Why Six Days?

Yes, I know, “Because God says so.” Okay, now that is settled is there any more to be said? Jon thinks so.

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24 comments

  1. Let’s ignore the fact that 1:5 reads ױהי ערב ױהי בקר יום אחד and not the expected ordinal ראשון setting this up as the definition of day and then his explanation works just fine. While we’re at it let’s chuck the Hebrew and Romans 5 too.

  2. Why do you think Jon is contradicting this?

    What about 2:4 “In the day…” (בְּיֹ֗ום עֲשֹׂ֛ות יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶ֥רֶץ)

  3. This is where Bavinck pegs it in volume 2. ביום is the idiom when. I have a section in my dissertation on this and will look up the references. The collocation every other time it occurs (or almost every) works adverbially as when and not as the prepositional phrase “in the day.” So if 2:4 is to be rendered “in the day” it is sui generis.

  4. I’m just a simple historian but it seems like special pleading to say that Yom can’t mean what it seems to mean in 2:4.

    If Moses wanted to signal that “when I said ‘Yom’ in ch. 1 meant it to be taken to refer to real days but not such as are identical to ours” how would he do it? More than once it’s been argued to me, “Yom means 24 hours and that’s all it means.”

    This is why 2:4 is so interesting in this connection. Yom clearly doesn’t mean “24 hours” here.

    It is interesting that the AV, NKJV, ASV, ESV and NASB translate it with “day” whereas the NIV translates it with “when.”

  5. David, I’m not following you there. The question is, “why six days,” not “a comprehensive study on the nature of the creation days,” and it seems to me that the answer being given for the former works irrespective of the answers one could provide for the latter. I also fail to see what here is supposed to contradict Hebrews and Romans 5. Could you be clearer?

  6. It is volume 3.196-200. It may seem special pleading (and it pains me to agree with the NIV, although it also agrees with the Luther’s translation zu der Zeit), but that is the idiom for “when”. [I am bracketing out for this discussion the use of the collocation ביום modified by a number as in 2:2 for that is most definitely “on the x-th day”]

    However, another problem is that when you move to 2:4 you are moving to the next pericope. It is the introduction to the first Toledoth section. My guess (and I could be wrong) is that the reason that AV, NKJV, ASV, ESV, NASB, and Geneva read “in the day” derives more from English style the Hebrew grammar. It is more stylistic drawn since in the previous clause one finds the infinitive construct with the preposition beth, which is rendered “when they were created” as an infinitive phrase. Yet, not withstanding this duplication, the idiom is there. In fact the material from Bavinck argues that if one translates in “in the day” in 2:17 then as opposed to idiomatically then God’s wrath miscarries and the curse proved to be a falsehood (cf. Bavinck 3.196-200).

  7. Not Hebrews, Hebrew, as in the use of the Hebrew language in exegesis. As to why six days, I think Dr. Clark summed it up nicely above “because God said.”

    As to Romans 5, I’ll follow John Murray here, that if you don’t have six days and young earth, then Romans 5 falls on its head (no pun intended).

      • But how can there be a historical Adam who brings in death to the cosmos by his sin, which Christ undoes by his obedience to the Law vis-a-vis Lev 18:5, Rom 5, inter alia, if there was already death in the cosmos which an old earth necessitates?

    • David,

      I’m intrigued about your last comment, can you clarify or refer me to where I can see what John Murray said?

      Thanks.

      • It is in his commentary on Romans, which is currently boxed up under Romans 5 dealing with the Adam-Christ typology.

  8. RSC: I would love your input here.

    David: I agree that we should take yom in its normal usage however this really solves nothing because we should really be establishing the form of literature Gen. 1:1-2:4a is. Until the genre is established we will be at a standstill.

  9. Form of literature?

    It was recognizable historical narrative, until MGK realized he better create a new genre (“exalted prose” or some such), so he didn’t have to answer why his exegesis flew in the face of all the known historical narrative markers present…

  10. Bruce, upon what grounds are you saying it’s historical narrative? Let’s have an answer that is more than a reference to the waw-conjunction and which takes into account the (1) form, (2) genre, (3) setting, and (4) intention of Gen. 1:1-2:4a.

