Reasons to Believe

Examining Mark 10:6

Posted in the Seattle Area Chapter - News and Views

In Mark 10:6, Jesus quotes Genesis 1:27: “From the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’” Many young-earth creationists have latched onto this verse, interpreting it in a novel way that provides evidence for their position of a 6,000 to 10,000 year old earth.1 However, careful study of this passage reveals the traditional understanding of Jesus’ words is correct and the passage does not
support a recent creation.

YOUNG-EARTH ARGUMENT

Young-earth creationists believe Adam and Eve were created on the sixth 24-hour day after the creation of the universe in Genesis 1:1. This means the universe existed only about 130 hours before they were created.2 Therefore, the earth cannot be billions of years old because human existence only dates back thousands of years and Adam and Eve were on the earth immediately after the universe was created. They argue this is confirmed by Jesus’ words in Mark 10:6 that God made Adam and Eve from the beginning of creation because Jesus used the word “beginning” to refer to Genesis 1:1, the time when God created the universe. Henry M. Morris states it this way: “The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ was our Creator
before He became our Savior (John 1:1-3,10; Colossians 1:16; etc.). But Christ thought that it was ‘from the beginning of the creation’ (not billions of years after the beginning of the creation) that ‘God made them male and female’ (Mark 10:6).”3

The ancient creation (old-earth) model maintains the universe was created about 13.7 billion years ago, the earth was formed about 4.5 billion years ago and Adam and Eve were created about 50,000 years ago. This places Adam and Eve near the end of the history of the universe, not the beginning. Nearly all the earth’s history, with its vast eons, along with countless generations of living things, would have
passed away before God created Adam and Eve and brought them together in the first marriage. If this is true young-earth creationists ask, how Jesus could say that God made them “from the beginning of creation?”4

RESPONSE TO ARGUMENT

Adam and Eve were the last creatures created by God–they came at the end of the creation process. There is a parallel passage in Matthew 19:4: “Have you not read that the Creator from the beginning ‘made them male and female’?” There is no parallel to this passage in Luke or John. So what does Jesus mean in Mark 10:6? By comparing Mark with Matthew, the first thing to note is “from the beginning of
creation” is equivalent to the simple phrase “from the beginning.” What “beginning” is Jesus speaking of? The immediate context indicates he was speaking of the beginning of human history, when marriage was first instituted at the creation, not necessarily of the beginning of the creation process. This interpretation is confirmed by a study of the phrase in Mark. In the Greek New Testament the words “of creation” are a single word, ktise-os, from the noun ktisis, meaning “creation.” This word is in the genitive case in Greek (Greek has five cases in which nouns may be found, determined by the ending on the noun and
each case is used in particular ways in the syntax of a sentence).

The genitive case often is translated in English Bibles with the word “of” in front of the noun. It is used in a number of different syntactical ways. Grammarians have developed names for these different syntactical uses. For example, in each following phrase the second noun would be in the genitive case:

  • “son of Zebedee” (genitive of relationship or origin–tells where the son came from)
  • “boats of Simon” (genitive of possession–tells who owns the boats)
  • “wealth of the world” (genitive of description–tells what kind of wealth)
  • “temple of his body” (genitive of apposition; also called epexegetic genitive–identifies what the temple is)
  • “one of the boats” (partitive genitive–shows the group the “one” came from)
  • “gospel of Paul” (subjective genitive–the gospel Paul preached–shows Paul as the subject of the action)
  • “zeal of God” (objective genitive–zeal directed to God–shows God as the object of the action)

When we look at this list of common uses of the genitive case, we can see that the phrase “the beginning of creation” can be interpreted in several ways. In order to select the proper interpretation, one must examine the context and then compare the result with the general teaching of the Scripture.5
In Mark 10:6 the most likely use of the genitive is the genitive of apposition (or epexegetic genitive), such as the phrase “the temple of his body” (John 2:21).6 The second word refers to the same object as the first word, only identifying it with a different noun. This usage employs a second noun, in the genitive case, to
further identify a more general or ambiguous noun. In Mark 10:6, the word “beginning” could be understood in a number of ways: for example, the beginning of humanity with Adam, the beginning of
the Hebrew people with Abraham, or the beginning of Israel as a nation with Moses. Jesus clarifies the word “beginning” by identifying it as the creation of humanity, the time of the very first humans, Adam and Eve. In Mark 10:6 Jesus would be saying, “In the beginning, that is, at the creation, God made them male and female.” The use of the genitive in this place makes perfect sense, agrees with Matthew
19:4, and follows standard grammatical forms. By using the words “beginning” and “creation,” Jesus is contrasting the original creation ordinance of marriage from the much later legislation of
Moses, with its incorporation of divorce laws. He is emphasizing the ancient origin of marriage and its vow to lifelong faithfulness,as opposed to the relatively recent legislation of Moses permitting divorce.7
To claim Jesus is referring to the first part of the creation process itself (a kind of partitive use of the genitive) introduces unnecessary confusion. Jesus and his Jewish audience knew Adam and Eve appeared at the end of the creation process. The “beginning” he is speaking of is not the beginning of the history of the universe, the stars and galaxies; it is the beginning of human history with Adam and Eve. Therefore, this passage is not talking about the beginning of the universe and provides no evidence for a
recent creation.

by John Battle, Th.D.

Subjects: Biblical Evidence for an Old Earth

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REFERENCES

  1. For example, Charles V. Taylor, “Biblical Problems for Theistic Evolution and Progressive Creation” Creation 17:2 (March 1995) 46–48, (available online: http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v17/i2/creation.asp). Jonathan Sarfati strongly supports this interpretation of Mark
    10:6, Refuting Compromise (Green Forest, Ark.: Master Books, 2004) 298-299.
  2. According to this view, the sixth creation day began 120 hours after creation and ended 144 hours after the creation.
  3. Henry M. Morris, “The Vital Importance of Believing in Recent Creation,” Back to Genesis in Acts & Facts 138a (June 2000); available at http://www.icr.org/pubs/btg-a/btg-138a.htm.
  4. It should be noted some more theologically astute recent creationists do not use this argument from Mark 10:6. For instance, it is not mentioned as an argument by the following:
    Robert Lewis Dabney, Lectures in Systematic Theology (1878; reprinted , Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972) 251-263; Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998) 392-396; John MacArthur, The Battle for the Beginning: Creation, Evolution and the Bible (W Publishing Group, 2001); and the statement of the faculty of the Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary http://www.gpts.edu/resources/resource_creation.html).
  5. I checked several standard Greek grammars (Blass-Debrunner-Funk, Moulton, Robertson, Wallace) to see if any of them discussed Mark 10:6 in particular, but none did. Of course, they
    all give the various uses of the genitive case, using many other illustrations.
  6. Daniel B. Wallace provides other examples of the genitive of apposition: “the feast of unleavened bread” (Luke 22:1), “the land of Egypt” (Acts 7:11), “the sign of circumcision” (Rom 4:11), “the deposit of the Spirit” (2 Cor 5:5), “the breastplate of righteousness” (Eph 6:14) “the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah” (2 Pet 2:6), “the words of the prophecy” (Rev 1:3), Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996), 95-99.
  7. I also checked several standard commentaries on Mark (Gould, Cranfield, Lane, France). None of
    them suggests this passage indicates Adam and Eve lived near the beginning of earth’s history. Rather they all agree the phrase indicates that the institution of marriage and the obligation to lifelong commitment were present from the beginning of human history.