Category Archives: Bible

Thoughts and impressions directly associated with a bible section or verse

Sermon on the Mount

I am building a group of men to think for themselves.  To rightly divide the word of truth.  The vehicle for this building is a study on the Sermon on the mount.  It is in Matthews Gospel Chapter 5,6,7.

But as I read these words over and over again, I am amazed at the teachings of Jesus.  He was teaching the disciples on a grassy hill about the Kingdom of Heaven.  The hearers were amazed at the teachings of Jesus for it was from authority.  It meant something to them.  The sermon was one of those in which after the last AMEN, you simply said, “wow”. It pierced their hearts with truth. Not like another law book or set of rules.  Jesus taught them about the things which impacted their lives.  

The Scribes and Pharisees taught speaking and re-speaking the same words.  Words without life and conviction. Jesus said to those who listened, “your righteousness must surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.  This new law of the Kingdom of Heaven, this new way of truth and life, this abundant life points to dire need for a new righteousness.

The Kingdom of Heaven is a righteousness of faith empowered by the Holy Spirit to enable  you  to  lovingly,  willingly  and  delightfully  yield  your  will  in  total  submission  to  His  examination  of  your  heart  so  that  you  may  be  completely  set  free.

As with any revolutionary idea these words of Jesus were and still are misconstrued. It would be easy for anyone reading the Sermon on the Mount to wince once and a while. We have to be different from everyone else.  We can’t even think about getting angry and wishing someone ill, just looking at a woman is the same as having relations with her, divorce is out of the question, can’t make a oath, turn the other cheek and pray for my enemies.

In a quick read the task of obedience is overwhelming. “Jesus have you just traded one set of laws for another?”  The demands of Jesus are simply too difficult. Who among us have never hid wrong attitudes in our heart?  Who is not guilty of disobeying the rule of the King? 

The inevitable result is to fall short of God’s glorious ideal. We try and try to uphold that ideal with every ounce of our strength, but we fail again and again.  We end up living a life full of disappointment, guilt and failure.  And that is just the point. 

your conscience burns within you knowing that Jesus does not rule simply until you’ve had enough.  But rather than leaving you naked in your rebellion and exposed to judgment, He forgives you. He heals you. He restores you. He lifts you up and strengthens you to carry on the journey of faith for yet another day.

In our men’s study we simply say, “there are only two things in the Bible, 1) Revelation and 2) reconciliation.”  God reveals Himself in his plans and ideals and we are to reconcile ourselves to that revelation. When we fail.  And fail we often do. Failure should lead ourselves back to God for His strength, His guidance, His forgiveness, His love, His reconciliation.

General Principles of Biblical Study

As we study the Bible, whether we are in our own or with a group, there are a number of specific principles that help us to understand the Words of God as we read and study.  These are the principles that I try to follow.  Through personal use of these principles, they have keep me from jumping into places where God would not have me be.  Perhaps they might help you.

Principle 1: Author’s intention.

It is not my meaning of the scripture but the intention of the writer.  This means we should know the who is writing, why he is writing, when he is writing, what is the cultural setting, differences in language historically, what is the style and literary forms being used.

Principle 2: Know the context

A single word, even with a good dictionary must be understood within the sentence and paragraph in which is placed.  What does the following mean? “I booked.”  Does it mean you left in a hurry?  Does it mean secured a ticket on an airline? Does it mean I reported an event? Interpretations must be done in the context of the passage. Therefore, context determines meaning! The nearest context must give the most weight in interpretation. First, there is the near context of the sentence, then the paragraph, then the section and then the book and even author.

Principle 3: Normalcy

If possible, the Bible must be taken at its face value. When Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth”, the rule of normalcy says it is possible that Jesus meant they were Sodium Chloride?  When Isaiah 55:12 says “the trees of the field will clap their hands” the rule of normalcy would take this as impossible because trees have no hands.  When the literal does not make any normal sense, it is most likely there is some sort of figure of speech.  Conversely when Jesus said, “Blessed are the mercy for they shall mercy,”  Figurative language include: Parables, similes, metaphors, hyperbole, satire, analogy and illustration.

