Re: Gen 1-11 as history

Pattle Pun (
Tue, 17 Aug 1999 09:14:25 -0500 (CDT)

I thought an excerpt from my article "Progressive Creationism" below may
help in the current discussion:

Although Theistic Evolutionists tend to interpret the creation account in
Genesis figuratively, it is contrary to the context of the text. There
seem to be eleven historical narratives in the first thirty-seven chapters
of Genesis, each delimited by the phrase, "These are the names
[generations, descendants] of . . . " (Gen. 2:4, 5:1 6:9, 10:1, 11:10,
11:27, 25:12, 25:19, 36:1, 36:9, 37:2). The contents are linked together
to form a roughly chronological account of primeval and patriarchal
life.(31, 32) While few would doubt the historicity of the patriarchs of
Israel, it seems unwarranted to assume the creation account to be
allegorical while the rest of these narratives are historical. The New
Testament also regards certain events mentioned in Genesis 1 as actually
having transpired (e.g., Mark 10:6, 1 Cor. 11:8-9). Calvin suggests that
the historical account of the sixday creation shows God's goodness towards
man in lavishly preparing the world for the habitation of man, the climax
of God's creation.(33)

More recently, Blocher(34) has suggested that the creation account in
Genesis should be interpreted "historico-artistically." That is, as a
framework of seven days used anthropomorphically by the author of Genesis
to outline a theology of Sabbath. Blocher traces the anthropomorphic
usage of the word "days" back to Augustine.(35) Aquinas also recognizes
the difference between the work of distinction (days 1-3) and the work of
adornment (days 4-6), although he interprets a day as a 24-hour solar
day.(36) The difficulties of the creation of the heavenly luminaries after
the creation of light, and the inconsistencies of the timing sequence of
the creation of plants as recorded in Genesis 1 and 2, are resolved by the
anthropomorphic use of "days."

While Blocher's framework hypothesis is attractive for its resolution of
some of the apparent conflicts between Genesis 1 and 2, it remains unclear
at what point one can draw the boundary line between an allegorical
account, where only the spiritual meaning prevails, and a
historical-theological account, where both what actually transpired and
its spiritual meaning are significant. The assumption that Genesis I
represents a "wide-angle" perspective of God's creative activities and
Genesis 2 gives these activities a "close-up" examination may help in our
understanding of the creation account. The seemingly conflicting
chronological sequences of the creation of plants, animals and man may be
resolved by assuming an overlapping of the creative eras, whereby some of
the creative activities may have been contemporaneous or overlapping.(37)
In addition, the New International Version (NIV) translation of Genesis
2:4-5, "When, the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, no shrub of the
field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet
sprung up ... there was no man to work the ground," seems to suggest that
the shrub and the plant had, not yet grown in the "field" or "level place"
for lack of a farmer. Then God created Adam and put him in the Garden of
Eden to take care of it. The emphasis seems to be on the caretaker role
of man instead of on the chronology of creation. Moreover, verse 19, "I
Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field
and all the birds of the air," seems to suggest that these animals were
created before Adam so that they could be brought to him for naming.
Therefore, the conflicts in the chronology of creation in Genesis I and 2
may be more apparent than real. The origin of sin and evil and the
Christ-Adam juxtaposition seem to demand a historical Adam, to which
conclusion Blocher also subscribes. If the "close up" creation account of
Adam and Eve in Genesis 2 is theologically and historically significant,
is it not also applicable to the "wide angle" account of creation in
Genesis 1?(38)

In addition, the Hebrew word nephesh, translated as "living soul" (Gen.
2:7), of man is also used to describe other living creatures in Genesis
1:20-21 and 24. The distinction of man and beasts is that man was created
in the image of God and other creatures were not. Therefore, in Genesis
2:7, man becomes a living being for the first time, just as other
creatures, This would seem to rule out the interpretation that man is
genetically derived from some previously existing living forms.(38)

While Genesis 1 through 3 were written to include important theological
truths for all humanity, both geologically and chronologically speaking,
the theological meaning seems to be intimately connected with the
historical meaning. The concordist position, which attempts to decipher
the historical and theological meaning of the creation account, may be
trying too hard to combine science and theology, especially since science
is constantly changing.(34) However, it is a reluctance to dichotomize the
theological and the historical dimensions of God's revelation which
prompts the concordists to keep on trying. The proposal of the
overlapping day-age model is one such attempt. (37) Genesis, for the
concordists, is more than Heilgeschichte. It records what actually
transpired in space and time as revealed by God to a faithful observer.
It is an account of the origins of the universe, of mankind, of sin, and
of the nation of Israel, through whom the stage for God's deliverance of
the fallen human race is set.

(31) Harrison, R. K. 1969. Introduction to the Old Testament. Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, pp. 548-551.
(32) Buswell, J. 0. 11 1963. Systematic Theology of the Christian
Religion, vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, p. 156.
(33) Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion. Vol. 1, Book I, chap,
XIV, p. 161.
(34) Blocher, H. 1984 In the Beginning: The Opening Chapters of Genesis,
translated by D. G. Preston. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, chap. 2.
(35) Augustine. The City of God, translated by Henry Betterson. London:
Penguin Books (1972), Book XIII, p. 430.
(36) Aquinas, T. Sumnw Theologica, Vol. I. Translated by Fathers of the
English Dominican Province. New York; Bezinger Brothers (1947), pp.
229-233, 247, 346-,359.
(37) Pun, Evolution: Nature and Scripture in Conflict?. pp. 262-263.
(38) Hummel, H. D. 1979. The Word Becoming Flesh. St. Louis: Concordia,
p. 65.

Pattle.P.Pun, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology,
Wheaton College,
Wheaton, IL 60187
Phone: 630-752-5303
Fax: 630-752-5996