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Vibrant Dance 2: Waltke: Genesis 1: Science and Holy Scripture

{RJW Note:  The fourth plenary session was by Dr. Bruce Waltke, Reformed evangelical professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, currently at Knox Theological Seminary in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Dr Waltke handed out copies of his slides to everyone, so I did not ask him for a copy of his talk text. Thus, today’s post is a merger of my notes and the information from his slides, which were in two parts to meet the syposium request to share the epistemological and hermeneutical approach used in arriving at his position. Note:  errors in the Hebrew symbols are mine, not Dr. Waltke’s.}

{Note:  the highlighted “Hebrew” is the unedited result of scanning the notes. I will come back and edit it to something much closer in a few hours. I apologize for any inconvenience.}

Part 1:  Waltke’s Epistemology for Knowing Reality
I.                    There are 2 sources of knowing reality:  Revelation and Reason
A.      Reason (aka science) is used for knowing physical ontology by experiment—for example, how can I get to the moon?
I can believe what science says but not believe IN science
B.      Revelation (aka the Bible) is used to know metaphysical ontology (mystery) by faith and Spirit—for example, why is the moon there?
But I do believe IN Scripture
II.                  Scripture is my spiritual commitment for knowing reality, while historical science is my intellectual assumption for knowing reality
Problem: In school, students learn about science & they begin to believe IN science
A.      Scripture:
1.                   is inerrant as to Source
2.                   is infallible as to authority for faith and practice
3.                   we see through a glass darkly:  my interpretation of the Bible is not inerrant nor infallible, but subject to correction by better exegesis
4.                   therefore, I think and live according to my best understanding of the Bible.
B.      Science/reason:
1.                   Experimental science is often in flux; without comprehensive knowledge we cannot arrive at absolute knowledge or certainty.
2.                   Historical science is not beyond reasonable doubt; abductive reasoning cannot prove a unique cause.
3.                   My intellect assumes the authority of mainstream science—for example, the old age of fossil records, while my spirit remains committed to Scripture
III.                When Reason and Revelation conflict about physical ontology,
A.      I cannot jettison the Bible because it leads to nihilism
B.      I cannot jettison science because it leads to insanity (trying to live with an ontology inconsistent with reality)
C.      therefore, I must reconsider my exegesis of the Bible (four resolutions are presented in part 2)
D.      and so must hold my resolutions tentatively.

For example, I believe evolution is a viable option but not believe IN evolution, and ancient near east (ANE) literature is useful in understanding Genesis 1 and 2 but I do not believe IN ANE literature.

Part 2: Reflections on Genesis 1
I.                    Aim of Lecture
A.      To note exegetical cruxes of the Genesis 1 cosmology
B.      To reflect theologically upon the Genesis 1 cosmology
C.      Understanding of origins impacts world view (i.e., understanding of reality: God, humankind and nature)

