Barry Newman's Blog

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.

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