Posts Tagged Genesis
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.
I want to thank Liza Cassity at Penguin Group USA for the courtesy copy of The Genesis Enigma: Why the Bible is Scientifically Accurate.
The Genesis Enigma: Why the Bible is Scientifically Accurate?
Dutton (Penguin Group USA), October 2009
Regular readers are aware of my fascination with Genesis. I am, however, usually turned off by debate disguised as discourse about the “accuracy” of Genesis. The sides are typically well-defined, immovable, and predictable. Andrew Parker’s take on Genesis 1 is anything but predictable.
I am also skeptical of claims that claim to prove this or that about Genesis. They rarely, if ever, deliver. In The Genesis Enigma, the author makes no such claims. Instead, he takes the creation account of Genesis 1 and compares it with the fossil record with enigmatic results.
In his words:
Here, then, is the Genesis Enigma: The opening page of Genesis is scientifically accurate but was written long before the science was known. How did the writer of this page come to write this creation account? (emphasis is the author’s)
Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself by beginning with Parker’s conclusion. In his introduction, Parker outlines his thesis and makes the following comparison (edited for brevity):
Let there be light
The formation of the sun
Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let dry land appear…
The formation of the seas and separation of the land areas
Let the earth bring forth grass and herb yielding seed…
The beginnings of life, including single-celled photosynthetic organisms
Let there be lights…to divide the day from night
The first eye evolved and visual information used. Lights turned on for animal behavior and evolution (emphasis added)
Let the waters bring forth abundantly moving creatures that hath life…
The Cambrian explosion-evolution’s Big Bang. Exclusively marine life (emphasis added)
God created the great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly…
Large animals evolved in the seas (sharks and squid-like animals), and later conquered the land (emphasis added)
And every winged fowl after his kind…
Animals adapted to the vision of predators, except birds, which didn’t have to because of flight. It is fascinating that sea creatures and birds are singled out because they are the main characters and exceptions in evolutionary history (emphasis added)
Generally speaking, I think creationists, who I’ll call “old earth” for lack of a better term, accept some similar Genesis/evolutionary progression. What is unique about Parker’s assertion, and, in my humble opinion, scientifically revolutionary, is the light switch theory and the parallel between the evolution of the eye and “let there be lights…”
The light switch theory, in short, holds that the evolution of vision is what led to the Cambrian explosion (of aquatic life). Parker suggests, “The very first eye on earth effectively turned on the lights for animal behavior and consequently for further rapid evolution, while providing accurate recognition of night and day.” It’s an interesting correlation which Parker attempts to make. In fact, I would suggest his whole thesis depends on it.
Using these heretofore unmade correlations, Parker determines,
In essence, when the Biblical text is taken literally, it is left in the wake of advancing science. But when it is read figuratively, it not only keep pace with the hottest science, it precedes or heralds it.
The remainder of The Genesis Enigma tracks the creation account in Genesis 1 and the correlating fossil and evolutionary record. He concludes:
We have passed from the first stage in the creation account on the Bible’s opening page to the sixth, and found it all remarkably accurate, as if the modern scientific story of the universe and life were being narrated. I don’t know the odds against such a parallel-against making a successful guess at the scientific orthodoxy of three thousand years in the future from a knowledge base of nothing-but they must be extraordinarily long. As I first looked through this sequence of Genesis, I did not think that we could possibly reach the end of an impartial history of the universe and life without finding more than a few obstacles. I thought Genesis would fall at the first hurdle or two. I’m amazed that we have made it to the end unscathed.
It should be obvious, but if not I’ll mention that Andrew Parker, Ph.D., is a scientist, a research fellow at Oxford and a researcher at the Natural History Museum in London. And as expected, the young-earth creationists/ID camp don’t buy it, but neither do the other guys (I read one reviewer who actually called this intellectual suicide, yikes!).
Honestly, I don’t understand the nature of the criticism. In the legal community, some judges hold to the theory that if both sides are upset, the ruling must have been fair. Such wisdom has limited application, of course, but this may be an applicable circumstance: since both opposing camps are critical of the book, perhaps the conclusions reached are fair. There’s no way to know if they are entirely accurate, but perhaps they are fair.
