Without a proper bearing on the open sea, the mariner will forever be adrift being born hither and thither upon uncertainty; so too, the biblical navigator. He must have more information prior to setting course in his interpretive exercise; otherwise, he will never reach land, as-it-were. That seafarer with an educated background, then, is in a better position to offer insights into his particular path. His crew might well inquire why he has chosen one route over another when, according to their untrained senses, it seems the best pathway lies straight ahead. But he knows more than his moderate crew despite their insatiable desire to be like their esteemed captain. The desired destination of “land” in this metaphor is interpreting Genesis 1 aright. Interpreting G1 correctly is dependent upon having more information to work with in order to navigate the chaotic waters of the deep over which darkness reigns until the Light dawns. It will not do simply to climb into one’s dinghy and start paddling out into open waters without the proper equipment and yet this is precisely what happens when readers naively open their Bibles to the first page and plunge in.
It is the supposition of this writer that, indeed, more is needed to interpret rightly the story G1 is telling. It will not do to argue as the fundamentalists do when they quip, If the plain sense makes the most sense, seek no other sense lest it lead to nonsense. As pithy and seemingly astute as that adage might appear, it is far from valid. This approach argues the story found in G1 is indeed scientific; that is, it is oriented in such a way as to teach the reader where and how all things came into being. Concordism, therefore, asserts that the Bible and science are in accord with one another despite the cognitive dissonance recognised when modern science is held in conjunction with G1.
As an example, modern science exposes the scientific impossibility of any biological life being sustained apart from the existence of the sun. However, G1 clearly reveals floral life existing without the sun for at least 24 hours. Now, this is an interesting conundrum is it not? While this inference from G1 is a possibility, and while this little scientific tidbit is well known by any “smarter-than” 5th grader, it does not follow that those within the original audience knew no life could be sustained without the sun. In other words, today when G1 is read by a precocious 5th grader she naturally will ask, But how can plants exist without the sun?; whilst any 6000+ year-old-11-year-old would not have asked that question. What this means, then, is that the meaning of the story for a 6000 year+/- 11 year old would have been something entirely different than the meaning for a modern 11 year old. The question then becomes, does this matter? It is the opinion of this writer that it does. The meaning of G1 for the original and modern audience must needs be the same.
While it is not the intent of this essay to dissect and evaluate the hermeneutic above, something more needs said. When G1 is approached from a hermeneutic which allows the text to say what it was intended to say, no reader, be he a 5th grader or smarter, would ever, ever ask, How could there be plant life without the sun? That question is, in fact, a non sequitur. In other words, G1 is not about the creation of the physical universe. Now, the only way to begin to defend that proposition is to say more information is needed in order make such a suggestion. But that is the very question any modern reader will ask: in what universe does Genesis 1 not teach what is traditionally understood as the record of the creation of the universe? The answer, in part, is without more information about G1 (and the entire heilsgeschichte of God’s appointed people, Israel) it would be safe to infer that an incorrect interpretation will follow. Thus a concordist interpretation is to be rejected. G1 is not intended to teach about biological origins.
The second alternative in interpreting G1 is most recently purported by renown OT scholar, Pete Enns. Dr. Enns argues for what is labeled an accomodation by God to his authors. That is, in order for God to communicate to man through man, he (God, that is) allows his message to be conveyed in a fashion which uses the imperfect understanding of the authors. This is much akin to Father sending Child with a message to Mother and allowing for some of the message to be “lost in translation” as-it-were. But in the long game, Father knows Mother will get the gist of the message after all is said and done. For example, Day 2 of G1 records the installation of a great hammered out piece of sheet metal up in the sky. The term, raqia, in the Hebrew refers to something metallic hammered out and this is what God uses to divide the waters above from the waters below. Dr. Enns will encourage his students to understand that God “allowed” the writer of holy writ to use his own words to communicate what it is God was trying to say even though not scientifically tenable.
