Augustine, On Genesis


In the beginning, God…

Augustine, Genesis, I.19.39

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, . . . and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience.

Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.

If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learned from experience and the light of reason?

Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertions” [1 Timothy 1:7]. (All emphases, mine)

John Calvin, in the 16th Century, made many wise comments on Genesis:

“He who would learn astronomy…let him go elsewhere….”

 ”Moses wrote in a popular style things which without instruction, all ordinary persons, endued with common sense, are able to understand; but astronomers investigate with great labor whatever the sagacity of the human mind can comprehend. Nevertheless, this study is not to be reprobated, nor this science to be condemned, because some frantic persons are wont boldly to reject whatever is unknown to them. For astronomy is not only pleasant, but also very useful to be known: it cannot be denied that this art unfolds the admirable wisdom of God.”


See, also, In The Beginning

“Who Are the Nephilim?” Dr. Michael L. Brown


GENESIS, Chapter 6.– When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they choseThen the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim* were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continuallyAnd the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.


*Possibly means “fallen ones”; traditionally, “giants”; Nm 13:31-33

NOTE on the Text from NICOT Genesis:  In v. 4 “children” [Not Nephilim] is taken to be the antecedent of  “These mighty men…”  [ Nephilim…in those days is simply a time marker; a parenthetical historical note.]


Dr. Brown begins: “Isn’t it interesting that one of the most obscure verses in the Bible is the subject of so much conversation and speculation?”

And Dr. Brown ends: “Let’s not try to read too much into it.” youtube video here

In between, Dr. Brown makes clear that “We do not know.” Except for half of one sentence (which will not be even  noticed by most of his fans)  in the almost 3 minute video, we would not know that there are other explanations other than that of the far-fetched offspring of “fallen angels.”

Dr. Michael Brown is dealing with the nut-case fringe which speculates about aliens, space ships, and Nephilim today–this is the kind of stuff that sells books for a certain segment of evangelicals. Most who listen to him on facebook will never open a Bible and read Genesis in context.

The above text is Chapter 6. Chapter 5 gives us the line of Seth. And Chapter 4 gives us the line of Cain, preceded by the account of the offspring of Adam and Eve.

The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT) gives us three views of “the sons of God” in verse 2. One is that this is the standard reference to “angels” and equates their progeny with the Nephilim, as “fallen ones,” of verse 4. [It should be noted that this is the first reference to “sons of God” in the Bible. This exact phrase is found only three other times in Hebrew in Job, where it is a reference to angels. We must ask, is it proper to apply the definition found in a later book of a different genre to this very first [and ONLY] reference in Genesis?]

The masterful G. Ch. Aalders (BSC*) states, “This view is, in our judgment, untenable….it [sons of God] refers exclusively [here in Genesis Six] to the world of human beings.”

Prof. Aalders cites Hosea 1:10 which is a  reference to God’s chosen people as “sons of the living God.”

[NOTE the flow (the context) of the text above.  The FOCUS is on MAN–v. 1 “When Man”; v. 3 “Man”; v. 4 “men“–Which is why God pronounces his judgment on MAN immediately after ‘sons of God‘ in verse 3– Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years,  And again in v. 7 “I will blot out man” ]

“There are, moreover, other places in the Old Testament where people are referred to as ‘sons of God.’ In Deuteronomy 32:5 and Hosea 1:10 the Israelites are so designated.” [The Israelites, God’s chosen people who replaced God’s original chosen ones of Adam.]

Another (second) view, related to the flow of the text (chapters 4 and 5) given above, is that the “sons of God” were the descendants of Seth, and the “daughters of men” are the descendants of Cain. The sin is that of intermarriage between believer and unbeliever. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Harris, Archer, Waltke) sees this as the “more likely” explanation.

And a third view is that the “sons of God” were early royal aristocrats and “daughters of men” were “the royal harems of these despots.”

“The sin, then, is polygamy, along the lines of Lamech*, who also “took wives”(4:19).” [cf. 6:2, above, “took as their wives.”] *Lamech –descendant of Cain; both shed blood; Lamech is the first recorded man to take more than one wife.

The TEXT of this Scripture gives us no grounds for equating the Nephilim with the offspring of fallen angels

Cf. “the sons of God.” NICOT: “…the text establishes no causal connection…the giants were present at the same time [emphasis mine] as the marriages between ‘the sons of God’ and the ‘daughters of men.’” [Read that bold type again and make it clear in your mind.]

