Monday, March 23, 2015

Dr. John Walton on Genesis

"If we accept Genesis 1 as ancient cosmology, then we need to interpret it as ancient cosmology rather than translate it into modern cosmology. If we try to turn it into modern cosmology, we are making the text say something that it never said. It is not just a case of adding meaning (as more information has become available) it is a case of changing meaning. Since we view the text as authoritative, it is a dangerous thing to change the meaning of the text into something it never intended to say." -- John H. Walton, Ph.D (From here.)

Dr. John Walton

In recent years, John Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, has been both lauded and criticized for his interpretation of Genesis 1–2. In his 2009 landmark book, The Lost World of Genesis One (InterVarsity Press), he argued that to rightly understand Genesis 1—an ancient document—we need to read it within the context of the ancient world. Read alongside other ancient texts, he says, Genesis 1 is not about how God made the world, but about God assigning functions to every aspect of it. In 2013, Walton contributed a chapter in Four Views on the Historical Adam (Zondervan). There he argued that Adam was a historical person, but also that Adam’s primary function in Scripture is to represent all of humanity. For Walton, Genesis 1–2 is not concerned about human material origins, but rather about our God-given function and purpose: to be in relationship with God and work alongside him, as his image bearers, in bringing continued order to our world.

Read the full Christianity Today interview here.

What do you think?

Is Genesis 1-2, not about human origins?

Is Genesis 1-2 about relationships, function and purpose?

Is Adam a historical person in Genesis 1-2?

Does Adam represent all humanity in Genesis 1-2?

What is the original cultural context of Genesis 1-2?

What are the more important aspects of Genesis in Dr. Walton's thinking?

What are the first two Messianic references in Genesis?

I would be interested in readers' responses to these questions.

Related reading: The Themes of Genesis 1-3; Is Genesis Really About Human Origins?; Adam and Eve as Meta-Historical Ancestors; Adam Was a Red Man; Peter Leithart on John Walton's Lost World of Genesis One; The Dangers of Concordism; Facebook Conversation on Creationism

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Facebook Conversation on Creationism

Alice C. Linsley

In the following Facebook thread some friends asked excellent questions and I asked their permission to post this at JUST GENESIS. This is the sort of conversation that can help people sort through the issues.

The conversation arose in response to this article about the discovery of trillions of stone artifacts in Africa. The article was posted by a Christian geologist. If humans have been on the earth only 5000-6000 years, they could not have produced the volume of work found at the stone working sites in Africa. At 40 million artifacts per year, it would take a population of 100,000 individuals 100,000 years to produce just 4 trillion artifacts.

  • Can there be a a conversation or a dialectic between the facts that make for one's faith and the narrative of "Genesis" that makes for the faith of "creationists" regarding the age of the earth and the origin of man. Can such a dialogue be possible?  - Sidney Davis

  • Alice Linsley Everything is possible, Sidney, but some conversations are less possible than others. Defining the term "creationist" is where we have to begin. There are different groups: young earth creationism, which is neither scientific nor Biblical; theistic creationism which is very popular with Evangelicals who accept evolutionary theories, some of which have no material support; old earth creationists who believe the Creator initiated creative or generative processes that resulted in humans, and old earth creationists who believe that humans represent a special creation, a sort of crown on the creation pyramid. Some of these are mutually exclusive positions and a dialectic between them is virtually impossible. I find it a waste of time to discuss Genesis with people who believe that the earth is only 6000 years old.

  • Jarold Williams My brain is defective, and so my opinion is not an intellectual one. But I think it doesn't matter, nor will we ever know, how old or young the earth is. What does matter to me is that God created everything that exists.

  • Chris Ali I wonder if they considered in their estimate of 10,000 artifacts per person that people lived longer during that time? If one person made 100 artifacts per day in his life time he would actually end up making over 18 millions artifacts. So if they calculate 18 million artifacts per person to their 20 generations x 100,000 formula then the young earth proponents may be right.

  • Kelly Trafford Marshall What is your opinion, Alice?

  • Alice Linsley Jarold, the earth is billions of years old, and the universe is even older.

  • Alice Linsley Chris, there is no evidence that people lived longer in the times before Noah (c. 3000 BC). The numbers assigned to the rulers who lived before the deluge are symbolic. Lamech the Younger, the father of Noah, lived 777 years, for example. Lamech the Elder, his father-in-law, sought God's grace 7 times what his ancestor Kain received. As St. John Chrysostom recognized, the line of Cain received great mercy. Not only 7 fold for Cain, but 77 fold for Lamech the Elder (Gen. 4:24), and 777 in the case of Lamech the Younger (Gen. 5:31).