Principle 4: The Bible as the Key to the Bible

Use the Bible to help interpret itself. Interpret difficult passages with clear ones. This principal is sometimes called the law of non-contradiction. Because the Bible is God’s word, and God is true, the Bible will not contradict itself.  Do not try to change an Old Testament scripture because it seems to contradict a New Testament scripture.

Principle 5: Application is not interpretation

As we study the Bible there is only one interpretation.  This is God’s word and it does not change with time or human application. When Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with expensive oil, this is the factual interpretation. The interpretation is only refers to the act of Mary. What about us today? An application might be that we are willing to give sacrificially for the Lord’s work and give Jesus acts of worship as Mary did. Another would be that everyone must carry expensive oil to church and anoint the pastor’s feet every Sunday.

Principle 6: Distinctions of audience

Be sensitive to distinctions between Israel and the church and, Old Covenant and New Covenant. Promises made to Israel in the Old Testament cannot automatically be transferred to the church in which we are a part. For example, the land promises were given to Abraham and his descendants (Gen 12:7) but that does not include me, a Gentile Christian. It is true that certain Old Testament commands repeated in the New Testament are still binding, but this is made clear by their repetition in the New Testament. The church was formed in Acts 2 with the descent of the Holy Spirit and most direct statements to and about the church occur after that.

Principle 7: Types of literature

There are many types of literature in the Bible. There is law, narrative, wisdom, poetry, gospel, parable, epistle, and apocalyptic. Each of these types of literature has specific features that must be considered when interpreting a text.

Behemoth shame

When I was a young boy, I was visiting my cousin Sam in Pacific Grove. We were more like friends than cousins and we did most everything together. One afternoon we decided to go to the movies to see Behemoth, a monster movie in black and white. Back in those days late 1961 there was not much trouble two boys in a small town could get into so together we would go.   My Aunty Mae was busy, and we didn’t really want to ask her if we could go, so out the back door and down three blocks to the movie house we walked.

But when we got there, we discovered, to our dismay, we did not have enough money for both of us to get tickets. After much discussion, we decided on a plan. Sam would buy the ticket with a clear conscience and enter the theater.  The real dastardly deed would be for Sam to sneak down the aisle and open the back door so I could get in.

It was going to be an easy thing to do. We heard of others doing it. And if we got caught, the worse would happen was to be kicked out. Oh there would be a blemish on our spotless record and be banned from ever coming back, but no risk no reward.

It wasn’t that we were evil little boys of eleven, it was that we could see no harm in me seeing the movie from an empty seat. I was not taking the place from anyone else, and no one would ever know.

For the time, it was a good monster movie. It was a knock off of Godzilla.  Lots of screaming, destruction, and ending with a victorious banishment of the monster. But I could not enjoy watching all the terror and mayhem. I felt all during the movie that someone was watching me. My guilt was keeping me from enjoying my ill gotten gain. I thought to my self, “Someone knows of the dastardly deed I had done.”  I was attending without paying the price of admission.

I have done some things in my life which I am not proud.  I have sinned in so many ways; I have done dastardly deeds that I should have been caught and punished for.  But I have availed myself of the free gift of grace and forgiveness offered by Jesus.   Occasionally I have the same feelings of cheating which I had back in my delinquent days with cousin Sam.  How do I get over them?  In the book of Hebrews is a simple and elegant answer: Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience. 10:22.  That movie ticket which I cheated on was simply wrong.  I was guilty even though I was ever found out.  That feeling is not guilt, it is shame.  Shame is the feeling in the conscience that makes us feel bad.

So every time I feel remorse, shame from a past act, I just smile.  Jesus paid the price. God is able to cleanse us from that guilty conscience.  Praise the Lord. 

The truth is not enough.

Sometimes I just don’t get some of the assumptions I hear from my brothers and sisters in the church.  It could well stem from personal experiences or even pre-conceived understandings of my own.  Whatever my problem may well be, I hear some of the strangest voiced conclusions and they set my own sensibilities on edge.

