Understanding The Bible
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BY THE AUTHOR
Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible
OLD TESTAMENT HISTORY
THE CREATION TO THE CALL OF ABRAHAM
The purpose of this section of the book is to tell how things began: earth, plant and animal life, family, community, nation, sin, and death. These last two lead to the themes which dominate the rest of the Bible -- sacrifice, Messianic promise, and the choice of Israel to bless the nations. Thus, Genesis finds its complement in Revelation, which sees the New Heavens and Earth for the redeemed.
I. CREATION OF THE WORLD AND MAN, Genesis 1-2
A. CREATION, not Evolution
The Bible flatly states the method of the origin of the universe, the world, and man as being by special creation. See Hebrews 11:1-6. Faith simply takes God at His word, for God does not elaborate on His statement of creation or offer proof. He simply says this is what He did.
Evolution rejects the fact of creation and asserts another explanation for the origin of the universe, the world, and man. Du Nouy's Human Destiny (New York, 1947) is a helpful summary of the modern evolutionary theory. The writer says (p.66); "Physical man can only be considered as the result of a series of organisms which go back to the most elementary forms of life." The answer of Bible believers to the evolution hypothesis runs along this line:
1. The Bible is not a textbook in science, yet its statement on this, as on any other subject, must be true.
2. Distinguish between two necessary parts of all science - fact and theory (or interpretation of fact).
3. Premise of evolution - no God, therefore special creation impossible; is materialistic, atheistic, a part of the movement which produced modernism and atheistic communism.
4. "Theistic evolution" is a logical impossibility. If God is admitted as intervening at any point in the process, it is not development from inherent forces. If God intervenes once, why not at every point the Bible says He did? It is either evolution or creation. It cannot be both.
5. Inadequacy of evolution (from viewpoint of science).
a. Fails to explain origin of matter.
b. Fails to explain the origin of life (Du Nouy, p.66).
c. Fails to bridge the gap between the species, and especially between animals and man.
6. Basic errors of evolution (from viewpoint of Bible).
a. "After its kind" permits development only within the species. Mendel's law.
b. Creation is supported by the word used, Bara (Genesis 1:1; 21:26-27).
c. Nepesh hayah - living soul. Animals are also said to be "living souls" (1:21,24), but God made man one by a special inbreathing-life principle imparted uniquely to man, and only man is said to have been created in the image of God.
B. DATE of Creation
There are three major viewpoints held by fundamental Bible scholars. The first two are the views commonly held today. In more recent times very few scholars still hold to view 3.
1. The Day-Age Theory
This view understands Genesis 1:1-2 as simply a prologue or introductory statement to the rest of the chapter in which God is understood to be accomplishing the work of creation in creative "days" which are interpreted as long periods of time (not 24-hour periods). See SRB, p.4, n. 1 and 2. These scholars understand that this creative activity took place in the dateless past.
2. The Gap and Restoration Theory
This view also understands that the creation of the universe (i.e., the heavens and the earth, v.1) took place in the dateless past. But it believes that in verse 2 we are to understand that the earth (only), originally created perfect (v. 1) was thrown into chaos (tohu... bohu, i.e., desolation and waste, v.2), probably due to events associated with Satan's rebellion against God. The heavens were not affected by this turn of events.
This view understands the remainder of the chapter, beginning with verse 3, as beginning not an account of the original creation, but the restoration and preparation of the earth for man's habitat. Hence, the days are interpreted as interpreted as literal 24 hour days. Thus, the creation of the universe cannot be dated since it is separated from the six days by a dateless period of chaos (v.2).
This is the view taught in SRB (p.3, n.2 and 3; p.4, n.3, and the verse headings of chapter 1), and held through the years by most teachers of the College. However, we should be careful to recognize that many earnest believers hold view 1, and that both are possible solutions, even if. we feel our view is superior.
Man is, therefore, believed to have been created around 4000 B.C. (or 6000 years ago according to the chronology of the Hebrew text from which our English Bible is translated. (There is, however, a variation in the number of years stated in the genealogies in the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint, i.e., the Translation of the Seventy, 250-125 B.C. According to the Septuagint (elsewhere abbreviated LXX), Adam was created approximately in 5500 B.C. or 7500 years ago.)
3. The Old 4004 B.C. Theory
Through the centuries, until comparatively recent times, the church understood that the universe as well as man was created in six days of 24 hours, hence, about 6000 years ago. Archbishop Usher's date was 4004 B.C. This view was also held by Bishop Pearson and, in our generation, presumably by Dr. Walter A. Maier, famous Lutheran Hour radio speaker. But voices raised for this view are few because it does not provide ample time, as do views 1 and 2, for the antiquity of the stars and the earth; nor is there time for the laying down of fossils, etc. As per view 1, this view understands verses 1 and 2 as just a paragraph head with six 24-hour days giving the details of creation.
C. Other Information
Genesis 1:1-2:3 gives a general account of the origin of all things. Genesis 2:4-25 gives a more detailed account of man's origin - man as the crowning achievement of God's creative activity, and as the ruler (under God) of the creation (Psalm 8). In the general account, the name of God in His activity of creation and providence is used (Elohim - God), while in the detailed account of man's creation we are introduced to God's special name, used of God in redemptive activity (Jehovah - the self-existent one). See SRB, p.3, n.1;p.6, n.2.
Concerning the location of the Garden of Eden: the rivers Pison and Gihon cannot be identified. The Hiddekel is the Tigris and with the Euphrates helps to localize the Garden. It was probably in that part of the world now called Iraq; ancient Mesopotamia.
