Importance of Gen. 1-11; Review
We want to look at Genesis first of all from the framework of the structure of thought Moses was attempting to instill into the Israelites as they were on the plains of Moab about to enter into the promised land. If God had given the title deed to the land to Abraham and his descendants in perpetuity now is the time where God is going to come through on His promise. So the Jews, like any other people, would be asking the question: Why should we go in and take this land? Why should we go in and annihilate every man, woman and child? What gives us the right to do this? What is God doing? So what Moses is doing in communicating to the Jews the foundation of a world view. How you view ultimate reality affects how you view everything else: how you view creation, education, marriage, family, inter-personal relationships, whatever it may be. Everything is related ultimately back to your view of who God is and who man is. This for the Christian is founded in these first eleven chapters of Genesis. So Moses is trying to communicate a world view to the Jews, a foundation that gives them personal identity—who they are, what their mission is, what God has called them to do, and what they are supposed to be involved in in the world and with their neighbors in this new land.
By application what we have here as a structure of thought is that God is communicating to us. So we move from understanding what Moses is communicating under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the Israelites in about 1400 BC to what God is communicating to us by way of application. What is it that we are supposed to learn? Because fundamentally the world view, this foundational concept of life, was the same for them as it is for us, and they were cutting just as much against the grain by these first eleven chapters of Genesis as we are today. We read this and think that back then everyone believed in God, but no, they didn't. There was a culture that the Jews were interacting with a whole culture surrounding them that doesn't believe like they do about origins. As a result, these other cultures, whether their views on law, their views on everything else in society are completely distorted because of their ultimate view of origins. So what God is doing here is laying the foundation for our thinking on every area of life. And just as in the ancient world there is a conflict between the divine viewpoint analysis here and the analysis that is given in the cultures and what is popular and acceptable and politically correct.
We believe that the first eleven chapters of Genesis are the foundation of the Bible. They are just as inspired by the Holy Spirit, just as breathed-out by God, just as authoritative as any statement made by Jesus. Every word in the Bible is equally inspired; it is the Word of God. The Bible is an integrated whole, that every part of the Bible is equally significant, whether it is in the first eleven chapters of Genesis or the last fifteen chapters of Revelation, the Gospels, the Psalms; every part is significant and part of a whole, so that each part and section fits together and is interdependent on the other parts of the Bible. Every part of the Bible is equally inspired and fully inspired, and fits together with every other part, making a coherent whole.
We have discussed all of the major doctrines that are initiated in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. We are introduced to God at the very beginning as the creator-God. He is omnipotent, completely distinct from His creation. He is able to create all of the systems and all of the designs in the universe, which means that He is omniscient because He has to deal with such a vast amount of data, control it and put it all together. We could logically deduce many things from the fact that He is the creator of everything but we have the Scriptures that develop this. Furthermore, we know that there is an ethical aspect top God. He is not simply a God who has all this knowledge and all this power but He is a righteousness God, a God of integrity, and He places certain demands upon His creatures in relationship to morality. There was a test in the garden of Eden, so we are introduced to the fact that God has created man. And we are introduced to the doctrine of man and who man is, and to understand who a human being is, what makes us human beings, and what is significant about a human being is derived from the first three chapters of Genesis. If we are involved in any kind of career, any kind of education, any kind of study that involves people, we have to start with an understanding of Genesis 1-3. If we don't then whatever the data is that the field of study is in is skewed, leaving out crucial parts of the information. Think about that. If you are in psychology and are excluding what the Bible says about the nature of man and being created in the image and likeness of God, and the Bible says that man's basic problem is that he has a sin nature, and Jesthat that core problem can't be resolved apart from the grace of God, then how is that going to affect your life as a psychologist trying to communicate to people who have marriage problems or difficulties raising children, or problems just coping with life? If you are not taking into account Genesis 1-3 your solution is no solution because it is based on a view of people and a view of reality that is distorted and doesn't take into account a lot of truth, and so you can't really help people. You may be able to put a band aid on some things but it doesn't provide real long-term solutions. Understanding of meteorology, geology, the ice age, is all affected by our understanding of these first eleven chapters of Genesis. It is not simply something interesting to tell us about how man fell, how sin entered into the universe, and how God had to judge sin a second time because of angelic infiltration into the human race prior to the flood. It goes a lot deeper than that, there is a tremendous amount of profound information here that we can't just step past.
These chapters talk about volition and human responsibility, what sin brought into the creation in terms of the consequences of the sin penalty. And we have to remember that there is a distinction between the penalty for sin in terms of spiritual death on the one hand and the consequences that that engendered on the other hand—the physical death, the physical suffering, certain changes in the animal kingdom; all of which were the consequences of that spiritual death. That then challenges our thinking as to just what God is trying to demonstrate in all of this. So we look at the fact that sin has entered into the human race and that God in His integrity and love has also provided a solution. We see that announced at the very beginning. God didn't wait six months, six years, sixty years, before He announced the plan of redemption. He is not caught by surprise. As soon as it happened He announces a plan of redemption—Genesis 3:16. We have sin as man's basic problem, suffering, redemption, marriage, family, nations—all these doctrines have their foundation in these first eleven chapters.
Furthermore, we believe that the first eleven chapters of Genesis are the foundation of human history. We understand from Genesis 9 with the curse on Canaan and the blessing of Shem and Japheth that this gives structure. Noah through divine inspiration saw through his sons the course that human history would take. All of this comes from this period. If we believe that these eleven chapters are not only the foundation of the Bible but also the foundation of history, this gives us a divine interpretation of history and the divine perspective on humanity, and it provides the framework for understanding everything that we see in creation. So it is not only the theology and the religion and the doctrine that is presented in the Bible that is important, but it gives a framework for everything else in life.
