The story of Genesis chapter one is unlike any other in the rest of the canonized texts in the Bible. It is also the most hotly debated. It would be safe to say, take your time and just mull it over. Safe and kind. Take it easy. Relax. More than likely you will not hold your conviction indefinitely. I say, “more than likely” because there comes a time when one determines where one will settle down until….
It must be said at the outset that when consulting three scholars on the interpretation of Genesis 1, one will receive three divergent suggestions. Three was a conservative number, to be honest. John Walton, Pete Enns, James Jordan, John Sailhamer, Bruce Walke, and Meredith Kline all have differing approaches. The differences are significant enough to preclude “this” one from allowing the presence of “that” one as each are not complementary. It must also be noted that each author is driven by a paradigmatic dogma under the guise of determining the meaning of the text. Do linguistics and cultural context necessitate the meaning of a text written within the same historical framework? Each author will argue linguistics ad nauseum to prove his point. Some will also argue cultural context ad nauseum to justify his treatment.
What is a reader to do? What is a reader to think? Relax. Take your time and pray and reflect and analyse. Words have meaning and stories have meanings and there are times when the stories and their words are given meaning not by the historical event itself, but by the use of that story and those words for the author’s purpose. Linguistics and lexicons are only helpful to a point precisely because they cannot tell you the purpose for the author’s story. In other words, In the beginning, God created the heavens and the land….” does not refer to an historical point in time where time and history itself had a beginning. John Walton can wax all he likes on the meaning and referent for created, but if the author’s “created” is not John Walton’s, then Walton loses.
It is the interpretation of this author that Genesis 1 is written as an allegory for a period of history, one that has a beginning and an end. Hence, many of the authors above might even suggest the teleology of In the beginning. In other words, saying something has a beginning implies it has an end, or a goal. For the longest time, this author took the enigmatic opening as simply as functionally possible; it was the Bible’s storybook intro: “Once upon a time…” Pure utility. I didn’t infer, as Jordan suggests, a teleological implication. I have since changed my mind and the change was so simple to make. The opening pericope has bookends in “in the beginning” and “thus were the heavens and land completed and all their hosts.” Of course, this isn’t the basis for interpreting the story as I suggest as much as it intimates its compatibility within my proposed framework. The framework is this. The history God set in motion was that of a nation’s election for the purpose of demonstrating God’s affection for all nations. God’s electing Israel had within it a regulating gauge, so-to-speak. Let the Psalmist’s choice of words be our guide, “Of old you laid the foundation of the land, and the heavens are the works of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment.”
When Paul writes, as he often does, of God’s purposes coming to fruition he is referring to this idea above. When did God’s plan take effect? When was Jesus’ destiny established? From the creation of the world. That is, what God began with Israel came to its conclusion in Jesus. Genesis 1, therefore, is a story about Israel, not the cosmos.