Monday, 16 January 2017

Moses’ Understanding of the Creation Days



Moses’ Understanding of the Creation Days

The three main interpretations of the Genesis creation week

These are: 

1.       The 24-hour day view – the days of Genesis 1 are literal calendar days as we would understand them, clarified by ‘evening and morning’;
2.      The Day-Age view – the Hebrew word for ‘day’ has several meanings and was the only word Moses had available to refer to an era of time and so long ages were intended; and
3.      The Framework view – the creation week is a figurative illustration.

In reality, however, we can categorise these differing views into two sections, the Literalist interpretations (1 & 2) or figurative (3) and, similarly, these might also be categorised as Concordist or non-Concordist.  Concordism is the belief that Genesis was intended by Moses, and thus by God, to be a chronological, scientific account of creation.  Therefore, non-Concordism is, again, the belief that the creation week is a literary illustration, i.e. figurative.

The immediate problems typically recognised with the Literalist interpretations are that the Day-Age view (2) has not yet provided a reasonable explanation for why Moses clarified the days with their respective mornings and evenings.  Clearly, 24-hour days were intended.  But, looking to the literal six day interpretation (1), we see that this view cannot be reconciled with any field of science.  Young-Earth Creationists have, therefore, made many attempts to prove that the methods and conclusions of modern science are erroneous and that the earth and the universe are actually less than 10,000 years old.  Some examples of such arguments are pictures of fossilised trees between several layers of sedimentary rock or a World War II squadron found beneath many ice ring layers in Greenland.  However, all of these arguments have failed under scientific scrutiny.  
 
So, the Day-Age view (2) seems to contradict the plain understanding of biblical revelation and the 24-hour view (1) seems to contradict the plain understanding of natural revelation.
These are not the primary reasons why I hold to the Framework interpretation (3) and, please, before you cut me off immediately as a heretic and refuse to hear my reasons, the Scripture warns us:

Proverbs 18:13  He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him.  (NASB)

One can believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and also that Moses intended his creation account to be thematic and figurative.  So, I humbly invite you to examine my reasoning and correct me if you believe I am wrong.

Firstly, we have to set aside two popular presuppositions which cause Christians to hastily adopt a Literalist interpretation.  These involve: i) tradition and ii) the scientific method.

i)                  Does church history provide us with the correct interpretation?

Many Christian scholars have asserted that a Literalist interpretation was the unanimous view of the church throughout our history.  However, as the renowned Theologian, Louis Berkhof, noted: 

‘Some of the early Church Fathers did not regard [the creation days] as real indicators of the time in which the work of creation was completed, but rather as literary forms in which the writer of Genesis cast the narrative of creation, in order to picture the work of creation – which was really completed in a moment of time – in an orderly fashion for human intelligence.’[1]  

For 1st century Judaism, there were several main interpretations of Genesis 1-3, all of which found symbolism in the creation account, even when addressing it as history.  The ‘general consensus’ of Rabbis was identical to the view described by Berkhof, as Jewish historian, Norbert Samuelson explains: ‘the creation of this earth and sky was a single divine event and not a series of distinct occurrences spread out over six or seven days.’[2]  Because different interpretations, as well as Greek philosophy, all influenced early Christian thought, we cannot and should not use tradition as our authority.  Simply because a majority of Christians held to one view in the first four centuries of Christianity, that doesn’t necessarily make it true.  

Augustine is often cited as an early Christian scholar to defend any of the three main interpretations listed above.  Augustine studied the creation account in greater depth than most Christians up to that point in time and, as a result, he changed his mind on which interpretation he followed.  It should be noted, however, that he arrived at a figurative interpretation, not by following a particular school of thought but through exegesis of the text.  It is for this reason that I hold him up as an example - Scripture is our authority and our exegesis must not be dictated by tradition, even though church history is very helpful in understanding the origin of doctrines and whether they are likely to have been taught by the apostles.  We will, therefore, soon look to the Scripture to determine Moses’ intent, as he was led on by the Spirit of God to write Genesis.

ii)               Does the scientific method provide us with the correct interpretation?

