Sunday, May 24, 2009

Why Should God Care Less? part 11 - final part

This carries on from the post below:

All right, I’m going to take maybe five minutes and then we’re done. Cause you need to hear this. We haven’t yet gotten to the.... Egyptian temples were constructed on the sites of the primordial mountains of creation. So their temples are actually mini universes. Right, they actually look like that. They have the ... columns are actually reeds; the tops of the temples are like heavens. And that’s where they had the images of their gods. ‘Cause they’re saying ‘It’s our god who created this cosmic temple.’ And I wonder if in fact the pyramids are perhaps representations of the great cosmic mountain. Where else would you bury the son of Amon Re if not in his own stylized, cosmic primordial mountain? Fits perfectly with the ideology. They’re not the only ones who do that. Babylon. When they talk about creation its always building. Tiamet built his palace on the watery body of Apsu. Marduk creates his palace from Tiamet’s watery carcass. Ugaret: Baal – his victory temple is a mini universe. That’s the way they think about creation. They think of it as temple building. Now do you find this in the biblical text? Look at it! Foundations, measurements, stretched out the line, bases, cornerstones, doors, etc. What is this? This is architectural language. What kind of building is it? Isaiah chapter 66? What do you have? Foundations. Foundations of the earth. Pillars of the heavens. Doors, beams, windows, canopies. Isaiah 66: ‘The heavens are my throne; the earth is my footstool.’ Where do you find a throne and a footstool? In a palace. What do you call a palace of a god? A temple. See what’s going on in Revelation chapter 20, 21? The Ark of the Covenant is Yahweh’s footstool – his holy of holies upon the earth. That says some things about the nature of creation. We’ll cover that in just a moment.

What’s going on in a holy war is the rededication of God’s cosmic temple. Finally, the whole universe must be regarded as the highest, and in truth, the holy temple of God. That’s how they understood it. Now, John 3:16. That’s why it says, ‘For God so loved my soul’ ... is that what it says? For God so loved human beings? No. For God so loved the ... cosmos, he sent Jesus. Jesus died to redeem creation. And now you know why. It’s God’s temple. It’s his palace. He’s not about to give it up to the first set of snake features that come along. Oh, and by the way, who is it that comes into the garden? What do you think an Israelite is going to do with that story? Hm?
May your kingdom take us away. Jesus teaches us to pray. Does he? Kingdom coming. Romans 8: creation awaits eagerly longing for it’s ... destruction! ‘Please destroy me! Burn me up!’ it cries. [laughter] Creation will be set free from its bondage. And the language that’s used here is exactly the language God uses to describe his taking Israel out of Egypt. Creation is NOT destined for destruction! It’s God’s temple! It’s his palace! Seven times unmatched anywhere else in the biblical material, SEVEN TIMES God says it’s GOOD!! And why do we say, ‘yes we believe Genesis 1 but it’s only good for being burned.’? Where did that nonsense come from? It came out of the pagan world folks. Because the pagans denigrated creation. The whole notion of going to heaven is a second century pagan innovation. It is not inherently Christian. And that’s the truth. [laughter] Now what about this one – what about it being burnt up, we’ll do that in question and answer session. I’m running out of time. Um. Simply, to note that that’s a mistranslation. It actually means to be disclosed. And it’s 2 Peter doing re-telling of Mt. Sinai. It’s not about God burning up the earth but about when God comes he burns through the stuff that separates him from the earth and comes face to face with his people. That’s what second Peter’s talking about.

I’ve overstayed my welcome already. It’s a time of purification, not destruction. So, let’s just do some conclusions here. So, it seems we’re not going to heaven. Heaven’s coming here. So, all those songs that talk about being in heaven with Jesus, stop singing them or rewrite them. Become biblical. Creation is God’s good gift. He intends to dwell with us here. What about John 14? Isn’t that about the rapture? No, not at all. That’s marriage language. Nothing to do with the rapture, sorry. He’s going to dwell with us here. Creation is a holy place. The first nations people understand this. They understand the sacredness of all things. We’ve had 200 years of treating creation simply as an object to be manipulated. It is not. It’s God’s holy temple; it’s his palace and he is about restoring it. That’s why Jesus teaches us to pray ‘... may your kingdom come.’ That’s why he’s coming back here and what we do is, to be involved in this process of the rededication of creation. Notice what’s going to happen to those who destroy the earth. God will destroy them. And now you know why. It’s His temple; it’s His palace. But we don’t worship it. Sacred, but we don’t worship it.

