Category Archives: Old Testament
I think we all recognize now that who we are shapes how we read the Bible. A white, middle-class American evangelical (me) necessarily reads the text differently than a 15-year old Arab Christian living in Syria (not me). But what exactly does this mean? How does ethnic and cultural context affect our reading? How much should it? And how much hermeneutical diversity are we willing to accept along the way?
Those are some of the questions that Daniel Carroll explored in his paper, “Reading the Bible through Other Lenses: New Perspectives and Challenging Vistas.” And, as a Hispanic scholar, he specifically looked at the question what it looks like to read the Bible from a Hispanic diaspora perspective.
1. The Need for Multiethnic Readings of the Bible
Unsurprisingly Carroll began the paper with a brief argument of the necessity of multiethnic approaches. He pointed out that the church does not have a good track record for appreciating the value of diverse ethnic perspectives, tending instead to identify one approach as the normative one to which all others must conform.
But we live in a different world. At the very least, the rapidly changing demographics of the western world are pressing us to take ethnic perspectives more seriously. It’s one thing to view my reading of scripture as normative when everyone around me is just like me. But when I finally notice that the room is full of people very different from me, it’s harder to think that mine is the only appropriate way to do things. (Indeed, the room has always been full of people different from me, but in the past it was easier to ignore these “marginal” voices.)
And Carroll took the time to make a few comments about how this should affect ministry training. Although he doesn’t think that seminaries need to reshape the entire curriculum such that multi-ethnicity becomes the lens through which we see everything, he does think that seminaries in general need to do a far better job of training students to understand their own cultural biases and to appreciate other ethnic perspectives.
2. Methodological Suggestions for a HIspanic Diaspora Reading
In the second section, Carroll argued that a “diaspora hermeneutic” needs to read the text in ways that are “sensitive to the diaspora experience.” So a diaspora hermeneutic will look for “diaspora texts” in the Bible, those that appreciate the particular needs of dislocated peoples.
And he specifically identified five essential features of that experience and how they shape Hispanic diaspora hermeneutics:
- Marginality: Identify characters on the “margins” of the biblical texts.
- Poverty: Be aware of poverty/economic issues in the text and society.
- Mestizaje: Recognize the ethnically “mixed” nature of biblical characters and societies.
- Exile and alien: Understand how central these two themes are to the overall biblical narrative and particular stories.
- Solidarity: Focus on things like family and community and the shared life of the global church as the extended family of God.
He concluded this section with an appeal for “hermeneutical charity.” Diaspora readings like this will necessarily produce readings of scripture different form those commonly accepted by dominant cultural interpretations. And he specifically warns against two faulty responses to such new interpretations: exclusion and inclusion. The first is obviously problematic in that it rejects other perspectives entirely. But the latter is equally problematic (possibly even worse) in that it simply incorporates the “minority” interpretation into the already existing paradigm of the dominant culture. Rather than letting this new interpretation speak with its own voice, such an “inclusive” approach actually silences these other perspectives even while ostensibly giving them a place at the table. Neither approach is adequate. Instead, we must respond to new voices with “hospitality and engagement.”
3. Readings of the OT from the Hispanic Perspective
This final section would take far too long to summarize. Here Carroll offered specific examples of a diaspora Hispanic hermeneutic at work, focusing on OT stories like Abram and Sarai, Joseph, Ruth, Nehemiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.
Here are two of the more interesting thoughts he shared in this section:
- In the story of Abram and Sarai, he pointed out that Abram’s deceit was “the kind of ruse employed by the powerless.” It’s easy to criticize him from our comfortable and secure position, but Carroll argued, “If this is what you need to do to feed your family, then this is what you do. Hunger makes too much at stake for easy moral discourse, and women have the most at stake.” So he suggested that a diaspora Hispanic hermeneutic helps us see that the line between “truth and trickery” is more nuanced than we often appreciate.