  11. “… And there was evening and there was morning, one day.’ Genesis 1:5.

    “… And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.” Genesis 1:8.

    “There was evening and there was morning, a third day.” Genesis 1:13.

    “There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.” Genesis 1:19.

    “There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.” Genesis 1:13.

    “… And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31.

    Here is God pounding the table through His Scripture that His creation occurred over a literal 6 days by this six time repeated description of a day. If we prefer pictures or obscure arguments over six repeated express definitions of a literal day, then we can ignore just about anything else in Scripture.

    Bill

  12. Richard,
    You’re going to have to put the toledot where it belongs… at the head of the following major textual division of the book. That drops the section to the proper length, closing at the end of 2:3.

    Beside the waw marker, you have location(s) specified, conversational speech, prediction-action-explanation, temporal progress markers, yom associated with the ordinals… how much more data do we need relevant to genre? If God wanted us to think it was HN, how much clearer did he need to be?

    Speaking of form, and the double tri-partite schema (1-3, 4-6), of course none of us wants to say that using literary device or orderly creative process-description rules out the idea that God in fact acted essentially as the text relays it. The first 9 of the 10 plagues are obviously laid out in a triple-tri-partite scheme. But we don’t deny that those things took place in that order and in that manner. And in the latter we don’t even have a time frame specified in the text. (or in another place, like Ex.20!) Is there a justification that will work for Genesis, that won’t work for Exodus… that doesn’t sound like special pleading?

    Setting? Intent? ANE? Comparative cosmogony? Moses is attacking myth… with his own “myth” style? I don’t think so…

    The passage is introductory to the Pentateuch, but especially to Genesis, which is practically narrative throughout, aside from specific genealogies and embedded verse, oracle, etc. (insertions of those kind common enough in biblical HN generally). So, I don’t see why its position at the beginning is a compelling argument for coming up with a radically new way to read it. ISTM the natural expectation would be to read it as flowing straight into the rest of the book.

    • Bruce,

      Thanks for the reply. In terms of the toledot, I agree that strictly speaking it is beginning a new section but I think it can also be seen as forming an inclusio with Gen. 1:1 so marking Gen. 1:1-2:4a off as a distinct literary unit, (cf. Futato).

      (1) form – You have identified the main literary forms so I will leave this section alone.

      (2) genre – All of the features you mention are there but that does not prove the historical aspect. Before I do I would suggest a read of Gene M. Tucker’s Form Criticism of the Old Testament and G. W. Coats’ Saga, Legend, Tale, Novella, Fable: Narrative Forms in Old Testament Literature. In the former work Tucker discusses two genres, narrative and poetry. Now within the former there are included they myth, the folktale, the saga, the legend, the novelette and historical narrative in the strict sense all of which, with the exception of the last one, are ‘poetic narratives’. Within saga we find historical sagas, ethnographic sagas, etiological sagas and within these there are various distinctions, e.g. cultic etiological sagas.

      So think of the famous fables, or fairy stories you were told as a child. Did not these specify locations, contain conversational speech, include prediction-action-explanation, and contain temporal progress markers? If so your point has failed to establish the conclusion you wish.

      (3) setting – The form of the text under discussion is poetic in structure and would seem suited to the liturgy of a cultic festival that celebrated the creation. Knowing what we do about the cultic patterns of ANE cultures the main festival would have been held in Autumn and from what we know about the Israelite cultic calendar we can suggest the feast of Tabernacles. Ultimately I would suggest that the setting in life of the text was at a New Year festival where it functioned as a festal liturgy (cf. The Psalms in Israel’s Worship by Sigmund Mowinckel).

      Now I am not suggesting that the liturgy was copied straight into the Hebrew Bible, I am sure that it has been redacted a little to suit its textual placement within Genesis.

      (4) intention – To teach that Yahweh is the creator God, over and against the gods in Babylon.

      Now I don’t expect you to completely agree with this summary, but do make sure you pick up copies of Gene M. Tucker’s Form Criticism of the Old Testament and G. W. Coats’ Saga, Legend, Tale, Novella, Fable: Narrative Forms in Old Testament Literature.

  13. Dear Literalists,

    In 2Sam 12:1-4, Nathan the prophet tells king David a story about a rich man, a poor man, and a lamb.

