1. light/darkness 4. sun/moon
and stars 2. water above/below 5. birds/fish 3. dry land, vegetation 6. animals and
b. God Rests (seventh day)
B. Details of Human Creation (return to the sixth day) (Genesis
The structure of the six days narrative follows the pattern of
the creation of empty spaces (light and dark, water and atmosphere,
land) which are then filled by specific objects. Notice, too,
that the first two days (and the parallel fourth and fifth day)
are split into two segments, while the third day and parallel
sixth day are not so split, with plants rising from the soil on
the third day and animals rising from the soil to inhabit the
land and consume the vegetation on the sixth day.
The word "day" is defined in the context of the creation
narrative in 1:5 where it is equated with the word "light",
rather than a twenty-four hour period.
The phrase, "And there was evening, and there was morning
-- the...day" occurs only in the first chapter of Genesis.
Its exact meaning therefore is not absolutely clear. Certainly
creationists are unwarranted in pressing the phrase as confirmation
of their contention that these are twenty-four hour days. The
phrase itself proves nothing.
There are other time periods in the Bible that are not literal
in their meaning -- for instance the seventy weeks of Daniel chapter
nine, which refer to a time period of 483 years. As if this were
not enough, according to the most popular evangelical teaching,
the last week is separated from the preceding sixty-nine weeks
by an indefinite time that at present has stretched to almost
2000 years, though there is nothing in the text of Daniel 9 to
suggest this possibility (hardly resulting in the most obvious
or "literal" interpretation of these seventy "weeks").
It seems unwarranted to demand a "literal" interpretation
of day if it is possible to accept a less than "literal"
interpretation of week.
The difficulty is in what is meant by the word "literal."
I do not believe that it means, when confronted by the phrase
"he will sit on the right hand of the father" that we
should expect to see the father's hand under his butt. Instead,
literal means an ordinary, non-subjective or allegorical meaning;
of course, if we are dealing with something allegorical it is
as big a mistake to literalize it as it would be to allegorize
what should be taken literally.
According to creationists, theistic evolutionists are forced into
an allegorical interpretation of Genesis one. They argue that
if evolution is accepted, then automatically the text of Genesis
is no longer being interpreted literally. I believe this is an
extreme overstatement of the situation.
Certainly it is true that most theistic evolutionists fail to
take seriously the words of Genesis. However, I do not believe
such a viewpoint is inevitable. Modern scientific theory can be
compatible with Genesis, even a Genesis that is read literally.
In other words, Adam can be accepted as literally real even within
an evolutionary framework.
As Abraham was later to be chosen by God from a pagan, polytheistic
society in order to become the progenitor of his chosen people,
so God can be seen as selecting Adam from a pre-existing group
of hominids and then giving him the choice of serving God or not.
Perhaps Adam was a radical mutation from his forbearers, hence
the story in Genesis 2 describing his difficulty in finding a
suitable mate, necessitating divine intervention to fashion a
mate for him, in this case a female clone (notice, that by being
created from the rib of Adam, she was necessarily constructed
from his genetic material).
Frankly, the text of Genesis itself makes the traditional creationist
perspective less credible than they would have us believe. Not
only are the days not placed in a chronological arrangement, but
the search for a mate and the naming of the animals is also evidence
that the sixth day at least, was almost certainly not a twenty-four
hour period, since it would be difficult if not impossible, for
a single man, however gifted, to identify and name all the species
on the planet in so limited an amount of time. Consider that there
are at least one million species of animals (using the underestimate
Whitcomb and Morris give in their book The Genesis Flood, p.
68). Allowing no time for sleep, Adam would have had to name eleven
and a half animals every second (with 86,400 seconds in 24 hours).
And this doesn't leave him time to realize there is no mate fit
for him, or for God to put him to sleep and form Eve.
Jesus said he would return "quickly" or "soon"
(see Rev. 22:12, 20); yet if the world is really only 6000 years
old, to have waited for nearly 2000 years hardly seems "soon".
However, if the world is actually 4.6 billion years old (and the
universe 15-20 billion), then 2000 years is hardly any time at
all (cf. the analogy made between a day and the history of the
universe, where all of recorded human history takes up only the
last few seconds).
The genealogies of Genesis are not likely to be complete and therefore
do not function as a chronology. The genealogies of Genesis 5
and 11:10-26 are both lists of ten names, and both end with the
final individual having three significant sons. The artificial
and selective nature of these genealogies thereby becomes apparent.
Matthew divides the genealogy of Jesus into three sections, each
with fourteen names. His reason for doing this is that the Hebrew
name David is written with three letters whose numerical value
is fourteen. To get the structure he desires, Matthew left out
several names, which can be demonstrated by comparing his genealogy
with those given in the Old Testament (for instance Matthew 1:8
and 1 Chronicles 3:10-12). Therefore, it seems reasonable to suspect
that the author of Genesis does a similar thing with his genealogies
in order to get his ten plus three pattern.
1 Chronicles 16:14-17 (which parallels Psalm 105:7-10; also cf.
Deuteronomy 7:9) states the following:
He is Yahweh our God;
his judgments are in all the earth. He remembers his covenant
the word he commanded, for a thousand generations,
the covenant he made with Abraham,
the oath he swore to Isaac.
He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant:...
These passages seem to suggest that far more than the twenty generations
listed in Genesis 5 and 11 existed between the time of Adam and
the time of Abraham. Though it is possible to read "thousand
generations" in parallel with "forever" in vs.
