Genesis: Introduction創世記導論 The Book

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Theology of Chapter 1-11

[1] Name of the one God: The belief of one true God was unique and different from the cultures in the Middle East at the time of Moses. The two names of God show the nature of God. The first name “El” or “Elohim” means the strong or mighty one and was a common name for God in that region. With this name, God was described as the Creator, the Lord, and the Judge. The second name “Yahweh” (“Jehovah”, appearing 164 times in Genesis, 6,823 times in the OT) means “I AM”, expressing God’s eternal presence. It is a name used in the covenant with Israel.

[2] Attributes of God: God is characterized as a powerful God who completed the creation of the universe and continued with His providence over the universe. He has infinite wisdom and He created a universe that is “good”. He is a God of peace and harmony.

God is also a God of love and of perfection. He loves man and created man as a perfect being after His image. God created the paradise (Eden) as a perfect environment. He instituted marriage as a perfect relationship.

[3] Themes in Genesis: One constant theme throughout the whole book is a process with 3 phases: [a] intimacy, [b] rupture by strife, and [c] reconciliation (this last phase sometimes missing).

The first 2 chapters of Genesis introduce the paradisiacal world where there was only blessing. The last 2 chapters of Revelation introduce the new paradisiacal world, again only with blessing. The world of Gen 3 to Rev 20 is a combat zone between God and the devil.

In Gen 1—2, man is living in complete harmony with God, with other human, and with the created order. Gen 3 introduces the theme of God’s judgment, which is the withdrawal of His blessing as a result of man’s disobedience. This disobedience came from discontent with what God gave man. God gave man the power over nature. Being discontent, man wants to extend his power over things, including the power to be morally autonomous (from God), power over somebody else’s life, power over the determination of one’s own future.

This desire for power alienated man from God. The results were expulsion from paradise, shortening of life span, death from the Flood, confusion of language and dispersion. Yet, throughout the judgments, the voice of grace and promise is not muted. Adam and Eve were clothed. Cain was divinely protected. God announced a covenant never to flood the Earth again. Yet the ultimate grace is the election of Abraham and his family by which everyone on Earth may be reconciled to God.

[4] Genesis as Myth: People who have doubts whether Genesis can stand up to the challenge of archaeology or science try to regard stories recorded in the book as non-historical. They attach only theological and kerygmatic value to the book but not historical value. They regard the book as myth.

The word “myth”, found in the later books of NT, always has a negative connotation. [a] Paul urges Timothy not to pay attention to myths (1Ti 1:4). [b] Paul predicts that the time is coming when people will find myths more attractive than the truth (2Ti 4:4). [c] Paul instructs Titus to reprove those who are absorbed with Jewish myths, an aberration which detracts from sound faith (Titus 1:4). [d] Peter declares that the basis of certainty behind his message is that he was “an eyewitness of His majesty,” and not cleverly devised myths (2Pe 1:6).

Based on these verses, what is myth is not true. What is true is not mythical. Myths are fictitious narratives, invented stories. Myth is not only a figurative expression of truth, but a false expression of truth as well. As Genesis provides the foundation of all that we believe in about God, regarding the book as a myth will undercut all our beliefs. More importantly, the author recorded what he perceived as facts and there is never a hint that anything in Genesis is mythical.

Comments on Commentaries

This section documents some deficiencies in many Bible commentaries on Genesis, including some written by evangelical Bible scholars.

[1] Apparent subscription to the documentary hypothesis: Some fall back on documentary hypothesis when they had even slight difficulties explaining the Biblical text. The problem is: they assume that the author of Genesis had copied from those documents (which are, in the first place, of unproven and doubtful existence) and that he had made a mistake in accepting some incorrect information. As evangelical Christians, we hold to the position that the Bible is the Word of God and God would not allow the original manuscripts to contain incorrect information. Such assumption about the Biblical text is therefore not acceptable. (Rare errors made by the copyists are of course an entirely different issue.)

[2] Apparent subscription to ancient legends: A similar problem to the previous point is the common reference to ancient legends and myths in the Middle East, such as the Babylonians, Egyptians. The commentaries are assuming that the stories in Genesis came from those legends. They then proceed to analyze whether the “original” information from the legends was correct or not. This kind of analysis is a common method in academic studies but the problem is the assumption that the author of Genesis could use wrong information in writing the Biblical manuscript. Evangelical Christians should begin from the acceptance that stories in the Bible are true facts and real occurrences. They are not duplicated copies of pagan legends. We should avoid making apparent subscription to ancient legends and myths, except when there is a necessity to show the Bible’s independence from those legends. [It is sufficient to affirm that Genesis is distinctive from ancient legends and actually rejects pagan ideas. The foremost are monotheism and consistent moral element.]

[3] Conjecture on the author’s intention: Occasionally, some commentaries assume that the author of Genesis used his writing to promote a certain viewpoint. For example, in explaining why Canaan was cursed because of Ham’s sin in Gen 9:25, one author writes: “Perhaps the author wished to imply that Israelites could invade (the land of) Canaan because people living in that land were cursed by God. These people were cursed because of their ancestor Canaan, just like Canaan was cursed because of his father.” However, the problem is: if this explanation is correct, then the author of Genesis was recording an untruth in order to express his own viewpoint. This must not be accepted.

These problems are common in commentaries on Genesis. These are misguided explanations. These should not be included in their commentaries. If there is an academic necessity for those information (such as to demonstrate that the author of the commentaries are knowledgeable and therefore academically well qualified), the most they could do is to include it in the footnotes, and to add a disclaimer that they do not accept those explanations.

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