- Similarly, he read the store of Ruth through the lens of immigration and cultural assimilation. He pointed out that many aspects of the Ruth narrative have to do with a person who comes from one culture to another and has to navigate the (often unfriendly) institutions and relational networks of the new culture. And he noted that the closing genealogy, far from being merely a device for connecting Ruth to the later story of David, serves as a way of demonstrating the diaspora readers that they are part of a larger narrative.
He offered similar examples from the other stories, each time showing how diaspora Hispanic interests draw insights and observations from the text that are often quite different from what we’re used to.
This was a fascinating paper. The first section was pretty standard fare for anyone accustomed to such appeals for multicultural readings. But I appreciated that Carroll took the time to lay out the specific hermeneutical methodology that would guide his particular approach. That is something that is not always articulated as clearly. And it raises the question of whether those of us from “dominant” cultures need to be equally clear about the cultural presuppositions driving our own exegesis – instead of simply assuming that ours is the standard and theirs is the “ethnic” perspective. And the concluding section where he actually put the methodology into practice was very helpful.
I was frustrated, though, that he said nothing about the giant in the room: How do we determine if a particular reading is or isn’t legitimate? Once we’ve acknowledged that different cultures read the text through different lenses and generate different interpretations, are we simply left with one big mass of difference? We are still reading the same text, so shouldn’t there be some way of navigating the difference? The German Christians of the mid-twentieth century also had a particular way of reading scripture. And I’m sure we’d all way to say “Nein!” to that cultural reading. But how do we do that without “exclusion” or “inclusion”? Unfortunately, Carroll’s paper didn’t touch on this question even briefly. (Of course, it was late on Friday night. So it’s entirely possible that I just missed it.)
In last week’s Forced Choice, Eastern Orthodoxy seriously trounced Catholicism with nearly two-thirds of the votes (64%). I may write a post sometime on why I think that is, but now it’s time to move on.
So, this week we’re going to jump back into the Bible and look at the major OT genres. As always, use whatever criteria you want to make your selection (e.g. you think one is more important, more fun to read, more interesting to study, whatever). And, you don’t have to leave a comment explaining your choice, but feel free to if you’d like.
I will probably regret this, but I’m going to weigh in on a debate that broke out while I was on vacation. As a warning to those of you with sensitive souls, I’m going to take umbrage in this post. I’m rather excited about that. I don’t get to take umbrage very often. (I’m actually not sure what “umbrage” is. But, whatever it is, I intend to take it and take it good.)
The debate has to do with the proper understanding of Deuteronomy 25:11-12:
If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity. (NIV)
Hector Avalos started things off with a critique of Paul Copan’s interpretation of Deut. 25:11-12. (Actually, things started earlier with an exchange between and Avalos and Matthew Flanagan. See Flanagan’s Hector Avalos and Careful, Non-Selective Citation of Sources for links and comments on that part of the discussion.) Specifically, Avalos argued that in Copan’s book Is God a Moral Monster? ((Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2011), 121-122) Copan sets aside the obvious meaning of the text (i.e. that the woman’s hand should be cut off for grabbing a man’s genitals during a fight) in favor of a non-literal meaning of the text (i.e. that the woman’s pubic hair should be shaved as a humiliating punishment for the action), and that he does so with little or no exegetical support. Avalos apparently sees Copan’s interpretation as an attempt to soften the text and avoid its obvious (and brutal) meaning.
Paul Copan responded earlier today with Deuteronomy 25:11-12, An Eye for an Eye, and Raymond Westbrook: A Reply to Hector Avalos. He explained why he thinks his reading of the text is the most obvious and natural. Rather than setting aside the “literal” meaning in favor of some “non-literal” and softer reading, he contends that he is simply reading the text the way that it was meant to be read.
In the process of making his argument, Copan offered some rather strong criticisms of my article “The Law on Violent Intervention: Deuteronomy 25.11-12 Revisited,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 30:3 (2006), 431-47. Avalos had cited my article in support of his argument, so Copan felt it necessary to explain why he found my argument unconvincing.
