(Gen. 1:14) Does Genesis teach that the sun and moon were created after the Earth?

CLAIM: Critics point out that the sun, moon, and stars were supposedly created after God created the Planet Earth. However, this clearly contradicts modern science, which teaches that it was the other way around.

RESPONSE: The text doesn’t say that the sun, moon, and stars were created (Hebrew bara) on the fourth day. Sailhammer writes,

In v.14 God does not say, “Let there be lights … to separate,” as if there were no lights before this command and afterward the lights were created. Rather the Hebrew text reads, “And God said, “Let the lights in the expanse of the sky separate.’ ” In other words, unlike the syntax of v.6, in v.14 God’s command assumes that the lights were already in the expanse and that in response to his command they were given a purpose, “to separate the day from the night” and “to mark seasons and days and years.” If the difference between the syntax of v.6 (the use of hāyāh alone) and v.14 (hāyāh + l infinitive; cf. GKC, 114h) is significant, then it suggests that the author did not understand his account of the fourth day as an account of the creation of the lights; but, on the contrary, the narrative assumes that the heavenly lights have been created already “in the beginning.”[1]

Ross notes, “Verse 16 does not specify when in the past the sun, moon, and stars were made.”[2] These could have been made billions of years before this statement. Robert Newman notes that the Hebrew verb tense for “made” is the pluperfect, which can be translated “had made.” This same verb tense is used when Laban enters Rachel’s tent in Genesis 31:34 to demonstrate that she “had taken” the idols.[3] Instead, the text says that they were created for the purpose of detecting “seasons and for days and for years” (Gen. 1:14b). It could have been that the sun, moon, and stars could not be seen through the Earth’s early atmosphere until this point in history. Since the perspective of the story is told from the Spirit of God hovering over the surface of the water (Gen. 1:2), this could be our vantage point from which the story was being told.[4] C. John Collins notes that the expression, “Let there be…” is used in the rest of the Bible to show function—not creation (1 Sam. 20:13; Ps. 33:22 with 90:17. He writes, “‘He made’ is not the same as ‘he created.’”[5]

[1] Sailhamer, J. H. (1990). Genesis. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 34). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[2] Ross, Hugh. The Genesis Question: Scientific Advances and the Accuracy of Genesis. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1998. 44.

[3] See Robert Newman in Youngblood, Ronald F. The Genesis Debate: Persistent Questions about Creation and the Flood. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1986. 45-46.

[4] Archer writes, “But inasmuch as the creation of light on the first “day” indicates the priority of the sun even in the Mosaic account, we are to understand on exegetical grounds that the emphasis on the fourth day was not the original creation of the heavenly bodies as such, but rather their becoming available for the purpose of regulating time and the cycles of the rotation and revolution of earth and moon… The specific verb for “create ex nihilo” (bārā˒) is not used in Gen. 1:16, but rather the more general term, make (˓āsâ). The fair inference is that a dense vapor encompassing the earth had hitherto precluded this possibility, even though sufficient diffused light may have previously penetrated to support the growth of plant life.” Archer, Gleason L. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Third Edition. Chicago, IL: Moody, 1998. 202.

[5] Collins, C. John. Science & Faith: Friends or Foes? Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003. 90.