Book Review: The Lost World of Genesis One

Your first question is most likely, why did I ask for this book? Well, to be honest, while I was reading James McGrath’s book, The Only True God, he mentioned a connection between monotheism and the act of Creation. While I am always, at some level, a literal creationist, I find the idea of mixing science and theology a bit troubling. The Bible is the word of God and has the charge to reveal to us those things about God which we cannot discern from nature (Romans 1.20; 2nd Timothy 3.15-16).

Frankly, I think that merely accepting the Six Day principle of Genesis 1 causes us to miss some of the deeper theology which God intended as He instructed Moses to write Genesis 1. Already, we know that Genesis 1.26 holds key theological ideas in later Christological debates. Moreover, if we briefly examine the idea that things came from things, we can build upon that precept for many biblical things – such as marriage. Even in the first few verses, we approach doctrinal lines which we see completed, or rather expanded, in the New Testament, such as the Spirit and the Water (John 3).

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Three Interpretations of Genesis 1

In preparing for John Walton’s book, The Lost World of Genesis One, I had to refresh myself in the different interpretations of Genesis 1. I am doing this in preparation of Walton’s book review, which I hope to have done on Monday:

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Unus Deus – Genesis 1:26 – Who, with whom and what?

What follows is a move to answering Trinitarian arguments on Genesis 1.26. This is not complete and should not be taken as thus, but I thought that I would put it out there simply because I could use the quick wit that will be provided by others to sharpen and shape, or discard, this argument.

Genesis 1.26 Let us create man

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. Genesis 1:26 KJV

Trinitarians usually point to this verse and say that God is speaking to the pre-existent Son. Some oneness believers will point to this verse justify it by saying that God was speaking to the future Incarnation. Others will say that the ‘us’ is the will and counsel of God, or related to His Majesty.

A major problem remains in that we have to make our interpretation fit within logic, reason, and the strict monotheism of the OT as well as God’s plan of salvation.

Several questions we have to ask ourselves are: Did God know humanity was going to fall before He created them? Is strict Calvinism and the issue of God’s sovereignty the answer here? Is even moderate Calvinism an answer to a verse that as long plagued Modalism?

To create the body of the Son for a sacrifice for a sin that has not happened yet and then to clothe the Son in the flesh of sin which is putting on the flesh of the servant where the servant came first would create a paradox. I speak here to the Modalists: If God looked through history and saw 1.) man would fall and 2.) made man according to His Son, what does that say to Modalism? What does that say to Arminianism[1]? Nothing in the Bible lends itself to this interpretation. Nothing in the Bible states that we are created in the image of the Son but that He came and dwelt in our flesh.

The verse of Genesis 1:26 (as translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, The Living Torah, page 5) states: God said, “Let us make man with our image and likeness; let him dominate the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock animals, and all the earth – and every land animal that walks the earth”.

Rabbi Kaplan in a footnote there, explains, “Let us… God was speaking to all the forces of creation that He had brought into existence (cf. Targum Jonathan; Ramban). Now that all the ingredients of creation had essentially been completed, all would participate in the creation of man, the crown of creation. Others interpret “we” in the majestic sense, and translate the verse, “I will make man in My image” (Emunoth veDeyoth 2:9; Ibn Ezra)

Let us examine the creation of Man for ourselves,

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:20-21 KJV

We see on the fifth day God commanded the waters to bring forth those creatures that swim and those that fly and yet, we read in the same account that God did it Himself. Further, it goes on to say that the water brought those creatures forth.

And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:24-25 KJV

On the same Day of Creation, God commanded the earth (land) to bring forth those creatures that inhabit the land. Again, we read that God, although he commanded the earth (land) to do something, He did it himself.

We read on the next Day,

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Genesis 1:26-31 KJV

Taking into the account of the living creatures that God made on the fifth Day, we see here the same pattern develop. God is speaking to someone or something. Using conjecture and the context of the passage, we have to understand that the Rabbi’s are right. God is not speaking to the angels or to a non-pre-existent pre-existent Son, but to those things of life that He has created before. For the water and air creatures, God told the water to bring them forth, and with the water, God brought them forth. For the land creatures, God commanded the earth itself to bring them forth. God brings them forth.

With Humanity, God is speaking to all things that He has created (again, He spoke to the Water and to the Earth to bring forth non-human life) to bring forth Man. We were formed out of the dust of the earth, and yet we are seventy percent water. We have flesh and in our base instincts we are little better than the animals. Our body and it’s functions are mimicked everywhere throughout the animal kingdom, no matter the genus or species. Yet, when God breathed into us, we became alive like nothing else on this planet or in all of the cosmos.

One the issues that will be quickly raised is that of the omnipotence of God. First, one has to understand that Time and Eternity are two different realities. Time has a progression. It has a past, present and future. Eternity does not. In eternity, existence is. Eternity is defined by the lack of time progression. The omnipotence of God comes into effect when Time was created by the Fall of Adam. Before then, everything existed. When God told Moses that He was the ‘I Am’, it is because God is from eternity and in eternity, God never was, never will be, but is. We have to remember that God existed before the creation of the World, but the mystery that is the Redemption only existed before the beginning of time.

[1] Arminianism is the name given to a system of doctrine that states that man has free will to accept God’s Grace and that that grace is open to all, as opposed to Calvinism which says that before the Fall, God had ordained certain souls to salvation and some to eternal damnation and only those souls predestined to salvation would be saved.

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