The Battle for the Beginning – 7 of 12

by | May 25, 2017 | Adult Christian Learning | 0 comments

In this post we will examine Nathan’s seventh problem for the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1-2. So far, Nathan is 0-6 in his attempt to validate that the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1-2 has any serious problems. Let’s see if he fairs any better here.

7) “These are the generations of” in Genesis 2:4… Hebrew “toledot” occurs 11 times in the book of Genesis as a literary device… as an introduction to a new segment of the book. A sequel. When combined with Genesis 1:1 that makes 12 literary introductions to the book of Genesis. How many tribes of Israel are there? 12. If Genesis 2 is a flashback of Genesis 1:26… it is THE ONLY time toleot is used as a flashback to provide more detail of something that has already happened. **The only time**. Toledot never flashes back to provide more detail about an event that just happened. “The literary formula ‘this is the account of x’ occurs here [Genesis 2:4] and ten other times in the book of Genesis. It stands out as one of the formal characteristics of the book. In all the other occurrences in the book, the x is the name of a person. The formula introduces either a narrative of that person’s sons or a genealogy of that person’s decedents. In other words, it tells about what came after that person (though it sometimes overlaps with the life of the person) and what developed from that person. In Genesis 2:4, it is not a person’s name. Using the same logic, we would conclude that the section being introduced is going to talk about what came after creation of the heavens and earth reported in the seven-day account and what developed from that. In other words, the nature of the introduction leads us to think of Genesis 2 as a sequel… Three of the examples (Genesis 11:10; 25:19; 37:2 can be identified as recursive. In each of these, the section before the transition follows a family line deep into later history. The introductory formula then returns the reader to the other son in the family (the more important one to tell us his story… in these cases… the text does not bring the reader into the middle of the previous story to give a more detailed account. There is no detailed elaboration even though there may be overlapping. The remaining six examples introduce sequel accounts.” [Walton, p. 65-66, Lost World of Adam & Eve].

While it isn’t entirely irrelevant how often toledot functions as a sequel in Genesis, that fact alone is not enough to displace context as the single best determining factor for how it is functioning in Genesis 2. The first question is whether or not there are contextual differences between how toledot is used in Genesis 2 and how it is used in the other instances where it occurs in Genesis. Concerning this expression, Bill Arnold writes, “Although scholars disagree on its significance, each occurrence probably introduces a new literary unit of the book. This is the only time the expression is not followed by a personal name, and here it seems to serve as a narrative hinge, introducing 2:4b – 25 and summarizing 1:1-2:3. It is an exegetical fallacy to insist that toledot means the same thing in Genesis 2 as it does elsewhere in Genesis. Since there is obvious differences between the context of Genesis 2 and the other occurrences of toledot, it is only natural to expect there may be a nuanced meaning of this word in this particular context.

Nathan also claims that Genesis 2 is a sequel to Genesis 1. To be quite candid, I find that claim to be quite ridiculous. It is patently false and obviously so that Genesis 2 is not a sequel to Genesis 1. The creation of man is demonstration enough to refute the claim that Genesis 2 should any sense at all be understood as a sequel to Genesis 1. Nathan says that Genesis 2 follows what happened “after creation of the heavens and earth reported in the seven-day account. I find such a suggestion to be outrageous and without the slightest exegetical support. Clearly Genesis 2 does not follow Genesis 1 in chronological order. Man has already been created at the end of Genesis 1. Genesis 2:1 says that the heavens and earth were finishes and the host of them. And then 2:2 says that God rested from all his work. And then 2:4 begins the next literary unit which must be understood as a link but not a continuation. This verse serves both as a title to 2:5–4:26 (see previous section on Form/Structure/Setting) and as a link with the introduction 1:1–2:3.[1]

The problem is that to call Genesis 2 a continuation of the creation account is that it fails to understand the literary style of recapitulation. But actually this technique of recapitulation was widely practiced in ancient Semitic literature. The author would first introduce his account with a short statement summarizing the whole transaction, and then he would follow it up with a more detailed and circumstantial account when dealing with matters of special importance.[2] E.J. Young comments, “There are different emphases in the two chapters, as we have seen, but the reason for these is obvious. Chapter 1 continues the narrative of creation until the climax, namely, man made in the image and likeness of God. To prepare the way for the account of the fall, chapter 2 gives certain added details about man’s original condition, which would have been incongruous and out of place in the grand, declarative march of chapter 1.”[3] It seems to me then that whatever Nathan et al are looking at in Genesis 1-2 that poses problems for the traditional interpretation, they are not looking at the details of the traditional interpretation. It seems that they are looking at the interpretation of others on what the traditional interpretation actually is. And that is likely part of the problem. If one examines Walton’s work, there is seems to be an incredible reliance on ANE sources. There is no doubt some advantage to understanding the ANE background in our reading of Genesis 1-2. However, there is significant danger in reading into the biblical record too much influence from ANE literature. The ability to separate Scripture for what it is, a unified revelation of the gospel of God through Christ, is critical in properly interpreting Genesis 1-2. The atomistic approach to interpreting Scripture taken by higher criticism essentially ignores the distinctive characteristics of the biblical text and it should be avoided at all costs.

The story of Creation is the story about redemption. It cannot be rightly understood unless it is understood through the view of Scripture as a unified account, told by one author through many human instruments. Once that traditional understanding of Scripture is abandoned, confusion is unavoidable. Perhaps this is why the group at Faithlife involved in this discussion along with those attempting to adopt a piecemeal approach are so terribly confused.



[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, vol. 1, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 55.

[2] Gleason Archer Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 3rd. ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 135.

[3] Edward J. Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), 50.

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