Old Earth Creationism: Figurative Interpretations of the Days of Creation (Part 1)

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In my Biblical Creation class this past Monday, I covered more than half of my fourth lesson that focuses on figurative interpretations of the days of creation. We looked at four of these interpretations: theistic evolution, the day-age view, progressive creationism, and the framework interpretation.

Theistic evolution, recently labeled by one of its current advocates as “the fully gifted creation,” argues that God created inorganic matter that contained properties with the potential to evolve into the wide variety of life forms presently observable. The advocates of this view affirm that God “created” all current life forms over extended geological ages and through random mutations and natural selection.

The day-age view maintains that the six days of the creation week were six
chronologically-arranged geological ages. This “concordist” position is supported by two primary arguments. The first is that the Hebrew term yôm (“day”) can be used figuratively to refer to an extended period of time, as it does, for example, in the expression, “the day of the LORD.” The second argument relies on the results of modern scientific dating. As such, the obvious advantage of this view is that it harmonizes the Bible with the current scientific estimate for a 4.5 billion year old earth.

Progressive creationism is distinct from theistic evolution in that progressive creationists postulate that God, while using evolution, intervenes at key junctures to create life forms that would not naturally evolve. In reference to God’s involvement in evolution, theistic evolutionists postulate that God created all current forms of living things from non-living matter by strictly using the mechanism of evolution. In contrast to this, progressive creationists assert that God progressively intervenes in many places to create specific life forms in the course of billions of years. In reality, the progressive creationist view is very similar, if not at times identical to the day-age view, though progressive creationist defenders do not tend to promote it as a concordist understanding, which often focuses on harmonizing the so-called findings of Scripture with the progression related to the unfolding of the days of the creation week.

The framework view asserts that the creation “week” of Genesis 1:1–2:3 is a literary device intended to present God’s creative activity in a topical, non-sequential manner, rather than a literal, sequential one. Framework defenders supports this hypothesis with three primary arguments. First, they contend that the figurative nature of the creation account demonstrates that it is arranged topically rather than chronologically. The following chart reflects the framework’s literary frame.

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The parallel nature of days 1–3 with days 4–6 reflect that this is something of a poetic account which overrides the sequential numbering of the creation days. Second, it is argued that the unending character of the seventh day (Heb 4:3–4 cites Gen 2:2) indicates that the six days of the creation week are not normal days. This argument is a fundamental aspect of the framework. If the seventh day of the creation week is a continuous day, then the days of the creation week are also long periods of time, heavenly time as opposed to earthly time. Third, those framework advocates who follow Meredith Kline’s version of this position also argue that God used ordinary providence (i.e., the non-miraculous sustaining and directing of all creation) to control the creation “week.” This argument is predicated on interpreting “because it had not rained” in Genesis 2:5 as suggesting that God did not create plants until he first created an environment conducive to sustain plants Based upon what Kline calls “the unargued presupposition of Gen 2:5,” he infers that God primarily used ordinary providence to control the creation “week.” Thus, Genesis 1:1–2:3 cannot be a sequential account because, for example, vegetation was created on third day before the sun was created on the fourth day.

In our next class on March 8, we will look at the major problems with these four views.

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The Nature of Creation (Part 2)

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With this post, I will summarize our biblical creation classes from the first two Monday’s in February.

On February 1, I gave a brief commentary on significant articles and books cited in our 19-page bibliography (pages 100–119 of our syllabus). We also encountered a problem when a bulb in our projector burned out. In this class, we finished covering the last three of five arguments used to support the 24-hour day view (numeric qualifiers and the singular “day,” Scriptural parallels with “day,” and the sequence of events in the creation week and “day”). We concluded the class by initially looking at the first of four objections to literal creation days. This objection relates to the use of the seventh day (Gen 2:1-3) to argue against the 24-hour day view. If someone can prove that the seventh day is ongoing, then they are in a position to negate the literal substance of the previous six days in the creation week. To rebut this point, I noted that there is a twofold significance for the omission of the “evening” and “morning” on the seventh day of Genesis 2:1–3. Initially, the “evening-morning” conclusion is one part of a fivefold structure that Moses uses in shaping the literary fabric for each of the creation days (divine speech, “God said”; fiat, “let there be” or an equivalent; fulfillment, “there was” etc.; evaluation “God saw that it was good,” though it is omitted on day 2; conclusion, “there was evening and there was morning”). The omission of some of the fivefold framework, such as fiat, fulfillment, evening and morning, is because this was not a day on which any creative activity took place. Further, the “evening-morning” conclusion has another rhetorical effect in that it also functions as transition to the following day of creation. This transition is unnecessary on day 7 since creation is complete.

