Evolving Evangelicalism (part 7): 7 days are 7 24-hr days… sort of

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The following series is based on my senior paper for Seminary. You may remember a video where I invited people to contribute their stories to help make my case. For the next couple weeks, I’ve decided to share my findings with you all. There will be a “thesis/problem” section, a “biblical theology” section, and an “application” section. I hope you will read along and share this with others! You can read the rest of the series here.

Evolving Evangelicalism: Inviting Church Leaders to Refine their Approach to Scripture and Origins (part 7)

The Cosmos as God’s Temple and the 7 Days of Creation

Having placed Genesis 1 within a functional ontology, we are now free to re-imagine its relation to science. This particular text is clearly not about the beginning of materiality (this does not mean that God is not the source of materiality – this was already implicit to Israel). We now look to the issue of the 7-days of creation in Genesis 1. Are these days that represent long epochs of time (as in the Day-Age Theory), or are they representative of 24-hour periods? For those frustrated with methods that attempt to make day denote a long time, I agree with you. A day in Genesis 1 is a day. What we often fail to notice, however, is the purpose of framing the functional creation around a 7-day liturgical pattern. Understanding the purpose of the 7-day pattern is now our focus.

To recognize the significance of the 7 days in Genesis 1, the “cosmic temple inauguration view” is imperative for interpretation.[1] Medieval rabbis recognized that Genesis one’s creation mirrors both the tabernacle of Moses and the temple of Solomon. This connection to primordial time ultimately functioned to connect the Sabbath week to God’s designed purpose of the cosmos.

Significant parallels ought to be noted between the creation week and the “creation” of a functioning temple/tabernacle. When Moses constructed the tabernacle, its inauguration took seven days, culminating with Moses having “finished the work” (Exodus 40.33). Genesis 2.2 has this same sort of finishing on the seventh day. Many other examples of theological mirroring exist between Genesis 1 and the inauguration of the tabernacle (and eventually the temple), because building a sanctuary “is a microcosm, the re-creation of the cosmos on a smaller scale.”[2]

In the ancient world, deities dwelt restfully in temples. Day 7 reflects that when God finished organizing the functional elements of the world to operate for the benefit of human image bearers, God rested. The difference here, in opposition to Solomon’s temple, is that this passage envisions the whole universe as God’s cosmic temple. After the “chaos” was arranged to function with “order,” God rested upon the cosmic temple as the ruler of all things.[3]

[1]. Ibid., 162.

[2]. Enns, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins, 70-71.

[3]. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, 75.

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  • James

    Thanks Kurt. Let me just check I’m getting this right. You’re saying that by looking at the Genesis 1 Creation account through the lens of the Exile and Israel’s relationship to Bablyon at that time, the whole seven days thing becomes irrelevant to actually how long the physical Creation took. It’s focus is actually in describing it as one of God’s great commissioning events akin to that of the Tabernacle or the Temple, as opposed to a scientific account. And that to even infer a seven eras kind of thing is putting too much of a ‘How’ interpretation into this very much ‘Who’ based story. 

    Really enjoy reading your posts, always lots to think about. 

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      James, you nailed it! Exactly what I am saying. And actually, if someone doesn’t like the idea of reading Genesis 1 through the lens of exile, the functional ontology and tabernacle / creation lenses alone work to change the way we think about the text. As I will send a future post… You can still hold on to Mosaic authorship and still let go of the culture war with evolution.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1190070111 Jason Hildebrandt

    This just makes way too much sense.