Opening Statements on the Study of Genesis 1-11
A. How is Genesis 1-11 related to modern western science?
1. totally antagonistic
2. total agreement
3. points of similarity
Science is a research method. It is a modern phenomenon but is always changing in light of new knowledge. God as creator and God as savior are held together by the "two books," nature (natural revelation, cf. Ps. 19:1-6) and Scripture (special revelation, cf. Ps. 19:7-11). God wrote both! They do not disagree!
B. How does Genesis 1-11 relate to modern history?
1. Eastern and western literary genres are different. Not true or false, not right or wrong, but different. Genesis 1-11 is pre-history. It is crucial theologically, but somewhat veiled (brief literary pattern). Veiled in literary genre, veiled in historical drama, veiled as is the end of history (i.e. Revelation).
2. Christianity, as Judaism, is a historically based religion. It stands or falls on its historical events. However, some events (i.e. Gen. 1-11) are beyond our comprehension, so they are communicated in ways that humans can understand (i.e. accommodation). This is not in any way to deny their trustworthiness, but to emphasize their theological purpose. The Bible chooses to focus not on creation, but on re-creation (redemption).
3. Genesis is set within a "historical" frame of reference. We can document obvious links to secular history beginning with chapter 12 (i.e. Nuzi and Mari Tablets). However, chapters 1-3 are beyond historical confirmation and genre identification.
C. How does Genesis 1-11 relate to literature?
1. There are parallels of chapters 1-2, 3, and 6-9 from Mesopotamian sources. Often terminology, details, and story line are similar. However, the Bible's monotheism and the dignity of humanity are unique.
2. There are at least two dangers in approaching the Bible as literature.
a. As literature it is mythological, totally non-historical.
b. As literature it is literal, no figurative language, no eastern genres, no dramatic, parabolic events.
God has revealed Himself to a particular time and culture using human language (i.e. metaphors, analogies, and negations). It is true and trustworthy, but not exhaustive.
3. Creation is a progressive revelation truth. Genesis 1-2 are foundational, but Psalms and the NT are also crucial for a proper perspective. Each of the three sources adds to a theological understanding of the method and purpose of creation.
D. How do we interpret Genesis 1-11?
1. How it all began and how it will all end are veiled (Genesis 1-11 and Revelation, i.e. we see through a glass darkly).
2. We have all the truths needed to respond to God and to understand the Bible. But, we do not have exhaustive, literal, complete facts. We have theologically selective and interpreted events.
3. We must view Genesis 1-11 through
a. literary genre
b. theological emphasis
c. historical events
d. modern western science/culture/biases
4. Fallen humans all stand before the Bible (i.e. God's revelation) and are judged by it. It is beyond our mental abilities, but we must be able to comprehend it in order to be able to properly respond to it. Believers interpret it differently (some poorly), but all are responsible for the truths they understand. It reveals God; it reveals human rebellion; it reveals divine redemption. Our eternities are related to these truths, not the how and when of creation and the events of Gen. 1-11. They are primarily the Who and why, which are so crucial.
God have mercy on us all (and He has)!
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