As I said in my last entry (Pt. 19) this post will complete my review of Peter Enn’s examination of the Book of Genesis.
This chapter has two more sections: “Creation and Sanctuary” and “The Gospel and Primordial Time.”
In the first part, Enns presents an argument regarding the cosmos as a temple that is similar to the one presented by John H. Walton in The Lost World of Genesis One. While Enns’ view is not one and the same, I think it is sufficient to say that readers of this blog likely know this argument well enough that I don’t have to rehash it here. If you are interested in how Enns develops this idea (he does have some insights not shared by Walton) then I recommend reading his book! I will share one summary section though:
“When we read Genesis 1, therefore, we are not to think simply of a description of cosmic events. The creation story was written with Israel’s temple and the Sabbath rhythm in mind. The seven-day pattern of creation in Genesis 1 is not the source of the rhythm of Israel’s liturgical week. Rather, as with Adam, Israel’s seven-day pattern is brought into primordial time (Kindle Locations 1868-1870).”
Enns continues to show how everything from creation, to the flood, and other aspects of Genesis 1-11 echo stories of the surrounding cultures. He argues that Israel morphed their stories to provide “self-definition.” This is why the stories are similar sharing a worldview while unique as Israel tells themselves how they are different from the other nations.
In the second part Enns shares his view of how the Book of Revelation uses creation imagery to show that the same God who tamed the chaos in primordial time is doing it again through Christ. He discusses Revelation 21-22. In conclusion,
“One might say that God’s goal all along has been to bring humanity and all of creation back to the paradisiacal state of Genesis. That which was lost is now regained through Christ’s resurrection, God’s final act of chaos-taming, where, through the overcoming of sin, the ultimate and universal enemy, death, is actually (not symbolically) brought to its knees (Kindle Locations 1900-1903).”
Also, he addresses how John writes about Jesus being the Word arguing that in Jesus, ”
“Primordial time meets present time in as full an expression as possible, the ultimate instantiation: the incarnation of God. Jesus is the Word, who was with God at the very beginning, through whom all things were made (Kindle Locations 1906-1907).”
He connects the sanctuary/temple theme of Genesis with the same theme in John 1.14 discussing what this says about Jesus. What value does Enns find for their primordial narratives as regards Christian thought?
“In the Old Testament, Israel transforms the traditions common to the ancient Near East into vehicles for expressing who their God is and who they are as a people bound to him. Likewise, the New Testament transforms Israel’s own traditions to address the climactic turn of events in the gospel. How Israel articulates the intersection of primordial time and history is no longer adequate. Israel’s self-definition is not abandoned, but it is transformed to account for the climactic act of God. In the resurrection of the Son of God, the people of God now see more deeply what the Israelites have expressed in their own way. Some of their articulations remain as vibrant as ever, while others are exposed as mere shadows, awaiting the clearer word that is in Jesus (Heb. 1:1–4; 8:5–6) (Kindle Locations 1919-1925).”
And this is meaningful for the present:
“It remains for Christians today to continue thinking through this unavoidable issue of continuity and discontinuity between Israel’s Scripture and the gospel, which in some respects is the very stuff of Christian biblical theology. A proper Christian understanding of the creation narratives will follow the lead of the New Testament writers in seeing the gospel as the culmination of the ancient message. Christians should not search through the creation stories for scientific information they believe it is important to see there. They should read it, as the New Testament writers did, as ancient stories transformed in Christ (Kindle Locations 1925-1930).”
Enns turns to evaluate the thought of Paul next.
You sir, are a machine!
Brian said “Enns presents an argument regarding the cosmos as a temple …”
This is an interesting idea that needs to be explored further (generally).
Karl Barth’s ‘dialectic theology’ and influence, has lead to a resurgence in criticism against ‘natural theology’. Essentially this means that our long held view of God’s self-revelation is being drastically altered.
Natural theology said that human reason and experience were vehicles by which God made himself known to man. This seems biblical enough [Gen 1:31][Psa 19:1], and creation itself is marred by man’s sin [Rom 8:22]. It also seems to be an altruism; a diligent engineer will produce something good, a sloppy engineering something not-good. Given that God is a person, it’s hard to see how reason and experience does not reveal God.
Barth’s problem with it was that protestant liberalism took it to the extreme, and so Barth counter-balanced it with a theology of the transcendence of God saying that human reason and experience were too corrupt for either reason or experience to reveal anything of God. But this too is extreme (and likely a reflection of Calvinist influence more than biblical), and throws the baby out with the bath water.
If human reason and experience are too corrupt to see God in his handwork (the cosmos), they are also too corrupt to see him in theological representations. Is not a personal relationship, experience? Christ being all-God and all-man is a manifestation in creation. It was by personal experience the first witnesses experience Christ, and it is their testimonies that we grapple with (using reason and experience) to also have a personal relationship with Christ. Barth’s transcendence seems to be self defeating.