You should, of course, read Copan’s post for yourself, but here is a quick summary of his criticisms:
- I failed to engage Jerome Walsh’s article “You Shall Cut Off Her…Palm? A Reexamination of Deuteronomy 25:11-12,” Journal of Semitic Studies (2004): 47-58, in which Walsh argues that kaph refers to the woman’s groin, rather than her hand, and that qatsats in the qal means “to shave” rather than “to cut off.”
- I failed to provide any real reason for the shift from the yad (hand) that grasped the man’s genitals to the kaph that gets cut off. If this is an example of the lex talionis such a shift seems odd.
- I failed to deal with the semantic distinction between the qal and piel forms of the key verb. Copan follows Walsh in arguing that although the piel form refers to “cutting off”, the qal means “to shave.” By not recognizing this difference I missed the meaning of the text entirely.
- Basically, Copan summarizes his critique by saying that I have not “looked at the words” (emphasis his).
Before I respond, I should point out that Copan also quotes Walsh on some very nice things that Walsh says about my article. So, apparently if you can set aside the fact that I was completely wrong about the text at almost every point, it was still a good article. That’s nice to hear.
And, I should also say that I find the Copan/Walsh argument very interesting. I’m still not convinced that they’re right. But I do think that they offer a legitimate exegetical option that is worth considering. So, my responses to Copan below will be more points of clarification than any attempt at refutation.
I’ll deal with Copan’s criticisms in order:
- He’s right. I did not interact at all with Walsh’s article. Of course, that’s because I wrote my article before Walsh’s was published. Although my article wasn’t published until 2006 (two years after Walsh’s), I wrote it in 03/04 during the last year of my Th.M. program at Western Seminary. For a variety of reasons, it took a while for the paper to get published and I wasn’t able to keep an eye out for articles published in the meantime. If I had it to over again, I would love to have engaged Walsh’s argument, but such is life. Nonetheless, it’s not as though I completely ignore other possible meanings of kaph. Indeed, I explicitly dealt with Eslinger’s argument that kaph refers to female genitalia at some length. The fact that I did not find any convincing reason for understanding kaph as referring to the groin was not because I didn’t bother to look. I simply wasn’t convinced by the arguments that I found.
- I have to object here. Copan makes it sound like I explain the shift from yad to kaph by saying “why not?”, as though I completely ignored the problem. Yet, I clearly state in the paper that I think this is an important issue that is often ignored by exegetes and has not yet received satisfactory explanation. I then argue that because the author is drawing on the talionic principle rather than quoting a talionic formula, some verbal flexibility is not surprising. (Interestingly enough, it might be possible to cite Copan’s own post in support of my interpretation. If kaph refers to the hand “as an instrument of…hitting,” as he states, it would be seem quite appropriate to focus on the instrument of offense in the punishment as the text does.) So, rather than just dismissing the question, I offered what I thought was a reasonable explanation. Anyone can certainly disagree with my explanation, but I would prefer that they at least acknowledge that one exists.
- Again, he’s right. I did fail to notice that the qal form of the verb in this passage is exegetically significant. As penance, I will step on my wife’s cat when I get home. I thought this was the most interesting contribution of Walsh’s article. But, Avalos argues in his post that the qal/piel distinction is rather different that Walsh suggests. According to Avalos, the distinction is one of singularity vs. plurality: “That is to say the qal is found primarily with singular objects, while the piel is most often found with plural objects or where objects are cut into many pieces.” Thus, the use of the qal here is explained by the fact that a grammatically singular object is being cut off (hand). Given that the qal/piel distinction is quite significant for Copan’s argument, I find it surprising that he has not responded to this particular. (Granted, I haven’t read all of the comments involved in this discussion, so it’s possible that Copan has responded and I just haven’t seen it yet. If so, I hope someone will point it out.) If someone has a convincing reason that Avalos’ argument on this point is wrong, I’d love to hear it.
