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Intellectual Integrity and Faith? 3: Genesis One (RJS)

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Genesis 1 has been studied, debated, and expounded as much as any text in world history. Scholars and amateurs alike have poured over this text for twenty-five hundred years, and it continues to demand our attention because of its arresting content and architectonic style. (p. 29)

So begins Bill Arnold’s discussion of Genesis 1 (actually 1:1-2:3) in his commentary Genesis (New Cambridge Bible Commentary Series)
. There are two different issues we must consider with Genesis 1 – Form and Intent, and neither of these suggest a literal six-day creation.

What do you think is the “correct” interpretation of Genesis 1?  Is “myth” an appropriate description of Genesis 1?

Genesis 1 is a powerful, well crafted, beautiful text.  It has often been considered poetic – certainly I have always thought of it as a poem of sorts.  Arnold is somewhat more cautious – considering it elegant prose, perhaps based on a poem originally. He believes that Genesis 1 was written by a member of Israel’s priestly caste during the pre-exilic period, composed intentionally as a prologue to what follows – likely by the Holiness editor who assembled the text as a whole.

The text has several purposes:

  • It serves to repudiate ANE cosmogonies – myths of origin.  It establishes God above all else. But Arnold feels that the common view that it is a polemic against other views is an overstatement.  The purpose of Genesis 1 proactive more than reactive.

  • It places humanity as unique and exalted in the image of God.
  • It establishes the Sabbath and the reason for the Sabbath.

The form of the text is shaped by its intent.

On the first day God creates light, separates day and night and names them.  Light is foundational, but not until day four are sun, moon, and stars created.

Days two and three and four are shaped by ANE cosmology – the worldview or science of the author. The ANE view of the world has a flat disk shaped earth with mountains at its ends supporting a multilayered sky – a dome with chambers through which water above comes down as rain.  There is also water under and around the earth. The sun, moon, and stars cross the dome.  So on day two the dome is created separating waters above from waters below; on day three the earth within the dome is formed and planted with vegetation of every kind; on day four the sun, moon and stars are put in place. God created the world – as our author saw it, not as we see it. 

The objectification of  sun, moon, and stars, is important and goes beyond the cosmology:

In religious thought of the ancient
world, the sun and moon were leading deities, often the most important
gods of the pantheons of the ancient near east. The use of “greater
light” and “lesser light” avoids the Hebrew words for sun and moon (?eme? and yareah respectively) which could have been taken for the ordinary names for the deities, Shemesh and Yarikh. These great objects, worshiped in the ancient world have instead become physical objects of God’s creative work. p.41

Days five and six bring living creatures, birds and fish on day five to be fruitful and multiply, land animals and man on day six also to be fruitful and multiply.  The creation of man, male and female, is the peak of the process. Humans are created in the image of God to have dominion, to fill the earth (not just a “garden”), to work and create or build (subdue). Arnold suggests that the term “the image of God” also has roots in the culture of the day.

On the basis of numerous parallels from both Egypt and Mesopotamia, it has become clear that the phrase is related to royal language, in which a king or pharaoh is the “image of (a) god.” Thus humans are created to function in the divine image through the exercise of “dominion” and “rule,” … The image of God is about the exercise of rulership in the world. p. 45

What does this mean?

In the language and science of the day we have a text that teaches God as ultimate creator, first and foremost, above all else.  We do not have a text that teaches that the ANE cosmology was correct.  We do not have a text that describes how God created, but that he created and that it was good. That creation was finite in time, a process, not instantaneous as Augustine thought, nor gradual as we see reflected in the scientific data, is
also a function of the culture of our author, consistent with the general view of the day.  

With creation completed and very good, God institutes a day of rest, he institutes “blessing” and “holiness” for the created order. p.  49.  He institutes the Sabbath. The Sabbath and the seven day cycle were very important in Israel – and one of the practices that set them apart. Seven day cycles are so ingrained in our culture that it is hard to imagine any thing else. Yet cycles tied to sun, moon and recurring movement of planets were common in the ANE. The seven day week was not.

