Origin of First Plants on Land: Bible Said It First
by Rich Deem

Introduction

Skeptics have said that the biblical creation account fails, since it claims that plants appeared before animals.1 Originally, the scientific evidence showed that animals appeared within the oceans (during the Ediacaran period of the late Precambrian, ~580 million years ago) before plants appeared on the land (~450 million years ago). Did the Bible get it wrong?

First land plants

Beginning in 2009, scientists pushed back the probable development of complex photosynthetic plants on land to ~850 million years ago through the study of carbon isotope ratios in Precambrian rocks.2 However, since the evidence was merely isotopic in nature, the data was not completely definitive. However, in 2011, a study was published that pushed back the date of the origin of photosynthetic eukaryotes on land to at least one billion years ago, including fossil evidence of their existence.3 These organisms were different from the photosynthetic cyanobacteria (procaryotes) that had inhabited the planet since at least 3.5 billion years ago. These were true multi-cellular eukaryotes. Although algae-like, these organisms were much more complex than their procaryotic counterparts.

The Bible's claim

Skeptics like to say that the Bible is not testable, but then go on to say that it gets the creation account wrong. One of the main points of contention was the Bible's claim that land plants (day 3) were created before animals (day 5). Let's look at the Bible's account of the creation of plants:

Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the third day. (Genesis 1:11-13)

The English word translated "vegetation" in the above passage comes from the Hebrew word deshe', which refers to small plants, such as grasses and herbs.4 The other word, ‛eśeb, translated "plants" is even more generic, referring to any kind of green plant.5 Although the passage refers to trees that bear fruit with seed, the term "seed" in Hebrew refers to any kind of offspring,6 and not just the seeds of angiosperms. The Bible's claim that plants appeared on the land before animals has been mocked for decades, but now appears to be true. The Bible predicts that scientists will likely find evidence of more complex plants as they examine more Precambrian rocks. Stay tuned for future updates.

Conclusion Top of page

The Bible's creation account has been subject to much derision due to apparent contradictions with the record of nature. However, recently discovered fossil evidence shows that the Bible is correct in claiming that land plants appeared before animals in the oceans. The recently discovered evidence is a surprising confirmation of the biblical creation account to secular scientists. However, as believers, we should expect that scientists will find more evidence of even more complex plant life as more Precambrian rocks are studied.



Creation As Science: A Testable Model 
	Approach to End the Creation/evolution WarsReasons To Believe's third in a series of books proposing a testable creation model takes on the origin and design of the universe. Previous books, Origins of Life: Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off and Who Was Adam?: A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man, examined the origin of life on earth and the origin of mankind, respectively. Creation As Science develops a biblical creation model and compares the predictions of this model compared to a naturalistic model, young earth creationism, and theistic evolution. This biblical creation model is divided into four main areas, the origin of the universe, the origin of the Solar System, the history of life on earth, and the origin and history of mankind.

The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism by Michael Behe

Darwin's Black Box author Michael Behe takes on the limits of evolution through an examination of specific genetic examples. Behe finds that mutation and natural selection is capable of generating trivial examples of evolutionary change. Although he concludes that descent with modification has occurred throughout biological history, the molecular devices found throughout nature cannot be accounted for through natural selection and mutation. Behe's book claims to develop a framework for testing intelligent design by defining the principles by which Darwinian evolution can be distinguished from design.


References Top of page

  1. Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so... And there was evening, and there was morning--the third day. (Genesis 1:11-13)
    Then God said, "Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens." ...There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day. (Genesis 1:20-23)
  2. Knauth, L. P. and M. J. Kennedy 2009. The late Precambrian greening of the Earth. Nature 460: 728-732.
  3. Strother, P. K., L. Battison, M. D. Brasier and C. H. Wellman. 2011. Earth's earliest non-marine eukaryotes. Nature doi:10.1038/nature09943.
  4. BDB Definition:
    deshe' דּשׁא (Strong's H1877)
    1) grass, new grass, green herb, vegetation, young
    Part of Speech: noun masculine
    A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from H1876
    Same Word by TWOT Number: 456a
  5. BDB Definition:
    ‛eśeb עשׂב (Strong's H6212)
    1) herb, herbage, grass, green plants
    Part of Speech: noun masculine
    A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from an unused root meaning to glisten (or be green)
    Same Word by TWOT Number: 1707a
  6. BDB Definition:
    zera‛ זרע (Strong's H2233)
    1) seed, sowing, offspring
      1a) a sowing
      1b) seed
      1c) semen virile
      1d) offspring, descendants, posterity, children
      1e) of moral quality
        1e1) a practitioner of righteousness (figuratively)
      1f) sowing time (by metonymy)
    Part of Speech: noun masculine
    A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from H2232
    Same Word by TWOT Number: 582a

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Last Modified April 18, 2011

 

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