Posts Tagged Creation
I want to thank Adrianna Wright at InterVarsity Press for sending me a courtesy copy of The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate by John W. Walton.
The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate
John H. Walton
Intervarsity Press, July 2009
I’ve been making my way through my stack of books for review on Genesis in, essentially, reverse order of receipt. I’m glad I started on the top of the stack and not the bottom because I would have read The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate by John H. Walton a year ago, and my reading of the other books would have been colored by my reading of this one.
As with many theological questions, I think we tend to develop a theological framework and then read scripture within that framework. It would be very easy to do that with The Lost World of Genesis One because Walton’s propositions are extremely persuasive and his conclusions compelling.
And I in no way intend for this to be a slight, quite the opposite.
Walton organizes The Lost World of Genesis One into a series of eighteen propositions. Admittedly, as a former high school debater, I initially found Walton’s proposition approach somewhat irritating because the organization allows for little reader interaction. What I mean is that Walton breaks his thesis down into so many of its tiny component parts that there is little to no mystery. Again, this is not a slight on the book, it is a confession of my own predisposition to be intrigued by ideas more than details, and Walton constructs the larger idea one detail at a time. By the end of the book, my mind was changed about the effectiveness of the approach because Walton leaves little room for disagreement.
Walton’s initial assertions (and I’m paraphrasing his propositions), our reading of Genesis 1 in terms of material creation is wrong because Genesis 1 was never intended to describe material creation. Instead, Genesis 1 is meant to describe the function of God’s creation rather than the manner and means of creation.
Walton asserts the ancients would have thought and perceived Genesis 1 in terms of function rather than elemental material creation. Walton begins his function analysis using the example of the creation of a computer. When is a computer a computer? Each hardware component is manufactured, but until each component is brought together there is no computer. Software programs are written and installed, but without a power source the computer is not functional. Even with a power source, unless a person uses the computer it remains non-functional. Walton’s question is one of ontology. When does the computer exist? At what stage is the computer created?
Walton maintains that if we think of Genesis 1 in terms of assignment of function, not creation of the component parts, the questions relating to Genesis 1 and scientific accuracy become irrelevant.
We should not worry about the questions of ‘truth’ with regard to the Bible’s use of Old World Science. … Adoption of the framework of the target audience is most logical.
Using other ancient creation accounts as comparisons, Walton concludes that in the ancient world, to create something meant to assign it a function, not create its material properties.
Again I’m paraphrasing, Walton next determines that the creation account in Genesis 1 is a cosmic enshrinement. It is the creation of a cosmic temple suitable for God to take up residence. He terms this view the cosmic temple inauguration view.
Walton also views this reading of Genesis 1 as a literal reading, as it would have been understood in the ancient environment as opposed to a reading that requires reconciliation with modern science.
But most people who seek to defend a young-earth view do so because they believe that the Bible obligates them to such a defense. I admire the fact that believers are willing to take unpopular positions and investigate all sorts of alternatives in an attempt to defend the reputation of the Biblical text. But if the Biblical text does not demand a young earth there would be little impetus or evidence to offer such a suggestion.
Walton also spends a fair amount of time discussing competing creation theories, as does virtually everyone else, so I won’t here, but the excerpt above should fairly well sum up the author’s take on competing creation accounts.
I give Walton a lot of credit for bringing something new to the table (see also my review of The Genesis Enigma). As I’ve written before, the old methods of resolving the Genesis debate don’t work because the debate itself is pointless. And viewing Genesis 1 in terms other than purely scientific terms is certainly a more appropriate approach.
My only real criticism of The Lost World of Genesis One is that the author falls into the same trap as most by (1) entering the public policy debate in proposition 18 which will unnecessarily ostracize young-earth creationists and ID proponents, and to a lesser extent (2) crafting the cosmic temple inauguration view such that is excludes other possibilities. I acknowledge that in the author’s Q&A at the end he acknowledges that Genesis 1 could theoretically be both functional and material, but that we cannot demand such a reading. But Walton doesn’t embrace those possibilities.
Fortunately, my reading of The Lost World of Genesis One has coincided with my intensive study of related material, specifically the feasts of the Lord and the tabernacle (and later temple). And it makes perfect sense to me that the instructions for the construction of the tabernacle would reflect a cosmic temple. So, for that and many other reasons, I would highly recommend The Lost World of Genesis One. I am a slightly less inclined to accept the cosmic temple inauguration view as the theory of everything on Genesis, but it certainly adds another dimension to Genesis 1 that is worthy of study.
Read it and enjoy it!
Many of you are aware of my preoccupation with Genesis. It is both a blessing and a curse, but a good kind of curse.
Said preoccupation, naturally, results in my reading a lot about Genesis. I am forever grateful to the publishers who have provided books for me to review at my request, and I am especially thankful to those who have taken the initiative to ask me to review books related to Genesis.
From much of this recent reading, several thoughts have emerged (most are obvious):
Efforts to reconcile the “creation” account in Genesis with “science” are futile, if fun to read. There is far too big a gap between the ancient Israelite culture and language and present-day Western culture and English to even know all that is meant by Genesis 1 & 2, much less prove what we cannot know. Absent a Mosaic or Pauline revelation from the Lord Himself (which I am still anxiously anticipating, whereafter I will immediately post all the answers), I’m afraid we will always be left wondering.
We shouldn’t stop wondering. The futility in seeking answers to ultimately unanswerable questions is no reason to stop asking. There are plenty of lessons to be learned short of, but probably more important than, the actual who’s, what’s, when’s and where’s (why’s deliberately excluded because we should know the why’s).
Fighting about it is also pointless. And we should stop that. Honestly, has anyone ever been converted by argument. Christian’s bashing anything or anyone acknowledging scientific evidence as such doesn’t help our cause.