For example, Parker does not adopt or espouse a Judeo-Christian perspective, but he does conclude:
If my inference is right, then the writer of Genesis 1, or rather the announcer of the story-Moses-surely must have received divine intervention. That is to say, he must have been spoken to by God. I would argue that the Genesis Enigma, under this line of reasoning, becomes evidence for God.
Parker is cautious, however, in his approach and confesses that his conclusions took him by surprise. He also confesses:
But I must admit, rather nervously as a scientist averse to entertaining such an idea, that the evidence that the writer of the opening page of the Bible was divinely inspired is strong. I have never before encountered such powerful, impartial evidence to suggest that the Bible is the product of divine inspiration. The Genesis Enigma may provide us with support for this proposition on a whole new level.
This is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the Christian perspective, but it does cross invisible scientific barriers in an attempt to bridge the (perceived) gap between science and religion.
Parker succinctly characterizes the issue he presents:
The possible explanations for this parallel between the Bible and modern science are clear-cut: Either the writer of the creation account of Genesis 1 was directed by divine intervention, or he made a lucky guess.
One thing I must give Parker immense credit for is bringing something new (the light-switch theory vis-a-vis Genesis 1) to the table. I doubt Parker will change any minds that are firmly entrenched in one camp or the other, but he deserves additional credit for extending this olive branch to the competing sides, who have yet to realize there is no reason to compete.
The Genesis Enigma is certainly interesting, it is entertaining, and thought provoking. If you are at all interested in science/religion-related issues , I encourage you to read this book. If you are prone to offense when traditional interpretations of scripture are questioned, perhaps you shouldn’t.
This seemed appropriate for my readers (from the Logos Blog):
Do you have some great Bible study tips that have helped you in your study of Genesis? We want to hear about them!
The theme of Bible Study Magazine’s November/December 2010 issue will be Genesis: Tower of Babel to Joseph. We want you to submit your best Bible study tips on Bible Study Magazine’s Facebook page. The best tips will be published in our two-year anniversary issue, Nov/Dec ’10!
I spend a lot of time in Genesis, as you may know, so I would also be interested in said study tips.
The What’s in the Bible? website describes this new video series as follows:
What’s in the Bible? is a new DVD series from VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer designed to walk kids and families through the entire Bible.
As you can imagine, I was excited to be included among those asked to review the first two episodes in this series, especially since my 20-month old daughter (The Libster) and I are VeggieTales-aholics.
So, here goes. First, What’s in the Bible? with Buck Denver (and friends), is a puppet-human collaboration in the tradition of Sesame Street. The hosts are Phil Vischer (human) and Buck Denver, Man of News, (puppet). The cast of puppet characters includes the gray-haired Sunday School Lady, the piano playing Pastor Paul, explorers Clive & Ian, and other memorable characters. There is also an entertaining meta-character, Michael, who is a puppet child traveling in the backseat of a vehicle that appears at the beginning and between segments asking his mother to change DVDs. He’s quite amusing, really.
Second, each episode, which consists of two half-hour programs, begins with a “Big Question” such as, “What is the Bible?” “Who wrote the Bible?” and “Who picked the books to be in the Bible?” There are also “new words” where Biblical and theological terms and concepts are explained.
Each episode is filled with song, self-deprecating humor, sarcasm, and, of course, Bible stuff. The first episode, “In the Beginning,” explains “What is the Bible?” in the first segment and takes the viewers through the first eleven chapters of Genesis in the second segment. The second episode, “Let My People Go,” takes the viewer from Abraham to Moses and through Exodus.
The theology appears to be traditional Protestant/Evangelical. The humor ranges from slapstick to high-brow and everything in between. The concepts covered are considerably more complex than what can be found in Christian cartoons and Bible-story programs. This is because What’s in the Bible? aims at teaching the Bible and not just Bible stories. It’s a bold move, but one I expect to pay off.