A few years back I was teaching a class on the book of John.  We were trying as a group to understand Jesus. What brought up the edgy feeling was the response to the question, “Why do you study the Bible?”  That question had many answers.  Some of the answers were conditioned “Sunday School” answers, while others were a little more honest, and others from those who were truly seeking more in their spiritual lives.  It was the last answer that didn’t seem quite right.  “I study the bible to be a better Christian.”  What it sounded like to me was this apt student was equating the accumulation of facts and theological understanding with growth. 

I pressed him to clarify and he quoted from John 8:32, “The truth will make you free.” He was saying when there is enough truth in your life you will, by that accumulation, become a better Christian.

I didn’t argue or tell him he was wrong, I simply smiled and jotted down a note to get a better understanding of his perceived pathway to growth.

At issue is endemic to many in the church. The idea of filling your heart with so much knowledge, so much scripture, that you become a super Christian, is often proclaimed.  What a terrible thought.  What an indictment against the very God in which we serve.  Before you get your own hackles up, let me explain.

First, the Gospel of John does say, “the truth will set you free.” But like most misconceptions of the will of God, it was taken out of a larger portion of scripture.  Jesus was speaking to Jews who had been influenced by the Pharisees and had come to an understanding of Jesus.  They had the head knowledge.  They had accumulated so much Jewish theology and insight of the prophets, they saw these as pointers to Jesus being the Messiah. Consequently, they had accepted the words of Jesus as truth.

Second, the Gospel of John in the same eighth chapter and which this “make you free” statement was stated also includes a preface. “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and that truth will set you free.” The key is not accumulation but a holding.

Holding is not just gathering the wheat in the fields and taking it as an accomplishment.  Holding is knowing the purpose of the wheat and making bread. To be a disciple is to conform to the teachings of God, to stay on a prescribed path set by God, and it is to be more than a sponge.

Why do I study the Bible?  Two things.  I study to understand God and His path for me. And subsequently, to finding that path, I utilize my new understanding to follow that path.  My life is one of revelation and reconciliation. Without the second part, the first part is without much help to my growth.  My growth is dependent upon my understanding of God’s place for me AND my willingness to do something about it.   

GREAT High Priest

I am not a catholic. Further, the hierarchy of my local church does not include anyone with the title of Priest. Sometimes I wonder about the necessity to have a priest at all.  Again, it is probably part of my Protestant background.  Never-the-less, as I am studying a portion of the New Testament entitled Hebrews, I find several passages depicting Jesus as the High Priest (Hebrews 2:17; 3:1; 4:14-5:10; 6:20; 7:11-8:2; 10:12). The office of priest was an important one in the Old Testament system and is fulfilled by Jesus.

In the Jewish system, a priest mediated between the people and God. They seemed to need a person to assume a job as middleman. Appointed to that job was Aaron and his descendants, with the tribe of Levi serving as assistants in the Tabernacle (Numbers 3:5-10). The Levites were viewed as belonging to God (Numbers 3:12); they were set apart and very special. I found specific regulations for the priests in Leviticus 21 – 22. The high priest was the chief religious leader and had certain duties. The most important, of these duties, was the high priest who entered the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Only the high priest could enter and, before doing so, he was required to make a sacrifice for himself. In this way the high priest was cleansed and could then go on to offer the cleansing sacrifices for the people (Leviticus 16).

This is where Hebrews comes in speaking to a group of Jewish Christians, and tells them that Jesus is the Great High Priest who mediates. His sacrifice is what provides cleansing for our sins. Rather than a yearly (or daily) atonement, Jesus’ sacrifice is once-for-all (Hebrews 10:1-18). Jesus, like the high priests of Old Testament times, stands in the gap between us (the people) and God. He made the necessary sacrifice for us (Jesus was without sin so did not need to offer a sacrifice for Himself as did the high priests of the Old Testament). Those who have put their faith in Jesus have been made righteous by Him (2 Corinthians 5:21) and are now able to enter God’s presence. This mediation of Jesus is permanent and continual. Hebrews 7:23-25 says, “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.” While Jesus’ sacrifice was once-for-all, His mediation for us continues. Jesus also communicates the will of God to us through His teachings and through the Holy Spirit (John 14:26).

