GOD IS SELF-EXISTENT
A being without beginning or end is uncaused.1 Nothing created God, God simply exists. Again, Genesis 1:1 states, “in the beginning God.” God’s existence is stated here as a self-evident truth. Unlike ancient pagan cosmologies, Scripture provides no origin tale for God.2 This lack of a record is meant to support the truth of God’s self-existence.
Self-existence means that God is the source of His existence. God is independent of anything or anyone else; He is the source of His own life (John 5:26). To deny that God is self-existent is to deny the clear teachings of Scripture. Furthermore, a God that is not self-existent is no God at all. Such a denial makes one a fool (Psalm 14:1).
Everything in the created realm is dependent on something else. This dependency is called causation. The Law of Causation states, “Everything which exists in the world must have an adequate cause; and if this is so, the universe must also have an adequate cause, that is a cause which is indefinitely great.”3 In other words, nothing can happen without being caused. Also, the Law of Causation states, “Everything which has a beginning has a cause.”4
Does causation undermine the reality of God’s self-existence? No, it does not. First, the Law of Causation has limitations. It is limited to those things which have a beginning. Scripture says that God has no beginning (Psalm 90:2). Also, note the phrases, ‘everything which exists in the world’ and ‘the universe must also have an adequate cause.’ Causation is limited to the created realm. Since God is eternal, He exists outside of the created realm and not beholden to the Law of Causation.
Second, the Law of Causation requires that everything which exists have an indefinitely greater cause. In other words, something larger than the universe must exist, which in turn created the universe. The Scripture states that God created the universe (Genesis 1:1). The phrase, ‘the heavens and the earth’ is a Hebraic figure of speech which refers to the universe (cf. Genesis 14:19, 22; 2 Kings 19:15; Psalm 121:2).5
Third, that Causation is a Law necessitates the need for a lawgiver. The Scripture states that the Law of Causation is a God-ordained law (Hebrews 3:4). The one who builds all things is none other than God. God is the only cause, and there are no others (Isaiah 41:4; 44:6; 45:5; 46:9). Genesis 1:1 reveals that the eternal God is self-sufficient.
1. Stanley Grenz, David Guretzki, Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 47.
2. Nahum M. Sarna, Genesis, The JPS Torah Commentary (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989), 5.
3. L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1938), 26.
4. W.T. Stace, A Critical History of Greek Philosophy (London: MacMillan and Co., 1934), 6.
5. This is known as a merism in which two opposite terms or ideas are joined together into a single, all inclusive concept or idea.
God is Eternal
Genesis 1:1 states, “in the beginning God.” The Hebrew term b’rêshîth or beginning refers to an absolute beginning. The phrase in the beginning relates to the absolute beginning of all things. All things include time, space, and matter. In other words, at the beginning of time, space, and matter, God was already existing. God was already existing is known as eternality. Eternality means that God has no beginning or end (Deuteronomy 32:40; Psalm 102:27).
Since God is without beginning or end, He is free from the succession of time (1 Corinthians 2:7).1 The term ages, in 1 Corinthians 2:7, comes from the Greek term aiōn, which refers to the existence of time. Paul states here that God's wisdom was decreed before the existence of time. If God’s wisdom existed before the existence of time, then God Himself must also exist before time. God’s eternality extends beyond time; He is infinite (Psalm 90:2). “From everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God” demonstrates that there is no distinction in time for God. The past, present, and future are an equally current reality to Him.
God not only existed before time; He existed before all of space (Ephesians 1:4). The term foundation (katabolē) refers to the process of conception. The term world (kosmos) refers to the universe. Thus the “foundations of the world” relate to the method of the universe's conception. Before the universe was conceived, God chose to make believers holy and blameless.
