Category Archives: Genesis

Ways of Reading Genesis 1 (CTP class)

The inspired penman in this history [Genesis] … [wrote] for the Jews first and, calculating his narratives for the infant state of the church, describes things by their outward sensible appearances, and leaves us, by further discoveries of the divine light, to be led into the understanding of the mysteries couched under them. – John Wesley, Notes on the Bible, Genesis 2.8

The Creation
The Creation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To my regular throng of readers, this post may not be for you so much as it is for the class I am leading. This CTP class (critical-theological-practical) focuses on Scripture and how to read it on different levels. We have just started, laying some groundwork first on how to read Scripture (for this class). This post, and maybe more like it, will help to facilitate discussion and provide background to the current chapter or passage under discussion.

The next up is the first creation story as found in Genesis 1–2.4a. At no point should you read this entire passage and be done discussing it within an hour. Why? Because not only do have to decide if this is poetry, myth, literature, history, or science (or a mixture of some or all these modern categories) but then you need to talk about how it sets within the Exilic context. Maybe the sun, moon, and stars are really just luminary bodies and not Babylonian gods. Then you have to talk about what it means when God said “it is good.” Then you get to the Genesis 1.26-27 and so on.

But, to start this we have to really look at the ways of reading the first creation story. I have four posts/articles to share from others. I don’t agree with some of the things in them, but that’s not the point of the class. The point of the class is to help people read Scripture contextually, theologically, and for themselves.

These posts don’t have to be read, but I post them here in case you want to read them:

Some other posts, from your’s truly:

If you are in Charleston, WV at 7am on Thursdays, look us up.

Conrad Hyers on the Narrative Form of Genesis 1

Chaos (cosmogony)
Chaos (cosmogony) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is something few people get, or accept. It is also why I don’t buy Young Earth Creationism and yet still maintain a high view of Scripture. The language of Genesis 1 (different in order and style from Genesis 2) cannot be removed out of the ancient context.

A basic mistake through much of the history of interpreting Genesis 1 is the failure to identify the type of literature and linguistic usage it represents. This has often led, in turn, to various attempts at bringing Genesis into harmony with the latest scientific theory or the latest scientific theory into harmony with Genesis. Such efforts might be valuable, and indeed essential, if it could first be demonstrated (rather than assumed) that the Genesis materials belonged to the same class of literature and linguistic usage as modern scientific discourse.

A careful examination of the 6-day account of creation, however, reveals that there is a serious category-mistake involved in these kinds of comparisons. The type of narrative form with which Genesis 1 is presented is not natural history but a cosmogony. It is like other ancient cosmogonies in the sense that its basic structure is that of movement from chaos to cosmos. Its logic, therefore, is not geological or biological but cosmological. On the other hand it is radically unlike other ancient cosmogonies in that it is a monotheistic cosmogony; indeed it is using the cosmogonic form to deny and dismiss all polytheistic cosmogonies and their attendant worship of the gods and goddesses of nature. In both form and content, then, Genesis I reveals that its basic purposes are religious and theological, not scientific or historical.

via The Narrative Form of Genesis 1: Hyers.

This is why any debate on interpretations of Genesis 1 must begin and end with an examination of the passage, including context, language, and canonical parallels.

This originally appeared in the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation 36.4 (1984) 208-15.

Universalism* in Sodom and Gomorrah?

The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah, a paint...
The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah, a painting by John Martin (painter), died 1854, thus 100 years. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I do not like the term “universalism” for several reasons.

  • It smacks of (Reverse) Calvinism
  • It smacks of white privilege
  • It doesn’t do justice to the wrath of God, judgment, and sin

However, I can’t think of a better term right now. So, universalism* it is.

In reading the notes in The Jewish Study Bible, I caught several statements (drawn from Jewish Tradition) that helped to highlight the text.

  • In Genesis 18.24, forgiveness and preservation for the several cities lead by the Twins is not found in the act of the sinners, but in the righteousness of the innocent.
  • This hope from God is found in Jeremiah 5.1 as well.

We can look at 1 Corinthians 7.14 in the same manner.

So, if a small measure of righteousness can ward off the wrath of God and save a city, what then can the wholly righteous act of the death of Christ do if in the Church the Body of Christ and the Spirit remains?

Good analogy on reading Genesis 1

You read a book like Anna Karenina, for example, and those characters and those situations will be like parables such that they will live in your conciousness for your whole life, and as you mature and have different experiences, you will see those same scenes and reexperience those parabolic experiences form different angles with different lighting, and so on. They will grow, thrive, and live entire lives inside your life and continue to turn out more wisdom about love as you come to learn your own internal language about love.

via Genesis: Did That Really Happen? : Celebrating Evolving Creation.

A friend sent this, and I’d thought you like to see it too.

Let me always recommend John Walton‘s Lost World of Genesis One.

Homeschooling – Exposing the Differences in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3

So, we are homeschooling our children for a few weeks during the move and vacation, etc… Today’s assignment (yesterday was to read about religion in Rome) is to read both Creation stories (Genesis 1-2.4 and 2.5-3), detailing five differences, followed by two sentences describing what the differences mean to the them.

The fact is, is that my third and fifth grader will have a better theological grasp of the stories by the end of today than Young Earth Creationists.

Why? Because by comparing the details of the story, we will explore what the different authors wanted to say about Creation(s), and how they see it as applying to them (theology). Yes, there are wrong answers. For instance, if they come back and say that they are the same, just one is expanded, not only will they be grounded, I will deny them their college education, and quite possibly break their toys. Seriously, if they, I will explain to them that if they have any respect at all for Scripture, they will see the differences and appreciate them for what the original authors and redactor is trying to tell us about the way they see God, Creation, Humanity, and the relationships exiting between those realities.

Thoughts?