God has given us two modes of revelation to learn about Him – natural revelation and biblical revelation.  As article 2 of the Belgic Confession (1561) of the Protestant Reformation puts it:

We know God by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: God’s eternal power and divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20.  All these things are enough to convict humans and to leave them without excuse.
Second, God makes himself known to us more clearly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for God’s glory and for our salvation.’

The Bible clearly tells us that natural revelation is how we learn about the natural world and our natural condition and the Word of God is what teaches us about the Creator and our spiritual condition.  The two must not be confused and neither one must be considered less true than the other.  This can be best illustrated by the ministry of Jesus.  The Messiah did not come to give us the cure for cancer or to tell us that the earth was not the centre of the universe, but to reconcile the world to God – our good and just Creator.  Thus, the Framework interpretation allows both Scripture and nature to reveal what God intended them to.

As we have seen, interpreting Genesis 1 figuratively is not a desperate modern phenomenon which seeks to appease modern science, as it dates back to the ancient world.  Yet Literalists, nevertheless, make the illogical suggestion that to interpret Genesis 1 figuratively will inevitably lead down a slippery slope to interpret the entire Bible as figurative.  John MacArthur presents the perfect example of this: 

Where does metaphor ultimately end and history begin? After the flood? After the tower of Babel? And why there? Why not regard all the biblical miracles as literary devices? Why could not the resurrection itself be dismissed as a mere allegory?’[3]

Rather than refute the logic of these questions, I find this example from history answers them for us: Was Moses making scientific statements in the Genesis creation account?  How did Moses and everyone in the ancient Near-East, without exception, understand the cosmos?  The great 1st century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, presents the ancient Jewish understanding of the universe which Genesis described:

‘[O]n the second day, he placed the heaven over the whole world, and separated it from the other parts, and he determined it should stand by itself. He also placed a crystalline [firmament] round it, and put it together in a manner agreeable to the earth, and fitted it for giving moisture and rain, and for affording the advantage of dews. On the third day he appointed the dry land to appear, with the sea itself round about it’.[4]

This understanding of the universe later became known as the Ptolemaic model of the universe and was held to by everyone in ancient Mediterranean and Near-Eastern civilisations.  In fact, it continued to be the dominant model of the universe in the Greco-Roman world, through the Middle Ages, until the time of the Reformation and the Renaissance, as this quote and illustration by Martin Luther prove:

'Indeed, it is more likely that the bodies of the stars, like that of the sun, are round, and that they are fastened to the firmament like globes of fire, to shed light at night, each according to its endowment and its creation.'[5]

 However, at this important time in history, scientific study of natural revelation changed this interpretation forever.  Copernicus had developed a different model of the solar system in which the sun was at the centre and the earth revolved around it but this did not catch on until Galileo later proved that this is the case.  But, Protestant and Papist alike rejected his evidence because of those verses in Scripture which state that the earth cannot be moved.  Calvin said that those who agreed with Galileo were either mad or demon-possessed.  Luther referred to Galileo as a 'certain new astrologer who wanted to prove that the earth moves and not the sky, the sun, and the moon' and had this to say of those Christians who accepted this discovery: 

'We Christians must be different from the philosophers [i.e. scientists] in the way we think about the causes of these things. And if some are beyond our comprehension (like those before us concerning the waters above the heavens), we must believe them and admit our lack of knowledge rather than either wickedly deny them or presumptuously interpret them in conformity with our understanding.'[6]

History is repeating itself, as John MacArthur displays.  To hold to the Literalist or Concordist views, one must believe that Moses was unknowingly prophesying about scientific facts to be discovered later in order to validate the Bible; and when the scientific evidence does not agree with the Literalist interpretation, we must reject those students of natural revelation as ‘mad’ and ‘demon-possessed’ and brand those Christians who re-examine their interpretation of Scripture as ‘wicked’ and ‘presumptuous’. 

