Interpreting the Book of Proverbs (Part 12)

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With parts 10 and 11 of this series, I examined the theological framework of Proverbs. In this post and the next, we will look at the sixth guideline for interpreting Proverbs: problematic passages in Proverbs should be interpreted by the rest of Scripture.

VI. Interpreting Problematic passages in Proverbs with the Rest of Scripture.

This hermeneutical axiom is what the Reformers referred to as the analogia fidei, “the analogia of faith.” This is also referred to as analogia scriptura, “the analogy of Scripture.” This hermeneutical principle maintains that Scripture interprets Scripture. What this means is that the entirety of Scripture is the context and the guide in interpreting specific passages in Scripture.

How is a passage such as Proverbs 17:8 (“A bribe is a charm in the sight of its owner; wherever he turns, he prospers”) to be harmonized with 17:23 (“A wicked man receives a bribe from the bosom to pervert the ways of justice”), or Exodus 23:8 and Deuteronomy 16:18¬–19? On a broader level, how do we respond to some critics who maintain that the book of Proverbs is less authoritative than the special revelation contained in the Prophets? To establish their point that Proverbs is inferior in authority, critics point to supposed contradictions within Proverbs. For example, Proverbs 26:4 says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him.” This is supposedly contradicted in the following verse, “Answer a fool as his folly deserves, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” Do we answer the fool or avoid answering the fool? According to some, if either of these proverbs is “inspired” and, therefore, presents absolute truth, only one of them can be absolute. How can this be special revelation from God if it is contradictory? How is the Bible-believing Christian to explain these problematic verses, as well as similar problem passages in Proverbs? Are we to say that the book of Proverbs is less inspired and, therefore, less authoritative than other parts of the Bible?

We would contend that every verse when originally written in our canonical book of Proverbs was as fully inspired as the Prophets or any other portion of Scripture (see 2 Tim 3:16). If the entirety of Proverbs is inspired, then it is inerrant. Consequently, Proverbs in its entirety is descriptive truth. This guarantees the accurate preservation of the entirety of Proverbs. However, not all of Proverbs is prescriptive truth. This is also true with the rest of Scripture. All Scripture is descriptive truth, but not all Scripture is prescriptive truth. For example, Satan’s desire to get Job to curse God in Job 2:4–5 and his lie in Genesis 3 are both examples of descriptive truth. Descriptive truth demands that whatever Scripture originally recorded was preserved with historical accuracy. Satan really did what Scripture says he did in Job 2 and Genesis 3. However, prescriptive truth pertains to those truths by which the people of God are to regulate their lives. Satan’s lies and deceitful tactics are not to be followed by God’s people.

How then do we determine if a proverb is prescriptive truth? Comparing Scripture with Scripture most easily does this. More specifically, by comparing a proverb with other biblical revelation, we can determine if we should view a proverb simply as descriptive truth or, more normatively, as prescriptive truth.

A. Descriptive proverbs

A descriptive proverb describes a situation of life without noting how it applies or what its exceptions are (Klein, Blomberg, Hubbard, pp. 313–14). It is not seeking to influence behavior, rather it seeks to present life the way it actually occurs. It is the reader’s responsibility to discern what is prescriptive and to accept the rest as descriptive truth. An example of a descriptive proverb is 17:8, “A bribe is a charm in the sight of its owner; wherever he turns, he prospers.” Another example is found in Proverbs 14:20, “The poor is hated even by his neighbor, but those who love the rich are many.” A further example is Proverbs 31:6–7, “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to him whose life is bitter. Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his trouble no more.” The point of this proverb is that it is describing the way life is. This neither condemns nor condones the use of alcohol. To determine what use of alcohol is condemned or approved, we must look at the rest of Scripture. Proverbs 31:6-7 is a descriptive proverb.

