Barry Newman's Blog

March 31, 2011

Science and Genesis 2: 4b – 3: 24 (part XX)

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 8:45 pm

Genesis 2: 18 – 25 – the man, the animals and birds and the woman

“The Lord God (Yahweh Elohim) said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Now the Lord God (Yahweh Elohim) had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air.  He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.  But for Adam no suitable helper was found.  So the Lord God (Yahweh Elohim) caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh.  Then the Lord God (Yahweh Elohim) made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.  The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh.  The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (NIV)

The creatures

The reference to the birds of the air (heavens) is fairly clear, similar phrases occurring in Gen 1: 28 and 30. However while Gen 1: 25 refers to God making the beasts of the earth the reference in Gen 2: 19 is to the beasts of the field.  Then in 2: 20 in addition to the beasts of the field reference is made to cattle, a term used in Gen 1: 24, which Walton suggests is to be understood as “domesticated animals” (p. 127).  It is not clear how the terms, “field” or “earth” in these contexts relate though it may be the case, as McCabe (2006) states, that “field” can refer to open fields, where wild animals and plants reside as well as to cultivated fields.  Perhaps what is being suggested in this part of the text is that the animals brought to the man are both domesticated and wild – the wild animals however are those that are manageable. They are not those wild animals who range beyond the “fields”.  The term “beasts of the field” could cover “livestock” but additionally have a more limited reference – wild beasts that are manageable.

Just as man had been formed out of the ground (using the “dust”) so the animals and birds are also formed from the ground.  It would appear that the writer wants to point out some similarities between both man on the one hand and animals and birds on the other.   Certainly they both return to the ground upon death but there is no reference to death at this point in the text.  Perhaps the similarity that we should recognise is that they are all living creatures (2: 7 [man]; 2: 19 [the animals and the birds]).  Certainly both are formed by that personal sovereign God – Yahweh Elohim.

One could read the text as in the NIV which uses the pluperfect tense to mean that God had made these animals and birds in the past.  However the sense could be that God formed them at this point in time. For instance, the New American Standard Bible simply states, “Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast …” If it is argued that 2: 5 ff is providing additional information on what happened on Day 6, then “had formed” would be a better translation.  If the position adopted is that in 2: 5 ff we have a different though complementary perspective to the six day creation account then “formed” would be considered the appropriate translation.  This writer, as already indicated, opts for the latter understanding.  However in partial agreement with McCabe (2006), I think that the reference to the creation of the animals and the birds in 2: 19, 20 is with the man in the garden in Eden in mind.  Thus the writer does not have to refer to the creation of all living creatures and so makes no reference, for example, to water creatures or (if the suggestion above is correct) wild animals that are unmanageable.

The giving of names to the creatures could be understood as signifying a number of things.  God was giving the man freedom to name. They were being identified as different one from the other. That he named them and not the other way around indicated that some sense of priority applied – he was more significant and in some sense superior – he had authority over them, he ruled over them. (It might be worth noting at this point that the syntax and vocabulary used in the man referring to the woman being called “woman” in Gen 2: 23 is not the same as that used here.) 

Whatever we might think of some of these suggestions, and the last may be the most important, the naming of the creatures is introduced within the context of God declaring that it was not good for man to be alone.  Fundamentally, they are mentioned in this passage in this context and in no other.  Consequently in the naming of them, in the man’s authority being exercised over them, and it being declared that no “suitable helper” for the man was found from among them, we are probably being informed that the man recognised that none of the creatures, birds of the heavens, beasts of the field or livestock were suitable helpers. Though in the ancient world, the naming of an object could be conceived of as giving it its role, perhaps in this case there is a focus on the awareness that no creature has a role suitable for satisfying the aloneness of the man.  The text could be understood as indicating that the man himself recognised this.

The Genesis account of the relationship between the man and other creatures is vaguely parallel with a Mesopotamian text.  In the Gilgamesh Epic, Enkidu keeps the company of animals but presumably this is so because he is half animal himself.  Later however he is seduced by a prostitute (Walton, p. 175).  Though the Genesis text might be judged to be a type of reflection of the Mesopotamian account it is an extremely pale reflection at the best.  One further point – the man in this part of the Genesis record is relative passive – certainly no words escape his lips.  It is Yahweh who is the active one – he knows it is not good for man to be alone and he initiates proceedings to deal with the issue.

