I wanted to highlight just a few things about the NLT Study Bible and the ESV Study Bible as a point of comparison. This post is not meant to be all incluvise or even a review.
In Genesis 1.26, the NLT Study Bible reads,
Let us make is more personal than the remote “Let there be” (e.g., 1.36). The plural us has inspired several explanations:
the plural to denote majesty;
a plural to show deliberation with the self; and
God speaking with his heavenly court of angels
The editors answer these objections, and I’ll skip most of what they say. No doubt the editors, translators and others who worked on the NLT Study Bible, the scholars anyway, are devout ‘orthodox’ Christians believing in the Trinity. Yet here, they allow for a more scholastic approach which keeps the integrity of the passage free from later dogmatization. They note, “The concept of the Trinity – one true God who exists eternally in three distinct persons – was revealed at a later stage in redemptive history, making it unlikely that the human author intended that here.” They conclude the note by stating that option 4 is the the most likely answer. And indeed, it is. This is the position of ancient Jewish interpreters as well, as demonstrated in the Jewish Study Bible.
The ESV Study Bible notes that the “text does not specify the identify of the “us” mentioned here.” Ahh… the false notion of Scripture interpreting Scripture. A starting point for the interpretation of Scripture cannot be Scripture, as it allows for circular logical to act as the foundation of the loudest voice being right. The ESV Study Bible Editors goes on to note what the NLT Study Bible does, that the ‘us’ (as it is in other places in the OT) is the heavenly court. Yet, they end by stating, “Many Christians and some Jews have taken “us” to be God speaking to himself, since God alone does the making in Genesis. 1.27 (cf 5.1); this would be the first hint of the Trinity in the Bible (cf. 1.2).”
But it’s not. It is actually the heavenly court which was the understanding of the people who first read this passage. While it is easy for us to sit here today and reread the original works, the Scriptures were not created in a vacuum. The writers used the lexicons and encyclopedias of the day so that those who heard them then would understand the meaning of the text. How arrogant of us to think that the people for whom it was written didn’t understand it, and yet, we do.
Overall, I like the ESV Study Bible notes, but in several areas, the NLT Study Bible remains intellectually honest.
The teacher tried to explain how the creation of man and animals in Genesis 2 fits into the creation of animal and man in Genesis 1. In the process, the teacher gave the student the most unconvincing answer that I ever heard.
He then goes on to talk about translation issues, involving the Hebrew Language – something the Hamites miss. Further, he talking about doing injustice to the Text to try to reconcile something by using non-biblical presuppositions which is needed to combine Genesis 1 and 2. Anyway, it is worth a read and you should take it to heart.
In my opinion, those who truly believe in the Inspiration of Scripture have no need to force passages together against their nature.
In Genesis 2:15, God “took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” God acts upon humanity here, taking him and placing him in the garden with a specific task.
…got me to thinking.
The Bible is centered around Covenants. As a matter of fact, the first few pages of the text gives us covenants galore. Marriage. The Edenic Covenant. The Post-Edenic Covenant. We know that each Covenant led to another, with the biggest being what we call the ‘Old’ leading to what we have long called the ‘New.’ Further, I would postulate that humans are made persons, given personhood or divine status under, and only under Covenant with God. I realize that this is difficult to handle, mainly because we do not understand Personhood or human flourishing, which in my opinion can only be complete in God, and the more so, covenant with God. Brueggemann says something similar,
“the Old Testament has no interest in articulating an autonomous or universal notion of humanness.” [...] its articulation of what it means to be human is characteristically situated in its own Yawhistic covenantal, interactionist mode of reality, so that humanness is always Yahwistic humanness, or we may say, Jewish humanness.” (page 57 – Walter Brueggemann, An Unsettling God (ht – Rodney))
So, in an undeveloped notion, and one which I would like your insight on, I would propose that in reading Genesis 2-3, we separate it from Genesis 1. Whereas Genesis 1 is universal, Genesis 2 pertains to Israel. (If you continue to read Genesis 1 and 2 as a mesh, you are doing violence to the Text.) In that, we find that God, as he does throughout Genesis until we get to the tribes of Israel, carves out of humanity a Person, Adam. He (see above) takes this man from out of the human species and places him in the Garden to form a covenant with him. In doing so, God inaugurates what it actually means to be human, a person, the Creation of God. Thus, Adam becomes the first person.
