Whatever approach you take to reading Genesis 1-2 I think we can agree with John Collins when he says Genesis 1-2 makes the earth the “right kind of place in which we live out our story” — before God our creator. This conclusion of Collins’s is found in his chapter “Reading Genesis 1-2 with the Grain: Analogical Days” in J. Daryl Charles, Reading Genesis one-two: An Evangelical Conversation.
Now a big point about how some read Genesis 1-2 and I want to lay my cards on the table: the harder one presses Genesis 1-2 to be “historical” or a narrative about when and how God created the universe, the more one presses the Bible to be wrong. All I’m saying is that if we force the question of historicity, we are forcing the Bible into the molds of science and history, and the more we do that the more we become accountable to science and history, and the more we are actually measuring the truthfulness of the Bible by science and history. (This is a good subject for discussion: Do you think those who press Genesis 1-2 to be historical are making the Bible subject to scientific or historical methods?)
Collins’s approach is to see the “days” of Genesis 1 to be analogical days: that is, the depict God at work over six days with a day of resting that corresponds to how Israelites work and rest. They are God’s workdays that correspond to Israel’s workdays. I find this odd, to be honest: does this not make human experience determinative for how to depict creation rather than divine reality determinative for human life? Maybe not, what do you think?Collins:
1. Genesis 1-2 needs to be read as coherent with Genesis 1-11, and he gives three big reasons: the setting in the book of Genesis connects Genesis 1-2 to the rest of the book, esp with Genesis 1-11; the parallels to Ancient Near East “myths” connects Genesis 1-2 to chps 1-11; and there are linguistic links between 1-2 and 3-11. Thus, the texts are to be read as a coherent whole. Yes, of course, at some level. But coherency’s got its own problems and one can at least argue for coherency and tension. His big point is that there are not “two creation” accounts. The two accounts can be “coherent” and non-overlapping, as John Walton points on in his response to Collins.
2. But I find tension between this reading of Gen 1-2 in context of 1-11 and the whole of Genesis when he then later segregates Genesis 1:1-2:3 from the rest as exalted prose. So, I agree with this second conclusion and would ask for more clarification then of what “coherency” means. The way 1:1-2:3 is described makes me think he’s about given back his idea that there are not two creation accounts. He opens up smoothing over by an editor of “whatever” sources… which seems to me to be giving back his point. Maybe I misunderstand him.
3. It’s obvious then that he sees Genesis 2:4ff as filling in the details unrelated in the 6th Day of Genesis 1.
4. Then he says this: “So, then, the six ‘creation days’ are not necessarily the first actual days of the universe: they are not even necessarily the first days of the earth itself.” What are they then? “They are the days during which God set up the earth as the ideal place for human beings to live — to love God, to serve one another, to rule the world with wisdom and good will” (85). Yes, indeed, I say.
5. Genesis 1:1 is background to the rest.