Science and Genesis 2: 4b – 3: 24 (part XIX)

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 12:19 am

The command of Yahweh Elohim

The context in which the explicit commandment of Yahweh Elohim is couched is that man is free to eat from any tree of the garden. It adds clarity to what is entailed by the command.  The man is meant to understand what is allowed and what is not allowed.

The warning, associated with the command, amounting to a disastrous outcome for the man should he disobey, should provide adequate motivation, for obeying the command.  If he disobeys God then “on that day” (NIV “when”) he shall “surely die”. The Hebrew is literally, “dying he shall die”.  Using a verb in this way is an idiomatic device apparently designed to express the sense of certainty.  Other verbs are used in a similar manner, e.g. elsewhere in Genesis, in 32: 12, 46: 4, and 50: 24 and 25.  God’s warning indicates that the outcome following upon failure to obey is absolutely inevitable.

Unless God changed his mind, the sense is not that death would immediately be his experience, but that his death would one day, inevitably, come about.  Upon his being disobedient he is cast out of the garden so that he would have no further access to the tree of life (Gen 3: 22-24).  While we may speculate about ideas such as “spiritual death” and indeed that the man’s relationship with God was permanently damaged as a consequence of his disobedience, the situation that is being portrayed is that the man will inevitably die physically upon disobeying the command.  He will not be allowed to “live forever”.  Physical death will become a cold hard certainty.  Death will be imbedded in his very being.  Dying will be the man’s lot in the near future and that state will come to finality in his death.  His being disallowed access to the tree seals his fate.  He will age – grow old, (as we know old age, his functions will deteriorate)  and eventually he will die.

The man was especially blessed.  He had been made! He existed! But more to the point, he was a living being!  And his world was one of abundance and of enormous significance.  He was to serve the one and only Creator of all things.  He was given access to the tree of life – to have his life sustained.  Such a life could be ongoing.  He may take of the fruit of any tree – but one.  Was this tree there as a test of obedience?  It turned out that way.  Was its fruit always going to be forbidden?  Perhaps this is a silly question though we might explore it later.

March 28, 2011

Science and Genesis 2: 4b – 3: 24 (part XVIII)

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 9:07 pm

The trees of the garden

The tree of life is first mentioned in Gen 2: 9 and then again in Gen 3: 22 and 24.  The notion of a tree of life is found in Proverbs (3: 18, 11:30, 13:12 and 15:4) and the Genesis reference is again taken up in the New Testament in Revelation 2: 7 and 22: 2 and 14. The references in Proverbs relate to how people live, with wisdom, righteousness, the longing of a person being satisfied and using helpful words, forming the subject matter.  The references in Revelation seem to be more directly associated with the tree of life of Genesis.

The notion of food that would allow one to live “forever” is not an uncommon one in the literature of the ancient Near East (Walton, pp. 28, 29).  In the “Tale of Adapa”, Adapa, a priest of Ea, misses out on the opportunity to gain immortality because he obeys the instruction of Ea not to eat food available at the abode of the god of the heavens who has summoned him there. He is later informed that the food was the “food of life”.  In the Gilgamesh Epic, Gilgamesh searches for “eternal life” and is finally lead to a plant that will satisfy his desire. The plant grows at the bottom of the sea but it is eaten by a serpent before he can partake of it.  Behind both these accounts lies a “tree of life” idea.  However the relationship between the Genesis account and these accounts is not substantial.

It is clear from Gen 3: 22 and 24 that the fruit of the tree of life was able to sustain life.  God declares that man “must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take … from the tree of life and eat and live forever” (NIV). Walton, commenting on the word “forever” states that, “Careful study of the term … has demonstrated that it is not an abstract term suggesting infinity or eternity per se, but characterises something being open-ended with no anticipated ending built in.” (p. 170).  Furthermore, given that living in the garden would seem to involve eating of the fruit of the trees on a ongoing basis it would be odd if, with respect to the tree of life, one only ate once of its fruit.  That is, the idea seems to be that the man was expected to eat fruit from the tree of life from time to time and that the fruit would continue to sustain his life.  Walton suggests that it would counteract aging.  If this were the case, then one could reasonably postulate that the man (and later the woman) in the garden as quite young adults – to use a modern term, “adolescents” – perhaps adolescents approaching sexual maturity.  This notion will be taken up later.  What is not assumed by this writer is that one bite of the fruit ensured immortality.  That notion seems to be contrary to how the garden functioned.

