Eschatology Outlines: No. 2 Noah and Lot

Posted by R. Fowler White

Getting Our Bearings on the End from “the Days of Noah”:
Universal-World Judgment

I. Overview: The post-fall, pre-flood history of man became a “Tale of Two Cities,” a history of conflict between the worship and city founded by Cain and the worship and city founded by the Lord God through His curse on the serpent. That history is a history of civilizational decline (degradation) culminating in redemptive judgment, a history of the apostate malformation of the city of man. As man rebelled against the Cultural Mandate and sought Edenic security, beauty, and community according to his own standards, so his cities became increasingly idolatrous parodies of the city of God ripe for judgment. The work of fallen man, faithful or faithless, culminated in all the earth being filled with violence. Despite the eschatological hope of man’s pre-fall history, fallen man did not proceed to fill the earth to God’s glory through God’s Spirit according to God’s word. No, the “glory” of fallen man was an earth filled not with peace and righteousness, but with unrighteousness and violence, Gen 6:1-7, 11-13.

II. Decline (degradation) of culture: its features. See Gen 4:1-24; 6:1-7, 11-13.

A. Apostasy, Gen 4:1-15; 6:1-2: In the first generation of the household of faith, a culture war broke out with a murder over worship: an enraged Cain, in effect, slaughtered Abel as a bloody sacrifice (see 1 John 3:12 NET). After Cain’s excommunication, the faithless households descending from him built a city for refuge (Enoch, Gen 4:16-17), while the faithful households descending from Seth (Gen 4:25–5:32) built altars from where they called on the name of the Lord their God. Regardless of the precise interpretation of “the sons of God” (Gen 6:2) that we adopt, the last generation of descendants from Cain and Seth before God’s judgment appears to have yielded to apostasy through intermarriage. Once the households of faith apostatized, there was no remedy for that generation: they had degraded themselves into the terminal generation of the era between the fall and the flood.

B. Removal of the Spirit’s restraining presence, Gen 6:3: God set a timetable according to which His Spirit’s restraint would become obsolete. His patience had suffered long, but it would not suffer forever. Meanwhile, civilization exhibited the spirit of its father, Cain: it was carnal, diabolical, anti-Christ, and anti-Christian.

C. Lawlessness, Gen 4:16-24; 6:4-7, 11-12: As we noticed above (II.A.), civilization became progressively degraded at the hands of apostates. The culture of the faithless exhibited all the basic elements of civilization, but it was a culture that culminated in violence and death, instead of peace and righteousness. Through Lamech, the Nephilim, and the Men of Renown (“of the Name”), civilization became an idolatrous theocracy in which, like Lamech, man mocked God and assumed the position of deity. The culture of fallen man became the cult of fallen man. Out of the violence of Cain’s fratricide had come a city and culture distinguished by violence in the family and in the state. The absence of even civic good became complete. Evil, lawlessness, and contempt for all God’s ordinances were rampant. The corruption of the world that was reached its nadir.

III. Deliverance of a remnant, Gen 6:13-21; 7:23: In judgment, God remembered mercy. God the Deliverer entered into a covenant of deliverance with Noah and his household, Gen 6:18-21. It is noteworthy that God delivered a remnant, but only a remnant, of all kinds, human kind and non-human kind. Divine deliverance, in that it reaches a remnant, is always particular, never general (universal), Gen 6:13-15; 7:23. The remnant here anticipated the birth/beginning, the first generation, of the world that now is.

A. Noah, a type of the Last Adam (Christ): As a temporal reward for Noah’s exemplary obedience of faith (WCF 16.6), those in his household enjoyed the temporal blessing of deliverance from the flood, Gen 7:1, 5; 6:8-9, 22; cf. 5:29. By faith Noah was obedient in that he built the ark—a floating city, a boathouse with window and door, Gen 6:16—according to the word of God his Deliverer and to His glory, Gen 6:22.

B. We should note that, though Noah was a foreshadowing of Christ, he was not a federal (covenantal) head in the same way that Christ is. In Noah’s case, the obedience of the one (Noah) was not credited to those in his household. (Noah was exemplary in righteousness in his day, but not perfect.) In the case of Christ, the obedience of the One is credited to the many.

IV. Destruction of the world by flood, Gen 6:7, 11-17; 7:21-24: The flood marked the death/end of the first world. God the Judge had set the date for the judgment of the first world. He had threatened to judge the world by the flood, and then He did so.

