2. The Promise of Genesis

The Bible itself is composed of a collection of 66 individual books. These books vary in length, author, and age. The first book is Genesis, which means “beginning”. It describes a processs of creation and the early development of nations. Many of the foundations for later themes of the Bible are found in Genesis. Some important aspects are:

Creation

The first three chapters of Genesis are very significant because they establish the type of relationship between people and God. This section is also one of the most disputed because of its impact on scientific theories. Chapters one and two detail the creation of the world as we know it over a short time-span. There has been significant debate about the specific form of the creation, because the Biblical account is very brief and explained in simple terms.

The general approach of the scientific community has been to base theories only on observed events. As a result, ideas about the creation of the world have involved formulating processes that require very long time periods, in the order of millions of years. Although differing ideas about creation have made details about the early section of Genesis controversial, the message in it is still important.

If Genesis is authentic, the aspect conveyed in chapters 1 and 2 is one of ownership. According to the record, the world and all that is in it, were created by a God. In particular, all people who have lived are a result of this creation. Gensis describes the creation by God of the first man, Adam.

Genesis 2:7.: And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. NKJV

From the point of view of the rest of the Bible, the most important aspect of this was that it was designed and controlled by God. This places God in the supreme position as the creator and the owner of the Earth. In the book of Jeremiah, God is likened to a potter, who has power over his creation,

Jeremiah 18:1: The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying: 2. "Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause you to hear My words." 3. Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. 4. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. 5. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 6. "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?" says the LORD. "Look, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! NKJV

The message is that just as the potter has the right to create and destroy his creation, so God has a right to ownership of his creation. The consequence is that the God has a supreme authority and is, by definition, the standard for right and wrong. The book of Romans uses the example of the potter as part of an argument to this effect,

Romans 9:20.: But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?" 21. Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? NKJV

The Sin of Adam

As the record of creation continues, more information is provided about the man. He was given the garden of Eden to live in, and one law that he had to obey. At this stage, there was no set of laws, like the Law of Moses, instead there was just one law, it the penalty for breaking the law was death.

Gen 2:15.: Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17. "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." NKJV

It was the response to this law that formed the course of history. Immediately after the creation, most of the ideas we have about society and the world did not exist. At that time there were no particular set of laws that had to be obeyed. Instead, God first set down a single law that Adam had to obey. This law was that he was now allowed to eat from a particular tree. The punishment for eating was that he would “surely die.” Note that the punishment was nothing complicated, or any form of prolonged torture, but instead the taking away of the gift of life which God had already given. It was simply that he would surely die.

The history in Genesis reveals that Adam did indeed break the law. After being tempted by the serpent, first Eve, and then Adam ate fruit from the tree.

Gen 3:6.: So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. NKJV

So after the temptation from the serpent, Adam and Eve ate from the tree, violating the commandment of God. It is not long afterwards in the record that the response of God is recorded. The punishment for Adam and Eve was not simply instant death. Instead they were condemned to die in the future, and in the meantime a number of curses were added that made life more difficult for them.

God told Adam,

Gen 3:19.: In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return." NKJV

While the nature of Adam and Eve before the sin in the Garden of Eden is not recorded, after the sin they were mortals. The Bible records that Adam had a long life by our standards, but nonetheless he was condemned to death.

Expectation

At the time of creation, God was in complete contol of the fate of His creation. The opportunity was to make many choices about the properties of the creation, including things such a lifespan, and the environment of the Earth.

Overall, the creation itself was a blessing to those created. This was the opportunity of life that would not have been there without the creator. After the sin of Adam, and subsequent condemnation to death, the state of humans appears reasonably clear. In Genesis, life is shown to be a window of existence, surrounded by non-existence.

Gen 3:19.: In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return." NKJV

After dying, it appears that it is just like the person never existed.

Eccl 9:5.: For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten. NKJV

The hope and destiny of humans can also be viewed from a Godless viewpoint. In this case, scientific and philosophical principles may be applied to determine what people can expect from life. Rules about the length and meaning of life are then established from observation. In terms of observation, the basic case is quite simple. People are born, live for about 70 years, and then die. After a person dies, the only visible things left are memories and descendants. The following generation may observe the legacy of a person, but this has no observable effect on the person who is then deceased.

Both the creation record and natural observation show that the only thing that can be expected out of life is what can be seen. This is normally about 70 years of living, followed by a cessation of living. The Bible shows that God's blessing for the world was the creation itself. Science is a study of observed things, and so only expects what is seen. On this information, there is no evidence or reason to expect any more out of life, or any greater purpose. People do find it hard to accept death, so they say that “there must be more to it”, but this is not a valid argument. We cannot claim immortality exists simply on the basis that we would like it to be true. Furthermore, it cannot be considered a “right”, or something a person is deserves. From the Bible, people are deserving of death as a result of the rebellion of Adam, and from science people have no more right to immortality than they do to walking at the speed of light.

This analysis appears bleak, but only because our society has an expectation for more. There is nothing inherent in the observable design of the world that says that people should deserve any more hope than that. Similarly when considering that the world was created by a God, there is no basis for expecting any specific “rights” beyond those that are stated or observed.

From a human perspective people often expect a particular lifestyle and length of life. If it is shorter, or deemed less pleasant, they feel cheated. If it longer, or more pleasant it is often considered a thing that was deserved. This is based on observation, and the standard being set by the observation of other peoples' lives. From the perspective of the Bible, however, we are blessed to received life in the first place, and even more blessed to receive a long and healthy one.

The Bible does go further than this, however, where in specific cases, an offer is made that goes beyond what is currently observed. One of the first examples of this is recorded in Genesis 12, where a series of promises were made to the man Abraham.