What type of tree was the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”?  It is obvious that eating the fruit would result in the acquisition of some type of knowledge and Gen 3: 20 makes this clear – man having eaten of the fruit now knows “good and evil”.  Even the serpent informs the woman that upon eating it her eyes will be opened … knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3: 5) However what is meant by the term, “good and evil”?

References to “good” in conjunction with “evil” in the Old Testament are numerous.  They go together often as alternatives, with the idea of there being no other possibilities.  The precise Hebrew of Gen 2: 9, 17 and 3: 5, 22 is repeated in Deut 1: 39 while 2 Sam 14: 17 speaks of “the good and the evil” and 2 Sam 19: 35 and 1 Kings 3: 9 refer to distinguishing “between good and evil”.  Perhaps the Deuteronomy reference is quite pertinent since it relates to children who have no knowledge of “good and evil”.  Walton, by way of a summary, mentions the passage in Deuteronomy and writes that when “good” and “evil” are used with the verb “to speak”, it suggests that the speaker is passing judgment on an issue; with the verb “to hear” it refers to listening with discernment; with the verb “to know” or similar, together with prepositions it is a reference to the capability of discerning (p. 171).  On this basis, to state the obvious, “knowledge of good and evil” in Genesis 2 and 3 could be understood to entail knowledge that involved the awareness of  matters that otherwise would not have been noticed.  This seems to be the situation in Gen 3: 7 when both man and woman realised they were naked. It seems to this writer that “knowing good and evil” does not have as its prime reference knowledge of what is morally good or evil. 

We should note that the text indicates that the tree of life was in the middle of the garden and so too was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Their positioning and their proximity is not unimportant.

March 25, 2011

Science and Genesis 2: 4b – 3: 24 (part XVII)

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 10:56 pm

The man’s role in the garden

Understandably Walton contends that the object of the verbs, “work” and “take care of” is the garden.  However he points out that the Hebrew verbs behind these translations, Hebrew words of unusual morphology (a feminine suffix attached to a masculine noun), “are most frequently encountered in discussions of human service to God rather than descriptions of agricultural tasks.”   Furthermore he points out that when “work” is associated with service or worship, the object of “work” is an indirect object and is usually “what or whom is being worshipped.” One works for God.  The object is not a direct object like “garden”.  Additionally, he points out that the Hebrew for “take care of” “is used in the contexts of the Levitical responsibility of guarding sacred space, as well as for observing religious commands and responsibilities.” (pp. 172, 173).

In concluding his deliberations on understanding man’s role in the garden, Walton believes that “it is most likely that the tasks given to Adam are of a priestly nature – that is caring for sacred space.” (p. 173) and furthermore argues that in the ancient world one of the responsibilities of gods and men was to keep from deterioration and collapse the world that had originally been created as a world of order (p. 173).

Let’s put all these ideas together. Given the unusual morphology of the two words and the possibilities exhibited by their usage elsewhere, it is quite possible that writer intends that the role of man in the garden was both to tend the garden in an agricultural sense and also to serve God in so doing but with the understanding that this was a “sacred” place.  The idea might be that it needed to be kept in good order, preserving it from any deterioration, given that the world outside the garden was or could become, a “wild” place, a place, for example, of thorns and thistles (Gen 3: 17, 18), a place which typified disorder.  But additionally, recognising that this is God’s garden – he especially planted it, the man’s role in tending the garden was living within it in a way that treated it as a sacred place – in fact in a way that treated the God who owned the garden, appropriately, worshipping  him appropriately, obey him in all matters.  The subject of obedience is raised in the very next verse!