Jesus is not only our High Priest, but also a “priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 7:11-22). Melchizedek is introduced in Genesis 14. He is said to be both a king and a priest (Genesis 14:18). He met Abram (later known as Abraham) after Abram’s battle victory. In their meeting, Melchizedek blessed Abram, and Abram gave him a tenth of everything, thus confirming Melchizedek’s priesthood and authority. The writer of Hebrews explains that Jesus is of this order of priests – His priesthood is based on authority rather than on lineage (Hebrews 7:11-17), and it is also kingly. Therefore, Jesus’ priesthood institutes a new way of being: “For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well” (Hebrews 7:12). With Jesus as High Priest, a new covenant is in effect.

So do we need someone to stand in the gap?  Yes.  Do we need someone to make a sacrifice? Yes.  Do we need someone to represent us?  Yes.  Do we need a new covenant? Yes.  Do we need a new relationship to God? Yes.  Yes to all these.  Perhaps the most crucial thing for believers to understand today is that it is because Jesus is our High Priest that we can approach God with confidence (Hebrews 4:16). We no longer need to go through earthly mediators. Jesus has broken the barrier, made the sacrifice, established a new covenant, and re-instituted our relationship with God. Because of our High Priest, we are free to come to God.

A very small piece of the action?

I am studying the book of Hebrews and this morning I was struck by a single thought which disturbed me.  Hebrews is a singular general letter which God only knows who wrote it.  It has made it through 950 years of telling, retelling, study, exhortation, training, and even speculation.  My experience in the business world would classify Hebrews as written to a niche market; a very small group of people with very specific needs.

It was written for an audience that was a piece of a piece of a piece of a piece.  First, it was written to the Christians of the time during the Jewish revolt from Rome.  Perilous times.  Most Christians had left the bosom of Jerusalem 5 years earlier. So, compared to the entire population of Rome, Christians were a small piece of the grand whole.  It has been estimated the total Christian population 40 years later at the end of the First century the total count was 500,000.

Secondly it was written to a piece of those persecuted dispersed Christians that were ethnically Hebrew.  This piece was the major part of Christian world at the time.  Christianity came from and was seen at the time as primarily a Jewish thing.  Even though Peter and Paul had extended invitations to the Gentiles, these converts sometimes were required to worship as a Jew first.

Of these Ethnic Jews, who were Christians, who were persecuted, also most had never seen Jesus.  It was all second and third hand knowledge.  They had access to many of the letters from Paul and Peter and even James, but never-the-less their experiences, their understanding was from those who had seen and which they had not.  They had not seen the miracles.  They had not seen the fire in he eyes of John the Baptist.  They had not been there for the resurrection. They had not been there at the assention. The piece, the audience was becoming very small.

And the smallest piece of the piece of the piece of the piece, was being tempted by all the things going out to forsake the faith to go back to pure Judaism.  Back to their friends, and neighbors, and family.  To through off all the ideas of grace and go back to a life of keeping the law.

The only conclusion is that there must be a plausible connection between the very small group that was written to and today’s Christians.  Otherwise we might not need it in the bible unless we are preaching or teaching to saved persecuted ethnic Jewish Christians which are wanting to go back to their Jewish roots. In today’s world it may well be an even smaller piece than it was in 69 AD. Could it well be for any saved, having a hard time, gentiles, who are just wanting to go back to there old ways?  To chuck it all and live a life that world would have them live? 

That is my conclusion.  What do you think?

The Changing Church

Has the church changed so much that some really cannot relate with the Bible.  Have we trod the path from Acts when Peter preached and 3,000 repented?  The church has changed from a bible believing, monotheistic, well accustomed to digging deep into scripture and willing to talk about it. The group to which Peter in Acts 2 were like that, full of knowledge and willing to understand and accept the teachings of the new rabbi.  But the church has become like the audience in Acts 17:22, “I see that in every way you are religious.”  Paul walked around in their city and what he saw was great belief in the wrong things. They even had an altar with the title, “To an unknown God.”  He accused the believers in all the religions that abounded and simply told them, “you are ignorant of the very thing you worship.”