- Now I really have to take exception. (This is where the “umbrage” totally kicks in.) I have not “looked at the words”? Really? May I inquire, then, precisely what I was looking at? Other than not engaging the qal/piel question (an unfortunate omission), I believe that I engaged the most significant exegetical issues in the text. I understand and appreciate the fact that Copan and I disagree. That’s fine. I enjoy a good disagreement. And, I look forward to having someone correct me and offer a better understanding of some issue. That’s a good thing. But, I don’t appreciate someone suggesting that I’m simply ignoring the text. Feel free to disagree with me, but please don’t insult me.
Finally, I’m also not excited about some of Copan’s rhetoric. Looking at uses of kaph in Genesis and Song of Solomon, Copan claims that these parallels are “very clear” and that they “make it clear” that such is the meaning in Deuteronomy, suggesting that anyone who does not agree is simply ignoring the obvious. Even if groin is a legitimate possibility in those contexts, it’s hard to see how either of them are “very clear.” (That, by the way, is exactly the rhetorical ploy that Copan finds objectionable when Avalos refers to his positions as “literal” and dismisses Copan’s as “non-literal.” I don’t like it any more than he did.) At best, Copan draws on two other difficult passages to explain a third. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but let’s acknowledge the challenges involved and not imply that other people are simply blind to the obvious.
However, now that I’ve taken umbrage (it’s fun; you should try it), I’d like to return to what I said at the beginning. Walsh/Copan have offered an interesting argument worth considering. But, at this point, I’m still not convinced. I don’t find the parallel uses of kaph sufficiently clear to warrant seeing kaph as ”groin.” So, unless someone can convince me that Walsh’s qal/piel distinction is definitive, I don’t see enough reason to understand the text as Walsh and Copan suggest. I’d like to, but I can’t.
Until the end of July, you can access all available issues of DeGruyter’s Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft for free (for non-German readers, they publish a lot of English articles as well). If you don’t have access to it through a library, this is a great opportunity to download some outstanding articles for free.
Exegetes and theologians have long argued that Pentecost should be seen as a reversal of Babel – the scattering of the human race through the proliferation of languages healed through the unifying power of the outpoured Spirit. But, if these are two events are key bookends in redemptive history, doesn’t it seem odd that relatively little is said about this in the intervening narrative? Does the OT have any concept of Babel as a problem in need of resolution, or is this a brand new theme suddenly tossed into the mix at Acts 2?
These are the questions that Paul Pastor raised in the paper he presented at the NW meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. Paul is an MA student at Western Seminary, and the paper was a summary of his MA thesis, “Echoes of ‘Pure Speech’: An Intertextual Reading of Gen. 11:1-9; Zeph. 3:8-20; and Acts 1-2.” Paul has graciously allowed me to upload the complete thesis here.
The basic thrust of Paul’s argument is that Zephaniah 3:8-20 provides the intertextual link between Babel and Pentecost. As he summarizes:
Pentecost as a reversal of Babel has been widely seen by exegetes since the early days of the Church. However, these two stories are by no means simple “bookends” with empty narrative space between them. Rather, it shall be shown that an extremely significant instance of textual connection comes from the often overlooked text of Zephaniah.
It will be argued that the Babel narrative of Genesis 11:1-9 is accessed and developed by Zephaniah 3:8-20; and that that text in turn provides a guiding paradigm of Babel-reversal that is utilized by Luke in the Pentecost account of Acts 2. Seen in this way, Zephaniah’s prophecy provides an indispensable link between the two texts of Genesis and Acts; simultaneously looking back into the seminal history of the covenant community and forward to the radical in-breaking of the Spirit at the harvest feast of Pentecost.
Intertextual “echoes” of themes and motifs will be traced at length through the three texts, noting linguistic parallel, narrative similarity, and intertextual dependence for the developing trans-biblical narrative.
The thesis that follows is a fascinating example of intertextuality in biblical exegesis. After a brief summary of his intertextual method, Paul argues that the Babel narrative itself is “incomplete,” leaving the reader in suspense as the story never comes to satisfactory resolution. Paul then argues Genesis forms the clear backdrop for much of Zephaniah, setting the stage for identifying further intertextual connections between the two books.