The seven-day week ending in a sanctified Sabbath is unique to Israel among the ancient Near Eastern philosophies. By definition this institution of the Sabbath presents an alternative view of reality.  p.49  

Well, Arnold has me thinking here. In retrospect it is not surprising that God spoke through the author of Genesis 1 in the science and culture of the day – in his days, in his ways – perhaps we should be surprised we would ever have thought otherwise. To class Genesis 1:1-2:3 as “myth” misses the point, by a mile – this is an inspired description of God as the ultimate creator as he establishes and guides his chosen people. To class Genesis 1:1-2:3 as a treatise on history and science – and expect more than vague concordance with either – is also off base.

So here’s our question for the day:

Do inspiration and inerrancy require the text to transcend time and place in all particulars? Is the proposal that God spoke in the language and forms, the science and understanding, of the day tantamount to calling God a liar, as many seem to suggest?



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Scot McKnight

posted February 5, 2009 at 8:33 am


RJS,
Good summary of Arnold; thanks for this.
Three ideas come to me: the origins of all of life in God who is Creator; the summative significance of humans as place on earth to care for God’s world — this notion places responsibility on humans as if to say God has given this earth to us to govern.
Last point: Does Arnold make much of “order”? There is a profound sense of orderliness in Gen 1 that strikes me as a kind of “everything in its place” while prior to creation it was all tohu vabohu/formless and void.
Indeed, it is a text speaking into a context and, while our context is much different, that text still says the same profound things about God as creator, humans as Eikons and the order of it all.



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Percival

posted February 5, 2009 at 8:46 am


Of course inspiration and inerrancy do not require the text to transcend time and place in all particulars. The difficulty for us is finding the relevance of the text. Was it primarily relevant for them and only indirectly relevant for us? That is, as long as our concerns are a six-day work week, monotheism, and the limited set of issues addressed by the text, it is relevant. People who insist on accuracy on every level of language forget that it is actually impossible for human language to be accurate in every sense. A simple statement like, “I got up at 6:00 am today” would only make sense to someone living on the space station, for example, because they have only recently left earth and they can still interpret the meaning as an earthling with our short-sighted view of time, clocks, and a familiarity with gravity-bound sleep patterns. (i.e. without gravity holding one down in sleep, there is no sense of “getting up” when one awakes.)
Are we now so removed now from the ancient Near East in our world view and understanding as to render the texts as virtually meaningless to the average person who is not prepared to make great leaps of imagination to think as someone from that ancient world; indeed, can any of us?
By the way, why is it translated “the heavens and the earth” instead of “the skies and the land”?



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Norton

posted February 5, 2009 at 8:50 am


RJS–
Nice summary and thoughts. One question: why does classifying Genesis 1 as a myth miss the point, “by a mile” especially if you define myth the way OT scholar Peter Enns does, as a story told by premodern, prescientific people to address ultimate questions of origin and meaning in life? I see how popular definitions of myth fall short, especially if they exclude any concept of inspiration, but humanly speaking, is the literary genre, form, and intent of Gen 1 that different from say Enuma Elish such that we can call those other stories “myth,” but not Gen 1? Just curious about why you seem fairly resistant to myth language. Thanks!



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RJS

posted February 5, 2009 at 9:18 am


Norton (#3)
First “Myth” hits an unnecessary nerve for some, so I prefer to avoid the term when possible. However, I think that it may be appropriate when we get to parts of Genesis 1-11 (Noah, Babel, …), but I have not read that part of the commentary yet.
On Genesis 1, I don’t think that “myth” is the right term. This is not so much a creation myth (story of how the earth came into being) as it is a reflection on the glory of God who created all, who created order out of chaos, and on the privilege we have to be created in the image of God to work and create and rest in sacred rhythm. The cosmology of the author reflected in the text is entirely secondary to the purpose and intent.



