Three times in the New Testament the “beginning of creation” is mentioned in our English Bibles (Mark 10:6, Mark 13:9 and 2 Peter 3:4). What does this phrase mean? Does the New Testament use the word “creation” in the same way that we use it today?
How is the word creation used today?
At dictionary.com you will find eight different meanings of the word creation. Here is my paraphrase of the main ones:
- The method or process God took to bring into existence and fashion the world around us, as described in the Bible, i.e. the how. This is quite often contrasted with evolution, the naturalistic explanation (i.e. the explanation where God, or anything supernatural, is deliberately excluded).
- All of the created universe, i.e. the heavens and the earth or what was created.
- The time when God created the universe.
- An original thing that has been made or produced or written, e.g. a piece or collection of artwork.
How is the word creation used in the New Testament?
The word used for creation in the New Testament is ktisis. It occurs in 19 verses. I will summarise the different meanings and then look at some specific cases that are not so straightforward. I should say at the outset that my groupings are at a finer level than the above meanings and that some verses may swap between these finer groupings depending on your interpretation.
- The created universe (Romans 8: 19 – 22; Hebrews 9:11), or a general reference to elements in this collection (Romans 1:25, 8:39; Colossians 1:15; Revelation 3:14).
- All people, as a part of God’s created universe (Mark 16:15; Colossians 1:23; Hebrews 4:13).
- A person who has been transformed through faith in Christ. There is something about them that is new and something about their old self that has passed away (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15).
- Authority or governance structure (1 Peter 2:13).
All of the above meanings focus on what was created rather than the how (method) or when. However, there are some verses that seem to fall into these latter categories. They are:
- “For since the creation of the world” in Romans 1:20, and
- The “beginning of creation” in Mark 10:6, Mark 13:9, 2 Peter 3:4 and Revelation 3:14.
For since the creation of the world
Romans 1:20 – “For since the creation of the world” (NIV, NAS). This seems to describe the process God took to bring everything into existence. I am not a Greek scholar but I do have a tool that gives me a literal translation of the Greek words. This verse (correcting the word order for English) goes like this: “For His invisible things are clearly seen from the created things of the world being understood by the things made, both His everlasting power and divinity, so that they are without excuse.” I have taken some liberty, to see how it sounds, of interpreting ktisis as “created things” rather than “creation”.
As most, if not all, of the other passages in the New Testament seem to refer to what was created rather than the process or method of creation, I am thinking that this usage of creation as referring to the process or method may be a more recent usage and not one that was present in the New Testament times. This doesn’t mean that English Bibles can’t use it to translate these passages, but we just need to be careful that the meaning is what was originally intended.
Beginning of creation
Finally, let’s look at the passages that use the phrase beginning (arche) of creation (ktisis). These two words together occur four times in the New Testament.
Arche means the beginning, commencement, chief or ruler.
In Revelation 3:14 we see a different construction to the other three verses. The combination is used in a title for Christ, “the ruler of God’s creation”. Here we see arche being translated as ruler.
Here are the three other verses (NIV):
Mark 10:6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’
Mark 13:19 because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again.
2 Peter 3:4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”
Looking at each of the above three verses, it seems to me that they are referring to the beginning of the created universe, i.e. creation is referring to what has been created in line with the other New Testament usages. I don’t think that the word “creation” in and of itself is referring to the time of creation, because it would make the word “beginning” unnecessary; only when the word “creation” is combined with the word “beginning” do we get the time reference.
A Young Universe
So applying this understanding of the word creation to Mark 10:6, what we see is Jesus saying that at the beginning of the created universe God made them male and female, a direct quote from Genesis 1:27. Unfortunately, this needs to be spelt out even clearer in our time because the church overall today does not believe what Jesus is saying, even though it is obvious to someone outside the church. Day 6 in Genesis 1 is at the beginning of the created universe. The creation of man did not happen 3 million years ago, 15 billion years after the Big Bang – three million years ago is not at the beginning of the created universe on the evolutionary timescale. Jesus, yes that is Jesus, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity and who by Him all things were created (Colossians 1:16), said that God made Adam and Eve at the beginning of the created universe. All six days of the creation week are at the beginning when they are six literal 24-hour days. This also agrees with passages like Exodus 20:11. In fact, some of the other things that are found in this blog don’t make any sense apart from this understanding of Genesis 1 and the fall, for example, the whole created universe being involved in the consequences of and judgement on sin, not only at the time of the fall but in the end times.
So does this mean that God’s Word is at odds with science? By no means. What it does mean is that God’s Word does not agree with the science of scientists who are intent on trying their hardest to describe His created universe without reference to Him and ignoring things that He has revealed in His Word. The evidence around us is consistent with a worldview that holds to God’s Word. For example:
- God created life.
- God created all the information and mechanisms that we see in cells.
- God brought the whole universe into being.