There are two basic types of thinking: divine viewpoint thinking and human viewpoint thinking. There are other terms used that are synonymous to human viewpoint thinking. There is cosmic/kosmic thinking, the same kind of thinking that characterized Satan and the demons. James 3:13 ties these together. It is paganism. These all are the same thing. It is a system of thought, and there are many different elements within human viewpoint thinking but they all ultimately represent the same thing. Divine viewpoint is going to look at the world and the events and details of the world and ask how God says we are to interpret this data. Human viewpoint comes and says it can interpret this data on the basis of rationalism (its own reason), or empiricism (its own experience), or mysticism (some intuitive insight into the nature of reality: I know it is this way because that is what makes sense to me). But all of that relates to man's arrogance, that man can interpret the world around him and come to certain conclusions apart from God. The conflict that we as Christians face in the world is that we believer what God says in the Bible is absolutely true and nobody around us believes that because they are operating on either autonomous reason or autonomous experience or mysticism, or they are blending the Bible with one of those, but ultimately whenever you blend the Bible with one of those systems it always corrupts the Bible. So they come up with different conclusions. So the issue: Are we going to be steadfast in our understanding of the Scriptures? There is always this conflict, and we have seen that human viewpoint thinking always fails. The Bible makes it clear that it is presenting a view of history, of life, of creation, that is 180 degrees opposite everything else.
The interpretation of the first eleven chapters of Genesis sets the pattern of the interpretation of the rest of the Bible. How you interpret Genesis 1-11 will impact how you interpret the rest of the Bible. If you come in and make these allegories, that there wasn't a literal Adam and Eve but they were just symbols for the original parents, all of a sudden what you are doing is setting a pattern where you are no longer taking other things in the Bible literally, and you are going to change them around to where you are able to avoid the impact of the literal interpretation. If you believe in a literal Genesis 1-11 you need to believe in a literal Revelation, the last book of the Bible.
We see that the Bible presents God's interpretation of man, of history, of society, marriage, family, government. All social relationships are laid down in these first eleven chapters, and everything that relates to that, such as economics, politics, history, literature.
The events of creation, fall, flood, tower of Babel, are historical events that took place in time. They are not just stories designed to communicate morals or ethics. Christianity, unlike any other religion in human history, is grounded in history. If it didn't take place the way the Bible says it took place then the theology that is derived from it is false. That is why the empty tomb is attack, why Genesis 1-11 is attacked; because if the critic can destroy the significance or the reality of Genesis 1-11—it really didn't happen that way—then it destroys the theology of the whole Bible and basically rips the foundation out from under Christianity. So you can't compromise on anything in these first chapters of Genesis. The Bible begins with God as the ex nihilo creator. This is completely different from everything else. You can say that there are 20, 50 100, 200 different creation stories throughout the world, but there are only two. There is the view of the Bible, that God is completely distinct from creation and creates everything by the word of His own power; or that somehow matter is eternal and sort of self-generates and creation comes out of itself. Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." This is a very clear concept of ex nihilo creation. God is distinct from everything in the universe. "Heavens and the earth" is a Hebrew term for the universe. God is different; He is not part of the universe. Hebrews 11:3, "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear [which are visible]"—the HREMA [r(hma], the spoken Word of God. This describes ex nihilo creation. John 1:3, "All things were made by him [the LOGOS, Jesus Christ, the agent of creation]; and without him was not any thing made that was made." Psalm 33:6, "By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth." Colossians 1:16, "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him." This doesn't leave anything out, and it presents a clear view that God, the God of the Bible, is completely distinct from creation.
The Bible always goes back and interprets Genesis 1-11 in a literal way. For example, Jesus interprets the events of the creation literally. When He is asked about divorce in Matthew 19:4, 5 His answer is: "And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, [Quote from Genesis 1:26-28] 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?"—God says that at the end of Genesis chapter two. Jesus didn't have the benefit of modern scholarship and He recognizes that Genesis was written by the same author! He treats the Genesis record as both valid and as literal events. Jesus doesn't make any comment on the fall, doesn't mention Adam by name in the Gospel accounts, but He does mention Noah (Matthew 24:37, 38) treating the days of Noah as a literal event. In the genealogy for Christ the genealogies are treated as literal events. Noah is mentioned there, Luke 3:36, "… was the son of Noah, which was the son of Lamech." Luke 3:34-38 takes the genealogies of Genesis 10 and Genesis 5 in a literal fashion. Luke 17:27, 27 is a reiteration of the Matthew 24 passage, treating the existence of Noah in a literal way. Jesus doesn't mention the tower of Babel but other writers do. New Testament writers clearly interpreted the events of Genesis 1-3 literally. 1 Corinthians 11:9, builds his whole understanding of the relationship between men and women in marriage and in church on what happens in Genesis 1 & 2. Cf. 2 Cor, 4:6, "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." Ephesians 3:9, "…God, who created all things by Jesus Christ." Colossians 1:16, "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him." Hebrews 4:4, "For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works." 1 Corinthians 15:45, "And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit"—quote from Genesis 2:7. James 3:9, "Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God." Revelation 4:11, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created."
Revelation 10:6, "And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein…"
Again and again throughout the New Testament it affirms the literal historicity of the first eleven chapters of Genesis. It talks about the fall. 1 Timothy 2:13, 14, "For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." Romans 5:15, talking about death reigning from Adam to Moses; 1 Corinthians 15:22, "For as in Adam all die…" The flood is recognized as having happened literally in Hebrews 11:7; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5. If you take those out then you destroy whatever is being taught doctrinally in the New Testament.