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RJS

posted February 5, 2009 at 9:34 am


Ok – I’ve added the question to the post. Is the term “myth” a good description of Genesis 1? I don’t think so and have given my reasons above.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted February 5, 2009 at 9:42 am


Percival #2
My understanding is the “heavens and earth” is a euphemism for “all that is”. We might say “lock, stock and barrel” or “from A to Z.”



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Michael W. Kruse

posted February 5, 2009 at 9:43 am


I?m intrigued by point of reference in the story and the chronological sequence in which things occur.
We tend to view this through our minds eye as though positioned out in space, watching the planet come into being. The ancients would have seen themselves standing on the ground viewing what is happening above and around them. What does that matter in how we read the story?
The first verse tells us that God created all that is. Beginning in verse two, we turn to the formation of the earth. Scientists tell us that the earth began as a desolate ball covered in water and with an atmosphere so opaque that it blocked out all light. Over millions of years the atmosphere became more translucent, letting light through. Eventually, heavenly bodies became visible. Thus, standing on the face of the earth, as the ancients would have positioned themselves, light appears before the heavenly bodies.
The sequence of events is really quite astonishing. Land appears. Then vegetation. Then sea creatures and land creatures. Then finally humans. This is far from complete but the elements that are included appear in the correct sequential order that we would expect from science.
The Genesis 1 account is not a science report or a just-the-facts history, but the above suggests to me that it is revelation about actual historical events and that it was intended to be understood as such.



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Percival

posted February 5, 2009 at 10:02 am


Michael Kruse,
Yes, standing on the ground, not viewing it from above. Does that mean that the “cosmos” was secondary in focus? I believe so. When “land and skies” means everything that is, when a shell of firmament covers everything, it will certainly affect how we see the focus of the text. I think it is more about the land starting out as “uninhabited and uncultivated” more than “formless and void” interpretation; tohu wa bohu. This gives makes it more about practical land issues and not about the cosmos.



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Matt S.

posted February 5, 2009 at 10:27 am


reg: Is “myth” the right term?
I understand that some think it may have been liturgical in origin. Actually used as a part of prayer or service at the tabernacle/temple? Was it perhaps compiled by a priest, but not only as an intro or framework for the rest of Gen 1-11?



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Michael W. Kruse

posted February 5, 2009 at 11:16 am


Percival #8
“I think it is more about the land starting out as “uninhabited and uncultivated” more than “formless and void” interpretation; tohu wa bohu.”
I think the only other place we have tohu wa bohu is in Jeremiah 4:23:
Jer 4:23-26
23 I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void (tohu wa bohu);
and to the heavens, and they had no light.
24 I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking,
and all the hills moved to and fro.
25 I looked, and lo, there was no one at all,
and all the birds of the air had fled.
26 I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert,
and all its cities were laid in ruins
before the LORD, before his fierce anger.
NRSV
Clearly the sense is desolation not a chaotic formless mass. I think the later is probably an imposition of Greek cosmology.
From what I’ve read, “the earth” simply meant “the place where people live” to the ancients. I think the story has that as its focus and other matters of material existence are related to that.
But I think the bigger picture is that God is preeminent and sovereign above all. All this astonishing work was done in anticipation of placing his image-bearers in dominion over it. It places God, humanity, and the land, all in proper context to one another.