The downside, if there is one, is that the audience might be limited to children over a certain age. On the Libby test, What’s in the Bible? struggled to hold the attention of a 20-month old. She liked the music and the children interviews, but she has yet to make it through a 30 minute segment after three or four attempts (as opposed to similar length VeggieTales episodes, which she can watch and still want more). I doubt, however, the audience is intended to be so young.
I do appreciate the working assumption: that children are capable of learning and appreciating more than simple Bible stories. Buck Denver and his crew take on concepts such as “redemption,” “salvation,” and the Christian “canon,” and they do so quite well. I suspect there are many adults as well who need refresher courses in these concepts.
In short, if you are looking for VeggieTales retold, look elsewhere. What’s in the Bible? is a more grown-up kids series. It is, however, a great way to introduce kids to more complicated Biblical ideas and to go beyond Bible stories. I would recommend for parents and children to watch together if possible. I would also recommend this series for Sunday school classes, vacation Bible school curricula, even as a supplement to grade school and possibly junior high age lessons.
I think you will be surprised by how easily complex matters are handled and explained. Enjoy!
Buy What’s in the Bible from Amazon?
- Buy What’s in the Bible? Episode 1-In the Beginning from Amazon
- Buy What’s in the Bible? Episode 2-Let My People Go from Amazon
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?
Earlier this week in What About Infants?, I directed my readers to TC’s post When Infants Die: Hell? Heaven? or Limbo?. As predicted, it generated a healthy discussion. I can’t definitively say who’s right or wrong, but I wonder if we shouldn’t be more worried about adults than the children.
Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3 (NASB)
I have a strong suspicion that the children will be fine. We, on the other hand, seem to have a harder time getting it.
I think we get all worked up over sin and original sin, when our accountability begins, right and wrong, and the like. And that is the very problem.
God’s a pretty smart Dude, and when He forbade us from eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, it was for our own good. He knew we would spend the rest of our lives worrying about whether we did good or evil. If not because of our own shortcomings, then because the enemy would beat us over the head with it.
And as if that wasn’t enough, now we’ve got to worry about whether our kids will be held accountable. It’s too much to worry about. And God knew it.
That’s where we go wrong, in our need (or desire) to know. We were better off before the knowledge of good and evil, innocent like a child.
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I have been teaching a discipleship class at our church (different from the Hebrews Bible Study that some of you are following). It is a four-part series on Genesis 1:1, among other things. The class is a study of the supernatural nature of the Hebrew language and the ancient Hebrew pictographs making up Genesis 1:1 and other Biblical names and passages.
I have tried to upload the Power Point files, but none of the services that I am aware of allow for the Hebrew fonts I have used, so I have taken screen captures of the slides and included them as images. I hope it makes sense. Also, there are many slides, so I will publish the teachings in multiple parts.
The first class was entitled “Why do you believe the Bible?” We looked at at three key places in scripture where the same event is graphically depicted in the ancient Hebrew pictographs. I will publish the first teaching in three parts.
We began, appropriately enough, “In the beginning,” by looking at the pictographs that make up the Hebrew word “Barasheet,” most frequently translated, “In the beginning.”
In the original Hebrew alphabet, each pictograph represented a letter of the alphabet, a number, and had a symbolic meaning. By looking at those pictographs, a richer, deeper understanding of the text is gained.
Barasheet is spelled in Hebrew BET (the equivalent of our letter B, depicted in the ancient Hebrew pictographs as a house or tent, symbolically meaning “house” as in a lineage; RESH (R), depicted as a man’s head, meaning the first or highest person; ALEPH (A), depicted as an ox head, meaning strength or God, as in, “the Lord is my strength;” SHIN (S or Sh), depicted as two teeth, meaning to consume or destroy; YOD (Y), depicted as an arm from the elbow to the fist, meaning “my” or efforts or works; and TAV (T), depicted as two crossed sticks, meaning mark or covenant.
The first two letters of Barasheet BET and RESH together form the Hebrew/Aramaic word “bar” or “son.” So, when we look at the ancient Hebrew pictographs, we see that “In the beginning” is actually a graphic depiction of the SON of GOD being CONSUMED/DESTROYED with his HANDS on a CROSS. The slides show the modern Hebrew letter, the name of the letter, the symbolic meaning, what is pictured in the pictograph (in parentheses), and the pictograph itself.
