meaning of the chapter.

            One such short-sighted exegete, for example, referring

to Professor Guyot's recent work, seeks to enforce his

various objections by such remarks as the following:

"Biblical interpretation is older far than geology"!

"Skill and knowledge in the physical sciences by no

means necessarily involve skill and knowledge in the

science of interpretation." "A man may have consider-

able knowledge about terminal moraines, and little or no

such knowledge about the origin, history, and diction of

 

   1 Creation ; or, the Biblical Cosmogony in the Light of Modern Science.

By Arnold Guyot, LL.D., Blair Professor of Geology and Physical Geogra-

phy in the College of New Jersey. pp. 140. 12mo. New York: Charles

Scribner's Sons. 1884.

     [For Professor Dana's former statements of his views upon this subject,

see articles by him in BIBLIOTIIECA SACRA, vol. xiii. (1856) pp. 80-130,

631-655, and vol. xiv. (1857) pp. 338-413, 460-525, and 854-874.--EDS.]

            VOL. XLII. NO. 166.-APRIL, 1885.     14

 



204                             Creation.        [April,

 

mogony, and that the brief review of the majestic march

of events before man makes a wonderfully befitting pre-

lude to God's message of law and love to man, constitu-

ting the Bible.

            I do not mean to say that Professor Guyot's views as to

the interpretation, or as to the meaning of the Hebrew

words in which the oldest form of the document appears,

are in every case beyond question. But I do claim for them

the first place among all the interpretations that have

been offered. It is now thirty-five years since Professor

Guyot, two years after his arrival in America, gave me,

at my house one evening, his views on the first chapter of

Genesis. I listened to his interpretations of the successive

verses with increasing interest to the end, and with in-

creasing admiration and affection for the earnest, simple-

minded, and learned Christian. Professor Guyot took up

the subject after years of training in biblical as well as

natural science, and pursued it with deep and honest,

searchings for the truth, believing both in the Bible and

in Nature, and in the inspiration and truth of the first

chapter of the Bible.

            For convenience of reference I here insert

 

                        THE COSMOGONY OF GENESIS.1

 

            CHAP. I.-1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

   2 And the earth was waste and void; and darkness was upon the face of the

deep. And the Spirit of God brooded upon the face of the waters.

   3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw

the light, that it was good : and God divided the light from the darkness.

  5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And

there was evening and there was morning, day first.

   6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and

let it divide the waters from the waters:  7And God made the firmament,

and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters

which were above the firmament : and it was so. 8 And God called the

firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, day

second.

 

  1 The few variations from the Authorized Version have been made by

Professor Wm. G. Ballantine.

 



1885.]                         Dana:  Creation.                                 205

 

 

   9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together

unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. 10 And God

called the dry land Earth ; and the gathering together of the waters called he

Seas : and God saw that it was good. 11 And God said, Let the earth bring

forth grass; the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his

kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth : and it was so. 12 And the

earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree

yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it

was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, day third.

   14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to

divide the day from the night ; and let them be for signs, and for seasons,

and for days, and years : 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of

the heaven to give light upon the earth : and it was so. 16 And God made

the two great lights ; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light

to rule the night : he made the stars also. 17 And God set them in the firma-

ment of the heaven to give light upon the earth, 18 and to rule over the day and

over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness : and God saw that it was

good. 19 And there was morning and there was evening, day fourth.

   20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving

creature that hath life, and let fowl fly above the earth in the open firma-

ment of heaven. 21 And God created the great sea monsters, and every

living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly,

after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind : and God saw that it

was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and

fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. 23 And there

was evening and there was morning, day fifth.

   24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his

kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind : and

it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle

after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind

and God saw that it was good.

   26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and

let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the

air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping

thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own

image, in the image of God created he him ; male and female created he

them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and

multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over

the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing

that moveth upon the earth.

   29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed,

which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the

fruit of a tree yielding seed ; to you it shall be for meat. 30 And to every

beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that

creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb



206                                         Dana:  Creation.                                 [April,

 

for meat: and it was so.  31 And God saw every thin; that he had made,

and, behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was

morning, day the sixth.

     CHAP. II.-1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the

host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had

made ; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had

made. 3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that

in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

 

In the following pages I briefly review and explain

Professor Guyot's interpretation, without following pre-

cisely the order in his work, adding in some parts other,

thoughts of his from our many conversations, where they

could aid in the illustration of the subject-thoughts which,

with more leisure than was afforded him in the few last

weeks of his life, he would probably have brought into

his volume. Where we differ on any point I make men-

tion of it. I have also here and there added an argument

in support of his views.

