Debates surrounding cosmic origins and the present condition of creation are well-known in Christian circles. The ministry of ABR, since its founding by Dr. David Livingston in 1969, has held the position that the early chapters of Genesis, along with a variety of other historical-theological passages found throughout the Old and New Testaments, affirm a recent origin for the cosmos and man. We affirm that the entire biblical and systematic framework of Scripture presents a six-day recent creation; the subsequent historical fall of the first man, Adam, which corrupted both mankind and the entirety of the created order; and a global flood in the days of Noah covering the whole planet, thousands of years ago. In our estimation, this overarching hermeneutical structure and interpretation of Scripture is the most theologically, exegetically, and historically sound understanding of the Bible’s presentation of cosmic history. Further, we have historically affirmed that this particular framework is the only one which represents an internally consistent, exegetically rigorous, hermeneutically faithful, and theologically viable Christian worldview.
The present work under review is not in 100% accord with ABR’s perspective on cosmic origins, particularly on the issue of a "two-stage" creation. Further, although most ABR readers and supporters are not convinced Seventh-day Adventists as are the authors, this book has little to do with that particular theological perspective. Thus, readers of a different theological persuasion who are interested in the Genesis creation account would be well served to read and digest the arguments posed, not letting disagreements on understanding the role of the Sabbath in the present-day church to be a stumbling block to mining the riches found in this work.
That being said, there is much in this book with which we can agree, and there is much to be gleaned from both its main content and the references provided. Readers will please note that this review will focus more on the understanding of the creation days and their length (and their relation to ABR’s cosmic and human origins position), the theological consequences of death before Adam’s sin, and other salient apologetic subjects. Other sections of this book will not be emphasized as much, but they are both edifying and informative. Brevity is not an indictment on their value.
Published by Andrews University Press and edited by Gerald Klingbeil, this book contains contributions from nine different authors. The first section, Biblical Cosmology, consists of 2 chapters. Section two, Creation Accounts and Creation Theology, runs around 200 pages and consists of 6 chapters. This is the largest section of the book. The last section, Creation, Evolution, and Death, provides an appropriate bookend to this volume, and also consists of two chapters.
Section One: Biblical Cosmology
Chapter One: The Unique Cosmology of Genesis 1 against Ancient Near Eastern Parallels. This chapter is co-authored by Michael Hasel and his father, the well-respected Gerhard Hasel, whose untimely death in 1993 was a great loss to the Church. Michael has provided editorial updates and expansions to his father’s work original work from 1975. I had the pleasure of rooming with Michael for one week in 2007 at the Hazor excavations. Amongst other roles, he is presently co-director of the Lachish excavations in Israel.
This chapter serves as a general survey of Genesis 1 and 2, and draws comparisons between the biblical account(s) and other ANE literature. Copious footnotes are provided for further research and rationale for the views presented. Modern discussions of Genesis and ANE parallels have revealed a disturbing tendency by professing evangelicals to claim that the early chapters of Genesis cannot be understood without knowledge of the surrounding ANE cultural environment. The chief promoter of this viewpoint has been John Walton, but there are many others who insist that ANE mythology is the hermeneutical key to understanding these foundational texts. ABR is concerned about this deeply flawed hermeneutical approach to the Old Testament.1 The problem is succinctly summarized by the Hasels: "...a vast number of biblical scholars still read the cosmology of the Bible through the glasses of the pagan cosmologies of the ancient Near East and Egypt. [This] is in actuality nothing but a dubious interpretation based on a highly problematical hermeneutic" (p. 15).
Numerous points are surveyed to show the striking differences between Genesis and the ANE mythologies. The authors make an exegetical argument that Genesis 1:1 presents an absolute beginning, in contrast to the notion of eternal matter or "the cyclical rhythm of pagan mythology" (pp. 10-12). Fiat creation by Yahweh is unique to the Bible, and the usage of the Hebrew bārā’ is part of the argument that supports that conclusion (p. 12). Skeptics will often assume that ANE thought was universal in its belief that the universe consisted of three stories: a netherworld underneath, a flat earth and a heaven above. The Hasels not only argue that the Bible has not adapted this view of the cosmos at all, but there was actually not a uniform ANE picture of the universe (pp. 15-16).
The word tĕhôm (deep) in Genesis 1:2 is an important cornerstone for those who want to make Genesis 1 dependent on ANE mythology. It is most notably connected to the Enuma Elish, and supposedly is derived from the name of the Babylonian monster, Tiamat. Thus, it is concluded, the Bible must be borrowing from this story. The authors argue that this argument is invalid, and tĕhôm in the Bible is simply a term for a large body of water, and has nothing to do with mythology or Tiamat (p. 17). When Moses used the term tĕhôm, it was likely because it was the best word he knew to describe the immense primeval waters of Genesis 1:2.2
Another key cornerstone in the "borrowing/dependence" argument is the use of rāqîaʿ in Genesis 1:7. This Hebrew term is often touted as proof that the ancients, and particularly, the Israelites, believed the world was covered with a solid, heavenly dome. Anyone who has engaged in a debate about the reliability of the biblical cosmology presented in Genesis 1-2 has inevitably heard skeptics and liberal theologians tout this argument as proof that the Bible is in error. The use of rāqîaʿ is dealt with much more extensively in chapter two, as the Hasels briefly deal with here (pp. 20-21).3
Other profound differences between Genesis 1 and 2 and the ANE literature exist as well. The struggle between pre-existent matter and the gods, the so-called Chaoskampf, is utterly absent from the biblical text. God effortlessly uttered his commands by word of mouth, and things came to be (pp. 22-25). These acts require infinite power. The creation of light on the first day, according to the authors, has no known parallel (p. 23). Genesis 1-2 serves not as a mere theological polemic, proclaiming that Yahweh is the Creator, but it also serves as a polemic both historically and descriptively. Humanity is presented as being at the center of God’s creative purposes in the Bible, while the ANE texts diminish man’s importance or view him as an afterthought (p. 25-26). Death is seen as a normative part of the created order in all the ANE literature, whereas the Bible presents a world wholly peaceful and without blemish before human sin enters the picture. The authors conclude that the ANE literature, when closely examined, actually has very little in common with Genesis 1-2, cosmologically, ideologically, and most certainly, theologically (p. 29).