Have we come so far as to having a form of religion without the very reason for that effort? Isn’t Paul’s logic still hold true: 

24 The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

Echo of Joy

Zephaniah 3:14-17
Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away His judgments against you,
He has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
You will fear disaster no more.
In that day it will be said to Jerusalem:
“Do not be afraid, O Zion;
Do not let your hands fall limp.
“The Lord your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

In our terrible times politically, and internationally we are given a sense of God is still in control. There is a gladness in these words. They are a part of a men’s study I am doing and sometimes it is difficult to find joy in the Minor Prophets. There is the overthrow of the Northern Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians, the spreading of the 10 tribes to take away their identity, the fall of Nineveh, a prophet being swallowed by a fish, and a whole lot of gloom, despair, and excessive misery. But here in the last phrases of Zephaniah is hope and joy.
Here we join in with God dancing and singing. The very words seem to dance with Joy. The phrases seem to be written in a staccato, rapid-fire manner; almost as if the prophet was laughing while he was writing.
It is singing which it truly catching. The God of the Universe is in our present. God has a voice and HE calls us to join in. SHOUT to the rooftops, God is here. For with every beat of your heart comes a sound of God’s love and joy for you. The notes of our praise fill HIS heart with Joy. The notes of HIS joy fills our hearts. We are glad because HE is glad. We sing for joy, and HE shouts the joy with us with singing because we do. JOY is an ongoing echo between man and God.
SHOUT, go ahead where ever you are, whatever you are doing, stop and shout for Joy and cause that joy to fill God. And then listen carefully and you will hear the echo from God.

Micah’s question

It was his favorite spot.

High above his hometown of Moresheth.  Though it was quite a hike up the mountain, it was his place of worship, his place of prayer, his place of solitude, his place of getting above it all and just be still and know that the LORD was God.

It was high enough to see afar off the edge of the Mediterranean sea.  The blue was metered by the distance and late fog that rolled in about this time each evening. The sun was about to dip into the sea.  It was a special time between Micah and the God of Judah.  It was a moment of pure religion and worship.

In an attitude of prayer. He watched the sun just touch the sea.  Light was slowly dimming, to Micah it was a parable of his life.  The colors around him became less and less. Twilight was his hour of meditation.  A time of quiet before God.

Below was the plain of GAD the ancient home of the past enemy of Philisita the home of Goliath. In the quiet of that moment his mind went further up the mountain to its crest.  There was the cave that David had hidden in from Saul.  On the other side was Bethlehem. And even further was Jerusalem.  Jotham had replaced Uzziah and he was even worse leader, filled with sin and idolatry.

Micah had witnessed the wrath of God when Judah’s sister nation fell to Assyria. Some of the Israelites made it out.  With nothing more than what was on their backs they had move back to Judah.  It was a boarder crisis. And with them came their worship of Idols, wickedness and a bent toward the depravity of their hometowns.

Looking again to the setting sun.  The very edge was now touching the horizon.  Dipping its edge into the water grave of the sea.  Sun suddenly was clouded by a fog, intercepting its rays. Darkness came quickly like a great judgement.  The day, the light, the warmth suddenly vanished. With the quickened darkness came a sadness, a loneliness and a pent up anger.

How long will your mercy meter your justice?  When will your wrath become stronger than your love?

Looking at our own world I too ask.  Looking at our nation in turmoil where no one wants to help the regular person. YES LORD, HOW LONG WILL YOUR MERCY METER YOUR JUSTICE? WHEN WILL YOUR WRATH BECOME STRONGER THAN YOUR LOVE?

Based upon the first chapter of the minor prophet Micah.

Two Creations?

Discussion of the Bible is one of the few my great pleasures.  I am not a theologian by any sense of the word, but I do read and try to understand the Bible. 

Because of our discussion a few nights ago I had occasion to dig into the Hebrew language to better understand an assertion of two complete and separate creations found in Genesis

Yes, the Genesis opens with two different creation stories.  Both describe the creation of animals, plants, and humans.  Never-the-less they are also a number distinct differences and may well even contradict each other.