I. In approaching the subject we have to recognize

the fact that man's comprehension of any idea communi-

cated by another is limited by the amount and character

of his knowledge and beliefs, and that the interpretation

of the terms employed in the communication would be

determined thereby. For example, the idea of space

about the earth would necessarily take shape in the mind

as that of a solid firmament with men who never had any

other idea on the subject, even if the author imparting

the idea were divine. The idea of fluid in space, whether

liquid or gaseous, would become that of waters to those

who already believed in the "waters above the heavens."

(See 148th Psalm, from which Professor Guyot makes a

citation. The general expression "plants means to ordi-

nary men ordinary plants, such as are everywhere in

view; and only to one, educated in science or philosophy

are the essential attributes of a plant present in the sim-

plest of the species. Accordingly, the terms or words by

which the ideas in the Bible cosmogony are expressed

must necessarily, although these ideas were divinely com-

 



1885.]                                     Dana:  Creation.                                 207

 

municated, bear some impress of want of knowledge or

comprehension. This important psychological fact is not

referred to by Professor Guyot. My attention was drawn

to it nearly thirty years since by the eminent theologian

of New England, Dr. Nathaniel W. Taylor.

I suppose it to be far from certain that Moses was the

inspired man who received from God the record of his

creative works. It seems probable that the record was a

chapter of sacred truth among men long before his time,

and that it was the source of the early monotheism of the

world, and of some of the cosmogonic ideas associated

with this belief.

II. The brief review of creation in Genesis sets forth

only the grand stages of progress in the creative work,

or those great events that marked epochs in the history.

Such it should have been if written by a man of supreme

intelligence and exalted philosophy, and such it must be

if God is the author. The number of these epochs in the

account is eight. A method of interpretation that puts

among the eight an event not of this epochal character

should, therefore, be received with doubt.

III. System under law pervades God's works, and the

discovery of it is one great end of all philosophic study of

nature.  Professor Guyot looked for system in the arrange-

ment of the Mosaic record, as well as in the relations of

the works themselves; and the result he reached is in

itself profound testimony to its divine origin.

Of the six days of Genesis, the first three are like the

last three in having light as the work of the first of the

three days, and in having two great works on the last of

the three. There is, thus, a parallelism in movement

between the two halves, or the first and second triads.

On the first day, the light was the light of the universe,

dependent on the constitution of matter; on the fourth

day, the first of the second triad, it is light from the sun,

moon, and stars to the earth.

Further: the first triad included the events connected

 



208                                         Dana:  Creation.                                 [April,

 

with the inorganic history of the earth, the last of which,

on the third clay, was the arrangement of the lands and

seas; the second triad was occupied with the events of the

organic history, from the creation of the first animals to

man.

Further: the third day, or last of the first triad, ends

with the creation of plants, as its second great work, or

the introduction of the new element, life, which was to be

the chief feature of the progress during the succeeding

era; and on the sixth day, the last of the second triad, the,

second great work is the creation of man, a being made

"in the image of God," and destined through his spiritual

nature to immortal progress.

This system in the divine record is not a figment of the

student's fancy. It is a fact; a fact that displays purpose

in the author of the document, and knowledge beyond

that of ancient or any time, and philosophy more than

human.

IV. The first verse of the chapter, besides proclaiming

God the creator of the " heavens and the earth," teaches tfrat

the beginning of the heavens and the earth was the begin-

ning of the existing universe. The words imply that the,

heavens and the earth began to exist in some state or con-

dition; which condition, as regards the earth, was one

waste and void," or, as another translator writes it

"formless and naught."

The actual condition is partly indicated by the work of

the first day, "Let light be, and light was." The light

was the first light of the universe. The phenomena of

light have been proved to be a result of molecular action,

and to be dependent upon fundamental qualities of matter

as now constituted. Man has ascertained the wave-lengths

in the vibration of molecular force corresponding to light

of different parts of the spectrum, and also other laws of

light. He has found, moreover, that the laws of heat

and of electrical and chemical action are so involved with

those of light that all these conditions are convertible and

 



1885.]                         Dana:  Creation.                                             209

 

one in molecular origin. The fiat "Let light be" was,

consequently, the beginning of light, heat, and electrical

and chemical action in matter, which matter till then was

inert; the beginning of laws of action which have since

remained unchanged; the beginning of the activity which

led to chemical combinations, and later to systems of

worlds, to suns and to planets; the beginning, therefore,

of "the Generations of the Heavens," or of the develop-

ment of the universe.