II.                  Exegetical Cruxes of the Genesis Cosmology Noted {aka—Waltke’s evaluation of various theories about Creation}
A.      Syntax of וְהׇאָׄדֶץ (weha'ares) in Gen 1:1-3:  Age of the earth?
1.                   Conjunctive waw “(and)” “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was .... Then God said....” (traditional).
2.                   Apodosis waw (“then”). “When God began to create the heavens and the earth, then the earth was.... Then God said....” (official modern translations)
3.                   Disjunctive waw (“now”): “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth had been .... Then God said.... (Kimchi, BKW)
4.                   N.B. All three assume an old earth before the creation week. The issue is not a question of age of earth but of fossil record. Therefore, I am not worried about age of earth. I think earth was already here since the first thing God says is “let there be light.”
B.      3 meanings of י֔ום (yom, “day”):  Day-Age Theory?
1.                   From dawn to dusk: "he called the light day"
2.                   Twenty-four hour period:  "and it was evening and morning, day X"
3.                   An indefinite period of time in construct with another word, etc.: "In the day (= ׳when׳) God created the heavens and the earth" (2:4)
4.                   Therefore, the day-age theory not supported by Hebrew philology. In other words, we can’t use day-age because the Hebrew is not used in the age format (i.e., in the day of the Lord)
C.      Meanings of בׇדׇא [bara', “create”) and of עָשָה ('asah, “make”). What about John Walton’s Cosmic Temple hypothesis? {see tomorrow’s post}
1.                   To bring into existence and to function in a determined way
3 Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light [brought into existence]. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night" [to function for time]. And there was evening, and there was morning-the first day. (Gen 1:3-5)
2.                   Ancient Near Eastern Cosmogonies involved both bara’ and `asah.
3.                   N.B. "Create" refers to origins of cosmic matter and their functions
D.      Significance of refrain “and it became evening and it became morning, day X”
1.                   Refrain refers to sunrise and sunset {should be reversed??}
2.                   Intention: God does not work at night
3.                   Significance: represents God as Worker
E.       Let land and sea produce living creatures:  Ozzer or zapper?
1.                   Blanks the means and/or manner of origins of biological species
2.                   Cf. Gen 139:13: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb....15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth"(:כי־אתה קנית כליתי תסכני בבטן אמי)
3.                   N.B. Bible concerned with Ultimate Cause, not immediate, natural causes
F.       Sequence of days:  What about the framework hypothesis?
1.                   Hypothesis
a.                   Divides the days into two triads:
Day 1:  Basis for Time
Day 4:  Celestial Bodies
Day 2:  Basis for Weather
Day 5:  Creatures inhabiting Air and Sea
Day 3:  Basis for Food
Day 6:  Creatures Inhabiting Terra firma
b.                  Symmetry represents the creation solely from an artistic perspective, without attempting to give a temporal sequence of days or of designating a twenty four hour period of time
2.                   Objections: Runs rough shod over:
a.                   Normal significance of narrative verb form [wayyiqtol)
b.                  Normal meaning of "day"
c.                   Sequential numbering of days from one to seven.
G.     Meaning of דׇק֭יעַ {raqia’):  historic contextualization
1.                   "Firmament" (< Vulg. "firmamentum": solid expanse of something as though beaten out); LXX: στερέωμα "solid body"; "Vault" (NIV, NJB); "dome" (NAB, NRSV)
2.                   "Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water."
3.                   "and let there be lights in the vault of the heavens" (השמים ψ\?־יהי מאילת )
4.                   A ninth cent. Β. C. Assyrian relief shows the sun god Shamash seated on his throne. Beneath a canopy over the throne are symbols of the three celestial deities. Moon, Sun, Venus. Under the throne are a number of wavy lines, representing the celestial ocean. The inscription reads that the stellar deities are situated 'above the ocean.' Beneath the heavenly ocean is a slab that divides the waters above from those beneath

III.                Theological Reflections on the Genesis Cosmology
A.      Historical Contextualization of the Bible:  every human achievement is historically contextualized.
"Every production of any age bears the stamp of that age. It takes its shape from the influences then at work. It is part of the life of the period, and can only be properly estimated and understood from being viewed in its original connection." William Henry Green, Moses and the Prophets (New York: Robert Carter, 1883), 17-18.
Cf. Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckman in The Social Construction of Reality (1966)
All thought is contextualized in the history and sociology—it is impossible to break out of it. {So where does innovation come from?}