If we take Scripture as a grand narrative, then we understand first the nearness which God seeks with His Creation, and it is always through a Covenant in which God acts to bring to Him some segment of the populace. Second, we understand the role in which singular individuals play in that Covenant. There is Adam, Noah, Abraham and finally, Jesus Christ. All of these represent a large group. It may be that Adam is the progenitor of the Imago Dei which is only fully realized at the Incarnation. This placing of Adam, out of humanity, into the Garden of Eden created a special relationship between the Created and the Creator which was the promise and goal of God for humanity, but the Covenant was broken. Now, this view, as niave as I am in hoping that the multi-sides of the argument can come to some sort of respectful compromise, would allow the Text to remain violence free, especially in trying to get Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 to fit seamlessly together. Further, this allows for the Grand Narrative to remain pegged to an identifiable figure while allowing science to help us understand the origin of our species all the while relying upon the divine for what makes us, well, us. Finally, this places a focus on the unique relationship between God and His image.
I would like to develop this maybe. Thoughts anyone?
What God created is here called “the heavens and the earth,” a poetic expression (merism) signifying the whole universe. Other examples of this poetic device are “day and night” (meaning all the time) and “man and beast” (meaning all created physical beings). “Heaven and earth” thus indicates not only the heaven and the earth but everything in them. Genesis 2:4 also uses this expression in a restatement of the work of creation throughout the six days.
Ross goes on to state (and Jeff links to more scholars at the bottom – scholars of Hebrew) that day (yom) in Genesis 1 actually refers to 24 hours. Walton, I believe, agrees.
Not knowing Hebrew, but knowing how to use certain resources, I tend to agree. Of course, I don’t think that Genesis 1 refers to a 6-day event, but an event celebrated by 6 days of ordering. In other words, while the days are literal actual days, the text is not referring the beginning of the universe. I realize that this is a difficult concept to grasp, but we have to look at the entire text and how the audience would have received it in order to ascertain the correct meaning.
Jason has reviewed a book which fits into the recent discussion on the historical Adam:
C. John Collins, (Phd, University of Liverpool) professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary, St Louis, has written a good book on the subject of the historical Adam. From the very beginning, he lays out plainly what he believes. The introduction declares that the historical belief was that Adam and Eve were literal, historical people and that creation occurred in six days. He then states that we may change our views on the length of time in which creation took place without changing our core beliefs, but that we are in danger of disrupting the story line of the Bible…..
Here’s the issue as I see it – one which those who need an identifiable Adam, singular, fail to resolve. Why is it that their ‘story line of the Bible’ is the only one considered? If their story line is in danger of collapsing, is their story line valid?
I’ve read the accolades given to Collins and his work and the are impressive, but it seems to me, from reading Jason’s review and others, that Collins set out to prove something which he already believed. While he makes allowances for science and evolution, he needs the historical Adam and because he sees Adam as historical, he then reads others as seeing it as well.
For me, I don’t think that a singular individual needs to have existed in order for the narrative of the Text to remain true. We know that singular individuals have represented whole lands, etc… in Scripture and other literature of the time. So why is is that so many still insist that a singular, identifiable person exist? There is a lot of interplay here – check with a Hebrew Scholar – with number in Adam. Adam may mean one person or many.
Also, I am still interesting in Paul’s use of tupos in describing Adam. I hope that I’m able to get it it later.
Anyway, read Jason’s review (formatting, Jason!) as it is one which made me interesting in the book.
This is such a simple concept that I almost feel ridiculous writing about it, but YECs have swarmed this blog lately. I thought non-literal numbers in the rest of the Old Testament merited a mention.
