June 07, 2011

BCOE: Genesis 1 Overview

Before getting into the nitty-gritty analysis of each verse, let me briefly make some observations about the whole chapter, the book of Genesis, and the Bible at large. 

The Bible was never intended to be a textbook for us.  It contains entirely true historical and scientific information, but the primary purpose isn’t to inform us of all the nature of the universe.  It’s to inform us of who God is.  It’s to show us His heart, His will, His plans, His salvation, His relationship to us, and His view of all things.  It’s all about Him.  It’s not primarily about educating us about the world.  We can learn much about the world, but that’s not the primary thrust.

Whether the universe is billions of years old or merely thousands should not change the theological implications of Genesis—who God is and how He relates to His world.  God is still the same, and man is still the same.  We will address the doctrine of sin and the Fall later, since those doctrines seem to be brought into question when animal death was around before Adam and Eve.  However, as we will hopefully see, the issue of animal violence and death is separate from human sin and death.  Also, the issue of animal death before Adam and Eve is not directly related to the age of the universe, but is more related to how the fossil record is interpreted.

It should be noted that Genesis does contain some minor poetic and non-literal language.  I’m not suggesting that Genesis 1 should be taken mostly poetically or non-literally; as you will see, I take Genesis 1 mostly literally.  However, poetic language isn’t entirely foreign in Genesis.  Examples are prophetic references as in Genesis 3 and Genesis 49 filled with poetic language, the promise to Abraham that his descendents would be like “the sand” and stars in numbers (the number of stars and grains of sand are both vastly more than the number of humans who’ve ever lived), and Genesis 11 that says that “nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.”  These are examples of hyperbole—statements not to be taken literally.

Another important point is that Genesis 1 has both absolute statements and relative statements.  The relative statements are in relation to “points of reference,” or the perspective from which things are written.  Just like we say that the “sun rises and sets,” the Bible commonly uses such relative statements.  They are true from the perspective of the ground of earth, but would be untrue from outer space.  Genesis 1 speaks both absolutely and relatively.  We will carefully note when the language becomes relative to perspective.  Fortunately, the perspective is clearly declared in Genesis 1.

The Hebrew word “hayah” (
היה) which often means “became” or “to come to pass” occurs 17 times in Genesis 1, which is more than five times more than the average per chapter in the Old Testament (the average is 3.3 times per chapter).  This word often denotes the passage of time. 

The Genesis 1 account is referred to as the “the generations of the heavens and the earth. . .” (Gen. 2:4a).  In light of that definition, each creation day (“yom,”
יום) could perhaps be considered a “generation”.  Also, in the same context, it says, “. . . in the day [yom] that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens” (Gen. 2:4b).  Multiple days of creation appear to be called a single “day,” which is a relatively clear reference to day being used for a longer period than 24-hours.

No comments:

Post a Comment