With my next post, we will look at prescriptive proverbs

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The Nature of the Noahic Flood

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Earlier this week on Monday eveming, we finished our Biblical Creationism class. We looked at the ninth of ten lessons in my syllabus. This lesson is on “the Nature of the Noahic Flood.” The initial part of this lesson covers seven biblical reasons supporting the global nature of the Genesis Flood. We treated these reasons in the first part of our class (classes at DBTS are just short of two-hours in length). In the second part we looked at a DVD on the Grand Canyon and Noah’s Flood.

In the first half of class, we looked at biblical reasons that provide support for the Genesis Flood being global.

A. The depth of the flood, Genesis 7:19–20

B. The duration of the flood, Genesis 7:11 and 8:13–14

C. The geology of the flood, Genesis 7:11

D. The size of the ark, Genesis 6:15

E. The need of an ark, Genesis 6:13, 7:2, 6:19–20, 7:9, 15

F. The testimony of the apostle Peter, 2 Peter 3:3-7

G. The purpose of the flood, Genesis 6:5-7, 11-13 (see Whitcomb, The World That Perished, pp. 47-65).

In the class syllabus, I have two other major sections in this lesson: God’s involvement with the flood and results from the flood. Because of class time constraints, I recommended for the class to read the final portions of this lesson after class.

When I went white water rafting down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon in the summer of 2008, I became convinced that this Canyon of Canyons was a monument to the Genesis flood (concerning my trip, I did a blog entry here; one of my colleagues on this trip, Dr. Del Tackett, has an outstanding series of 10 posts summarizing each day of our trip along with outstanding pictures; to look at this, you should start with first post “The ‘Canyon'” and follow his posts by going to his section “Science“; and finally, for an advertisement for this year’s trip, go here). Because of my trip, I had resolved to give more attention to the Grand Canyon in my Biblical Creation class. What better way in a classroom is there to get a sense of the Canyon than taking a 55-minute visual trip through the Grand Canyon, while listening to the expert voices of 5 creation scientists. So, for the last hour of our class, we watched the DVD “The Grand Canyon: Monument to the Flood.”

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Though a DVD is not the same as an actual trip in which you get soaked with river water where temperatures are between 46 to 50 degrees, bake under the sun in 120 degree temperatures, etc., you get a sense of the Canyon while being guided by Drs. Steve Austin, George Van Burbach, John Morris, Andrew Snelling, and Kurt Wise. This DVD presents seven evidences that support the Canyon having been formed as a result of the global flood in Noah’s day.

Ocean waters covered the continents

Rapid burial of plants and animals

Widespread strata

Short time between strata

Massive tectonic upheaval

Rapid erosion

Doubtful dating methods

In short, Drs. Austin, Van Burbach, Morris, Snelling, and Wise provide both geological and biblical evidence that clearly explain the provenance and history of the Canyon. Because of the colorful graphics, aerial pictures, and interviews with these men, I would highly recommend that you purchase this DVD from here.

In the final analysis, this was an enriching semester for me for two reasons. First, besides having solid testimonies and a commitment to understanding biblical truth, the desire of the 15-students in this class to understand the early chapters of Genesis made this a great milieu in which to teach. Second, because evangelicalism is being inundated with voices that support an old-earth cosmogony, this class reinforced my commitment to defending a literal interpretation of the first few chapters of Genesis that unambiguously affirm that God created the heavens, the earth and all things therein a few thousand years ago.

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Interpreting the Book of Proverbs (Part 11)

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In the last post of this series on Proverbs, we looked at the first of two parts dealing with the theological framework of Proverbs. With this post, we will examine the second part.

B. The three emphases of Proverbs and its theological framework.

1. Proverbs’ practical orientation

In conformity with other wisdom literature, Proverbs has a practical orientation (Osborne, Hermeneutical Spiral, p. 192). The wisdom of Proverbs is especially addressed to the youths of Israel. As such, they needed to be encouraged about subjects such as acceptable speech and etiquette (Prov 29:20), domestic relationships (10:1), self-control (25:28), material possessions (10:22, 11:4), and the certainty of divine retribution (11:21; 16:4; 20:22; 26:26–27). The practical nature of wisdom literature is reflected by Kidner’s arrangement of the content of Proverbs around these eight subjects: God and man, wisdom, fools, sluggards, friends, words, the family, and life and death (Proverbs, pp. 31-56; for other topical arrangements, see also Ross [“Proverbs,” in vol. 5 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, pp. 897–903], Voorwinde [Wisdom for Today’s Issues: A Topical Arrangement of the Proverbs], and Woodcock [Proverbs: A Topical Study]).