    In these verses, precisely what about the Hebrew grammar tells you that Nathan is telling a fictional story rather than relating actual historical events precisely as they happened?

    David was certainly fooled in vv.5-6.

    David, a native Hebrew speaker, who knew Hebrew very well, as his psalms certainly prove, was completely fooled by Nathan’s use of language. The takeaway here is that the language used is no different, yet it’s still not intended to be taken literally; it’s just a story to show David his sin.

    So how do we know whether or not the rich man and the poor man actually existed?

    Context. Context governs meaning.

    Dictionaries and grammars are just systematized observations about how words are used in various contexts. Context trumps reference volumes as a mother trumps her children.

    So what exactly does the context of Gen 1 tell us? In Gen 2:5-7 we are told that man was created “When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up”.

    But wait! In the previous chapter, it said that man was created AFTER the plants! Moses is contradicting himself! That poor, inept ancient writer, Moses, must have stupidly pasted two different accounts together because he didn’t know which one was right…right?

    No. Moses was well aware of the apparent “contradiction”. He wasn’t troubled by it. Nor was he troubled by saying in chapter 1 that the creation of the cosmos took 6 days, but in 2:4 that it took only 1 day. It’s not a problem to Moses that the source of the light on day 1 is the sun, even if the sun isn’t created until the 4th day. Moses doesn’t bat an eyelash at this. He wouldn’t have even found it an interesting question.

    And why, if Moses has an intellect greater than a 6 year old, do these things not bother him?

    Because he did not intend the passage to be taken literally.

    Furthermore, if you insist on taking the days as literal 24 hour days, you must also believe that the world is flat.

    On day 2, God separates the waters. After this separation, there are waters above and waters below. On day 3, he creates the dry land in between these waters.

    This is nothing other than the flat earth cosmogony that the ancients all believed. There was a dome up in the sky that held back the waters above, and there were waters underneath the dry land, also known as Sheol where you go when you die, the underworld. This is clearly and obviously what is being described. If not, then you’ve got a story to tell and we’re all waiting for it to be told. Please tell us exactly what these waters would have referred to in the eyes of the ancient Israelites. Tell us what they would have understood the firmament to be. The fact is, what they are is only clearly explained in terms of the well known, widespread ancient cosmogonic view, namely the flat earth with the dome of heaven, the waters above and the waters below.

    Now if you insist on taking the days literally, you must also take literally what was created on those days. You MUST believe that there ARE waters above, that there are waters below, and that there is a firmament separating them. In short, you must believe in the flat earth that the Bible describes all over the place.

    If you take the days literally, and thus must take the CONTENT of those days literally as well in order to be hermenuetically consistent, then you MUST believe that the light of day 1 has no source, because the sun has not yet been created.

    Then you have to explain what that light actually IS. Once you’ve done that, you have to explain why this light is no longer around. Where did it go? Did it disappear when the sun was created? If so, why on earth would it be included in a narrative that was supposed to explain the world that the Israelites could see with their eyes as being created by God?

    In other words, isn’t the point of the narrative to explain THAT God created the world which we inhabit? That world that we can see and taste and hear and touch and smell? If so, then why would Moses talk about some mysterious light that was no longer a part of the creation which we inhabit??? There’s no reason for it. It would just be confusing. The Israelites would have been wondering what this mysterious light was.

    But in point of fact, they knew of only one source for light: the sun. (There were also man-made fires of course, but that’s obviously not what’s being referred to here.) I have heard some people speak of photons or some such silly thing streaking across the cosmos, and I find the idea ridiculous. Why on earth Moses would have written of such a thing to the Israelites is beyond my comprehension.

    So if you take the days literally, don’t tell me you also believe that the earth is round, or that you believe that water lies on the surface of the earth, rather than the other way around. Don’t tell me that the astronauts have been outside our atmosphere and found that space is a vacuum, because you must believe that that is all a lie, that the earth is flat, that there are waters above the firmament, and that the dry land on the earth is but a huge floating island, floating on the surface of the waters under the earth.

