Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Genesis 1

as i begin my genesis study, i realize that different translations evoke different images of how the greatest public works project in history played out. i started with my niv, with which i am most familiar. then, i moved to what i thought would paint the most beautiful portrait of the process, peterson's "message." interestingly, that was not the case. instead, i found the greatest beauty in a version with which i had very little experience, "The Literal Translation of the Holy Bible" (LITV). my hunch is that this is pretty much a word for word translation from the original with little concern for literary devices or readability. regardless, it was the first time i had ever read genesis 1 as poetry. in this translation, the creative work of God should be sung, not read. i actually found myself sort of swaying as i read it...and i am not the dancing type, folks.

i would think entire academic careers could be spent on these 28 verses. i spent about 3 days on them. neverless at this moment in my life, a few elements jumped of the page at me:

1. the centrality, completeness, and goodness of God. i mean, every line begins with God. his actions and words are the only things that matter. every single element of creation and life is a consequence of his providence. once in my life i was taught to "share my faith," beginning with the idea that God has a wonderful plan for my life but i screwed it all up. i think that is a pretty individualistic, westernized starting point. how about: nothing was until God made it...nothing. and without his continued sustenance, nothing could remain...nothing. and EVERYTHING he created he called good.

2. i also love the imagery of the phrase, "teeming with life," used to describe the earth (specifically the seas) after God began his artistry. he is pro-life indeed. i smiled as i read (in older translations) about "creeping things that creepeth," and waters "swarm(ing) with swarms of living souls." i mean, seriously, how cool is that?

3. "So that we see it is the only the power of God’s word that makes the earth fruitful, which naturally is barren." (1599 Geneva Study Bible)
this scholar is commenting on God's decision to bring about the green plants. thankfully, he avoids commenting on the disturbing idea that God's intent was for man and beast to be vegetarian. i explain that away by running my tongue over my incisors a few times, which usually does the trick. i also picked up on a weird little debate here, as some believe that the first plants grew from natural processes, while others hold that they could only have emerged from the soil as the result of a divine and miraculous act. i think "miracle" is defined as something which defies that laws of nature, and since God was still writing nature's constitution at this point, i think i'll take a pass on entering into this one.

but what about the 6-days versus 6-time periods and dirt versus evolution? i have no clue. i really don't care too much anymore. i can rest in the peace that i know God made all that is, including me, and that although we've made a big mess of much of it, it is still his and still wonderful. and, as hard as it is for me to accept much of the time, i, as his creation, must be wonderful too. boy, i had trouble even pressing those keys. but think about it, if our story is one of redemption in Christ, then doesn't make sense that we deeply understand and embrace the inherent goodness in all things touched by the Creator?

God made it all, and when he was finished he looked and saw that it was good.


AJK said...

You might be interested in looking at Meredith Kline's interpretation of the 6 day issue (though I'm not sure of the exact work in which he discusses it--I only know of it second hand). My understanding is that Kline doesn't think that chronlogical issues are at all in view in Genesis 1. Rather, the structure of the passage is that on the first three days, God creates the framework and on the last three, he fills it. The upshot is just an echo of the point that you and Jared have already made, namely, that Genesis 1 is really about the creative majesty and goodness of God and the goodness and beauty of what he has made.

Jared said...

A thought and a question:

The idea of goodness stuck me today. I have said to you before that if heaven is simply everything we know now, but without sin, it will be far more glorious than I can imagine. Hearing God pronounce this world good over and over again made me realize the simple fact that evil is an aberration. That our world was created to be, initially was, and finally will be good.

I'm not quite sure what to do with this understanding. My impulse is to hide in some corner until the evil passes. I often have trouble enjoying the goodness in the face of overwhelming evil (it seems cheap, or at least blind, to me). The other day I read the play "The Duchess of Malfi" and found myself resonating with the Duchess' lines "I account this world a tedious theatre, For I do play a part in't 'gainst my will." This clearly doesn’t fit with what we read in Genesis one, but how does one live joyfully in a world of pain without increasing or denying that pain?

The question is, what significance to you make of all the naming that happens in chapters one and two? God is always creating something and then calling it something. Later he passes this duty to Adam in naming the animals. I don't know if it has meaning in having the authority to give something its identity, or conveys a sense of ownership, but it is explicit and repeated.

Anyway, thanks for writing about your studies. It's nice to hear more than my own voice echoing in my head.