March 23, 2011

Science and Genesis 2: 4 – 3: 24 (part XVI)

Filed under: Genesis,Spirit — barrynewman @ 3:57 am

Genesis 2: 15 – 17 – the man in the garden, the trees and the commandment of God

“The Lord God (Yahweh Elohim) took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  And the Lord God (Yahweh Elohim) commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (NIV)

There is no need to think that writer/editor of the first half of chapter 2 of Genesis is confused, careless or unwilling to correct an anomaly when in v. 8 he refers to God placing the man in a garden and then states again that God placed the man in a garden in v . 15.  As McCabe (2006) argues, the writer simply returns to the matter he raised earlier, the “and” (Hebrew: waw) with which v. 15 begins being appropriately translated as “and”, rather than “then” (as in The New American Standard Bible), the “waw” being classified as a “resumptive waw”.  The text then reads, “And the Lord God …”.  In fact, it could be argued that having stated earlier that the Lord God placed the man in the garden, in v. 15 the writer is conveying for what purpose God had placed him there. 

But why insert vv. 9-14 – a description of rivers which seems to interrupt the flow of the account?  If the understanding of the relationship between the river, the garden and the four rivers, as favoured above, is correct (or even if the more traditional view is held to be correct) then it is understandable that before the writer tells of man’s role in the garden he decides to focus on just how special this garden is – the existence of the extraordinary trees and the blessed agricultural state of the garden (or in accordance with the traditional view, the prospective blessing of the garden for the world)..

March 20, 2011

Science and Genesis 2: 4 – 3: 24 (part XV)

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 9:50 pm

Genesis 2: 10-14 – the rivers (cont.)

What of the significance of this understanding, theologically?  The water of the garden coming from four rivers could be interpreted as an obvious indication of how blessed the garden is – that the focus of God’s blessing is the garden, not the world. The idea that the four rivers is seen to be an indication of God’s blessing to the world is a little strange since the world outside of the garden turns out, one way or another, not to be as pleasant as the world inside the garden.  It is also a little odd if the world is understood to be a reference to the peoples or nations of the world, when such have in no way yet been referred to in the account.

One cannot fail to be struck by the attempts of the writer/narrator to portray the four rivers as real rivers.  However, they seem to have little part to play in the overall account.  Why go to such attempts to identify the two “unknown” ones?  Even our identification of the Tigris seems to require a little help. To convince us of their reality and their actual locality the writer/narrator makes references to “gold”, bdellium”, “onyx”, “Havilah” and “Cush”. Could it be that the effort put into identifying these rivers and outlining the relationship between the one river, the four rivers and the garden is the writer’s/narrator’s attempt to state something significantly theological? If the association of the four rivers with the garden is intended to convey the idea that the garden is, at least in principle, the source of God’s blessing to the world, then that would be the theological point. But the broader context is one in which the garden is central, not the world.  And the garden is central if the four rivers flow into it. The garden is then seen to be the focus of God’s blessing and this understanding has considerable significance for what is about to unfold.  It is a wonderfully fruitful garden, a garden ready to receive first man and first woman. I think that Kidner’s proposal is not unlikely. Besides, geographically, it makes sense.

No monarch of the ancient world had a garden the size of God’s garden.  No monarch of the ancient world had a garden so liberally supplied with water as God’s garden did. No monarch of the ancient world had such extraordinary trees like those two special trees in God’s garden.  The existence of rulers in the ancient world does not warrant mentioning until much later in Genesis.  There really is only one great king and that king is God – Yahweh Elohim.  His people had to remember that and live with that knowledge constantly in mind.

March 18, 2011

Science and Genesis 2: 4 – 3: 24 (part XIV)

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 10:16 pm

Genesis 2: 10-14 – the rivers (c0nt.)

It would be interesting if we could identify the Pishon and Gihon rivers but to do so with any certainty at the moment is not possible.  What is interesting is that writer assumes that such a difficulty arises even for his readership.  Though their mention is intended as an aid, it is not certain what, “bdellium” or “onyx” really refers to and so as clues they are not all that helpful. He gives some other identifying features and it is possible that he is referring to river systems that are now dried up river beds.  Walton refers to an old river bed running North East through Saudi Arabia to the Persian Gulf, thought to have gone dry 3,500 to 2,000 BC which he thinks might be the Pishon River (p. 169). This identification, correct though it may be, strains our understanding of the geography being described.  Walton believes that in fact we are mistaken to conjure up a picture of the geography, and that what is being described is more in the nature of a symbolic cosmic description.  The great waterways of, what may have been understood as substantially, the world, are being portrayed as having their origin in the garden.  The overall picture then is one where God’s garden is watered by one great river, specially supplied by God, which after watering the garden then becomes a river system which waters the world.  The garden is then understood to be the source of blessing to the world.  This theological proposal is attractive and has a number of adherents.

