The Point of View (also known as the Frame of Reference) is a key concept for interpreting Genesis 1

Point of View in Literature and Science

The Point of View (POV) is a key concept for understanding either literature or science. The POV is the perspective from which the story is being told. In literature, it could be a perspective of the person telling their own story, usually called a first person narrative. “I did this” or “I saw that” would be examples of the first person POV. Examples of the second person POV are “You may think this” or “You must be feeling sad”. The second person POV is not common for long narratives. The third person POV tells the story of someone or something else besides the narrator. It has subdivisions of “omniscient”, “neutral”, and “limited” perspectives. Examples of a third person POV are “John was a member of the Rotary Club” or “She could tell that James was eager to start the test”.

It helps to take the POV into account in order to have a good understanding of a story. We would certainly expect this to be the case for a story of the creation.

From a literary viewpoint we believe that the description given in Genesis 1:2 of the Spirit hovering over the earth sets the POV for the rest of Genesis 1. This POV would use the third person limited omniscient (You can also see some pop culture examples of other literary POVs). In other words, it would be the viewpoint of the Spirit of God hovering over the earth and telling the story of the events of creation from that point of view. Other interpreters of Genesis 1 have understandably assumed that the story was being told from the third-person omniscient point of view, since we understand the narrator to be the omniscient Creator. But such an assumption usually is also associated with a physical POV of being somewhere out in space where the Creator has a view of the entire universe. But as humans we do not have such a perspective, and the Bible was written for human consumption. So, it would make sense that the Creator would create a narration that is presented from a location in space that would be relevant to the humans on the earth who would be reading this account. The importance of this POV is described in greater detail below.  

The POV in scientific terms is usually called the “frame of reference”. The frame of reference emphasizes physical aspects like location, speed, acceleration, or other aspects that can be measured. For Genesis 1:2 and following this concept of a frame of reference is relevant because the descriptions correspond to what the Spirit of God would be seeing as the Spirit hovered over the physical locations of the earth. You can read descriptions of the frame of reference from a popular perspective or a more technical perspective.

The POV or Frame of Reference is Probably Genesis 1:2 for the Descriptions of the Days in Genesis

The POV or scientific frame of reference for the creation “days” or periods of time in Genesis can be seen in Genesis 1:2b. In that verse, the frame of reference appears to be the viewpoint of the Spirit of God hovering over the earth, as it states in the ESV And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Note that this viewpoint appears to remain consistent for all the verses that follow Genesis 1:2 up until some of the first verses of Genesis 2.

We try to capture the idea of the Point of View in the animation below by depicting the Spirit of God as a fiery dove flying or hovering beneath the dark clouds . Then the light begins to appear through the clouds for Day 1, with the description from Genesis 1:3 of “Let there be light” (ESV). 

Light Appearing Through the Clouds on Day 1 as the Spirit Hovers Over the Deep Waters

Why Is Having the POV of Genesis 1:2 Important?

It is a critical insight that the point of view of Genesis 1:2b can be seen as the point of view for all the following verses in Genesis chapter 1. With this insight, we can then avoid the common confusing approach of interpreting light to be created on day 1 or the sun, moon, and stars to be created on day 4. From the point of view given in Genesis 1:2b,  the Spirit is witnessing the visibility or appearance of light coming through an initially dark cloud cover on day 1 and the visibility of the sun, moon, and stars through an atmosphere that is finally clear on day 4. This interpretation is in harmony with various Bible translations. Genesis 1:14 that describes the beginning of day 4 begins with “Let there be” in ESV, KJV, and NIV translations and with “Let lights appear” in the GNT and NLT translations concerning the greater and lesser lights (sun, and moon) and the stars. These phrases do not necessarily mean that creation of these lights was taking place. These phrases could just as easily mean that the lights were appearing where they had not yet appeared. This would then correspond exactly to the sequence of events as described by science.

If we use a POV outside the earth as many have done in the past, then the natural interpretation would be that the light and the sun, moon, and stars “appearing” would mean that they had just been created. But this would then imply that the earth was created before the stars, sun, and moon. That obviously creates some serious difficulties with the scientific viewpoint that has been accepted for centuries now and has become part of the common sense that is intrinsic to most of our lives. Therefore, understanding that the descriptions of the days in Genesis 1 can be seen from this point of view of the Spirit hovering over the earth is a key point in harmonizing science with the Bible.

Genesis 1:2 in Various Translations

The Genesis 1:2 verse that shows this point of view of the Spirit hovering over the waters of the earth is shown in some other various translations below.

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

the earth was a shapeless, chaotic mass, with the Spirit of God brooding over the dark vapors.

with the note: the earth was, or “the earth became.” a shapeless, chaotic mass, or “shapeless and void.”
over the dark vapors, or “over the cloud of darkness,” or “over the darkness and waters,” or “over the dark gaseous mass.” There is not one correct way to translate these words.

And the earth was waste and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters

The earth was barren,
with no form of life;
it was under a roaring ocean
covered with darkness.
But the Spirit of God
was moving over the water.

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

Or see multiple translations of Genesis 1:2
on one page.