So, finally, being Christian is about working with God in redeeming his creation, rededicating this place. God’s work in salvation is as far reaching as his work in creation. He built this palace, this temple, because he wants to live here with us. He’s not abandoned that project. He comes into the tabernacle to begin that; He comes and dwells with Israel; and that’s the whole narrative. That’s why revelation ends up like it does. Jesus’ incarnation: God has not abandoned his creation and neither should we. Ultimately then, in the end, creation’s going to become what? It’s going to become, finally, God’s temple and that’s why in the New Jerusalem there is no temple. The whole cosmos becomes the holy of holies. Now that’s what being Christian is about. Understand? That’s why life here is about doing what we can here, not just hanging on until we get out of this place.

Lot of stuff there. Hope you still like me! Um [laughter]. If you don’t, too bad. No, no! Well, bless you folks and we’ll have question and answer about this some time or another. Thank you.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Why Should God Care Less? part 10

This carries on from the last post with this title:

Now this is a Pharaoh who’s crushing these little people; destroying them to build monuments in his own honour. And so what do they do? Aaron takes his staff and it becomes a ... beaver [laughter]. No. You ever wonder why they do that thing? Now you know! In this situation, Aarons staff represents his judicial authority. He’s come as a messenger. So his staff takes on political significance. He throws it down, it becomes a serpent and WHO’S watching this? What’s he got in his crown? Hm? This is no mere party trick friends. This strikes at the very heart of EVERYTHING that defines Egypt and that undergirds Pharaoh’s oppression of the little people. Now standing behind Pharaoh are his magicians. These are the people who are in touch with the gods. They read the omens; they utter the incantations – what it enables. They then advise Pharaoh to enable him to navigate through the vagaries of the faith that comes to Egypt. And what do they do? They’re staffs, signs of their authority, become serpents. And then what happens? Aaron’s rod swallows theirs.

Do you hear what’s going on there? Then what happens? You get nine plagues plus ten. Now, for a person who knows a bit of Hebrew poetry, you realize that Hebrew rhymes numbers. ‘Saul has slain his thousands, David his ten thousands.’ It’s not saying David is ten times better, it’s saying David’s equal. And that’s why Saul says: ‘What remains but for them to give him the kingdom?’ So the rhyme of 9 is 6. Nine plagues plus one and creation – six days plus one. Explicit literary structure so that those echo and if you know how to read Hebrew poetry you’ll immediately go reading those stories in the light of one another and of course they are to be read in the light of one another because it’s Yahweh who calls creation into being and His Word causes Egypt’s created world to fall apart. Everything that was once separated now begins to bleed over. The boundaries begin to break down. The river turns to blood. The frogs come out of the place they should be living in and invade the land. The huge hailstones come – the heavens now begin to invade the waters below. The night bleeds into the day! So all of that beautiful water that they thought was the result of the gods of Egypt, they’re learning now, actually it’s Yahweh who speaks this. And Israel happens to be His firstborn son.

So finally they get to leave. And they find themselves standing in the darkness by the Yam Suph, the Red Sea. And Yahweh appears as a fiery pillar bringing light ... in ... the ... darkness. Oh! And then what happens? A strong east wind begins to blow. The sea turns into dry land. And they go across. Where have you seen this before? This is exactly what we hear about in Genesis. I want to suggest that where Israel learned that Yahweh was the creator was at the Yam Suph. You know that Red Sea, by the way, to the Egyptians, was part of the cosmic Sea of Reeds that preceded creation. Now what does Pharaoh do? Well he’s got the Uraya in his crown. He’s the living embodiment of Amon Re and in his narrative Amon Re defeats Appophus who dwells in the Sea of Reeds. So what does he do? He sends his armies in after them! Of COURSE he does! Everything in his ideological world tells him that this is what you need to do! Because AMON RE, whose son he is, defeats Appophus. And what happens? It’s not that the Israelites have this ghoulish delight. But what you find lying around the edges of the sea are the Egyptian dead bodies. It’s like that film ‘The Mummy’ where the guy tries to get his sweetheart out of the well of souls. And what you’ve got there is a statement that ‘It’s not Amon Re who defeats Appophus. It’s Yahweh.’