The physical facts with regard to light--which, it

should be noted, are not modern facts, but as old as the

first creative day thus prove to us that the "waters,"

upon the face of which the Spirit of God moved when

the fiat of the first day went forth, were not literally

waters, whatever the strict meaning of the Hebrew word;

nor was "the earth" a defined sphere in space.

V. The word day in the chapter, with the accompany-

ing expression, evening and morning, is a stumbling-block

to many. The ordinary exegete finds only 24-hour days,

and stands to it that the earth in its revolution was the

timepiece then in use. Professor Guyot concludes from

the five: different uses of the word "day" in the narrative,

and the fact that it is employed for three days before

there was a sun to divide the day front the night (an argu-

ment which others have used), that the earth's day of

twenty-four hours may not be, and cannot be, the day of

Genesis ; and, hence, that the days were unlimited periods

--time of whatever length the work in each case re-

quired; and that the expression "evening and morning"

indicates, by a familiar metaphor, the beginning and con-

summation of each work. If, as is now clear, the Genesis

is an account of the creation of the universe, days of

twenty-four hours, measured off by the revolving earth,

can have no place, in the history. Moreover, it is hardly

possible that Moses, who wrote, "A thousand years in thy

sight are but as yesterday when it is past," and, "Before

the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst

 



210                             Dana:  Creation.                                 [April,

 

formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to

everlasting, thou art God," entertained so belittling an

idea of the Creator and his work. Before the first day

there was no literal evening; there was darkness; and then,

as the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, at

the fiat, there was light. The succession was "evening

and morning," a beginning and a consummation of the

great work.

VI. The dividing of the waters from the waters by a

firmament is the recorded work of the second day. The

beginning of activity in matter took place on the first or

preceding clay; the appearance over the earth of dry land

amid the gathered waters was to be the work of the third

or following day. The historical event of chief impor

tance between the two was the making of the earth.

This division of the "waters from the waters" has usu-

ally been interpreted as a separation, by an expanse or

firmament, of waters of the earth's surface from the

waters, that is, the clouds, above; or, of the earth's molten

surface from the clouds. Such an event is too trivia? for

a place among the eight great works, and also is out of

place on the second day. It accomplished nothing, for it

left the earth under its swaddling-band of clouds. The

events of the first and third days help us to understand

that of the second or intervening day.

On the first day, matter was endowed with force: The

next great event was the making of the universe thus begun;

it was the dividing-up of this now active matter, diffused

through the immensity of space; the subdividing and

arranging of it, until the system of the universe had been

developed, and ultimately the earth had become a defined

sphere, with the "heavens of heavens," or a great expanse,

around it.  The words describe sufficiently well such a

division of the " waters from the waters"; or, perhaps,

more strictly, the final result, the earth separated from

the diffused matter of space in which, on the first clay, it

was still involved. By the fiat, the rotation of matter in

 



1887.]                         Dana:  Creation.                                 211

 

space was begun (if this was not part of the work of the

first clay), and the system of the universe was carried for-

ward. The earth, though thus defined, was still an unfin-

ished earth.

It matters little what may be the literal meaning of the

word translated "firmament." Although regarded gen-

erally among the Jews as signifying a solid firmament, it

is far from certain that Moses, who was versed in all

Egyptian learning, so considered it.1  Professor Guyot

quotes from verse twentieth of the narrative the expres-

sion, "fowl that may fly above the earth in the open

firmament," as evidence on this point.

VII. The gathering together of the waters into one

place, called seas, and, thereby, the appearing of the dry

land, was the work of the first half of the third day. After

the defining of the earth in the solar system--at first, no

doubt, a liquid sphere--slow cooling and consolidation

went on and, finally, the condensation of the larger part

of the enveloping vapors took place, covering the sphere

with water. Still later, the waters were gathered into

one place and the dry land appeared, thus determining

the arrangements of the surface, and making the sphere

ready for living species. With this finishing event the

inorganic history of the the earth was brought to an end.

Geological readings reach back to this period of the

first dry land--that of the so-called Archaean era, the

geography of which era is now pretty well understood.

Of the earth in its molten state the science has no facts

from observed rocks, and derives its conclusions and con-

jectures mostly from facts and general principles in chem-

ical and physical science.

VIII. The second fiat of the third day commences

with the words, "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb

 

Professor Guyot places the actual defining of the earth under the work

of the third day, instead of with that of the second day, as above. The

order and character of the events are the same in the two methods of

arrangement.

 



212                             Dana:  Creation.                                 [April,

 

yielding seed, and the fruit-tree yielding fruit." In the

expressions, "yielding seed," "having seed in itself," the

words describe, with wonderful precision, as Professor

Guyot observes, the characteristic of a living species,

distinguishing it from mineral hr inorganic substances.