In our class presentation on February 8, we finished looking at our lesson on the nature of creation. We covered two areas: answering objections to literal creation days and four observations from the creation week. About the first area, I concluded looking at the first objection about the seventh day, in Genesis 2:1-3, being an ongoing day. More specifically, we looked at three biblical texts used to support the seventh day being an extended period of time: John 5:17, Psalm 95:7-11, and Hebrews 4:3-11. The second objection focuses on the use of “day” in Genesis 2:4 as supporting that day can refer to an extended period of time and thus undermining the 24-hour day view. The third one relates to two texts connecting “day” with a 1000 years: Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8. The fourth objection maintains that too many activities took place on day 6 for it to be a literal day (for my more fully developed response to these objections, see pages 112-22 of my article “A Defense of Literal Days in the Creation Week.” Concerning the second area, we drew four observations from the creation account: God’s creative activities were supernatural, sudden, functionally mature (items such as fruit trees bearing fruit, stars visible from the earth, Adam and Eve as adults, to name a few), and God’s creative activities reflect that He is the self-existent, eternal Creator God (adapted from John C. Whitcomb’s The Early Earth).

With our lesson on February 15, the class objective is to look more precisely at the creation of the heavens and the earth.

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The Nature of Creation (Part 1)

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On January 25, we began looking at the nature of creation in my Biblical Creation class. Initially, I covered the events treated in Genesis 1:1-31. After this, we began looking at the duration of each of the six days in the creation week. Initially, I covered the events treated in Genesis 1:1-31. After this, we began looking at the duration of each of the six days in the creation week.

As I have defended in the Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, each day of the creation week was a normal literal day. I treated two of five arguments that support the 24-hour day view: (1) the semantics of the singular use of “day” and (2) “evening” and “morning” as qualifiers of “day.” In reference to the first argument, the Hebrew word translated as “day,” yom is always used of a literal day when it_ appears alone as a singular noun (for an excellent treatment of 24-hour day view, see Gerhard F. Hasel’s “The ‘Days’ of Creation in Genesis 1,” Origins journal 21 [1994]: 5–38. About the second point, the qualifying expression “evening” and “morning,” used with the conclusion of each day of creation week, supports the literal day interpretation. A literal understanding of “day” is consistent with other Old Testament uses of “evening” and “morning.” Further, the general framework for each of the creation days also indicates that “evening” and “morning” are used to describe the completion of each day.

On February 8, I will finish a defense of literal creation day and then answer a number of common objections.

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Biblical Creationism (9)125

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DBTS started the spring semester of 2010 on Monday evening, January 18. One of DBTS’s professors teaches a Monday class each semester. This semester is my turn to teach the Monday night class and I am teaching one of my favorite courses Biblical Creationism.

On January 18, we covered the course requirements and the first five pages of our notes on the class introduction. With the introduction, we looked at four reasons for studying biblical creationism and the content that we will cover in the class. In a nut shell, here is the content I will cover.

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If you are interested in looking at the bibliography for this class, you can download it from here.

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Critique of Coming to Grips with Genesis

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On July 10 I did a post about a biblical creation seminar DBTS offered in this past spring semester. With this entry, I mentioned that the Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal would have a review of Coming to Grips with Genesis in its 2009 edition (to subscribe to the journal, go here). Last month volume 14 of the journal was released and in it Dr. Matt Postiff has a rigorous, yet positive review of this book (to get a great discount with purchasing the book, to the DBTS Store).

I highly recommend that you read Dr. Postiff’s review. He is the pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Ann Arbor, MI. He has received a Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Ph.D. in computer engineering from the University of Michigan. After earning his Ph.D., he earned a Master of Divinity from Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary in 2005 and is currently writing his Master of Theology thesis on Middle Knowledge: “How God Knows Counterfactuals.” Lord willing, he should be awarded the Master of Theology degree in May of 2010 (to read more about Dr. Postiff, go to his church’s website).

Though Matt makes some recommendations to improve a second edition of Coming to Grips with Genesis, he highly recommends purchasing and using the book with these words: “The book is a scholarly, biblical, and comprehensive defense of the young-earth view. The authors easily achieved their immediate goal–to present the key arguments for the young-earth view. They also successfully raised the issue that the age of the creation has a serious impact on foundational truths of the Christian faith. Issues such as the sufficiency, authority, and clarity of Scripture and consistency in hermeneutics are indeed at stake. The authors wisely avoid the error of making the young-earth view a fundamental of the faith. A major strength of the book is that it is a compilation of works by authors whose expertise is particularly focused on the topics on which they write.” To read his full review, go here.

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Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 14 (2009)

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Volume 14 of the Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal was released earlier in October. This issue has six articles and a book review. Here is a list of the articles and book review.

