We are in a conversation and discussion about John Walton’s (professor at Wheaton) new book, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate.
(By the way, if you’d like a wonderful and God-shaped exposition of Genesis 1-3, I suggest the brand new book by Marva Dawn called In the Beginning, God: Creation, Culture, and the Spiritual Life
.) Now back to John Walton …
Proposition 3: “Create” concerns functions.
We return now to the question we also asked Wednesday: What does the word “create” mean? Does it mean “bring something into material existence” or does it mean “give something a function in an ordered world”?Chp 3 examines what the Hebrew word bara (“create” — Genesis 1:1) means. Walton examines the meaning of the word bara in the Bible and comes to these two conclusions:
1. The Subject of bara is always God: creating, then, is a divine activity and only a divine activity.
2. The Object of bara is never unambiguously material reality but probably only and always functional reality. “No materials for the creative act are ever mentioned, and an investigation of all the passages [in the Bible] … substantiate that claim” (43).
3. The idea then that “create” means creatio ex nihilo, creation out of nothing, is imposed on the Bible from a materialistic ontology. The Bible isn’t, Walton argues, talking about material ontology but about a functional ontology.
4. “In the Beginning” (Genesis 1:1) refers to the 7-day period of creation in Genesis 1:2ff.
His translation: “In the initial period, God created by assigning functions throughout the heavens and the earth, and this is how he did it” (46).