Chapter Two: The Myth of the Solid, Heavenly Dome: Another Look at the Hebrew Rāqîaʿ. For Randall Younker and Richard Davidson of Andrews University, the Hebrew term rāqîaʿ, and arguments perpetuated in relation to its usage, serve as a classic example of how the Genesis creation account is misinterpreted and misrepresented by biblical scholars and skeptics alike. While the article by the Hasels serves as an effective survey, this chapter takes on one of the biggest canards in debates over the veracity of Genesis One. It is a natural and helpful continuation of the basic thrust of the first chapter.
It is a de facto assumption that the ancient Israelites had a faulty, "pre-scientific" view of the cosmos, and nowhere is that belief more persistent than in the literature concerning the rāqîaʿ. The authors bring two basic lines of research to bear on the question of the rāqîaʿ: (1), a textual and linguistic analysis; and (2), historical arguments that pertain to the actual understanding that the ancients held concerning the nature of the heavens above.
Today, it is widely believed that the Mesopotamians believed in a solid-domed heaven, and that the biblical author used the term rāqîaʿ with this cosmology in mind. Bring up this subject on a Facebook forum pertaining to the Bible, and you will almost invariably hear this argument. I have seen it myself on numerous occasions. Davidson and Younker point out that this idea was refuted over 40 years ago by Wilfred Lambert in his reexamination of the Enuma Elish, and that no evidence has ever been discovered to prove the Mesopotamians believed in a solid domed heaven. If anything, they seemed to believe in six flat heavens, suspended by cables (pp. 33-34). The authors conclude that a cohesive Mesopotamian cosmology has never been found in ancient texts, much less a belief in a solid, metal dome (p. 34, n. 11).
The authors provide a brief historical survey of the interpretation of rāqîaʿ. They argue that the primary understanding throughout many centuries was that the rāqîaʿ was an expanse, perhaps of unknown substance, but certainly not a solid, metal dome (p. 34-41, 47). In the 18th century, the anti-Bible philosopher Voltaire combined the solid dome heaven with belief in a flat earth, claiming that the "childish and savage" Israelites believed in this cosmology (p. 42). This idea eventually held sway by the 19th century (p. 55), and became further entrenched in academia by the "pan-Babylonian craze"4 of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (pp. 45-46). According to the authors, the coup de grace appeared to be when Jensen mistranslated the Enuma Elish in 1890, describing the Babylonian concept of the heavens as a "vault." This belief was gleefully promulgated by the zealous but deeply misguided liberal Harry Emerson Fosdick in the 1930’s. Lambert finally caught the mistake in 1975, but 85 years of damage had been done (p. 46). We can see how one error, one assumption, can be perpetuated as dogma for decades, even centuries, in academic circles. As the Church, we ought to pause and note the profound historical and spiritual lesson found in this episode.
Not only do the authors attempt to set the record straight concerning the history of interpretation of rāqîaʿ, but they also provide an exegetical-critical study of the actual term, especially in the immediate context of Genesis 1 (pp. 50-55). I will not detail the exegetical discussion here, as a full reading is required to get the force of the argument being presented. I will just briefly note a couple of main points. First, rāqîaʿ is a noun in Genesis 1, and when it used as a noun elsewhere in the OT, nowhere does it refer to metal (pp. 47-48). Only the verbal form (rāqaʿ) is used in relation to metal, and those contexts where it is employed have nothing whatsoever to do with cosmology or creation, with the possible exception of Job 37:18 (p. 48, n. 63). The verbal form means "to expand," and the direct object can be a variety of materials, not necessarily metal. In my view, the authors are putting their finger on some very basic, and somewhat surprising, exegetical fallacies being advanced by advocates of the metallic, domed rāqîaʿ.
Second, the authors examine the use of rāqîaʿ in Genesis 1 and other OT passages where the "heavenly" rāqîaʿ is clearly in view. The most important observation, and the most obvious, is that God Himself gives the rāqîaʿ a name: sky (or heavens) in Genesis 1:8! (Hebrew: šamayim). My purpose here is not to argue whether the immediate atmosphere (sky) or the totality of space (heavens) is in view. The main point of the authors, however, is that the usage and context shows that a solid dome is simply not a valid exegetical choice (pp. 51-53).
The "myth of the solid heavenly dome" serves as a good lesson for those of us who hold to a high view of the Bible. Careful exegesis and historical study are required if we are to find the truth. This chapter serves us well, not only in the particulars (footnotes provide the reader with resources for further study), but in tracing the way erroneous ideas become fixed in the minds of many over a period of time.
