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GEOLOGY AND THE BIBLE ACCORDING TO THE IDEAL INTERPRETATION OF THE SIX DAYS.
On a former occasion1 I numbered myself among the supporters of the Concordistic theory, not, indeed, according to its ordinary interpretation, but in a modified form of the same, which, I thought, was not affected by the objections brought against the ordinary interpretation. I wish to-day first to sketch this modification of the Concordistic theory, although I must, at the same time, confess that a more careful examination has convinced me that it is untenable.
The history of the earth, as traced out by geology, may be divided into two great parts, of which the second begins with the first appearance of organic life. The first part comprises the transformation of the earth from a gaseous, fiery, or watery mass to a solid spheroid, or to a spheroid surrounded by a solid crust; the formation of the primitive rocks, and of the older Azoic strata, and the appearance of the first islands and continents. The narrative in Genesis up to the middle of the third day may be brought into harmony with this portion of the earth's history. The Mosaic record begins at ver. 2 with the period in which the earth was covered with water and shrouded in darkness; on the first day follows the appearance of light, on the second
1 In the 2nd ed. of Dibel und Katur, p. 288, cf. p. 260.
the setting aside of part of the waters for the formation of an atmosphere, on the first half of the third the appearance of dry land. The only difficulty here is caused by the existence of light, and of the alternation of day and night without the sun; but it is not inconceivable that in some manner not to be clearly defined, but different from the present conditions, light, with warmth and other imponderable fluids, existed and operated on the earth. We need not fear any substantial objections to this view from geologists, simply because they themselves can give us no more trustworthy information concerning this portion of the earth's history than can historians about the mythical period in the history of an ancient people.1
The second part of the earth's history begins in Genesis, as in geology, with the appearance of vegetation. According to Genesis, vegetation appeared on the second half of the third day, and perhaps existed for some time before the earth stood in its present relation to the sun. Genesis does not say how long this condition lasted, but it makes the beginning of the present relation between the earth and the sun follow immediately on the appearance of vegetation. We may therefore assume quite unhesitatingly that vegetation need only have existed a short time—perhaps for a few hours—under other than the present sidereal, atmospheric, and climatic conditions. After these had set in, the animals were created; first (on the fifth day) the water and air animals, and then (on the sixth day) the land animals.
For the reasons given in the last lecture, it is
1 See above, p. 247.
impossible to identify the second half of the third day and the three following days of the Hexaemeron with the separate periods of the second part of the geological history of the earth, that is, with the separate palaeontological periods; the second part of the Mosaic and the second part of the geological history of the earth only correspond generally. In detail, the history of the earth and its organisms given by palaeontology seems very different from that given by Genesis, which I have just quoted. For in the palaeontological history, the organic beings do not appear in the same order and grouping as they do in the Hexaemeron; geological events occur in the separate palaeontological periods, which entirely or partially changed their fauna and flora, and considerably changed the surface of the earth. In reference to the difference between the Mosaic and the geological records, I added on a former occasion1 the following remarks to some observations of Delitzsch's :s—
"Although it is said that land and sea were separated from one another on the third day, this does not mean that from thenceforth the boundaries of both were unchangeably fixed, and that the raising of the sea-level and the inundations of the land, which, according to the teaching of geologists, affected the formation of the earth's crust even after the creation of organic beings, that is, after the third day, could not have taken place. The separation of land and sea, and God's decree that from thenceforth both
1 In the 2nd ed. of Bibel unci Natur, p. 248 seq.
1 Genesis, 3rd ed. p. 118 (4th ed. p. 98). Cf. Stutz, Schapfungsgeschichtc, p. 40.
should exist together, and that the land should not again for any length of time be submerged by water, was the first work of the third day; the narrative does not say that at the close of the third day the form of the land was absolutely and unchangeably fixed. After Moses had announced the important and fundamental truth that the dry land had come up out of the waters, and that by this means an abode had been provided for plants, land animals, and men, he was not concerned with any further changes which might take place on the dry land, because they would in no way modify that fact. We may therefore say with Delitzsch: 'There is ample space between the third day and the creation of man for the fashioning of the earth's surface (the formation of the fossiliferous strata); and there is no reason against our supposing that this process of fashioning was connected with catastrophes which broke through the (vegetable creation of the third and the) animal creation of the fifth and sixth days, and destroyed whole generations.'
"The Mosaic record, no doubt, seems to say that first the plants, then the water and air animals, and lastly the land animals had each been called into existence by one separate act of creation; and that these were the ancestors of our present flora and fauna, for it is expressly asserted that the plants and animals created by God were intended to reproduce themselves. Nevertheless, we are in no way obliged to limit ourselves to this first and obvious interpretation. The two facts which, as I have shown before, are of religious importance, and which therefore had to be clearly and distinctly stated in the Biblical narrative of the creation, are these, first, that the animal and vegetable world which we see around us was created by God; and second, that the bringing forth of plants and animals had a distinct place in the six acts of the divine drama of creation. Palaeontologists may be right in asserting that not only one, but many consecutive creations of plants and animals took place; that catastrophes and developments occurred between these separate creations by which the preceding creations were entirely or partially destroyed or petrified; that whole multitudes of species died out, and were replaced by new species; but yet all these facts do not contradict, but only amplify and carry out the other two facts I have just mentioned. It still remains perfectly true that our present animal and vegetable world is descended from that created by God, that the creation of the first plants is one of the characteristic events of the third day, and the creation of animals one of the characteristic events of the fifth and sixth days of the divine week of creation. The details of the earliest history of the fauna and flora, which palaeontology attempts to give us, had not the religious importance of those two facts, and could therefore be omitted from the Bibh'cal record.
"But if we may assume that the formation of the earth's surface, so far as the division of water and land are concerned, began on the third day, as it is said in Genesis, but was continued through different modifications beyond the close of the third day, there is no further difficulty in supposing that the creation of plants does indeed characterize the third day; that is, that it first took place, not before, but during the third