Beings having powers of growth and reproduction were

now facts, and this was the great creation. These powers

are exhibited in the simplest plants; and hence the new

creation was in an important sense complete, although

represented at first only by the lower tribes of plants.

Obedience to the fiat, "Let the earth bring forth," con-

tinued in after time; new and higher species coming forth

in succession, and ordinary fruit-trees not until the later

part of geological time, long after the Coal period..

With reference to the introduction of life, science has

no explanation; for no experiments have resulted, in mak-

ing from dead matter a living species. We can only say,

"God created." The growing plant is on a higher level

than that of ordinary molecular law; for it controls and

subordinates to itself chemical forces, and thereby is ena-

bled to make out of mineral matter chemical compounds

and living structures which the forces without this con-

trol are incapable of. Only when growth ceases, and

death consequently ensues, does ordinary chemical law

regain control, and then decomposition commences. More

than this, the living being, before it dies, produces germs

which develop into other like forms, with like powers;

and thus cycles of growth are continued indefinitely. In

making its tissues, the living plant is storing force for the

sustenance and purposes of beings of a still higher grade

--those of the animal kingdom ; beings that cannot live on

mineral materials. There is, hence, reason for believing that

the power which so controls and exalts chemical forces,

raising them to the level required by the functions of a

plant, cannot come from unaided chemical forces; and

much less that which carries them to a still higher level,

--that of the living, sentient animal.

 



1885.]                         Creation.                                            213

 

In the Bible record, the creation of plants preceded that

of animals; and this order is sustained by facts from

nature. For the reason just stated, the plant, as Guyot

says, "is the indispensable basis of all animal life." Fur-

ther, the lower species of plants are capable of existing

in waters hotter than animals can endure; and, therefore,

the condition of the waters of the globe would have

suited them very long before they were fitted for animal

life; very long, because diminution in temperature must

have gone on with extreme slowness.

Professor Guyot observes, further, that, since vegeta-

tion uses the animal-destroying gas, carbonic acid, as a

means of growth, it served to purify the ancient waters

and air, and, hence, was a befitting part of the inorganic

division of the history. He also well says that the living

principle fundamental to the plant was prophetic of a

higher organic, era beyond, that of animal life.

Distinct remains of plants have not yet been found in

Archaean rocks. These rocks have been so changed by

heat that relics of plants would have been obliterated or

obscured, had they existed. Some of the rocks contain

great quantities of graphite, or black lead, a variety of

carbon that in some cases (as in Carboniferous slates in

Rhode Island, and at Worcester, Mass.) has resulted from

the action of heat on coal beds. The graphite which is

common in the Archaean rocks of Canada is regarded by

many as evidence that Archaean time had marine plants in

great abundance.

IX. On the fourth day, "God said, Let there be lights

in the firmament of heaven." In a subsequent sentence, the

words are: " made the two great lights," "the stars also."

But the purpose of the lights is set forth in detail in each

of the five verses relating to the day's work: "to divide

the day from the night"; to be "for signs, and for seasons,

and for days, and years"; "to give light upon the

earth"; to rule over the day, and over the night "; "to

divide the light from the darkness"; "the greater light

 



214                             Dana:  Creation.                                 [April,

 

to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night."

The great purpose of the sources of light was, therefore,

accomplished by them, whether they were "made" or

made to appear. It was fully accomplished when the sun

became to the earth the actual source of day and night

and seasons, and that would have been when it first shone

through the earth's long-existing envelope of clouds.

Professor Guyot speaks of this envelope as consisting of

electrically lighted vapor, and calls it a photosphere,

resembling, in some respects, that now about the sun; and

he observes that the sun, moon, and stars became visible

only after its disappearance. The modern "Aurora" is

a result of electric disturbances over the present cold

sphere; and there can be no doubt of the vastly greater

intensity of such disturbances during the period of the

earth's cooling. But, whatever the fact as to the electric

light about the earth when the temperature had greatly

diminished, there is no doubt that the envelope of clouds

was of long continuance, and that the time was slowly but

finally reached when the earth was free from it. One of

the sublimest passages in literature is the reference to the

work of the third day in creation, contained in God's

answer to Job "out of the whirlwind " (chapter xxxviii.);

and, although often quoted, it may well be introduced

here: "Who shut up the sea with doors?" "When I

made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a

swaddling-band for it, and established my decree upon it,

and set bars and doors, and said, Hitherto shalt thou

come, but no further, and here shall thy proud waves be

stayed." The final disappearance of that swaddling-band

would necessarily have resulted in the events of the

fourth day.