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Brandon

posted February 5, 2009 at 11:29 am


Perhaps its enough to say Genesis 1 is “myth-like” (or even “history-like”). That is, this text certainly has much in common in ANE creation myths. The connections are so strong I would argue that the author was familiar with parts or all (oral or written) of the Enuema Elish. The ordering (and contents) of days, the supremacy of a god (Marduk/Yahweh), temple worship of god, and a “royal court” context appear in both creation accounts. Thus its probabley correct to see some genre connection, otherwise, what is this genre simliar to in the ANE? Of course, the author of Genesis does diverage in many places (divine-image, purpose of creation, etc) but the general framework of presentation still appears similiar.
If the framework is culturally borrowed are the contents (in the framework) also culturally borrowed? Or does this cut against inspiration? Must the contents be (supernatually) divinely given? (Because of course no one was watching creation)



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Bill T. Arnold

posted February 5, 2009 at 11:33 am


I do not believe ?myth? is an appropriate genre description for Gen. 1. The introduction of my commentary explains that I am reading the Primeval History (Gen 1-11) as ?mytho-historical literature,? following the observations of Thorkild Jacobsen. Such an approach identifies these chapters as a new and unique genre; not historiography in the same way the Court History is for example (2 Sam 9-20; 1 Kgs 1-2) but not simple ancient Near Eastern myth either. Rather this is Israel?s way of treating themes usually expressed through mythology in the ancient world, but now placed along a time-continuum using cause and effect explanations. Not myth, but not history as we normally think of it either.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted February 5, 2009 at 11:34 am


Scot #1
“Last point: Does Arnold make much of “order”? …”
I wondered about this too. Rodney Stark, among others, makes the case that the reason science emerged in the West they way it did nowhere else was the sense of order and things behaving each according to their own kind implied in Genesis 1. A world that operates according to orderly principles can be systematized and studied, while anthropomorphizing inanimate objects, believing in fates, or seeing arbitrary gods at work in everything tends to discourage scientific thought.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted February 5, 2009 at 11:46 am


Brandon #11
I keep coming to the question of who borrowed whom? Is their an earlier oral tradition predating Enuema Elish from which it and the biblical narrative are drawing?
“Must the contents be (supernatually) divinely given? (Because of course no one was watching creation)”
This goes back to comment in #7. How did this ancient culture manage to get the sequence of events in the correct scientific order? Revelation or incredible coincidence seem to be two options.



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Ann Nunnally

posted February 5, 2009 at 11:50 am


Would the word “story” be less controversial than “myth”?
I may be looking at this from a scientist’s point of view, but I just don’t think that explaining the mechanics or “how” of the world is the point of the Bible at all. It is concerned with the “why.” God is beyond the universe and time, in my opinion, and therefore whatever scientists discover about the universe should not cause us to re-think the Bible.



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Bill T. Arnold

posted February 5, 2009 at 12:31 pm


Certainly, the orderliness of creation was a central theme of Gen 1, illustrated by God?s calling forth, setting in place, and separating this from that, and even illustrated further by the symmetry and precision of the chapter itself.
On the issue of science, I agree that science was made possible by the objectification of creation in Gen 1. The sun, moon, and stars, worshipped by all peoples of the ancient world prior to Israel, are now, like the rest of the world, objects of God?s creative power. Ancient peoples worshipped practically every demonstration of life and power in the world. But in Gen 1, all have been transformed into objects of God?s great power and creative love.



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Derek Leman

posted February 5, 2009 at 1:04 pm


You asked: Do inspiration and inerrancy require the text to transcend time and place in all particulars?
Just the opposite. If the text does not speak to humans, it is useless. This is why an incarnational model for understanding scripture has always made sense to me (I learned that model in a conservative evangelical environment years ago). The text must have a contemporary audience and be interpreted as such. Therefore, I expect it to be addressed to people in the time it was written (I still lean heavily towards Moses’ time for this one, seeing little reason to doubt it in spite of the certitude others have that it is late).
BTW, the order thing is crucial to the point of Genesis 1, IMO. Marduk had to steal the tablets of destinies to be able to assign function and order to the cosmos. God did not need tablets, but innately is the order-maker of the cosmos. John Walton’s commentary in the NIV Application series is excellent in this regard.
Derek



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RJS

posted February 5, 2009 at 1:15 pm


Bill,
Thanks for your comments – I am enjoying reading your commentary. My expertise is science though, not Old Testament.
Derek,
I think you hit on a key idea to my thinking – we should expect the text to speak to the culture in which it was written. Much of human nature and relationship is timeless, and the nature of God is timeless – so these aspects should transcend time and place. But a specific cosmology is anchored in time and place – and the cosmology of Genesis reflects the context of the original audience. My thoughts at this point anyway.



