First Reading: Hebrews 1:10-12
He also says, "In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 11 They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. 12 You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end."
Sermon Text: Genesis 1:1 - 2:3
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning-- the first day. 6 And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning-- the second day. 9 And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning-- the third day. 14 And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so. 16 God made two great lights-- the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning-- the fourth day. 20 And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky." 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth." 23 And there was evening, and there was morning-- the fifth day. 24 And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." 29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground-- everything that has the breath of life in it-- I give every green plant for food." And it was so. 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning-- the sixth day. NIV Genesis 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Offertory: 2 John 1:6
And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.
The first two chapters of Genesis can engender a great deal of debate in contemporary North American culture. I’m not going to lie to you about this it can be a very divisive. I do not intend to engage those two positions, the one who argues that the earth is 6 thousand years old and created in 6 days. Nor do I wish to engender an argument with those who say creation is entirely devoid of God’s action or purpose.
My goal is rather simple. I want to explore this record of God’s interaction with humanity as recorded in the Scriptures; I will employ a number of interpretive styles to accomplish this end. For me there something much bigger at stake than assuming those who do not support a six day creation are godless and that those who do not think God was at all involved with the formation of the cosmos are evil. What is at stake is how we in the Church read the scriptures, how we understand what God is communicating to us. I will be very honest when I want to know how to understand the principles involved in how my Wi-Fi network functions I do not go to the Bible. In a similar fashion when I want to understand who Jesus is I don’t read Dawkins.
I personally do not subscribe to the notion that there is a conflict between faith and reason. I do not see science as an enemy to faith, nor do I see faith as an enemy to science. If anything, I would argue that Science helps us to understand God’s creation in a way that two chapters in the first book of the Old Testament cannot completely explain. I am not a student of evolutionary biology, so to be honest I don’t understand all the math and science that is involved in what they attempt to explain.
What I want to do is come to a clearer understanding of what God is telling us through the text of the First Book of Moses, Genesis.
I. An introduction to Genesis:
a. NAME OF THE BOOK
i. A. In Hebrew (i.e. the Masoretic Text) it is the first word of the book, bereshith, "in the beginning" or "by way of
ii. B. From the Greek Bible (i.e. Septuagint translation), it is Genesis, which means "beginning" or "origin," which was taken
from Gen. 2:4a. This may be the author's key "outline-phrase" or colophon to link the different theological biographies
together as the Babylonian cuneiform writers did. This key outline phrase functions as a summation, not an
i. This is the first book of the first section of the Hebrew canon called "The Torah" or "teachings" or "Law."
ii. This section in the Septuagint is known as the Pentateuch (i.e. five scrolls).
iii. It is sometimes called "The Five Books of Moses" in English.
iv. Genesis-Deuteronomy is a continuous account by (or edited by) Moses concerning creation through Moses' lifetime.
c. GENRE - The book of Genesis is primarily theological, historical narrative but it also includes other types of literary genre:
i. Historical drama - examples: 1:1- 2:3
ii. Poetry - examples: 2:23; 4:2; 8:22
iii. Prophecy - examples: 3:15; 49:1ff (also poetic)
i. The Bible itself does not name the author (as is true of many OT books). Genesis has no "I" sections like Ezra,
Nehemiah, or "we" sections like Acts.
ii. Jewish tradition:
1. Ancient Jewish writers say Moses wrote it:
a. Ben Sirah's Ecclesiasticus, 24:23, written about 185 b.c.
b. The Baba Bathra 14b, a part of the Talmud
c. Philo of Alexandria, Egypt, a Jewish philosopher, living about 20 b.c. to a.d. 42
d. Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian, living about a.d. 37-100
2. What do the ancient writers say? That the Torah was a revelation to Moses
a. Moses is said to have written for the people:
i. Exodus 17:14
ii. Exodus 24:4, 7
iii. Exodus 34:27, 28
iv. Numbers 33:2
v. Deuteronomy 31:9, 22, 24-26
b. God is said to have spoken through Moses to the people:
i. Deuteronomy 5:4-5, 22
ii. Deuteronomy 6:1
iii. Deuteronomy 10:1
c. Moses is said to have spoken the words of the Torah to the people:
i. Deuteronomy 1:1, 3
ii. Deuteronomy 5:1
iii. Deuteronomy 27:1
iv. Deuteronomy 29:2
v. Deuteronomy 31:1, 30
vi. Deuteronomy 32:44
vii. Deuteronomy 33:1
3. 3. OT authors attribute it to Moses:
a. Joshua 8:31
b. II Kings 14:6
c. Ezra 6:18
d. Nehemiah 8:1; 13:1-2
e. II Chronicles 25:4; 34:12; 35:12
f. Daniel 9:11
g. Malachi 4:4
iii. Christian tradition
1. Jesus attributes quotes from the Torah to Moses:
2. Matthew 8:4; 19:8
3. Mark 1:44; 7:10; 10:5; 12:26
4. Luke 5:14; 16:31; 20:37; 24:27, 44
5. John 5:46-47; 7:19, 23
iv. 3. Most early Church Fathers accepted Mosaic authorship. However, Ireneaus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen and
Tertullian all had questions about Moses' relationship to the current canonical form of Genesis (cf. D. 2. on page 5).
e. Modern Scholarship
i. There have obviously been some editorial additions to the Torah (seemingly, to make the ancient work more
understandable to contemporary readers, which was a characteristic of Egyptian scribes):
1. Genesis 12:6; 13:7; 14:14; 21:34; 32:32; 36:31; 47:11
2. Exodus 11:3; 16:36
3. Numbers 12:3; 13:22; 15:22-23; 21:14-15; 32:33ff
4. Deuteronomy 3:14; 34:6
ii. Ancient scribes were highly trained and educated. Their techniques, however, differed from country to country:
1. In Mesopotamia, they were careful not to change anything, and even checked their works for accuracy. Here is an
ancient Sumerian scribal footnote: "the work is complete from beginning to end, has been copied, revised,
compared, and verified sign by sign" from about 1400 B b.c.