That’s quite a remarkable beginning. For a slightly different look at this, you can read my earlier post In the beginning.
During the class, I taught that the traditional belief that the first prophecy in scripture is in Genesis 3 is actually incorrect, and that it is, “In the beginning.” I believe the most powerful and creative force in the universe is the spoken word of God. If so, by its very nature, it must be prophetic especially in view of God’s creativity. God not only created the universe, but in speaking, He created language, an alphabet, math and science, and everything else.
This week, however, I was humbled by the Lord who showed me something else quite remarkable. In Genesis 3, the “first prophecy” is God cursing the serpent saying,
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.
“In the beginning,” the very nature of the Son’s destruction on the cross is accomplished by the pictograph depicting two teeth, the very manner in which a serpent would “strike.” So, the first prophecy in scripture is both “In the beginning” and in Genesis 3.
There was obviously a lot more, it was an hour-long class. I will try to put as much as I can in parts 2 and 3 which will follow soon. Enjoy.
A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Liza Cassity at Penguin Group (USA) asking me if I would like a copy of The Genesis Enigma: Why the Bible is Scientifically Accurate by Andrew Parker.
Here’s an excerpt from that email:
What if there was proof that the Bible was divinely inspired? What if the evidence for Biblical truth came from the last place you’d expect to find religious support?
There’s a book coming out this October that provides such evidence, and—shockingly enough—the source is science.
In THE GENESIS ENIGMA: Why the Bible is Scientifically Accurate, respected evolutionary biologist Andrew Parker seeks to cross the boundaries between the Genesis story and evolutionary theory by dissecting the parallels between the two accounts, piece by piece, to show that both sides are indeed compatible.
THE GENESIS ENGIMA has already stirred much discussion and recognition in the UK—The Daily Mail calls it “Jaw-dropping… an astounding work.”
Needless to say, I was excited and I’m eager to read it. It arrived today. I will post the review as soon as I am able.
Those of you familiar with this blog know that I will read anything and everything about Genesis. I also think I can prove Genesis true, literarily speaking, if not scientifically. It should be fun.
It has been in the planning stages since about the first of the year, but I was pleasantly (and amusingly) surprised to find a postcard in the mail from our church publicizing the class.
The class will run for four weeks on Sunday evenings. I will probably post about the classes just for fun, although a lot of what I’m going to cover is already here somewhere (see links below). It’s going to be a blast.
Note the text:
Come experience the Word of God with teacher Peter Lopez and explore treasures from the Scripture God placed there for you to find!
I have taught several classes as an adjunct faculty member at a local college, but this makes it seem more official. Didn’t they call Jesus “Teacher?” Well, henceforth, just call me “teacher,” too. [Note the distinction in titles-I will forego the capitalization in reverence to my Teacher.]
The class was named after, you guessed it, this blog and will be “an exploration of the beauty of the Word of God.” Ringing any bells? Specifically, we will look at Genesis 1:1 in the ancient Hebrew pictographs and a whole slew of other cool stuff.
Each of the four weeks there will be a theme or purpose that ties in to the teaching. The plan is also to conclude with prayer for specific needs related to the themes. For example (a very rough draft):
- Week 1 – Faith: Why you can trust God’s Word. Related Teachings: In the beginning, My Covenant, and The Language of God.
- Week 2 – Knowing Jesus as Your Shepherd. Related Teachings: The Lord is My Shepherd, On Creation, and What’s in a Name.
- Week 3 – Encountering Heaven. Related Teachings: Oh, My Heavens Part 1 and Part 2 and The Salvation of “the earth”.
- Week 4 – Revelation: God and His Word. Related Teachings: God’s Signature.
If anyone out there in cyberspace needs or wants prayer for an increase of faith, to know Jesus as your shepherd, to encounter heaven, or for revelation from and about God and His Word, please let me know. We will pray specifically for those wants and needs, and we will pray for you individually. Let me know in the comment section below, or, if you prefer a little more privacy, use the “Contact” for above.