    And if you take the 6 days literally, you must also take the 7th day literally. And if you take the 7th day literally, you must also believe that God got tired from the hard, sweaty work of creation and that he needed a break, and so he rested on the 7th day, put his feet up and sipped on a margarita in his hammock by the crystal sea.

    And if you take the 6 days literally because of the refrain “evening and morning”, then why is that absent the 7th day? Should the 7th day be taken literally? It’s got an ordinal and it uses the word “yom”. According to your rules, the 7th day MUST be taken literally, O you who must interpret the passage univocally in every respect. But then why is the refrain absent? Are you so sure there aren’t some questions about this passage that you can’t answer?

    You cannot, if you take the days univocally (as 24 hour days), say that the Lord’s rest is in any sense an analogy. All analogy must be taken out of the passage, if the days must be interpreted univocally.

    So then the sun must actually sit on a throne and make decisions about how to justly administer the day, since the sun governs the day and the moon governs the night.

    What does it mean for Adam to have dominion over the creation? Could he command the grizzly bear like Grizzly Adams? Could he tell a bear what to do and it would do it? Could Adam have commanded the fish to swallow Jonah? Could Adam control the weather? Could he fly? Could he have walked on water?

    You who would insist that these can ONLY be 24 hour days, you have many questions to answer, far more than I think you realize.

    Oh, but those who say that Moses didn’t intend for the passage to be taken literally only say so because they simply want to believe in evolution; they’re liberals who don’t believe in the supernatural. That’s why they don’t take the text literally. What other reason could they possibly have for saying that about such a simple and straight-forward text as Gen 1? Next thing you know, they’ll be saying that the resurrection of Christ is only figurative, just like the liberals.

    No. I’m not a liberal. I’m not interested in emasculating the Scriptures of the supernatural. I believe in Jesus’ miracles. I believe that God could easily create the cosmos in 6 days. I believe he could have done it instantly too, had he chosen to do so. Of course, God can do anything.

    It’s not a question of whether God CAN, but whether God DID, and whether that’s what Moses intended to SAY.

    If Gen 1 is a simple newspaper description, then what’s Job 38 about? If in Gen 1 God intended to tell us everything as if we were witnessing it ourselves, then why is he so offended saying, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (38:4) Doesn’t really make sense, does it?

    What I mean is, why does God so strongly emphasize how little we know about the creation, owing to the fact that we weren’t there, if we have a pristine eye-witness account as good as a DVD of the event in Gen 1?

    If the literalists are right about Gen 1, then we CAN answer back to God in Job 38, and have no need to cover our mouths. We can respond, “What do you mean, God? WHAT foundation? Are you talking about the waters under the earth? We know all about it.”

    Non-literalists are often accused of being moderns seeking to undermine the ancient text, the ancient faith. But I say it is you literalists who are the moderns, because you insist that Gen 1 is no different from the front page of your local newspaper. The Fundamentalists, no less than the Liberals, are modern through and through. You do not escape modernism by fleeing liberalism only to embrace fundamentalism.

    By the way, aside from Gen 1, is there ANYWHERE in Scripture where light and dark DON’T have a symbolic meaning of some kind?

    • Dear Spiritualist,

      Creationists do no deny that the sacred writer is describing things that were created from an earthly, anthropological, phenomenal perspective. How else could he have described them and understood what he was saying, much less have anyone else understand him?

      In addition, there are editorial comments in Genesis that were added later. For instance, the sacred writer (Moses perhaps) knew what had happened in the second chapter with the creation of the garden and of man and woman. He brings this knowledge back into Gen. 1:27ff. Failure to recognize editorial elaborations in the Bible results in much needless talk of contradictions. Gen. 2:4-5 is just a summary of the creation described in the first chapter and does not take account of the editorial gloss in Gen. 1:27 where the sacred editor emphasized the creation of both man and woman (probably trying to refute an ancient patriarchalist error that Eve was created by the devil).

      The ur-light at the beginning of creation was probably the shekinah-glory of God. The writer distinguished this light from the lights made on the fourth day, which latter were for the purpose of signs and seasons.

      Both the sacred writer and his audience knew very well what a day was, a period of evening and morning. It’s unlikely they understood YOM in context to mean anything other than a literal day.

