“And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe.” – John 19:2
One of the more familiar scenes from Christ’s passion, this mocking act by the Roman soldiers during Christ’s trial under Pontius Pilate is recorded in all four Gospels. Though, from context, the most immediate and straightforward understanding of these texts is that the crown of thorns was a symbol of disgrace, making light of Jesus’ claim to be the awaited, anointed King who would usher in the heavenly kingdom of God on earth. However, when viewed through the lens of the whole of Scripture, the crown of thorns also has another symbolic meaning, which has a special significance to the debate over the origins, history, and age of the universe.
The first mention of thorns in the Bible is in Genesis 3:17-19, which says, “Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.””
In Romans 5, Apostle Paul argues that just as Adam sin plunged the whole world into sin and brought death upon all men as a result, so Christ’s death on the Cross which payed the penalty for sin has opened the doorway to eternal life for all who repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. As Isaiah 53:6 says in a prophecy of Christ’s suffering for sin, “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
Isn’t it significant that while bearing our sins, Jesus wore on His head a crown of twisted thorns, a symbol of the Curse brought about because of man’s sin in Genesis 3? After all, while Christ’s suffering was for the sins of mankind, Romans 8:22 tells us that just as we await the restoration of our physical bodies, made possible by the atonement of Christ, so “the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together,” awaiting the restoration of the whole of creation when Christ returns to establish His earthly kingdom. Likewise, Revelation 22:3 describes the new heavens and new earth, saying, “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.”
Clearly, from Scripture, we see that thorns are result of the Curse brought about by Adam’s sin, which will be abolished when Christ restores His creation, but how does this apply to creation and evolution teaching?
Many Christians, in response to the confident claims of secular scientists that the earth has gone through millions and billions of years of history prior to man’s appearance, have developed alternative methods of interpreting Genesis 1-3. Some hold to a ‘time-gap’ of billions of years between God’s creation of “the heavens and the earth” in Genesis 1:1 and the earth’s state of being “formless and void” in Genesis 1:2, while others argue that the days of Genesis can be understood as time ‘periods’ longer than 24-hour days; the billions of years of astronomical and geologic time.
There are other viewpoints, but what all of these theories have in common is that they all attempt to relegate the supposed billions of years of the fossil record to a ‘prehistoric’ period before the creation of Adam, his fall into sin, the penalty of physical death, along with the Curse of Genesis 3, which spelled the entrance of hardship, pain, and thorns into God’s once ‘very good’ creation.
However, these scenarios create a serious theological paradox. Deep in the geologic record, before the supposed ‘first appearance’ of man, even before the supposed catastrophic ‘extinction’ of the dinosaurs at the end of the ‘Cretaceous period,’ fossils of thorns have been found, preserved in stone.1 How can fossils of thorns pre-date the entrance of thorns into the world by hundreds of millions of years?
Moreover, what would such a situation do to the whole sweep of biblical history, which begins with the creation of a perfect world marred by sin, that awaits the restoration of all that was lost in Eden, which finds its fulfillment in the first and second comings of Christ? If thorns are not a result of Adam’s fall, then why did Jesus wear the crown of thorns while paying the penalty for man’s sin on the Cross?
There is only one way to avoid this contradiction: to trust in the Bible’s history from the very first verse instead of trying make it fit man’s fallible theories! Only when we accept the straightforward meaning of the creation account as a record of creation in six literal days can we be completely consistent in our understanding of God’s Word, from Genesis to Revelation.
1Stewart, Wilson N. Paleobotany and the Evolution of Plants. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1983. 109-10. Print.
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