This first appearance of the sun naturally comes after

the creation of plants; for the cloud envelope would

have continued long after the earth's temperature had

diminished to that degree which admitted of the growth

of the lower plants. And, besides, it is a natural prelude

 



1885.]                         Dana:  Creation.                                 215

 

to the organic era, the sun's light being essential to all

higher grades of animal species; though not to the lower.

X. The fiat of the fifth day reads: "Let the waters

bring forth abundantly." The words which follow

describe the lower orders of animals, or the Invertebrates,

together with all Vertebrates excepting Mammals (or

quadrupeds and man). The fiat of the first half of the

sixth day begins with "Let the earth bring forth," and

the words that follow describe the Mammals, the division

of Vertebrates of which Man is the head.

The succession in the living tribes given in the chapter

is: (i.) Plants (third day); (2.) Invertebrates and the

lower Vertebrates (fifth day); (3.) Mammals, or the higher

Vertebrates (first half of the sixth day) ; (4.) Man, the

head of Mammals (second half of the sixth day). This

course of progress accords in a general way with the

readings of science, and the accordance is exact with the

succession made out for the earliest species of these grand

divisions, if we except the division of birds about which

there is doubt. Geology has ascertained many details with

regard to the earth's life and the upward gradations in

the various tribes. But the grand fact of progress, and

the general order in the succession, were first announced

in the Cosmogony of the Bible:

Science might say that the principles of zoological

classification would have been conformed to more closely

if the work of the fifth day had ended with the Inverte-

brates, leaving all the Vertebrates to the sixth day. But

this arrangement, viewed in the light of the philosophy of

history, is no improvement; since the record, like the rest

of the Bible, has special reference to Man, in whom is the

consummation of all history. The sixth day's work

includes only that particular division of Vertebrates, to

which Man himself belongs, whose common character-

istic, that of suckling their young, is, through the feelings

of subjection, reverence and affection it occasions, of the

highest value as a means of binding child to parent, man

to man, and man to his Maker.

 



216                                         Creation.                                [April,

 

XI. The various species mentioned as the work of the

fifth day, and again those of the sixth day, came forth not

as a motley assemblage simultaneously at the word of

command, but, as already remarked, in long succession.

Guyot, like his friend Agassiz, saw in the facts connected

with this long succession, and in those exhibited by living

species, evidence of a development, or gradual unfolding,

of the kingdoms of life. He found this evidence in the

general rise in grade of species from the simple begin-

nings of early time to the crowning species, Man. He

found it, further, in the many examples of two or three

lines of species divaricating off from so-called comprehen-

sive or composite types, like the forkings from a single

stem. Agassiz called the types at the head or source of

such forkings synthetic types; and Guvot (Objecting to the

term "synthetic " because it implies a putting together of

what was previously separate) denominated them undi-

vided types, or types that were to be divided in the course

of future progress. He found, following his friend, still

more striking evidence of development in Agassiz's dis-

covery that a very close parallelism existed, in numerous

cases through all departments of living species, between

the successive kinds of life in the geological series and

the successive forms in the stages of development of

single living species, so that the successive adult forms of

the young (or early) world were like the successive young

forms in the development of a living species. For exam-

ple, in Crustaceans, or the group to which the Crab, Lob-

ster, and Shrimp belong, the species of early time are

very much like the younger stages of some of these mod-

ern species. Thus there was a degree of parallelism

between the development of the long succession of spe-

cies and development from the germ of a single high

grade species of later time. No principle worked out by

his studies called forth from Agassiz greater enthusiasm

and eloquence than this last; and none led him so posi-

tively to the belief that, in his searchings and discoveries

of law and system in nature, he was studying “the



1885.]                         Dana:  Creation.                                 217

 

thoughts of God," or, in the words of Guyot, "the will or

purpose of God." The principle is now universally recog-

nized among biologists, and has become a means of read-

ing the past. To the ordinary eye the coiled shell of a

Nautilus or Ammonite is a shell more or less smooth and

pretty, large or small. To one who has learned to read

nature, as has been pointed out by Flyatt, it is an historical

roll: the inner coil, simple in form, being the shell of the

youngest stage in its development; the successive coils,

of varying form and adornment, that of the successive

stages, one after another, toward the adult stage. And,

further, the first stage reveals much as to the early forms

in the geological history of the type, and the following, of

later forms in the chronological succession. This is an

example under the principle of parallelism between the

stages of embryonic development and the stages in the

earth's life-development.

To the minds of Agassiz and Guyot, thus taught by

nature and to that also of the writer,--the hand of God

did not appear to be lifted from his works by such truths.

