Re: [asa] A few literal problems in Genesis

From: Michael Roberts <>
Date: Tue Mar 11 2008 - 13:10:02 EDT

Much better than a pair of dimes!!!!
----- Original Message -----
From: "Ted Davis" <>
To: <>; <>;
Cc: <>
Sent: Tuesday, March 11, 2008 4:59 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] A few literal problems in Genesis

> The question Jon raises about the fourth day of creation (sun & moon to
> make
> the day & night, with day & night already there from day one) is a very
> old
> one--and an excellent one, exactly the right question IMO to focus on with
> the hexameron. The patristic writers were also puzzled by this, and for
> that reason quite a few of them (I don't have a list of names here, but
> George Murphy or someone else probably could provide some leading names)
> distinguished the first 3 days from the next 3 days for interpretive
> purposes. In the US in the early 19th century, Benjamin Silliman and
> others
> did likewise, for the same reason. It's a huge puzzle on any literal or
> quasi-literal approach, in which the "days" are understood as sequential,
> which most "concordist" approaches assume.
> I don't mean to imply here that no solutions exist within such an
> approach.
> One can always say, as Calvin did (and some of his modern followers follow
> him in this), that God created a special light on day one that functioned
> until the sun & moon appeared. It had to be like the sun--i.e., it had to
> be directional, in order to produce day & night on the earth--but it
> wasn't
> the sun itself in Calvin's opinion. That's probably the "simplest"
> solution
> within such an approach, though obviously it (as all interpretations do)
> makes a leap or two beyond the text itself.
> My own view on this is as follows.
> The "framework" view of Genesis makes perfect sense of this otherwise
> puzzling feature. Indeed, the framework view probably exists mostly for
> this specific reason: there are parallels between the first triad (days
> 1-3)
> and the second (4-6), with God creating "kingdoms" and filling each of
> them
> with "rulers," as the sun & moon are called on the fourth day. This is a
> non-sequential understanding of the "days," in which (interestingly) each
> day is in fact a literal, 24-hour day of the ordinary variety, within the
> story; but the story as a whole has a literary structure that strongly
> implies that the length of each "day" is not part of what the story is
> actually about, so that it doesn't matter how "long" or "short" each day
> is.
> What matters is not the duration of sequence of the events, but the
> relationships (God, nature, and humanity) and the purposeful design of the
> whole shebbang. Go read Henri Blocher, In the Beginning, for a lovely
> exposition of this view.
> Furthermore, this view can easily be coupled with the (separate) view that
> the hexameron is an ANE creation story--that is, it is not intended to be
> historical in the modern sense of that word. Rather, it takes the form of
> an existing literary genre, namely a creation myth. Therefore, the
> literary
> elements of the story are not the message themselves, but rather they are
> the vehicle carrying the message. To see the message, then, we would need
> to compare the Hebrew story with other ANE creation stories. Conrad Hyers
> does this to great effect in the two articles he published in PSCF many
> years ago. To find them, search the web version of PSCF on our web site
> for
> his name.
> Finally, if Genesis one is an ANE creation myth that was specifically
> intended to teach monotheism and combat both polytheism and pantheism (as
> Hyers asserts, correctly in my view), then it's not at all hard to
> understand another puzzling feature of the fourth day: why are the sun and
> moon not even named? The Hebrews had words for them, used elsewhere in
> the
> Bible but not here. Why not? Answer: they were gods in the ANE, and
> Hebrews weren't even going to dignifiy those gods by naming the objects
> directly. Rather, they are merely "the greater light" and "the lesser
> light," both of them, just like the "stars also" which are added almost as
> an afterthought, are simply creatures. Period. Just visible lights in
> the
> heavens, placed there by the invisible creator. Polytheism thereby
> deliberately insulted.
> That's my two cents. Or three.
> Ted

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Received on Tue Mar 11 14:12:18 2008

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