Now, just a few quick things. Notice these parallels. There are a number of texts from Egyptian finds, archaeological digs. Look at some of the parallels. Starting with water and then you have the god appearing. Creation happens through speech, whether the material world or animal life. You know what’s interesting? Is that only in Egypt stories do you have gods who create through speech. You don’t find that in Babylon or Sumer. Here are some other parallels. In the Egyptian stories you start with four primal elements: you start with the formless deep, the darkness, breath or wind and illimitable chaos. That’s exactly what you find in Genesis. Water, right, the deep, it’s dark, the wind is blowing and it’s chaotic. You don’t find this collocation of stuff in any other literature, except in Egypt. A creator/deity who creates through speech; creation as acts of separation. You know it’s only in Egypt that you have light before the sun. Nowhere else. Sequences: stars, birds and fish, animals and humanity. That’s Egyptian. Fashioning humanity like a potter. That’s Egyptian. Enlivened with the breath of the god. That’s Egyptian. What’s going on here?

A couple of things. First of all I want to suggest that these three structures have nothing to do with how long it took God or when. It’s simply someone in the ancient saying ‘This is the world I live in; this is how it’s structured; the first basic structure is night and day. That’s the fundamental structure whether you’re above or below land or sea. That’s the basic one. Yahweh did it. The next structure: above and below. Third structure: land and sea.’ You do that and you find the world in which you live. And their making the statement that Yahweh does it. That’s all it is. It really has nothing to do with it taking 24 hours or not, it’s simply not the point. It’s being structured by something else and the form and the content of Genesis makes this really clear, it seems to me. But it’s not just that. It’s also an attack on the ideology of Egypt. Now this is Moses. Where did Moses live before he went out of the desert? He grew up in the house of Pharaoh! He has access to these secret tomb paintings. He knows about this priestly stuff. And I think, inspired by the Spirit, he takes the language of Egyptian ideology and TURNS it on its head! It’s NOT Attum that separates the waters, its Yahweh. And how do they know that? they stood at the Red Sea and saw it took place. Right. So, Genesis 1. It’s highly stylized form, unrealistic content suggests that to read this as straight history is mistaken. Doesn’t mean it’s not true, it’s doing something else. What is it going after? Yahweh, not the gods of Egypt, as creator. And these days, they’re nothing but this, kind of a natural period of work. That’s all they mean. Just so you can move through the sequence. That’s all they do. Nothing more beyond that. So, I would urge you, as a biblical scholar, please don’t try to defend a burning tiger by arguing for 24 day creation. And that’s going to tread on some toes here. But folks, I just ... it doesn’t stand a chance of flying I don’t think. Not if you take this seriously. And then we wonder why people don’t want to follow our Jesus and we’re talking about burning tigers and saying that Marg Simpson has a kidney problem. Now I know that’s a bit provocative but I don’t have time to really, you know, do it gently. So [laughter] you need to hear that. All right?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What if the power went out

What if ... the power went out. This is a thought I've had running through my mind lately. It has come to my mind recently because, partly, of the economic 'crisis' we're in, or that has been claimed by our governments and culture. My life has not been highly negative affected by this turn of events ... BUT! What if the power went out?

I mean, what if it REALLY went out. COMPLETELY! No way of restoring it. Indefinitely lost to us is the use of electricity. Keep in mind, electricity has really only been around for about 200 years - in the form and measure we've been using it. What would happen?