“Tongues–Are They for Today” by Mark A. Snoeberger

“‘His Flesh for Our Flesh’: The Doctrine of the Atonement in the Second Century” by John Aloisi

“Once More: Quirinius’s Census” by Jared M. Compton

“‘As a Brother’: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 and Ecclesiastical Separation” by Charles J. Baumgardner

New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ: A Review Article by Andrew David Naselli

Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth: A Review Article by Matthew A. Postiff

Graham A. Cole’s He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, reviewed by Mark A. Snoeberger

Subscription rates for the Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal are $10 for two years and $19 for four years. You have two options to subscribe.

1. Pay for a subscription online

2. Send payment to: Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, 4801 Allen Road, Allen Park, MI 48101

If you have any questions about subscribing to the journal, click here to go to the seminary’s website for further instructions.

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How Long Did Israel Sojourn in Egypt?

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Every fall semester, I teach an entry level seminary class on the Pentateuch (the picture above is taken from Accordance‘s Pentateuch sites map). Because the theology of the Pentateuch is so rudimentary for properly understanding the rest of the canon, this is a seminal class. One of the issues that I minimally treat is the length of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt; however, this is an important issue and needs more attention.

To overcome the brevity of my classroom presentation, I cite a few other sources in my Pentateuch syllabus. One of the sources is Jack Riggs’ 1971 article “The Length of Israel’s Sojourn in Egypt” (Grace Theological Journal 12 [Spring 1971]: 18–35). Riggs thoroughly presents three views about the duration of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt: a sojourn of 215 years, another of 400 years and one of 430 years. Though other biblical texts enter into the discussion, three key biblical texts provide the matrix for some exegetical and theological intrigue among conservative biblical scholars about the duration of Israel’s stay in Egypt: Genesis 15:13-16, Exodus 12:40-41 and Galatians 3:15–17.

I was taught the 430 year view when I did my MDiv work at Temple Baptist Theological Seminary in the early 1970s and my subsequent post-graduate work at Grace Theological Seminary. Since I first started teaching the Pentateuch about thirty years ago, I have advocated this view. Though I have periodically looked at the other opposing views, I have not been persuaded of their overall biblical consistency. Because this subject is a part of the Bible’s historiography, it is an important part of Pentateuchal studies.

A few weeks back my interest was aroused when I read Fred Butler‘s post “The Length of Israel’s Sojourn in Egypt.” What prompted his post was two prior blog entries by Turretinfan, a member of the theologically-solid Alpha & Omega blog team. Turretinfan makes a reasonable case for the 215 year view. You should read each of these posts to understand the series of posts at Hip and Thigh: “How then Four Hundred, Thirty Years?” and “From Seventy to More than a Million?.” For me what makes this series of blog entries an interesting read is that each blogger’s examines the key biblical texts. It is great to see these texts discussed from two different, yet theologically conservative positions.

Having read the various posts, I am still convinced of the 430 year view. However, the exchange is a profitable read because both bloggers make a commendable case for their view and they disagree with each other in a reasonable manner. To read a thorough justification for the 430 year view, you need to read Fred’s four subsequent posts: “A Response to Moi, ” “Returning to Egypt [I],” “Returning to Egypt [II]” and “Returning to Egypt [III].” I have profited by reading this series of posts and it should fill in some details that I omitted in my Pentateuch class.

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What I Am Reading on Ecclesiastes

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I am preparing to teach a ThM class this coming fall at DBTS, Hebrew Exegesis of Ecclesiastes. In preparation for this class, I recently acquired Craig Bartholomew‘s
Ecclesiastes (Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms). Bartholomew’s work is a welcome addition to the increasing number of commentaries on this book.

Because I lead a PhD seminar on Ecclesiastes at Central Baptist Seminary in the spring of 2009, I have interacted with other material Bartholomew has written on Ecclesiastes and appreciate his insightful scholarly interaction with the voluminous sources on Ecclesiastes. Consequently, I have been looking forward to Baker’s release of his commentary. My first impressions reflect that my wait has been worthwhile.

Bartholomew is highly qualified to write this commentary. His 1998 publication Reading Ecclesiastes: Old Testament Exegesis and Hermeneutical Theory, a revision of his 1996 dissertation at the University of Bristol, shows a depth and breadth of scholarship in tracing the history of Old Testament hermeneutics and biblical exegesis, specifically in Ecclesiastes. While the complexities associated with the history of Ecclesiastes studies are described and critiqued, he also argues that the “implied author” of Ecclesiastes is divided between the puzzling nature of the divine gift of joy, like those found in the carpe diem passages, and the frustrating situations one finds in a sin-cursed world, such as those found in the hebel passages. Bartholomew’s solution to these tensions in Ecclesiastes is found in one’s “Christian worldview.” As such, his interpretative approach to Ecclesiastes offering joy and faith as solutions to life’s tensions is a helpful contrast to the many commentaries that take a pessimistic interpretation of Ecclesiastes.