This approach by Enns however, is concordism-lite. Regardless of how Enns spins it, he is trying to justify why the Bible says what it says because he does not, himself, know why it does so. But this is just as much a non sequitur as the former. There is no need to accomodate the language of G1 just as there is no need to conform the text to science. Enns assumes the author is using the language he is because he is trying to explain what he apparently “sees” around him. This, too, is an attempt at concordism because the text seems to be speaking in a purely “origins” fashion. The author is trying to explain where and from whom all things have come. Both the concordist and accomodationist are arguing the same point: G1 teaches the reader about origins. “Land-ho” will never be heard from the lips of these men.
That’s a profoundly intricate question. Let me say this to begin with. I believe my journey down this road began with BH in general and Jordan’s view of the firmament in particular.
1. Traditional theology/popXnty knows nothing of the BH typology and so their views are mainstream. Day 2 is Day 2, nothing more than waters above divided from waters below with “heavens” betwixt.
2. The temple is a reaction to an action. It is an established paradigm to show the consequences of sin: separation from God and how to draw near again. The veil is what keeps us out and as long as the veil is up the system is sustained. But the key is the reason for the veil at all: sin. Before “Adam” fell there was no veil and no need for one.
3. Enter Jordan. Day 2’s firmament corresponds to the veil of the temple; a veil which will one day be removed. It is a system God sets up which inherently is temporary. We know this in part bc God does not bless the 2nd day–it is not say’d to be good, and, so, must be inherently in need of modification. But the temple veil mitigates God’s holiness and this is pre fall. Pre…fall… Why must God’s presence be mitigated pre fall? There is no sin. There is no reason for God to keep man away. So, I start to think. I like what Jordan says about the typology of the veil and think it has merit but I begin to think his reason is off; and so, there must be another reason. Even still I find Jordan’s explanation less than satisfactory. He says, Day 2 shows that heaven and earth are not yet united, but one day will be. This is enough BT to show an eschatology in the beginning. Day 2 is eschatological.
The division on Day 2 is the division of the firmament people, the one’s who mediate God’s presence. Jesus is the new mediation, the new veil through which God’s presence is mitigated, right? That which averted God’s judgment against humanity in the OT was Israel. Cyrus sent Israel back so she would rebuild the mediating centre of the world bc he knew, “No temple, no mediation.” Now, it’s Jesus who is the new Temple, the new mediating presence, the new veil. The rending of the veil on Good Friday was this delineation: the old is gone and the new is come.
So, Day 2 is a depiction of the history of mediation, which mediation will pass away with the torah.
So, from there I just kept teasing stuff out. If Day 2 is eschatological, what about Day 1? Each day can be eschatologically identified, imo, even if I don’t have them all ironed out. What I am highly persuaded is that all of revelation (Gen-Rev) is apocalyptic, eschatological and that eschatology is rooted in torah.
Some other thoughts. Day 4 is easyer to associate with eschatology and torah bc the “seasons” aren’t just seasons, per pop scholarship. And I dont think it will do to label it proleptic, like Day 4 merely anticipates being re-oriented when torah comes. I find that as satisfying as pop-American lagers. Day 4 is eschatological because the appointed years and days are; they are oriented towards Day 7 which day Hebrews calls his audience to enter.
The reason we find “torah” within these stories (Cain and Abel’s offerings) is bc torah is the context within which these stories are compiled. Interesting note: Cain and Abel happens “at the end of days,” which the ESV translates “in the course of time.” But the Hebrew is the same as Daniel 12:13 wherein Daniel is told, “Go your way to the end…you will rest but will stand at the end of days.” The “end of days” here is the “latter days;” it’s the only way to have uniformity. And the justification for even talking this way is Gen 1. At the end of the days of Gen 1 is rest from the law, depicted as sabbath which is whence the imagery Romans 7-8 (creation is Israel under torah) cometh. Now, my biggest beef is translation. Translation has to be theological, not simply idiomatic; otherwise, we will miss the uniformity of the heilsgeschichte. We think day 4 is literal because it’s translated that way: “the sun, moon, and stars are for days and seasons and years.” Well, that just sounds natural. But imagine the musings which follow this translation: And let them be for signs, and festivals and days and years. Now that is a theologically and eschatologically charged text.