Doesn’t the Bible get the order of creation wrong by saying plants appear before the Sun does?

No, because the Sun’s existence accounts for Earth’s light from the first day on. (See the booklet Genesis One for details.) To explain the order of events, we must start with Genesis 1:1.

  • The Hebrew expression translated “the heavens and the earth” in Genesis 1:1 indicates that the entire physical universe—including our solar system—was created prior to creation day one on Earth. Thus, the Sun existed before the Creator’s preparation of the Earth for life even started.
  • In Genesis 1:2, the writer’s frame of reference shifts from outer space to the surface of the “formless and empty” planet Earth. This new frame of reference—vital for interpreting the following passages—positions readers (or listeners) as observers on Earth’s surface, looking up at the sky.
  • After this shift in perspective, Earth’s initial conditions are depicted as “formless and void,” dark, and covered in water. As Job 38:9 tells us, “I [the Creator] made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness,” speaking of the primordial Earth. Astronomers’ observations of protoplanetary (pre-forming) systems and extrasolar planets and theoretical studies of our own planetary neighbors supports the accuracy of this scenario.
  • On day one, God declares, “Let there be light.” The Hebrew verb (hāyâ) indicates that light, already existent and emanating from the Sun, could now pierce through the darkness of the primordial planet’s opaque atmosphere. Light could now reach Earth’s surface. However, an Earth-bound observer would not, at this point, have been able to see the source of this light.
  • This limited light was sufficient for the survival of vegetation, which science now confirms predated complex animal life, as Genesis indicates. Not until later, on day four, did the atmosphere become transparent enough for a terrestrial observer to see the sources of both daytime and nighttime light. The Hebrew verb used in Genesis 1:16 (‘āśâ) indicates that the Sun, Moon, and stars were not deities, as some ancients believed, but rather, a part of God’s creation.

Thus, a careful analysis of Genesis 1 reveals that the Sun existed well before plants—just as our scientific understanding confirms.