Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Genesis 2:2-3's the 7th Day (part 2): The Cosmic Temple Inauguration view

Ooohhh...that sounds "out there", huh?

Anyway, here's part 1 of this post...

This last set of remarks on the 7th day and the 1st creation account comes from John Walton's provocative book,
The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate.

Let’s start with an important hermeneutical consideration. How do we weigh the original intent—or at least, how the original audience would have read something—vs. a (purely) contemporary understanding? Are the dictates and applications to be considered cultural or universal? For example, we know from elsewhere in Scripture that “unclean” in Leviticus is not relevant to us, morally, today.

The clearest examples of this principle are in the epistles. We know that they were written to a particular audience and its context. Then again, figuring out what to do with the epistles is a matter of some debate—e.g., head coverings. We figure that Christ used the Samaritans to make a point to the people of His day—that would better be made by referring to Iraqis or the Chinese today. But injunctions about sexual morality and loving one’s neighbor certainly seem to be universal.

Walton starts with the principle that the Bible was written to "them" and will hopefully be understood by us. He notes that we have an advantage over them in terms of prophecy (including Christ). But we are disadvantaged in terms of understanding their words, culture, and context.

Walton sees the “first creation account” (in Gen 1) as functional rather than material. And provocatively, he argues that we often have a modern bias toward materialism, causing us to focus on the latter. He points out that the English term “create” can be either material or functional (e.g., a company or curriculum). And he notes that other ancient cosmologies clearly focused on the functional. (See: the Bible’s focus on the sun’s function for us—seasons, light, day/night—rather than describing it as a big, burning ball of gas.)

Walton points to other hints in the text: Gen 1:2’s describes the move from chaos and emptiness to order and function. Ex nihilo creation does not mention material. More broadly, there is clearly a considerable functional emphasis in the Gen 1 account—while the Gen 2 creation account is much more material.

Did God create everything (materially)? Walton’s answer: Absolutely, what else?! It’s all over the Scriptures! But he asks “is that what Genesis 1 is about”?

Instead, Walton argues that Day 7 is a “temple text” (common in ancient cosmologies). The cosmos is God’s temple—his headquarters. On Day 7, God takes His place in the Temple, the world comes into functional existence; and things can get started. (The fancy term for this is the “cosmic temple inauguration” view.) As such, “rest” would be the state after crisis has been resolved—or in this case, when stability has been achieved. It represents the completion of activity so that normal routines can be established and enjoyed.

Walton notes that for the modern materialistic reader, Day 7 is a non-material appendix with theological implications for Sabbath. For the ancient reader, Day 7 was the climax!

Walton argues strongly for this view—even to the point of saying that the standard view is wrong. You can read his case for yourself if you’re interested. For me, I’m content to see Walton’s explanation as a both/and—and to appreciate the value-added he brings in steering me toward a more-functional understanding of Genesis 1.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home