Barry Newman's Blog

November 7, 2010

Science and Genesis 1: 1 – 2: 3 (part X)

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 10:03 pm

Genesis 1: 24-31 – Day 6

On Day 6 God acts, he speaks, twice just as on Day 3.   On Day 3, In God’s first act, the waters were drawn together in one place and the dry land appeared.  In his second act on that day vegetation was brought into existence.  Now on Day 6, in his first act God makes animals of various kinds.  In his second act he makes mankind.  These animals and mankind live on the land, and the vegetation of the land is for both animals and mankind to eat.  The “structure” of Day 3 is utilised by the “substance” of Day 6 and what was originally empty is now full.

The animals are described as “living creatures” and although the living creatures of Day 5 are “created”, the animals are simply “made”.  However, like the water dwellers and the birds of Day 5 they are clearly “living” and so fundamentally to be distinguished from the plants of Day 3 which are not so described. The use of “create” in Day 5 may herald the idea that the animals and mankind of Day 6 are also created (with mankind specifically being referred to as being created in 1: 27).

That the land produces the animals may indicate that they originate from the land but Walton believes that the word “produce” is basically functional in purpose rather than reflective of a biological process (Genesis, p. 127) – the animals live on the land.  The animals are of three fundamental types.  The NIV describes them as, “livestock”, “creatures that move along the ground”, and “wild animals”.  Walton understands the second group to be “wild herd animals that often serve as prey” (p. 127), and hereafter they will be referred to as “roaming herds”.

The animals are made each according to its kind.  They will reproduce. They will be ongoing.  They will be characterised by a type of “permanence”.  Seely in “The Meaning of Min, ‘Kind’”, with respect to what he refers to as “mammals” argues that “(except in the case of very small or nocturnal animals), min may have reference at times to genera, but usually it is to species”.

On Day 6 considerable focus is given to mankind – his creation, his importance, his nature, his function and his sustenance.  He is created in “the image of God”.  He is also said to be made in “our image” a term within the clause, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” 

Walton refers to three different types of explanation for the use of the plurals, “us” and “our” (Genesis, p. 128-130) – theological, grammatical and cultural.  He argues that a theological explanation which appeals to notions such as persons of the trinity, falters in that not only would the original hearers/readers not have had such an understanding (see also below) but nowhere in the N.T. is there any claim that the text must be understood in that way. The grammatical explanation, which appeals to something like the use of a royal plural or a rhetorical convention, is dismissed on the grounds that there is no clear evidence elsewhere in Hebrew that such plurals are used in that way.  A cultural explanation which rests on the notion that the plurals are a vestige of polytheistic belief is also dismissed partly on the grounds that it is difficult to believe that any writer/editor would have allowed such a vestige to remain in such a monotheistic document. 

Walton argues for a cultural perspective in which God is portrayed as having a heavenly court.  While recognising that such an idea was current as part of an ancient world view, Walton bases his argument mainly on perspectives to be found within the O.T. itself. In support of his claim he refers to 1 Kings 22: 19-22, Isaiah 14: 13 and Job 1.  Whereas in the ancient Near East, the divine assembly was made up of greater gods, the heavenly court of God consisted of “angels, or more specifically, the ‘sons of God’”.  Our understanding of God as portrayed throughout the O.T. would mean that unlike in the surrounding cultures where the assembly as a body made decisions, in God’s court, God alone makes the decision.

The reference to the heavenly court could serve at least two functions.  First of all it could indicate to the reader the immense importance of man, the creature yet to be made.  God allows the beings of the heavenly assembly to be privy to his intentions.  To show the reader/listener how much importance is to be attached to this particular creative act he portrays God as musing upon it but openly, and he can do this very satisfactorily, if other beings are allowed to witness and be caught up in his reflections. 

Secondly, perhaps our understanding of what is meant by, “in the image of God” is meant to be partly assisted by the reference to, “in our image, according to our likeness”.  Although Walton in his discussion of “the image of God” (Genesis, pp. 130,131) does not think it necessary to understand that angels have also been created in the image of God, it could be that they are. However this would not mean that we are obliged to consider that the image of God amounts to the same thing for both angels and men.  Much has been written about what could be meant by “the image of God” but being in his image could at least contain the notion of the possibility  of a two way “personal” relationship between God and angels on the one hand and God and men on the other.   If members of the heavenly court are considered to have such a relationship, so could those made in the image of both them and God.  Perhaps the additional phrase, “according to our likeness”, a phrase not repeated in 1: 27, where the reference is solely to God himself, puts some emphasis on a similarity between angels and men.

(To be continued)

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