Section Two: Creation Accounts and Creation Theology
Chapter Three: The Genesis Account of Origins. Authored by Richard Davidson, this is the largest chapter in the book, consisting of 70 pages and plentiful footnotes, including detailed explanations and supporting resources. Davidson rightly states that Genesis 1-3 are foundational for the entirety of the Bible. The content of these chapters is inextricably woven throughout all of Scripture,5 as further demonstrated in the succeeding chapters of this book. Davidson makes four overarching points in his exegetical analysis of Genesis 1 and 2: the when, who, how, and what of origins.
Genesis 1:1 succinctly tells us "when": In the beginning. Davidson sees as an absolute beginning (creation ex nihilo), not a relative one. The first words of the Bible are an independent clause, not a dependent one (pp. 62, 65-69). A relative beginning, Davidson argues, allows for the idea of pre-existing matter, making matter and God co-eternal (p. 63). This is theologically unacceptable, and Davidson believes that the external influence of ANE creation myths is what drives this relatively modern exegesis (p. 65). This objectionable, external authority structure is especially found in the work of John Walton, whose overarching work Davidson properly rejects. A necessary implication from Walton’s position is that the ante-Nicene fathers and the 16th-17th century Reformers, for example, were incapable of interpreting Genesis 1-3 properly, since they had no access to ANE literature. Essentially Walton and his adherents are asking us to throw out over 1900 years of the Church’s exegetical and theological reflection on Genesis 1-3. Apparently, one needs an advanced degree in ANE studies to understand the first three chapters of the Bible. Davidson refers to these arguments as being unduly influenced by "non-biblical, macro-hermeneutical presuppositions" (p. 84). How refreshing!
The beginning found in Genesis 1:1 should be taken as a literal one: "...without a literal beginning—protology—there is no literal end—eschatology" (p. 69).6 Davidson provides a fair summary of the non-literal interpretations (day-age, progressive creation, and framework hypothesis), mainly in footnotes. While the ANE myths are all written in poetry, Genesis 1 and 2 are written as prose narrative (p. 76). This is supported by the many redemptive-historical and theological connections found in the rest of the OT, as well as the immediate literary structure of Genesis, which is bound together by thirteen appearances of the Hebrew genealogical-historical feature: tôlĕdôt (p. 77).7 Very precise temporal terms, such as the use of "day," "evening," "morning," and numeric adjectives make non-literal interpretations untenable (see especially p. 81, n. 68). On the whole, Davidson forcefully argues that "...Genesis 1 and 2 teach a literal, material creation week consisting of six historical, contiguous, creative, natural twenty-four-hour days, followed immediately by a literal 24 hour seventh day..." (p. 87).
This statement is qualified by Davidson’s view that Genesis 1:1-2 are not part of the seven days proper, lying outside of Genesis 1:3-2:4. He endorses a two-stage beginning, whereby there is a passive gap of undetermined time between verses 2 and 3. This is not the classic "gap theory," an exegetically dubious attempt to account for billions of years in the fossil record prior to the creation week.8 This passive gap is not intended to account for the fossil record (which he sees as post-Fall), but is derived from the text itself, in Davidson’s view. Thus, Davidson advocates an old universe, possibly an old earth (he does not rule out the possibility of a young earth with an old universe, pp. 92, 102), and young life created in six days, thousands of years ago (pp. 87-94).
In this two-stage creation construct, the heavens and the earth (the universe), and the angelic hosts, are created prior to the creation week. To support this exegesis, Davidson makes nine exegetical observations from the text to bolster his claim. For those who disagree with this perspective, these arguments should be read and engaged with thoroughly. A simple chiastic structure,9 with an ABBA pattern, is presented:
A: Genesis 1:1—dyad or merism (heavens and earth), referring to the entire universe.
B: Genesis 1:3-31—triad (heaven, earth, sea) of earth’s three habitats.
B: Genesis 2:1—triad (heavens and earth and their hosts) involving earth’s three habitats.
A: Genesis 2:4a—dyad or merism ("heavens and earth"), referring to the entire universe.10
Two additional reasons for this understanding are provided as well. First, Davidson argues that the angels were created before the six days, since no time would be allowed for the rise of the angelic rebellion in heaven, which Davidson believes "clearly took far more than a week to develop" (p. 92). But this argument strikes the reader as intuitive, not exegetical, and no proof is provided for the actual assertion. The passages which are relevant to Lucifer’s fall (i.e. Is. 14:12-17) do not provide any sense of how much time it took for those events to develop, or exactly when. Why could the angels have not rebelled after the seventh day, but prior to Adam and Eve conceiving Abel, setting the stage for the entrance of the serpent into the garden? And there is certainly no warrant for believing that the interval of time needed for the angelic rebellion would be on the order of millions or billions of years. Even if Davidson’s argument for a two-stage creation is correct, the rebellion could have occurred in a relatively short period of time.
Another rationale for placing the creation of the earth itself (Gen. 1:2) outside the creation week proper is Job 38:4-7, which indicates that the "sons of God" (angels) shouted for joy when God created the earth. Thus, when the earth was made, the angels already existed (p. 92). Davidson provides no further analysis or references to show this exegetical understanding of Job 38 to be correct. Is the intent of this passage one of this kind of precision? Likely, but no further support is presented. The argument merely assumes that the angels and earth proper were created prior to day one. These two points are lacking in exegetical analysis and depth and are insufficient support for the two-stage creation argument as presented in this chapter.