The cosmos as a temple is a more general form of God’s people as a temple – and that idea is most certainly found in the bible, though perhaps not as early as Genesis. Ezekiel’s Tabernacle [37:27] who will be with them is the Holy Spirit so the Tabernacle of the Lord is manifest in his people (which is what Pentecost was all about). (Likewise the Tabernacle in [Amos 9:11] is not talking about the Temple, but about Christ and the Kingdom that would reflect Christlikeness).
I agree with Barth that Protestant liberalism (of the 19th Century) likely misconstrued the role human experience and reason play in God’s revelation, but his response to this is no better. For Enns and Walton to pick on this theme then, is hopeful.
By the way, it seems Enns missed the most obvious Eden/Israel metaphor, or perhaps due to economy of words, you’ve not touched upon it, but it is this:
As creator, God ‘owns everything, yet He gave over everything to the dominion of man [Gen 1:26,28; 2:19-20] save for one tree, the tree of the knowledge of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ [Gen 2:17], or two depending on if you count the ‘Tree of Life’ [Gen 3:22]. So God’s character was to give man dominion over everything save for one (or two) tree(s) in the entirety of creation, simply to establish a boundary so man knew God was to be obeyed, and so he’d know that what he exercised dominion over really all belonged to God. (God could have done it the other way around, denying man dominion over everything save for one thing, but He didn’t).
Likewise, because the Satan tempted Adam and Eve in the garden, God allowed all of the nations of the earth to be delivered over to the Satan; claims Satan, speaking of all of the ‘kingdoms of the world’ – saying “All this power will I give you, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.”
God may have given all of the kingdoms of the earth, and their glory, over to the Satan, but we know God reserved for Himself one (or two depending if you count Judah and Israel separately). So the devil was exaggerating and lying. ‘For the LORD’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance’ [Deut 32:9], also [Joel 3:2][Psa 147:20] (from [Gen 22:18])
So if there is a connection between Genesis and Israel, would it not be that God hedged his trees just as God hedged Israel, giving over all dominion to man save for one, just as giving dominion of all nations over to Satan save for one: look at the symbolism of verses such as:
“And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down” [Isa 5:5]
“Sing, O all of you heavens; for the LORD has done it: shout, all of you lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, all of you mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.” [Isa 44:23]
“Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel; Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good. ” [Jer 24:5]
“Your mother is like a vine in your blood, planted by the waters: she was fruitful and full of branches by reason of many waters.” [Eze 19:10] (said to the princes of Israel)
“I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the first-fruits in the fig tree at her first time ..” [Hos 9:10]
(and others [Joel 1:7][Nah 2:2])
‘Jesus said, I am the vine, all of you are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me all of you can do nothing.’ [John 15:5]
Doesn’t it seem the trees not given over to man in Eden represent the nations not given over to Satan in the world?
I agree with your assessment of Barth (though I am no Barth scholar, so I don’t claim to know a lot about him). It does seem to have been a pendulum swing that provided a necessary self-corrective, but I fear that it can quickly boarder on gnosticism where only some know truth that is directly downloaded into their minds while the rest of the world lives as irrational zombies. I don’t deny that to know God we must be led by the Spirit, but as you noted, God’s creation does call to us and I think it has a valuable role.
There seems to be a lot of camel-swallowing and gnat-choking going on in these discussions about Genesis. We can develop a grand Protestant theology of Genesis if we want, but it must be remembered this is our construction and not necessarily that of the priestly writer — and certainly not that of the Yahwist, whose story sounds much more like the myth of Prometheus to me and really casts the serpent as the good guy rather than God.
Paul D.. said “..sounds much more like the myth of Prometheus to me and really casts the serpent as the good guy rather than God.”
I’m personally not seeing that aspect to it (and I don’t believe I’ve missed something).
Genesis, historically, is older than the Promethean myth, and it IS the serpent being cursed, God doing the cursing.
Factually (meaning based upon a historical relationship between the myths), we should be seeing Genesis in the Promethean myth, more than the other way round.
The serpent is clearly NOT the hero in the story – that is, unless one purposefully admires the anti-hero (by choice) … in which case it is an intentional presupposition antithetical to the author’s intent.
Why Andrew can’t you see it, Prometheus is the serpent. It’s just like Adam is Israel. All you have to do is look at the similarities and ignore the differences. Prometheus gives humans fire from the gods. The serpent gets the humans to eat the fruit that will give them knowledge. In both cases the humans are more independent of the gods or God. As a result Zeus sends Pandora’s box and God also sends woes to the humans. Prometheus gets chained to a rock and has his liver eaten. The serpent looses his legs and has to eat dust. The important thing to remember is to look at where the stories are the same and overlook the differences. You can find all kinds of fun stuff in the OT this way. Adam can be anybody you want him to be, you can find temples all over the place, there just no end to the fun you can have.
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