Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Genesis 1-3 -- What's the Point?

We argue over whether Genesis is history or myth, too often missing the point of the text in the chatter.  Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham and a leading biblical scholar, notes that in America we get the conversation about Genesis wrapped up in other cultural questions and arguments that distort the conversation.

What is the point of Genesis 1-3?  Perhaps it is that God has created the world to be God's abode, God's dwelling place -- ie a tabernacle or temple.  Wright takes a position that would be more conservative than mine at points, but I think he makes the theological point quite well.

HT to Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed -- and he takes it from the Biologos blog.


Steve said...

Well, Wright had me up to the point where he tried to have it both ways. His almost “throw away” comment that “I do think it matters that something like a primal couple getting it wrong did happen,” upsets what he is trying to do. Are we supposed to then conclude that “something like the cosmos being created in six days did happen,” or that “something like a serpent had a conversation with Eve did happen” ?

Unfortunately, for me, this clip raised more questions than provided any insight into how to interpret Genesis 1-3. All the rest of his comments are well-known and accepted by those who understand Genesis as “myth.” But how we are to factor in “a primal couple getting it wrong,” baffles me.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...


I agree -- the primal couple does kind of throw a monkey wrench into the works.

I know how it works -- in that God chose a couple -- maybe homo erectus, from whom we descend. For Wright, there is that need for a primal cause of sin, so Jesus can undo it.

Difficult to work it out though!

Anonymous said...

The whole story simply is to explain that prohibition never works. Here we had the first ever example. God prohibited eating from the tree of life. God was the cop and he only had to watch 2 people! You know where I'm going with this. David Mc

Steve said...

Bob, the problem with a homo erectus, or any pre-or ancient homo sapiens, is that they would be incapable of asking, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Or, following any "orders" from God. Trying to make this IN ANY RESPECT literal is to reduce it to nonsense and destroy the very truth that Wright would protect. On the other hand, maybe 500,000 years ago, women could talk to serpents!

You did hit the nail on the head with Wright needing Jesus to rescue us from sin. It’s not that we don’t need rescuing; it’s that we don’t need it by way of a structure build around a “fall.”. Oh, what tangled webs we weave when first we practice to force the Bible into our theological mold. (I, of course, don’t do that….;)

Gary said...

If you reject Genesis as history, you might as well stop pretending to be a Christian, or a Jew, and throw the Bible into the trash. Without an historical Genesis, the rest of the Bible has no foundation. It is destroyed.

By the way, Jesus, the Old Testament Prophets, the Apostles, and every person the Bible portrays as a believer, believed in the historicity of Genesis. For instance, Jesus believed Adam and Eve were real people.

Anonymous said...

"throw the Bible into the trash"

Gosh, I wouldn't even throw an American flag in the trash.

What if we underline all the good parts and give them to you Gary?

David Mc

John said...

I think that the point is that humans could not trust God from the very beginning of human consciousness, hence the "primal couple" notion. The human inability to place complete trust in God didn't happen somewhere along the line at which point Creation got off track.

The very notion of human consciousness leads unavoidably to an elevated sense of self-worth, then to self-reliance and then away from that degree of child-like innocence that allows one to place their faith in God. Jesus calls us to come back to God, with the degree of trust that we find that children, in their naivety, have for their parents.

"Primal" indicates to me that such separation from God began at the beginning - to be a human being on earth is to be separated to some degree from God, an no human is free from the "stain" of this very original sin.