1.                   Exhibit A: We have to understand their psychology. "Heart" in Bible is source of all human activities
a.                   Physical activity: "Nabal's heart died within him (וימת לבו בקרבו), and he became like stone. {attributed to a stroke} About ten days later, the LORD struck Nabal and he died (1( ”)וימת Sam 25:28; ESV)
b.                  Spiritual activity: "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. 24Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. 25Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. 26Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways."
c.                   Heart transplant versus brain transplant—to them the idea of a heart transplant would be as abhorrent as a brain transplant would be to us.
2.                   Exhibit B: We have to understand their cosmology
a.                   Earth is flat with "four corners" (Isa 11:12)
b.                  Sun "races" around the earth: "The sun rises and the sun sets; and hurries back to where it rises." (Ecclesiastes 1:5)
c.                   "Firmament":  the gigantic heavenly dome that upheld the celestial ocean
B.      Cosmogony in the Biblical world
1.                   Exhibit A:  Comparison of Babylonian Genesis and Genesis
Enuma Elish
·         Divine spirit and cosmic matter are coexistent and co-eternal
·         Divine spirit and cosmic matter co-exist
·         Primeval chaos; Ti'amat enveloped in darkness
·         The earth a desolate waste, with darkness covering the deep (tehom)
·         Light emanating from the gods
·         Light created
·         Creation of the firmament
·         Creation of the firmament
·         Creation of dry land
·         Creation of dry land
·         Creation of luminaries
·         Creation of luminaries
·         Creation of man
·         Creation of man
·         The gods rest and celebrate
·         God rests and sanctifies the 7th day
2.                   Similarities between the Babylonian Genesis (the Enuma Elish) & Genesis 1
a.                   Conception of an immense primeval body of water as already in existence at time of creation
b.                  Idea that the creation of the firmament involved the separation of the water above from water below
c.                   Existence of light before luminaries
d.                  Partial similarities of a structural outline: creation of astral bodies after separation of land from water
3.                   Possible explanations of similarities
a.                   Enuma Elish depends on Genesis 1? No, the EE, just like some Egyptian texts, antedates Moses
b.                  EE distorted the original creation story that circulated in an oral tradition and that is preserved in Genesis 1. Possible, but speculative/unattested
c.                   Ancient cosmogonies influenced highly educated Moses. Finds support in parallels between almost all other genres of Biblical literature in their form and content with their corresponding genres in other literatures of the Biblical world. The Book of the Covenant (Exodus 21-23) shows striking similarities to the Code of Hammurabi (ca. 1700 B.C.)
4.                   So, then, what is the aim of the Genesis cosmogony?
a.                   Not to teach conventional notions of cosmogony
b.                  To polemicize against theology informing pagan myth. Genesis radically transforms ancient near east notions about God, the ontology of matter, and strips it of its immorality {God through Moses is redeeming pagan cosmogony.}
c.                   To infuse ancient Near Eastern cosmogony with the sublimities of Israel's God.
C.      Nature of narrative literature
The narrator has three concerns
1.                   History (story)
a.                   Superscript of first toledoth binds Prologue to following ten historical toledoth (generations of):
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1)
"These are the toledoth of the heavens and the earth [i.e., the man and the woman] when they were created, in the day the LORD God made the heavens and the earth (אלה תולדות השמים:והארץ בה^ראם ביום עשות יהוה אלהים ארץ ושייכו (Gen 2:4)
b.                  Anchors Garden of Eden in geography
2.                   Aesthetics/rhetoric (to fit the story into the plot)
a.                   Consists of story (historic actuality) and plot (narrator's creative representation of historic actuality)
b.                  Narrator creatively fits story into plot (metaphysics)
c.                   Evidence of creativity in Genesis 1
Exhibit A: Sequence of events in creation accounts cannot be harmonized in literal interpretation:
1.                   In Genesis 1:  trees > birds/animals > man/woman

Land/plants and trees
Land creatures/Humankind (male/female)
N.B. Plants created before biological species, and they before 'adam (male and female), who are created on the same day
2.                   In Genesis 2:  man > trees > animals & birds > woman
a.       Formed the Man  7
b.      Planted Garden  8
c.       Caused Trees to grow  9
d.      Put Man in Garden  15
e.      Commanded Man's Diet  16
f.        Reflects of man's loneliness  18
g.       Formed animals  19
h.      Man names animals/birds  20
i.         Puts man in coma  21
j.        Took a Rib 
k.       Built a woman  22
l.         Man composes poem  23
N.B. Even if (c) and (g) allowed as pluperfect tenses, trees would have had to be planted and to have grown in three days. Miracle growth?
N.B. the other events all occur on one day! Speed forward?
3.                   Ideology (=theology)
{Not sure from slides what should go here.}
D.      Anthropomorphic representation of Creator as Worker
1.                   Speaks 550 BC Hebrew: "God called the light day"

"It is certainly true that God did not speak with physical organs of speech nor did he utter words in the Hebrew language."
E. J. Young, Studies in Genesis 1 (Philadelphia: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1973), 55-56
2.                   Does not work at night. Why?
"Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you" (Psa 139:12)
{Not an explanation of why, but emphasizing the importance of the question.}
3.                   Rests to refresh himself
It [Sabbath day] will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed [וינפש, "allowed himself to catch his breath"]. (Exo 31:17)

IV.                Conclusion
A.      Genesis 1 not to be interpreted in wooden literalism
1.                   Genesis 1 as to natural world: restrained by sociology of knowledge. Science should not drive interpretation of Biblical cosmology and vice-versa
2.                   Genesis 1 as to theology: a revelation from Creator to make us wise to salvation
3.                   Narrative: story (history) creatively fitted into plot
4.                   Creator is represented figuratively as a worker (cf. potter, gardener, architect)
B.      Heuristic value of science to Scripture: a better understanding of Scripture
C.      Heuristic value of Scripture to science: a better understanding of reality that leads to eternal salvation

Day 8 Praise:  You are praised, O Lord, that no matter the heights of our wisdom, You have determined Truth that is independent of our belief and opinion.


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