Davidson denies that scientific arguments are driving any of his conclusions concerning his two-stage creation position (p. 100). By and large, his statement appears to be valid, except for one chink in the armor. The two stage creation position calls for an indeterminate period of time prior to Genesis 1:3. But how long? If the time is indeterminate, why does Davidson allow for the possibility of billions or millions of years between Genesis 1:1 and 1:3 (p. 101)? Or, better stated, does the idea of millions/billions of years come from Scripture, or somewhere else? Why can’t the indeterminate period in the two stage creation proposed by Davison be on the order of 500 years? Or one year, for that matter? If the time is truly indeterminate, then I would propose that the author truly leave it that way. The introduction of deep time does reveal an extrabiblical influence upon the text.
In Davidson’s defense, he clearly refers only to “pre-fossil layers of the geologic column” (pp. 101, 110) as being created before the six day week. So, we are not talking about millions of years of death in the animal kingdom prior to Genesis 1:3, an idea that Davidson rejects outright, both here and later. But Davidson does entertain the possible idea of correlating the pre-fossil geological column with radiometric dating, and that the rocks may perhaps have an “appearance of age” (p. 101). It must be noted here that if scientific considerations are not influencing the discussion, why introduce radiometric dating at all?11 And, again, how does one even introduce the idea of millions/billions of years without going outside the Bible? Deep time is completely and utterly foreign to any of these relevant biblical texts.
Davidson briefly argues that Genesis 1 and 2 are not contradictory, but are written in accord with one another in a complementary fashion. He reviews two old-hat canards from the “contradiction” school: Genesis 2:4-5 (cf. 3:18-19), and 2:19. I agree with Davidson that the English pluperfect for Genesis 2:19 is an exegetically viable choice which destroys the entire objection, and is supported by the larger context (“Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground...). Further, Davidson briefly discusses Genesis 2:4-5, which is often paraded as being contradictory to Genesis chapter one. The discussion here is very brief, but sources are given in footnotes to support the arguments.12
In his discussion of Genesis 1:14, Davidson draws on the work of John Sailhamer to propose that “Let there be lights in the expanse” should read “Let the lights in the expanse be for separating.” This exegesis suggests that the sun and moon were already in existence, and on the fourth day, God assigned them their purpose and they became visible from earth. He argues the same concerning the stars in Genesis 1:16 (pp. 119-121).
Davidson’s argument is far too brief to overturn the more traditional translation, “Let there be...” It is wholly unpersuasive as presented, and in the larger context of the six days, it seems like an unlikely stretch, given that every other day presents fiat, ex nihilo creation acts by the power of God’s word within the creation week proper. This minority exegesis serves to support Davidson’s two-stage creation view, placing the creation of the sun, moon and stars prior to Genesis 1:3. A much deeper treatment is required to convince me that the traditional understanding should be overturned.
Davidson’s two-stage creation exegesis entails the possibility of an old-earth/old universe, but not one with death or animal predation before Adam’s sin (pp. 121-127). The very idea of “old,” however, implicitly introduces extrabiblical notions of deep time into the discussion, something Davidson is trying to avoid. Davidson’s position does not in any way support typical old-earth views on origins in evangelical circles: theistic evolution, progressive creationism, “active” gap theory, the day age theory, or old-earth creationism.13 All these views, along with all ANE creation myths, make death a normative condition in the cosmos prior to Adam’s sin, an idea Davidson wholly rejects on biblical grounds. The particular subject of death is covered in much greater length in section three of the book, and I will expand on its importance there.
Much is to be gained by studying the longest chapter of this book, and I am grateful for Davidson’s contributions to the discussion. While I have generally focused on matters which I find unpersuasive, the reader should not interpret my review of this chapter as being highly critical. Quite the opposite: this chapter is very valuable for reading and further research for those interested in creation. It is refreshing to see Davidson argue that the six days are actually six days, not millions or billions of years, and that animal death and predation are antithetical to the texts and to the broader framework of redemptive history. His outright rejection of ANE mythology as a controlling hermeneutic over Genesis 1-3 is music to my ears!
Chapter 4: Creation Revisited- Echoes of Genesis 1 and 2 in the Pentateuch. Authored by Paul Gregor of Andrews University, this chapter is a brief summary of creation language found throughout rest of the Pentateuch, providing connections to Genesis 1 and 2. Important interconnections can be found in the fourth commandment (Exodus 20:8-11), as well as in the use of Hebrew terms such as rest, dominion, put, serve/work, formless, and possess. The chapter is not critical to our understanding of Genesis 1 and 2, rather, it provides viable Pentateuchal connections which supplement and support the six-day creation view.
Chapter 5: The Creation Theme in Psalm 104. We return quickly to author Richard Davidson, who spends 39 pages discussing Psalm 104 and its deep connection to the creation account in Genesis. It is singled out because of its direct allusion and bearing on Genesis 1-3, with a chiastic symmetry among the days of creation (pp. 174-175). The remaining Psalms and their use of creation terminology/imagery are surveyed in Chapter 6.
Davidson sees Psalm 104 as a recapitulation of Genesis 1-3 in the form of poetry, following the same basic order, and providing what he calls "inner biblical interpretation" (p. 153). Poetry is not necessarily mythical or non-historical. Its usage in Psalm 104 does not
...negate the literality and historicity of the Genesis creation week any more that the poetic representation of the Exodus in Psalms 105 and 106 negates the literality and historicity of the Exodus events or the poetic representation of the Babylonian captivity in Psalm 137 negates the literally and historicity of the exile (p. 177).
