Understanding Genesis 1


(Terrell Allison) #22

Was it written as a myth? @tttallison saw most of the speakers as presenting Genesis as a myth. In going through the video again, I saw another aspect which is worth considering: the point being that the author of Genesis was taking on ANE myths (myths, as a literary genre, can be defined as stories told to convey and reinforce aspects of a culture’s worldview) and turning them on their heads. To the ANE audience, Genesis 1 would have been a radical account of creation unlike anything they were familiar with. In that sense, Genesis 1 can be seen to be a myth-buster to its audience at that time.

Was there really any difference between the ANE myths of 2,000 BC, and the myths of today? They worshipped the sun and the moon, we worship the trees and animals. Voodoo still exists, Worship of Satan still exists. Horoscope divination exists.

How could it be a radical account of creation for the ANE? Both Noah and Shem (According to my calculations) walked the earth in 2,000 BC. The ANE could have been much better informed than we are today. There are many more false premises than true ones.

May God bless you in the study of the Word,

Terry


(Joshua Elder) #23

It has been about 7 years since I read “The Lost World of Genesis One” by John Walton, but from what I remember his interpretation of Genesis one had some beautiful insights into how God would be speaking in contrast to the societies of that time. There were also some problems in the book in that it appeared to reflect on Genesis one only, without taking into consideration the following chapters. To make an argument that Adam is merely an archetypal figure and that the Bible is not attempting to explain material origins seems to be a stretch when we consider the genealogies included in Genesis. Why would you include genealogies if you had no concern in explaining material origin?

However, I believe interpreting Genesis as a complete explanation of origins is also reading into the text. If we were meant to know a time frame and a complete picture we would need to ask why the genealogies after Noah appear very much to include whole societies “Egypt, Cush, Canaan” Chpt 10 V.6, in fact in Chpt. 10 V. 13, 15, and 16, we see whole tribes being described and not individuals. So we have to make many assumptions to get a complete timeline or picture. Additionally, we are never given a timeline and so we must be cautious in considering something orthodox that is not contained in the text.

Finally, I think we need to approach our understanding of this text and our origins humbly. If the Lord our God gave us everything we needed to know in Genesis or in the Sciences, I do not think God would have said what he said to Job. When we have this discussion God’s words to Job should humble our prideful hearts:

4 "Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. 5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? 6 On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone-- 7 while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? 8 "Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, 9 when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness,10 when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place,11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’? (Job 38:4-11 NIV)


(Helen Tan) #24

Hi Terry, I appreciate your input into this conversation and look forward to more. I agree with you that myths existed both in the ANE as well as today. I’m pondering about your point that Genesis 1 was not a radical account in the eyes of ANE cultures. Looking at Genesis 1 in the context of the ANE culture is a new one for me, one that I am seeking to understand. As such, any debate on it is welcomed. What you said made me sit up and think about it more.

The questions which came up in relation to this were: When was Genesis written? Who were in existence in the ANE at that time that could have been impacted by it?

I’m just going to put out some points for consideration/correction: Genesis is traditionally thought to have been written by Moses in the period 1440 to 1400 BC. If that is correct, Noah would have predated the writing of Genesis.

Is it right to say that the ANE at the time Genesis was written would have included Egypt, Mesopotamia, the ancient Ugarit north of Cananna, Jordan, Ancient Assyria, and Persia? The ANE was the location of major empires and cultures and the monotheistic thinking of the Israelites would have stood out in contrast to the thinking prevailing in these other ANE cultures in which creation - the sun, moon and stars - were worshipped and the earth was thought to be borne out of the violent battles of gods. Another key difference between Genesis 1 and the rest of the ANE thinking is that Genesis points to humanity not being created to work for the gods, but that God focuses creation to support for the life of man.

I’m wondering too if there’s any benefit or relevance in looking at Genesis within the context of the ANE culture and would really appreciate the input of those who have considered this more deeply.

As always, I look forward to more thoughts to add to or correct what has been said.


(Tim Ramey) #25

Good points Helen. You are a perfect example of what I was referring to when I spoke of brilliant thinkers. Thanks so very much for your excellent thoughts. I so appreciate your mind that the Lord has given you. Thanks again for the post.