15, thereby making "thousand generations" figurative
hyperbole, one could just as easily argue that "thousand
generations" defines "forever," moving from general
to specific (as in the numerical Proverbs [Proverbs 30:15-16,
30:18-19, 30:24-28, 30:29-31]). However, even if "thousand
generations" is hyperbolic it still suggests that far more
than a mere twenty generations are in view.
Romans 5:12 is sometimes quoted to show that death could not have
existed on Earth prior to Adam's fall. However, it should be pointed
out that the passage in Romans is speaking only about human death
and that it would be difficult to press it to include the death
of any other life forms. Moreover, before the fall it is clear
(from Genesis 1:29-30) that at least plants had to die in order
to serve as food for people and animals. This is impossible to
reconcile if the passage in Romans is pressed to include any more
than human beings.
Creationists also contend that to allow death, suffering and the
struggle for survival before Adam's sin is to make God into an
ogre, since God repeatedly describes his creation as "very
good" in Genesis 1.
However, in Psalm 136:17-20, where the death of the first born
in Egypt and the deaths of Sihon and Og are described, the Psalmist
comments that God's "love endures forever." Psalm 116:15
states that "Blessed in the sight of God is the death of
his saints." In both these passages we are discussing the
deaths of human beings, not lower life forms!
Genesis 3:22-23 records that Adam and Eve were expelled from the
garden in order to prevent them from eating the fruit of the Tree
of Life and thereby living forever.
Because death was absolutely necessary if human redemption was
ever to occur. If human beings were not to wind up in the hopeless
condition of the demons and Satan, they had to be able to die.
Only by the Son of God taking upon himself the form of a human
being and dying could the race be saved. If Jesus had not been
able to die, then the human race would have remained in its sin
and been forever irredeemable. (The reason Satan and the demons
cannot repent and be saved is simply because Jesus cannot die
for their sins; Satan and the demons are immortal: they cannot
Death can also be seen as a good thing from the standpoint that
it limits the damage that the wicked can do. Sooner or later,
even a monster like Hitler has to die -- thereby putting an end
to his evil.
It can be demonstrated that death is necessary in order for life
to exist at all (animals eat plants, while other organisms consume
the dead plants and dead animals, returning nutrients to the soil,
making it fertile for the growth of new plants). A question should
also be asked: if animals didn't die before Adam's fall, then
why do they die after it? Did they sin, too? Why should Adam's
sin have an effect on them?
The Complaint of Jacob
by R.P. Nettelhorst
Jacob’s life was not a particularly easy one and his family life, both growing up, and then as an adult was certainly what would fit the modern definition of being “dysfunctional.”
So, to say the least, Jacob was not at all happy. The one true love of his life was dead. Joseph, his favorite, the oldest son of his beloved, had been dead for twenty-five years. And now Simeon had been taken from him, and this monster in Egypt was demanding the last link he had to his dead lover. Beside himself with grief, we find his reaction in Genesis 42:36 where it all comes down to this:
Their father Jacob said to them, "You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!"
And certainly it was the case that the circumstances of his life, from his perspective, from the perspective of his sons standing around him, made his complaint fully reasonable and perfectly understandable.
And yet, the fascinating thing about his words, for those of us reading the story, is that we know that he couldn’t be more wrong, despite the fact that his words seemed so obviously true to Jacob – unassailably true, in fact. But we the readers of this little episode, know something that Jacob doesn’t: we know that Joseph is not only not dead, but he is second in command in Egypt, the most powerful and most wealthy nation on the planet at that time. We also know that there’s no way for poor Jacob to know that.
So the reality of Jacob’s existence is that everything could hardly be better. His favorite son has done very well for himself, thank you. Good job, and great future, with money to burn. Poor Jacob simply doesn’t know this yet. His perception, his perspective of reality, is incorrect.
And we, the readers, can do nothing to alleviate Jacob’s suffering just now. And God didn’t do anything about it either. It’ll be another year before Jacob learns the truth of what his life is really like. For twenty-five years he mourned for someone who was not dead at all. He bemoans his fate as a miserable one, though his family is absolutely powerful and prosperous. But he doesn’t know any of that; in fact, he has no way of knowing any of that.
September 11, 2001 was thus an exceptionally bad day (to say the least) and raised numerous questions in the minds of many people about the nature of existence, about the goodness of God, about what it is really, that God wants and expects out of all of us. How do we live in a world where this sort of thing can happen? How do we face the crises of life, both small and great? Is there some key to life, some playbook we can get, some list we can follow, some formula we can memorize that will get us through life in one piece, with ourselves and our families living productive and prosperous lives? What does Jacob's complaint tell us about our relationship to God and the world?
Click on the picture of the book cover for more information, to read a preview, or to order.
John of the Apocalypse
by R.P. Nettelhorst
If everything in your life went wrong, wouldn’t it be nice if Jesus came and told you why? “Why doesn’t God do something?” It was a question heavy on John’s mind. He had seen all his companions bleed and die; thousands of his compatriots had been slaughtered by a brutal tyranny. It seemed such an odd way for God to treat his most faithful servants. John was just a lonely old man exiled for his beliefs on the island of Patmos. And then Jesus unexpectedly showed up with good news and an explanation.
Click on the picture of the book cover for more information, to read a preview, or to order.