Furthermore, God existed before all of matter (Psalm 90:2). Scripture views the mountains as one of the most ancient parts of inhabitable creation (Deuteronomy 33:15). The idea is that the mountains would have been the first part of the land that emerged out of the sea. The mood of the verb brought forth (yalad) means to be born. Thus, the phrase “before the mountains were brought forth” is a Hebrew mechanism for expressing the idea of “before the earth was born.”2 In other words, before the earth (i.e., matter) came into existence, God was. God’s eternality means that He exists before time, space, and matter. As well, He is not dependent upon time, space, or matter; rather, God is beyond time, space, and matter. Genesis 1:1 reveals the eternal God.
1. A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1907), 276.
2. Albert Barnes & James Murphy, Barnes' Notes on the Old and New Testaments: Psalms, Volume 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1983), 3.
We believe that ALL Scripture is inspired (i.e., breathed out or spoken) by God through various individuals, without error, under the superintendence (i.e., the leading and directing) of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21). In the case of Genesis, the Holy Spirit superintended upon Moses in penning the first five books of the Bible. These five books are collectively known as the Law of Moses, the Torah (i.e., the Teachings) or the Pentateuch. This collection of books itself claims Mosaic authorship.(1) As well, the rest of the Old Testament (2) and the New Testament (3) also confirm Mosaic authorship including Jesus, Himself.(4)
The book of Genesis is a book of beginnings. In the Hebrew text, the book of Genesis is called b’rêshîth which is the first word of the text, beginning. Chapters 1-11 record the history of the beginnings of the world. Chapters 12-50 record the history of the beginning of God’s chosen people, Israel. The term genesis comes from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Genesis is the Greek translation of the Hebrew term tôlēdôt which means these are the generations of.(5) A tôlēdôt is a family register, which records an individual’s lineage and other historical events.(6) There are eleven tôlēdôts in Genesis. They are as follows:
Moses’ use of these tôlēdôts or family records shows that the Genesis narrative is a historical record, not a myth.(7) The book of Genesis is an accurate accounting of the past. To claim that science proves these records are not accurate, is fallacious at best. Science studies the repeatable, while history studies the unrepeatable.(8) Therefore, one cannot apply the scientific method to determine if Genesis is an accurate historical record. As a historical record, one must test Genesis by the historical method used to verify the validity of any other historical document. The historical method is composed of three basic tests. First, the internal test determines whether the document agrees or contradicts with itself. Second, the external test determines whether other historical records can validate the document. Third, the bibliographical test examines the number of copies, elapsed time between the original document and copies, and degree of accuracy between the copies. The Bible, including Genesis, passes each of these tests.(9)
The rest of the Old Testament accepts the book of Genesis, even the early chapters, as a historical account. Deuteronomy, Job, and 1 Chronicles each reference Adam as a historical figure. 1 Chronicles, Isaiah, and Ezekiel each reference to Noah as a historical figure.
Jesus taught a historical Genesis (10) as did Paul (11) and Peter.(12) The New Testament directly quotes or refers to Genesis 165 times (200 if counting duplicates). Of those 165 references, 100 come from Genesis 1-11.(13) Every New Testament writer quotes from or refers to the early chapters of Genesis.(14) Apostolic usage of Genesis 1-11 demonstrates the early church’s acceptance of Genesis as a historical record. The book of Genesis is the most quoted and referenced book by the Bible itself.(15)
One cannot claim to be a Christian and reject the historicity of Genesis. To dismiss the historicity of Genesis is to reject the words of Jesus and the apostles. In fact, Jesus states that if one will not accept what Genesis states about Creation, then one will not accept what the Bible states about Redemption (John 3:12). Jesus was clear with Nicodemus. He could not grasp spiritual things (i.e. Redemption) until he could grasp what Jesus said about earthly things, which includes Creation. Jesus also gave a similar warning to the other religious leaders - if you believed Moses, you would believe Me (John 5:46-47).