Most of us would not be able to heat or cool our homes. We'd have no lights. No kitchen appliances would work (fridge, freezer, stove, oven, microwave, beater, bread maker, etc.). You'd have no money (banks would lose all their records, I would assume, of our accounts as they are, for the most part electronic). You'd eventually run out of gas because all the gas pumps are electronically driven. You'd have no cash registers or ATM machines or interac. You might have a few batteries, but after they've been used up where will you get more? Are not most every business and factory and manufacturer run with electricity? Robots produce most of our vehicles. You'd have no phone system. No computers. No internet (no Skype, Facebook, Hotmail). No T.V.. No more big screen movies. No video games. No alarm clocks. No plug in air fresheners. No garage door openers. No power tools (unless they're cordless). No fans. No printers. No battery/phone/radio chargers. It is AMAZING what we have with the use of electricity now. No airplanes or helicopters. No tazers. No cell phones. Nothing could be mass produced.

So, that said, what would our society look like? What kind of changes would happen? What happens when we're not able to communicate to each other instantly? Or able to travel large distances with only money changing hands? What happens when our society/government is no longer able to support the lifestyle or standard of living we're used to? How would our communities change? How would we eat?

I was reminded again yesterday that we are not all that far removed from this lifestyle. My Grandparents lived in a small house with no electricity and drove a horse and buggy back in the 30's. My Great Grandparents lived in a sod house when they lived in Saskatchewan. That's not that long ago. Within a hundred years.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Why Should God Care Less? part 9

This carries on from the post below:

But, traditionally, who is the author of Genesis? It’s your chance to respond now, on the count of 3. One, two, three! Moses, yeah. Good. When do you think he wrote it? When he was in the little ark floating along, kind of a child protégé? [laughter] When do you think Moses wrote this? Sorry? Help me here. Speak up, I’m a drummer and I’m a bit deaf, so I need to hear from you. Before he died. YES! Very good, before he died. [laughter] So, somewhere after his birth and sometime before his death. Excellent! [laughter] Geri [the Canadian Inter-varsity Christian Fellowship President], you’re in strife. You’re in real trouble. Well, o.k., that’s a good place to start. Can we perhaps refine that just a little? Any other suggestions? When do you think he would have written this? Well, in his lifetime. At the end of his life? So, that would be after the exodus? Of course. And people who work in these texts realize there are lots of things in the book of Genesis that reflect exodus events. Yes, of course, it’s after the exodus. And then where has Israel been for 400 years? Egypt. Not in Babylon. Not in ancient Sumer. They’ve been living in Egypt. Now, you know what’s staggering? Very few biblical scholars bother to look at what’s going on in Egypt as background to Genesis 1. We’re going to do that. Even if I am a new testament person.

I want to suggest that Egypt is the ideological context for these five books of Moses. It’s not to say there aren’t some bleed overs from other cultures, because there were. The ancient world had lots of comings and goings; lots of communication. There was cultural diversification; that was happening. But primarily Egypt. Now what’s going on in the Egyptian stuff? Well, first the Egyptian royal ideology. Amon Re, he’s the sun god. He brings light and life to Egypt. Every morning he arises out of the sea of reeds. In the Egyptian creation story you start with the sea of reeds. Out of that emerges the first cosmic mountain. The gods self materialize on them. Amon Re is the sun god representing some of this. He rises in the east, travels across the sky and you can see the rays coming down – the picture on the left here – as those rays come down they bring life and light to Egypt. In the evening he descends in the west again into the sea of reeds. The great pre-cosmic ocean. He goes into the underworld. And while he’s there he meets Appophus (spelling?) – the chaos monster. A serpent. Amon Re is escorted by two fire breathing cobra. He does battle with Appophus and he arises the next morning victorious in the east to bring again life and light to Egypt. Every day is a recapitulation of the creation cycle. So in this period of time, in the Middle Kingdom, they build these huge temple structures, and they have these processional ways oriented toward the east so that when Amon Re rises his light shines down these processional paths to light up the little na-os (sp?) in which his image is contained. And on either side of these processional ways some of these old temples would have little mini cosmic seas of reeds. Shallow pools with reeds in them. So the architecture of their temples re-capitulated their creation narrative. My bell’s gone; I’m only part way through this. Well let’s see if we can go a bit more quickly. Pharaoh is the son of Amon Re and he’s actually the embodiment of god upon the earth. Very important to keep that in mind. Son of god language. Egypt knows what that means. That’s Pharaoh. Now, notice what Pharaoh wears in his crown. Notice that? What’s he got there? An enraged uraya (spelling?). Sorry, an enraged female cobra called a Uraya. Why do you think he’s wearing a cobra? Because cobras are what escort Amon Re as he defeats Appophus. So here you see Pharaoh, and it’s not that Egyptians don’t know about perspective, but their art was a form of magic. It was, not quite a Greek Memmasis (s?), but a way of somehow capturing the life forces. So Pharaoh is much bigger than anyone else because he’s the son of Amon Re. There’s his crown. He’s walking around and he’s got this enraged cobra and what’s he doing? He’s defeating these Nubians who represent forces of chaos.