  • Alice Linsley Kelly, I am an old earth creationist who believes that humans are a special creation, which is why they appear suddenly as fully human about 4 million years ago. I believe that the unity of organic life is not explained by Darwin's theories, but by the reality that all things were made in and through the One who also sustains all things.

  • Kelly Trafford Marshall So with the family tree in scripture, how do you get to 4 million years?

  • Alice Linsley Adam and Eve in Genesis represent the founding parents of the "red" people from whom Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus come. However, later Biblical writers pose them as the first created humans. Adam comes from Ha-dam, meaning blood, red color. This is known to be an extremely ancient genetic line. It is associated with the R1b haplogroup which still has the largest concentration in Upper Nile and around Lake Chad. The Upper Nile and Lake Chad are were the Rulers named in Genesis 4 and 5 lived. Noah was a ruler int he region of Lake Chad, which is the only place on earth that claims to be his homeland - Bor-No (Land of Noah). See this map:

  • Alice Linsley The oldest human fossils are dated to about 3.8 million years. This genetic lineage is believed to be about 20,000 years. I believe it is older, possibly 100,000 years. The Genesis narrative suggests that Abraham had a distinctive red skin tone that is associated with other rulers in this lineage: Esau and David. Analysis of the marriage and ascendancy pattern of the Edomites reveals that it is identical to that of Abraham's Nilotic ancestors. This is what would be expected if Abraham is a descendant of both Ham and Shem.

    The Edomites may have been kin to the red Nubians. The Shasu of Nubia also lived in Edom. The red skin tone is a more dominant trait in HG R1b. The majority of men in England, Scotland and Ireland are in this Haplogroup.

  • Chris Ali Alice. What about the next verse after Genesis 5:41 that says "after Noah was 500 years old"? Is that symbolic as well?

  • Alice Linsley Yes, Chris. Scholars recognize that the numbers of years assigned to rulers in the ancient world was symbolic on many levels. The Sumerian king lists assign reigns of thousands of years, for example. Longevity claims for only eight Sumerian kings totaled 241,200 years. The reign of the Persian king Zahhak was said to be 1000 years. We shouldn't get hung up on the ages of the Biblical rulers. The fact that the Genesis king lists reflect a practice this old, means we are dealing with authentic material.

  • Alice Linsley  Kelly, here is a fuller explanation.


  • Alice Linsley Kelly, Here is a fuller explanation about the millions of years between the first created humans and Kain.


  • Kelly Trafford Marshall That's fascinating, Alice. If I had been taught these things in my college religion classes, I would have stuck with it!

  • Chris Ali Thanks Alice. I will be reading these later on. I have one more question. Proponents of young earth say that the the scientific methods used to date things is not accurate. For example, carbon dating, etc. In your opinion how accurate or reliable are these methods?

  • Alice Linsley Radio carbon dating is one method of dating, and it is used along with other methods, such as stratography, a systematic approach that involves bracketing. The ranges are based on all the data gathered. When something is dated between 12,000 - 8,000 years BP (before the present), we can be confident in saying that it dates to about 10,000 PB.  I am often asked if carbon 14 dating is reliable. People who distrust science point to this one method and claim that it is flawed. They seem unaware that there are many methods by which to date rocks and fossils, and that carbon dating techniques are continuously refined. Besides radiometric dating, scientists analyze the breakdown of amino acids. This amino acid racemization dating method has been around since the early 1970s. Dating is also measured by changes in an object's magnetic field.

  • Chris Ali Why do some Christians think that the old earth theory supports the theory of evolution?

  • Alice Linsley Because they have been presented with a false choice between Biblical literalism (poorly done) or Darwinian evolution (poorly done). The problem is one of inadequate education, lack of information, and false interpretations. We have to get Genesis right. It is the foundation of the whole of the Bible. Young earth creationism has caused many people to reject the Bible. They do not see that it is a reliable source of information. See this: 

  • Darwin's observations of the complexity, diversity and...

  • Dwight Huthwaite Do you feel that time could have been impacted by the fall in addition to man and creation?

Alice Linsley Time was created by God for constancy. Just as some stars are fixed for navigation. Just as the sun always rises in the east for orientation. Just as the constellations move in a clock like pattern so that we can predict cycles. There are some features of creation which are fixed and beyond man's reach; beyond the ability of man to have an impact on them. There is nothing in Scripture to indicate that time was affected by the Fall.