Charles Isbell was my first professor of Old Testament (though I’m sure it may have grated on his nerves as a Jewish professor to teach a course called “Introduction to the Old Testament” at a secular university like LSU). One of the books assigned for this course was Isbell’s God’s Scribes. In that book, though I can’t put my hands on it anymore, I remember there being a chapter on non-literal use of numbers in the Hebrew Bible. Even as an evangelical, this chapter didn’t really bother me at all. People use non-literal numbers all the time. All that to say, Young Earth Creationism is absolutely lost on me.
I believe there are almost innumerable examples of non-literal use of numbers in the Bible. Here are a couple of candidates:
2.5 million people leaving at the time of the (Exodus 12:37) Not likely (though I also realize that some have argued that “thousand” may not really mean “thousand” there).
430 years of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12:40-41) – Exodus 6:14-25 actually only calculates 4 generations between Levi and Moses. That this time period lasted 430 years seems doubtful to me.
The ages of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 20) – I’ve always wondered what the King of Gerar would have wanted with a perhaps nearly 90 year-old, barren woman, but maybe that’s just me.
Jeremiah’s 70 years (25:11) – Jeremiah said the people would serve the King of Babylon for 70 years after the land became a ruin and waste …. Nope, at least not if one reads the 70 absolutely literally.
Perhaps not all of these would work, but there are a myriad of other candidates. These are just the first that sprang to mind. I would obviously add to this list of non-literal use of numbers – 6 days of creation, the life spans of people in the book of Genesis, the numbers in the flood account (since they don’t all agree) … and, oh yes, the age of the earth if you calculate it based on the Book of Genesis.
Kenneth Kitchen, however, protests that this is not how things worked. The prominent Egyptologist and evangelical Christian, when responding to the charge that the flood narrative (Gen 9) should be read as “myth” or “proto-history” like the other flood-narratives from other cultures, answered:
The ancient Near East did not historicize myth (i.e. read it as imaginary “history”). In fact, exactly the reverse is true—there was, rather, a trend to “mythologize” history, to celebrate actual historical events and people in mythological terms.
In other words, the evidence is that Near Eastern “myths” did not evolve over time into historical accounts, but rather historical events tended to evolve over time into more mythological stories. Kitchen’s argument is that, if you read Genesis 2-11 in light of how ancient Near Eastern literature worked, you would conclude, if anything, that Genesis 2-11 were “high” accounts, with much compression and figurative language, of events that actually happened. In summary, it looks like a responsible way of reading the text is to interpret Genesis 2-3 as the account of an historical event that really happened.
He goes on to speak about the use of Adam in Paul’s writings, specifically, Romans 5. He is correct, that for the bible to retain the authority traditionally assigned to it, that we must allow the authors to retain their authority of interpretation:
When you refuse to take a biblical author literally when he clearly wants you to do so, you have moved away from the traditional understanding of biblical authority.
But, again, what if we are applying to Paul the strict literalism of a physically identifiable pair when his rhetoric may in fact imply something different? Do we continue to force Paul to abide by our understanding of him, or allow that we may not completely understand him? Paul calls Adam a tupos,
That particular word is used in the Maccabean books to represent a pattern or an example (3 Maccabees 3:30; 4 Maccabees 6.19). Why then would a pattern need to be ‘real’ any more than some of the opponents in Galatians and the letters of Ignatius need to be? What? You say you don’t know rhetoric or the criticism in this field being used to reach into the mind of Paul who was arguably, the greatest rhetorician of his day? What if Paul was using the story of Adam as a pattern or an example? Does a physical identifiable pair, etched forever in history, need to have actually existed for Paul to have used it to show to the Jewish readers the pattern fulfilled by Christ?
Paul was using history, of that I am assured of; however, he doesn’t need to be a literalist in the modern sense.