In reality, however, I believe that most Evangelical Christians agree that Galileo was right and that the Ptolemaic model of the Solar System was wrong.  Christians today believe that those Bible verses referring to the earth being immoveable were either figurative or were simply the genuine beliefs of ancient Jews which God accommodated because of the kernel of theological truth behind those words.  Therefore, those Christians who insist on a literal interpretation of Genesis 1, to be consistent, must believe that the cosmos is most accurately reflected by the Ptolemaic model and agree with Luther and Calvin. 

Putting Genesis in its historical context

Moses wrote Genesis 1-11 as a polemic against the Pagan accounts of the flood etc. which the Israelites would have been familiar with, having lived in Egypt for centuries.  Moses was an expert in ancient cosmology and myths, as he had been raised and educated in the Egyptian Pharaoh’s house (Acts 7:22).  He took the familiar myths and historiography and turned the stories on their head by teaching true theology through a new and distinct Israelite version.  Whilst many of the Israelites had wanted to return to Egypt, Moses was loud and clear in writing systematically against the illustrations they used to teach their false religion.  These chapters are ‘designed to refute these delusions’ as the ESV Study Bible puts it and would not originally have been perceived as a scientific breakthrough.

Therefore Genesis 1-11 is addressing: who created the world and why; our relationship with the one good Creator and why it is disconnected; the beginning of murder and man’s tyrannical behaviour over other men; and how God hates this perversion of His intention for mankind and so began to establish His plan to redeem a people for Himself by revealing the Gospel to Abraham.  Genesis 1 is not addressing how the universe was created and when, but who created this world and why.

Let us stop unnecessarily pushing a Concordist interpretation of Genesis 1 in our evangelism and just let the Bible defend itself based on what it actually is.  When the critics say that Genesis 1 is false because they do not perceive it to be a scientifically accurate account of creation, let us simply point out that Moses was obviously not writing a scientific account and that no one in the ancient world had the scientific knowledge that we do now anyway; to expect them to have done is preposterous and completely misses the point.  We should be highlighting this most obvious flaw in the thinking of Bible critics, not adopting the same mindset and embarrassingly bending over backwards to make the Bible a science textbook. 

The Bible claims to deepen our understanding of the significance of the created world, not to provide encyclopaedic data of its matter and mechanisms.
The Bible identifies our broken relationship with a good God, whom we all truly know must exist, and our hateful nature towards Him and towards our fellow human beings.  The Bible heralds a Saviour, who came to take upon Himself the retribution for all our injustices and, by His love, change our hearts so that we would love God and each other.  It is this Gospel of Jesus which should be the focus of our evangelism, as well as the facts of His life, death and resurrection, in fulfilment of prophecy.  Let us preach these things and not untenable theories about Scripture or science.

Exegesis of Genesis 1

The creation week of Genesis 1:1 – 2:3 has been recognised as highly stylised by both ancient and modern commentators.  It is a series of interconnected literary features which make Moses’ illustrative intention impossible to ignore.  There are various literary features used throughout the Scripture as this was a common feature of the ancient Hebrew writing style, but the sheer quantity and dominance of these in the creation account set it apart from the rest of Genesis.  As the Presbyterian scholar, Lee Irons, puts it:

Moses himself appears to have consciously shaped his account using the creation days as a literary device to provide his account with an intricate structure that has theological significance. There are a number of contextual clues in the inspired text that encourage us to view the creation days as a literary framework.’[7] 

We see these clues emerge by illustrating the picture Moses painted as we read through the chapter:

      ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.’  (NASB)

Here, Moses presents a Cosmology markedly different from any other which has ever existed.  For the Israelites, ‘the heavens and the earth’ would have referred to the physical universe.  Therefore, the concept that the entire universe came into being, rather than being eternal or made from some primordial matter by the gods, is unique to Judeo-Christianity and increasingly confirmed by Astrophysical study. 