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RJS

posted February 5, 2009 at 4:35 pm


I guess Genesis 1 is no longer the point of controversy …
Michael #7,
I am uneasy with concordist interpretations of Genesis 1 because I think that the text relates theological truths in the language and science of the original author and audience. The point isn’t the truth of the cosmology or cosmogony – this is ANE “science;” the point is the theology – what do we learn about God and the relationship between God and Man.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted February 5, 2009 at 6:22 pm


RJS #19
I may have overstated my case. I’m taking neither a concordist or non-concordist position. I’m being centrist or third way. :-) Maybe my position could be called soft-concordist.
I don’t need every precise detail to match perfectly with science. Exploration of some concordist arguments are quite interesting and fun, but ultimately unnecessary to my confidence in the Genesis account. Like you, I think the theological concerns are central and this is not a science text. So I’m not a hard-concordist.
However, I think it is equally inappropriate to dismiss the astonishingly close parallels between this story and the actual history of how our present reality came to be (established through science), as well as its dissimilarity to other creation accounts. How did this ANE community happen to “luck into” such a parallel?
Both the need to find prefect concordance and the minimization of the concordance that is present seem inappropriate to me.



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Norton

posted February 5, 2009 at 6:28 pm


Hi RJS,
Thanks for your response (I’m just now getting back to the post.) I was quoting from memory before, but now I have Enns in front of me. He defines myth as “an ancient, pre-modern, pre-scientific way of addressing questions of ultimate origins and meaning in the form of stories: Who are we? Where do we come from?”
I do understand the baggage with the term “myth” and for that reason I rarely use it so as not to be misunderstood. But I like this definition, and if Enns is on to something, then I think it’s a good way of describing the literary genre of ANE creation stories, including Gen 1.
Perhaps you’re right, that the focus of Genesis is less on creation and more on God’s glory, but it seems the story itself was ultimately told as an origin story, the origin story of the Penteteuch – who is Israel? where did we come from? and who is this God who redeemed us, this God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? The answer is that Yahweh is not only the God that created and redeemed Israel, but the God who created the world and redeems humanity.
Thoughts?



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RJS

posted February 5, 2009 at 9:34 pm


Norton,
I think that we will run into appropriation of myth in Genesis 2-3 although Dr. Arnold may prefer a different term.
Looking solely at Genesis 1, I don’t see this as myth or appropriation of myth but as something more nuanced. I see it as accepting the ancient world view of the nature of the cosmos and using that common knowledge framework for a crafted presentation of God as creator. Elements of that common knowledge framework are also present in contemporaneous creation myths of course. I have Stephanie Dalley’s translation of the Mesopotamian creation myth sitting in front of me and there are common cultural elements, but nothing like a common story.
Perhaps the best description here is accommodation, something akin to Calvin’s use of accommodation in his commentary on Genesis – but more foundational. In the inspiration of the Genesis 1 God accommodated himself to human perspective through the human authors in the concepts of the day and age.



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Darren King

posted February 5, 2009 at 11:37 pm


I certainly hope we’re quickly moving away from this sense that unless scripture gets “everything right” – in terms of history, science, as well as theological truth – that we have to end up calling God a liar. This is such a ridiculous claim. I constantly tell my children things that are true (as approximations)and that fit within their (albeit) limited worldviews, but aren’t exactly true to the “T” – for an abstract thinker such as myself, and other adults with fully developed, adult brains. This doesn’t make me a liar. It makes me (I hope) a good father who’s calling his children forward into a growing grasp of truth. I am speaking truth that is appropriate for their own “evolution” as human beings.
Bottom line: we are all contextualized. I made the point that RJS is now making several weeks ago in a different post. The OT and NT writers are located within a context – and this context shapes how they receive and make sense of revelation. To suggest that they somehow receive unfiltered truth simply because it comes from God is to both misunderstand the human condition, and the divine-human relationship.