Images of the post-Genesis 3 world find their way into Psalm 104, something not surprising from the perspective of the Psalmist (or anyone else) living on this side of Adam’s rebellion. These references should not be viewed as inherently imbedded in Genesis 1-2 proper. Rather, they are being communicated in a post-Fall contextual reality from which the psalmist cannot escape (pp. 177-178).
Verses 1-2 indicate that the mysterious source of light on day one, unspecified in Genesis 1, is God Himself (p. 158). Verses 2b-4 correlate with day two. Verses 5-18 correlate with day three. Davidson shows the obvious and viable connections throughout these pages.
Psalm 104:5-9 serves as a flashpoint for young-earth Christian scientists developing global flood models. ABR staff member Rick Lanser summarizes the debate:
One recent discussion I took part in examined how to understand Psalm 104:5-9....The focus of discussion was whether or not these and similar verses refer to the Flood of Noah. At stake is whether certain creationary models of the formation of the Earth are biblically valid. How so? If the "boundary" spoken of in 104:9 was set up after the Flood as part of God’s promise never to send a worldwide flood again, this passage allows for a number of possible scientific models involving a complete restructuring of the surface of the Earth during the Flood. However, if the boundary was an unalterable one God established for the seas at Creation, then the Flood was just a temporary suspension of that boundary for the purpose of executing judgment on a sinful world, with an eventual return to the previously-ordained boundaries after the judgment was over.14
Davidson argues that verses 7-8 are not referring to the waters of the Flood, but the third day of creation when the land rises out of the primordial sea (p. 159-162). He does state that there is an allusion to the Flood (p. 162, n. 47; p. 163, n. 48), but the overarching context and the texts themselves are primarily focused on the third day of creation. Davidson’s examination of Psalm 104 is not intended to resolve this important dispute, but his conclusions do have an important bearing on said debate. Christian scientists and other interested researchers attempting to develop scientific global flood models based on Genesis 6-9 and Psalm 104 in particular would be served well by reading this chapter.
Verses 19-23 correlate with day four. The psalmist fails to mention the stars here, and thus, in Davidson’s view, this supports his two-stage creation view, because the stars were actually created prior to Genesis 1:3, and only appeared to a viewer on earth on the fourth day of the creation week (p. 166). This argument is unpersuasive, not only because of its brevity and loose intuitiveness, but by the fact that the sun and moon are mentioned by the psalmist. If the absence of the stars in verses 19-23 is supporting proof they weren’t created on the fourth day (but only appeared to a viewer on earth on the fourth day), then the sun and moon should be absent from the text as well. In my estimation, advocates of a two-stage creation view should not rely on this argument to support their position.
Verses 24-26 correlate with day five, and then verses 27-30 center on day six, and Yahweh’s creation of, and provision for, mankind. Allusions to the Fall are explicit here, especially man’s inevitable death, which began in Genesis 3:19 (p. 169). Davidson believes that verses 31-35 allude to the seventh day, the Sabbath, with embedded eschatological implications in verse 35, "Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more!" (p. 174).
The chapter ends with an edifying survey of two major theological themes found in Psalm 104: creatio prima and creatio continua (pp. 175-178). In a more classic type of Reformed systematic theology, one would refer to these categories as creation and providence.
Chapter 6: The Creation Theme in Selected Psalms. Alexej Murán, PhD candidate at Andrews University, surveys the Psalms and their integrated connections to the Genesis creation account. In most cases, creation is a secondary or tertiary theme. Murán provides 12 themes from the Psalms associated with creation. Murán states that "...the use of creation language widens the scope of the text. Suddenly, the text no longer speaks to only a specific group of people, but to all nations and often includes even animals and other parts of creation" (p. 221). I encourage readers to read this section with a devotional thrust in addition to apologetic and intertextual interests.
Chapter 7: Genesis and Creation in the Wisdom Literature. Ángel Rodríguez of the Biblical Research Institute provides a 31-page survey of creation elements and motifs from Ecclesiastes, Job and Proverbs. Rodríguez sees a direct connection between wisdom thought and creation, demonstrating the biblical authors’ familiarity with Genesis 1-3. The connections with Proverbs and Ecclesiastes14b are edifying and insightful, but I will only focus here on the links with Job.
The intertextual connections between Job and Genesis 1-3 are manifold. Rodríguez’s 15-page survey leaves the reader with little doubt that the author of Job was intimately familiar with Genesis 1-3. Job 31:33 refers directly to Adam in Genesis 3:12. Job 27:3 reflects the "breath of life" in Genesis 2:7. And the placement of man upon earth (Job 20:4-5) uses very similar language to man’s placement in Eden in Genesis 2:8 (pp. 228-230).
In Job’s first speech in chapter 3, numerous connections are made with the creation narrative. In addition, the theme of "decreation" is introduced, where there is a temporal reversal of the creation days, ultimately due to an intrusion from an external invader. In Genesis 3 and in the life of Job, the invader is the same: the deceiving serpent, Satan. The decreation theme is found extensively in the prophetic literature. Rodríguez (quoting Hartly, p. 235, n. 43) refers to this as Job’s "death wish for himself and the entire creation." The parallels are not exact, but there is enough material present to show that Job was familiar with the Genesis creation narrative in his lament. The following chart from page 235 lays out the parallels.