Concerning the earth, Moses sets the scene by describing it as ‘formless and void’ which the Israelites would have understood as meaning uninhabitable.  This is clearly seen by Isaiah’s reflection on these words:

Isaiah 45:18  For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited), "I am the LORD, and there is none else.” ’  (NASB)

It is important to have this precedent in mind as we are introduced to the various creation statements made by God.

First triad
separation
habitation
kingdom
Second triad
filling
inhabitant
king
Day 1
Let there be light (1:3). 
Day & Night
Let there be lights (1:14).
Sun & Moon
Day 4
Day 2
Let there be an expanse to separate water from water (1:6). 
Sky & Sea
Let the water teem with creatures and let birds fly above the earth (1:20).
Fish & Birds
Day 5
Day 3
Let dry land appear (1:9).
Let the land produce vegetation (1:11).
Dry Land & Vegetation
Let the land produce living creatures (1:24).
Let us make man (1:26).
I give you every seed bearing plant...and every tree that has fruit with seed in it...for food (1:29).
Land Animals & Mankind
Day 6
   ‘Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

   Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

      Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a third day.’  (NASB)

Immediately, we see that days 1-3 and 4-6 mirror or correspond to one another, a historically attested fact.  The earth is initially uninhabitable, so God creates various habitations first and the subsequent creations to rule or govern in those domains. 

Paul also recognised this parallelism when he used the first day as an illustration to reflect the conversion of a Christian:

2Corinthians 4:6  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Peter and the prophets use the same imagery, describing the illumination of the Messiah as being like that of the sun:

Isaiah 60:1  Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
Malachi 4:2  …the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings…
2Peter 1:19  So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 

Thus, Paul’s understanding was that the sun, supposedly created on the fourth day, corresponded with the first day and therefore the connection between the two has apostolic authority.

The second and fifth day present a reverse order of the kingdom/king creation arrangement.  ‘Thus, we have a typical Hebrew chiasm, or inverted parallelism…which strengthens the symmetry of the two triads’, Irons notes.[8]  This shows us that Moses’ intention was to make days 4-6 a mirror reflection of days 1-3 – our second artistic arrangement.

Finally, the third and sixth days also correspond to one another as they both contain two fiat creation statements (‘Then God said…’), as opposed to one.

     ‘Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

      Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.” God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

      Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.

      Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.’  (NASB)

The sixth day concludes and so it is that mankind dominates the earth and life on it.  Despite each realm having its governing creatures, with God as King over all, mankind has a special dominion over the animals and vegetation.  In this sense, we are described as God’s crowning creation on the earth.  Psalm 8 illustrates this understanding for us:

Psalm 8:5-6  Yet you have made [man] a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet…

But the purpose for this dominance is that we should be representatives of God.  The Hebrew ‘in the image of God’ means to represent and to accurately reflect His goodness, like a king regent or viceroy.  Our dominance over this earth is not intended as a means for the earth to be abused for selfish gain but to tend to it and enjoy it responsibly for the glory of God; we lead all that has life in glorifying our marvellous Creator and also reflect His goodness back to the world.  The Bible of course explicitly teaches the importance of individual property rights but our guardianship over any part of creation bears an obligation to the Creator.  To quote Spiderman, ‘With great power comes great responsibility!’  The Bible later goes on to express our responsibility to love God and our fellow-man.  We are given individual dominion over the earth, not over the lives and property of other people, i.e. other stewards of God.