2. Proverbs’ emphasis on one having a complete dependence on God

Proverbs, like other wisdom literature, emphasizes that one must have a complete dependence on God. Since God is a Sovereign who with His absolute control of everything (16:1, 4, 9) permits the godly, wise person to experience suffering and difficulty as a part of His discipline (3:11–12). This teaching in Proverbial theology should force the believer to recognize with a humble and believing spirit his limitations and God’s complete control of life (21:1). This is demonstrated from three theological observations.

a. Proverbs and the Mosaic Covenant

Proverbs sets forth that wisdom is predicated on the Mosaic Covenant. This is demonstrated by the fact that the instruction in places such as Proverbs 3:1-12 and 4:4-5 are predicated upon a father’s teachings being consistent with the Torah (cf. Prov 3:3 with Deut 6:6-8). We should also notice how genuine obedience results in blessing (cf. Deut 6:24 with Prov 3:9-10) and disobedience disgrace and judgment (Prov 10:16, 21; 19:3, 9). Since God is the One bringing the results according to His time schedule (cf. Prov 3:1-10 with vv. 11-12), one must live his life in an environment of faithful obedience to the covenant.

b. Proverbs’ personifying wisdom and God

The book of Proverbs has a tendency to personify wisdom as an attribute and extension of God. This is “seen in one sense as a ‘craftsman’ standing alongside of and aiding the God of creation (Prov 8:29-30), as a female teacher inviting students to learn from her at the gates of the city (Prov 1:20-21; 8:1-36) and as a hostess inviting people to her banquet (9:1-12). Wisdom is contrasted with the adulteress (2:16-19; 7:6-27) and with a foolish hostess (9:13-18)” (Osborne, Hermeneutical, p. 193). Since this type of wisdom comes from God, we must look to Him for this.

c. Proverbs and the fear of God

Proverbs has a strong emphasis on fearing God. Though the fear of God is not found exclusively in Proverbs, or even wisdom literature (Deut 6:24), it does receive an emphasis in Proverbs (1:7; 3:7; 8:13; 16:6; 31:30). The Hebrew term for fear may be used in contexts that are of a legal nature, religious, or moral (Smith, “Is There a Place for Job’s Wisdom in Old Testament Theology?” p. 6). The focus of wisdom is in the moral realm. The fear of God denotes a relationship with God resulting in a morally pleasing lifestyle. In Proverbs 2:4-5 fearing God is correlated with knowing God. A result of this is that one hates evil in 8:13. Other practical results include qualities such as confidence (14:24), humility (3:7), and contentment (15:16). The Old Testament concept of the fear of God may be defined as an unconditional, reverential submission to the Sovereign LORD (ibid.).

3. Proverbs and creation theology

As wisdom literature, Proverbs has an emphasis on creation theology. This is seen in Proverbs 8 where God in His wisdom created the world (Prov 3:19-20; see also Job 38:4–7; Ps 104:24). The many references to God’s creative activities in Proverbs 8 set a dominant theme in the book, viz., God’s orderly design is the substance that holds life together. In Proverbs 30, the many comparisons between animals and man suggest that God control both. Proverbs’ creation theology also suggests that there is a connection between divine remuneration and retribution. Furthermore, God’s creative work as used in wisdom material is foundational for enjoying life. Man’s food, drink, work, youth, wife, and other privileges in this life are part of God’s creative design for man in this life (Prov 5:18; 10:1, 28; 12:4, 20; 29:2-3; in other wisdom literature, see Eccl 2:24-25; 3:12-13, 22; 5:18-19; 8:15; 9:7-10; 11:8-9; 12:1; Cant 1:4; 3:11). “The righteous, though part of the finite, creaturely world, can experience joy as part of God’s design in creation” (Zuck, “A Theology of the Wisdom Books and the Song of Songs,” in A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, p. 219).