No theory is exactly right, but maybe none of them are entirely wrong either. And isn’t that really the beauty of the Bible, generally, and Genesis, particularly. Do these ideas have to be exclusive of the others? Certainly not. The array of plausible ideas is perhaps the best evidence of a God worthy of our praise and His multi-dimensional Word worthy of our study.
We had an interesting discussion yesterday during our church’s Revelation Bible Study (we meet weekly, and it’s led by a good friend of mine who blogs about it at The Watchman’s Gaze). I didn’t at all mean to derail the discussion, and I think I only sidetracked us for a few minutes, but I want other opinions.
Revelation 3:14 provides:
To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this… (NASB)
Now, I don’t mean to call into question the divinity of Jesus, or his role as creator, but as “the Beginning of the creation of God,” was there a point in time where the manifestation of God as Jesus came into existence or did the representation of God as Jesus always exist?
Our discussion leader and our pastor (who blogs at the Monday Morning Review) were adamant (in a very friendly and cordial way-both are experienced in indulging my quirky rabbit trails) that Jesus always was. I, with very little other support around the table (except for possibly our pastor’s wife-who doesn’t blog yet), however, continue to be nagged with the metaphysical question of Jesus as “the Beginning of the creation of God” and as “…the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation…”
I certainly do not see it as heretical to think of Jesus coming into existence in some way as other reflections of God must have, His Word for example. I think we got hung up on the word “created.” And I don’t care if we use “created” or some other word to describe it. Physicists spend an awful lot of time and energy trying to figure out the moment of creation, but I want to know your thoughts about the time before that, specifically the moment of the creator.
Thoughts? Ideas? Scriptural Authority?
If any of you have ever wondered whether we should have a one-day weekend or two, here’s something to think about:
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.
3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light day, and the darkness He called night And there was evening and there was morning, one day (emphasis added). Gen. 1:1-5 (NASB)
The account continues:
8 …And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
Creation, creation, creation…
31 …And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
However, immediately following that we have:
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts.
2 By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Gen. 2:1-2 (NASB)
Isn’t it true that in the Jewish tradition, the Sabbath, for example, begins the evening of the sixth day and continues until the evening of the seventh? Why wouldn’t the first day, or “one day” above, begin the same way such that all of the creation events that have been traditionally assigned to the “second day” would have actually happened on day one, and those events assigned to the “first” day (“first” not actually appearing in Hebrew text) would have occurred before time as we know it.
Thus, the creation of man would have occurred on the fifth day, and the, “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done…” stuff would have happened on the sixth.
So, like us, God might have used the sixth day (our Saturday) to finish up some stuff, too. A little house cleaning after a hard week’s work, if you know what I mean? Think of it as a Sabbath-lite.
The moral of the story: don’t feel bad for only working five days, not six.
And don’t send me a lot of heretical hate mail, or flood the comment section by telling me how wacko I am, I already know that. I’m just trying to have a little fun on a Friday (my Sabbath-lite-lite), and if creation theology is reformed in the process, so be it.
I’m not saying these will be my top five or even my first five because I still have a lot of life to live, and I’m certain more will come up, but I will definitely ask these five (and these are the odds I’m laying on the answers), in no particular order:
What’s up with the six days of creation? Who’s right? (old-Earth creationists-4:1, young-Earth creationists-15:1, other-5:1.)
Who is Melchizedek? (Jesus pre-incarnate-2:1; someone else-7.5:1)
Who really wrote Hebrews? And why was it such a big secret? I have my own ideas, but I don’t know if I’d bet money on them. (Paul-3:2, Luke-4:1; other 2:1)
Who or what were the nephilim? (Angel-human hybrids/mixed breeds-4:1; entirely human-4:1; entirely non-human-13:1; other-5:1)
Is there really a Bible code? (Yes, the code guys are right on-11:1; No, of course not, you guys are nuts-7:1; Yes, there is a code, but you guys are nuts anyway and haven’t figured it out yet-Even).
In my earlier post, In the beginning, I described how Jesus and his redemptive work on the cross was depicted in the ancient Hebrew pictographs that make up the first word in the Bible, the Hebrew word barasheet (translated most frequently as “In the beginning”). This, of course, echoes Isaiah 46:10 “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times what is still to come…”
In fact, this confirmation in scripture is found throughout the ancient Hebrew. It is almost as if each Hebrew word is itself a scriptural reference. I have attempted in my previous posts to show several of these.
For example, the first sentence in most English bibles is translated: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” I have previously shown In the beginning, God (The Lord is My Shepherd), and I have given a little taste of “the heavens” (see Oh, My Heavens! Part 1 and Part 2.
Now let’s look at the word “created”. In the Hebrew sentence structure, “created” is actually the second word in the Bible. It would more literally be translated, “In the beginning created Elohim the heavens and the earth.” The word translated as “created” is the Hebrew word bara, from the same root as barasheet (“In the beginning”) and barak (“bless”, see God’s Blessing).
Before I get into the ancient Hebrew pictographs, I want to emphasize the way in which each word is a scriptural reference in itself. For “created”, let’s look at two scriptures:
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.; and
Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.
Okay, now the Hebrew pictographs. The Hebrew word bara is spelled BET (the equivalent of our letter “B”)(pictured as a house or a tent, and meaning house/lineage), RESH (R)(pictured as a man’s head, meaning the first or highest person), and ALEPH (A) (pictured as an ox head, meaning strength or God, as in “the Lord is my strength”). Recall from earlier posts that the Hebrew/Aramaic word bar (spelled BET RESH) is the word for “son”. So, bara (“created”, more literally “to create”) is actually depicted as the SON of GOD.