It should also be noted that the sixth day is unique, as each day prior to it is missing the definite article, ‘the’, e.g. one day, a second day etc.  Bruce Waltke notes:

‘The narrator also subtly suggests a dischronologization by speaking of each of the first five days as “a day,” not “the day”. The narrator’s concern is not scientific or historical but theological…  Other aspects of the Genesis creation account likewise suggest that it is not concerned with presenting a strict historical account. The symmetrical nature of the account and the similarities of patterns with ancient Near Eastern material, including the use of the widely attested seven-day typology of the ancient world, may suggest that the narrator is using a stereotypical formula to speak of divine activity and rest.  Youngblood adds, “I would point out that the omission of the definite article (“the”) from all but the sixth day allows for the possibility of random or literary order.” ’[9]

So, not only does Genesis’ historical context and the symmetry of the days strongly suggest an illustrative pattern, but the lack of a definite article means that Moses couldn’t have made it any clearer to his ancient audience that the creation week was not literal.

      ‘Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.’  (NASB)

Of course God does not need to rest:

Isaiah 40:28  …The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary…

So it seems anthropomorphic language is used here to envisage God sat upon His throne, resting with satisfaction as He surveys the kingdom He has created for Himself.  Psalm 104, traditionally called ‘the Creation Psalm’, takes up this same imagery of an enthroned king:

Psalm 104:1-2  O Lord my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent.

And God Himself says the same when speaking to Isaiah:

Thus says the LORD, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest?”  (NASB)

John Walton, expert in ancient Near-Eastern texts, explains that the Israelites would have understood God’s rest after seven days as His sitting enthroned as a king in the temple He has created and set in order:

‘The cosmos is portrayed in the ancient world and in the Bible as a temple, and temples are designed to be micro-models of the cosmos. Temples are built in the ancient world for the gods to rest in, which does not refer to relaxing, but to enjoying and maintaining security and order. With the mention of God’s rest on day seven, we can see that Genesis 1 is also thinking about the cosmos as a temple. God is creating his dwelling place, putting people into it as his images (representatives), and taking up his place at the helm to maintain the order he has established.
In the ancient world temple dedications were often seven days in duration. During those seven days, the functions of the temple would be proclaimed, the furniture and functionaries would be installed, the priests would take up their role and at the end, the deity would enter and take up his rest.[10]

And so the cosmos and particularly the earth are described as a dwelling place which God enters and shares with us.  God’s ideal role for mankind can therefore be expressed as both a priest and king (see 1Peter 2:9 and Revelation 5:10).  So, the question naturally arises – What about the fact that the majority of people are in rebellion to God, the King and Creator?  What does Genesis teach regarding this matter?

As we have seen, familiar cultural themes were used by Moses to convey God’s role in the universe and the responsibility the Israelites had.  God’s Sabbath day of rest, which the Israelites had since been given as the weekly sign of the old covenant made at Sinai, was also adapted from surrounding ancient Near-Eastern cultures.  For example, the Babylonians, were able to establish that, according to the patterns of the moon, a seven day week is the most obvious division of time.  Subsequently, they devised certain rest days, one of which was on the full moon (or 14th day) of the month, which they called 'sabbatu'.   

Naturally, therefore, ceasing from work on the various Sabbaths given in the Mosaic Law was a way for the Israelites to remember that God was in control; the order of the world does not depend on man’s efforts, we are merely representatives.  They were specifically called to remember that God alone is the Creator and Sustainer (Exodus 20:11) and that He alone led them out of Egypt to establish their nation (Deuteronomy 5:15).  For a culture surrounded by hostile Polytheistic nations, it was important that Israel constantly remembered these things to keep themselves separate from the world. 

Moses’ use of the anthropomorphic illustration of God creating the universe in the form of the average Israelite’s workweek (resting at night etc.) gave them that constant, daily reminder that YHWH is the Creator of all things and their national Head.  They could truly remember God when they awoke or retired (Deuteronomy 11:18-19).  Then, at the end of every week, they were reminded that, even though their work would begin anew the following day, God’s rest from creation continued and would be eternal.  Notice, there is no ‘evening and morning’ at the end of the seventh day.  This showed God’s people that they were continually to recognise that they were not home yet, they had not reached their ultimate place of fulfilment, ever pointing them to God enthroned in His rest. 