      When the New Testament writers speak of the days of the week with respect to the crucifixion or resurrection of Jesus, do you think they meant literal days or spiritual days? That is the problem with spiritualizing Genesis. What’s good for Genesis is also good for the New Testament. Whatever judgment you mete out to Genesis applies equally to the New Testament.

      Are you willing to be consistent in your hermeneutics?

      Vern

      • Vern,

        I would like to briefly respond to two of your points.

        First, to say that the Hebrew saints of the OT didn’t understand yom in any way but a literal 24 hour period is to deny the variety of its usage in Genesis 1:1-2:4 – let alone the rest of the OT. Go back and read that section and substitute ‘day’ for ’24-hour period’ and it will sound like nonsense (not to mention that the first three days are pre-solar, day six is at best a long and busy day, and day seven lacks the over-emphasized ‘and it was morning and it was evening’ refrain).

        The second point is one of hermeneutics. Other posts have dealt with this, but you can’t possibly make the case that a ‘consistent’ hermeneutic is a ‘fixed’ hermeneutic. Interpretation is largely determined by genre and to say that all of scripture has to be read the same way that Genesis 1 is read is an overstep to say the least. We have to interpret consistently within genres, and you are free to argue that Genesis 1 is the same genre of writing as the resurrection account of Christ, but I think anyone coming to the two texts is going to plainly see that they read quite differently.

        It is interesting how, in our day, we can use language in so many ways and yet we don’t allow the same of literary-gifted Hebrews of old. We use ‘day’ in a number of ways all the time – and we don’t read a history textbook the same way we read Shakespeare. I think we do a disservice to the text when we lay down our own parameters upon the narrative, stifling the possible communicative intentions of the author.

        I’m not suggesting that we can interpret apart from certain presuppositions – but I am suggesting that we allow the text to shape and reshape those presuppositions as we take a closer look at what the author could or could not be saying.

        Cheers.

  14. My car is a lemon.

    Jesus rose from the dead.

    Must these two sentences be interpreted in precisely the same way because they’re in the same blog post? If I don’t mean that my car is a little yellow piece of fruit in the first sentence, is it possible that I mean a man was dead and came back to life in the second?

    Now imagine that the first sentence was written by a different author than the second with 1500 years passing between them. Why do they have to be interpreted in the exact same way?

    It’s simply fallacious to say that if I interpret Gen 1 analogically that I must interpret the resurrection analogically.

    In fact, you do the same thing I’m doing. Yes you do. In speaking of God, Isaiah says:

    Isa 59:17 He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.

    Now answer me this: does God have a head on which he must put his helmet? From what, exactly, is this helmet supposed to protect him? Does God need a helmet, or can he stop bullets like Neo in the Matrix? Does he have a chest on which he must strap a breastplate? Doesn’t the children’s catechism teach us the very obvious truth that the space-transcendent God doesn’t have a body?

    You know God doesn’t put armor on in order to go to war. You know that this passage is to be interpreted figuratively. You know it. It’s common sense and obvious.

    Paul affirms that some things in the Old Testament are RIGHTLY interpreted figuratively (allegorically). Speaking of Sarah and Hagar he says:

    Gal 4:24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar.

    Even though Paul takes some of the OT Scripture figuratively, nonetheless he maintains a hearty historical view of the resurrection:

    1Co 15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

    So if what you’re saying applies to me, then it also applies to Paul. If you are correct that I cannot interpret Gen 1 figuratively (analogically more properly) without undermining the truth of the resurrection, then you must accuse the Apostle Paul of the same error.

    But I know you still have another question. How come I get to interpret the Bible in different ways, while you have to interpret the Bible consistently as I said above?

    But your approach is oversimplifying things. I say your hermeneutical approach has to be consistent within the same passage. You’re saying I have to interpret the entire Bible in one and only one way. The fact is, however, that different parts of the Bible are to be interpreted differently, as I have already shown.

    However, let’s suppose, just for the sake of argument, that the waters above and the waters below don’t exist at all and that the firmament doesn’t exist. Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that these are things that the Jews THOUGHT existed. They THOUGHT that there were waters above the firmament, which is why the sky was blue like water. And let’s say that they thought that there were waters under the dry land, because you dig a hole in the ground and you get water, and because of the seas and the oceans.

