Genesis One 6

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.

Proposition 6: Days 4 to 6 install functionaries.

“… in most cases the functionaries simply carry out their own functions in the spheres delineated in the first three days (time, cosmic space, terrestrial space)” (63).

How has this functional understanding of creation helped you understand Genesis 1? How has science taught us to go back to the Bible, in its context, and learn to re-read the creation account?

Day 4 — lights in the sky to govern day and night — corresponds to Day 1 in that Day 4 specifies perhaps the “how” of Day 1.

Day 5 — fish for the sea, birds for the sky — corresponds to Day 2. Their function is to occupy those spaces, be fruitful, and to multiply.

Day 6 — dry land animals and humans as Eikons — to reproduce and fill the earth. But with humans as Eikons, there is something profoundly new: Eikons are to govern the earth, they are to image God, and they have a function with one another — male and female in mutuality [my term].

Eikons have a godlike function in the world. Humans present God to the world. Walton discusses Genesis 2 and the dust — and he enters into the discussion of Adam and Eve as archetypes.

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  • BenB

    I guess living in a more liberal Evangelical denomination has helped me out some. I guess I’ve read genesis this way for a while now. However, it is incredibly nice to have support from a conservative evangelical who is a great scholar like Walton! I really hope this post is helping others out. It is certainly helping me articulate ideas a little better. Thank you Scot.

  • Anette Ejsing

    I have to admit it has never really been science that brought me back to the Bible so I could learn to reread it.
    Even after teaching science and religion for a couple of years, trying to reconcile (or separate) the two disciplines and their theses is more like a stimulating thing to do because it is stimulating to use one’s mine. Like playing Sudoku. But deep faith learning? Nah…
    But maybe deep faith learning is not what you had on your mind when you asked your question.

  • “Eikons have a godlike function in the world. Humans present God to the world.”
    I’m uncomfortable with the use of “godlike” in your explanation. Why not this? “Humans function as Eikons which present God to the world.”
    (If the web doesn’t exist to pick nits, why is it here at all?)
    Christus victor!

  • RJS

    You mention in passing Walton’s discussion of Adam and Eve as archetypes and of the creation of humans in the context of an ANE worldview. In my opinion this is one of the more significant points. Looking at the comments on many of my posts, and even on the first post on this book, shows how much the view of adam and sin are tied to the theology of the science/faith discussion.
    Walton concentrates on the functional aspects:

    [Genesis] focuses its attention on the archetypal origins of humanity, mankind and womankind. This interest is part of functional origins. Humankind is connected to the ground from which we are drawn. … Neither the materials nor the roles are descriptive only of the first individuals. This creation account gives people their identity and specifies their connectivity to everything around them. (p. 71)

    He notes that dust is an archetypal feature in Genesis 2 not a material ingredient – and the situation is no different for the creation of woman from man in the text.
    It is significant that after the first 5 chapters of Genesis Adam is only mentioned once more in the OT (in a genealogy). Walton also comments: In the New Testament, the authors regularly treat Adam and Eve in archetypal terms. Now the endnote attached to this comment notes that archetypal does not preclude historical (i.e. Adam as a unique historical individual) but I find it interesting anyway.
    The purpose of the text was not to relate material origin – it was to indicate function, purpose, identity, and state. The NT authors interact with this intent.
    You may have wished to avoid this topic, but I find it to be absolutely central to any discussion – the elephant in the room so to speak.

  • BenB

    the early doctrine of Theosis states that “God became man so that man may become God.” If we are NICE, it still means “man may become like God.”
    So why can’t it be a “Godlike” function?

  • Very succinct summary. Significant theological implications!

  • AHH

    The discussion of Adam and Eve in this chapter is interesting and helpful in many ways (some of it seems in tension with things he says in later chapters, but maybe we’ll save that for later). From page 70: “The situation is no different with the creation of woman. Being drawn from the side of man has an archetypal significance, not an anatomical one.
    This raises a question, which maybe Prof. Walton can address if he is reading today.
    I have been told by several people that Wheaton has (or at least had) a “rib test” (perhaps informal), meaning that a line was drawn for faculty orthodoxy where they had to affirm that Gen. 2:21-22 was an accurate anatomical description of the creation of Eve.
    It seems clear from Chapter 6 that Prof. Walton would flunk the “rib test”. So I wonder which of the following is the case:
    1) Is the existence of Wheaton’s “rib test” a myth?
    2) Is the “rib test” a thing of the past?
    3) Is the “rib test” still present, in which case I’d be interested to hear Prof. Walton’s thoughts about going outside this boundary and whether there have been any repercussions.

  • James

    In What’s So Great About Christianity, Dinesh D’Souza points out that Big Bang theory overcame an appearant science/faith discrepancy in the creation account:
    Light came first…
    But four days later came the sun?
    For the pre-big bang apologist, you’re forced into some flexible gymnastics to reconcile this. For those living in the time where great mathematical and astronomical work has gone to show that the first moments in the universe that God created were light, well we’ve got no such problems. In fact I think it lends itself towards demonstrating that the bible is divine and not human in origin.

  • James

    Sorry, took a conversation midway through posting the above and I’ve left room for confusion.
    The above is not a quote from the book. It’s a paraphrase from the book and the last sentence is purely mine.

  • John H. Walton

    7 AHH
    I have never heard of this “rib test” and I am entering my ninth year of teaching. The administration has read the book and raised no objections to these points. Wheaton’s official position is that Adam and Eve are historical individuals–that is a different statement from saying that the “rib” comment is anatomical.

