Skip to main content

Finding Our Way Through Genesis Two

The fourth post I ever wrote on this blog was a recap of a talk I heard John Walton give at a meeting of the Wheaton-Naperville chapter of the ASA. Four years later I had the opportunity to hear him speak on Genesis 2 at the same venue. As it was then, it was a complete pleasure to hear him speak. His exegesis was fascinating and his manner engaging.

Walton began the talk by asking whether Genesis 2 is a detailed recounting of day 6 of the Genesis 1 narrative or if it's at some point later in the narrative. One problem he points out with the first option is that you have a different creation order in Genesis 2 than in Genesis 1. Additionally, he notes that every other time in Genesis where you have an account that is synoptic of the one preceding, it is a story about two brothers. Walton, then, finds it likely that Genesis 2 tells a story from some point in time after day 6.

Next Walton tackled the occurrences of 'Adam' in Genesis 1-5. 'Adam' in 1:26-2:5 is referring to humanity in general and has no definite article. Starting in 2:7, interestingly, we have articular usage, through 3:24. One would not expect this of a personal name. The names Adam and Eve, themselves, mean human and wife. Walton thinks that they were meant to serve as archetypes.

At this point Walton circled back to Genesis 2. If Genesis 2 is sequel to Genesis 1 then these people aren't necessarily the same people as those in Genesis 1. In fact Genesis 4 seems to require other people. Therefore, Adam and Eve aren't the only people on the earth. From here Walton carries out his archetypal reading. Everything said about Adam and Eve is also true of all humanity.

I won't detail the entirety of the talk, but I will bring up one really fascinating point. Gen. 2:7 says 'then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life...' Walton makes an interesting observation. He notices that dust is a poor choice if you want to make something. You can't mold it into anything. If you wanted to stress the earthiness, impurtiy, or fragility of humanity you would probably use clay as it conveys the same idea but is actually malleable. Dust seems to carry a different connotation, notably in 3:19, that of mortality. So being created from dust is not a comment on our craftsmanship, rather on our mortality. Anyways, immortal people would not need access to the Tree of Life. Only mortals would.

All in all it was a very provocative lecture. We're still at least a year away from his book on Genesis 2 being ready for print. I think Walton is right on in his archetypal reading. One point he repeatedly made is that he has no problem with the narrative being historical.[1] While historical figures certainly can function archetypically in the Bible, I have to wonder if these stories are so far removed from anything that may have happened that calling them historical has little value. Either way, the theological truth about the human condition and human needs is what the story is really about.

--------------------------------------
[1] He views Adam's "surgery" where his "rib" is removed as nothing of the kind and some sort of revelatory dream. Similarly, in Genesis 3 he sees the snake as the chaos monster. I add this to restrict the range of interpretations of historical.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Commentary Series Overview

When I write commentary reviews, one of my main goals is to assess how well the commentator hit the intended audience of the commentary and utilized the format of the commentary. This often necessitates cluttering up the post discussing issues of format. To eliminate that, I thought that I would make some general remarks about the format and audience of each of the series that appear in my reviews. Terms like liberal, conservative, etc. are not used pejoratively but simply as descriptors. Many of you are familiar with Jeremy Pierce's commentary series overview. If you don't see a particular series covered here, check out his post to see if it's reviewed there. I am making no attempt at covering every series, just the series that I use. Additionally, new series (such as the NCCS) have been started in the five years since he wrote his very helpful guide, so I thought that it might not be completely out of order to have another person tackle commentary series overviews. This…

Paul's Argument in Galatians 3:15-29

15 Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. 19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one. 21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! Fo…

Commentary Review: Daniel

In my opinion, Daniel is not the best covered Old Testament book as far as commentaries go. This isn't an uncommon phenomenon among Old Testament books. Though I've looked at them, I'm not going to review some of the older Evangelical Daniel commentaries (like e.g., Baldwin). They don't provide much that you can't get in either Longman or Lucas. If you're unfamiliar with the series that one or more of these commentaries are in check out my commentary series overview.

It was a very close call but my favorite commentary on Daniel is Goldingay's. While there were a few places where I disagreed with his interpretation, I found the commentary to be exemplary. If you're going to teach Daniel, especially the apocalyptic portions, you need a commentary that provides you with a lot of background material. Goldingay, while not as broad as Collins, certainly provides you with quite a bit. His exploration of the background to the apocalyptic symbolism is very helpfu…