On the 7th day the Lord rested from all his work. On the basis of that, Exodus 20:8 says that we ought to rest.
Now is this because God somehow needs to rest as we do? It seems contrary to the uniform description of God as the Almighty who does not grow tired (Isaiah 40, Psalm 121). Most of us have read this at a simple level. From the greater to the lesser: If God has to rest, so should you.
What if we apply the concept that John Walton suggests. In Ancient Near East culture, a “god” rested in its temple in the sense that it took possession and assumed control. So the rest of God is not that he is akimbo in a hammock. It is rather that on the 7th day (which is not terminated in Genesis 1 like days 1 through 6) God assumes possession and control of the heavens and the earth as his dwelling place.
We then rest, not in imitation, but to show that we trust that the Almighty can in fact take care of us on that one day in seven when we do not work, or the one year on 7 when the land rests or the one year in 49 when debts are forgiven. Our rest is not imitation but response.
This makes more sense theologically. It fits the core meaning of the word for sabbath, which means to stop or cease. God stopped creating (because he was done, and the world was “very good”); we cease from working to rest and to enjoy life with our Creator.
Dr. Walter Kaiser, retired OT professor from Trinity and Gordon Conwell seminaries presented the following talk on the early chapters of Genesis and science. It is interesting reading
“To me it is often a source of great pleasure and wonderment to see that the entire female body was created for the purpose of nurturing children. How prettily even little girls carry babies [in their arms!] As for the mothers themselves, how deftly they move whenever the whimpering baby either has to be quieted or is to be placed into its cradle! Get a man to do the same things, and you will say that a camel is dancing, so clumsily will he do the simplest tasks around a baby!” Luther’s Works V 1, p. 202
How do we understand how B. B. Warfield, the Princetonian father of Inerrancy as we now understand the concept was favorable towards the idea of biological evolution? If not favorable, he was not opposed to it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._B._Warfield#Evolution
Can we avoid “concordism” as Walton suggests? (i.e. the effort to align the scriptures with contemporary science.) At some point we have to connect scripture to history, when and how?
Is the “fine turned for life” argument really gaining traction in the sciences? (Discussed by Collins in “Language of God”, Keller in “Reason for God” and Giberson in “Language of Science and Faith” see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-tuned_Universe )
Since Genesis 1 has been around for a very long time, we are satisfied to ask questions, rather than seek hard answers.
For BioLogos (biological evolution is true, and the Bible is too). How do we deal with “creation from nothing”, with the Biblical picture of the “fall” if life came into being through a long process with millions of years of death. How historic are Adam and Eve? If they are not historic persons at the start of humanity, how is sin transmitted from Adam (Romans 5)? Does Jesus suggest that Adam was real? Does the NT say that the creation was relatively quickly arriving from nothing?
For John Walton (The Lost World of Genesis 1), I have many of the same questions. If Genesis 1 is not material origins, where do we get that God created all things? Did he take pre-existing stuff and give it a purpose? Who would have made that stuff? Is there really no “science” in the OT? You state that the water cycle is not known but then there is Ecclesiastes 1:7. Can we confine “death” to human death in Romans 5? What of the pre-hominids?
For the “literal 24/7″ reading, I suggest reading the books by Walton and Collins, as they have many interesting things to say. Don’t read with force fields up and phasers loaded, but to listen to their arguments. Since this debate has gone on for a very long time, we don’t have to solve it in 7/24 hour days.
For the general public, read in “Under God” by Garry Wills on what motivated William Jennings Bryan to oppose the teaching of evolution in the first place.
There, now I have annoyed everyone.
So I have been reading John Walton’s book “The Lost Word of Genesis 1.” His essential claim is that Genesis 1, properly understood as it was intended to be understood is not about the material origin of the universe, but about its proper function. (That is a very short summary – the book is more detailed and well written.) Following that I have been reading “The Language of Science and Faith” by Karl W. Giberson and Francis S. Collins. Francis Collins is well known as the director of the project to map the human genome (DNA). These two men are part of a group called BioLogos who wish to support both Biblical truth and biological evolution (the process, not the various world views that are often attached.)
To say the least this makes for interesting reading. I am for now keeping the proverb: Be quick to hear and slow to speak.
Among evangelicals the views range from Young Earth, Old Earth, Intelligent Design (non-committal on the Bible itself), Progressive Creation, Theistic Evolution. There are shapes and variations all between.
The main theme of Walton’s treatment is that Genesis 1 is not about the material origins of the universe. (He holds to the idea that God created all things, but not from this text.) Instead, Genesis one is about assigning functions. Those things, such as the sea and the desert (in ancient thought) that were wild and uncontrolled were non-existant in a sense. So God gave functions. So then light is created as day and night, which has the function to divide time and seasons.
this is a short and dirty summary. However, what I find intriguing is that this is how I have come to teach Genesis 1. First of all there are a wide variety of opinions from young earth to theistic evolution among peole who love the scriptures. Second, it does not seem that Genesis 1 was written to settle the debate about origins (or it might be settled by now.) However it is clear that Genesis 1 talks about material things (they are good), the role of humanity (to rule, to tend, to multiply), if we include Genesis 2, the role of gender (towards marriage and multiplication), the sun, moon and stars (objects not god, to mark time not to be worshipped) and so forth.
It makes sense that Genesis 1 is about “how should we live” rather than “how does the universe work”. And one of the functions of humanity is to discover and develop the capacities of the world – what for a long time has been called the cultural mandate. Art, technology, human organization, agriculture, zoology, and many other fields of knowledge show that humanity was created with this function in mind.
I am starting a new book. John Walton teaches Old Testament at Wheaton College. He has several writings on the meaning of Genesis 1, the most accessible so far is probably this book “The Lost World of Genesis One”. I have just begun to read it, but it is so far a case study in how to do a fresh read of scripture.
Walton wants us to remember that the Bible was not written to us, but to ancient Israel. So we need to do what we can to listen to what it was saying then – with careful translation of both text and culture. He says we need to leave aside our modern questions and our own framework and listen to what the text was saying.
the book comes with 18 propositions. #1 is “Genesis 1 is ancient cosmology.” So while we hold the Bible to be distinctly the word of God, it was written in the framework of the Ancient Near East. He rejects “concordism” which tries to tie the Biblical account to science. “Which science?” he asks, since science is always changing.
I have as yet no conclusions, only interest in the concept.