They held that the development was carried forward by

the Creator, and, looked upon each successive species as

existing by his creating act. God was not only at the

head as the source of power, but also in every movement,

and creatively in each new step of progress. And how

much more God-like is such a system of development

than the making of the fifth-day motley assemblage of life

at the spoken word!

The very words in the first chapter of Genesis, as

Guyot observes, sustain this interpretation. Nowhere is

there taught that abrupt creation of species which pre-

judging exegesis so generally finds. The narrative reads,

with reference to plants, "Let the earth bring forth";

not let certain kinds, or all kinds, of plants exist; but "Let

the earth bring forth"; and the creation begun in the fiat

on the third day was continued on afterward, through the

earth's period of growth and development. So, again,

VOL. XLII. No. 166.    2



218                             Dana:  Creation.                                 [April,

 

with regard to the lower animals, with fishes, reptiles, and

flying things, it says "Let the waters brink forth," insti-

tuting thus a course of development, and not fixing its

limits; and conforming in the command "Let the waters"

to the geological fact that the earliest animal species were

all of the waters, and a great part of those that followed

these throughout Paleozoic time. Further, on the sixth

day, it reads, "Let the earth bring forth," although the

species were of the highest class of the animal kingdom,

--that of Mammals.

Gradual development is thus the doctrine of the chap-

ter, as it is of nature. Modern science teaches what the

Bible, in its opening chapter on cosmogony, first taught.

Agassiz believed it; and still he was, to the end of his

life, a believer, also, in the creation of each species by a

divine act.

X11. Does the chapter on cosmogony in the Bible

teach the direct creation of each species by a divine act? We

look in vain for any definite statement on this important

subject in connection with the works of the third, fifth,

or sixth days, with the exception of the work of the latter

half of the sixth clay, the creation of Man. The expres-

sions " Let the waters bring forth," "Let the earth bring

forth, "and the following expression, "God made," do not

imply that a divine act was required for each species

they teach definitely that, man excepted, only three fiats

were required for all the various and immensely numer-

ous species that have existed in past time. And in this

feature the first chapter of Genesis is like the rest of the

Bible.

The question is thus left an open one, to be decided, if

decided at all, by the study of existing life and that of the

past. Considering, then that the fact is not decided by

the Bible, and in view of the readings of nature that have

been made of late years by many investigators, Professor

Guyot admits in his recent work that the question re-

mains open. He observes that the use of the Hebrew



1885.]                         Dana:  Creation.                                 219

 

word bara, translated created, on three occasions, and three

only, in the chapter,--the first at the creation of matter,

the second at the creation of animal life, and the third at

the creation of Man,--teaches that these events were dis-

tinct creations, that is, demanded divine intervention; and

that evolution from matter into life, froth animal life into

the spiritual life of man, is impossible ; but adds with

reference to the rest of the work of creation, "the ques-

tion of evolution of matter into various forms of matter;

of life, into the various forms of life, and of mankind into

all its varieties, remains still open."

This was not the early view of Professor Guyot nor

that of the writer. It was slowly reached by us both

and only after an accumulation of facts by science--with

regard to the wide varieties of existing species, the rela-

tions of varieties to physical conditions over the globe

and the consequent gradations of forms, and the grada-

tions of existing species in some cases into those of the

preceding geological age, together with other paleouto-

logical discoveries--had made the argument: for the devel-

opment or unfolding of the systems of life, before held,

an argument for development through some natural

method under "the constant and indispensable supervi-

sion of God over the work." We both hold that this

natural method is at present only very imperfectly under-

stood, and' may always be so.

The idea of gradual development pervades the Mosaic

narrative from beginning to end. The creation of light

is not the creation of an elemental substance or property,

but the imparting of forces to the particles of matter

and thus initiating change and progress. The dividing

of the "waters from the waters" was not the creation of

any particular substance or condition, but the carrying

forward of the development of the universe by move-

ments of rotation and systems of divisions and combina-

tions, under the law of gravitation and other molecular

laws, until suns and worlds had been evolved, and, among



220                             Dana:  Creation.                                 [April,

 

the worlds, the Earth. The gathering of the waters into

one place and the appearing of the dry land was not the

sudden creation of dry land, but a further carrying on of

changes until the molten earth had become covered with

the condensed waters, and had at last its seas and conti-

nents: not its finished continents, for the fiat is simply a

beginning of work that was to be completed, as in other

cases, in future ages.

Thus the inorganic history in the narrative is like the

organic. If Professor Guyot accepts of the nebular

theory in his system it is because the early part of the

chapter not only is unintelligible without it, but actually

teaches it. Thus science explains and illumines the

inspired narrative, and exalts our conceptions of the

grand events announced. Thus, also, the sacred record

manifests its divine origin in its concordance with the

latest readings of nature.