With my next couple of posts, I will cover the sixth principle for interpreting the book of Proverbs.

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Death & Decay in Genesis 3

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When you study God’s perfect creation in Genesis 1, it is hard to harmonize it with the world that we live in today. However, Genesis 3 provides an explanation for our tension. So, after having looked at the creation of Adam and Eve, last Monday evening we examined Genesis 3, as well as a few other relevant biblical texts, to see how and when death and decay entered in the created order. The point of this examination is to demonstrate that disease, suffering, and death did not become a part of God’s good universe until God’s vice-regent, Adam ate from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Here are the three parts around which our discussion was organized:

I. Temptation leads to the fall by magnifying disobedience, 1–7.

II. God responds to the fall by announcing judgment, vv. 8–24.

III. The fall has a fourfold significance for Biblical Creationism.

With the first part of the lesson, we focused on Genesis 3:1-7. This text shows that the satanically-possessed serpent deceived Eve who became the first human sinner when she ate from the fruit in v. 6. However, we should carefully note that God’s curse on humanity and the created order did not occur when Eve ate but when Adam ate from the fruit, v. 6 (see 1 Timothy 2:12-14 and Romans 5:12-21). In addition, we demonstrated from Genesis 3:8-24 and other pertinent biblical texts that God’s announcement of judgment focused on Adam & Eve, their posterity, Satan & the serpent, the animal & plant kingdoms, and finally the whole creation.

Finally, we saw how the fall has a fourfold significance for biblical creationism. (1) The fall teaches that disease, suffering and death were not part of the created world over which Adam ruled before he ate from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (2) Because the created order was cursed at the fall (Rom 8:19–22), this means that Adam’s rule as God’s vice-regent would no longer be peaceful, but would be marked by hostility. (3) Since the fall is the time when disease and death started in the world, this rules out any form of evolution, its supposed Christian offshoot known as theistic evolution or its more current form known as progressive creationism, day-age view, the gap theory and framework interpretation. If any of these hypotheses are correct, Adam and Eve, prior to the fall, ruled over a graveyard of fossils and not the Garden of Eden. (4) As a righteous judge, God had to hold Adam accountable to the standards he had established. Therefore, God had to impose the curse on his creation. However, in the midst of judgment, God announced in microscopic form, Genesis 3:15, his provisions to bring blessing to His fallen world.

With our next lesson, we will look at the nature of the Noah’s flood.

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Creation of Adam and Eve

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Because of academic and domestic commitments, I have been delinquent in blogging about my Biblical Creation class. Nevertheless, I will return to our recent lesson that focused on the creation of Adam and Eve. With this post, I will summarize our discussion.

Our lesson had six parts:

I. God’s direct creation of Adam in Genesis 2:7

II. God’s direct creation of Eve in Genesis 2:18, 21–25

III. God’s creation of Adam and Eve in His image in Genesis 1:26–27

IV. God’s mandate to His image-bearers in Genesis 1:26, 28

V. The antiquity of God’s image-bearers

VI. God’s design in creating His image-bearers

To begin with, in Genesis 2:7 God formed man’s body “from the dust of the ground” followed by his breathing into his nostrils “the breath of life.” In Genesis 1:20-21, God also animates the animals with “the breath of life.” What makes God’s animating principle in man distinct from animals is that man is created as imago dei, a divine image bearer. Second,, we saw that a little later on day six, God took one of Adam’s ribs and formed his wife (Gen 2:21-22). Besides the creation of Eve in the image of God, we saw a number of truths that affirm God ordained the biblical roles for husband and wife before the fall. Further, Genesis 2:24–25 also teaches us much about marriage.

