Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Battle for the Beginning – 7 of 12

In this post we will examine Nathan’s seventh problem for the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1-2. So far, Nathan is 0-6 in his attempt to validate that the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1-2 has any serious problems. Let’s see if he fairs any better here.

7) "These are the generations of" in Genesis 2:4... Hebrew "toledot" occurs 11 times in the book of Genesis as a literary device... as an introduction to a new segment of the book. A sequel. When combined with Genesis 1:1 that makes 12 literary introductions to the book of Genesis. How many tribes of Israel are there? 12. If Genesis 2 is a flashback of Genesis 1:26... it is THE ONLY time toleot is used as a flashback to provide more detail of something that has already happened. **The only time**. Toledot never flashes back to provide more detail about an event that just happened. “The literary formula ‘this is the account of x’ occurs here [Genesis 2:4] and ten other times in the book of Genesis. It stands out as one of the formal characteristics of the book. In all the other occurrences in the book, the x is the name of a person. The formula introduces either a narrative of that person’s sons or a genealogy of that person’s decedents. In other words, it tells about what came after that person (though it sometimes overlaps with the life of the person) and what developed from that person. In Genesis 2:4, it is not a person’s name. Using the same logic, we would conclude that the section being introduced is going to talk about what came after creation of the heavens and earth reported in the seven-day account and what developed from that. In other words, the nature of the introduction leads us to think of Genesis 2 as a sequel… Three of the examples (Genesis 11:10; 25:19; 37:2 can be identified as recursive. In each of these, the section before the transition follows a family line deep into later history. The introductory formula then returns the reader to the other son in the family (the more important one to tell us his story… in these cases… the text does not bring the reader into the middle of the previous story to give a more detailed account. There is no detailed elaboration even though there may be overlapping. The remaining six examples introduce sequel accounts." [Walton, p. 65-66, Lost World of Adam & Eve].

While it isn’t entirely irrelevant how often toledot functions as a sequel in Genesis, that fact alone is not enough to displace context as the single best determining factor for how it is functioning in Genesis 2. The first question is whether or not there are contextual differences between how toledot is used in Genesis 2 and how it is used in the other instances where it occurs in Genesis. Concerning this expression, Bill Arnold writes, “Although scholars disagree on its significance, each occurrence probably introduces a new literary unit of the book. This is the only time the expression is not followed by a personal name, and here it seems to serve as a narrative hinge, introducing 2:4b – 25 and summarizing 1:1-2:3. It is an exegetical fallacy to insist that toledot means the same thing in Genesis 2 as it does elsewhere in Genesis. Since there is obvious differences between the context of Genesis 2 and the other occurrences of toledot, it is only natural to expect there may be a nuanced meaning of this word in this particular context.

Nathan also claims that Genesis 2 is a sequel to Genesis 1. To be quite candid, I find that claim to be quite ridiculous. It is patently false and obviously so that Genesis 2 is not a sequel to Genesis 1. The creation of man is demonstration enough to refute the claim that Genesis 2 should any sense at all be understood as a sequel to Genesis 1. Nathan says that Genesis 2 follows what happened “after creation of the heavens and earth reported in the seven-day account. I find such a suggestion to be outrageous and without the slightest exegetical support. Clearly Genesis 2 does not follow Genesis 1 in chronological order. Man has already been created at the end of Genesis 1. Genesis 2:1 says that the heavens and earth were finishes and the host of them. And then 2:2 says that God rested from all his work. And then 2:4 begins the next literary unit which must be understood as a link but not a continuation. This verse serves both as a title to 2:5–4:26 (see previous section on Form/Structure/Setting) and as a link with the introduction 1:1–2:3.[1]

