Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Most Basic Truths, part three

As we will see, understanding how the author organized this text is a key to grasping its meaning. As we did with our previous study, let's start with the end of the passage and work our way back to the beginning. There is a basic style that the author follows with regard to each day, except for the seventh day. Though each day has its own variations, the overall pattern is the same:
  1. Initiation: "And God said..."
  2. Confirmation: "And it was so."
  3. Evaluation: "And God saw that it was good."
  4. Summation: "And there was evening and there was morning, the _______ day."
Here are the seven days...
  • Gen 2.1-3The seventh day, on which God rests. God blesses this day and calls it holy.
  • Gen 1.24-31The sixth day, on which God commands the land to bring forth living creatures, and on which he makes human beings in his image and blesses them.
  • Gen 1.20-23The fifth day, on which God created the water creatures and creatures of the sky and blessed them.
  • Gen 1.14-19The fourth day, on which he appointed the lights in the sky to be for signs and seasons and to rule day and night.
  • Gen 1.9-13The third day, on which God separated the land from the waters and called the land to bring forth vegetation.
  • Gen 1.6-8The second day, on which God separated the waters above from the waters below and called the expanse "sky." Note: this is the only day about which the text does not say, "And God saw that it was good."
  • Gen 1.3-5Day one, on which God called called light out of darkness and named them "day" and "night." Note: in the Hebrew text, this is not called the "first" day, but "one day." This may indicate that it was not the absolute first day of creation but day one of the seven described in this passage.
The first two verses of the text stand outside the pattern of the seven days. Verse 3 marks the beginning of day one, as seen in its first words, "And God said," which is the way every other day commences (except day seven). That means that Genesis 1.1-2 are not part of the "seven days of creation."
  • Gen 1.2—This verse describes the condition of the land before the seven days. As we will see, it says the land was an uninhabitable wasteland because it was covered by darkness and deep water. However, it also says that God's Spirit was present, a hint that God is about to do something to change the condition of the land.
  • Gen 1.1—This verse describes what God did "in the beginning," before the seven days. He "created the skies and the land," which should be understood as a merism, a figure of speech that describes a single thing by referring to its most contrasting parts. "The skies and the land" means "everything you see," or "all the world before you." It is written from the perspective of the human eye, of one scanning the landscape and pointing out the whole wide world to the reader.
The fact that these two verses stand outside the seven-day scheme is significant for our understanding of Genesis 1. It means that God created what we call "the universe" before the seven days recorded in this passage. Verse 1 is about the original CREATION. Verses 2 and following are about the PREPARATION of a land where people might dwell and the creation of human beings to live there.

Here is how it all fits together...
  • God created all that is in the beginning. (Gen 1.1)
  • Before God prepared it, the land was not yet ready for human habitation. (Gen 1.2)
  • God prepared the land for humans, then created them and blessed them in the good land—in a period of six days. (Gen 1.3-31)
  • God rested from his works on the seventh day and blessed the seventh day (Gen 2.1-3)
Next study...Genesis 1.1.

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