XIII. Of the last work, the sacred record says, "God

created Man in his own image, in the image of God cre-

ated he him." Three times this strong affirmation is

repeated in the announcement, and three times "the

potent word" bara is used. Man's commission, as sent

forth, was "subdue" "and have dominion," in which all

nature was placed at his feet; and being made in the

image of God, he was capable of moral distinctions and of

spiritual progress. He was thus above nature, while of

nature. "With him begins the age of moral freedom and

responsibility, that of the historical world."

Science has made no real progress toward proving that

the divine act was not required for the creation of Man.

No remains of ancient man have been found that are

of lower grade than the lowest of existing tribes; none

that show any less of the erect posture and of other char-

acteristics of the exalted species.

XIV. The words closing the verses on the sixth day are;

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all

the host of them." The chapter opens with the words,



1885.]                         Dana:  Creation.                                 221

 

In the beginning God created the heavens and the

earth; "and this verse announces the finishing of "the

heavens and the earth," a comprehensive expression

which throws light on the meaning of the first announce-

ment and of those which follow it.

XV. "Now begins the seventh day, the day of rest,

or the sabbath of the earth"--the day now in progress

which has not yet reached its evening, in which God's

"work is one of love to man, the redemption;" the cre-

ation of " the new man, born anew of the Spirit, in the

heart of the natural man."

Parallel with the week of Creation, Man, a being of a

few short years, has his week; and, by God's appoint-

ment, as well as Nature's need, his seventh day of rest-

of rest” from daily toil, but of activity in the higher

world of the spirit."

"Such is the grand cosmogonic week described by

Moses," says Guyot in his concluding remarks. I have

found, as years have passed since that conversation in

august, 1850, no reason to change my estimate of Pro-

fessor Guyot's exposition of Genesis, unless it be that I

give it, with small exceptions, fuller concurrence, and

find higher satisfaction in its teachings. Every feature in

it, its spirit, its philosophy, its sufficiency as an interpre-

tation of the sacred text, its consistency with the de-

mands of sciences commends it.

The appeal to nature-science which has here been

made in order to sustain an interpretation of a chapter in

the Bible will be to the scientific exegete--or rather to

some such--another profane effort, though "of pious

intent," to set aside the claims of the science of hermen-

eutics," calling for another "warning of the readers of

this noble little volume"--to which will now be added

"the excellent BIBLIOTHECA SACRA." But this way of

warning the world against the mistakes of science, with-

out knowing the difference between its truths and errors,

is an unrighteous course. It is unrighteous, because its



222                             Dana:  Creation.                                 [April,

 

charges are ignorantly made; and also because what

there is of truth in science is truth from., a divine source,

as strictly so as that of the Bible; and, thirdly, because

it does harm to the cause of truth and not good.

To aid the reader in studying up science enough to

make himself a judge of the scientific facts fundamental

to the interpretations, I here give a, brief review of these

facts.

 

     I. For the law as to the basis of light, see any text-book on Physics. The

existence of the ether in space is a fact now experimentally established.

Not only have the wave-lengths for the different parts of the spectrum been

determined with great accuracy, but also octaves in the wave-lengths cor-

responding to octaves in sound-vibrations; for, although the laminous part

of the solar spectrum embraces a little less than one octave, the spectrum has

been studied for about four octaves beyond the red end, and one beyond the

violet.

     2. The melted condition of the earth when first a sphere in space is not

doubted by geologists, all geological and astronomical facts favoring the

conclusion.

     3. The temperature at the earth's surface when molten was above 2,000°

Fahrenheit, as proved by the fusing temperature of rocks. As a conse-

quence, the ocean's waters, equivalent in volume to a layer of water 1,000

feet deep over the whole earth's surface, were then in a state of dense vapor

about the sphere; and so was all else of the surface material that was

vaporizable at that temperature. Since a cubic inch of water makes, under

ordinary pressure and temperature, a cubic foot of steam, the envelope of

vapor, atmosphere, and other gases was of great thickness and density.

The water-vapor began to condense at a temperature above the ordinary

boiling point, because, as experiment has shown, this temperature varies

with pressure; and under the heavy pressure of the superincumbent ocean

of vapors and atmosphere, the temperature at which the ocean would have

begun to be made from the deposition of water, would have been, accord-

ing to one estimate, 600° Fahrenheit.

     4. Rapid evaporation goes on not only at the boiling temperature, but

also at temperatures much below it. While hot, the clouds must have made

a continuous envelope about the sphere, which cooling would finally have

broken up and removed.

