Barry Newman's Blog

November 9, 2010

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

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 11:35 pm

Genesis 1: 24-31 – Day 6 (continued)

Walton claims that “in the ancient world, an image was believed in some ways to carry the essence of what it represented” though an image of a deity could not do what the deity could do. The deity accomplished his work through the image.  Walton quotes from the Egyptian, “The Instruction of Merikare” (a Pharaoh) in which reference is made to the deity making mankind as his images who came from his body, to whom he gave breath and for whom he made plants and cattle and claims that, “Generally Egyptian usage refers to the king as being in the image of deity, not as a physical likeness but related to power and prerogative.”  In Mesopotamia, apart from reference to kings setting up images of themselves in places where they wished to assert their authority, it is gods who are made in the image of other gods.  Walton appeals to Genesis 5: 1-3 where the image of God in Adam is likened to the image of Adam in Seth.  That is, there is some likeness between God and Adam on the one hand, as there is some likeness between Adam and Seth on the other hand, though having the likeness does not mean being the same.   In an attempt to take into account ancient Near Eastern thought and Biblical evidence, Walton defines the term, “the image”, as generally used, to be, “a physical manifestation of divine (or royal) essence that bears the function of that which it represents; this gives the image-bearer the capacity to reflect the attributes of the one represented and act on his behalf.” 

The idea of man representing God and acting on his behalf is probably reflected in the role given to man in 1: 26 where he is to “rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all roaming herds”.  As God is the one who rules over all, so he gives to mankind that kind of function.  Mankind is to rule as well, though in quite a diminished way.  His rule is probably to be conceived of as his being able to assert control.  Note, he is not explicitly given the role of ruling over the wild animals probably because they are wild and beyond his control.

Finally, with reference to the notion, “man being created in the image of God”, the writer states, “in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them”.  Some, holding to the idea that the plurals “us” and “our” refer to multiple persons within the trinity, believe that the reference to male and female is a reflection of this multiplicity of persons and so part of the characteristic of being made in God’s image. Indeed it can be argued that it is only as male and female together that mankind is in God’s image.  One of the difficulties with this position is that whereas the trinity refers to three persons, male and female refers to only two types of person. It could be argued however that only two persons of the trinity are being referred to – God and his Spirit (see 1: 2).  As argued earlier, the reference to “ruach” in 1: 2 is either a reference to the “wind” of God or his Spirit or both.  However throughout Days 1 to 6, no reference is made to the work of the Spirit unless one infers, in a circuitous way, that references to the Spirit of God are implied whenever it is said of God that he spoke – using breath (spirit) as it were in order to speak.  Another difficulty is that, although it is only of mankind that there is a reference to male and femaleness, the early reader/hearer would be well aware, that there was just as distinctive a type of maleness and femaleness in at least larger animals.  This raises the issue of why “male’ and “female” is mentioned specifically in relation to mankind but not the animal world.  Certainly “male” and “female” is going to feature largely in chapters 2 and 3 that follow.  However, independently of that, the very statement that man (not animals) is created in God’s image together with the recognition that mankind is both male and female, each very different from the other, probably necessitates the clear statement that each is in the image of God.  One is not allowed to claim that either one or the other has some greater prominence with respect to this characteristic.

As with the water dwellers and the birds, mankind is blessed. The blessing is similar and is in terms of their being fruitful, multiplying and filling.  All living creatures are special.   Mankind is also given a specific function, probably to be thought of as part of the blessing.   He is to subdue the earth, bringing it under his domain.  This subduing of the earth is probably then being specifically spoken of as a ruling over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the livestock and over all the roaming herds.  The absence of a reference to the various categories of animals being blessed is not to be taken as a reference to their being inferior to the water dwellers and birds.  Similarly mankind’s rule not referring to his rule over the livestock is not to be taken that he does not have control over them.  They are domesticated animals.  Of course he has control over them.  The writer does not have to cover every possibility.

Finally God decrees what he provides for birds, animals and mankind in order for them to survive.  The two types of plant life described in Day 3, is, without restriction, for mankind for food.  Green plants, a term probably differentiation them from the vegetation to be eaten by man, is for every wild animal of the earth, for all the birds of the air, and for all roaming herds for food.  Again it is probably of little importance that the writer fails to mention domesticated animals, although the inference might be that domesticated animals are cared for in their own way by mankind.  It is noteworthy that these three categories are finally referred to as, fundamentally living creatures (NIV: that which has the breath of life).  Plants are not living beings, animals and birds are.  The picture we are left with is that of living creatures that feed off the “non-living” plant world alone and not off other living creatures. It is a vegetarian existence for all. 

So God completes the creation of the world.  However, it is a world fundamentally set up for mankind and mankind is “the cream on God’s creation cake”.  He is the one and only creature created in God’s image.  God alone determines the character of the world including the makeup of mankind.  Mankind does not determine what God is like or what he does.   Furthermore he does not have to placate God in order to receive God’s blessing.  God makes mankind in his own image and provides a world for his blessed existence, all according to his own free determination.  This is not the world view of the surrounding cultures.  This however is the state of things that the one and only God, the God who revealed himself to Israel, decided upon.

God spoke twice and it was so.  In the first instance, God saw that it was good.  In the second instance, in a type of summary, even though it is written within the matters of Day 6, God saw that all that he had made was very good.

And there was evening and there was morning – the sixth day.

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