Genesis One 5

Walton.jpgWe 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.

What about Day 1 to Day 3 in Genesis 1? Is this about materiality or about functionality? Walton argues that these three days show the viability of his thesis and they also can’t be explained well with the materiality thesis.

Day 1: it is not bringing light into material existence or darkness into material existence. Instead, Day 1 is about establishing time. In fact, you can’t separate light from dark in a material sense. So Gen 1:3 means “Let there be a period of light.” That it is not material can be seen from the sun not being “created” until Day 4. What Day 1 is about is the functional use of light and darkness as ways of marking time.



Day 2: “And God said, “Let there be an expanse [firmament, dome] between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning–the second day.”

Walton argues that this is about making water functional for humans on earth; it is about weather. Day 2 is the creation of weather patterns. Day 2 does not lead us to ask if there are cosmic waters (firmament stuff) or if there is a dome that holds them up in the air. This is about controlling precipitation by describing it in terms of an ancient cosmology. We don’t believe in that cosmology today, but the whole idea of the Creator establishing weather — that we do believe.

Day 3 differentiates terrestrial space. Plants grow, drop seeds, and time germinates seeds into more plants. The cycle of nature is at work in Day 3. Day 3 is about the basis for food.  We have then time, weather, and food — Day 1, Day 2, Day 3.

Day 1-3 is Old World science. Accommodation is how we are to understand Scripture’s capacity to speak in the terms of that world.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • RJS

    The connection of Day 2 to weather seems a bit constricted. I would think rather than time, weather, food we have time, place, and fruitfulness.

  • John H. Walton

    1 RJS
    Not a bad idea–what does everyone else think? One of the reasons I went with weather was Gen. 8:22. The ANE accounts have an interest is weather, but they also have an interest is living space created by the separation.

  • Dru

    Seems there’s something about the “living space” that is important. Water as in oceans, and the sea, and the upcoming flood in Gen 11 is death, uninhabitable by humans, contains monsters, etc. Seems the author of Torah is particularly interested in instructing early Israel in the loving care the LORD took in preparing a place for them. Just as He has prepared a promised land for them, a “new Eden”?

  • http://mikesstudies.blogspot.com chaplain mike

    Dru, yes. Read this in the light of the entire Torah for a clearer perspective on author’s intent. Not just “cosmology,” but theology of God providing a good land for his people where they can live in his blessing.

  • Norman Voss

    All through the scriptures the idea of a fruitful land is pointing to the Messianic age which Christ fulfilled. The land metaphor is simply that: it is pointing to the Spiritual land of the New Covenant entered at the New Exodus from Pentecost to the dissolution of the Temple and the Old Covenant.
    Eze 36:33-35 “Thus says the Lord GOD: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities … (34) And THE LAND THAT WAS DESOLATE SHALL BE TILLED, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by. (35) And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate HAS BECOME LIKE THE GARDEN OF EDEN,… “
    The poetic insertion of Gen 8:22 in high probability fits into this same recognition found throughout the scriptures. It may be best understood as simply pointing to the reality that the Old Covenant was based upon the Sun, Moon and seasons for their festivals and Temple worship. The authors of scripture really are not as concerned with the physical as we might think. They were pointing to the reality of the Messiah when these functions would no longer play a role in our relationship with the Lord.
    Gen 8:22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
    This is strongly indicated in Rev 21 in which many mistakenly think that the city is Heaven but in reality it is a description of walking in the Spirit found in Rom 8. The Temple is no more and there is no need for seasons and festivals as the functions of the Sun and Moon are no longer needed.
    Rev 21:22-24 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. (23) And the city has NO NEED OF SUN OR MOON TO SHINE ON IT, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. (24) By ITS LIGHT WILL THE NATIONS WALK, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it,
    The Nations and Kings walking by the light is hardly a picture of Heaven especially since the City came down out of Heaven as described in 21:10. Conversely we also see that in the New Land there is no need for Old Covenant seasonal applications as illustrated by Paul.
    Gal 4:9-10 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? (10) YOU OBSERVE DAYS AND MONTHS AND SEASONS AND YEARS!

  • AHH

    Isn’t the separation between waters above and waters below a pretty close parallel to something in Enuma Elish? If so, it seems like we could get some insight into the ANE-context meaning in Genesis (of course with the different theology of Yahweh as orderly creator rather than battling gods) by looking at what that separation meant in the Babylonian story, since it seems the 2 stories are drawing on common ANE cultural themes. Can anything be said about the meaning of the separation of waters in Enuma Elish?

  • John H. Walton

    6 AHH
    In Enuma Elish V:25-58 there is discussion of time, weather and agriculture in the aftermath of splitting Tiamat. In Lost World this is back in proposition 2, pp. 33-34.

  • Carl Franzon

    With Day 1, the other thing that seems to suggest functionality, not materiality is the words used to name. For example, God separates the light from the dark and calls the light “day” and the darkness “night”. ISTM that if it were about the material “light” then it would say called called the light “light”.

  • http://bobbyorr.wordpress.com MatthewS

    I find that the order of light,dark, day, night, sun, moon fly in the face of this being only a literal, straight-forward, step-by-step description of what and when God created. I am committed to being as fair as possible to the ancient text and don’t know exactly where to land on some of the issues that arise.
    From time to time I like to compare notes against Dr. Constable’s from DTS. I think it’s fair to say that he surveyed a lot of material and speaks from the evangelical tradition.(http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/genesis.pdf):
    about Gen 1:3, referring to Sailhamer, Another view is
    that God created the sun, moon, and stars on the first day and assigned them their specific functions on the fourth day (cf. vv. 14-18)

    about Gen 1:5 God named things as well as creating them. Having a name equals having existence, in biblical thought, and the act of giving a name meant the exercise of a sovereign right (cf. 41:45; 2 Kings 24:17; Dan. 1:7). In this chapter naming or blessing follows some act of creation seven times.
    about Gen 1:16 The writer’s perspective throughout is geocentric rather than heliocentric. He used phenomenological language (of appearance) that is very common in the Old Testament. Even modern scientific textbooks use such language without fear of being criticized as unscientific when they refer to sunrise, sunset, etc. Probably God created light on the first day (v. 3), but then on the fourth day the sun, moon, and stars appeared distinctly for the first time p21
    It may be meaningless to anyone else but I find it intriguing that someone who represents more old guard than new at DTS allows some statements and makes others that would open the door for the functional view to some degree. I don’t see it as his preferred view but he does not seem to close to the door to it either.


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