The problem is that to call Genesis 2 a continuation of the creation account is that it fails to understand the literary style of recapitulation. But actually this technique of recapitulation was widely practiced in ancient Semitic literature. The author would first introduce his account with a short statement summarizing the whole transaction, and then he would follow it up with a more detailed and circumstantial account when dealing with matters of special importance.[2] E.J. Young comments, “There are different emphases in the two chapters, as we have seen, but the reason for these is obvious. Chapter 1 continues the narrative of creation until the climax, namely, man made in the image and likeness of God. To prepare the way for the account of the fall, chapter 2 gives certain added details about man’s original condition, which would have been incongruous and out of place in the grand, declarative march of chapter 1.”[3] It seems to me then that whatever Nathan et al are looking at in Genesis 1-2 that poses problems for the traditional interpretation, they are not looking at the details of the traditional interpretation. It seems that they are looking at the interpretation of others on what the traditional interpretation actually is. And that is likely part of the problem. If one examines Walton’s work, there is seems to be an incredible reliance on ANE sources. There is no doubt some advantage to understanding the ANE background in our reading of Genesis 1-2. However, there is significant danger in reading into the biblical record too much influence from ANE literature. The ability to separate Scripture for what it is, a unified revelation of the gospel of God through Christ, is critical in properly interpreting Genesis 1-2. The atomistic approach to interpreting Scripture taken by higher criticism essentially ignores the distinctive characteristics of the biblical text and it should be avoided at all costs.

The story of Creation is the story about redemption. It cannot be rightly understood unless it is understood through the view of Scripture as a unified account, told by one author through many human instruments. Once that traditional understanding of Scripture is abandoned, confusion is unavoidable. Perhaps this is why the group at Faithlife involved in this discussion along with those attempting to adopt a piecemeal approach are so terribly confused.  

[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, vol. 1, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 55.
[2] Gleason Archer Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 3rd. ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 135.
[3] Edward J. Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), 50.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Battle for the Beginning: 6 of 12

6) Days 1-6 involve creation through the spoken word. Mankind is created on Day 6 through the power of the spoken word. But in Genesis 2 Adam is formed from the dust of the ground. Think about that for a second. In one version, Adam is spoken into existence. In the very next chapter God uses materials to form him. Why? Now when you read ANE creation stories this is a common theme. No big deal. Genesis 1, 2, & 3 are dealing with and interacting with ANE creation stories in an epic polemic... Removing the creation from lower g gods and placing the glory of creation where it belongs on YHWH. But creationists that I've met want to read either science or history into Genesis 1&2 and insist Genesis 2 is reading back into Genesis 1... that Genesis 2 is a more detailed account of how Genesis 1 went down. The problem with saying that is A) there's no science in Adam being formed from dust of the ground anymore than people being created from clay in Babylonian and Sumerian creation stories, B) point number 5 above regarding the naming of every animal and dinosaur on earth + the creation of Eve in 1 twenty four hour period in unworkable,

The “sixth” problem for the traditional interpretation of Genesis seems a little more involved, at least on the face of it. At a minimum, it is verbose. First, Nathan claims that God spoke man into existence in Genesis 1 while Genesis 2 says that God created man from the dust of the earth. There a several problems with this claim. The first is that it is false on the face of it. Genesis 1says nothing about God speaking man into existence. Read it for yourself. Find it. I dare you. Now, I wonder if Nathan thinks that God took on a physical body and used that physical form to shape man from the dust of the earth. The real issue is that we do not know exactly what “God creating man from the dust of the earth” looked like because we were not there. God could have spoken to the dust to form this way and that, and the dust obeyed. Or, God could have used a heavenly being or angel to perform his work as he instructed him. However, there is no indication that God used an intermediary. The safest exegetical approach is to hold that God spoke to the dust of the earth in creating man. Hebrews 11:3 tells us that the worlds and the universe were framed by the Word of God.

Now, it should seem clear to any exegete of Scripture that Nathan is deliberately stretching the text in this situation. Who can blame him? If you are going to dispense with a position, you had better have more than one difficulty to point in with that position. So, Nathan manufactures artificial problem after artificial problem so that he can displace the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1-2 and replace it with a more modernized version. A version that unbelieving minds find less offensive, supposedly.