Third, when we looked at the first couple being created in the image of God, I argued that this means that humans are a representation and likeness of God in that they are personal, spiritual and moral beings. While people shares these qualities as finite, created beings, God has these qualities as the infinite Creator. Genesis 5:3 illustrates what it means to be created in someone else’s image and likeness. “When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.” We should observe that “image” and “likeness” are used interchangeably in this verse. We should further note that Seth is not identical to Adam, but he is like Adam. As such, Seth is like and a representative of Adam but he is not Adam. In an analogous way, man is like and represents God, but he is most emphatically not God. In short, God is the infinite Creator and we are the finite creation. Fourth, God gave the dominion mandate to his image bearer’s. In Genesis 1:26, 28 there is a strong connection between one being in the image of God and one having dominion over the creatures of the earth. We highlighted six aspects of the dominion mandate: fill the earth (Gen 1:28), subdue the earth, rule over the animal kingdom, cultivate the garden (Gen 2:15), maintain a vegetarian diet (Gen 1:29-30; cf Gen 9:3), and abstain from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:17).

Fifth, we looked at the antiquity of God’s image bearers. Before the nineteenth century, biblical genealogies, especially Genesis 5 and 11, were used as prima facie evidence to establish an age for the earth as well as the creation of man being only a few thousand years ago. There are three views we examined: (1) a strict chronological interpretation of Genesis 5 & 11 found in the Masoretic Texts, (2) a strict chronological interpretation of Genesis genealogies as supported from the Septuagint, and (3) gaps in the Genesis genealogies allowing for creation to be anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 years ago. As a result of reading Whitcomb and Morris’ The Genesis Flood, in the early 1970s, I had embraced this later view for many years. However, since writing my chapter in Coming to Grips with Genesis as well as interaction with others when I went white water rafting down the Colorado River in 2008, I have rejected this understanding. Though there is supposed evidence that supports arguing for gaps in the Genesis genealogies (for example, see William H. Green, “Primeval Chronology,” in Classical Evangelical Essays, ed. Walter C. Kaiser [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972]), the Genesis genealogies, in distinction from other biblical genealogies, contain an age when a specified son is born to a patriarch along with his age at death. As such, the two genealogies seemingly have chronological significance.

Though good men follow Usher’s chronologies for valid reasons (for example, see the arguments of Travis Freeman, “Do the Genesis 5 & 11 Genealogies Contain Gaps?” in Coming to Grips with Genesis), I currently am persuaded that the Septuagint’s approach to Genesis 11 is more accurate (the source that has influenced me most is Benjamin Shaw’s “The Genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 and their Significance for Chronology” [Ph.D. dissertation, Bob Jones University, 2004]). The following two charts reflect this approach to the Genesis genealogies (the two charts are taken from Shaw, pp. 218-19).

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I will make a couple of observations based upon the above charts. First, creation took place at 4954 B.C., in contrast to the Masoretic Texts’ date of 4004 B.C. Second, the flood took place in 3284 B.C., in distinction from the MT’s 2349 B.C. There are two reasons that support my understanding. Initially, what drives me to my conclusion is not so much the Septuagint but Luke 3:35-36 which places a Cainan in between Arphaxad and Selah, whereas Cainan is omitted from the MT. In addition, a flood in 3284 fits with historical records of the ancient Near East. These records lucidly reflect that the monumental civilizations of the ANE were scattered and rebuilt around 3200 B.C. almost 900 years before the flood if you are following the MT. In the final analysis, I am persuaded that the view of the LXX provides the most persuasive evidence in explaining the biblical material as well as generally providing a reasonable explanation that harmonized with the ancient Near Eastern material.

Finally, God created man for His own glory and not because He needed him. Because God is infinitely independent, He does not need His creation and He does not need His creatures. God did not create because He was lonely. God created in order to bring glory to Himself. According to Isaiah 43:7, God speaks to his people whom He has created for His own “glory.”

With this evening’s lecture, we will look at death and decay in Genesis 3 and, the Lord willing, we will begin looking at the Genesis flood.

