The Israelites understood that they were the creation of him who had created all things. God had taken their ancestor Abraham out of Mesopotamia and had led him to the land of Canaan, where centuries later his descendants settled and became a new nation, informed by his life-giving word. Although a different kind of creation from that with which all things began, it still involved initiation and formation.
Israel’s Old Testament history can be epitomised as a continual struggle between Baal worship and Yahweh worship. Yahweh worship was founded on three distinctive facts about the deity: he had created the world, he had redeemed Israel from a life of slavery, and he had given the nation a reflection of his holiness and righteousness in the Law (Deut 4:32-40). Fertility came through following him, who alone had power over the weather and the womb. The Hebrew Bible mentions the Creation as many times as it mentions the Exodus, its authors recognising that everything owed its existence to him, and everything belonged to him (Ex 19:5). That is what made him God. By contrast, Baal did not create the world, did not redeem Israel, and was not holy and righteous. Ostensibly he was much less demanding.
The New Testament understanding of God was the same, but in addition it revealed that God had created all things through Jesus Christ, that believers in Christ could be redeemed from sin in a more fundamental way than was possible under the Law, and that Christ was the perfect reflection of God’s holiness and righteousness. In the 19th century, under pressure from the prophets of Baal in new guise, the Church began to abandon her belief in God as Creator. In some quarters it became customary to talk about Providence rather than God, and eventually God and Nature became indistinguishable. She thereby ceased to understand who God was and forfeited much of her power as a witness-bearer.
Let us not fool ourselves. If the world is the product of atoms ordering themselves through time, and if atoms themselves produce consciousness, the wise men of this world have some basis for arguing that God does not exist, for then his existence explains nothing. Some theologians try to save the biblical testimony by arguing that evolution and creation amount to the same thing. Heaven and earth were created over billions of years, and creation is therefore still going on today. However, the biblical testimony is that the creation of the world was finished already ‘in the beginning’, and scientists themselves never speak of ‘creation’ when describing natural processes. Unlike most theologians, scientists know what the word means.
Following Baal has always been the more popular and enticing path. As when even three years of drought were not enough to puncture belief in his powers (I Ki 18:21), we profess belief in the Creator from one corner of our lips and belief in Nature from the other. Part of our brain tells us that man has a spirit, another that spirit is just a property of matter. We read Scripture in a different way from the way Jesus himself read it. Scripture may appear to present the Creation as fact, but we persuade ourselves that the truth is ‘spiritual’ rather than literal.
It might be supposed that creation is affirmed only at the beginning of the Bible, after which it fades from view. The purpose of this Appendix is to correct that idea. The creation of heaven and earth and/or man is referred to in 16 of the 36 books of the Old Testament and in 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament. Jesus himself affirms it. Are we really prepared to say – and one day it will be to his face – that he was mistaken? The list omits references to God as father and creator of Israel, of which there are also many.
Gen 6:6f, 13 – God determines to destroy what he has made
Gen 14:19 – getter of heaven and earth (‘get’ in the same sense as Gen 4:1, Deut 32:6)
Ex 4:11 – God is our maker now, not only in the beginning
Ex 20:11, 31:17 – the significance of the seventh day of the week
I Sam 2:8 – the metaphorical pillars of the earth express the idea that the original landmass was physically supported above discrete bodies of water
II Ki 19:15, Isa 37:16
II Chr 2:12 – Hiram recognised, even accepted, Israel’s belief that Yahweh made heaven and earth
Neh 9:6 – he made the heaven, the heaven of heaven with all its starry host, the earth and its animals, and the seas and their animals
Job 10:8-12 – God is intimately involved in the genesis of each individual (also 31:15, Ps 139:13-15, Eccl 11:5, Isa 49:5)
Job 26:10 – when God created light, half the earth was illuminated and half the earth not; the boundary between the two hemispheres was a circle (also Prov 8:27)
Job 38:4-40:15 – the works of God the Creator are wonderful; it is foolish to question him on the basis that we know better
Ps 8:3 – the heavens are ‘the work of his fingers’: God was distinct from what he created, and formed it in the same sense as a potter forms a pot; the pot cannot form itself
Ps 19:1 – the firmament is God’s handiwork and declares his glory
Ps 24:2 – Yahweh founded the earth (landmass) on the (subterranean) seas and (subterranean sources of) the rivers (cf. Ps 136:6)
Ps 33:6-9 – the heavens and everything in them were made by speaking them into existence; therefore everyone should fear him
Ps 74:12-17 – God’s has power over creation because he created it: therefore we cry to him for help
Ps 89:11f (and 47) – heaven and earth belong to God because he created them, the thought also behind e.g. Deut 10:14, I Chr 29:11.
Ps 94:9 – see on Ex 4:11 and Job 10:8-12
Ps 95:4-6 – his hands formed the depths of the earth and its heights; see on 8:3
Ps 100:3 – Yahweh made us, not we ourselves
Ps 104 – an entire hymn of praise to God the Creator
Ps 121:2 – Yahweh can actively help us, much as God actively made the world
Ps 148:5 – God created by his word of power (Ps 33, Jer 10:12)
Isa 40:26, 28
Isa 42:5 – God is the origin of spirit
Isa 44:24 – God the Creator also formed Israel, from the womb
Isa 45:12, 18 – God, not nature, created the earth, in order that man might live on it
Isa 51:13, 16 – “You have forgotten Yahweh, your Maker”
Isa 66:1f – re-affirmed in Acts 7:50
Jer 10:10-12, 16 – as opposed to the gods that did not make heaven and earth
Jer 27:5 – God made the earth with his ‘outstretched arm’, just as he had actively saved Israel in the Exodus with an ‘outstretched arm’ (Ex 6:6, Deut 4:34, Jer 32:21)
Jer 32:17 – God being the Creator, nothing is too hard for him
Jon 1:9 – what it means to be a Hebrew
Zech 12:1 – cf. Isa 42:5
Mal 2:10 – Creator of all mankind, Father of Israel, one God
Matt 19:4, Mark 10:6 – “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female?” Jesus expects us to accept what Scripture says.
Mark 13:19 – “tribulation such as has not been the like since the beginning of creation” (even in the beginning there were people capable of experiencing tribulation)
Luke 11:50 (Heb 9:26) – “the blood of all the prophets shed from the foundation of the world”
John 1:3, 10
Acts 17:24-29 – God made the world, and human beings are his offspring
Rom 1:20 – his eternal power and divinity have been manifest to humanity since the creation
I Cor 11:9-12
I Cor 15:45-47 – referring back to Genesis 1-2
Col 3:9f – the ‘new man’, Christ in us (1:27), contrasted with the ‘old man’, Adam, referring back to Gen 2 (cf. I Cor 15:45-47, Eph 4:24)
I Tim 2:13
Heb 1:2 – he created the ages
Heb 1:10 – affirming Ps 102
Heb 4:3 – his works were finished (Gen 2:2) from the foundation of the world (thus ‘foundation of the world’ means the six days of creation)
Heb 11:3 – as Heb 1:2
I Pet 4:19
II Pet 3:4f