“The reference to the presence of giants is, thus, no more than a designation of time. This is indicated by the word ‘then’ or ‘at that time.’”

G. Ch. Aalders: “The writer speaks of the giants….a historical phenomenon that was familiar to his readers. Thus it was a meaningful designation of a specific period of history.”

“Genesis 6:1-4 should be approached as a straightforward description of the conditions that prevailed among the human race [the race of Adam] before the Deluge.

Despite what we do not know about the Nephilim, we do know the context. And context is king. The one reason to study these verses is to be equipped to exhort those who carelessly use them [leading to their following various ‘winds’ that capture the vain imagination] to study them. Vain imaginations and idle speculations are stumbling blocks to others, esp. unbelievers, and give a poor witness when used by Christians.  All of us are to focus on Christ and His Kingdom that we may be found faithful stewards who do not need to be ashamed when He returns. Marana tha

*Bible Student”s Commentary, Genesis, Zondervan, 1981.


Exodus 20:11 Misused by Ken Ham and Young Earth Creationists


For in six days the Lord made [‘asa*] heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:11 ESV

YHWH…rested the seventh day.  Because He sanctified the seventh day, we are to remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  That is the purpose of this verse.

We are reminded of God’s work in words that parallel those of the six days in Genesis.   In Gen.1:8,  “God called the expanse heaven.” This has the limited sense of our ‘sky’ as some versions render it.  In Gen.1:10, “God called the dry land earth [not the planet], and the gathering of the waters he called seas.”

Those first three days conclude what has been called the Days of Preparation, and the next three, Days of Filling. In that second set, God filled the sky, the dry land, and the seas with “all that is in them.” In Genesis we are told of birds for the sky, fish for the sea, animals for the land, and, finally, man. Thus, this one sentence in Exodus gives us a quick synopsis of the “six days” of Genesis.

That sentence cannot undo the sound exegesis of Genesis 1:1, 2 which precede day one which is in verse 3, “And God said…” [Note the structure: each day begins with “And God said…”] Thus, there is no basis in Scripture for dating the age of the earth.

[But there is a basis for dating in God’s natural revelation. See R.C. Sproul, 5 min. video  Learn and love the LORD your God with all your mind. ]

See In The Beginning.  As is shown there, in Gen. 1:1, God “created” [bara’] the universe.  In this synopsis from Exodus, YHWH “made” [‘asa] that is, he set in order (starting on day one which begins in verse 3) the empty, dark earth that existed in verse 2 which was created in verse 1.


*Notes from Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Moody, 1980) on ‘asa,  “make”

The word bara’ “create” [Gen. 1:1] carries the thought of the initiation of the object involved.  It always connotes what only God can do and frequently emphasizes the absolute newness of the object created.  The word ‘asa [Ex. 20:11] is much broader in scope, connoting primarily the fashioning of the object with little concern for special nuances.

The use of bara’ in the opening statement of the account of creation seems to carry the implication that the physical phenonmena came into existence at that time and had no previous existence. [creatio ex nihilo]

Notes from Genesis, G. Ch. Aalders

“In the beginning God created…”…verse 1 forms an independent sentence, and verses 2 and 3 follow as independent sentences….let it be stated without equivocation that the words “in the beginning’ must be taken in their absolute sense.  First of all, this is the most natural and obvious interpretation.  Furthermore, this is the rendition that is found in every ancient translation, without exception….

…Genesis 1:1, it is argued, is a kind of a heading…This cannot be the case, however, because of the way verse 2 starts.  The words “and the earth,” which refer back to verse 1, clearly indicate that this is not the beginning of the creation narrative and therefore verse 1 cannot be considered to be a formal heading for what is to follow.