Joel brought this place to my attention yesterday. Just check out this from their FAQ page:
The Ark Encounter is a one-of-a-kind historically themed attraction. In an entertaining, educational, and immersive way, it presents a number of historical events centered on a full-size, all-wood Ark, which should become the largest timber-frame structure in the USA.
“Immersive”??? Are they planning to drown everyone just like in the story???
And again under the question about whether or not it will be an amusement park:
The Ark Encounter will be an immersive, historically themed experience for the whole family focused on having fun while learning about history. It is not an amusement park. It will feature a number of daily live performances, as well as live special events. It will also include “edu-tainment” aspects–educational and entertaining experiences within each attraction.
Daily live performances??? Really??? At the ark park???
Let me start off with what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that Adam is unimportant.
With that out of the way, in some discussions I’ve glanced at lately, I do think that some assign more importance to Adam than necessary. What I’m referring to is the idea of “no literal Adam = no Jesus.” Perhaps someone has covered this ground already. In fact, I hope they have, and I’m a late to the game. Only my schedule has flown all over the map this summer.
I’ll just make three brief points about “no literal Adam = no Jesus.” First, I don’t think this does justice to relative lack of a role Adam plays in the rest of the bible, in general, and Hebrew Bible, in particular. I know that some people read parts of the Hebrew Bible, but I’d swear that the only part that many pay attention to is Genesis 1-5.
Many people don’t realize that the Hebrew Bible contains only one undisputed reference to Adam outside of Genesis 1-5. The reference comes in the genealogy in 1 Chronicles 1:1. The word Adam in Hosea 6:7 is likely referring to a place as in Joshua 3:16.
The New Testament, in general, also contains very few references to Adam, especially outside of the epistles attributed to Paul. The only time a gospel writer explicitly mentions Adam is Luke’s inclusion of him in Jesus’ genealogy.
At this point, I would ask the question: Does “no literal Adam = no Jesus” make more out of Adam than scripture actually does? The Bible came along just fine, at least from my perspective, without mentioning Adam nearly as often as some groups seem intent on mentioning him in modern times.
Second, I would mention another related point. Since the Hebrew Bible makes little reference to Adam outside of Genesis 1-5, messianic hopes develop among a people for whom, in their scriptures, Adam does not play that significant of a role, especially compared to say … Moses, who has four whole books devoted to his activities. In light of this, I don’t think it makes sense to say “no literal Adam = no Jesus.” A person can still have messianic hopes without having everything hinge on Adam as evidenced by many Jews in modern times who maintain messianic hopes while not having a doctrine akin to the Christian doctrine of original sin.
Finally, from my perspective, it is not Jesus’ connection with a literal Adam that imbues his death with utmost significance, but rather his resurrection from the dead. I doubt seriously New Testament authors would really have thought to relate Jesus back to Adam if they did not believe he had been raised from the dead.
At any rate, this is my two cents. I think we must discuss Adam. Yet I also believe that the relative importance that we attach to him often does not reflect the relative importance of he plays within the whole of either the Jewish or Christian scriptures.
I begin not with Jason, but with Rodney. Rodney and I disagree as far as the East is from the West on a good many things political, and while many times, it appears that we are uncivil to each other, Rodney and I speak telephonically frequently. When I post a challenge to his political naivete, and he responds to mine, it is not to attack one another. I say this, because while the tone on your screen may seem harsh towards Rodney, it generally is not meant to sound rude or as a method of attack. Neither his to me, I supposed. I now segway to Jason.