The heart of Paul’s argument comes in the third part of the thesis, where he identifies a number of textual connections between Gen. 11 and Zeph. 3. In my opinion, intertextual linkages like this always bear the burden of proof as they need to establish real textual connections rather than mere linguistic or thematic similarities. And, Paul does a remarkable job of identifying and defending the connections at work, though you’ll have to read the thesis for yourself to follow all the different lines of argument that he offers.
Finally, Paul turns his attention to Acts 2, arguing that Acts 2 bears many of the same textual markers as the first two passages. Given the strong thematic and linguistic connections, Paul concludes that Luke intends for his readers to see Acts two as the conclusion of a narrative arc that begins in Gen. 11 and runs through Zeph. 3.
And, to wrap everything up, Paul offers a few closing words on how a study like this can impact the life and praxis of faith communities:
It is my sincere hope that this study may also impact the thinking and practice of our local churches and communities of faith. I believe that when scripture is seen with the literary intricacy and vitality that a study of this type highlights, it is compelling and powerful for those who cling to the scriptures as the word of God. The narrative excellence in view here, the thorough intentionality, and the development of a single coherent narrative across the span of centuries and as the product of three very different communities of faith should capture the attention and imagination of modern believers.
Here are a few brief ideas for what the practical and responsive outworkings of this study could look like: Our thoughts about national and international unity should be profoundly influenced by the paradigm offered in these texts. True unity is only possible across ethnic, social, lingual bounds by the power of the Spirit and for the purpose of a shared service and worship of God.
This study is a reminder that truly, “All scripture is profitable” (2 Tim. 3:16, ESV). The Hebrew Bible is frequently under read by Christian readers, and the Latter Prophets even more so. This section of our Bibles is rich with powerful imagery, concept, and nuance, coloring our theology and worldview. It ought to be increasingly read.
In addition to this, it ought to be increasingly taught and preached. Our pastors and teachers ought to carefully interact with this literature both for its compelling content, as well as the dramatic role that it plays in the over arching scriptural meta-narrative.
(This is part of a series highlighting papers presented by several faculty and students from Western Seminary at the 2011 NW regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. You can see the rest of the posts in this series here.)
English reformer William Tyndale was born around 1494 and died this day in 1536. He was the key figure in translating the Bible into the English language so that lay people could read the text on their own. He was influenced by Erasmus who had made the Greek New Testament available in England. Although some partial English translations were around at the time, Tyndale was the first to use the original Greek and Hebrew, and was also the first to take it to print. He was labeled a heretic by both the Catholic Church and the Church of England, who at the time thought the “uneducated” populous could not be trusted to interpret Scripture correctly, and saw an English translation of the Bible that lay people could read as a threat to their authority. For his heroic translating of Scripture into the language of the people, Tyndale was arrested by church authorities and jailed in the castle of Vilvoorde outside Brussels for over a year in 1535. He was subsequently tried for heresy, strangled, and burnt at the stake on October 6, 1536. A good thing for us to remember as we read the Bible in English today. We benefit to this day from the sacrifice of great saints who have run the race prior to us.
Technically Yom Kippur doesn’t begin until sundown, but we’re getting pretty close to sundown here on the west coast and I figure that many of you are already well past that. So, happy Yom Kippur! (Or, is it “merry” Yom Kippur? Blessed Yom Kippur? Yom Kippur greetings?) Anyway, Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) begins at sundown tonight (Sep 17) and ends at sundown on Saturday (Sep 18). So, it’s time to get your Yom Kippur on.
To be honest, I don’t normally notice when it’s Yom Kippur. But, the following article was sent to me by Dr. Carl Laney, one of our Bible professors. I thought the article was quite interesting in that it doesn’t focus on the theology of Yom Kippur, with which I’m already familiar (see esp. Lev. 16:1-34; 23:27-32), but it describes the traditional practices associated with its celebration. I found that quite fascinating. So, I’m passing it along to everyone else for your personal edification. The article was originally written by Professor Yagal Levin.