Additionally, the following chart provides various linguistic connections between Job 38 and Genesis 1 and 2, and the author provides additional charts and analysis to further bolster the unmistakable linkage.15 I provide these charts for the reader to see how interconnected Job and Genesis 1-2 are, and to encourage further investigation into this chapter.
A final and important apologetic point should be made here that Rodríguez does not emphasize. There is a general thought amongst scholars that Job is quite an ancient book, perhaps one of the oldest in the Old Testament. Its presentation of Job’s riches in the form of livestock, historical setting, years of life, and the non-Israelite thrust has led some to conclude its origin and setting is patriarchal.16 If correct, this poses an enormous problem for liberal critical scholars who see Genesis 1-11 as having their origin in much later or even post-exilic periods (emphasized by Martin Klingbeil in chapter 8, p. 259). The author of Job, and likely Job himself, was intimately acquainted with creation vocabulary, motifs, and even narrative order, making it impossible for the texts of the primeval history to have originated at a later time.
Chapter 8: Creation in the Prophetic Literature of the Old Testament: An Intertextual Approach. Martin Klingbeil of Southern Adventist University provides the reader with a 33 page overview of the prophets and their use of creation language, themes and motifs. His presentation of the prophets is chronological, not canonical (see chart on p. 263). Numerous charts are provided with a summary of creation connections.
The prophets’ familiarity with the text of Genesis 1-3 is irrefutable. Their understanding of the Genesis 1-3 cosmology was historical and literal, not merely theological. Genesis creation informed and grounded their entire worldview (p. 289). Replete with judgment oracles directed towards a covenant nation that has indulged in the worst kind of immorality (including child sacrifice) and rampant idolatry, the prophetic literature makes connections to the creation account using the primary motif of decreation (p. 272). Essentially, decreation is the evitable chaos, decay and sinful disorder brought upon the creation itself through God’s curse in response to Adam’s rebellion. In the case of Jonah and Nahum, judgment is directed towards Assyria. Jonah himself sinks into the abyss into darkness, a form of human decreation (p. 269).
Decreation is not only seen in explicit manifestations of God’s wrath and judgment (p. 276, Nahum 1:4-5), but also in the deliberate reversal of the order of creation texts themselves. Klingbeil specifically references Zephaniah 1:3, where the listing of animals is reversed from Genesis 1 (p. 277). Jeremiah’s "oracle of doom" in verses 4:23-26 "deconstructs" the creation days, culminating in the seventh day as a day of Yahweh’s fury instead of His rest (p. 279, chart).
Decreation is a necessary and logical precursor to recreation (pp. 271, 277), reaching its eschatological apex in the new heavens and new earth (Is. 65:17). Recreation (or the reversal of decreation) becomes more prominent in the hope of postexilic prophets, Haggai and Zechariah. Ezekiel 47:1-12 explicitly connects the future temple and time of restoration to Genesis 2:10-14 (p. 282).
Klingbeil’s chapter can best be summarized by the author himself:
Creation in the prophetic literature of the Old Testament is employed as a constant literary and theological reference, which connects to a historical past, motivates the interpretation of the present, and moves towards a perspective for the future by means of continuous contextualization of the topic via the triad: creation, decreation and re-creation. This reference point is anchored in the creation account as found in Genesis 1 through 3 (p. 289).
Section Three: Creation, Evolution, and Death
Chapter 8: Biblical Creationism and Ancient Near Eastern Evolutionary Ideas. We can perhaps begin this section by quoting Angel Rodríguez’ excellent suggestion that ought to be heeded by all professing Christians, and especially those who attempt to accommodate Genesis 1-3 to millions/billions of years and other secular theories of origins:
...the biblical text is to be used as a hermeneutical tool to evaluate and deconstruct contemporary scientific and evolutionary theories and speculations related to cosmogony and anthropogony (p. 328).
Author Rodríguez provides us with a fantastic 35 page expose’ on ancient philosophies about the origin of the cosmos and mankind. Not surprisingly, we find that there is indeed "nothing new under the sun" when it comes to humanity’s propensity to explain away Yahweh as Creator and Sustainer of the universe. The material found in this chapter opens the reader to a whole world of connections between the creation myths of ANE literature and the prevailing modern day creation myth, macroevolution. Much of this material was new to me, and I found it to be enlightening.
We tend to think of modern day evolutionary theory as the product of a more sophisticated age, where man has moved past the myths of the ancient past and has now achieved true knowledge through scientific inquiry. While this may be true with respect to technological and medical developments that flow from classic, empirical scientific methodology, it is not the case when it comes to cosmic and human origins. What may surprise many readers is that many of the same basic ideas of today can actually be found in ANE literature, even though their expression today is more complex and sophisticated (p. 294).
The origin of life is of prime interest to the modern day evolutionary scientist. The ancients also grappled with the same basic questions of origins. For many of the ANE cosmogonies, the question centered on the origin of the gods (theogony), and how they came into being. Since the gods were part and parcel of the universe itself, they also had to move from non-existence to existence, like the rest of the universe did. In Egypt, for example, Atum the creator-god sprang into existence out of nothing, from an "egg within the waters of non-existence," (pp. 297-298). Conversely, the biblical account stands alone in comparison to all the ANE literature. Yahweh is not self-created, rather, He is eternally self-existent (p. 313). This once again illustrates that the connections between ANE literature and the Bible are primarily superficial.
