Barry Newman's Blog

February 28, 2011

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

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 4:15 am

Genesis 2: 4 – These are the generations of the heavens and the earth … (cont)

The reference to the “Lord God”

Indeed another very noteworthy “oddity” that is found in 2: 4ff is the repeated reference to God as the “Lord God” (strictly: “Yahweh Elohim”).  These “heavens and earth” were created – “the earth and the heavens” were made by Yahweh Elohim.  Without at all subscribing to a source theory that strictly assigns various sections of Genesis and following to discreet authors the reference to “Yahweh Elohim”, some 20 times in chapters 2 and 3, without any prior reference being made, is striking.  Its use seems to bring the personhood of God, together with his majesty to the fore in the events of these chapters, as well as perhaps suggesting some different source material used by the author.  Whatever we make of this extraordinary feature, we cannot escape the very personal encounters between God and mankind as described in 2: 4 – 3: 24.

The word “day” in 2: 4

Finally, what should be understood by the use of the word, “day” (Hebrew: yom) in the phrase, “in the day that Yahweh Elohim made the earth and the heavens?”  One could maintain that here is a reference to God having created the world in one day.  However given that this meaning would create a stark contrast between the six day account of creation and what follows one could argue that here “day” is more likely to have the meaning of  something like “occasion”.  Alternatively if what follows comes from a different source then the editor might have been content to leave it as it is even if a 24 hour day was intended.  I think the first alternative is more likely but who could be sure?


February 25, 2011

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

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 10:46 pm

Genesis 2: 4 – These are the generations of the heavens and the earth … (c0nt)

The coverage of the “toledoth” of 2: 4

McCabe [in “A Critique of the Framework Interpretation of the Creation Account (Part 2 of 2)” in the Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, 11, 2006, 63-133][1], pointing to the existence of a chiastic structure in verse 4: “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens”  suggests that verse 4 is a heading which introduces what follows.  The argument is that “heavens and earth”, having changed to “earth and heavens”, focuses attention on the earth (Hebrew: eretz), that is the unfolding account of first man and first woman on the earth, noting also that the “earth” (eretz) is mentioned three times in the next two verses. This is an appealing argument. However one can appreciate an alternative argument that queries how the toledoth of 2: 4 can be termed a development of “the heavens and the earth” – strictly, the toledoth is attached to that phrase, not the inverted one. What follows in subsequent verses does relate to some aspects of creation – but in a far more limited way than the prior creation account.  These considerations might suggest that the toledoth of 2: 4 is a reference to what has occurred before, although this would seem to leave 2: 5 – 4: 26 without a toledoth

It is noteworthy that no toledoth introduces the creation account. Perhaps it would detract from the majesty of that account.  Besides it has its own introduction.  Recognising this absence from the creation account, and acknowledging the unusual character of the toledoth of 2: 4 – that unlike the others it does not relate to a person, while further acknowledging that it is the first toledoth encountered in the document, a third alternative suggests itself. It could be that the toledoth of 2: 4 refers back to the creation account as well as forward to what is encountered in 2: 5 ff.  The toledoth has a reference to one matter – the heavens and the earth – mentioned twice previously but also, through the chiastic structure, to a second matter – the earth and the heavens – with perhaps the emphasis on the earth, the earth being mentioned three times in the following two verses.  The phrase “earth and heavens” may have been understood as a neat turn of phrase taking its literary cue, as it were, from the phrase to which the toledoth is primarily associated – “heavens and the earth”.   The reference to the earth and the heavens being made might not only bring a focus to bear upon the earth but also upon certain entities on the earth being made – that is, first man and woman, animals and birds, and the garden being planted. In a future blog I will try to develop something akin to this notion.

An implication of the use of the “toledoth”

One last thing before leaving the toledoth discussion – with apologies for its length, is that its numerous, “interesting features” might better be understood as “oddities”.  Recognising that one of these oddities is the reference to “the book of the toledoth”, perhaps an indication of an external written source used by the author, and taking account of all the other “oddities”, the toledoth “introductions” might indicate that a number of sources have been used with the author not being prepared to smooth out the “oddities” as he combined the material to form the whole.

