Monday, April 21, 2014

Read Genesis with me? (Genesis 1:1-2:3)

It was fun, if it took some time, to walk through the New Testament these last 8 weeks. Why stop? I thought I'd slow the pace down to a chapter a day, and start taking notes on the Old Testament. I thought I'd commit one book at a time.

So anyone interested in reading through Genesis over the next 50 days or so, a chapter a day? I thought I'd start with Genesis 1 today. I won't post every day but mostly when I hit the end of recognizable units.
Genesis 1:1-2:3
  • Genesis 1:1-2:3 might have been written as an introduction to the entire Pentateuch (meaning "five scrolls"). The five scrolls are of course Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.
  • Genesis is anonymous. It nowhere mentions its author. Later Jewish tradition would assume that Moses wrote it.
  • It is debated whether Genesis 1:1-3 in Hebrew speaks of the creation of the waters or whether the chaotic waters were pictured as already there when God began to create. Here is an alternative translation.
  • Probably the first thing an ancient would have noticed about Genesis 1 is the complete absence of other gods. In the Babylonian creation story, in the Greek creation story, creation is full of conflict between the gods. In Genesis 1, God speaks and it is done. That is all.
  • The creation is very orderly. Creatures are created according to certain kinds. The structure of the creation mirrors the Israelite week with six days and a Sabbath. People debate whether this is a more or less literal presentation, whether the days represent ages, whether it is more or less a poetic presentation of a Levitical worldview, etc...
  • The final picture of Genesis 1 seems to look something like below, which shouldn't surprise us, since God revealed himself in Scripture in the categories of those to which he was first speaking:
  • The climax of creation is the creation of humanity. Christians have long seen in the "Let us make humanity" a mirror of the Trinity. Obviously no Israelite would have taken it in that way--it took centuries even for Christians to agree on the Trinity. In its historical context, the Israelites would have more likely thought of God among the "gods" of Deuteronomy 32:8 or Psalm 82. But I personally have no problem at all with us reading Genesis 1 theologically in reference to the Trinity--God may have tucked away this possible reading for New Testament times, even though it seems quite certain that no one before the Christian era read it in that way.
  • The image of God in Genesis 1:27-28 in context seems to refer to the fact that man and woman are placed as rulers of the creation (governmental image), much as the state of humanity for which Psalm 8 thanks God. Later Christians would of course see in these words many other ways in which we mirror God. For example, we are like God in our ability to tell the difference between good and evil (moral image) and our ability to think (rational image). There's no evidence in Genesis 1 that it had such things in mind, but they are certainly true--good theological readings of the text.
  • God's creation is entirely good. There was nothing evil to what God had made.
The target for the next post is Wednesday on Genesis 2-3.


Juan C. Torres said...

I will join you. Thanks!

vanilla said...


Pastor Bob said...

Good spiritual exercise.

Dick Fischer said...

Our organization, Genesis Proclaimed Association, published a Revised King James Version that attempts to put into the heads of the KJ translators what they could have known had they been living today. By factoring in the history of the ancient Near East many of the Bible/science difficulties are resolved.