Part 1 of my John Walton’s “Greatest Hits” series can be read here.
Day 1 — Creation of Light
Contrary to a superficial reading of Genesis 1:3-5, Walton argues that this passage does not describe the creation of physical light per se. Rather, God created the basis of time—the first step to bringing order to the cosmos. After speaking light into existence, God “called” light by its name, which was a common method in the ancient Near East (ANE) of assigning function or purpose. Also of note is the author’s use of metonymy, a figure of speech in which a particular word or phrase is substituted for another because of their intimate association (e.g., Washington = US Government). Thus, the first mention of “light” in v. 3 should be equated with the “period of light” God called “day” in v. 5.
Walton then contrasts the modern worldview, in which “Function is a consequence of Structure,” and the ANE wordview, in which “Function is a consequence of Purpose.” Thus, viewing Genesis 1 in this manner makes it unnecessary to “ask whether or not God also created physicist’s light on Day one. Certainly light as a physical entity must exist for time to function in the way that Genesis 1 describes it. But Genesis is not interested in the material structures that allow the functions to operate.”
Creation of the “Firmament” or “Expanse”
The Hebrew word for “firmament,” or “expanse,” (רקיע, raqi’a) is used 17 times in the Old Testament. Each and every time, in concurrence with the ANE worldview, it refers to something solid! Oddly enough, birds fly and the heavenly bodies find their dwelling in the firmament. (Walton also makes the interesting connection with Akkadian texts in which the stars are actually engraved on the undersurface of the firmament.) Because it is impossible for birds to fly, or the stars to be set, in the firmament, it stands to reason that the firmament possesses no scientfically-defined, structural equal. Thus, any attempts by condordists to harmonize all of the biblical mentions of the firmament and equate the firmament with something physical will always fail. In short, “there is a raqi’a … and it’s blue. Don’t try to get a piece.”
Just as the creation of light served the function of time, the creation of the firmament served the function of weather regulation—God’s second step in bringing order to chaos.