Sortable Messages

Part 7 of 12 through a series on Christianity and Science.

How Should We Read Genesis 1-3? (Part 2)
Christianity and Science: Part 7 of 12

The following is a handout given to those present at the class:

Major Sections of Genesis

I. Prologue: The Creation Week, 1:1-2:3

II. The Generations of the Heavens and the Earth, 2:4-4:26
- 2:4: “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth.”

III. The Generations of Adam, 5:1-6:8
- 5:1: “This is the book of the generations of Adam.”

IV. The Generations of Noah, 6:9-9:29
- 6:9: “These are the generations of Noah.”

V. The Generations of the Sons of Noah, 10:1-11:9
- 10:1: “These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.”

VI. The Generations of Shem, 11:10-26
- 11:10: “These are the generations of Shem.”

VII. The Generations of Terah, 11:27-25:11
- 11:27: “Now these are the generations of Terah.”

VIII. The Generations of Ishmael, 25:12-18
- 25:12: “These are the generations of Ishamel, Abraham’s son…”

IX. The Generations of Isaac, 25:19-35:29
- 25:19: “These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son…”

X. The Generations of Esau, 36:1-37:1
- 36:1: “These are the generations of Esau (that is, Edom).”

XI. The Generations of Jacob, 37:2-50:26
- 37:2: “These are the generations of Jacob.”

Aaron's Manuscript is found below:

- Last time: laid out three approaches to science/Scripture:
(1) Young Earth Creationism
(2) Old Earth Creationism
(3) Evolutionary Creationism
- I argued that 1 and 2 are closer to each other than either is to 3.
- Today: Look at the text of Genesis 1-3 (1:1-2:3: creation; 2:4-25: creation of man and woman; 3: fall); ask three questions:

Are These Chapters Historical?
- Two big sections of Genesis: (1) chapters 1-11 (2) chapters 12-50; latter is clearly history.
- Are there indications of change in kind of literature from one section to other? No.
- Major divisions:
(1) 2:4: “These are the generations of the heaven and the earth…”
(2) 5:1: “This is the book of the generations of Adam.”
(3) 6:9: “These are the generations of Noah.”
(4) 10:1: “These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.”
(5) 11:10: “These are the generations of Shem.”
(6) 11:27: “Now these are the generations of Terah.”
(7) 25:12: “These are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son…”
(8) 25:19: “These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son…”
(9) 36:1: “These are the generations of Esau (that is, Edom).”
(10) 37:2: “These are the generations of Jacob.”
- The pattern indicates that 2:4-4:26 is the same kind of literature as all that follows: historical.
- Moses wrote for the Israelites to know where they came from and what their significance is.
- But what about 1:1-2:3? Different, but not pure “poetry”; best described as “exalted prose.”
- Conclusion: we are dealing with historical accounts; 1:1-2:3 is unique, but not “mythological.”

Are These Chapters Scientific?
- When I say “scientific” I don’t mean “true” as opposed to “false.”
- I am asking: are they written in scientific language or in ordinary language?
- It is ordinary language, and that is good: God intended to be understood in all cultures.
- Example: 1:7: Waters above the expanse:
(1) Scientific reading: pre-flood water canopy that surrounded the earth (but see Psalm 148:4).
(2) Ordinary language reading: we see water falling from the sky, conclude it must be up there.
- Example: 1:16: two great lights + stars
- Scientifically, the moon is not a “light,” and the sun is no “greater” a light than the stars.
- But from the perspective of human observation, we know exactly what that means.
- Conclusion: Genesis 1-3 is written in ordinary language and is not a scientific account.

- Two options:
(1) God brought the universe into being in an unformed state, then ordered it over six days.
(2) The existence of the disordered universe is never explained/Genesis 1:1 summarizes six days.
- First option is better:
(1) Grammatically, it is the better reading. See parallel structure in Daniel 1:1ff.
(2) Mention of “the earth” in v. 2 recalls “earth” of v. 1, showing narrowing focus.
(3) Theologically, fits better with creatio ex nihilo; John 1:1; Heb. 11:3
- Implication: Bible doesn’t tell us how long universe existed before it was ordered.

Young Earth Reading
(1) The 24-Hour Day Theory
- Days of creation are normal days.
- Strengths: straightforward reading; “evening and morning” formula fits well; Exodus 20:11
- Weakness: Hard to conceptualize a normal “day” prior to creation of heavenly bodies.

Old Earth Readings
(1) The Gap Theory (Scofield Bible notes)
- Posits billions of years between 1:1 and 1:2; some event caused disorder.
- 1:2-2:3 is about the six days of recreation.
- Strength: Clearly reads 1:1 as the first act of creation, not summary.
- Weaknesses: 1:2 does not mean “became” but rather “was”; overall, an unnatural reading.

(2) The Day-Age Theory (Wayne Grudem?)
- Argues that each “day” is actually an age of time, perhaps millions of years.
- Strength: recognizes that “day” can be used to refer to longer period (see 2:4).
- Weaknesses: No other example where “day” means “age”; number sequence and “evening and morning” formula seems to render that meaning unlikely.

(3) The Local Creation Theory (John Sailhamer)
- 1:1 is about creation of universe and earth; 1:2ff. about the “land” (Eden/Canaan).
- Strength: There is indeed a movement in Genesis from whole earth to focus on the “land.”
- Weakness: That movement doesn’t seem to happen in 1:1-2:3, which sounds global.

(4) The Literary Framework Theory (Meredith Kline)
- Days of creation are not a chronological sequence but literary/topical.
- Day 1 Day 4; Day 2 Day 5; Day 3 Day 6
- Strength: Recognizes literary artistry, order of the account.
- Weakness: Minimizes the importance of sequence, which lies behind Exodus 20:11.

(5) The Analogical Day Theory (Vern Poythress)
- The word “day” means “day,” but the concept is used analogically, not literally.
- Strengths: Sabbath day is ongoing (Heb 4); “evening and morning” is a pause in work.
- Weakness: If absence of “evening/morning” means non-literal day, does presence of it in days 1-6 indicate literal days?

- My goal: Not to settle every question, but to show that others have thought about this.


On February 4th, we will add an additional 8:15am morning worship service on most Sundays during the fall and spring semesters. Due to this schedule adjustment, our Sunday School classes will now be incorporated into our Sunday evening schedule.