Bartholomew provides a thorough introduction to Ecclesiastes (pp. 17–99). His introduction provides a helpful and detailed discussion of germane introductory issues:

title (pp. 17-18)

canonicity (pp. 18-20)

history of interpretation (pp. 21-43)—a must read

authorship and date (pp. 43-54)—is Ecclesiastes a “royal fiction” with a post-exilic date?

social setting (pp. 54-59)

text (59–61)

genre and literary style (pp. 61-82)—informative discussion

structure (pp. 82-84)

reading Ecclesiastes within the context of Proverbs and Job and its connection to Torah (pp. 84-93)

message (pp. 93-96)

Ecclesiastes and the New Testament (pp. 96-99)

The remainder of this volume is divided into the actual commentary (pp. 101-373), followed by a postscript (pp. 375-89), bibliography (pp. 391-420), and indices referencing subjects, authors, scripture and other ancient writings (pp. 421-48). The commentary itself is divided into three sections.

Frame Narrative: Prologue (1:1-11), pp. 101-117

Qohelet’s Exploration of the Meaning of Life (1:12-12:7), pp. 119-357

Frame Narrative: Epilogue (12:8-14), pp. 359-373

As you can tell, Qohelet’s Exploration of the Meaning of Life (pp. 119-357) consumes the bulk of his discussion. This is divided into 21 units. With each of the 21 units, as well as the prologue and epilogue, Bartholomew provides his own translation, followed by a section on interpretation and theological implications.

As Bartholomew takes us through the various mazes of life, he shows how joy and faith undergirds the believer’s journey through one’s frustratingly enigmatic life. Thus, his work has many highlights. I cannot resist mentioning one example. The theme of Ecclesiastes is introduced in Ecclesiastes 1:2 with its fivefold use of hebel: “Hebel of hebels, says the Preacher, hebel of hebels. All is hebel.” The fact that v. 2 is essentially repeated in 12:8 (“Hebel of hebels , says the Preacher; all is hebel”) confirms that 1:2 is the subject of Ecclesiastes. Besides the eight uses of hebel in 1:2 and 12:8, it is used thirty other times in the book at key junctures. Certainly, an important issue in Ecclesiastes is the interpretation of hebel. Many options have been suggested on the translation of this term ranging from a word with negative connotations, such as “vanity” (KJV) or “meaningless” (NIV), to a word allowing for more positive uses, such as Bartholomew’s option “enigmatic.” While this word is discussed in a number of different sources (see pp. 93-94, 104-6; and pp. 88-95 of my “Message of Ecclesiastes“), his translation of it as “enigmatic” opens the possibility that one may find God-centered satisfaction in the many twists of life. His rendering of hebel is just one of the many commendable features of this volume. Craig Bartholomew has provided us with an exegetically detailed interaction with the Hebrew text and a theologically informative commmentary. I can highly recommend this commentary to biblical scholars, pastors, and serious Bible students.

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All Good Things Must Come to an End

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When I was growing up outside Pittsburgh, PA (yes, I am still an avid Steelers fan), I was heavily involved in Boy Scouts for seven years and spent a few memorable summers camping in the hills of western PA. I enjoyed living in a tent for weeks at a time, including two summers living for about eight consecutive weeks in a tent. Each summer, I lamented when my camping experiences came to an end. After a few of my summers, I still remember my mother stoically quoting a proverb, “All good things must come to an end.” My mother used this adapted proverb to describe the end of a memorable and enjoyable time.

This spring semester was notably gratifying because I completed my 26th year of teaching at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. While my schedule of classes was full (for the spring schedule, click here), I enjoy teaching more with each passing year. The two pictures above are of a portion of my Elementary Hebrew class taking their final exam. As you can see, a couple of students recognized that I decided to make the exam a “kodak moment.”

This semester was also rewarding because I led a doctoral level PhD seminar on the book of Ecclesiastes at Central Baptist Theological Seminary (check out the seminar requirements). The picture below is of the the two students in the seminar, Gelu Pacurar and Tim Little (check out my earlier post), and me. Gelu and Tim successfully completed the seminar in mid-April.

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While good semesters come to an end, I am glad the semester has ended because this was one of my most demanding ones.

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An Apologia for the 24-Hour Day View in the Creation Account (Part 2)

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On Friday, March 20, I began a three-part series at Sharper Iron defending the 24-hour day interpretation of the creation account. As I noted in my first part, because the tradition of Christian orthodoxy has a legacy of interpreting Genesis as a historic narrative, the prevailing interpretation of Genesis 1:1–2:3 has been that it is a record of God’s creative activity in six, consecutive, literal days followed by a literal seventh day of rest. The point of my first post was to provide a fourfold biblical justification for the 24-hour day interpretation of the creation account.

With my second post that is posted today, I note four of the most prominent alternative views that have arisen largely as a result of the advent of modern geology and its claims about the (old) age of the earth.
To read this second post, go to “An Apologia for the 24-Hour Day View in the Creation Account (Part 2).

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