Q&A - Week 11
During our One Story series, we will do online Q&A's each week to supplement your study of the OT as you follow along the Summer Bible Reading Plan. I encourage you to stick with the reading plan and ask questions that arise in your 3D groups and Community. Reading the Scriptures ought to be an individual and communal activity.
To Submit Questions: Each week you will see a Q&A post on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Submit questions by replying to the post on any of the networks or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
We had one question from last week:
Question: In Genesis 1 and 2 there are two seemingly different accounts of creation-- and several convincing arguments on the Internet. Where does the Well stand on why these accounts differ? And why?
Answer: That's a great question which shows you're really paying attention and getting at the text! To address your question, I will answer directly and then provide additional information about creation interpretations to guide you in your thinking and further study.
At first read, the order of creation in Genesis 1 and in Genesis 2 seem to contradict. In Genesis 1, trees and animals are created before man, while Genesis 2 reads as if trees and animals are created after man.
In Genesis 1, we are given a chronological account of all creation. While it seems as if Genesis 2 gives another chronological account of all creation (understandably so!), I believe this is a misunderstanding. In Genesis 2, we are given a zoomed-in focus of Day 6, the creation of man, and the events of that day. Therefore, when the author speaks of the formation of trees (Gen 2:9) and creatures (Gen 2:19), he is referencing what God already 'had formed' (Gen 2:19) in earlier days.
Therefore, Genesis 1 and 2 are consistent and there is no contradiction of chronology.
That being said, this question relates to how the creation account is interpreted from Genesis. Here's additional guidance to help you understand the creation account and get you on the right track for further study.
KEEP IN MIND
To start off, please do keep the following in mind while interpreting the creation account of Genesis chapters one and two (glad for your questions! #ONESTORY15).
- The Well’s Doctrinal Statement, “The Bible is an essential and infallible record of God’s self-disclosure to mankind. It leads us to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Being given by God, the Scriptures are both fully and verbally inspired by God. Therefore, as originally given, the Bible is free of error in all it teaches. Each book is to be interpreted according to its context and purpose and in reverent obedience to the Lord Who speaks through it in living power.”
- Approaching the Text. First, it is important to know the genre of the text we are currently studying, the author’s intent (to the extent it can be discerned) and the context both textually and historically. Second, as we see the meaning of the passage surface, we must shape our conclusions according to the whole of the scriptures, particularly other passages on the same topic that are most clear.
- One Example. Genesis 1-3 shows these principles at work: Perhaps we have decided that Adam is not a real person, and therefore just the idea of humanity existing in friendship and then in enmity with God is the meaning of the creation “myth.” Though this takes into account some of the literary elements of Genesis 1-3 (polemical/poetic writing), it does not jive with Romans 5, describing Adam to be a real person who chose disobedience, bringing death. It is most accurate to say that as the stars and the earth are real things, so Adam is a real human created by God who choose to disobey His command. We have provided the GROW Tool and other resources to help in this process.
Now, here is a too short, too broad, simplistic summary of major orthodox readings of Genesis 1-3 (creation + fall) to guide us on the right path of understanding and to encourage further study. Each of the below summary categories has varying scopes and interpretations within the chosen reading, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
- Creation Summarized: The act of creation takes place in Genesis chapter 1 verses 1-2. Verses 3 on through the rest of the creation focus in on the creation of the garden and humanity.
- Literal Reading: The Creation Narrative is a play by play account of creation. Plainly read, similar to a newspaper clipping or scientific journal, the story captures the events as they happened in chronological order. The intent of the narrative is to share how things happened in real time. Chapter one focuses on the creation of the world, while chapter two zooms in to focus on the creation of humanity.
- Literary Framework (Polemic): The Creation Narrative is a retelling of creation leveraging literary elements to describe an actual event of creation, while combatting contemporary stories of creation told in other Egyptian and Near Eastern contexts. The goal of the author is to describe the event in a way that translates very different truths about God than those made by other creation stories surrounding the people of Israel. While chapter one leverages poetic device to translate the truths of the events (parallelism, climactic progression and repetition), chapter two turns to a more specific historic account of the life of Adam and Eve (place names, locations, events, etc).
- Story of Origins: The Creation Narrative would be best described as a story of origins that is not tied to an actual event. The story is told only to give the people an identity as God’s people as they move from Egypt from under slavery to become their own autonomous nation. All that matters, in this rendering which can more easily slide outside of orthodoxy, is the translation of truths about God and His people, nothing of the way things are actually created.
WHAT WE THINK
We find orthodox Christian theologians and many within our own leadership that read the creation story in one or a blend of these interpretations. The Well has chosen not to take a hard stance on the way one must read the creation account, because we find various arguable interpretations which lead to orthodox truths. Minimally, the core truths translated in the creation account are clear: God is separate, over and above creation; God created everything out of nothing; God is intimately involved in creation and His ongoing relationship with His creation; events are ordered and intentional, climaxing in men/women and the Sabbath rest; men and women are created in God’s image.
Where are we to go from here? First, we are to the hard work of reading well, together. We read in community with believers in our current context and those from our historically orthodox past. Second, continue seeking understanding motivated by faith. We trust in the God of the Bible who has rescued us through the work of His Son. We know we can trust Him and His words are true, so we seek to diligently understand who He is, as He has revealed Himself in His word.