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Michelle

posted February 5, 2009 at 11:58 pm


Here are some thoughts…
Do inspiration and inerrancy require the text to transcend time and place in all particulars? Is the proposal that God spoke in the language and forms, the science and understanding, of the day tantamount to calling God a liar, as many seem to suggest?
I don’t believe that it is tantamout to calling God a liar, but it seems to me the line is blurry as to what defines “particulars”? What particulars shall one include?
If one were to interpret through the language of the times – certainly the science of the times was not what it is now. Take what we have found of the DNA strand, in recent years…the complexity, the information. Now look back 100 years at what scientists thought… So…very different. Each thought was necessary – were the scientists 100 years ago, liars? Is Darwin a liar? No…I don’t think we should go so far. Each conveys their perspective at their given time in history, with their knowledge, their experience, and their background at the time. All were necessary to spur on human thought and understanding of origin, science, and religion. So…this brings me to God – speaking in the language of the time – does that make him a liar? No..not necessarily. But – it certainly does not make God believeable. When I read Darwin’s Origin of Species (not comparing to God…but stay with me), I get one man’s interpretation of the origin of humanity. From the time Darwin wrote this…til now, Darwin has been manipulated, twisted, and evolution has been changed and explained in so many different ways. Much of what Darwin found has been disproven. Yet, many still believe. WHen people look back in 100 years, I believe Darwin’s theories will be around…even though they have been disproven. Why? Because, in the absence of truth or pure understanding – one must go towards where one sees the best evidence. Equally so….many believe much of creation has been disproven. The seven day creation, how could God breathe into life, etc. Much of creation (in the minds of many has been disproven). However, many creationist will defend with different interpretations of what “seven days means”, etc. Many still believe. WHen people look back in 100 years, I believe creationist theories will be around…even though they have been disproven. In the absence of truth or pure understaning…one must go towards where one sees the best evidence. Some…would say Darwin. Creationist would argue away Darwin by scrutinizing his ideas, and Darwinians would defend through Stanley Miller, Frogs that change sexes…etc. Darwinians would argue away creation by scrutinizing Genesis 1, mocking the seven day creation, and using fossil records, etc. to make creationist look silly. So…do I think it is tantamount to calling God a liar? No….not any more so than calling Darwin a liar. They are each one group of peoples idea on the origin of species. But…the fact that it does not transcend time in all particulars…does not make it particularly believeable. I wouldn’t call God a liar, but Genesis 1 does not give me much to believe in. It is a nice story, given the understanding of nature at the time – but, it certainly does not, given today’s scientific understanding, particularly the information/ understanding we have gained in the last 100 years make it believeable given my current understanding, culture, experience, and scientific knowledge. And…I would imagine, if God were speaking in the language of the time then – maybe he’s not a liar, but why isn’t he speaking in the language of today? Where is today’s Bible?



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AHH

posted February 6, 2009 at 12:07 am


Michael #7 and #20:
I think you are overstating the “astonishingly close parallels” between the sequence of events in Genesis 1 and the order science tells us. The most obvious non-parallel is that the Sun and the Moon don’t get created until Day 4. Fruit trees and birds also come “out of order”. I know there are people committed to concordism (like Hugh Ross) who try to “reconcile” these discrepancies by doing things like counting insects as birds and saying that the Sun & Moon were really created earlier but only became visible on “Day 4.” I believe most OT scholars (except for some with a strong prior commitment to concordism) consider such contorted interpretations to be silly. Then you also have the discrepancies in order between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Not to mention the solid dome above the Earth which has no reasonable concordist explanation.
I’m with RJS (and I believe Prof. Arnold) on this — Genesis 1 employs the cosmology of the time (the idea of accommodation) while making theological points about who God is. To address scientific questions to that portion of Scripture is to ask questions it is not trying to answer, and the church simply needs to stop doing it.