Kidner, recognising that the Tigris, east of the Euphrates, is mentioned before the Euphrates, suggests that the naming of the four rivers should be understood as proceeding in the order from east to west (Kidner, D., Genesis, Tyndale Press, London, 1967, p. 64). For him this raises the possibility, among other things that “Cush” is to be identified as Kassite territory, east of the Tigris. Kidner believes that the relationship between the rivers and the garden in Eden could be understood in a way that is somewhat the reverse of that envisaged by Walton and others.  He suggests that rather than the text indicating that one river became four, the account might be describing four rivers that became one. On this understanding, the Tigris and Euphrates, together with two other substantial rivers flowed into the one region, the Persian Gulf, an ancient name for the Gulf, being the “bitter river”.  “The ‘four heads’ would then be the four mouths from which the respective rivers are traced here, explorer fashion, upstream.” He also appeals to P. Buringh who refers to the tidal flow of the gulf being very fitting for the  growth of vegetation and fruit trees, even in ancient times (p. 64).  This understanding would indicate that a much smaller region is being portrayed than is commonly assumed.  Geographically speaking, this proposal is more appealing than the one outlined above.  Eden is clearly to the East of Canaan. The complex river system of the Euphrates and the Tigris and tributaries, in the vicinity of the Gulf, could have been understood in ancient times as a system of four rivers. And the delta system that resulted (perhaps in ancient times somewhat more to the south east than now) could have been viewed as one vast “river”.  With this understanding, it is clear that the garden and the “river” are intimately connected.  We are not then dealing with a single river, having an independent existence that after some distance arrives at the garden.

March 16, 2011

Science and Genesis 2: 4 – 3: 24 (part XIII)

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 10:45 pm

Genesis 2: 10-14 – the rivers

“Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers.  The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.  The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and onyx stone are there.  The name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush.  The name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.” (New American Standard Bible).

As mentioned above, the gardens of the ancient Assyrian and Babylonian rulers were generally supplied with watercourses.  Understandably such gardens could only be sustained by water being made readily available. To ensure adequate water supplies, for example, a portion of a river could be diverted or canals could be created. Walton believes that the picture we have in Genesis 2 is that of “a mighty spring that gushes out from Eden and is channelled through the garden for irrigation purposes.” (p. 168).  Additionally he is persuaded that “In the same way … that a garden of a palace adjoins the palace, Eden is the source of the waters and the residence of God, and the garden adjoins God’s residence.” The idea that this garden is not only for man but also for God himself receives some support later in the account where there is a reference to God walking in the garden in the “cool of the day”.  (The Hebrew behind the last phrase may be understood differently.)  Walton also points out that “Temple complexes … sometimes featured gardens that symbolized the fertility provided for by the deity” (p. 167) and believes that the text of Genesis “describes a situation that was well known in the ancient world: a sacred spot featuring a spring with an adjoining well-watered park, stocked with specimens of trees and animals.” (p. 168)

What is the geographical relationship between the river, the four rivers, the garden and Eden?  Or, is asking a geographical question mistaken?  Commonly, the translations give the impression that there is a river in Eden that flows to the garden and after leaving the garden splits into four rivers, two of which we are familiar with.  Today these two rivers, having as their headwaters an area in eastern Turkey and travelling in a south easterly direction, join and then flow into the Persian Gulf.  If we are to look for a geographical picture, the unknown rivers should be understood as arising in a similar area. If we follow the sense of the usual translation, then Eden is to be placed somewhere in an area to the north east of the Canaanite territory.  That is, on this understanding, within Eden, a river flows to the garden and then divides into four rivers two of which we know flow towards the Persian Gulf.  There is at least one problem. Would the writer picture what is some distance away and somewhat to the north of Canaan as east?  Would he not perhaps describe it as north of the reference point if the reference point is Canaan?  Perhaps Canaan is not the reference point.