Now that’s their narrative. One day, out of the desert, comes Aaron and Mo. And they meet Pharaoh and they have a word for him. ‘Yahweh says Israel is my first born son!’ What do you think that says to Pharaoh? Heh? You see the first person called the son of god in the bible is not Jesus, actually its Israel. It doesn’t mean Israel is divine. It’s father – son relationship and its speaking directly into the Egyptian ideological environment.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Why Should God Care Less? part 8

This carries on from the post below:

Can I suggest what’s going on here? This is not straight narrative, but neither is it straight poetry. We have examples of ancient Hebrew poetry: Exodus 15, Numbers 13, 14, Judges 5, there’s a number of them. Very old Hebrew texts and they’re poetry and Genesis 1 is not poetry. Not on those parameters. But it’s clearly not straight narrative. Something else is going on. And what I think is happening is this: given the repetition, given the architectonic structure we have here a liturgical text. The point of it is to build this crescendo which we saw so brilliantly this morning. What you guys did really got into Genesis 1. It just begins to build. Did you feel that as you work through? That’s what Genesis 1 is doing. That’s what the literary structure is on about. That’s why there’s repetition. That’s why it’s so architectonic. It’s designed to finally have people go YES!! The LORD is KING! That’s what they meant to say at the end. And if you didn’t feel like doing that after the presentation earlier this morning, goodness. That’s to exalt the name of God. That’s partly what’s going on here.

Now, of course Genesis 1 wasn’t written in a vacuum. It belongs to a culture. And in order to understand something about a cultural artefact you need to know something about the culture. I’m still trying to learn about ice hockey. Ah, it’s all these guys skating around on this kind of thing [laughter]. And they’re wearing all this body armour kind of stuff. What is that? Ah? Come on, be real men. Watch Australian rules. No protection. Well you can tell I know nothing about ice hockey, right? Obviously. So what’s going on culturally? How do we make sense of this kind of thing?

Let’s look at some of the background – this is ancient Sumer [Rikk is now making us of overhead visuals behind him]. They also told themselves creation narratives. And look at some of the things they’re concerned with. So, what we’re doing here is simply trying to get a feel for – when ancient people talked about creation, what were the kinds of things they discussed? We’re simply doing cross-cultural contextualization. We’re doing this for reading Genesis now. Not so much evangelism, but just for listening rather than speaking. Notice they had this idea of first heaven and earth being separated and you’ve got a watery goddess who is the antecedent of heaven and earth. That means that someone reading Genesis isn’t going to be completely thrown. They understand this language of first of all water and then some kind of heaven and earth stuff. This is not unfamiliar language. Notice there’s an increase in order. I’d put the text up for you but it’d be too technical, but you start with this amorphous water and then slowly more order comes. Human beings begin as animals and end up being a special creature. They see this increasing complexity. People were aware of these kinds of things. Then there’s the Babylonian stories. I put them in inverted columns because, technically speaking, in the second millennium BC, Babylon suffered from several incursions from Amorites and also from some other Semites, so we’re not entirely sure just how Babylonian these stories are. And by this I mean the early Babylon, not Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon. So, in their stories, what do we have? Well this is the Atraharsis myth on a tablet that was dug up. We start off with Tiamet, who’s salt water and Apsu, the fresh ground water. That shouldn’t be Tiamet ... that’s mis-typed. The point though is Marduk defeats Tiamet and creates heaven and earth from her body. So you notice we start with water, then the separation – heaven and earth. And then humans are created from the blood of a rebel god, to serve the gods. Just imagine what your society will look like if that’s your creation narrative. Human beings, created from the blood of a rebel to do the dirty work of the gods. Guess what your political structures will look like. Hm? Worth thinking about. People who say that Christianity has nothing to do with politics understand neither.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Why should God Care Less? part 7

