IN THE BEGINNING: Wrestling with Scripture #3
What better place to start than the beginning? The first book of the Bible is Genesis. It’s an easy read, full of interesting stories about familiar characters. There is enough drama—sibling rivalry, murder, and betrayal—and depravity—adultery, incest, and rape—for an R-rated Netflix series, but I recommend binge reading Scripture instead.
Genesis opens with creation: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Although we all know the story and it’s pretty straightforward—unless we want to argue creationism vs evolution or young earth vs old—there is plenty of wrestling room in even the first few chapters.
Have you ever noticed that God declares all the days of creation good or very good, except for day two when He separated the waters from the waters, or that the first thing God does is to speak light into existence but He doesn’t create the sun, moon, and stars until the fourth day? Why is the order of creation different in chapter two than in chapter one? Did you know that the Hebrew word for was in verse two can be translated became giving rise to something called “gap theory,” a view held by many modern scholars which says something cataclysmic happened between verse 1 and 2—perhaps the casting out from heaven of the Evil One and the fallen angels—that destroyed God’s original creation, leaving it formless and void, and necessitating a remaking of it in six days?
Questions like these reveal that, although the creation account tells us much about God, His nature, and His plan for mankind, it also leaves many questions unanswered. Have you ever wondered how old Adam was when he was created since he clearly wasn’t an infant? Or the stars—since it would take years for the light from even the closest star to reach earth? How do dinosaur's fit into the story? How long were Adam and Eve in the garden before the Fall? Most importantly, what does it mean to be created in God’s image? Or to have God breathe life into us?
This is probably a good time to confess that my blog series will contain few original ideas and fewer answers. It will borrow heavily from sermons, commentaries, and Bible studies I have heard, read, and attended. I have no Biblical degree or special training. All I have is a desire to grow deeper in my faith, a passion for writing, and a strong call to put into words and share the things I am discovering as I’ve picked up the challenge to wrestle with Scripture.
It’s important to remember that the Bible was written for us, but not to us. Because its original audience was an ancient people who used oral traditions and the spoken word to communicate ideas between tribes and generations, Hebrew meditation literature relied heavily on repetition and word pictures to make the information easier to remember and sections were often framed with an inclusio, a literary device that used the same words or images at the beginning and the end to sum up or reinforce the central message. For centuries, the scrolls and parchments that became Scripture had to be read out loud, so the repeated words, images, and key phrases were designed to remind the listeners of other stories and themes.
This basic literary structure provides a helpful Bible study tool, sometimes called the “method of first use” or letting the Bible interpret the Bible. An obvious example is John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Besides being amazing poetry, John clearly wants the reader to connect the opening verse of his Gospel to the opening verse of Genesis, and understand that Jesus—God with us and the Word became flesh—was there when the world was spoken into creation.
Genesis is full of first uses that recur throughout the Bible—the separation of light and darkness, life and death, sin and forgiveness, blessing and curse. It introduces the concepts of choice, sacrifice, and rescue and stresses the unchanging nature, sovereignty, and holiness of God. Genesis presents many vivid images (gardens, trees, rivers, fruit/seeds, etc.) which flow throughout the entire Bible giving a depth and texture to passages and parables that might otherwise be overlooked. The major New Testament themes of repentance, obedience, and redemption are rooted in Genesis. It gives insights into difficult passages like God saying “… I loved Jacob but hated Esau,” (Romans 9:13) or “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out …” (Matthew 5:29).
If you only read and study one book of the Bible, Genesis would be a great one to wrestle with.