Getting Our Bearings on the End from “The Days of Lot”:
Local-City Judgment

I. Decline (degradation) of culture, Gen 18:16–19:11; 2 Pet 2:6-8; Jude 7: Sodom was a city with fewer than ten righteous in it, just as the earth of Noah’s day had fewer than ten righteous in it. It was utterly corrupted by lawlessness, depravity, sensuality, ungodliness, and apostasy (even in the cases of Lot’s wife and others in his household). Contempt for God’s ordinances was pervasive: family and civil government were both corrupt. Civic good had vanished: the absence of safety in the city gate is noteworthy.

II. Deliverance of a remnant: Lot found grace, Gen 19:19, so that he and some in his household were delivered, as Noah had found grace, Gen 6:8, so that he and his house were delivered. The angels shut the door of Lot’s house for safety, Gen 19:10, just as God had shut the door of Noah’s ark, Gen 7:16. Lot and his household members found safety in the mountains, Gen 19:17, 30, just as Noah and his household members had found safety on Mt Ararat, Gen 8:4.

III. Destruction of the city by fire: God destroyed the wicked in Sodom and the surrounding region by the “rain” of fire (Gen 19:24; 2 Pet 2:6), just as He had destroyed the world with the rain of water (7:4).

Eschatology Outlines: No. 3A The Olivet Discourse

Eschatology Outlines: No. 1 The Beginning

Posted by R. Fowler White

Getting Our Bearings on the End from the Beginning:
Genesis 1–3

I. The eschatology of Gen 1:28—the earth ruled, filled, and at rest

The creation workweek of God had an eschatology, an end in view. The God of Creation is the Divine Artisan who rules and fills (brings form and fullness to) the originally unformed and unfilled earth. The eschatology of Gen 1:1–2:3, then, focuses on the rest of God after the work of God.

A. As God had ruled and filled the earth to His glory by His Spirit according to His Word, so man male and female was to rule and fill land, sky, and sea to God’s glory, by God’s Spirit, according to God’s Word.

B. Gen 1:28 expressed the hope that, through God’s Spirit and according to God’s word, man, being the image and likeness of God, would enter into God’s rest, having finished the work God had commissioned and blessed them to do.

II. The eschatology of Gen 2:15-17—the world city (cosmopolis), secure and pure, with God on His mountain

A. The holy setting: There was a habitation for God and man male and female, together in a garden on a mountain. There was community in beauty and security: the beauty of trees surrounded by precious metals and cosmic rivers and the security of its elevated summit location (cf. v 10). Eden was the site of the city of God and man in a garden on a mountain (see Ezekiel 28).

B. The holy task with an eschatology: Made in God’s image and likeness, man was to emulate God in His person and work. From the Edenic summit, man, like God, was to undertake the original commission under God’s benediction, to rule and to fill the earth to God’s glory, according to God’s Word, by God’s Spirit. Man was, in effect, to extend the city from the garden into the whole earth, making a holy habitation for holy inhabitants throughout the earth. The goal of human history, then, was the building of the house of man and his bride, which God would have them construct throughout the world, filling the earth with the glory of God.

III. The eschatology of Gen 3:14-19—first suffering, then glory: the Last Adam as Dragon-Slayer and Temple-Builder

A. The antithesis between creative word (blessing) and prophetic judgment (curse)—History, according to the Bible, is determined by the word of God both in curse (anti-creation; judgment) and in blessing (re-creation; salvation). God’s creative word created the world at the beginning; God’s prophetic word creates history thereafter.

B. The prophetic (i.e., eschatological) paradigm is found in Gen 3:14-19.—God’s curses here express the eschatologically significant moral principles by which He achieves victory over His enemies. In Gen 3:14-19, we find statements of those principles of re­tributive irony and redemptive irony.

1. Means and results—God sees to it that the means by which the serpent and his seed intended to defeat Him end up being the very means by which He defeats them. In addition, the actual results effected by God are the opposite or a greater degree of the results intended by the serpent and his seed.

2. Death of one, life for many—By the grace of redemptive judgment, God appoints the death-suffering of one as the way to new life-glory for many; He ordains the weak, even in death, to conquer the strong; He transforms curse into blessing. The Last (eschatological) Adam will be victorious over the serpent where the First (pro­tological) Adam had been defeated, and that victory will come by means of the curse of death.

