26 September 2009

Land of the Lost, part 4

On to propositions 5–6 and the six days of creation…
Proposition 5: Days 1–3 establish functions
Day 1: “light” (not a material thing) is not “day”; so what gives in v. 5? The obvious: the “light” spoken of is a “period of light,” i.e., “day”. Thus “light” is a metonymy (“God called the [period of] light Day, and the [period of] darkness he called Night.”)
So, working backward to v. 3 we see that God is here creating the basis for time. A function is given (a material is not created) to serve humans. “God said, ‘Let there be [a period of] light.’” But how could there have been light w/o Day 4’s sun? The order of events concerns function, not material creation.
Day 2: a solid expanse to hold the waters above the earth? Well, the Hebrew does literally mean firmament/expanse. But this question is beside the point, since the creation account (by deliberate intent) is not concerned with material origins but with functional origins. “[Their taken-for-granted] material cosmic geography is simply what was familiar to them as was used to communicate something that is functional in nature” (57).
Twofold role of the expanse: 1) created space for people to live; 2) ordered the weather. Rain=grain=life. Too little or too much meant disaster. How the original audience thought this was accomplished by God (a solid dome) is beside the point. It does not change the fact that the Creator “established the functions that serves as the basis for weather” (58). He created the basis for weather and sustains it.
Day 3: If an account of material creations, why is this day included? Nothing is materially created on this day. But if the account revolves around functions, we do see that functions were assigned on this day.
The act of separating continues: dry land is differentiated from the sea. Herein God creates the basis for food. Time, weather and food are the foundation of life. More important than the Creator’s building the material world is his bringing together all these materials in such a way that they work. In this lies wonder. Functions are far more important than materials.
It should be no surprise that other ANE literature highlights these 3 major functions
· “The Old World science in the Bible offers the perspective of the earthbound observer. …God did not give Israel a revised cosmic geography—he revealed his creator role through the cosmic geography that they had, because the shape of the material world did not matter” (61–62). He set up the functions and he keeps them going, regardless of how we envision the cosmos’ material shape (which changes, incidentally, from generation to generation).

An entirely meaningless image from Land of the Lost for your viewing pleasure

Proposition 6: Days 4–6 install functionaries
These days are parallel to Days 1–3, but that framework is secondary. The real point is that God is installing items to carry out the functions he previously delineated.
Day 4: the functionaries are assigned to carry out the task of Day 1—functions that are pertinent only to humans. Note “seasons” refers to planting and harvesting, etc.
Important to recognize that the spoken words also are creative acts. The words/decrees of the creator God initiates the functions and gives the functionaries their roles.
Excursus on the Hebrew word translated “made” (‘āśâ), p. 65. It doesn’t refer inherently to material process; it can mean “do” as much as “make.” In this case, “doing” the work of establishing functions for the two great lights (v. 16) so that they would govern as intended.
“It was good” indicates that whatever God is creating (assigning functions to) is all prepared to function for the human beings that are about to be installed in their place.
Day 5: the functionaries simply fulfill their own functions—being fruitful and multiplying their respective realms (sea and air). Note that the sea creatures, which were antithetical if not enemies in the ANE (because the sea was itself antithetical to the ordered system), are here depicted as part and parcel of God’s ordered system; they are under his rule. There is no war here. God subdues all.
Day 6: As in Day 5, these functionaries carry out their own functions in their respective realms. God made them to also be fruitful and multiply.
v. 24 “land producing creatures”? Rather, “creature’s life comes from the land”; not to be taken as an indication of evolutionary process (a lá Morton), etc.
Humanity: the big difference here is not only do humans have their own functions to fill their respective sphere, they also are to function in relation to the rest of creation—subdue and rule. They function as God’s image bearers and to each other as male and female.
God’s image is central in this functional focus, though. All of creation serves in relation to humanity, and humanity serves in relation to God, as his vice regent. Simply put, this means that humanity is delegated a godlike function in the world in which they are placed.
Creation, in a sense, is therefore anthropocentric—set up to serve humanity, who represent God (imago Dei) to all of creation (68ff.). This is unlike ANE, where creation is all about serving the gods, supplying their needs. “The focus moves from the divine realm, through people, to the world around them” (69).
But doesn’t Gen. 2 give an account of material origins for humanity? ANE texts do give all kinds of accounts about what materials were used to create humans. Genesis follows suit, except that only one couple is in view here.
But the individual Adam’s being fashioned from clay is to be understood archetypically. All humans are from the dust (and to dust they will return, Gen. 3:19). It is not a statement of chemical composition; it is indicative of human destiny and mortality, and therefore is a functional comment, not a material one (70). The same holds true for the creation of the Woman.
Thus, they are primarily archetypal, which doesn’t preclude historical, of course (see n. 5, 179). The fact is, they are regularly treated as such by other writers of Scripture. “Humankind is connected to the ground from which it is drawn. Womankind is connected to mankind from whom she is drawn. [Both are] connected to God in whose image all are made. As such they have the privilege of procreation, the role of subduing and ruling, and a status in the garden serving sacred space.” All of these functions are for all humans. “Neither the materials nor the roles are descriptive only of the first individuals.” The creation account of Genesis therefore “gives people their identity and specifies their connectivity to everything around them” (71).

Thoughts? Concerns? Criticisms?


David Finnamore said...

There appears to be a great deal of similarity and resonance between this book and "Genesis Unbound" by John Sailhammer. I need to read Lost now. Trade ya? I have Genesis Unbound on my bookshelf at the office.

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