Friday, May 5, 2017
The Battle for the Beginning – 2 of 12
As you know by now if you are paying any attention to what is going on in our culture, Christian belief is under attack at its most rudimentary levels. The authority of Scripture is called into question more and more within our own ranks. The institution of marriage has been under attack for years now. Human sexuality, that is, that God created us male and female has been cast aside and we are witnessing some of the most bizarre psychological disorders among us now being treated as normal. The outright murder of babies is not only allowed, but celebrated with great enthusiasm. Indeed, the Scriptures, the human person, the human relationship between the sexes, and the sanctity of life, all treasures created, ordered, and designed by God are each one being perverted on a massive scale now. This experience is not new for all cultures, but it is new for American culture. The war is so intense that it is now impossible to miss. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church 2,000 years ago and told them: For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
The purpose of this post is to continue my interaction with the views point forward by some of the folks over at the Faithlife (Logos Lexham) forum. The issue is related to “problems with the traditional interpretation” of Genesis 1-11. Now, I am not implying or inferring that these positions that I am interacting with fit the category of heresy or that all of them are guilty of committing equally serious error. However, there is a broader umbrella under which these positions reside that I believe does represent a clear and present threat to Christian belief. Hopefully, the consequences of these beliefs will become obvious as I work through the issues.
NL observes a second problem with the traditional understanding of Genesis 1-2 when he writes: 2) Genesis 1:6-7 tells us that the sky above is water, being held back by the hard sky (Job 37:18, Proverbs 8:28, Genesis 7:11). If you’re going to insist that Genesis is an accurate scientific account of the of creation… you need to engage every single verse listed above. So, let’s take these claims one at a time. First, NL tells us that the traditional view of Genesis 1:6-7 holds that the sky is hard, and that it is holding back water. Is he correct? Is that how the traditional view interprets Genesis 1:6-7? NL’s challenge is not to specific individuals or specific views, but to what he would call an overly literal hermeneutic. Does the word rāqîaʿ mean a solid dome? Part of this thinking holds that “three-story universe” idea in antiquity. But as Safarti rightly points out, “The sort of abstract special/mechanical interest involved in the idea of a three-story universe is a product of the demythologization of Greek rationalism and Euclidian special concepts. [Safarti, The Genesis Account, p. 152] The word rāqîaʿ is used several times in the OT text in conjunction with God “stretching out” the heavens or the firmament. The word then refers to not a cosmic dome, but cosmic space [Safarti].
Second, NL cites Job 37:18 as evidence for his conclusion: Can you, like him, spread out the skies,
hard as a cast metal mirror? First of all, this is a figure of speech. We call it a rhetorical question. There is nothing in the text affirming that the sky is actually a hard dome. NL is surely reading too much into the text and he seems to want to ignore the genre not to mention the figure of speech. What is God doing with Job? He is educating him on the creation? He is intending to instruct Job on the physical properties of the firmament? It seems pretty obvious that God is in the middle of a serious rebuke of Job. Context matters. Genre matters. Figures of speech matter.
Next, NL cites proverbs 8:28 as evidence for his conclusions: when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep. It is puzzling to me how anyone could take such an approach to wisdom literature while at the same offering criticism of a hermeneutic that he thinks is overly literal. The Hebrew bĕʾammĕṣōw us translated by NET “when he established.” The lexical evidence would not support the idea that Solomon is attempting to inform us that God created a hard dome in the sky above. The word is used in the piel stem to show that what was made was made strong or resistant. It seems to be a serious flaw in the interpretive process to see Solomon here intending a literal “hard” object by his employment of this word.
Finally NL cites Genesis 7:11 as proof or depending on one’s perspective, a problem: In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. This same expression is used in Mal. 3:10 where God promises to open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings. It is used in Isaiah 24:18 describe the outpouring of divine wrath. It seems best to understand the expression as an idiom, much like our own idioms. For example, this morning it was raining cats and dogs just before the sun rose.
Some of NL’s issues are more complex than this one. Nevertheless, this problem doesn’t really seem to be a problem at all. It seems more to me to be an artificial problem conjured up in the creative minds of those who, for whatever reason, are desperately looking for a new way to interpret Genesis 1-11. So far, the grammar and syntax they are employing isn’t working out for them.