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A literal reading of Genesis 1-3

by Herold Weiss

Cover1It is widely accepted that the first three chapters of Genesis actually contain two stories of creation which are told from two quite different perspectives. One is found in Gen. 1: 1 – 2: 4a, and the other in Gen. 2: 4b – 4:23. Neither one of them supports what came to be affirmed as the orthodox Christian view of creation – that God created ex nihilo, out of nothing. Both stories have pre-existent matter at hand when God enters the picture. The first says that God’s Spirit moved over the primeval ocean. The second says that God came to an inhospitable, arid desert.
Most importantly, the two stories differ by the way in which they express God’s relationship to primeval matter and the way in which God accomplishes what he wishes to do. In the first God never enters the world that is being created. God remains throughout aloof in space and issues commands. In the second God walks upon the ground and gets physically involved in bringing about what is to be. He plants a garden, molds clay, breathes into the clay. God takes a rib out of Adam and closes its place with flesh. God talks face to face with Adam and Eve. God searches for them while calling them. God makes garments of skins for Adam and Eve, and clothes them. While the God of the first story is transcendent, the God of the second is fully immanent.
Finally, both stories have God establish a means for keeping in touch with the human family. In the first God creates the Sabbath as a day of rest. In the second, God plants at the center of the garden the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Thus, each story has a peculiar “temple” of its own. All ancient stories of creation end with the establishment of a temple by means of which human beings keep their relationship with the gods alive. While the story of the transcendent God establishes a temple in immaterial time, the story of the immanent God has trees that establish that human life is dependent on obedience. In pointing out these details of the two stories, am I not reading my Bible literally?


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  1. Mr. Weiss, the first three chapters of Genesis are indeed to be understood literally. The creation story of Gen. 2:4-25 is a continuation, not a break, of the creation story, a CLOSE-UP after the PANORAMA of Genesis 1. God’s relationship to the world is in His identity as Elohim. His relationship to a couple is in His identity as Yahweh Elohim or “Lord God.” I do not believe God remains “aloof in space and issues commands.” Elohim said, “LET US [indicating the Trinity] make man in OUR likeness …” (Gen. 1:26). ” … And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2). The word “hover” means “shake, flutter, vibrate” and indicates a rapid back and forth movement. The Spirit was energizing the universe in the form of light waves, heat waves, sound waves, etc., according to Henry Morris, the man I mentioned yesterday.
    “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Heb. 11:3). With eyes of faith we read the creation story, first as a panorama and then as a close-up record of God’s awesome power and love in forming the world and His first man and woman. In His teaching on marriage, Jesus quoted from both chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis, forever removing any doubt of its authenticity – “Have ye not read that He which made them AT THE BEGINNING made them male and female [Gen. 1:27], and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? [Gen. 2:23,24]” (Matt. 3-9; Mark 10:2-12).
    I don’t see a “temple” in the garden. God was walking and talking with them every day! As for the Sabbath, that was the day for it every week. Revelation paints a picture of how we will be back in Paradise one day! We will be enjoying the presence of Jesus and the Father like Adam and Eve did, and there will be no need for a “temple.” I really like the way you described God’s “hands-on” relationship with Adam and Eve. Thank you.

    1. Dear Henry,
      This book title is certainly inflammatory to me! How can an avowed atheist or agnostic, whichever Darwin was, be a person to worship with? Horrors!!! So many people were/are eager to accept Darwin’s “theory” of evolution, because it keeps them from being accountable to God. They have evolved and were not created, a very humanistic view. I realize there are all types of evolutionary beliefs, some not as awful as others, but all play a part in discrediting the absolute divine origin of the Scripture. Jesus said, “My words are Spirit, and they are life.” Words are important, and it is of the greatest importance to believe God’s Word as the Holy Spirit inspired holy men of God to write it!

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