Questions regarding the Old Testament of the Bible

The Book of Genesis

Did God really create the universe and its creatures in seven days (Genesis 1:1-31)?

It is a definite article of faith of Catholicism and Christianity in general, that God did create all life, creatures and the universe. In fact he also legislated the laws of nature that govern our universe. The natural order in our universe presupposes a divine legislator who created and ordered all things.

Did he really create it in seven days? In a strict sense, God could have created everything in the blink of an eye and did not have to use seven days. Or he could have allowed life to slowly develop over eons. Catholic teaching is silent on the issue, but it is likely that the seven days expounded in Genesis are a literary structure designed to organize the primary creations of God.

I’ve always been taught that humans are descended from apes. In fact archaeologists have found evidence of ape-like men which were probably the precursors of man. How does this affect the Genesis account of the creation of Adam and Eve?

For now there is still insufficient evidence that humanity truly evolved from chimpanzees or lower forms of Hominids. The fossil record is not complete enough to show a definite relationship between ape and man. It seems more plausible that there were creatures who shared characteristics similar to humanity but were not human. One of these creatures, Australopithecus, looked much like an ape but actually walked on two legs; it was perhaps the first biped. Indeed, other creatures such as the Neanderthals shared startling similarities to humans: the Neanderthals built primitive tools and weapons and lived in primitive social groups. However there is no clear evidence that they were human. There is no existing art, religious traditions or advanced technology attributed to these creatures. Indeed, the bridge of time between the Neanderthals and the arrival of the first true humans (Cro-Magnon man) was relatively short compared to the sudden burst of intellect, art, tools and social structure which occurred in this time period. Scientists are at a loss to explain this sudden burst of intelligence, language and creativity which came from the first modern humans. It is difficult to explain this burst of creativity exclusively with the theory of natural selection and evolution. Therefore, it is a possibility that the first flurry of technological advances is due to God’s creation of Adam and Eve (the Cro-Magnon) among the pseudo-human Neanderthals.

However, even granting that humans evolved from chimps or other members of the Hominid family there is no need to discard Genesis. In fact what makes us made "in the image of God" is our soul and substance. Therefore, it is possible that God evolved the early hominids to a state advanced enough to be endowed with a rational soul and then infused a human soul on two of them. If this is true then the first rational hominids were Adam and Eve: our first parents.

Why does Genesis 1:26 refer to God in the plural sense?

The use of the plural when God speaks in Genesis 1:26 is due to the Triune nature of God; the persons of the Trinity are allegorically shown as conversing. The passage is a glimpse at the doctrine of the Trinity: three persons who are one unified God.

Where did Cain’s wife come from if Adam and Eve where the first and only parents in that time period (Genesis 1:17)?

Since humanity sprang from one set of humans, Adam and Eve, it was necessary for the offspring of Adam and Eve to marry and conceive children. Contrary to popular belief, Adam and Eve did not just have three sons (Cain, Abel and Seth) they also had many other sons and daughters (Genesis 5:4). A daughter of Adam became the wife of Cain.

Did a global flood really happen as depicted in Genesis 8:6?

The jury is perhaps still out on this one. Some scholars believe a global flood really did happen. Others contend that it was simply a regional flood which killed the neighbors of Noah. Most secular geologists believe there is no evidence for a global flood; but new findings could always change that. Personally, I believe that if a global flood did not occur, then I doubt a local flood occurred either. The reasoning is that the context of Genesis 8:23 leaves little room for interpreting the flood as anything but highly catastrophic on a global level. If a global flood did not occur, the passage is probably allegorical. Remember that the ark is a symbol of the vessel of salvation and is used to refer to the church in New Testament times. The flood and the ark also symbolize baptism; which saves us from sin through the redemption of Christ (1 Peter 3:20-21).

The convenant with Abraham in Genesis 17:10 directs Abraham and all of his male descendants (the people of God) to circumcise the flesh. Is this still necessary for Christians to follow?

Circumcision was a part of the Old covenant between God and the Jewish people. It was a means to establish their identity apart from their heathen neighbors. Circumcision was also the precursor to baptism. As such, baptism is the perfection of circumcision; it establishes membership in the Catholic faith and conveys the grace which forgives all sin. Baptism is a part of the New Covenant; a covenant established by Jesus Christ which perfects, not abolishes, the Old Covenant (Matthew 5:17).

In Genesis 18:23 Abraham intercedes for Sodom and convinces God not to destroy the city if innocent people are found among the guilty. How is it possible for Abraham to rebuke God? Was God initially mistaken or wrong?

The intercession of Abraham did play a role in God’s decision to spare Sodom if he found five innocents among the guilty of the city. However, it is not true that God changed his mind. For God exists in complete actuality and in eternity. This means that God is not affected by change and does not experience a linear flow of time like us. Rather every effect which comes from God (such as creation) is done in one ever present act. Therefore, God already "knew" the fate of Sodom but allowed Abraham to intercede for the city and therefore grow in grace. Our actions are interwoven with God’s actions such that every act of mercy (like Abraham’s prayer for Sodom) done by us is relevant to God.

Why was Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed?

The cities were destroyed due to the outcry in Sodom and Gomorrah. The sins of the two cities were so great that they demanded punishment and justice (Genesis 18:20). God sent his angels to the city to search for innocent people. The angels found one family and spared them from the impending wrath of God. The people of the city sealed their fate when they sinned against charity by attempting to sodomize the two angels. The sins of homosexuality and attempted rape were grave violations of charity which brought ruin on Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:5).

More questions will be added over time...

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