How do we read the first chapter of Genesis? First of all as a scientific treatise, one that may help us reconcile the claims of modern science with Scripture? This is frequently the position Christians take in our days, and in a sense it is understandable, given the cultural situation wherein we find ourselves. But if understandable, it is also regrettable. Reading the first book of Scripture primarily for what is considered its scientific information threatens to hide from us the fact that the book is part of God's redemptive-historical revelation, his message of his dealings with his people and with the world; indeed, his message of salvation. As one Reformed theologian rightly said, Genesis 1 is ultimately a revelation of Jesus Christ. A single-minded concentration on the age of the earth and the length of the days of creation has very little to do with this central message. We must learn again to read Genesis 1 from the proper perspective.
I have suggested one way of doing so in the three-part series "Genesis 1 in Context" (see under "collected papers" in the sidebar, direct link here). Herein we look at Moses' account as the divine proclamation that the God who redeemed Israel from Egypt is also the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth. Israel, which is ready to enter the promised land, must learn to trust in Him alone and to ignore the gods of the surrounding nations. These gods are in focus, however. In the series I argue that Genesis 1 is at least in part a polemic against the religions of Babylonia, Egypt, and Canaan. The first of these is described in some detail in Part 1. Part 2 focuses on such elements as the symbolic meaning of the number seven (in Genesis 1 and throughout Scripture) and the principle of separation (which again we frequently meet in both Genesis 1 and elsewhere in the Bible). Part 3 returns to the Babylonian creation story and provides further evidence of the polemic nature of Genesis 1. It focuses, among other things, on the creation of sun, moon, and stars, the role of the "creatures of the deep," and the differences between the nature of humanity according to Genesis 1 and the Babylonian account of creation respectively.