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Interpreting the Book of Proverbs (Part 10)

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In part nine of this series on interpreting Proverbs, we finished looking at the fourth guideline that focused on looking for literary clues. In the next two posts, we will look at the book’s theological framework to assist with interpreting individual passages.

V. Proverbs’ Theological Framework

To understand individual passages in Proverbs, we must understand the book’s explicit theological framework. We can see its theological structure by examining its purpose and theme and its characteristic motifs. With this post we will look at Proverbs’ purpose and theme.

A. Individual proverbs or units and the book’s purpose and theme

Unlike many books in the Bible, Proverbs explicitly announces its purpose and theme in the opening part of the book, 1:2–7.

1. Proverbs’ purpose

The purpose of Proverbs is expressed in 1:2–6. There is a twofold emphasis in this statement of purpose.

One emphasis in Proverbs is to develop moral wisdom, vv. 2a, 3–4. Solomon’s purpose in proverbs includes helping one “to know wisdom and instruction.” The word translated as “wisdom” is a term that focuses on developing “skill.” In Proverbs this term emphasizes biblically-informed skill in living. In light of vv. 3–4, this skill relates to living a life that is morally pleasing to God. The term translated as “instruction” emphasizes “discipline” or “training.” Its emphasis in this context is on a training to develop one’s moral nature.

A second emphasis in Proverbs is to develop mental wisdom, vv. 2b, 6. The last clause in v. 2, “to discern the sayings of understanding,” emphasizes one learning how to compare ideas and make evaluations about subjects. This emphasis is clearly seen in v. 6, emphasizing an understanding of proverbs, parables, and riddles. This type of discernment emphasizes one’s mental acumen.

2. Proverbs’ theme

The theme of Proverbs is found in 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” This reverential fear is the Old Testament counterpart of the New Testament concept of saving faith. The fear of the LORD expresses itself in reverential submission to God and whatever He commands. This type of fear is the “beginning of knowledge.” The Old Testament concept of “beginning” can refer to that which is “first” or to that which is “primary and controlling.” In Proverbs, the concept of “beginning” does not primarily mean that the fear of the Lord is the “starting point” of knowledge. Rather, the fear of the Lord is a “primary and controlling element” in developing wisdom. This same theme is restated in 9:10, toward the conclusion of the first section of material in Proverbs. As such, it sets the parameters for this unit.

My next blog entry on Proverbs will develop three emphases in Proverbs that indicates the book’s overall structure.

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Genesis 1:1–2 Represented in Young Earth Creationism

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This past Monday in Biblical Creationism, we wrapped up our examination of old-earth re-creationist models followed by a presentation about how Genesis 1:1–2 ties in with young earth creationism.

Initially, we finished looking at a modification of the gap theory, the precreation chaos theory. Because of the inherent syntactical problems with Genesis 1:2, while still maintaining unwavering commitment continuing to embrace the concept that Genesis 1:2 reflects a chaotic state of judgment, Merrill Unger modified the gap theory and Bruce Waltke formulated this into the “precreation chaos theory” (see his five-part series in the 1975–76 issues of Bibliotheca Sacra; you can find this entry listed in my bibliography). To read an impressive rebuttal of this view, see Mark Rooker’s 1992 Bibliotheca Sacra article “Genesis 1:1–3—Creation or Re-creation? (Part 2)” (again, this can be found in the bibliography).

In the last part of our class, we examined a young-earth creationist’s understanding of how Genesis 1:1–2 connects with the rest of Genesis 1. Verse 1 is an independent statement declaring that God created the original mass called earth out of nothing. Since Moses used the waw-conjunctive to introduce v. 2, he was explaining what the earth was like at the time of its creation in 1:1. Consequently, v. 2 is answering the question, what was the earth like at the time of its creation in v. 1? The answer of v. 2 is that it was in an abiotic form, it was “without form and empty.” It was covered by water and the Spirit of God was hovering over it. However, for there to be a literal day, God, immediately after his first creative activity, created a light source in Gen 1:3 in order to begin a day-night cycle for day one, as Genesis 1:5 indicates. Day 1 was the first normal 24-hour day of a six-day project. When God created the heavens and the earth, He chose to complete this process in six normal days (see also Exod 20:8-11 & 31:15-17).