This carries on from the post below:

Now, when you read that word, earth – arretz [phonetic spelling only], don’t think of the blue globe spinning in space, that’s not what that word means. It means homeland. God created the heavens and the place where I belong. Not some generic planet. That’s not what it means; it means ‘the place where I’m rooted.’ Read Genesis 1 like that. This is where I think the first nations people have got it over us. They understand some of that. God created the heavens and the place in which I am rooted. Eh? Beautiful.

Well, let’s go to the content. A few questions about this. Now, I don’t mean to be facetious here, though, it’s going to come out a little bit. Sorry. I’ll try to keep it filed back a bit. But we’re going to ask some questions of this text because I think the kinds of questions we ask of a text help us to understand what it’s trying to say and what it’s not. So the first question: How come it takes God the same amount of time to make such vastly different things? I mean, the universe is mind numbingly HUGE! How come it takes him the same amount of time to do that as it does to separate the waters above and below? That’s one of those ‘have you ever seen a tiger explode?’ questions. Do you see, if you were reading this as a regular person, without some pre-commitment to what Genesis 1 was saying, you’d go, ‘gee, it’s really odd that it takes God the same amount of time to do all of that as it does to do this.’ That doesn’t quite make sense. Well, some other things. Why just twelve hours? It doesn’t say twelve hours but its morning and evening so we’re kind of assuming it’s a twelve hour day. Why doesn’t it take him 11 ½ hours one time and a 135.6 hours another time? Why exactly twelve hours? Ever thought about that? Didn’t that strike you as odd? In fact, why any time at all? Why can’t God just go, bazzing, and there it is? Jesus can do miracles like that, can’t he? I mean, the blind guy sees. He didn’t have to wait 12 hours. Jesus says: ‘Well, wait ‘til the next morning. Morning, evening then you’ll see.’ Right? It doesn’t happen like that. Why should it take God any time at all? When you start asking these kind of questions and get kind of embarrassing answers like this, what’s it telling you? It’s probably telling you that we’re miss-reading the text. It’s not trying to tell us those kinds of things. ‘I wonder what kind of disease Marg Simpson is suffering from to get hair like that. We should send her to the doctor.’ Ah no, no, it’s ridiculous. Don’t ask that question. That’s not what it’s on about. Well, same with Genesis. Does God need to talk to the U.S. marines? Does he need night vision goggles? Can’t he see at night to create? Why only during the day? Absurd – the very suggestion. Something else must be going on then. What about the amphibians? What’s the Emu doing? Blubblblblblbublblblblub. Maybe that’s why it grew a long neck – kind of evolving as ... come on! This is highly stylized. Something’s going on here, I’m committed to the truth of it but please folks, no way is this a blow by blow account of what actually happened. Everything is telling us ‘Don’t READ me like this!’ The form, the content and then Genesis 2. Oh! Big problem now because Genesis 2 tells us plants were not created until after humanity and Genesis 1 says they were created before. So, brilliant western scholars say ‘Well, we have two versions of the Genesis account and these guys hadn’t talked to one another, didn’t get their facts straight, and then someone didn’t know what to do with them and so just plunked them both in Genesis and let the two contradictory things stand.’ Well, that’s one option. The other option is, maybe we don’t know what we’re talking about. But that doesn’t occur to scholars. [laughter]