     5. Plants live on mineral matter, and animals not--a fact well estab-

lished ; and hence the animal kingdom is dependent on the vegetable king-

dom for its existence.

     6. Plants of the lower tribes survive in waters whose temperature is as

high as 200° Fahrenheit, and some are not destroyed at a temperature of

220° Fahrenheit.



1885.]                                     Dana:  Creation.                                 223

 

     7. The question as to a genetic relation between the lowest animals and

lowest plants is not yet positively decided by observation;  for some biol-

ogists hold that the two kingdoms graduate into one another through inter-

mediate species; and that although the lowest plants may have long pre-

ceded the lowest animals, the latter were a gradual development from the

former. This is far from proved. The grand distinctive fact, that animals

are self-conscious, or conscious of the outer world, know, avoid obstacles in

locomotion, is strikingly true of the lower of the simple Rhizopods, which

are species of the lowest division of the animal kingdom, as is well shown

by Leidy. The claim is made only for the very lowest of this low group,

which are yet doubtful things.1

     8. The first dry land of the globe appeared in what is called by geologists,

The Archaean era. The position of the part over the American Continent

is well known, and these positions indicate the form and location of the fin-

ished continent. Mountains existed over them, and among these oldest

mountains of the oldest dry land are the Adirondacks, and the Highlands of

New Jersey. The best part of the evidence with regard to the existence of

plants in this era is stated on page 213. The existence of the lower of ani-

mal species during the later part of the era is yet unproved.

    9. Aquatic invertebrate animals were, the earliest of animal species,

according to the testimony from fossils in the earth's rocks. Fishes come

next in order; then Amphibians; then Reptiles. All these tribes were rep-

resented by species before the earliest of Mammals appeared. The exis-

tence of Birds before the earliest Mammals is not proved, though believed

by some paleontologists on probable evidence. The early Mammals were

Marsupials (like the Opossum and Kangaroo) and lived in the era called by

Agassiz "The Age of Reptiles." True Mammals came into geological

history in the Tertiary era, very long after the appearance of the first

Birds, and they so far characterize the era that Agassiz called it " The Age

of Mammals.

     Man was the last of the series. It is not established that his bones or

relics occur as far back as the Tertiary era.

     10. The facts with regard to system, development-like, in the order of suc-

cession in the plants and animals of geological history are not doubted by

 

   1 Dr. Leidy says, in his large, finely illustrated work on the Fresh-water

Rhizopods of North America (2379), after alluding to the absence of a

mouth and stomach: " Without trace of nerve elements and without definite

fixed organs of any kinds internal or external, the Rhizopod--simplest

of all animals, a mere jelly speck-moves about with the apparent purposes

of more complex creatures. It selects and swallows its appropriate food,

digests it and rejects the insoluble remains. It grows and reproduces its

kind. It evolves a wonderful variety of distinctive forms, often of the

utmost beauty ; and indeed it altogether exhibits such marvelous attributes

that one is led to ask the question, In what consists the superiority of animals

usually regarded as much higher in the scale of life?"



224                                         Dana:  Creation.                                 [April,

 

any geologist or naturalist. Whether the development went forward with-

out divine intervention for each species, in accordance with some theory of

evolution, is a question about which there is disagreement.

 

No other facts from geology or the other nature-sci-

ences are fundamental to the explanation, though all that

are known may be used in its illustration. Geologists

differ as to the present condition of the earth's interior;

yet would not do this long if they could get down there

for a look; the fact whether now liquid or not has

nothing to do with the interpretation of Genesis. They

differ as to theories of mountain-making.; but opinions

on this point do not affect the interpretation. And so it

is with other unsettled points in geology ; they have no

fundamental bearing on the interpretation of the first

chapter of Genesis.  

Geologists vary much as to their views on this chapter;

and some will take it literally, affirming that it is a mere

fable, no better than other fables in ancient history. We

would ask of all such (as well as of the nature-doubting

exegete) a reconsideration of the question; and if they

have doubts with regard to the authenticity of the Bible

itself, they may perhaps be led, after a fair examination of

the narrative, and a consideration of the coincidences

between its history and the history of the earth derived

from nature, to acknowledge a divine origin for both; and

to recognize the fact that in this Introductory chapter its

Divine author gives the fullest endorsement of the Book

which is so prefaced. It is his own inscription on the

Title Page.

 

 

This material was taken from the public Domain

Bibliotheca Sacra 42 (1885) 201-24.

Please report any errors to:  Ted Hildebrandt at thildebrandt@gordon.edu