According to this particular Egyptian theology of Atum, life came from nothing, a self-causality or spontaneous generation that mirrors modern evolutionary theories on the origin of life (p. 316). The same can be said of Sumerian and Akkadian texts as well (p. 299). From the spontaneously generated Atum, the entire diversity of life in the world descended (p. 301). This is strikingly similar to the imaginary single-celled organism that accidentally formed in the primordial ooze some 15 billion years ago.17 In addition to this, Rodríguez notes that the ancients made observations in nature, and then extrapolated them backwards and forwards in time into cosmogonic speculations. Modern day scientists do exactly the same thing with uniformitarian assumptions in biology, geology and cosmology (pp. 306-307).
Natural evil is embedded into all ANE cosmogonies, as it is in all forms of modern evolutionary theory, and in all attempts to massage the Bible into notions of deep time that entail death and decay in creation before Adam’s fall. The struggle for life and the ever present specter of death is normative, not intrusive. Like modern evolutionary thought, death and deep time are presented as the creator(s) of life (p. 314, 318). The antithesis of these constructs is only found in the Bible, whereby the eternally self-existent One, Yahweh, creates new life by divine fiat, then upholds, perpetuates, and sustains life through the medium of procreation (p. 318).
Amazingly, some of these ancient texts contain the expression, "millions of years," in reference to the "time of the origin of the creator-god to the end of all things" (p. 304). The Egyptian Book of the Dead presents a dark, apocalyptic disaster for the universe, millions of years in the future. Rodríguez notes that the Egyptians thought the cosmos would return to its chaotic, watery darkness, very much akin to present day cosmological predictions about the evitable doom of a big crunch (p. 305). This bleak picture of the future resembles the American fascination with apocalypticism in general, most notably found in Hollywood movies.
Even more interesting are the similarities between some ANE myths dealing with the origin of man, and modern scientific claims about so-called "ape-men," and human origins in general. Rodríguez documents Sumerian texts that present early humans as eating only grass, as animal like in their behavior, as ignorant of agriculture, and living without clothes. Man is depicted as being "primal," and is closely linked to the animal kingdom (pp. 310-311, p. 312. n. 93, p. 325). As a general statement, ANE ideas devalue mankind. In contrast, Yahweh creates man in his own image and likeness, with an intrinsic metaphysical constitution that is superior to the animal kingdom (pp. 320-324). Yahweh also places them in docile authority over the animal kingdom, and they even remain in that position after the Fall (though presently in a state of conflict with the animals and the rest of the physical world). Rodríguez notes, however, that fallen man has moved in the direction of the animals by attempting to usurp Yahweh’s throne. Now dressed in animal skins, and deceived by a spiritual being that appropriated an animal (serpent) for his evil purposes, man has not evolved, he has devolved.
Rodríguez wraps up the chapter with a short but engaging excursus on the "self-evolving of humans." Here, he rightly emphasizes that the serpent, Satan, offered Adam and Eve a new worldview, one which was man-centered and not theistically centered (p. 325). The conflict that ensued affected the relationship between man and God, man and creation, man and woman, and man’s own internal makeup. The self-evolving of humanity and his quest for god-like status with eternal life is found in movies such as Elysium, Interstellar, and Avatar.
In summary, Rodríguez provides the reader with a wealth of material and insights not typically found in books and articles on Genesis 1-3 and modern evolutionary theories. This might be the most important and insightful chapter in the book.
Chapter 9: ‘When Death Was Not Yet’: The Testimony of Biblical Creation. Jacques Doukhan of Andrews University concludes this fine book with a short exegetical survey of Genesis 1-3 that bears on the question of death. This particular chapter resonates with me, in part because I am thoroughly convinced that all attempts by evangelicals to harmonize Genesis 1-3 with millions/billions of years and death and decay in creation prior to Adam’s Fall are theologically, hermeneutically, and exegetically indefensible. I have presented this argument in a more technical treatise on Romans 8:19-23,18 and in another article written for more of a general audience. In this second article, I summarized the problem thus:
All "old earth" interpretations of Scripture fail to adequately grapple with the historical and theological affirmations of Paul’s teaching in Romans 8:19-23. OEC views affirm a corrupted physical world and animal kingdom prior to Adam’s fall, creating the following insurmountable problems:
1 – Ignoring Paul’s cosmic views concerning death
2 – Undermining the principle of Adam’s kingship over creation
3 – Destroying the meaning of Jesus’ redemption of all things
4 – Giving us a corrupted and death-filled creation disconnected from Adam’s fall
5 – Ruining the parallel between man’s and creation’s redemption
6 – Entailing death in the human chain of ancestry, disconnected from sinfulness and rebellion against God
7 – Laying the futile and harsh realities found in creation squarely at the feet of God instead of man
8 – Absolving man of his responsibilities before God concerning both sinfulness and death19
While this chapter is an appropriate end to the book, a longer discussion of the subject is necessary to grasp the full import of Doukhan’s important observations.
The continued refrain, "it was good," testifies to the total and comprehensive excellence of creation prior to the Fall (pp. 331-332). Man, beast and inanimate creation contained no intrinsic evil, and evil could only impinge itself upon the created order from without, through the wiles of Satan. The entire context is clear that complete and perfect peace ruled at the beginning (p. 333).
Doukhan also argues, albeit briefly, that Genesis 2:1-2 does not present a mere chronological end to the six-days of creation; rather, it presents a comprehensive perfection. Some footnotes are provided to support this assertion, but I would have liked to have seen this argument fleshed out a bit further.
