Reading Genesis With Neither Copernicus or Galileo

This article contains the text of my answer to a brother’s contention that “Temple theology” in Genesis (and elsewhere) is a capitulation to the whims of modern science which is simply seeking to read a literal, seven-day creation out of the the Genesis account. I will post my original comment, his reply, and my further comment in full. Names have been changed because that’s just what decent people do. Or so I am told.

[Brother], if you are coming to the position because you think science necessitates it then abandon it forthwith. Science, as mutable as it is, shouldn’t be in the driver’s seat. If you are coming to the position because you think that Scripture requires it then you should stand there and do no other. I didn’t come to embrace a certain reading of Genesis because I thought that science required it of me, I came to the position because I don’t believe that Moses was interested in science in the slightest. His cosmology was theological; it was “temple” language. I came to see that I didn’t have to abandon the “literary” in the literal. Moses meant what he said, but what he said had little (if anything) to do with entropy or the second law of thermodynamics.


The problem with temple theology is that John Walton is allegorizing what is plainly stated in the text. Read the critique in how is it that John Walton and others with the temple theology viewpoint know better than the ancient Church and ancient Jewish rabbis? No one saw anything different until deep time began to be the consensus. At that time men pleasing and fear of men set in, blinding people to truth.

My rejoinder:

I don’t believe that I mentioned John Walton in my comments. I did not come to see the “temple motif” through his writings. I largely came to understand the concept from reading another John’s writings; namely the Gospel according to John and Revelation. One simply can’t, in my humble opinion, grasp the larger meaning of his passion narrative and his Apocalypse without seeing that Jesus is temple personified, image, and cornerstone for a greater temple. Further, Peter and Paul both pick up on the same imagery in their epistles. Realizing the frequency of their “temple” images and language made me revisit the Hebrew Bible and lo and behold I found it all through the ancient Scriptures. What’s more, I began to see that the tabernacle and temple themselves pointed both forward eschatologically and backward protologically (see my article here, among others). Writers such as Beale, Morales, Kline, Jordan and others have written extensively on the imagery without any motivation to bow to modern science. They simply are trying to understand the Scriptures as they were given to us. The critique to which you have linked fails to account for the weight of biblical evidence from Genesis through Revelation—it simply is not an isolated paradigm.

Your question as to why it took so long for students of the Bible to recognize such things is an interesting one. It probably has more to do with their own presuppositions and paradigms than the validity of this one. One wonders how those rabbis missed even greater connections, such as the nature and identity of Israel’s God embodied in Israel’s coming Messiah. I hardly find it a persuasive argument that we should listen to the wisdom of the rabbis on the question of God’s purpose and pattern in creation when they missed the even plainer manifestation of God in Christ Jesus. However, Paul tells us some of the reason for their gross ignorance when he says that even in the time of the first century that “a veil was over their eyes whenever Moses was read.” Whenever Moses was read, think about that. Paul didn’t trust the rabbinic tradition of interpretation with regard to the Pentateuch. I imagine that he was close enough to make such a judgment.

I offer another explanation. A full-orbed, distinctly “Christian” view of reading Israel’s Scriptures was a project first launched in the early Church but it wasn’t fully appropriated (we are still wrestling with the concept even now). Augustine, Ireneus, and Origen were among the first post-apostolic writers to take up the project, and they did so according to their best lights. Augustine obviously didn’t read Genesis the way that Ken Ham reads it. On your logic one should ask why he is dismissive of the “ancient reading” in favor of a novel “scientific” hermeneutic?  I think it is fair to assume that this doctrine—like the Trinity, nature of Christ, and other dogmatic constructs—took time to fully develop and articulate. The questions with which the first several centuries were concerned were not about human origins as much as about the divine nature. They simply didn’t have the time or the wisdom to exhaust every biblical nuance. Then, Roman dogma slowed us down. Superstition took priority over exegesis. The Reformation led to many “innovations” that were not new at all; they were simply rediscoveries of the Great Tradition. Following the Reformation, the Western Church was eclipsed by another form of superstition—this time the fairytale of secularized reason which came to its own in the Enlightenment. As we crawl out from under this later instantiation of those humanistic “Dark Ages”, we are once again finding our way back to Israel’s Scriptures hoping to read them apart from the influence of modernism (and postmodernism). Strangely enough, when we attempt to see them in all of their pre-modern glory we are berated for doing just the opposite. We are told that we simply MUST read them anachronistically—original intent and audience be damned. I think that this is unwise. What’s more, I think it is the very sort of capitulation to modernism that our brothers think that they have escaped when they press those early texts into our later categories. This is very ironic for it is they who are maintaining that a certain “scientific” rubric be followed, regardless of how those pre-scientific souls in the ancient near east would have heard and made sense of the text.

In short, “temple” language isn’t a novelty spawned by secularized attempts to hornswoggle the people of God. It is the way to deliver hermeneutics from the hands of their modern, Babylonian captors. I for one am glad that we are finally able to say, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God A’mighty, free at last.” 


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