DBTS has a spring vacation next week but when our students return we will look at the creation of Adam & Eve and how death & decay entered the created order in Genesis 3.

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Old Earth Re-Creationist Models that Interpret the Days of the Creation Week Literally

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Over the past two Monday evenings in our Biblical Creation class, we started covering old-earth creation models that interpret the days of Genesis 1 literally. More specifically we started looking at the Gap Theory by describing and evaluating this hypothesis.

Description of the Gap Theory

    Though gap theorists disagree on some details of this hypothesis, all advocates of the traditional gap theory agree that Genesis 1:1 describes a perfect and complete creation of the heavens and the earth, that 1:2 records the ruin of the originally perfect earth, and that an elapsed period of time between the originally perfect earth and its restoration set forth in 1:3–31.

Evaluation of the Gap Theory

    In class we looked at five of of my criticisms against key arguments supporting the gap theory: the use of “create” and “make” to support the gap theory, a grammatical allowance for a temporal gap, retranslating “was” as “became” to support the gap theory, “formless and void” as a reflection of judgment, and “darkness” as a reflection of judgment. This was followed by addressing three theological deficiencies with the gap theory. Since my class notes are an update of a paper that I previously wrote, I will not describe it in this post any further. If you would like to check out my arguments against the gap theory as an example of how not to interpret the Bible, go to “What about the Gap Theory?

This evening in our class, we will finish looking at old-earth re-creationists models followed by a presentation of arguments for young-earth creationism. I hope to post about this later on the week.

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2010 Rice Lecture Series

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Yesterday at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary‘s annual lecture series, we were privileged to have as our guest lecturer Dr. Michael Vlach from The Master’s Seminary, where he serves as Assistant Professor of Theology. Dr. Vlach’s is a current leader in dispensational studies (check out his website).

The tile of Dr. Vlach’s lecture was “Replacement Theology: Has the Church Superseded Israel as the People of God?” His lecture had three sections: “Introduction to Replacement Theology,” “A Critique of the Arguments of Replacement Theology,” and “The Case for the Restoration of Israel.” Dr. Vlach’s lecture was well-done. And, I would highly recommend that you read his lecture notes and listen to his three lectures by going to DBTS’s website.

Old Earth Creationism: Figurative Interpretations of the Days of Creation (Part 2)

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This past Monday in my Biblical Creation class, I finished covering my fourth lesson that focused on four figurative interpretations of the days of creation week (to read about this, go here). In our class we covered three areas of weakness and a questionable presupposition that theistic evolution, the day-age view, progressive creation, and the framework interpretation share. With this post, I will summarize four items: a hermeneutical inconsistency, an inconsistency with the perspicuity of Scripture, undermining the fall of Adam & the Edenic curse, and presuppositions & biblical interpretation.

A hermeneutical inconsistency. If the narrative in the creation week is historical literature, then it should be interpreted according to the conventions of that genre—conventions that most evangelicals use when interpreting the remainder of the narrative in Genesis. Though some want to interpret the creation account as something other than historical literature (e.g., poetry), the presence of distinctly narrative features calls such approaches into question.

Non-literal interpretations of the creation week minimize the historical details of the creation account. And, this is what we would expect if Genesis 1:1–2:3 were a poetic, or even a semi-poetic, account. However, this account has the characteristics of historical, narrative literature, rather than poetic literature. If this account were poetry, poetic parallelism would be its dominant feature, as it is in passages such as the creation hymn in Psalm 104. In contrast to the expected rhetorical features associated with poetry, Genesis 1:1–2:3 consistently uses a grammatical device that characterizes historical literature, the waw consecutive. This device occurs some 2,107 times in Genesis, averaging out to 42 times per chapter. In Genesis 1:1–2:3, while there is an absence of poetic parallelism, there are 55 waw consecutives. Whatever else may be said about the creation account, this grammatical device marks it as historical narrative, just as it does in the remainder of Genesis.

