Re: Gen 1:1 and concordism (was Apology)

Date: Fri Feb 15 2002 - 19:52:05 EST

  • Next message: george murphy: "Re: Genesis One that Fits, #3"

    Jim wrote,

    << Too many of you have pointed out that I was being too pushy. That means
     that I'm wrong. I've been spending so much time trying to come to a
     reconcilition of Genesis One. It is a really important issue to me. I felt
     like I had really found something amazing. And maybe I have. But my
     passion has got the better of me. Let's see, I probably owe special
     apologies to Allan Harvey, Howard van Till, and Paul Seely. I really wasn't
     trying to be disrespectful. I was just trying to create discussion. My
     goal isn't to "tweak noses". I am sorry for any inconvenience/discomfort I
     have caused anyone. -Jim

    In acceptance of your apology, I am willing to discuss an aspect of Gen 1
    which I have not discussed in the past, namely the clash of the concordistic
    interpretation of Gen 1:1 with the rest of Gen 1.

    Gen 1:1 "God created the heavens and the earth." is taken by most scholars
    today as either an introductory title or summary covering the entire creation
    story down to 2:4 where the same merism, "the heavens and the earth" is used
    again so that the merism brackets the story OR as Calvin, Luther and their
    followers took the verse, namely, as referring to the creation of the raw
    material of the universe which was then shaped and organized into the various
    parts of the universe in the 6 days of creation. Classical concordism,
    however, felt pressured to get the sun created before day four, so in the
    19th century (18th?) they introduced a new meaning for Gen 1:1: It means that
    before day 1, God created in finished form the sun, moon, stars, earth, and
    given v. 2 apparently the ocean.

    Here are the conflicts with the rest of Gen 1 which show that this
    interpretation of v. 1 is highly improbable.

    1. Between verses 1 and 2 are the years between the Big Bang at say 10
    billion years ago (to be conservative) and the stage when the earth had
    cooled to the place where it could have an ocean as in Gen 1:2, which is (to
    be generous) 4 billion years ago. So, this interpretation is saying there is
    a gap of some 6 billion years between verses 1 and 2. It is saying there
    was at least 1 and 1/2 times more years of creative activity between verses 1
    and 2 than went on between verses 2 through 31. This is contrary to the prima
    facie import of the text. In addition, this necessitates understanding v. 2
    as a stage in the earth's evolution, thus "the earth became etc." In the
    opinion of experts in Hebrew grammar like the evangelical scholar, Bruce
    Waltke, this is grammatically "improbable."

    2. If the sun was already shining before v. 1, there could not be absolute
    darkness upon the face of the Deep that covered the earth in v. 2. This is
    usually "explained" by concordists by saying the account is given from the
    standpoint of someone on earth. However, when a person reads Gen 1:1 and 2,
    they (and I believe ancient Hebrews as well) envision it from the standpoint
    of the Creator who has been mentioned---from outside and above the earth and
    the ocean, not from the viewpoint of someone standing somehow on the face of
    the deep. Read the verses for yourself and see how you envision them. In
    addition, even if one accepts the idea that the account is written from the
    standpoint of an observer on earth, would such an observer at 4 billion years
    ago be in total darkness as verse 2 portrays? Never mind that the observer
    probably had no oxygen to breathe, were the clouds of CO2, etc so thick that
    no light whatsoever got through to the earth? I am prepared to be corrected,
    but I think not.

    3. If the sun is functioning before v. 2, then light certainly exists. Why
    then does v. 3
    say, "Let there be light," which suggests that light did not previously
    exist. And, the verse goes on to call the light "Day". Isn't a time 6
    billion years of days later a little late for this? Concordists would have us
    believe this refers to God clearing some of the clouds away so an observer on
    earth, apparently treading water, could see a little light for the first
    time. This explanation depends on clouds that are not even mentioned in the
    text. I have pointed out other objections to this in my paper in

    4. On day 2, we read that God said, "Let there a firmament...and God made the
    firmament...and called the firmament "Heavens", the same word as in 1:1. This
    is clearly the creation of the shamayim (heavens), the same thing that was
    supposedly created in v. 1. If Gen 1 is scientifically accurate and the
    concordist interpretation of v. 1 is correct, at what point did the heavens
    disappear between their creation 10 billion years ago and the need to create
    them again 4 billion years ago?
    This is not to mention the solidity of the firmament, which ought to tell any
    modern reader that this is an accommodation to the science of the times.

    5. On day 4, v. 14 says, "Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven..."
    and then in v. 16 "and God made the two great lights...the stars also." If
    the sun, moon and stars had already been created in v. 1, why do they have to
    be created again here? What happened to them in the meantime that made them
    disappear? Concordists would have us believe these verses are just saying the
    sun, moon and stars were not clearly seen until God removed the clouds
    between the observer and the lights. But, the problem is not just that God
    makes these lights again, but that v. 17 says he "placed them into the
    firmament." The phrase means to put something into the confines of something
    else (nathan with beth). It does not necessarily mean that the lights were
    physically attached to the physical firmament, but it does mean they were
    placed into the boundaries of it. If the sun, moon and stars existed since
    verse 1, where were they located? According to v. 17, they were not placed in
    the heavens until the fourth day.

    In their recent presentation of concordism, Held and Rust say "The text [v.
    17] does not say that bodies were "affixed to the firmament," but that God
    "gave" the lights (the light rays, not their sources) "into the raqia of the
    skies," the region which previously could not be reached by direct light."
    The light rays were put into the firmament, not the lights? Say what? Gen
    1:17 says, "God set _them_ into the firmament of heaven to give light upon
    the earth." What "them"? The antecedent is clearly the lights of v. 16, which
    are the sun, moon and stars. Held and Rust's interpretation is utterly
    idiosyncratic and clearly ad hoc.

    There is plenty that tell us Gen 1 is not a revelation of scientific truth.
    Where then did the "science" in Gen 1 come from? The Mesopotamian background
    of the rest of Gen 1-11 along with the Mesopotamian background of Abraham
    suggests strongly that these ideas come from Mesopotamia. The solidity of the
    firmament could have come from anywhere (all proto-scientific peoples
    believed the sky was solid); but the dividing of the waters (Day 2) is unique
    to Mesopotamia. Of the over 150 creation stories which exist around the
    world, only four mention the dividing of primordial waters: Two are accounts
    believed for other reasons to have been influenced by missionaries reading
    Genesis to the people, the other two are the Babylonian account of creation
    and Genesis. And no one thinks Genesis was written first.

    In addition, since there is, in fact, no solid firmament and no ocean above
    it, we need not suppose this concept is a divine revelation. (And the ocean
    above the firmament is not clouds for there are no clouds above either the
    atmosphere or outer space as firmament has been rationalized to mean by the
    concordists) The most natural explanation is that this concept came from
    Mesopotamia. Along with explaining why the sun and moon are just called
    lights (rather than Shemesh which reminds one of the Babylonian god Shamash)
    and why the stars, important to Babylonian astrologers, were just tossed into
    the account ostensibly as an afterthought, the placement of their creation on
    Day 4 well after the creation of light is a strong polemic against their
    divine status in Mesopotamian religion.

    In short, the theology of Gen 1 is magnificent. The "science" is the science
    of the times. I thus understand Genesis 1-11 to be a revelation of
    theological truth, not scientific. The Bible can err in science without
    charging God with a mistake because God has accommodated his theological
    revelation to the science of the times; and it would have been a mistake for
    him to have done otherwise. Forget concordism. Preach God as a Father caring
    enough to speak to his little children in terms of their pre-understanding.



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