    So you’re a Jew, and you think these things exist. Now God himself comes along and tells you that he created all these things in a particular way. “First I made this,” he says, “and then I made that.”

    Is God lying if these things don’t exist other than in your perception? No, but rather he’s speaking IN TERMS OF your perception. He’s speaking to you about the world you inhabit AS YOU SEE IT, so that you can understand what he’s saying, so that it’s meaningful to you.

    Why would God do that? Why wouldn’t he have told those ignorant Jews that there were no waters above and waters below? Why didn’t he tell them that there was no firmament?

    Why didn’t God explain that the earth orbits the sun? What about “E” equals MC squared? Why didn’t God teach the Jews about Einstein’s theory of relativity? Why didn’t he explain that the earth is round, and that water actually sits on the surface of the earth, not the other way around? Why didn’t he teach the Jews how to make cars and air conditioning and running water? THEN the world would have REALLY understood that they were his people.

    While we moderns treasure this kind of scientific knowledge and hold it to be sacred in some sense, understand that God doesn’t agree. Gen 1 is not a science textbook. That doesn’t matter to God nearly as much as the theological point he’s making.

    He doesn’t care if you think there are waters above and waters below. What he cares about is whether you worship him as the God who created all things.

    (I am speaking somewhat hyperbolically here. After all, he did show man these things and teach man these things – eventually.)

    The point of the narrative is not to refute evolution. The point of the narrative is not the length of the days. It’s not a science textbook.

    You know, it’s funny and not a little ironic. All the 6-24 guys who hate scientists and think that scientists are all conspiring together to undermine the Scriptures – they all get really into the scientific questions. They’re the ones coming up with all these super-technical scientific treatises on why the earth could have been created in 6 days despite enormous amounts of empirical evidence to the contrary.

    Meanwhile, it’s we who are supposedly so in love with modern science who are always talking about Hebrew grammar and the text and trying to explain literary genre and all that, and who for the most part don’t even understand all the scientific stuff.

    That’s kind of like dispensational premillennialists who have these enormously complicated charts explaining what will happen in the last days and during the great tribulation. I grew up on that stuff, but it never made sense to me. Meanwhile, the Amillennialists are saying, “In the end, Christ comes back and judges the living and the dead. New Heavens, New Earth, the end.”

    Oh sure, some of the literalists do talk about the text. But they talk about it as if it’s a mathematical equation. “You see, they say, if you count all the times the word ‘yom’ is used with an ordinal [that means number] it always refers to an ordinary day. And every time it speaks of morning and evening, it means a 24 hour day. Therefore, it must mean a 24 hour day here.”

    I understand why they make these kinds of arguments, but they just don’t apply. The Scriptures are not a vending machine. It’s not a simple mathematical formula. And it’s not just the Scriptures, but language doesn’t work the way they want it to. You can do that to a degree, but when it comes to languages, ESPECIALLY HEBREW, there’s an exception for every rule. Hebrew is especially difficult to nail down. Scholars don’t agree on what all the rules are. Even the hyperliteralists won’t agree on all the rules.

    Oh, by the way, it’s modern scientists who think everything breaks down to a mathematical formula. “If we can understand the numbers, and then convert everything to numbers, then we’ll master the Scriptures. It’s all about the numbers.” It won’t work.

    Fundamentalists are just moderns (liberals) having an identity crisis.

  15. “They’re the ones coming up with all these super-technical scientific treatises on why the earth could have been created in 6 days despite enormous amounts of empirical evidence to the contrary.”

    There’s the real problem. You guys think the empirical evidence is contrary to what the Bible says. So you think you have to reinterpret the Bible.

    The actual Genesis text, including biblical chronology, is pretty easy to understand as teaching a young cosmos. You guys just don’t want to believe it. It’s as simple as that. No need to turn hermeneutical somersaults to support your old earth position.

    Vern

    • Vern,

      I’m not arguing for the age of the earth at all, because I don’t think the text speaks to that at all – at no point do I think any of the biblical authors are intending to teach the age of the earth, so you will not hear me argue one way or another.

      What I am arguing for is an honest reading of what the author could or could not be saying about God’s work in creation.

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