IV. Summary: Moses gives us the basis for a true moral optimism.

A. It is the Last Adam and His seed who will fulfill God’s mandate for man. Ironically, in the curse on the serpent, the man and the woman could find God’s Gen 1:28 promise of victory and life restored. God’s curse on the serpent in Gen 3:15-21 is His gospel of deliverance from the vanity and futility of fallen man’s work. To one of the woman’s seed would belong the blessings of victory over the serpent: through the victory of that One seed, many of the woman’s otherwise cursed seed would be blessed with life (Gen 3:15). In the victory of that one righteous Son and the remnant He redeems, the earth will yet be ruled and filled by a righteous immortal seed of man to the glory of God.

B. Meanwhile, to reveal without delay His holy wrath against sin, God’s immediate judgment was to drive Adam, Eve, and the serpent from Eden’s earthly summit and to station the cherubim at its entrance to guard it against any further defilement by His now cursed creatures (Gen 3:24). Thereafter, amidst the suffering and death of the curses, the conflict between the woman, the serpent, and their seed began its course toward the consummation of God’s purpose, all the while bringing to pass an eschatology of hope for victory over the beast by persevering in faith despite suffering and death.

C. In Gen 3:15, then, we find a denial of the ultimacy of evil and, thus, the basis for the believer’s hope in the vindication of good. The eschatology of Genesis 1–3, expressed in its pronouncements of blessing and curse, is a true moral optimism, an eschatology of victory, wherein God makes curse the way to blessing, death the way to life, for His believing people. We Christians do not serve a frustrated deity.

Eschatology Outlines: No. 2 Noah and Lot

Two Creation Accounts?

It is a commonplace in historical-critical scholarship to assert that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 offer us two distinct (and usually, therefore, dependent on two different sources, J and E) creation accounts that contradict each other. The order of created things in Genesis 1 is light, firmament, separation of land and sea, plants, lights, fish, birds, land animals, humanity. In chapter 2, it is said, the order is very different: humanity, plants, land animals. Although this supposed discrepancy has been answered in the past by conservative scholars such as Keil and Delitzsch, the historical-critical scholars continue to cite this supposed discrepancy as if there were no answer to their claims.

It is my claim that there cannot be a discrepancy in the text, if it is read carefully, and without an assumption of contradiction. The exegesis of the text in Genesis 2 will show that the plants supposedly created after humanity are not all plants, but only cultivated plants. It is a relatively simple point. There are two reasons given in 2:5b for why the plants of 2:5a are not yet in existence. There was no rain, and there was no man to plow the ground. Now, the lack of rain could be reasonably used as a reason for why all plants were not yet in existence. The lack of a plowman, however, cannot be used as a reason for why all plants were not yet in existence. Wild plants thrive without any help from humans whatsoever. The plants of 2:5a, therefore, cannot be all plants. There has to be a more limited reference. If there is no plowman yet, then the plants of 2:5a have to be cultivated plants, farm plants, plants that need the human touch in order to thrive. So much for the plant issue.

The other issue of order has to do with the relative creation of humanity and the land animals. 2:19 seems to suggest that Adam was already in existence when God formed the land animals and brought them to Adam to see what he would call each creature. There is no need to interpret the text this way. Even though the word “formed” is a vayyiqtol (normal on-line narrative, normally denoting sequential action), the statement of forming could just as easily be a summation of days five and six as a statement of sequential order. The emphasis in the context is far more on the bringing and naming than on the forming. Furthermore, the forming of the creatures from the earth is an implicit contrast with the forming of the woman from the rib of the man. The text is saying that all the animals have the wrong origin to be Adam’s helper. Only someone who comes from his flesh and bone (2:23) will be the right helper.

Are We All Cainites Now?

Posted by R. Fowler White

Isn’t there an increasing likeness between our culture and the culture of Cain and his descendants? Sure seems so in some key ways. Consider that question in the light of Gen 4:16-24.

Like Cain and his descendants, we claim to be “people of faith,” but we don’t live coram Deo. Notice Gen 4:17-18. Cain and his wife were fulfilling God’s command to fill the earth, but notice the names that they gave to their sons: several had a short-hand version of God’s name (“El”) embedded in them. What are we to make of those names? Arguably, in them, the Cainites displayed a form of godliness, but they didn’t live their lives coram Deo, that is, in God’s presence, under God’s authority, to God’s glory. In that sense, they took God’s name to themselves in vain. What happened then appears to be happening today. Like Cainites, some have taken the name of God-in-Three-Persons in Christian baptism but have no discernible intention of living coram Deo.

