According to the book of Genesis the earth was in the begging a formless void and it was created by God in this way, and that formless void is expressed in the Bible through the formula “Tohu vav bohu”. Why would God have created the earth as a formless void first instead of an organised planet ready to receive life? At first glance it doesn’t make any sense. I try to answer this question using the established solutions in the religious literature.
What meaning can the affirmation that planet Earth was without form when it was created by God have? Was it not spherical? Was it like a pile of cosmic material thrown randomly into space and looking like an asteroid but with the difference that it was submerged under water? Did God in the beginning create a pile of matter in the middle of water? It is what the Bible says about the initial creation of the earth. In cosmos, all planets and stars are naturally organised into spherical bodies. Before reaching a mature stage, in the solar system, planets were rotating piles of gases which cooled and solidified. Nevertheless, being in the stage of floating gases, the earth couldn’t have been submerged in liquid water because in those conditions the rotating gases which later generated the planets of the solar system, couldn’t have taken the form of spherical celestial bodies.
From the way in which the book of Genesis describes the creation of the earth, under the primeval sea, the planet couldn’t have followed the usual course to become a spherical celestial body being shapeless and submerged in water.
Why are the planets spherical? The following text explains why celestial bodies having a certain dimension become spherical:
“One of the effects of mass is that it attracts other mass. When you have millions, and even trillions of tonnes of mass, the effect of the gravity really builds up. All of the mass pulls on all the other mass, and it tries to create the most efficient shape… a sphere. For smaller objects, like asteroids, the force of gravity trying to pull the object into a sphere isn’t enough to overcome the strength of the rock keeping it in shape. But once you get above a certain mass and size, the strength of the object can’t stop the force of gravity from pulling it into a sphere. Objects larger than about 1,000 km in size are able to pull themselves into a sphere.”27
- 1 -
The earth couldn’t have first been a pile of matter similar to an asteroid, and from this matter became a spherical planet, because an asteroid is much smaller than a planet and asteroids don’t become planets. The quantity of matter formed by dust and gases had to be of sufficient dimension from the beginning so as to constitute the future planet. In its solid form planet Earth was never a formless void in the sense of a shapeless pile of matter as the book of Genesis says.
Why would God have created a heap of formless matter as a planet, such as the book of Genesis says that He did? Planets are big enough to determine by gravity their spherical shape. Under the action of gravity such a big quantity of matter, as was that of the earth, would have been made into a sphere even if at the beginning it was only a formless pile of gas.
If God created in the beginning a pile of gas and dust and this is the meaning of the expression “formless void” used by the book of Genesis, this gathering of matter couldn’t have evolved into a spherical planet because that compound would have been under the waters of the primeval sea, according to the Bible. A rotating pile of gas under water doesn’t make sense. Whoever says that science and religion don’t diverge about the creation of the earth is wrong; they are very far from one another.
Only on the third day did the dry land appear from under the waters of the primeval sea in the book of Genesis.
“9 And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1; 9-10 NRSV)
In the Bible the initial heap of cosmic matter was covered by the waters of the primeval sea and the book of Genesis doesn’t say when and how it became a spherical planet. How could the earth have transformed itself from a heap of matter into a spherical planet under water? The alleged phenomenon would have needed to happen before the separation of the waters and the creation of plants. If that was correct it would mean that in the first two days of creation when the earth was still under water it would have been transformed from a pile of matter in a spherical planet.
- 2 -