The Big Bang and the Pre-existent Primordial Substrate

According to Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, prior to the Big Bang, the universe existed as a singularity. Singularities are objects (or, to be more precise, regions) which defy our current understanding of physics althought they are quite understandable mathematically (see below). They are thought to exist at the core of black holes. If you don’t already know, black holes are areas of intense gravitational force – a force so immense that, at their core, all matter is infinitely compressed to a mathematical point. This was our universe billions of years ago and because it existed as a singularity – a point in space – it had no dimensions of space (length, width, or height) or time1)Steven W. Hawking, George F.R.Ellis, “The Cosmic Black-Body Radiation and the Existence of Singularities in our Universe,” Astrohysical Journal, 152, (1968) pp. 25-36. Also, Steven W. Hawking, Roger Penrose, “The Singularities of Gravitational Collapse and Cosmology,” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, series A, 314 (1970) pp. 529-548..

Within a singularity, gravity2)In Einstein’s General Theory, gravity is not a force, but rather a measure of the curvature of space. With a singularity, space is curved so severely that light simply goes round and round in a circle and cannot escape. is so intense that even [light] energy is condensed into matter so that singularities are perfectly dark. Moreover, without dimensions of space and time, our singularity had no observable form. Without form and completely dark we can’t help be be reminded of Genesis 1:2,

…and the earth had been formless and void…

But, let’s continue with the science for a bit more; we do know that the event that transformed the singularity into our universe was the Big Bang.  We also know when the Big Bang occurred. Using the universe’s observed rate of expansion, cosmologists can calculate the how long ago the singularity was transformed into our universe3)For example, if a car has gone 120 miles at 40 miles per hour, we know that the trip began 3 hours ago. A similar (but more detailed) calculation is used to compute the time when the Big Bang occurred.. Accordingly, the best measurements suggest this even occurred about 13.7 billion years ago. It was the event of the Big Bang that converted matter to energy (one kind of which was light) and started the clock of time. Today, the expansion continues and the birth of the universe so long ago is real and factual. This means that the truths of the Genesis account must accommodate what we observe about God’s creation. To do otherwise is to elevate our wishful assumptions above that of the biblical text – an act of hubris.

Metaphorically we can model the Genesis account of creation by representing the primordial substrate (the dark and formless earth4)Here, as in all verses of the Genesis account, “earth” represents the solid substance the ancient Israelites believed to be the material world. The earth stood in contrast to the “skies” which could be felt (wind, cold) but not seen.) by the singularity. Similarly, we can speculate that the divine command that light come into existence (Genesis 1:3) was, in Stephen Hawking’s analogy, the match that lit the metaphorical fuse causing the Big Bang and the subsequent creation of light energy.

This is not to say that the divine author knew of such things. I suppose one could, as a matter of faith, argue that God inspired the metaphor in which the primordial substrate of Genesis 1 equates to a singularity, as well as the creation of light the result of the Big Bang. My only point is that the interpretation that the primordial substrate predated Genesis 1 and that God’s first creative act was to create light, not the heavens and the earth.

Thus, the historical evidence such as the commentaries of Philo and the Church Fathers, linguistic evidence such as the use of the past perfect tense, when combined with what we know about the current state of cosmology more clearly support creation ex materia (creation from something). I would argue that the proponents of creatio ex nihilo (creation from nothing) have a huge hurdle to overcome. Not only does the ancient commentaries and modern linguistics not support their argument, neither does cosmology.

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