Our culture seems to share a second likeness to Cainite culture too. Like Cain and his descendants, we endorse marriage and family, but we redefine them apart from godly virtues. Look again at Gen 4:19-24. Cainites believed in marriage and family alright, but in just seven generations from Adam, they had exchanged monogamy for polygamy, and husbands like Lamech sang of their ability to intimidate their wives. Similarly, in our culture: secularists redefine “marriage” and “family,” celebrating what God condemns. Meanwhile, professing Christians take marriage vows but live together oblivious to biblical teaching on marriage.

Our culture looks to be Cainite in a third way. Like Cain and his descendants, we seek community, safety, and beauty apart from God’s altar. Notice Gen 4:17, 20-24. Cainites produced food and clothing, tools and weapons, musicians and instruments. They had milk and meat, but no milk or meat of the Word. They had clothes, but not the white robe of Christ’s righteousness. They made tools to build tents and weapons to wage war, but they had no tent of meeting with God, no spiritual armor. They had livestock, but no Lamb of God. They sang along with Lamech’s taunt and doubtless even silly love songs (cf. Gen 6:2; Matt 24:38), but not the songs of ascent or the Song of Songs. So, where did the Cainites find all this community, safety, and beauty? Excommunicated from God’s presence (Gen 4:16), they had to find these benefits away from His altar, apart from His Spirit and His Word. Too many in our society and our churches seem bent on seeking and finding community, safety, and beauty away from God’s altar too.

A fourth likeness between our culture and Cainite culture is observable. Like Cain and his descendants, we demand justice, but we lack the fear of God. Look again at Gen 4:23-24 and its cultural legacy in Gen 6:5-12. Cain’s descendant Lamech mocked God’s justice, bragging of a better justice that lacked the restraint of God’s lex talionis (Gen 4:24). Increasingly, like Lamech, our culture defies God and deifies man. And the taunting spirit of Lamech that lives on in our society brings it neither justice (Gen 4:23) nor peace (Gen 6:5, 11).

As a culture, we demand justice, but with no fear of God in our hearts. We claim to be “people of faith,” but we don’t live our lives coram Deo. We endorse marriage and family but redefine them on our own terms, not God’s. We seek community, safety, and beauty, but find them apart from God’s altar. And what are the results of our likeness to Cain and his descendants? Paraphrasing the words of cultural commentator and theologian David Wells, our society has rapidly lost moral altitude. We’re not merely morally disengaged, adrift, and alienated; we’re morally obliterated. We’re not only morally illiterate; we’ve become morally vacant. The onset of this spiritual rot has come so rapidly that many would say that we’re in a moral free fall. Since we’ve abandoned the pursuit of virtue, we’re left to talk about values, but our values have no universal value because the idea of absolute truth has disappeared from public discourse. We’re looking now at a society, a culture, even a civilization that, to a significant extent, is travelling blind, stripped of any moral compass. Some would even say that we’re all Cainites now. Is there any way of escape? Yes! Face the brutal facts. Don’t be like Cain. Be like Abel, Seth, and their descendants, who called on the name of the LORD (Gen 4:26). Just as they did, confess our rebellion, individual and corporate, against Him (cf. Jude 1:14; Heb 11:7). Just as they did, subject ourselves in faith to Him and His Christ, acknowledging that His wrath is quickly ignited against us rebels, but that all who take refuge in Him are blessed (Ps 2:12).

Isaac’s two blessings

Jeremiah Burroughs notes the switching of the order in heaven and earth between Jacob’s and Esau’s blessings:

Mark it, Isaac blessed them both with the dew of heaven and fatness of the earth (this could be disputed, LK). But in Jacob’s blessing the dew of heaven was first and the fatness of the earth was second; while in Esau’s blessing, the fatness of the earth was first and then the dew of heaven. Note that a godly man stands in need of earthly things. As Christ said, “Your Father knows you stand in need of these things.” But the great thing, in the first place, that a godly heart minds is the dew of heaven, and then second the blessing of the earth. Now a carnal heart thinks that it has some need of the things of heaven; it will acknowledge that. But it’s the fatness of the earth they desire, and then the dew of heaven (A Treatise on Earthly-Mindedness, SDG 1991, p. 8).