(Terrell Allison) #26

Helen

Some things never change. The toys mankind possess change, but man does not. His corruption since the time of Adam has remained constant. The same pride, the same desires of the flesh to please one’s self have not altered. The only goodness that has existed is that which is found in God. Those that walk in his light shine with his goodness. Even Job was chastised by God for his pride.

It should not matter when Genesis was written if God is the author. If God is not the author, and the writer’s were the authors, then what is written does not matter.

The flood took place about 2,344 BC. Noah’s sons then populated the earth(Genesis 9:1). Shem lived until 1842 BC. God spoke directly to the sons of Noah(Genesis 9:8) The exact date of the tower of Babel is not mentioned, but Nimrod’s kingdom was called Babel, and he was the grandson of Ham. So the whole ANE community was populated by the sons, grandsons, and great grandsons of Noah. God became angry with them and confounded their language and scattered them.

The ANE, or “Noah”, community was no different than us. They may well have been wiser. They didn’t have all the distractions we have.

They have it all backwards. The Bible was not written with myths in mind. The myths were written with the Bible in mind. For one instance all the floods that are found in different societies came from Noah.


(Helen Tan) #27

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and advice with me in this conversation. I’m the first to admit that I am way behind and am keen to learn from the truly brilliant minds here, and hence all the questions I have. I see discussions in Connect as a means to shortcut an otherwise long learning process on my own:))

This discussion is no exception. Perhaps I could summarize the great input that’s been offered so I don’t lose them after this. (Those who know me well know how much I love to summarize things:)).

  1. Philip spoke about the need to evaluate things in context, looking at the premises and logic. All data should be tested for correspondence and coherence. Adding to that, Andrew and Sean highlighted the importance of bearing in mind that “the universal message of truth God intended for all generations and the cultural understanding of the text must coexist in our interpretation.” Jimmy too sees the usefulness of interpreting the text within its context.

  2. Sean’s advice is to be slow to change our minds, to not take an idea in isolation but to pit it against others, and to seek counselors with different perspectives (which incidentally is the purpose of this discussion :))

  3. Jennifer’s advice is very practical - evaluate the credentials of the author, the purpose of the writing (contradiction or an additional perspective to consider), its adherence to Biblical principles and context, and whether any new information is theory or fact.

  4. Ron pointed to the continuity of the Genesis story into the New Testament, providing an overview and coherence of the entire Gospel story and how its interpretation should be done in that context.

  5. Constantine contributed useful advice in encountering science in a Biblical text – “a ministerial approach accepts all things necessary for our faith and life are either expressly set down in Scripture or may be logically deduced from Scripture, the inerrant and authoritative Word of God” and Science must submit to this.

  6. Terry pointed in a practical way to the pitfalls of accepting views new to us at face value. We need to see the Word of God as being supreme and primary and be cautious with new untested views.

  7. Josh gave us a great advice as to how to encounter Genesis, highlighting what the text does and does not say.

I am grateful for your taking the time to engage with me here. I had always avoided or remained silent at discussions on controversial topics with the great minds in my world because I was never equipped to do so. Gaining an understanding of the variety of views with their corresponding strengths and weaknesses is enabling me to do so. Although I’m still not running towards confrontations, I am inspired by what Ravi does when he says, “You’re the kind of people we come for” when someone challenges him in an almost mocking way. So, thank you for helping me do that.


(Jimmy Sellers) #28

At the risk of throwing a monkey wrench in all of this I will assume that you believe that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch? If that is the case Act 7:22 says,

And Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was powerful in his words and deeds.

Surely Moses was trained in all the latest science, engineering, history, art and literature of the day. This would have been his worldview and the lens that he understood the life that he gave up and the life that he ultimately found. Is it possible that this informed the framing of Genesis and how the story was written and communicated to the Hebrews but not the truth of Genesis? I agree “the when”; it was written isn’t as important as the “the inspiration of the writing”, but this always makes we wonder, did God just stuff the words into Moses’ head one day and say “recite” (an illusion to the giving of the Quran to Mohammed) or was it through the working of the Holy Spirit, imparting the truth to him and expecting him to communicated in the vernacular of the day? I think that this a fair question and one that I have ask myself about Paul’s writings particularly. Does this make sense?

