Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My study of Genesis Chapter One

I've decided to endeavor into a personal study of the Bible. I will do this by reading the Bible Chapter by Chapter and then all the commentaries I can find on them to better understand the truth, and the lessons we can learn from it. I have no timetable for doing this, and it is a personal journey of faith, but I'm going to post my thoughts and findings here for any to read. I will also include my own thoughts and you may disagree with me, and I hope you will correct me when I'm wrong, or at least be open to debate and prayerful consideration.

Genesis Chapter One begins with the great line, "In the beginning...." This indicates that before existance, before time, before anything, there was God. The Jewish name for how they referred to God was Elohim. This is a plural word, meaning God. Clark's Commentary on the Bible says:

"The original word אלהים Elohim, God, is certainly the plural form of אל El, or אלה Eloah, and has long been supposed, by the most eminently learned and pious men, to imply a plurality of Persons in the Divine nature. As this plurality appears in so many parts of the sacred writings to be confined to three Persons, hence the doctrine of the Trinity, which has formed a part of the creed of all those who have been deemed sound in the faith, from the earliest ages of Christianity. Nor are the Christians singular in receiving this doctrine, and in deriving it from the first words of Divine revelation. An eminent Jewish rabbi, Simeon ben Joachi, in his comment on the sixth section of Leviticus, has these remarkable words: "Come and see the mystery of the word Elohim; there are three degrees, and each degree by itself alone, and yet notwithstanding they are all one, and joined together in one, and are not divided from each other."

The first chapter of Genesis is truly about the soveriegnty of God and the goodness of His creation. How does God create everything? With a single word. Hebrews taught that words have power and that the Word is part of God. Christians believe the Word made flesh is Jesus Christ.

I really like John Wesley's interpretation of Genesis 1. He says that "This is not a scientific explanation of the creation of the universe, and it makes no claim to answer the "how" of creation. Rather the text is focuesed on the "who" and "what" of creation. As Wesley says Gen 1-2 "gives us a surer, and better, a more satisfying and useful knowledge of the origin of the universe, then all the volumes of philosophers." [Wesley Study bible]. With John Wesley we understand, "there are secrets which cannot be fathomed, nor accounted for" yet "from what we see of heaven and earth, we may infer the eternal power and godhead of the Great Creator."

The story continues as God creates light, day and night, the earth and the seas, the plants and animals and humanity which the Bibles states was created, "in our own image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."

So what does this mean? Our physical bodies or our spiritual ones? My own beliefs have always been that we are created in the spiritual image of God, that we are hardwired to seek God, to seek understanding and truth. John Wesley stated that we were created in three ways to be in the image of God. He wrote that we were created in the political, natural, and moral image of God. This spiritual self is where our reason, will, and freedom comes from, but his ideas on the political and moral images of God are thought provoking. He stated that the political image was "man's calling to take care of the earth and the other creatures that inhabit it. Just as God is Ruler over all creation, so himanity is caretaker and "governor" of this world." We are to be the "channel of conveyance" of the blessings of God to our fellow creatures.

The moral image is what lets us know internally when we are out of sync with God's plan for us and his creation. It is man's stubborn disobedience that distorts our reason, will, and freedom, that causes us to "exploit the earth of selfish purposes." The Wesley Study Bible says, "This is why one of Wesley's favorite descriptions of salvation is "the renewal of our souls in the images of God,"recoveromg the calling for which we were created."

Creation was Good because it was perfect in the unfolding of God's will. God is truth, goodness, love, all that is perfection, so his creation was perfect according to His desires.

Now as to historical and scientific accuracy, it must be understood that the stories of the first five books of the Old Testament were written by Moses, who in turn heard them as the oral histories of the Hebrew people passed down for many, many generations and using their understanding of the world and their place in it. For instance the "dome" that separted the sky from the seas is written that way because in antiquity it was a common belief that the sky was a dome above the earth. One of the great issues I have with studying the Bible is that it was written by Hebrews using eastern thought processes that are alien to those of us raised to think in the logical, ordered A-B Greco-Roman thought. Eastern thought processes are more A-C-B-A in a circular pattern. I heard it said that if you asked a Jewish Rabbi what the truth of Genesis is, they might answer you with the relationship of man and woman, a covenant arrangement between husband and wife. Meanwhile the Western thoughts range from was the earth created in seven actual days, was man created from dust, or did we evolve according to some divine plan? Maybe one of the reasons so many disagree about Genesis and humanities origins are that we don't understand the Eastern thought processes.

I can honestly say that I don't care how God did it, but I do believe He did it all according to His plan and it was Good.

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