New Book on Theistic Evolution

This book looks to be the definitive critique of theistic evolution. It is a massive tome, weighing in at just over 1 kilopage. It looks exciting for those of us who have been waiting for a more or less thorough critique of theistic evolution, which has begun to invade even the more conservative NAPARC denominations. The critique comes from scientific, philosophical, and theological directions. And it is on sale right now at 50% off!

Are Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 Two Different Creation Accounts?

It is a commonplace in historical-critical scholarship to say that there are two creation accounts that contradict each other, and that therefore, the first two chapters of Genesis could not have been written by the same author. The first bit of evidence given is that, in Genesis 1, plants are created before humans, whereas in chapter 2, plants were created after humans. The second bit of evidence is the order of creation for animals vis-a-vis man: in Genesis 1, animals are created before man on the sixth day, whereas in Genesis 2, they are supposedly created after (depending on one’s translation of the verb “formed” in 2:19). What is more, historical-critical scholars tend to view any attempt to see the relationship of these chapters in a different way as a “harmonizing” attempt (as if harmonizing were some kind of dirty word). I will make the argument here, not even based on harmonizing with regard to the first bit, but based on exegesis, that the historical-critical understanding of the relationship of the chapters is in grave error.

The exegetical flow of Genesis 2:5-9 has to do with the institution of agriculture. How did it get started? Well, before it got started, there were two “problems” or “things lacking” to rectify. The first was that there was no rain, and the second was that there were no farmers. Agriculture does rather depend on these two things even today! Going back all the way to Keil and Delitzsch’s commentary, the “bush of the field” and “the plant of the field” in verse 5a are not descriptive, then, of all kinds of plants. Rather, they are limited to cultivated crops (the designation “of the field” points this way). This is absolutely proven by the second of the two reasons given for why these plants were not present. The first reason, “no rain,” of course, would be a good reason for why any plant had not yet appeared. So, that reason for the lack of plants is inconclusive for our point. However, “no man to work the ground” in verse 5b cannot possibly be a reason for why wild plants were not present. Wild plants do not need humans to work the ground in order to thrive. Therefore, to interpret the “bush of the field” and “plant of the field” in verse 5a to refer to all plants of whatever kind is irresponsible exegesis.

Whatever one may think of Kline’s exegesis of these verses, I think his point about verse 6 is well worth considering. A two-fold “problem” needs a two-fold solution. Kline believes that verse 6 is a. speaking about a rain-cloud, and b. giving us the solution to the first problem (no rain). Verse 7 then describes the fix to the second problem (no farmer). This interpretation is confirmed, then, in verses 8-9, where a garden (cultivated plants!) is planted, and verse 9, where the emphasis is on the food quality of the plants. Verses 5-9 then tell us of the introduction of cultivation in history, which is a large part of the cultural mandate of 1:28-29. This points to continuity between the two chapters, not discontinuity. As many scholars have noticed, chapter 1 treats of the creation of all things with a sort of wide-angle lens, whereas chapter 2 turns on the telephoto lens in order to focus more specifically on the creation of man, and the covenant which God made with him.

One last comment on this first part of the issue: I have yet to see a single liberal treatment of Genesis 1-2 that even acknowledges these exegetical points. They simply assume, without any argument, that, “of course,” Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 contradict each other. One suspects that, even if a liberal were to read about these arguments for explaining the text, they would push such considerations under the rug, because they favor the idea of a contradiction, since it supports the JEDP source theory. Of course, a single author could not have had such things in mind as a more general account of the creation of all things in chapter 1, and the focus on the creation of humanity in chapter 2. Quite impossible! It seems to me that ancient authors might have been a bit more flexible than the modern historical critics give them credit for!

The second bit of evidence given is the order of creation with regard to animals and man. If 2:19 is translated, “Now out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heaven,” then yes, there is an issue there. But if, with the NIV and ESV, the verb “form” is translated as a pluperfect “had formed,” the entire question is resolved. The issue is whether the verb can be translated this way. The grammar of Gesenius/Kautzsch/Cowley seems to think this is a possibility. It cites Genesis 2:19 as an example of an imperfect being used “In dependent clauses to represent actions, &c., which from some point of time in the past are to be represented as future” (par. 107k). Waltke and O’Connor do not list Genesis 2:19 as an example of the wayyqtl representing a pluperfect sense, though they allow that this is a possible use of the wayyqtl, while admitting that it is controversial (see 33.2.3).