For example, though these stories describe some of the same events, they order them differently:

  • Genesis 1: the creator makes plants then animals and then simultaneously creates man and woman.  In Genesis 2: God creates a humans, plants then animals, and later he divides the human into female and male.
  • Additionally, the two stories employ different names for the deity.  The first account uses the Hebrew word ELOHIM, meaning God and the second instance uses YHWH which is a tetragrammaton for “LORD”.
  • The two accounts are also very different in literary style. 
    • Genesis 1 is well organized into three days of preparation and three days of formation with “and it was so” KJV.  By the seventh day, the creation existed in proper and good order and God rests.  It is a very orderly and well packaged event sequence.  It suggests a very orderly and well packaged universe created by a God that is also very orderly and well packaged.
    •  The second story, starting in Genesis 2:4, through to the end of chapter 3, lacks the structure and orderly structure of the first account in the original language.  It is much less structured and with much less formula.  It is written in very dramatic and painted with melodramatic strokes. It is portrayed as a series of seven scenes with much more detail.

My belief about these differences and similarities derived from my personal studies have been compared to the conclusions to published authors are summarized here:

  1. The differences in accounts reflect two separate sources of oral transmission.  That there was a great span of time from the event and the writing down of these accounts.  The Hebrew Bible from which we as Christians take as God’s communication to the People of God under the leadership of Moses is made up of two viewpoints of the same event.
  2. The account of creation in Genesis was the effort to relate to both oral traditions.  He included both to provide a better understanding of two different viewpoints.
  3. Genesis wasn’t written by a scientist or a modern historian.  Chapter one is pure poetry.  Genesis 1-11, “pre-history,” is couched in figurative language. We read news differently from editorials and poems; we must do the same when we read the Bible and adjust our expectations and reading “lens” to the literary form.
  4. The author’s intent matters.  We must take into account the author and his design to portray ideas and thoughts and instruction. The questions of our time are quite different from the type of questions asked in the times of Moses. 
    • We would ask how the world began.  We would ask WHEN it came into being.  We would ask WHAT was the process and make it specific and exact?  We would ask WHICH came first and how did the next being become what he was?
    • The questions of the ancient world were different: WHO created? WHO’s in charge? WHY am I here, and HOW do I relate to other beings? WHY is there evil and can anything be done about it?
  5. These two viewpoints have a very distinctive predisposition to explain the creation.
    • The first creation is seen through the eyes of someone with a concept of God as being distant.  He would see the creation story as an event having a master plan.  God was a God that dictated the creation and it was done.  Please note this view is also exampled in John’s Gospel as the Father as the Power of creation and Jesus the creator.
    • The second depicts God as a human-like figure who walks in the garden with His creation.  It is a view, God has a hands-on God creation; hence the use of LORD,  God is seen as accessible, touchable, caring.
  6. These two accounts, seen and understood from two quite different experiences, have been combined in Genesis to read as a single literary unit. 
    • The first account starts with a title introducing as the time (YOM) “when God began to create heaven and earth.”  It concludes with an additional summary statement that puts a reasonable border of the account: “this is the story of heaven and earth when they were created” as found in Genesis 2:4.
    • There is a break in our Christian Bible between Genesis 1:31 and Genesis 1:2 which was added by Robert Estienne 1551 and really didn’t consider the narrative style change. And further there should well be a break in the middle of verse 2:4.
    • The second story begins mid verse in Genesis 2:4 with a parallel statement and word pair, “In the day the Lord God made earth and heaven.”
  7. Both narratives start with the same word pair, they place the terms in opposite order.
    • The narrative of the first picture or viewpoint of creation wanted to depict a heavenly creation.  The first account starts with “ELOHIM (GOD) created heaven and earth.”  The first story is very cosmic and seen from the ethereal dwelling place of God.  It is God standing aloof and distant.  The first story pictures the creation of an expanse to be separated between the heavenly and earthly waters along with the sun, moon, and stars.
    • The narrative of the second picture or viewpoint of creation wanted to depict an earthly creation.  The second picture characterized a view point that saw “YHWH (LORD) made earth and heaven.  The LORD was seen as an active participant set HIS priority as the story of earth.  In the second narrative shows not the creation of the sky or heavenly sphere but the formation of shrubs, fields, earth, and a garden.
