In his Acton University lecture titled “Creation and the Image of God,” Scott Hahn began with the assertion that we often ask the wrong questions about the creation story in Genesis. Instead of focusing on scientific questions of exactly when God created and how, we should be asking what God created and why. These are questions of theological anthropology, i.e. the understanding of God that is necessary for the understanding of man. Hahn uses biblical theology in order to answer what God created and why, specifically in regards to the creation of man.
To answer what God created, Hahn starts with the Biblical Hebrew phrase tohu wa bohu, which is translated as “formless and empty.” This was used in Genesis to describe the state of the world prior to creation. Hahn explains that creation can be thought of as a two-part process of first forming and then filling, of first making the realms and then establishing their rulers. In the first three days, God created the realms: day and night on the first day, sky and sea on the second day, and land and vegetation on the third day. In the next three days of the creation story, God created the rulers: the sun and stars to rule over day and night, the birds and fish to rule over sky and sea, and the animals to rule over land and vegetation.
To answer why God created, Hahn looks to day seven of creation. In the Old Testament, the number seven signifies the making of a covenant. Hahn explains that when a covenant is made, it shapes a person’s identity by putting him or her in relation to others in a permanent and unconditional way.
The seventh day is significant because although man was made on the sixth day, he was made for the seventh day. Man was not meant to find fulfillment with the other beasts that were created on the sixth day, but was rather made for covenant with God.
Although man was ordered to cultivate and keep the land on days one through six and to rest on day seven, day seven immediately follows the creation of man. Thus, man was first called to rest before ever working, showing it is the basis of his work as well as the end of his work. Man’s primary identity, therefore, comes not from what he produces, but from the covenant that puts him in relationship with God. To describe the nature of this relationship, Hahn explains that God, who had eternal glory before creation, did not create to get glory, but to give it.
In our everyday lives, the danger is simply repeating days one through six and never reaching day seven, thereby basing our identity in our work rather than in our relationship with God. Rather, we must begin at day seven and work toward day seven, for although man was made to work, he was ultimately made for covenant with God.
Photo: Wikimedia, from English Wikipedia