Since verse 1 is not just a heading, it is likewise true beyond doubt that “the heavens and the earth” do not there refer to the present, organized universe as it appeared after the creative work described in Genesis 1 was completed….in verses 3-31

creation2For in six days the Lord made [and named] heaven [sky] and earth [dry land], the sea, and all that is in them, . . . Exodus 20:11

In The Beginning

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

When thinking about creation, Christians often turn to geologists and astronomers and even high school science teachers as they seek understanding. And though there is much to learn, there is much that leads astray. But for all the claims about the authority of Scripture, who ever begins there? Instead of beginning with science, read first about Scripture. Read commentaries.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form and void and darkness covered the face of the deep…”

“…And God said, ‘Let there be light’…”

How much time elapsed in the age of the earth between the creation of the universe in verse 1 and “Let there be light” in verse 3? We have no clue in Scripture. [But many Christians, superficially familiar with this text, seem to wrongly assume that  “the beginning” (verse 1) equals “let there be light.” (verse 3)]

The Text

Gen 1:1 is not a preface, it is an absolute statement (G. Ch. Aalders: “this is the rendition that is found in every ancient translation, without exception”); “heavens and earth” is a merism, a figure of speech that signifies the whole, i.e. “the universe.”

Verse 2 tells us about the state of the earth following God’s act of creation in verse 1. Calvin, long before the evolution debate, wrote, “before God had perfected the world it was an undigested mass…this mass, however confused it might be, was rendered stable, for the time, by the secret efficacy of the Spirit.” [Whatever the cosmology of Calvin’s day, he saw an earth in verse two that would need further work in verses 3 and following, thus an elapse of unknown time. You can read Calvin’s  commentaries, free, online.]

NICOT: [Genesis, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Eerdmans, 1990] “Verse 2 then, describes the situation prior to the detailed creation that is spelled out in vv 3ff” [underline mine]. How much time elapsed before verse 3, “Let there be light”? Scripture is silent.


But time compression, in describing events, occurs regularly in Scripture. In Genesis 4, we leap from the conception of Cain in verse one, to the birth of Abel in verse two, and with Abel now being a shepherd in that same verse.

Anyone who reads the Old Testament will see these leaps of time again and again.

The Earth–“Let there be light…”

Three conditions of the earth are described in v.2, the last being ‘darkness’ for which God provides the remedy in v. 3, “Let there be light…”

And in the following verses he provides the remedies for the other two conditions.

There is a wonderful symmetry here: Days one to three have been called, “Days of Preparation” and the last three, “Days of Filling” or from the general to the particular . e.g. day one has ‘light’ ; day four has lights (sun/moon/stars) set in order. Day two has sky and day five has birds of the sky, etc.

In these verses “heaven” and “earth” are used in a limited sense. “The dry land he called earth” [not the planet]. The heavens, here, as the NIV translates it, is our “sky.”


Day One and the days that follow are the week in which God sets his creation in order for the creation of man.

“For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day” Exodus 20:11.

This verse is often wrongly used. [See, here] Here, speaking of that week, “the LORD made” not created as in Gen. 1:1. “Made” has can have the same connotation as our “making” our bed. We set in order what is already there. [In this case, the remedy for the messy conditions described in verse 2.]

Thus, this verse [Exodus 20:11] is parallel with what we read of the “days” of the week as described: …heavens, earth, sea, and all that is in them [the exact things named in the days of the week], NOT with the universe, the “heavens and earth,” of Genesis 1:1 [It does not reflect on the creation of the universe but on preparing “earth” for man; setting in order the earth that is dark and empty].

A completely unnecessary conflict among some Christians concerns the notion of a Scriptural age of the earth. The ability of devout Christians to fool themselves about their own knowledge is seen in the 17th Century scholars, Bishop Usher and John Lightfoot of Cambridge. The presumptions and false premises of devout and diligent Christians led to setting a date for the creation of the universe. Lightfoot’s first assessment was September 17, 3928 B.C. [What was happening on September 16th?!] Of course, as the first two verses of Genesis show, genealogies [which have their own problems of understanding] do not have anything to do with the age of the earth.

John Calvin, in the 16th Century, made many wise comments on Genesis: “He who would learn astronomy…let him go elsewhere….”

 ”Moses wrote in a popular style things which without instruction, all ordinary persons, endued with common sense, are able to understand; but astronomers investigate with great labor whatever the sagacity of the human mind can comprehend. Nevertheless, this study is not to be reprobated, nor this science to be condemned, because some frantic persons are wont boldly to reject whatever is unknown to them. For astronomy is not only pleasant, but also very useful to be known: it cannot be denied that this art unfolds the admirable wisdom of God.”

On the relationship of natural and special revelation see R.C. Sproul, Youtube (Link) and Augustine, Commentary on Genesis

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