Of whom did Moses write? He wrote of Jesus. From Genesis through Deuteronomy, Jesus is imprinted in the text. Whether creation narratives or covenant texts, the prophetic Feasts or the legalese of the Law, it is all about Jesus. Jesus graphically illustrated this truth in the narrative of the rich man in Hell (Luke 16:31). If one rejects the writings of Moses, which includes Genesis, then he or she must ultimately reject the bodily resurrection of Jesus. How someone views the book of Genesis will determine how he or she views the whole of Scripture.
The book of Genesis is also a doctrinal treatise. Scripture states that there are three types of doctrine: the doctrines of men,(16) the doctrines of devils,(17) and the doctrines of God.(18) We will refer to the doctrines of God as Biblical doctrines. Since doctrine refers to something taught, Biblical doctrine refers to what the Bible teaches. Genesis provides us with the foundation for many Biblical doctrines including creation, marriage, family, sin, judgment, grace, salvation, promise, and faith. Of all the doctrines set forth in Genesis, none is more important than the doctrine of God Himself (i.e., Theology Proper). From the beginning, God has chosen to reveal Himself to us through His Word in order that we might know Him.
Why is it important to know God? First, knowing God provides the foundation for a sinner to enter into eternal life (John 17:3). In fact, without a knowledge of God, an individual cannot understand the whole of Scripture (1 Corinthians 2:14). Second, knowing God leads to godliness. By knowing God, a believer begins to learn what is good and desires what is good (Jeremiah 9:23-24). Third, knowing God strengthens believers (Daniel 11:32).
The weak-mindedness and spiritual malaise that engulfs believers and churches today are directly tied to a lack of knowing who God is and what He has done. Are you weak-minded? Are you suffering from spiritual malaise? If you lack a desire for the things of God or to go deeper into the things of God, then you are weak-minded. You are suffering from a spiritual malaise because you have allowed your mind to be conformed to the spirit of this age. I am fearful that if I asked you to tell me who is God, what is God like, or what has God done, many of you would vacillate between so-called Christian cliches and emotional sentimentalities. Yet here in Genesis, beginning in the first chapter, God confronts His people with the revelation of who He is and what He has done.
1. Exodus 17:14; 24:4-7; 34:27; Numbers 33:2; Deuteronomy 31:9, 22, 24
2. Joshua 1:7-8; 8:32-34; Judges 3:4; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 14:6; 21:8; 2 Chronicles 25:4; Ezra 6:18; Nehemiah 8:1; 13:1; Daniel 9:11-13
3. John 1:17; Acts 6:14; 13:39; 15:5; 1 Corinthians 9:9; 2 Corinthians 3:15; Hebrews 10:28
4. Matthew 5:18; 8:4; 19:7-8; Mark 7:10; 12:26; Luke 24:27, 44; John 7:19
5. The genesis is used in Matthew 1:1 and translated into English as genealogy.
6. Jonathan Sarfati, The Genesis Account: The Genesis Account - A Theological, Historical, and Scientific Commentary on Genesis 1-11, (Powder Springs, Georgia: Creation Book Publishers), 17.
7. Kirk Lowery, “The Chronology of the Kings of Israel and Judah,” in The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith, ed. Ted Cabal et al. (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 2.
8. Jonathan Sarfati, The Genesis Account: The Genesis Account - A Theological, Historical, and Scientific Commentary on Genesis 1-11 (Creation Book Publishers. Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 1201.
9. Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands A Verdict Volume 1 (San Bernardino, CA: Here's Life Publishing, Inc.), 43-55.
10. Matthew 19:4-8: Mark 13:11
11. 1 Timothy 2:13-14; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Romans 5:12-14
12. 1 Peter 3:20
13. Henry Morris, The Genesis Record (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1976), 21.
14. Walter Brown, In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation (Hong Kong: Center for Scientific Creation, 2011), 283.
15. Henry Morris, The Genesis Record (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1976), 21.
16. Colossians 2:22
17. 1 Timothy 4:1
18.1 Timothy 1:10; 2 Timothy 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1
Rev. Gregory G. Capel, Jr.