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Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Lost World of Genesis One: Day Seven

I am posting on The Lost World of Genesis One, by John H. Walton. The previous post is here.

In the previous posts, I have indicated that Walton claims, and presents evidence for the claim, that the description of what happened, in Genesis One, is all about God establishing functions, not about God creating matter. (Walton believes that God created matter, but not that Genesis One describes this.) In other words, rather than describing God creating from nothing, the text is describing how God caused the earth to become organized. He says that we put our own cultural bias into the reading of Genesis One.

Walton's chapters are not listed as chapters, but as propositions -- statements to be supported. The seventh of these propositions was difficult for me to understand. I shall quote Walton:
. . . a reader from the ancient world would know immediately what was going on and recognize the role of day seven. Without hesitation the ancient reader would conclude that this is a temple text and that day seven is the most important of the seven days. In a material account day seven would have little role, but in a functional account . . . it is the true climax without which nothing else would make any sense or have any meaning. (p. 72) Walton, evidently an expert on Middle Eastern culture of the time -- which I certainly am not! -- discusses some of the non-Hebrew literature from ancient times to support this assertion.

It is true that the seventh day seems to be of  little importance, as most of us 21st century readers understand it. Is it true that the seventh day was one in which God acts as if He has settled into a temple? That is a little harder for me to grasp. Walton says, and uses other Old Testament verses to support this, that rest, to the culture of the ancient Hebrews, didn't necessarily mean "doing nothing." It meant, he says, that everything was in place, and functioning as it was supposed to.

An interesting claim. Thanks for reading.

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