An inconsistency with the perspicuity of Scripture. The doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture maintains that the average believer can comprehend the Bible’s overall message. What this doctrine denies is that a believer needs assistance from an external interpreter, whether it be a Pope, philosophy or any other human authority, to arrive at a proper understanding of the Bible’s basic doctrines.

In Scripture, the literal understanding of the creation account is both assumed and used as the basis for other commands, such as the Sabbath command in Exodus 20:8–11. Furthermore, the literal interpretation is set forth and assumed throughout Jewish and Christian history. In fact, it was not until the nineteenth century with the development of uniformitarian geology that the literal interpretation of Genesis 1:1–2:3 was even questioned, something that lead Pipa to remark, “What in Genesis 1 or the rest of scripture suggests a non-literal view? Did the church make such a gross error in almost 2000 years of interpretation”?

Undermining the fall of Adam and the Edenic curse. Each of the non-literal views of the creation days directly affirms or allows for suffering and death before the fall of the head of the human race and, thus, undermines both the headship of Adam and the Edenic curse. When Adam fell, it not only affected his posterity but also the realm over which he ruled, the Edenic curse. In developing these two doctrines, we looked at a number of biblical texts that support this interpretation: Genesis 1:26, 28; 2:5, 15; 3:14, 1 Corinthians 5:21-22; and Romans 5:12-21, 8:21-22. The two biblical texts that I use most often are Romans 5 and 8. Paul’s biblical theology about the the Fall and the Curse on the created realm are strong texts for which I have never had a reasonable to get around their force. As such, death, suffering and decay of necessity started with the Fall our Federal Head, Adam, in Genesis 3.

Presuppositions & biblical interpretation. As previously noted, the 24-hour day view has been the dominant view of Christian interpreters from the Church Fathers until Charles Lyell in the mid-1800s. What has primarily changed since Lyell’s time is the way man defines and uses science. Modern scientific opinion has seemingly been elevated to the status of general revelation, and with its elevation “scientific opinion” has become an a priori that influences how we interpret Genesis 1:1–2:3.

It is not uncommon for me to hear professing Christians assert that the discoveries of contemporary scientists are a form of general revelation and that the special revelation that the Bible communicates has the same level of authority as scientifically discovered general revelation, both are the voice of God. If this is the type of reasoning being circulated in our culture, does this not imply that the “general revelation” communicated by “contemporary scientists” is something other than general revelation since it was unavailable from the time of creation until the modern era. Further, this confuses general revelation with scientific opinion and implies that general revelation has the same propositional force as special revelation. It is the propositional revelation of Scripture (Ps 19:1–6, Eccl 3:11, Acts 14:17, 17:23–31, Rom 1:18–25, 2:14–15, 10:18) that defines general revelation. And, Scripture defines general revelation as a constant knowledge about God that is available to all men; it is, however, not comprehensive knowledge about God (e.g., it reveals no Gospel) or nature (e.g., it does not include accumulating scientific opinion.

Through the years I have heard and read statements like these from well-known Christian scholars and and have often asked myself that, if we did not live in our current age, would this type of statement have been made and, furthermore, would any of the alternate interpretations of Genesis 1:1–2:3 even be valid options for evangelicals? It seems that the spirit of our age has created a modern mindset conducive to a reinterpretation of the creation account. However, many of the influences that shape such reinterpretations are external to Scripture, rather than being derived from a consistent biblical theology. In my estimation, there is no biblical reason to reinterpret Genesis 1:1–2:3.

Therefore, my conclusions are that theistic evolution, progressive creationism, the day-age and framework views pose more exegetical and theological difficulties than they solve and that the traditional, literal reading provides the most consistent interpretation of the exegetical details associated with the context of the early chapters of Genesis and the overall theological message of Scripture.

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