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Jeremiah Daniels

posted February 6, 2009 at 12:13 am


I had a professor in graduate school who would often spend an entire lecture telling us that “this is the only way to do it.”
The next lecture, he would say, “Yesterday, I lied to you. There are actually four other ways to do it. I just wanted you focused on only the most basic, primitive way. Now, if you understood yesterday you are ready for the other ways. Remember what I told you yesterday because it will help you understand the lectures the rest of the semester.”



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Michael W. Kruse

posted February 6, 2009 at 11:42 am


AHH #25
AHH
Let me try an analogy.
Two four year olds are asked where their newborn baby brother came from. The first child says, ?My mommy and daddy wanted another baby so one day a large white bird with a big beak brought my brother in a basket and left him outside the front door. My mommy and daddy opened the door one morning and there he was.? The other child responds that, ?My mommy and daddy wanted another baby so one day my daddy put a seed in my mommy?s tummy. It grew up to my brother until one day when he was big enough he came out and here he is.?
The first story has no concordance with actual historical events. The second clearly does. Is it complete? No. Is it precisely accurate? No. But it does closely concord with historical realities. Yes.
I would not send a scientist to the second child to learn how babies are born but I would affirm that from a four year old?s perspective, the child has a good grasp of historical realities. What assessments would we make about what the two different sets of parents intended to accomplish by their respective stories?
Discussing origins to a pre-scientific ANE culture is much like explaining birth to a four year old. Rather than a stork fairytale about origins, God instead chose to reveal a description that corresponds with historically realities but was comprehensible to its audience. So the story says the sun and moon come out of order, or there is a dome above the earth. Fine. These are interesting ideas to play with but they don?t alter the fact that there is a remarkable correspondence with historical realities if we filter the story through the limited knowledge of ANE culture.
As a side note, Genesis 2 focuses on Adam and Eve in the Garden, and on God?s provision and purpose for them. The story begins, ?In the day the Lord God made the earth and the heaven?? and it?s clear from the context that ?day? here simply means a prior era. The story then goes on to itemize God?s acts in bringing the garden and humanity into being without care for chronologies. I think only a prior assumption that Genesis 2 as about a chronology of events places the two in conflict. The stories serve two different but complementary purposes.
So I?ll emphasize again that I think the hard-concordance camp is off base. But there is enough concordance there in Genesis 1 that I can?t embrace the position that says there is zero concordance with historical realities.



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RJS

posted February 6, 2009 at 12:43 pm


Michael,
It sounds like your description is in agreement with Bill Arnold’s general idea. Genesis is mytho-historical, not myth. Unfortunately as “myth” generates a knee-jerk reaction in some, concordance generates a similar reaction in me. I always think of the hard concordance view.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted February 6, 2009 at 2:46 pm


#28 RJS
From what I’m sure your constantly confronted with I can understand why. I still have trouble nuancing what I mean so as not to be confusing. Conversations like this are very helpful!



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Jim

posted February 6, 2009 at 4:18 pm


Genesis 1 is a mixture of history, ineffable history, allegory – all difficult to understand. The true meaning of some parts is not entirely out of reach, however. Some of it is literal, but hidden. The Greater Light of Genesis was indeed the Sun. The Lesser Light was not the Moon but a light-emitting body, now removed. The Moon came later. Check out this mystery and many others in
http://www.eloquentbooks.com/ManAndHisPlanet.html



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AHH

posted February 6, 2009 at 7:26 pm


Like RJS, I automatically have a negative reaction to most concordism because much of what I’ve seen has been from people who presuppose that everything has to “line up” 100% for the Bible to be “true,” leading to twisting of science or of Scripture or of both.
I apologize that I seem to have erroneously assumed Michael was in or near that category.
I still wouldn’t personally grant any level of concordance beyond “God created everything from nothing” (which concords with the Big Bang), as I don’t think questions of chronology or sequence are being addressed (in this I think I’m taking Meredith Kline’s “framework” view). But I can respect those who are more impressed by the partial parallels in sequence than I am and who see that as a modest degree of concordance.