Joüon-Muraoka (in the second edition; the first edition does not discuss the issue) would call this use of the imperfect “very irregular.” J-M argues that the pluperfect can only be expressed by avoiding wayyqtl (166.j). Davidson allows for a third possibility for the imperfect: “to express actions which are contingent or depending on something preceding” 43(b). The upshot of the discussion is this, that we have four options. The first option is to translate “formed” as a simple past, interpret the form as a contradiction, and thus assume an absolutely idiotic redactor, who couldn’t spot the contradiction with chapter 1 if his life depended on it. Or, secondly, we could interpret the form as a pluperfect, which IS grammatically possible, at least according to GKC and W-O’C, and thereby alleviate the difficulty entirely, thus assuming a reasonably intelligent author. The third option is go with Davidson’s approach, and interpret the verb as expressive of an action which was dependent on some previous action, though I am not entirely sure how that would help us. The fourth option is maybe the simplest one: translate as a simple past, but then note that 2:19 does not have to express a time relation between the creation of the animals and the creation of man. I prefer option 2 or option 4.

Does this mean I am harmonizing where the text does not allow me? I would argue no. These are legitimate exegetical options. But if all it takes to “reconcile” these two passages is interpreting a verb form in a perfectly acceptable grammatical way, or suspending a time relation between two actions, recognizing along with many Hebrew scholars that narrative continuity is not the same as temporal continuity, then I would argue that the contradiction is the mind of the liberal critic, who forces it on the text. In literary terms, a contradiction should only exist if there is no other possible alternative, since we must assume that the author knew what he was doing, and was not an idiot. The problem that the liberal critic has is that he or she is so confident that there is a contradiction present that they are willing to build an entire theory of sources on this basis (along with the different names of God used in chapters 1 and 2, which would be subject matter for a different post). I hope I have shown that no contradiction is necessary from natural interpretations of the text. Where contradictions are not the only option, they should not be chosen. This is all the more true if we believe that God is the ultimate author of the Bible and that He cannot lie.

Laban’s Teraphim

I know that some people are probably wondering if I’m ever going to write on this blog again. I will. Some may have started wondering if I’m even still alive. I am. I will have more to announce later on, but my family and I are in some transition processes. That’s all I wish to say for now.

My wife and I have been reading the golden biblical-theological introduction to the Old Testament that Reformed Theological Seminary put out. The work on Genesis is by John Currid. He has this to say about the teraphim of Laban:

According to the laws of Nuzi, the family gods (teraphim) played a vital role in the process of inheritance, for whoever possessed these images was considered the rightful heir. No wonder Laban was in a panic over the loss of his household gods when Jacob fled from him to Canaan (Gen. 31:33-35). Laban, in reality, was more concerned about the whereabouts of his gods than about his relatives and flocks (p. 61).

To add on to this insight a bit, if Laban was more concerned about the household gods, because they were the indicator of rightful inheritance, then it is further confirmation of his obsession with money and goods. Obviously, he wanted not only to control what he regarded as his own property, but he also wanted to control who got the inheritance. This might throw an interesting light as well on Rachel’s motives for stealing them.

The Appeal of Source Criticism

For those who have never been exposed to source criticism (you lucky dogs, you!), it is the attempt to find different sources in a given text. Sometimes, this enterprise is quite harmless. Finding out where Ronald Reagan got his quotes from during his Challenger Disaster speech can be fun and enlightening.

Sometimes, however, it is not quite so harmless. When scholars try to find four different sources in the Pentateuch (so-called J,E,D, and P sources, which stand for Jahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomistic, and Priestly), none of which are traced back to Moses, problems arise. The most serious problems have to do with applying an overly strict criteria for discerning the sources. For example, the so-called Jahwist and Elohist sources are so designated because the Jahwist used the name Jahweh for God, whereas the Elohist used the name Elohim for God. Are we seriously to believe that one author couldn’t possibly have used both names for God? Usually, this argument also depends on a manufactured contradiction between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, and the order of creation. The argument goes that the order of creation in chapter 1 is plants, animals, man, whereas in chapter 2, it is man, then plants. Keil and Delitzsch answered this argument well over a century ago, but no source critic has ever listened, seemingly. Chapter 2 is not talking about all plants, only cultivated plants. The reason of chapter 2 is quite clear: there are no “plants” because there was no rain, and because there was no man to till the ground. In fact, chapter 2 cannot possibly be talking about all plants, because most plants, in fact, do not need man to till the ground. Chapter 2 is simply saying that cultivated crops did not really get going until after the creation of the cultivator, namely, man. Therefore, there is no contradiction whatsoever between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.