Yom Kippur is a complete Sabbath: no work can be performed on that day. It is a complete, 25-hour fast from eating and drinking (even water) beginning before sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur and ending after nightfall on the day of Yom Kippur. The Talmud also specifies additional restrictions: washing and bathing, anointing one’s body (with cosmetics, deodorants, etc.), wearing leather shoes (Orthodox Jews routinely wear canvas sneakers under their dress clothes on Yom Kippur), and engaging in sexual relations are all prohibited on Yom Kippur.
Most of the holiday is spent in the synagogue, in prayer. It is customary to wear white on the holiday which symbolizes purity and calls to mind the promise that Israel’s sins shall be made as white as snow (Is. 1:18).
The liturgy for Yom Kippur is much more extensive than for any other day of the year. The evening service that begins Yom Kippur is commonly known as Kol Nidre, named for the prayer that begins the service. Perhaps the most important addition to the regular liturgy is the confession of the sins of the community. All sins are confessed in the plural (we have done this, we have done that), emphasizing communal responsibility for sins.
It is interesting to note that these confessions do not specifically address ritual sins. There is no “For the sin we have sinned before you by eating pork, and for the sin we have sinned against you by driving on Shabbat”. The vast majority of the sins enumerated involve mistreatment of other people, most of them by speech (offensive speech, scoffing, slander, tale-bearing and swearing falsely, to name a few).
The concluding service of Yom Kippur, known as Ne’ilah, is one unique to the day. The ark (a cabinet where the scrolls of the Torah are kept) is kept open and most people stand throughout this service. There is a tone of desperation in the prayers of this service. The service is sometimes referred to as “the closing of the gates”; think of it as the “last chance” to get in a good word before the holiday ends. The service ends with a very long blast of the shofar. After a festive (as we are sure that God has indeed forgiven our sins) “break-fast” meal, it is common to go out and immediately start constructing the sukkah, to show that we are serious about obeying all of God’s commandments.
[A guest post by Andy Dvoracek about his paper “A Perfect Anger: A Brief Survey of Divine Wrath in the Tanakh“]
The wrath of God: it is rarely comfortable, often misunderstood, and sure to stop any conversation dead in its tracks. The idea of God, who is renowned for his love and compassion, being angry and acting on that wrath, has proved understandably problematic for many. Uncomfortable with divine anger, some insist that interpreters of Scripture have misunderstood the biblical testimony and have suggested that fury has erroneously been ascribed directly to God. Instead, they argue that when the biblical writers wrote of divine wrath, they were merely employing anthropomorphic language to denote “an impersonal process…by which sin is inevitably followed by unpleasant consequences.” Surely, this makes the task of reconciling the tension of divine anger and wrath less difficult. However, is it faithful to the biblical testimony?
The intention of this paper is to demonstrate that it does not represent the teachings of the OT Scriptures. Rather, the Tanakh depicts divine anger as God’s personal and perfect response to sin. That is to say, God himself is opposed to those who reject him and at times personally acts in his wrath. Moreover, far from a vindictive and out of control tirade, his wrath is impeccable, perfectly governed by his attributes of love, justice, holiness, etc. The importance of thinking well on this topic cannot be overstated. Hanging in the balance is a true understanding of God. While it is easier to neglect any mention of wrath in Scripture, forcing ourselves to investigate the biblical teaching on it helps us develop a fuller and more accurate picture of God’s nature, his works, and his relation to sin.
Okay, I’m going to out on a bit of limb here. I mentioned a while back that I was doing some teaching with the high school group at my church on the gospel. Along the way, I’ve been doing some writing and trying to decide if I was going to try and work this into a book. Since my previous writing experience has been entirely academic, this is a very different style of writing for me. So, I may post something every now and then just to see what you think. I realize this is a bit risky since you are not really the audience I”m writing for, but I’ll take my chances.