March 15, 2011

Science and Genesis 2: 4 – 3: 24 (part XII)

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 10:06 pm

Genesis 2: 8, 9 – the garden            

 “The Lord God (Yahweh Elohim) planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.  Out of the ground the Lord God (Yahweh Elohim) caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  (New American Standard Bible)

By way of explanation, the matter of the placing of man in the garden will be considered later when the account resumes at verse 15 making again that statement.

Where and what is “Eden”?  We know it is east of some point of reference that the author adopts.  It was suggested earlier that perhaps the reference point is Canaan or thereabouts, given the mention of the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers and their being east of Canaan.

There is a reference to the “Eden” of Genesis 2: 8, 9 twice more in Genesis 2, two times again in Genesis 3, a further time in Genesis 4 and another ten or so times in the rest of the Old Testament – featuring seven times in Ezekiel.  Outside of Genesis 2 and 3 it is mentioned in association with the garden, or the trees of the garden, seven times.  Although Eden appears to be a locality of greater area than the garden, the locality itself may have been considered luxurious, just as the garden was.  Genesis 2: 8 refers to “the garden in Eden”, but the phrase, “the garden of Eden” appears in Genesis 2: 15, 3: 23 and 24 and Ezekiel 36: 35.  Ezekiel 31: 16, 18 (2x) refers to simply the trees of Eden though earlier in that chapter Ezekiel had referred to “the trees of Eden that were in the garden”.  The difference between “of” and “in” may not be significant.

One of the striking references to the garden of Eden outside of Genesis is the last text mentioned – Ezekiel 31: 9 where the reference is to “all the trees of Eden that were in the garden of God (Elohim)”.  That is, among other things, the text is indicating that it is God’s garden.  And Gen 2: 8 states that  Yahweh Elohim planted it.  If God were like an earthly monarch he would not have planted it himself.  He would have had others do that for him but in Genesis it is clear that it is God himself who plants it.  It is his both by virtue of his own activity and by right of ownership.

What sort of a garden was it?  It had beautiful trees and trees that were good for food and of course two extraordinary trees. Only God could create such a collection of trees.   As the account unfolds there is a suggestion that a great variety of animals roam the grounds of the garden.  This is not a garden as we tend to envisage a garden. This is a garden that is very reminiscent (except for the two extraordinary trees) of the great gardens that great rulers of the ancient world had created for themselves.  Walton (pp. 166, 167) refers to a work by Gleason which gives details of such gardens, mentioning rulers such as the Assyrians Tiglath-pileser I, Ashurnasirpal II and Sennacherib and the Babylonian ruler Merodach-Baladan II. Their gardens “were planted with fruit trees and shade trees and generally contained watercourses, pools and paths. Their arboretums contained many exotic trees and plants and sometimes included animals.” (Walton, p. 166)  Understandably they could be enclosed by walls or other types of enclosures.

However, that God planted the garden and that it contained the two extraordinary trees sets the Garden of Eden quite apart from the special gardens of these monarchs.  It is reminiscent of these gardens but different. We will look at these extraordinary trees later.

March 14, 2011

Science and Genesis 2: 4 – 3: 24 (part XI)

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 5:40 am

Genesis 2: 5-7 – Setting the Scene (cont)

Modern science and Genesis 2: 5-7

Is there not a conflict between what a modern scientific understanding might be of the origins of mankind and of rain and when these first appeared and the account given in these few verses? The answer is surely, “Yes”.  Is that a problem?  I propose that the answer is surely, “No”.  If the writer has “made up” this account, albeit with a true account of the theological issues involved, one would not expect it necessarily to conform to some modern understandings. It is an ancient work set in ancient times and quite possibly created in part to deal with false pagan beliefs that formed the backdrop to living in that ancient world.  It would do this anyway, particularly as the rest of the account unfolds, simply because its concern is to teach the truth about God and us, where humanity has always in its own deliberations got it wrong.  Does it really matter in God’s great scheme of things how, from a scientific point of view, mankind came to be or how and when rain began to fall?  Surely not.  What really matters is having a correct understanding of the truth about God and man, man whom God has placed in this world.

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