[1] McCabe in this article and in its companion article [(Part1 of 2) found in the Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, 2005, 19-67] argues against those who hold to a non temporal sequential and topical account of Days 1 to 7 of the creation account.  He argues that each Day is meant to be taken literally and corresponds to an ordinary 24 hour day – a view shared by this writer.  However, while there is much in his articles with which this writer agrees, McCabe has an entirely different understanding of the nature of Scripture, the potential relevance of the beliefs of surrounding cultures for understanding the creation account and the role that modern science can play in assisting our understanding of certain features of our universe.

February 23, 2011

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

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 12:47 am

Genesis 2: 4 – These are the generations of the heavens and the earth …

Verse 4 of chapter 2 is where we begin.  And it is not easy to discern what is being said here.  To what does the word, “these” refer and what is meant by “the generations of” (Hebrew: toledoth)?  Toledoth occurs 11 times in Genesis and there has been considerable debate about whether, when it occurs, a reference is being made to what has been written before or afterwards.  In what follows some in depth discussion will centre on the significance of “toledoth”.  This is because such discussion is considered potentially helpful in understanding the verses that follow and also suggestive of how Genesis might have been written.

The occurrences of “toledoth”

Apart from its occurrence in 2: 4 all instances in Genesis refer to a man’s name and seem to be associated with developments that follow on from that person.  Indeed Walton in Genesis, (The NIV Application Commentary Series, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2001; the commentary referred to in this blog series as Walton) suggests that it refers to, “developments that arise out of” (p. 40).  There are however some interesting features to its usage in Genesis. Sometimes what follows either immediately or soon afterwards is mainly genealogical but on other occasions what follows is mainly narrative.  In 5: 1 there is a reference to the “book of the toledoth”.  There are two references to the toledoth of Esau (36: 1, 9).  There is a reference to the toledoth of Shem, Ham and Japheth (10:1) but what follows is limited to Ham and Japheth.  Shem’s toledoth actually occurs in 11: 10 ff.  Though there are references to the toledoth of Ishmael (25: 12), Isaac (25: 19) and Jacob (37: 2) as well as Esau, as already noted, there is no toledoth of Abraham.  Instead there is a toledoth of Terah (11: 27), Abraham’s father.  There is a toledoth of Noah (6: 9) but not of Abraham!

The coverage of a “toledoth”

Walton sees the coverage of each toledoth as extending to the next toledoth (or to the end of Genesis in the case of the toledoth of 37: 2) (Walton, p. 40).  For example, the toledoth of Terah is considered to cover the text from 11: 27 to 25: 11 – material mainly associated with Abraham. What then is the toledoth of 2: 4 intended to cover? According to Walton its coverage would take us from 2: 4 to 4: 26 and extend beyond the Garden of Eden account to material associated with Cain and Abel.  This makes some sense since 5: 1 which refers to the toledoth of Adam, is followed by Seth and his descendants without any reference to Cain and Abel.  Walton further suggests that the use of toledoth in association with the heavens and the earth may have a polemical purpose created through irony.  Given that toledoth often introduces a genealogical account and recognising that the cosmologies of surrounding cultures often refer to the gods producing other gods, the writer may be saying that to the contrary, the heavens and the earth bring forth “the provision of God for the people he created and the plan of God in history” (Walton, p. 163). However what is still noteworthy is that unlike the toledoth of all other occurrences, the toledoth of 2: 4 does not refer to a person’s name; rather it refers to “the heavens and the earth”. This identical phrase occurs in 2: 1 and an almost identical phrase in 1: 1.  One can understand why there has been a debate about whether a toledoth refers to what comes before or after.

February 20, 2011

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

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 6:35 am

                                                                                                                                  Science and Genesis 2: 4 – 3: 24


An account of the first man and the first woman and their relationship with God constitutes the bulk of the second and third chapters of the book of Genesis. What are we to make of this account? What can be learnt from it? What does it look like from a modern scientific perspective?

The first man was made from the soil.  The first woman was made from the first man.  Animals and birds were also made from the soil.  There was an extraordinary garden with two extraordinary trees. There was a “snake” who could talk.  God had an extended conversation with both the man and the woman.  Once having left the garden, entrance back into the garden was blocked by a “flaming sword”.  What is going on here?

Whatever we think could or did happen in our world, we need to try and determine what the text is saying without forcing its meaning to conform to some modern understanding of our world.  The text should be able to stand in its own right whatever our views about the origins of mankind.  If we perceive areas of conflict we will then have to face that issue.

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