On Job have you ever wonder why he was so set on maintaining his righteousness? We have all been taught that Job was prideful and there is truth in that but I am not sure that this is what was driving his actions. He lived in a world that understood that every catastrophe, personal or communal was a result of displeasing the gods. The only hope for remedy was to acquiesce to their irrational demands and ritual no matter the reason or cost. But Job in 27:1-7 clearly defends his righteousness. What was different and why would Job in the face of all his advisors, friends and even his wife stand fast on a righteousness that he was willing to die for? A conviction like this must be based on something more that pride, pride in what? A righteous compared to what or whom? Where could this have come from? Jean Bottero (an Assyriologist): would tell you the answer is that Moses’s great revolutions in Israel: to replace the purely material maintenance of the gods with the single and sole “liturgical” obligation in life to obey a moral law, thereby truly rendering to God the only homage worthy of him.”.

Here is quote from John Walton on this subject that says it better that I can.

One final consideration in this category that highlights a difference between Israel and the rest of the ancient Near East concerns the issue of disinterested righteousness. If ethical behavior has an exterior foundation, a person behaves ethically because of the consequences—rewards or punishments—that are built into the system, whether by society or the gods. Disinterested righteousness can only be a viable option if a more abstract sense of righteousness exists.
Walton, J. H. (2006). Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible (p. 160). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.


(Terrell Allison) #29

Hello Jimmy,

Wow, you are challenging. Your questions are a challenge. To answer your first question I assume Moses was the writer of the Pentateuch, and God the author. Some chapters are not written in the first person, therefore someone else had to be doing the writing, perhaps his minister Joshua.

Didn’t your worldview change when you met Christ? Doesn’t everyone’s worldview change when they meet God? The toys that are in the world change, but the men don’t. There is only two types of man. The one is evil and decides what his worldview is. And the other has put on God’s righteousness, and lives in God’s code. The first can become the second. God’s code has not changed since day one.

Job had God’s code, it just took him a long time to put it on.

Job had God’s words as the following verse attests to.

Job 23:12 Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.

There was never a plurality of gods in Job’s personal world, nor in his friends world. Eliphaz paraphrased the first two beatitudes. Paul quoted the words of Eliphaz as scripture.

Comparing Moses and Job


Deuteronomy 32:1-2 Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass:

Job 29:21-23 Unto me men gave ear, and waited, and kept silence at my counsel. After my words they spoke not again; and my speech dropped upon them. And they waited for me as for the rain; and they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain.


Deuteronomy 32:3 Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. (Moses gives glory to God.)

Job 29:11 When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me: (Job gives glory to Job.)


I hope I have not presented this in a confusing manner.

Terry


(Carson Weitnauer) #30

Hi Terry,

Could you please elaborate on the relevance of these quotes for us:

I thank God for his Son that dwells in my heart, and is the revealer of truth.

Some things never change. The toys mankind possess change, but man does not. His corruption since the time of Adam has remained constant. The same pride, the same desires of the flesh to please one’s self have not altered. The only goodness that has existed is that which is found in God. Those that walk in his light shine with his goodness. Even Job was chastised by God for his pride.

Didn’t your worldview change when you met Christ? Doesn’t everyone’s worldview change when they meet God? The toys that are in the world change, but the men don’t. There is only two types of man. The one is evil and decides what his worldview is. And the other has put on God’s righteousness, and lives in God’s code. The first can become the second. God’s code has not changed since day one.

In particular, how does our awareness of human sin and pride affect how we interpret Genesis 1? Is it your position that understanding the depravity of man, and the power of God’s salvation, is logically connected to interpreting Genesis 1 in a literal way?


(Terrell Allison) #32

Carson you have asked me to elaborate on some of my quotes.

First quote-"I thank God for his Son that dwells in my heart, and is the revealer of truth."

I am not implying that I know all truth, that would be both vain and untrue. That statement was in the context of an editor of the RSV stating that the first five books of the Bible were made of a matrix of myth, folktale, and legend.