To give you some context for responding, the basic idea is to tell a “thick Gospel narrative” – that is, to tell enough of the story for the good news to make sense – to a lay audience. You’ll see pretty quickly that I’m trying to have some fun with the material, even while engaging some significant issues.
With that background, let me throw a clip out there and see what you think. Right now I have this positioned as the beginning of a chapter on the imago Dei and how that relates to the Gospel. I’d appreciate any and all feedback you want to toss in my direction.
So, God is busy creating things. And, when God creates stuff, he usually does a pretty good job—mountains, canyons, oceans, rainbows, stars, chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream (okay, that one came later, but it’s still genius). I like to imagine that each time God finishes creating something, it joins all the others in watching what he’s going to do next. So, after God makes Earth and Sea they stand quietly together and look on as he makes the plants grow and bear fruit. I can even see Earth leaning over to Sea and whispering, “Ooh, kumquats!” Then Earth, Sea, and Kumquat watch in amazement as God produces Sun and Moon. And together they witness God’s creativity unfold as he makes Jellyfish, Dodo, Rhinoceros, Orangutan, and all the other animals that fill this new world. I’m sure that through the whole process, the world rang with the ooohs and aaahs of all creation as it bowed in amazement before God’s creative power.
As the sixth day drew to a close, I think they all knew that God’s work was reaching a crescendo. The firework-like display of God’s glory was reaching an end. Surely God must have something pretty impressive in mind for the grand finale. But, what could it be? What could possibly compare with the power and brilliance of Lightning and Thunder, the fragile beauty of Snowflake, or the nearly transparent wonder of Mist in the Morning? I can see all of creation leaning forward, holding its breath, wondering what God will do next.
Look, he’s doing something. I think this is it! What could it be?
Then, all creation watches in amazement as God brings creation to a climax and out steps….Um, what exactly is that?
“I think it’s another naked mole rat,” Dodo whispers.
“No,” Jellyfish responds, “It’s too big.”
“It looks pretty unsteady,” Rhinoceros says. “And, it only has two legs. I bet I can knock it down.”
Orangutan doesn’t say anything. He’s a little embarrassed for the new creature. It looks like God forgot to put the fur on. Maybe it’ll grow some later. Or, it could go roll in some mud.
And, they’re all thinking the same thing. This is the climax of God’s creation? This is his crowning achievement? What was God thinking? What is that?
We’ve already seen that the first part of God’s plan was to create the whole universe as a demonstration of his grace and glory. This would be his “place”, the theater in which he would accomplish his purpose. But, God had even more in mind:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
Seriously? The giant wobbly two-legged naked mole rat that God just created is supposed to have something to do with his “image” and “likeness”? How can that be? What does that even mean?
Okay, fling away. But, be gentle. It’s Tuesday.
Many thanks to Dane Ortlund at Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology for posting this excerpt from G. K. Beale on the adamic flow of the biblical narratives:
The first Adam should have obeyed and subdued the entire earth, but he did not.
After the flood, Noah was commissioned to subdue the earth, but he had his own ‘fall’ in a garden-like environment, also in connection with the image of nakedness.
Subsequently, God creates a corporate Adam, Israel, who was to be obedient to God in the promised land, which the OT refers to repeatedly as ‘like the garden of Eden.’ They were to go out from the promised land and subdue the rest of the earth. Appropriately, Israel was called by Adamic names, like ‘Son of Adam (Man)’ and ‘Son of God.’ Israel had her ‘fall’ at the golden calf episode, the effects of which were devastating for the nation’s destiny. Instead of subduing the earth, she was subdued by it.
Lastly, God raises up another individual Adamic figure, Jesus Christ, who finally does what Adam should have done, and so he inaugurates a new creation which will not be corrupted but find its culmination in a new heavens and earth. And his names ‘Son of God’ and ‘Son of Man’ also allude to him, not only as the Last Adam, but also as true Israel.
G. K. Beale, ‘The Eschatological Conception of New Testament Theology,’ in The Reader Must Understand: Eschatology in Bible and Theology (IVP 1997)