I’ve met Jason and have spoken with him numerous times, and will meet him again one day or Another. My tone here should not be taken as an attack on Jason. Instead, it is a polite disagreement and as such, I hope that it remains on friendly terms. I believe that both of us have a desire to seek the Truth and in the end, preserve the faith of many. With that said…
Jason postulates that in denying a non-literal Adam, that people may deny the Fall, human sinfulness, and our need for redemption. How is that so? What if Adam does in fact represent the fall of Israel in accepting an image of God instead of God himself, as kings were seen as in the Ancient Near East (ANE). Look at the connection of the language and thought behind both stories. If the Garden of Eden is God’s perfect will for humanity, where no Government exists, but is in fact fully reliant upon the shoulders of God, then the Fall can be taken as the displacement of God for an institution and thus the the moment sin entered the world because we then required a Law. The Fall, then, as expressed in Adam, is God’s shining example refusing their birthright of utopian anarchy in favor of being like the others nations, and in co-opting their knowledge and their systems as their own. This doesn’t remove the Fall, but the testimony to this can be found in Revelation wherein we read that in the return to the primal state, God once again walks with humanity and serves as King and Priest with no Law being required. Gone are the governments and institutions of humanity. Again presented is the communication between God and His creation with no interruption. What then sin? Sin is shown by the Law, but before the Law, sin was not counted as such (Romans 5.12-14). In fact, it was the Law which called sin Sin (Romans 7.7). We know and cannot deny the basic sinfulness of humanity, although we may wish to define it more than depravity, regardless of how we understand the myth of Adam, because Sin is not dependent upon Adam, but upon the Law. Further, I do not simply see the Incarnation as a mere solution, but like others, a part of the grand narrative. And to be forthright, I do not see Genesis 1 and 2 about origins in the scientific arena, but they do celebrate the theological origins of Israel.
What startles me with both Jason and Christianity Today, among others, is the use of ‘intellectual’ as if it is a code word meant to cast doubt about the faith of those who are speaking or writing. Perhaps this is not their intent; however, we must remember that the Scriptures were not anti-intellectual and neither for the most part, is Church History. Just the opposite, as a matter of fact. The issue we have today in American society is that when we wish to cast doubt upon either the motivations or the the intelligence of an opponent, we actually use the word ‘intellectual.’ In Jason’s comment, he writes regarding the emotions of those who “appear intellectual.” Appear? So then if their facts do not line up with your facts or opinions, then they merely appear intellectual? I hope that we can dispense with the use of the word as a pejorative, as after all, Jason in trying to examine this issue critically and analytically, is himself attaining to the level of intellectual.
He is concerned about the “radically re-engineer(ing of) the foundation of Christian doctrine.” I would disagree with Jason and everyone else who says that either Genesis 1 or Genesis 2, or the other Creation accounts in Text, is the foundation Christian Doctrine. I was only aware of Christ being the foundation of all things. Thus, to re-examine doctrines and theology is not re-engineering, but reforming what may have been previously held in error, but not eternal error. He then goes on suggest that we much look behind us and examine what the ancients had to say. The ancients didn’t coalesce around one particular viewpoint, but while we are at this station in the argument, let us examine briefly where this leads us. Would Jason then examine what the ancients said about baptismal (re)generation or the Eucharist? Or the Priesthood? The Saints, Mary or even Rome itself? Yes, examine the ancients. Examine our history, but if you must do so in one area, why are we afraid to do so in another? To be forthright, the ancients were more in harmony an any of the above given positions than they were on Creationism. Further, as the Reformation as proved, we take the ancient voices and add our own to them, but always we rest on Scripture. It is up to us, as it was up to the Ancients and to the Reformers, to understand more assuredly what Scripture meant, not what it merely means. We do so not by resting upon history of interpretation only, or the great Theologians of the past, but upon biblical scholarship. God is the ultimate source of Truth, and if Christianity is the way which God has ordained to bring His creation in line with Him, then it will withstand all forms of critique and reformation. We must be mindful that we are not inerrant or infallible, and neither are our interpretations of Scripture, therefore, if we must reform our understanding of Scripture which will then lead to a reformation of doctrine, let us do so with the words of Christ (John 16.13) upon our hearts, minds and hands.
