Last week I proposed that Genesis 1 is telling a literal story using figurative language, and that this story is expressing the formation of the cosmic temple and not about the formation of the universe and the emergence of life on earth. It is not talking about the material origin of the earth, but the functional origins. How Gods creations bless our lives. Consider how the different days relate to each other:
|Functions (the purpose)||Functionaries (what fulfills the function)|
|Day 1 light||Day 4 lights – elements that measure time|
|Day 2 firmament above and waters below||Day 5 Aviary life, marine life|
|Day 3 land vegetation||Day 6 land animals, humans, food|
If you recall from my previous blog, the ancient writers were concerned about how things functioned rather than what they actually were. In the ancient Israelite temple ceremony, for example, the priest (the functionary), serves the function of God. He was not actually God, but he was standing in Gods place to perform the ordinances for the worshipers.
In day one we have light and in day 4 we have lights. In day 2 we have the firmament above and the waters below, and in day 5 we have the animals that live in the firmament above and the waters below. In day 3 there is land and vegetation and in day 6 are the animals that live there. First we have the functions, and then the related functionaries. They culminate in day 7 where God rests, or presides. It is, no doubt, very abstract. Order is brought to His domain and it is now ready for man. Creation starts with the disorder of darkness and the waters, and ends with order light and land. If I were telling the story today, I would use the example of the bedroom of a teenager with ADHD compared to the bedroom of an adult with obsessive compulsive disorder. The images represent disorder to order and not the images themselves.
On another level, the first three days discuss, as John Walton argues in his book ‘The Lost World of Genesis’, what the ancient world considered the three elements of chaos: time, weather and food. God is bringing order to the chaos. On day one he creates time, on day two weather, and on day three food. He declares them to be good which means they are ready to serve their purpose. In contrast, we learn what is not good: Adam being alone. Adam, without Eve, cannot fulfill his purpose which is to multiply and to care for the earth. The earth is prepared for us to fulfill our purpose, and to help us, God creates heaven on earth which is His temple.
Angel Manuel Rodriquez, in his paper ‘Genesis 1 and the Building of the Israelite Sanctuary’ finds five remarkable parallels to the temple construction recorded in Exodus and Leviticus with the language in Genesis 1:
|Six days plus a seventh day||Exodus 24:15-1715 …and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud.|
|Seven divine speeches||Exodus 25:1;30:11, 17, 22, 34; 31:1, 12
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying…
The final speech is a reminder of the Sabbath: 31:12 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,13 Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.
|Seven and the construction of the tabernacle||Lev 19:30; 26:2; Exodus 40:17-33
Construction of the temple is important but not more important than keeping the Sabbath holy. Setting aside Sacred time is more important than building sacred places.
|Linguistic Parallels||Exod 39:43 And Moses did look upon all the work, and, behold, they had done it as the Lord had commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them.
39:32 Thus was all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation finished: and the children of Israel did according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so did they.
40:33 And he reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work.
26:33 And thou shalt hang up the veil under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the veil the ark of the testimony: and the veil shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy.
|Presence of the spirit of God||Exodus 31:3 And I have filled him with the Spirit of God|
As Jeff Morrow explains it in his essay ‘Creation as Temple-Building and Work as Liturgy in Genesis 1-3:
“Genesis 1-3, in its account of creation, presents the cosmos as one large temple, the garden of Eden as the Holy of Holies, and the human person as made for worship. The very content and structure of Genesis 1-3 is in a very real sense liturgical; the seventh day is creation’s high point”.
In fact, these first chapters are filled with patterns of seven, to the point that there appears to be gaps in the text that other versions fill in; but these gaps exist to maintain the numeric patterns that make a liturgical text. In other words, the bible’s opening chapters is the text of a religious ceremony meant to teach gospel principles and not history.
The creation story is not inserted into the Israelite temple ceremony, it IS the temple ceremony. It is a ceremony that uses the cosmos as they understood it to teach gospel principles in much the same way as we use the sun to represent the influence of Gods comforting spirit.
So when you read Genesis 1, or any other story in the bible, set your modern reading glasses aside and relax about the ancient beliefs that permeate the text. The bible was written to an ancient people with a different world view. Unburden yourself of all the cultural and doctrinal baggage of the last 2,000 years and look for the message that is hidden in the hyperbole. They did not care about properly representing how animals behave, or how old a person lives. In the opening chapters of the Bible, we learn that God created heaven on earth by providing the temple, his holy house, for his children. Whatever your belief may be, the promise is that God has prepared a sacred place for you, a sanctuary from the storms of the dark and dreary wildernesses where we too often find ourselves.