Second quote-"Some things never change. The toys mankind possess change, but man does not. His corruption since the time of Adam has remained constant. The same pride, the same desires of the flesh to please one’s self have not altered. The only goodness that has existed is that which is found in God. Those that walk in his light shine with his goodness. Even Job was chastised by God for his pride."

This was in context of Genesis one not being a radical account in the eyes of the ANE cultures.

All I am saying here is that mankind has not really changed over the ages. Adam was in the garden with God. He lived to around 3,070 BC. Noah had a special relationship with God, and lived to around 1994 BC. Shem lived to around 1842 BC. The point is that all those in the ANE culture were the offspring of Noah. They should have been familiar with the story of the flood, and God’s dealings with mankind.

Third quote-"Didn’t your worldview change when you met Christ? Doesn’t everyone’s worldview change when they meet God? The toys that are in the world change, but the men don’t. There is only two types of man. The one is evil and decides what his worldview is. And the other has put on God’s righteousness, and lives in God’s code. The first can become the second. God’s code has not changed since day one."

Jimmy was asking about Moses and Paul writing in the vernacular of the day. Perhaps I should have asked him to be more specific on the vernacular? All I was saying was that there is two types of people. The saved, and the lost. And no matter the age that we are in, all things remain the same with regard to God and his message.

In particular, how does our awareness of human sin and pride affect how we interpret Genesis 1? Is it your position that understanding the depravity of man, and the power of God’s salvation, is logically connected to interpreting Genesis 1 in a literal way?

No, that was never implied.

Sincerely,

Terry


(Carson Weitnauer) #33

Hi Terry,

Thank you. I have more questions as I try to understand. :slight_smile: I don’t want to misunderstand you or put words in your mouth!

So, in this explanation:

First quote-“I thank God for his Son that dwells in my heart, and is the revealer of truth.”

I am not implying that I know all truth, that would be both vain and untrue. That statement was in the context of an editor of the RSV stating that the first five books of the Bible were made of a matrix of myth, folktale, and legend.

Are you saying that your position on the nature of the first five books of the Bible is accurate - and the position of the RSV editor is false - because of God’s revelation to you?

For the second quote and explanation, your point is that the ANE cultures had access to the Pentateuch, but chose to create their own religious texts instead?

For the third quote and explanation, is your point that the saved believe the Bible is God’s message - written directly by God - and the lost believe the Bible is not God’s message? That is, the lost believe that Moses wrote in the vernacular of his day, though inspired by the Holy Spirit?


(Terrell Allison) #34

Are you saying that your position on the nature of the first five books of the Bible is accurate - and the position of the RSV editor is false - because of God’s revelation to you?

No. If the RSV editor’s position is correct that the first five books are a matrix of myth, folktale, and legend, what do you do with rest of the books that attest to them? Did Jesus erroneously quote from Genesis 2? The Bible is so entwined that if you are going to dismiss the first five books as myths, then you have to conclude that the whole Bible is a myth.

For the second quote and explanation, your point is that the ANE cultures had access to the Pentateuch, but chose to create their own religious texts instead?

No. I never said that.

For the third quote and explanation, is your point that the saved believe the Bible is God’s message - written directly by God - and the lost believe the Bible is not God’s message? That is, the lost believe that Moses wrote in the vernacular of his day, though inspired by the Holy Spirit?

That is not what I said.

Best regards

Terry


(Carson Weitnauer) #35

Hi Terry, thank you for the clarifications. I was initially unsure how to connect those parts of your posts with the other parts. I’m grateful those possible interpretations were not what you had in mind. I agree with you that the RSV editor misunderstood the integrity and inspiration of the Bible.


(Daniel Pech) #39

I’m coming from a ‘Young’ Earth perspective on all this, so some of what I have to say here may come across as harsh. I hope not, but I wanted to qualify that, in case I’ve missed something in that regard in my wording and such. (I miss such things in my own words far more often than most people miss it in their words.)