We next approach the notion that Adam wasn’t “real” and the issue of Jesus and the origins of the world. We know of the argument of Mark 10.6, but that argument is only as potentially damning to Truth as the recipient allows it to be. We may ignore the fact that Christ had placed his own words within the context of marriage, but we cannot ignore the fact that if this verse points to a Young Earth Creationism, then Jesus was wrong. In Genesis 1, humanity wasn’t created first, but last. Instead, it is preferable to not ignore Jesus’ own context, but to understand that Jesus was speaking in his own time, to the issue presented before him, and that of marriage (Mark 10.1-10). My point with this post is not to argue Creationism, but the allowance for examining doctrines in light of biblical scholarship, and this doctrine, of course, which we examine is the reality of Adam. Then, I return to the thought of the “real Adam” and say that I believe that I have covered another possibility which preserves doctrines and allows for biblical scholarship which brings to light the original context and not how we wish to continue to read it.
In thinking about this issue, however, we must ask ourselves whether or not the science that has led to this decision to reject a literal Adam is truly scientific. We should ask, also, if the theology that leads to a rejection of Adam is truly biblical.
The issue here is simple. Jason begins with his notion of how it should end and then proceeds to work backwards from there, judging the facts by his own final destination. Further, he demands that we inquire as the consequences of a change of understanding and then decides that the “truthfulness of that matter” rests on those consequences. This is a logical fallacy, in both instances. Consequences have no bearing on Truth. Further, I have to question who is rejecting? Literal, as you may know, is etymologically connected with the word literary. I would counter, as I often do with Young Earth Creationists, that unless you take Adam as he was meant to be taken, as Scripture and the writers of Scripture intended, then you are simply not being literal, but instead, especially in this case, rejecting the “literal Adam.” If a theology is developed which is based in Scripture, due to a closer examination of the Text itself, and shows itself to be counter to a physical, identifiable Adam (versus a “literal” or “real” Adam) then which is more biblical? The same charges were leveled by the Reformers, which in the end, is why I find laughable the arguments between denominations and groups as to who is more ‘biblical.’ In the end, those who ‘reject’ an identifiable and physical Adam may in fact be the more ‘biblical.’
Finally, to this point, the consequences must never outweigh the drive for Truth – that the price of abandoning wrong doctrine, as the Reformation taught us, is never too high to pay. The issue which Jason then laments, that the abandoning “of Adam and Even will lead to a large scale reshaping of Christian theology” need not take place. His lament is misplaced because Adam and Eve are not being abandoned, but re-examined in light of scientific and biblical scholarship which must take place in order to reform our errors. Further, the charge of abandonment and reshaping has been leveled before, during the Reformation, but it proceeded without the complete reshaping prophesied by the laments of the day.
In a comment, noted above, Jason comments that the issue, for him, is about the infallibility of Scripture versus the “tenuous conclusions of fallible scientists.” I would urge Jason, then, to consider it as ‘infallibility of Scripture versus the “tenuous conclusions of fallible Theologians.”‘ It is not about Piltdown Man, which is a hoax and could be countered with the recent Lead Codices and the James Ossuary if we were to take objects for which fallible people have become convinced of their historical place. Instead, it is about error. Further, he considers a physical Adam and Eve as something which was a belief 2,000 years ago and proceeds to imply that Christian doctrine is the same today as it was in the beginning. Hardly so, on both accounts. When I read Christ, I read his words as Jason does, through our individual eyes and knowledge. Let us not pretend to be completely objective here. I read Christ and I have no need to ignore his words because I see him as saying what I believe he is saying. So does Jason. Or Paul for that matter. I do not believe that Paul was identifying a historical figure, physically identifiable. Jason does, because that is how he reads him. As much as Jason needs us to admit that scientists are fallible, so too he must admit that theologians are equally fallible, if not more so. He ends with a plea against watering down biblical authority, but again, I counter than when we must defend the Text against changes of interpretation which we feel may undermine it, we simply don’t allow it the authority which we think it has. Either the Text has Authority, or it does not. If it does, then it can be questioned without it becoming a house of cards, dependent upon one interpretation or another.
In the end, it is not the infallibility of the Scriptures which we are defending, but our own.