Pagan distortions of the Creation story may be found as listed below: Heidel, Alexander. The Babylonian Genesis. Chicago: 1942. Pritchard, James B. Ancient Near East Texts. Princeton: 1950. Pp.60-72. (This is the best work on translated ancient documents of the Bible world.) Davis-Gehman. Westminster Bible Dictionary. Pp.120-121.
D. Ages, Dispensations, Covenants
The student should be careful to read, study, and evaluate the material on these subjects in SRB notes. p.5. n.4,5.6;p.9, n. 1; p.10, n.2;p.16. n. 1 and 2; p.19, n. 1; and subsequent notes as they appear. Indeed, every SRB note should be read carefully for helpful comment.
II. THE FALL OF MAN: THE ENTRANCE OF
SIN INTO THE WORLD, Genesis 3
Adam and Eve were on trial while they enjoyed the pleasures of Eden. The one prohibition was against eating the fruit of a tree (2:16-17). It was a matter of simple obedience to God's command. There was no complicated problem. Man was given complete freedom under God. The tree was the symbol of God's sovereignty. Not to eat is to recognize God's right to absolute authority. To eat is to rebel against that authority, and thus to sin, for "sin is lawlessness" (1 John 3:4, A.S.N.).
Satan appeared (SRB, p.8, n. 2) and tempted them to doubt God's goodness and assert their independence of Him (3:4-5); they ate and fell. Note the results of the fall (SRB, p.9, n.1) and the first promise of a Redeemer (3:15; SRB, p.9, n.2). For the effects of Adam's sin on the race, study Romans 5:12-21 and SRB, p.1197, n.3
III. FROM ADAM TO NOAH, Genesis 4-5
These chapters trace the lines of descent of two of Adam's sons to the time of Noah, thus connecting the fall with the flood (SRB, p.11, n. 2).
IV. THE FLOOD, Genesis 6-9
A. "The Sons of God"
1. The first view, that these are descendants of Seth, is well-stated in SRB, p.13,n.1.
2. The second view is that the sons of God are fallen angels. Evidences for this position are:
(1) Moses is the traditional author of the book of Job. There the phrase "sons of God" plainly refers to angels (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7). Why should he not intend angels here in Genesis?
(2) There are passages which seem to refer to an event like this, especially in relation to an improper moral context (e.g., Jude 6-7, "even as"; 2 Peter 2:4-6).
(3) It is urged that the tales of the gods coming down to men found in mythology are, distortions of this event. Unusual supermen (6:4) resulted from this attempt to corrupt the race (6:5), that Messiah could not come.
(4) It is urged that certainly sons of Cainites and daughters of Sethites would not refrain from marrying (although some holding the first view insist that the language of 6:2 means simply intermarriage of both sexes of both lines).
(5) The chief objection of the first view to the second view, that angels are not marriageable (Matthew 22:30), is answered by adherents of the second view somewhat as follows: "That is the general rule, but it is specifically said that these 'kept not their first estate,' but broke over the bounds of God's restrictive command; hence, they are kept bound in chains awaiting judgment:." (Also observe Matthew 22:30 does not say they are sexless (all are called "he") nor cannot marry. It simply says they do not.)
Dr. James N. Gray, in Spiritism and Fallen Angels, lists four ways in which this contamination of the human race might have taken place. See also Biblical Demonism by Merrill Unger, pp.45-52; and The Dispensation of the Ages by W. S. Hottel, chapter on Flood.
B. THE ANIMALS and THE ARK See SRB, p.14, n.1.
C. THE EXTENT OF THE FLOOD
Although some Bible scholars profess to see evidence of only an area flood, the College understands that the flood covered the whole earth. Genesis 7:20 states that the mountain tops were covered with 15 cubits of water, and Genesis 7:21 says that all flesh died. (Certainly the animals - at least - had spread over a large part of the earth's surface.) See The Flood by Arthur Rehwinkel. Also, The Genesis Flood by Whitcomb and Harris.
D. OTHER SOURCES
1. Ancient Records
The ancient Mesopotamians had a flood story which is in many details similar to the Bible story. It was found at Nineveh, in the library of the Assyrian king Assurbanipal (669-626 B.C.), written on twelve clay tablets. The story is very old, and is doubtless a somewhat distorted account of the Bible flood. See Pritchard's The Gilgamesh Epic and Heigel's The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels, Chicago, 1945, pp.72-99. Also, The Westminster Bible Dictionary, pp. 186-187.
2. Alleged Flood Evidence (not dependable)
a. Alleged finding of the ark by Russians on Ararat.
b. Alleged flood-strata in Mesopotamia.
(1) None in Syria and Palestine
(2) Ur (4000-3500)
(3) Kish (3000 or later)
(4) Fara (between Ur and Kish dates)
(5) Nineveh (4000-3500). See John Bright's "Has Archaeology found evidence of the flood?" Biblical Archaeologist. Vol.4, pp.55-62, Dec. 1942.
c. Geology and the flood.
Some apologists believe that the geological strata of the earth may have been laid by the flood. (George McCready Price's The New Geology) This is not looked upon with favor by most conservatives.
E. GOD'S COVENANT WITH NOAH
Chapter 9 records God's covenant with Noah at the conclusion of the flood. See SRB, p.16, n. l and 2.
V. FROM NOAH TO ABRAHAM, Genesis 10-11
In chapter 10 the descendants of Noah's three sons are named; they repopulated the earth after the flood. The story of the tower of Babel (11:1-9) explains how the earth's inhabitants, who came from one family, began to speak languages unknown to each other. Chapter 11:10-32 traces the ancestry of one of Shem's descendants, Abraham, for reasons which will be apparent in the next chapter.
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