I agree with John Walton on many of his points. One of these is that he says that it is an entirely legitimate and critical question to ask as to what things the origin of which Genesis 1 was meant to explicitly address. Does it explicitly address any physics? Many in my own ‘Young’ Earth camp think so, but I do not.

Walton and I are on most of the same page as to what we think it does explicitly address: that it addresses purely what we humans most naturally are concerned about, in our simply everyday sense of our world, in terms of everyday human life. In other words, neither he or I think that, say, v. 3 is referring to the creation of light/energy, as such, but, rather, is referring to something of ordinary daylight.

Hugh Ross and I agree that this ordinary daylight is the mere introduction of Sunlight by way of some dissipation of a very heavy cloud cover. But, as far as I know, Ross comes by this interpretation without regard for the Ancient Near East normal usage of phrases found throughout the Bible that indicate terrestrial darkness during daytime, such as that in v. 2: ‘darkness upon’ the face of the Earth. And a single global dense cloud cover could easily be that of this ‘darkness upon’ in v. 2. Ross thinks so, and so do I.

But, since the text does not spell out that a dense cloud cover was involved, most who hold the ‘Young’ Earth position insist that no dense cloud cover was involved. And this is a lot like how Walton reasons that the account id not about the material creation of anything: because it does not come right out say things like, ‘In the beginning, there was nothing but God, and then God created matter, as such.’

Walton is right, I think to claim that the ancient audience of the account did not constitute some Israel Conference on Physics, and thus that its author did not expect to be presenting on the origins of physics. (https://youtu.be/1kOflP3eLSI?t=919 (video time 15:19-17:32) and https://youtu.be/1kOflP3eLSI?t=1274 (video time 21:14-22:18))

But, as to what the account really is on about, similarly to Walton is Lazar Puhalo: Puhalo claims that, for any account that includes the material origins of the cosmos-the earth-life-and humans, it must at least once mention such things as atomic elements and ‘atomic structures’; And, therefore, since Genesis 1 does not even once mention any of the particular elements that are fundamental to the cosmos (‘deuterium’ and ‘helium’, etc.), then Genesis 1 is not an account that includes the material creation of anything, much less of the entire universe.

(Puhalo, Lazar (2011): ‘Theology made simple: The Meaning of The Fall of Man.l’. Youtube, Lazar Puhalo: https://youtu.be/6xN6IB-8glw?t=198 (at video time 03:18-03:42))

And, in common with Walton, Wright, etc., Puhalo overlooks (X):

(X) How short-and-sweet can a text or account be that constitutes a complete basic account of how God created the universe, the Earth, life, and humans? In other words, what is the best short way for such information to be communicated to normal, native terrestrial humans? And how would that best communication best begin and proceed?

I think that (X) is as legitimate and critical a question as is that of Walton’s own question: what things the origin of which was Genesis 1 meant to explicitly address?

…And Walton reasons essentially along the same lines as Puhalo about why the Genesis 1 account of origins is not an account of the material origins of anything. Yet, Walton advises that we should not—repeat, not----impose our modern, Space Age, cosmological and general physics concerns onto the ancients’ own accounts. (https://youtu.be/1kOflP3eLSI?t=1397 (video time 23:18-24:03))

So it seems to me that, if Genesis 1 is not about the material creation of the Earth’s ecological functions, then 2 Timothy 3:16-17 might better put what the Bible refers to as ‘science so-called’ the place of Holy Scripture, thus:

‘All claims by scientists are given by inspiration of God, and are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good exegesis of the Bible.’

Walton claims that the Bible makes no claims on material things such as the shape of the terrestrial world. This is because, according to his view of human origins and human history, the Bible records that the Hebrews all believed exactly as did supposedly all other ancient people’s of such things. But how could those Hebrews be sure that such things as the Bible supposedly records was NOT part of what their portion of the Bible claims?

In other words, (1) Walton reasons that whether the Bible affirms anything about the shape of the Earth is based purely on whether modern knowledge of its shape is contrary to what the Bible seems to record that the Hebrews believed was its shape; but (2) those Hebrews would therefore NOT have had that knowledge; Therefore: (3) how could they have known that its records of their beliefs thereto were not part of what the Bible affirms??