The study reflections of “In the Beginning: The Opening Chapters of Genesis 《創世啟示-創世紀一~三章深度解析》心得
This book was written by a French evangelical theologian Henri Blocher. The book aims to investigate the important topics in Genesis 1-3, like creation, God’s image, man and woman, original sin, and so forth.
Though Blocher is an evangelical scholar , he also referred many scholar’s idea about the book of Genesis, from ancient Fathers such as Origen and Augustine of hippo, Reformers such as John Calvin, and many 20 century evangelical scholars such as E.J. Young, Claude Westermann, and Karl Barth. The interaction with so many divergent views made this book more comprehensive.
Reading this book satisfied many questions about the book of Genesis especially in the Chapter 1-3. Though Blocher doesn’t provide every answer that readers might want from this book, he does provide some new perspectives to interpret the Genesis’s texts.
In the past, I was tended to interpreted Genesis chapter 1-3 text literally, (except for the literal six-day creation), because I truly believe that the record of Genesis is totally found in history, thought it must happened before, and it’s not a myth. But after I read this book, I realize that even though I am an evangelical Christian that believes the history of Genesis, I can still use some allegorical interpretation in the Genesis text.
One example of this approach would be the text of Genesis (2:22) “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place.” for this text, Blocher understands Adam’s ribs as a metaphor, expressed in a way that explains that woman comes from man. In this way, Genesis 2:22 also serves to interpret 2:23, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh”
Among all topics discussed in this book, it is the “creation of God,” which covers the most pages. Along with the high-speed developed of natural science in the last three centuries, some scientific theory began to threaten the authority of scripture and the fact of “God’s Creation” Some scientific theories like “theory of evolution,” “new geology discoveries,” and “The Big Bang Theory”, put tremendous tension between the Christian Church and natural science , especially in the “theory of evolution.”
Therefore, Bible scholars were force to face the challenges of science, which led to various interpretations of the “six-day creation” in chapter 1 of Genesis.
“The reconstruction theory” also called “the gap theory”, was found by a Scottish theologian and preacher, Thomas Chalmers(1780-1847). The theory states that between the first word of Genesis 1, ”In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” and the second word “The earth was formless and void”, a mysterious gap exists , Chalmers argued that in between 1:1 and 1:2 there was a big catastrophe and that in Genesis 1:2 (The earth was formless and void), means evil had come into the world, he regarded the context of “six-day creation” as a re-creation.
Blocher argued that this theory must be “quite impossible,” because although it tries to blend scientific theory with text of scripture, it has some big faults at several points. Blocher reminds readers that, this example offers a valuable warning about the false method of interpretation, namely putting one’s own ideas to the text. I think it is like the Second Epistle of Peter (1:20) said “ But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.” , Before reading this book, I never thought that someone can interpret the text of Genesis by utilizing this method.
Blocher outlines four methods of exegesis on Genesis about “the creation” in this book. Of these views, he prefers the “Literary Interpretation”, which has also been called “historico-artistic”, or the framework theory , He argues this is the best method to choose, because it can overcome many difficult problems in interpretation. The method of “Literary Interpretation” regards the creation week as an artistic arrangement, an example of personification, One cannot interpret the text literal by literal, because it argues that the author of Genesis did not intend to tell us about the timeline of the creation. Therefore, this method can also solve the conflict in time order of creations, like the sun, moon, stars were created more lately than the plants(Genesis 1:14).
This method analyzes the style of writing in Genesis, pointing out that the number “seven” has a special meanings in the text. In the “seven days” of creation, the method discriminated the first three days and second three days, explaining that the first three days were the work of separation, and the second three days were the decoration of the work.
The method of this interpretation also indicates an important topic of “the creation of God”. It is the “Sabbath.” In the seventh day of the creation, which is the only day that did not have the record of the text “there was evening and there was morning,”
Blocher thought this layout was intentional. He got the idea from Augustine, who state that the seventh day had not been finished until now. Blocher said in the book that: “the mankind is the crown of the work of creation, but the Sabbath is the high purpose of the creation.”
The “Literary Interpretation” view enlightens me a lot, though I cannot easily give up the time order of the creation week right now. However this method can let me know how to face many difficult interpretation problems on Genesis from scientific thinking.
Chapter 6 “The covenant in the Eden” and chapter 7, “The breaking of the covenant” also offer many good discussions about the big topics of Genesis, like the “covenant” and “oiginal sin.” I really admire Henri Blocher that he can collect so many scholar’s idea and can still deal with some difficult problems reasonably.