Friday, May 01, 2009

Why Should God Care Less? part 6

This carries on from the post below:

Now, people who study ancient documents understand because they don’t have indices. If you go to your local scroll store, you want to pick up a copy of Genesis, right, um, it’s not like you open it up and there’s a table of contents. Maybe there’s a picture of Aaron, you know, a big cut-out holding a copy of Genesis there you know. ‘This is a wonderful book and everyone ought to buy it.’ Right, then on the back there’s kind of a few ... maybe Paul got in his tardus(?) and he wrote and kind of little kind of blurb saying buy this from Zondervan, or something. I’m sure they were there. [laughter] Ever try to flick through a scroll? It’s pretty hard to do. The ancients new that, so what they do at the outset is they tell you where they’re going. So you really do have to pay close attention to opening sentences. So you get ‘bar a sheet, el o him, ba ra’ [phonetic spelling only] ‘In the beginning, God created’ and then what do you get? ‘the heavens and the earth’ and ‘the earth was tohoo wavohoo [phonetic spelling only].’ Sounds like something you buy at one of those new age festivals. Honey and sugar and cream or something. Formless and empty. Now, they could have said a whole range of things. ‘And there was a Starbucks on every corner.’ There’s a whole range of things the writer could have said, but he chooses to say this. Pay attention to it. Take it seriously.

So, we’re going to do that and we’re going to look at the literary structure of Genesis. So, very quickly, day 1, what happens? God said ‘let there be light. And God separated the light from the darkness.’ Day 2, another separation – waters above, waters below. Day 3 the waters are gathered together; dry land appears. Now, what’s happening? That which was formless has been given form. Three days of giving form to that which was formless. And the earth was formless and empty – tohoo wavohoo. First three days you give form; what do you think is going to happen on the next three days? Just hazard a guess. [some in the audience answers ‘they’ll be filled’] Hey. Low and behold, that’s what happens. The realm of night and day, filled with rulers. What’s going to happen on the corresponding day 5? You’ve got waters above, waters below. What do you thinks going to happen? Birds and fish. What’s going to happen in the next one? On the land – humanity and animals. What’s going on? Three days formed. Three days filled.

Now, that is a highly architectonic literary structure. Anyone do humanities here? Anyone doing English Lit.? Couple of you. Strike. You’re in serious trouble reading the Bible folks. We have two or three people who know about literature. [there are some few hundred people in the audience]. And we’re going to try and read our Bibles. Oh boy. We’re in for real strife. Oh, that’s o.k., I love you all. You know what I’ve found that’s real interesting? When I talk about this stuff the English Lit. people go YEAH! And the engineers, the mathematicians and often the systematic theologians are busy running out lighting fires. [laughter] The Bible’s literature! It’s really important to have some skills in that bible reading. Now, again, I don’t know anywhere in the Bible, and I’m pretty familiar with parts of it, I don’t know anywhere in the Bible where you find this kind of literary structure in a straight forward historical account. You just don’t find it. Now, that’s not to say it’s not true. It’s absolutely true. But maybe the truth is more like the fact that tigers, Blake’s tigers, read that little couplet, you’ll learn more about the essence of tigers from that couplet than you will from a 500 volume DNA map. You read it right, it’s very powerful. I want to suggest that that’s what’s going on here in Genesis as well. And then finally on the seventh day God rests. Notice there’s no evening and morning to the seventh day. That should give people pause. Something else is going on here. Let Genesis 1 speak to us as it wants to.

There’s some other things we can say too. It’s a little bit clearer in the Hebrew. I do apologize for mentioning that language but it was written in Hebrew, so, there you go. The corresponding days 1 and 3 have one creative act. The next two days have one creative act of two parts; they’re becoming increasingly complex. And then the final days, 3 and 6, have two separate creative acts. Notice that? Increasing complexity as you move through both form and formless and notice the direction: the focus is from heaven to earth. EXACTLY what you find in the book of Revelation. The emphasis in Genesis is the focus upon the earth.