Another big problem with saying that basically nothing came from Moses is that Jesus said it did. The liberals will typically argue that Jesus was only saying what the people of the day said. That is quite a stretch. Jesus had no problem correcting the people when their notions were in error. On the question of who wrote the Pentateuch, why would we believe that Jesus wouldn’t have corrected the people on this important point? Isn’t it much simpler and easier just to say that Moses did, in fact, write it, and that Jesus and the people He talked to both believed it because it was true?

So, the distinction between the Jahwist and the Elohist is a manufactured one. The question I want to raise is this: what is the appeal of this kind of source criticism? A generous estimation would probably point to the desire to see the prehistory of the text. Where did it come from, and are there previous sources on which the writer relied? Of course, this is all speculation in the case of the Pentateuch, since no such sources actually exist in any recognizable form. For the historical books of the Kings and Chronicles, there are references to other works that are cited. It is debated whether these refer to sources of which we now know nothing, or whether they refer to sources that are already in the canon. If the former, then the Lord did not consider it vital for us to have those sources, for in God’s providence, we don’t have them (notice the free use of “God” and “Lord” in the same sentence there). If the latter, then it is simply a biblical version of footnotes!

However, there remains another much more negative possibility, one which I consider more likely as a general explanation (of which there could, of course, be exceptions). It could be that source critics desire to eliminate final contexts of specific statements so that the final authority of a given text is eradicated. A text without a context is a pretext. There are several reasons why I consider this more likely. Firstly, source criticism does have the effect of atomizing texts, fragmenting them into thousands of tiny contextless pieces. Secondly, source critics almost never give the editor any credit for meaning anything. Usually some form of stupid redactor is implied. Thirdly, a very woodenly literal hermeneutic is applied in order to “see” the fractures. If, however, a different hermeneutic is employed, no fractures exist at all. Fourthly, source criticism comes almost entirely from a liberal set of assumptions: the non-inerrancy of Scripture, the cultural relativity (and therefore non-abiding nature of its authority) of Scripture, and the position of man as judge over Scripture instead of vice versa. Fifthly, it is quite suspicious that the more foundational a text is to Christian theology, the more likely it is to be shredded to pieces by the source critics. The prime examples are the Pentateuch, Isaiah, and the Synoptic Gospels.

It is important to note here that not all those of a liberal or moderately liberal persuasion are in favor of source criticism. There are a few Brevard Childses out there, who advocate studying the text in its final, canonical form. Also, in more recent years, rhetorical and literary criticism has become far more popular and influential (and far more productive, too, in my opinion, in the realm of theology). I had hoped that the Documentary Hypothesis was on the wane, even in liberal circles. But it is still quite alive and well, and even assumed in many liberal quarters. This author, at least, hopes that it dies soon.

Vos on Creation

It is indeed wonderful to have available to us for the first time Geerhardus Vos’s Reformed Dogmatics. Vos is often co-opted (and misinterpreted!) by people who love biblical theology, but hate systematic theology. Unfortunately for them, Vos does not go along with them. It is starting to become better known (now that his Reformed Dogmatics is being published) that Vos taught systematic theology at Calvin Seminary before he went to Princeton to teach biblical theology. Does his Reformed Dogmatics give any ground to those who despise systematic theology in our day? Not an inch.

Vos would also be extremely uncomfortable to those (often the same people!) who want to relegate Genesis 1-2 to the realm of myth. The idea that these chapters are myth is not a new idea. It was around in Vos’s time. Here is what Vos says about the genre of Genesis 1-2:

How many kinds of interpretation are there of Genesis 1 and 2? Mainly three: the allegorical, the mythical and the historical. The first two views, however, are untenable because within the narrative of Scripture the creation narrative is interwoven like a link in the chain of God’s saving acts. God does not make a chain of solid gold, in which the first link is a floral wreath. If the creation history is an allegory, then the narrative concerning the fall and everything further that follows can also be allegory. The writer of the Pentateuch presents his work entirely as history (Reformed Dogmatics, volume 1, p. 161).

Fancy that: the father of Reformed biblical theology (and who was the greatest precisely because of, and not in spite of, his unified encyclopedia) rejecting the mythical interpretation of Genesis! May those who are motivated by the desire to look respectable in the world of academia take note that Vos was not afraid of what others might say, and he feared God rather than men.

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