  8. These two views have been melded and reconciled as a single literary unit.
    • The first text from the heavenly viewpoint ends with a pointer to the earth.
    • The second begins in Genesis 2:4 directing our attention again to the accounts of the earth.
  9. In its present form, as was finalized as a combined in the TANAKH (Jewish Bible) in the major first section of that Bible as the TORAH (Jewish section called the teaching) in the late or early second century BC, the Hebrew sees the creation account providing a prologue to the subsequent stories of Genesis.  These stories are primarily about the promises and accounts of the promised people.  Most of these stories were handed down from father to son for thousands of years.
  10. Context matters when trying to understand the revealed will of God.  Both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are together parts to a larger story. 
    • Genesis 1 is about God’s action and purpose.  God is found 32 times and every time He is the subject of the sentence. Every time it is God acting.  Every time it is God intentionally building something characterized as “Good”
    • The “days” of creation are symbolic. Genesis 1 is poetic, and poetic structure has meaning. Sequential days are not there for themselves as perfect 24-hour blocks of time, they are there to show sequence, to show order and hierarchy.
    • Notice that account one begins in darkness, formlessness, and emptiness. On “days” one through three God banishes the darkness and brings order to the chaos: heaven and sky, earth and land. On “days” four through six God fills the void, populating each realm in the same order. God makes people only after everything is ready for them to live in and rule. They are the “end” as in purpose, not sequence, of the created universe.
    • The first sequence is a poetic and literary “arrow” pointing to chapter two and the seventh day. It reveals the grand purpose of creation: that everything is ordered to the Sabbath and worship of God.  Genesis 1 is a prologue to the rest.
    • One Hebrew scholar notes that the first account of Genesis 1 was written much later than chapter 2.   It functions as an “entrance Hymn” to the great drama of salvation.
      1. While it is sung God fills the stage All the other players enter in sequence filling the stage each with their own dramatic entrance.  An all is “Good”.
    • There’s a perspective shift between chapters. In Genesis 1, the reader’s a distant observer of the creation of the universe.  Genesis 2 zooms in for a close-up on the “man” God created everything for.
    • Sequence shows relationship in chapter two.  The events are arranged to show truth about humanity in relationship to God, the animals, and the world. Chapter 1 told us man was created in God’s image, given dominion over the earth, and told to be fruitful and multiply. It is not over.  Creation is still ongoing.  Man, made in God’s image, can create.
    • The creation story from the ethereal God of Genesis 1 points to the hands-on God of Genesis 2.  The second account is an expansion of the first.  It is very human oriented.
      1. Man is made from dust. He does not evolve from something else and no other being is used to create him.
      2. Vegetation is for man’s food and pleasure and to teach obedience—he is creature, not creator of the world, and must learn to relate to God.
      3. The animals are created so man will know his special status—that he’s made for more. He doesn’t come from them, they are brought to him and he names and rules them.
      4. Man is only complete when God brings from his body another, the woman. Side by side, they will not only rule, but fill the earth. Together they are in God’s image: male and female; ruling the earth; fruitful. They live in harmony with creation, with each other, and with God.
  11. The first creation makes sense only considering the new creation in Christ.
    • Genesis 1 and 2 give us two complementary accounts of a single creation that together help us begin to understand the “whos” and “whys” of our existence.  But they are part of a larger story and we can’t fully understand them without knowing the end and purpose of the whole.
    • Perhaps that’s why John started his Gospel with another creation account. “In the beginning was the Word,” he wrote.  “All things were made through him […] The light shines in the darkness […] And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
    • John’s deliberate use of language from Genesis helps us see the coming of Christ as a new creation.  It also helps us understand God’s purpose in Creation from the start.

I fully respect my brother’s view of two creations.  I don’t think it will make a difference to his salvation. But as a teacher once said to me, “it is a tertiary discussion that needs noting but not to a point of discord.”  For me, it is enough to say, “God made it, God made me, God Loves me, I love God.”  Anyway according to Revelation 21 it is all going away and will be replaced by a new heaven and a new earth. 

Enough said.  I welcome our continued discussions.

Just Larry.