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Jason

posted February 6, 2009 at 9:45 pm


#24 “I wouldn’t call God a liar, but Genesis 1 does not give me much to believe in.”
Wow, a strong statement which I would view as sad but also one we definitely have to address. I don’t really think I am qualified to do so and hope someone else will have a better reply.
That said, the thought that came to my mind is that it is true that the truths that are “left” in Genesis 1 are not much to believe in. But I don’t think they need to be. If Genesis 1 was all we had, we would all be in a sorry state. The truths, which may seem basic to some, have been and continue to be fundamental to our idea and relationship to the God of the heavens and the earth. And of course, it is at the start of Scripture for a reason, and it flows naturally into the story of God’s further (and much more extensive!) revelation of Himself to mankind.
I also think that truths about God as creator and the rest as creation can be important no matter what our current science/cosmology leads us to know about our origins. Of course, a different field, the arts, also feels the effects of believers who are willing to value creation, creativity, and matter, undoubtedly based in part on their reflection on Genesis.
Anyway, some of my thoughts (admittedly scattered and lay-persony).



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Michelle

posted February 6, 2009 at 10:32 pm


Jason,
Thanks for your thoughts….I appreciate. I will take them in to consideration. I look forward to the next science and religion question. I am far from a theologian…and was given this site by someone. My background is science. I am struggling with faith. I will take your thoughts in to consideration…hopefully, the next post will be more convincing.



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Michelle

posted February 6, 2009 at 10:36 pm


Jason,
Thanks for your comments. I am far from a theologian…my background is science…just trying to learn from all of you…I’m enjoying the science and faith posts. Hopefully, the much more extensive God story will be convincing….



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chris white

posted February 7, 2009 at 1:56 pm


How different would be our take on Genesis 1-3 if the science was just science and not a mixture of science and a philosophy of naturalism (reality is only what can be empirically measured–or something like that)?



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RJS

posted February 7, 2009 at 2:24 pm


Chris,
I don’t know different our take would be – but the conversation would be much easier. We could actually talk about the issues instead of the peripheral baggage.



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AHH

posted February 7, 2009 at 4:44 pm


Chris #35 raises a good point. A lot of the public perception of “science” is shaped by people like Richard Dawkins who abuse the science to add on unjustified metaphysics. Such people are really a minority among scientists, but they have been loud enough that their influence on public perceptions is major. So you end up with widespread perception that things well-established as mere science (like an old Earth or common descent) are anti-Christian because of these metaphysical extrapolations.
Worse, many Christians enable this by implicitly accepting the word of the radical atheists about the *meaning* of some science. Once Christians fall for the fallacy that (for example) evolution equals atheism, they have no choice but to oppose the science — when what we should be opposing is the philosophical baggage that assigns unjustified metaphysical meaning to the science.



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JCS

posted March 26, 2009 at 3:27 pm


Since the ONLY account of creation available is Holy Scripture, and creation cannot be tested, observed, repeated as is necessary to be considered within the realm of science, I would posit that creation and science are two mutually exclusive terms. Further, for Christians that suggest that God might have ‘used’ evolutionary processes in His creation, besides being presumptive, are you suggesting that God created miraculously (ex nihilo) in the midst of an evolutionary process? And if Genesis 1 or 2 is allegory/poetic/symbolism, then just where does your belief ‘kick in’? The choices regarding Genesis are limited to belief or disbelief.
For what it’s worth, direct panspermia and punctuated equilibrium theories take a whole lot more faith than Genesis 1.



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