In addition to this artificial problem, Nathan reveals an assumption of his, but not as an assumption, rather, as a matter of fact. He says that Genesis 1-3 is interacting with ANE creation stories in an epic polemic. There is absolutely nothing Nathan can give us to demonstrate why we should accept that reading of Moses. There is some truth to the fact that what Moses is recording will ultimately set the record straight. But isn’t that what the truth always does, whether its intent is polemical or not? Of course it does. Truth always sets free from error. But to claim that Moses has in mind, the issuing of an argument against the competing creation accounts of ANE culture is a matter of intense debate and there is little to no evidence that might deliver it from the category of conjecture. More humility is certainly in order. When one looks at the Scripture as a whole, surely God had more profound reasons for Genesis 1-3 than simply getting the facts of creation straight. This seems lost on Nathan and some others over a Faithlife.

Nathan then points us to this imagined attempt on the part of the traditional method to read science into Genesis 1-3. He chides the traditional method for reading history into the account as well. However, the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1-3 in no way seeks a scientific explanation for how God did what He did. Instead, the traditional method affirms that there is nothing in science, done rightly, to contradict the straightforward account in Genesis 1-3. That is a huge difference. Second, yes, Genesis 1-3 is indeed a historical account of how the universe came into existence. There is nothing in the grammar of Genesis to suggest otherwise. Moreover, there is nothing anywhere else in the biblical text to suggest that Genesis 1-3 be understood in any other way than plain history.
What we see in Nathan’s first six problems are not really problems for the traditional interpretation of Genesis. Many of them are simply artificial problems manufactured in a factory of philosophical presuppositions with the agenda of making room for deep time in the creation account. And this project is driven out of a desire to make Christianity and its beliefs less offensive to the modern intellect. Science is the holy grail of rational credibility in today’s culture. Anything that disagrees with or contradicts the untouchable presuppositions of the philosophy of science is immediately scorned and dismissed as superstitious legend. Since genuine Christian belief rejects scientism with its view of reality (chance and evolutionary theory) and the physical universe, then it only follows that Christian belief is guilty of being anti-intellectual, superstitious, backwards, and as we all know, hateful, bigoted, and unworthy of constitutional protection. It is harmful to society and ought to be purged from our ranks. So goes the agenda of secularism and the science it uses to advance this agenda. In addition to this, younger Christians are abandoning the faith when they get to university because of the discredited positions in Christian theology that many of them previous affirmed. The supposed house of cards crumbles under the weight of the biology and philosophy professor.

What Nathan and others fail to understand is that Christianity has always been viewed with contempt by the secular philosophers, the academicians, and others. The gospel of Jesus Christ was from the start and is to this day moronic to the world. (1 Cor. 1:18) No amount of compromise with anti-Christian philosophies, disguised as science or otherwise, will change that. What we need to show is how that science, logic, and morality are completely unintelligible apart from the Christian worldview. Nothing less than this will do. The secular worldview with all its different theories and forms reduces to irrationalism. Rather than compromise with the claims of a godless scientific model, Christians need to courageously stand opposed to it regardless of the ridicule and criticism we might face. Wherever he leads, I will follow! Wherever he is, there, let me be found also!

  1. All creatures of our God and King,
    Lift up your voice and with us sing,
    Alleluia! Alleluia!
    Thou burning sun with golden beam,
    Thou silver moon with softer gleam!
    O praise Him! O praise Him!
    Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
  2. Thou rushing wind that art so strong,
    Ye clouds that sail in heav’n along,
    O praise Him! Alleluia!
    Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
    Ye lights of evening, find a voice!
  3. Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
    Make music for thy Lord to hear,
    O praise Him! Alleluia!
    Thou fire so masterful and bright,
    That givest man both warmth and light.
  4. And all ye men of tender heart,
    Forgiving others, take your part,
    O praise Him! Alleluia!
    Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
    Praise God and on Him cast your care!
  5. Let all things their Creator bless,
    And worship Him in humbleness,
    O praise Him! Alleluia!
    Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
    And praise the Spirit, Three in One!