  • RJS

    A claim that Adam and Eve are unique historical individuals is a great deal different from a “rib text.” Nonetheless – this statement would prevent me from teaching at Wheaton (not that I have any such designs – I am quite happy where I am).
    I waffle somewhat on where I come down on Adam and Eve and how, but I would never sign a statement claiming historicity as I could easily conclude otherwise. I also question the wisdom of making such a specific claim on something I would identify as nonessential.

  • RJS

    And – by the way – if I came down on the side of a historicity, it would likely be such as would still raise many eyebrows and be considered playing free and easy with the intent of Wheaton’s statement of faith.

  • RJS

    The relationship of the Wheaton statement to this discussion is of course peripheral to the concerns of the book (and certainly my opinion of it is irrelevant).
    I bring it up only because I find the topic of Adam and Eve to be the most significant sticking point in any discussion of science and faith, especially when Romans 5 is brought into play.
    So Scot posed a question – How has science taught us to go back to the Bible, in its context, and learn to re-read the creation account? I suggest that the issue of the creation of humans in the image of God is not the sticking point – Walton makes a good case here for a view that allows room to consider many ideas.
    The Genesis 3-Romans 5 connection leads to a doctrinal position of historicity which is not consistent with science or with the function of Genesis as scripture.

  • KenP

    Charles #3 & Ben #5,
    I would prefer “priestlike function.”
    I agree that the two sentences together are awkward (“Eikons have a godlike function in the world. Humans present God to the world.”). The function is something other than godlike itself, but rather a separate agency pointing to him.
    Seems like it, anyway.
    – Ken

  • Norman Voss

    The creation of the “woman” from Adam’s side seems to parallel the Church (Body of Christ) being formed typologically from Christ side (Blood and Water) while he was at “sleep” (dead). The Woman is figuratively the church according to Rev 12.
    Rev 12:1-2 And a great sign was seen in heaven: A WOMAN arrayed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars; (2) and she was with child; and she crieth out, travailing in birth, and in pain to be delivered.
    Paul appears to indicate that the Woman whose husband was about to expire (die) would then be free to marry another. Rom 7:2
    Rom 7:2 For the woman that hath a husband is bound by law to the husband while he liveth; but if the husband die, she is discharged from the law of the husband.
    Is the functional creation of the woman of Rev 12 and Eph 5:31-32 essentially the story of Adam and Eve and Christ and the church?
    Eph 5:31-32 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. (32) This mystery is great: but I SPEAK IN REGARD OF CHRIST AND OF THE CHURCH.

  • Phil M


    The Genesis 3-Romans 5 connection leads to a doctrinal position of historicity which is not consistent with science or with the function of Genesis as scripture.

    Does this mean that you think the Genesis 3-Romans 5 connection can be satisfactorily explained in a way to be consistent, or that you agree that it cannot be consistent so therefore must be (fill in blank)? This topic has been discussed before on Jesus Creed, but I don’t recall that any kind of consensus was reached.

  • RJS

    Phil M,
    Let me reword my sentence just a touch (or more):

    The Genesis 3-Romans 5 connection leads to a doctrinal position of historicity which is not consistent with science or with reading Genesis 1-5, even 1-11, with emphasis on function as opposed to material history.

    I doubt I have an answer you will find convincing – and I am wrestling with it myself… meaning I have thoughts not conclusions. I do think that death in Gen 3, and Romans 5, does not mean physical biological death (see previous discussions), although this alone does not touch on the historicity of Adam.
    But I expect that we both agree that this (the Genesis 3-Romans 5 connection) is where the real tension lies. Not with Genesis 1.

  • Phil M

    I agree – this is one of the few key areas that the tension seems to hinge on (can tension “hinge”?).
    I certainly do think that Gen 3 and Romans 5 are referring to physical death – especially in light of my understanding of the Resurrection – which is heavily influenced by N.T. Wright. But I admit it is not cut and dried.

  • Abambagibus

    Since all is in spatiotemporal flux as we know it anyway, function is the crux of it all, is it not? To speak of form without function is like speaking of wind without the flow, like speaking of Christ without the salvation He offers. Yet Christianity, which insists that, of necessity, Christ is the only form of Salvation, must necessarily condemn all other forms laying claim to the same as predicates of evil. Contrarily, however, Buddhism insists that all forms of salvation, if predicated truly, are equally valid. While the latter is intrinsically universal and extrinsically so, the former is universal intrinsically only. Love yet imbued with the damning of those as compassionate as we, but radically different than we, is a dubious compassion indeed.

  • Wes

    Scot (and John),
    I’m struggling to understand the theological implications of the argument presented in the book, at least with respect to original sin and the existence of death. In the context of the Genesis 3/Romans 5 discussion above, if death is the result of sin (Romans 5:12b), how did it pre-existed the functional “Eikon” assignment to humans and, more importantly, Adam’s sin (Romans 12a)? Asked perhaps another way, how could death have preceded original sin in light of Romans 5:12?
    My copy of the book is on the way, so perhaps that will answer my question, but I’m wrestling to understand the impact of this view on the more significant doctrines of original sin (particularly it’s imputation to all men).
    John, any help you can give would be greatly appreciated – even if it’s a direction back to the book!

  • Wes

    Sorry – I was able to access this section of the book online (in advance of receiving my copy) and was able to read John’s thoughts on the subject – thanks for addressing the obvious question in your book.
    I’m still not certain why death pre-existed sin, but it seems clear that your view is that it did… raises a number of interesting and important questions.

  • dopderbeck

    John Walton: does the Wheaton statement require monogenesis with respect to Adam and humanity? Would your view of Adam permit or even facilitate some sort of “recent representative” (i.e. non-monogenetic) understanding? This isn’t a challenge, I’m genuinely curious. I agree with RJS, this is clearly the key point of tension, and honestly I was a little disappointed that you kind of dodge it in the book.