2. In Egypt they freely revised ancient texts to update them for contemporary readers. The scribes at Qumran (i.e.
Dead Sea Scrolls) followed this approach.
f. Scholars of the 19th century theorized that the Torah is a composite document from many sources over an extended period of
time (Graff-Wellhausen). This theory was based on:
i. the different names for God
ii. apparent doublets in the text
iii. the literary form of the accounts
iv. the theology of the accounts
v. Supposed sources and dates:
1. J source (use of YHWH from southern Israel) - 950 b.c.
2. E source (use of Elohim from northern Israel) - 850 b.c.
3. JE combined - 750 b.c.
4. D source ("The Book of the Law," II Kgs. 22:8, discovered during Josiah's reform while remodeling the Temple
was supposedly the book of Deuteronomy, written by an unknown priest of Josiah's time to support his
reform.) - 621 b.c.
5. P source (priestly rewrite of OT, especially ritual and procedure) - 400 b.c.
II. Let’s begin to look at the text of Genesis 1.
a. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the
surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
i. I am inclined to read Genesis 1:1 in a very specific fashion, I see it not as the first line of the text but really as a chapter
heading or guide marker telling us what is about to be expounded on.
1. If you look verse one and verse two are, at least in English is not part of a continuing sentence. In Hebrew
what we see as the first verse is set apart, but the grammar is not as clear as some would have us think that
a. Verse 1 can be read as a subordinate clause or as a dominate clause.
b. I am convinced that it is not a subordinate, and I see this really as a paragraph heading or a topic
sentence. What comes next is a story of God creating.
ii. Verse 2 is filled with some wonderful conceptual images.
1. The earth is without form and it is empty
a. In reality you can read this also in a few different ways
i. One of the ways that the church has read this line is as the first step of creation. God began and
created matter if you will out of nothing.
1. This is the classic read of Ex Nihilo, out of nothing.
2. It has some strong theological support, like God not being bound by existing cosmological
frameworks and God simply starts from scratch.
ii. The other contender for how we read this is along these lines.
1. The universe was, it existed, but needed form and structure and God provides this structure to
what becomes the cosmos.
2. This is the theological idea of God moving from Chaos to order.
3. It too has a great deal of theological support.
iii. In fact this principle of God bringing order is essential to the way that I interpret much of the New
iii. At a certain point these two readings are not mutually exclusive.
iii. Darkness was over the surface of the deep waters. It is a very evocative image.
1. Two key elements here are darkness and water.
2. Darkness seems to have some connotations with evil.
3. I do not read Genesis in terms of a Zoroastrian dualism or a Gnostic Dualism where darkness is necessarily a metaphor for
evil, but hear from the Gospel of John these words and pay attention to issues of light and darkness.
a. John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in
the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was
life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
4. Darkness has a clear association with not understanding who Jesus is and this text is clearly tied to Genesis 1:2. So those
overtones need to be present as we read this text.
iv. The Spirit is hovering over the waters, or brooding over the waters…
1. This is likely a reference to the Holy Spirit, and often cited by Christian theologians as a clear example that the Holy Spirit is
not only pre-existent like the Christ but also part of the action that the Father takes in creation.
a. Some translators will capitalize the S in spirit here to make the point that it is the Holy Spirit.
b. Now, to stir the waters a bit, this is the same word translated as wind, life or breath
c. I think regardless of how we understand the word Spirit here it is directly tied to God’s action in the creation of the
cosmos, even if it is not a direct reference to the Holy Spirit.
2. Hovering or brooding seems to be a clear example of God birthing creation.
a. The word used here is the same term used for a hen sitting on her nest waiting for the eggs to hatch.
b. It is an image of life emerging, and very fitting for this text.
b. In the next few verses we are given some more detailing about the first day.
3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the
darkness. 5 God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning-- the
i. “Let there be light” is about the creation of the concept of light not about the sun or starts. Those will come in subsequent
days, but this is the larger conceptual understanding of light and dark.
1. And there is a sense that at first the two concepts are mixed, light and darkness. It is possible to read into this
understanding of good and evil, but here I am convinced it is a misread.
a. Day and night are identified for the separated concepts, and while it might be interesting to ponder the
possibilities of good and evil being mixed and the idea of righteousness being separated from unrighteousness.
b. I am at this point really unwilling to read this in an allegorical fashion.
c. I want to see this really as the concept of the Stars and those bodies that generate light, but none of the stars
have yet to be fashioned in the cosmological framework of Genesis 1 and 2.
ii. God identifies the existence of light and dark, day and night as good.
iii. This leads us to first day, evening then morning.
1. First there is darkness then comes light, that is the first day
2. Before there was light there was evening, then comes the sun, evening and morning the first day.
c. At a certain point this is all conceptual.