Reading Genesis with the Mind of Christ

Debate over the creation time frame largely boils down to how one interprets Genesis 1. For those who interpret it as a literal description of physical events, the answer is clearly that creation occurred in a six day period. Others see it as figurative, describing spiritual things. For them, it says nothing about the natural timeframe, so we are left with science to provide the answer. But how do we choose an interpretation in the first place? Paul had some wise words that can be applied to interpreting Scripture with the proper mindset: Continue reading

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Context of Biblical References to Six Days, Part 1: Exodus 20:11 and the Ten Commandments

MCC-31231_thmIn an earlier post, we looked at the nature of the two six-day creation references in Exodus (Exodus 20:11 and Exodus 31:17). They both relate it to the establishment of the Sabbath, but they differ in specific Hebrew words used and the mention of additional details. We found that they both pointed to an anthropomorphism in Genesis 2:1-3, as does that text itself. This obviously figurative element in the creation account supports a figurative interpretation for the whole thing.

However, when we looked at the two Exodus passages, we took them out of context. Would our conclusions change if the contexts were considered? I don’t think so, and in this and some future posts, we’ll take a look at what the contexts of Exodus 20:11 and Exodus 31:17 tell us about interpreting those passages. I think it will become apparent that the context not only supports a figurative interpretation, it even suggests a perspective for Genesis 1 as figurative that is consistent with other Scripture. We’ll also see how such a perspective would have made it easy for ancient Israelites to miss the figurative nature and establish a long-standing tradition that is strongly defended today.

We’ll start by looking at the Ten Commandments as immediate context for Exodus 20:11. Following that, we’ll include the rest of the Law, of which the Ten Commandments are the centerpiece. Lastly, we’ll look at the context of Exodus 31:17 — instructions regarding construction and operation the tabernacle. In looking at these contexts, we’ll see that other Scripture teaches us how these Exodus passages present physical pictures that echo unseen spiritual realities. Seeing the Genesis references embedded in such contexts, it becomes even more apparent how the narrative is best seen as a figurative divine oracle. Continue reading

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A Reflection: Our Place in Creation

This is at Erratic Rock State Natural Site. Clicking on the image will take you to an interactive panorama of the view.

This is a virtual reality photograph. Click on the image to open it, then click and drag to look around.

This is the view from Erratic Rock State Natural Site near McMinnville, Oregon. The large rock in the foreground originated in the northern Rocky Mountains, nowhere near this spot. It is the only rock of its type outside Canada, and was transported here during a massive Ice Age flood around 15 thousand years ago. Titanic floods washed down eastern Washington, scoured their way through the gorge, then filled the valley with water. The water was filled with debris including icebergs from the flood’s origin, some of which carried boulders. As the ice melted and the waters receded, this boulder remained, a silent testimony to the power and extent of the flood. The view from this point helps us appreciate the scale of the flood. As you look out over the valley, try to imagine the vast scale of this catastrophic event, the amount of water needed to fill the valley before you, the forces powerful enough transport a 90-ton boulder across hundreds of miles. Continue reading

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Is There a Plain Sense Reading of Genesis 1?

While discussing the creation narrative with someone recently, they made reference to taking the plain sense of Genesis 1-3 and, based on a popular saying, stated that one should take the plain sense as the intended meaning whenever it makes common sense. However, there seem to be several items in the creation narrative for which the plain sense meaning does not make common sense. Amazingly, rather than seeking a different sense as the popular saying would suggest, people often choose to add to or modify the Scripture, forcing it to make common sense. Here are some examples of such items. Continue reading

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The Language God Used to Speak Genesis

Praying ManThroughout the Bible, there are statements that seem difficult or confusing when first read, but become clear when the culture is taken into account. Sometimes the statements are not only confusing to our modern perspective, but actually seem to be incorrect. It can be challenging to understand why God would have used such statements. Various explanations have been proposed, such as the idea that God accommodated His message to the listener’s perspective, meeting them where they were. I’d like to explore yet another perspective, drawn from Scripture itself. By thinking of these things as elements of language, we can see more clearly the difference between the message and its container. A good place to start is by looking at Pentecost. Continue reading

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The Figurative Nature of God’s Rest in Genesis

15th-century BibleThe ongoing debate about Genesis creation largely comes down to whether the first chapter of Genesis should be taken literally or figuratively. It’s common for Exodus 20:11 to be referenced because it seems to clearly reinforce a six-day timeframe. However, it’s helpful to also consider Exodus 31:17. That verse mentions the six-day timeframe in the same way, but adds the surprising detail of God being refreshed by His rest.

In this post, we’ll take a look at both relevant verses that mention six days, and see what they tell us about the possibility of a figurative interpretation. I believe that when they are both looked at carefully and their contexts are taken into account, we can see how God was talking, and it becomes clear that Genesis 1 is intended to be taken figuratively. We may also begin to understand why it’s so difficult for us to see this truth. Of course, the fact that the creation narrative is figurative does not necessarily tell us what it means, but it’s a start in that direction. Continue reading

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