...the very idea of perfection is expressed through the word wayĕkal...qualifying the whole creation...it implies the quantitative idea that nothing is missing, and there is nothing to add, again confirming that death and all evil were totally absent from the picture (p. 334).
Doukhan turns to the theme of decreation in Genesis 3, where he sees a chiastic reversal of Genesis 2: Settlement, Life, Union, Separation, Death, and Expulsion (p. 337). At the end of history, decreation will eventually culminate in re-creation, what Doukhan calls “an argument from the future” (p. 341). The eschatological reversal of a corrupted creation supports the argument that the creation had no corruption whatsoever prior to the Fall.
I am pleased to recommend this book to ABR supporters and those interested in understanding Genesis 1-3 with a full biblical-theological hermeneutic, and with quality exegetical rationale. While I don’t commend every point or assertion, this book serves as a great contribution to an immensely important subject. I look forwarding to reading their New Testament version when it is released. Look for a future review here on the ABR website.
1See: Robert Cooperman, A Fuzzy Theology of Beginnings, Associates for Biblical Research, 2013, accessed December 24, 2015. Rick Lanser, “The Influence of the Ancient Near East on the Book of Genesis,” Bible and Spade 23, no. 4 (2010): 95-99. Todd Beall, “Evangelicalism, Inerrancy and OT Scholarship,” Bible and Spade 28, no. 1 (2015): 18-24. Available in the ABR online bookstore.
2When I read this section, I was immediately reminded of a similar argument posed over 50 years ago by the eminent OT scholar, E.J. Young. Young made the basic but profound point that our modern use of the term “Thursday” does not mean we have adapted an ancient Norse mythology. Edward J. Young, Studies in Genesis One (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1999), 26-30. Available in the ABR online bookstore.
3See also: Rick Lanser, Genesis 1 and the Raqia Associates for Biblical Research, 2009, accessed December 19, 2015.
4A phenomenon of the late 19th and early 20th centuries where scholars asserted that much of the OT was plagiarized from Babylonian and other ANE sources.
5See also: Andrew Kulikovsky, Creation, Fall, Restoration: A Biblical Theology of Creation, (Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2009). Available in the ABR online bookstore.
6Steven Boyd, “The Genre of Genesis 1:1-2:3: What Means This Text?” in Coming to Grips with Genesis, ed. Terry Mortenson and Thane Ury (Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Publishing, 2008). Available in the ABR online bookstore.
7For more on this, see: Dale Dewitt, The Generations of Genesis Associates for Biblical Research, 2011, accessed December 19, 2015.
8For an in-depth critique of the classic gap theory, see: Weston Fields, Unformed and Unfilled: A Critique of the Gap Theory (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2005). Available in the ABR online bookstore.
9A chiasmus or chiastic structure is often used in the OT. Typically, the writer presents certain ideas or statements in a particular order, then re-presents them to the reader in reverse. An example of a more elaborate chiasm can be found in the Flood narrative. See figure 3 here: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2010/09/24/The-Documentary-Hypothesis.aspx.
11Don DeYoung, Thousands not Billions (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2005). Available in the ABR online bookstore.
12Cassuto’s comments are helpful: "The narrative begins with a description of the conditions existing prior to the creation of man. There was no siah of the field yet, and the 'esebh of the field had not yet sprung up...What is meant by the siah of the field and the 'esebh of the field mentioned here? Modern commentators usually consider the terms to connote the vegetable kingdom as a whole..." Cassuto goes on to explain that these terms are also both mentioned in the Fall narrative of Genesis 3:18, and do not refer to vegetation kingdom created by God on the third day of creation that naturally reproduce themselves by seed alone. Rather, the 'esebh of the >field refers to grain that required man to till the ground in order for it to proliferate. In other words, the 'esebh of the field required man to work the ground in order for its potential to be realized. The siah of the field refers to the thorns that arose as a result of the curse. Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, /Part I from Adam to Noah, Translated by Israel Abrahams (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, Hebrew University, 1961), 100-2. See also: C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament: Volume I: The Pentateuch (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006), 48.
13Tim Chaffey and Jason Lisle, Old Earth Creationism on Trial (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2008). Available in the ABR online bookstore.
14Rick Lanser,“Creation or the Flood? A Study of Several Passages of Scripture,” Associates for Biblical Research, 2010, accessed December 19, 2015.
14b Added June 14, 2016. For a recent article connecting Ecclesiastes and Genesis, see: Matthew Seufert, The Presence of Genesis in Ecclesiastes, The Westminster Theological Journal, 78 (1): 75-92, Spring 2016.
15Similar charts connecting Job 38-40 with the creation narrative are found on pages 239-240.
16Tremper Longman and Raymond Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 226.
17For an expose’ on the impossibility of spontaneous generation, see: Robert Carter, Ed., Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels (Atlanta, GA: Creation Book Publishers, 2014). Also, John Ashton, Evolution Impossible, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2012). Both are available in the ABR online bookstore.
18Henry B. Smith Jr., “Cosmic and Universal Death from Adam’s Fall: An Exegesis of Romans 8:19–23a,”Journal of Creation 21 (1):75–85, April 2007.
19Henry B. Smith Jr., “Cosmic Death in Romans 8: Affirming a Recent Creation,” Bible and Spade 26 (1): 8-14, Winter 2013. Available in the ABR online bookstore.