Most importantly, however, Paul says that this Sabbath rest was symbolic of the coming Messiah who would be that ladder to heaven to finally reconcile man to God (Colossians 2:16-17).  Praise God, Jesus did come and now we no longer need symbolic temples and rituals etc., as He is that door through which we boldly enter the throne room of God and through which God dwells in us.  Hebrews 4 shows us that we still continue to strive to enter this eternal rest of God by faith in Christ (see also Matthew 11:28). 

It is amazing that God not only condescended by presenting the creation in such a way that it mimicked the Israelites’ workweek but that He condescended down to our level as a man to make a way for us to enter into the heavenly places with Him.

What does Genesis 1 teach?

-         There is only one true God;
-         The universe had a definite beginning;
-         God is separate from and master over His creation;
-         Human beings are, purposefully, the most dominant creature on earth; and
-         Every human being bears the responsibility to be a steward of God over creation.
In the context of the rest of Scripture, this is of foundational importance.  Jesus said that the foundation of the Law was for us all to love God and our neighbour.  In Genesis 1-11, we see mankind fail at one and then the other and the problems consequently multiply.  We all continually fail at both.  But, thank the Lord, He didn’t just condescend in the way He revealed Himself to the ancient children of Abraham, He came into the world as a man to reconcile the world to Himself.  Let us therefore redeem this evangelical purpose of Genesis for the glory of God.


Galileo (1615) Letter to Madame Christina of Lorraine, Grand Duchess of Tuscany: 
The reason produced for condemning the opinion that the earth moves and the sun stands still is that in many places in the Bible one may read that the sun moves and the earth stands still. Since the Bible cannot err, it follows as a necessary consequence that anyone takes an erroneous and heretical position who maintains that the sun is inherently motionless and the earth movable. With regard to this argument, I think in the first place that it is very pious to say and prudent to affirm that the holy Bible can never speak untruth—whenever its true meaning is understood. But I believe nobody will deny that it is often very abstruse, and may say things which are quite different from what its bare words signify. Hence in expounding the Bible if one were always to confine oneself to the unadorned grammatical meaning, one might fall into error. Not only contradictions and propositions far from true might thus be made to appear in the Bible, but even grave heresies and follies. Thus it would be necessary to assign to God feet, hands, and eyes, as well as corporeal and human affections, such as anger, repentance, hatred, and sometimes even the forgetting of things past and ignorance of those to come. These propositions uttered by the Holy Ghost were set down in that manner by the sacred scribes in order to accommodate them to the capacities of the common people, who are rude and unlearned. For the sake of those who deserve to be separated from the herd, it is necessary that wise expositors should produce the true senses of such passages, together with the special reasons for which they were set down in these words. This doctrine is so widespread and so definite with all theologians that it would be superfluous to adduce evidence for it.


Written by Richard Storey
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV


[1] Berkhof, L. (1941) Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans, p.153
[2] Samuelson, N.M. (1994) Judaism and the Doctrine of Creation, Cambridge University Press, p.115

[3]MacArthur, J., Genesis 1: Fact or Framework? – http://www.gty.org/Resources/Articles/2422 (26/05/14)

[4] Josephus, F. (2001 ed.) The Antiquities of the Jews, tr. William Whiston, The Project Gutenberg Etext, Book I, Chapter 1, 1
[5] Luther, M. (1958 ed.) Luther’s Works. Vol 1. Lectures on Genesis, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, p.42
[6] Ibid., p.30
[7] Irons, L. (2012) 'The Framework Interpretation of the Days of Creation', Christian Research Journal, volume 35, number 01
[8] Irons, L. et al. (2001) The Genesis Debate: Three Views of the Days of Creation, Crux Press, pp.227-228
[9] Waltke, B. (2001) Genesis: A Commentary, Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan, pp.76-77
[10] Walton, J.H., Genesis 1 as Temple Text in the Context of  Ancient Cosmology - http://www.blackhawkchurch.org/archive/sermon_resources/walton.pdf (05/06/14)

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