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Friday, January 8, 2016

Genesis The Book of Beginnings Part 8 - Genesis 2 Part 1 (Genesis 2:1-6)

As we continue the Genesis study, we are now starting Chapter 2 of the book, and before we begin there let us recap what we have learned so far:

1.  God created the earth on the first day, and formed the earth on subsequent days by creating various components.

2.  There is an order to the Creation that even secular science affirms, although it corrupts some of the details - for instance, the theory (and it is a theory, although a dumb one!) of evolution has the order right, but it errs in its conclusions and timeframe.

3.  From the point of Day Six, man is the focus of the Genesis narrative.

As we begin looking at verses 1-2 of Chapter Two, one thing sticks out that we see in verse 2 - "and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done."  Upon first reading this, the reader wonders, "why did God rest - does He tire?"  I mean, this does seem odd considering the attributes of God, and one of them is that He is not bound by limitations that we have as human beings.  So, what does this mean, that "God rested?"   First, it must be understood that God doesn't weary - as noted, He transcends the physical limitations that we are subject to.  Second, when we look at what the Church Fathers had to say, one thing that sticks out here is St. Ephrem (Mor Aprem) notes when he wrote in one of his works that God gives the rest for the benefit of Creation, not as a result of creating.  It is further noted in the various writings of Patristic authors that the "rest" is a picture of the Resurrection of Christ, so that means that we again have this Christocentric allegory in the literal reading of Genesis, which in itself again affirms the purpose of the Scripture narrative is to point us to Christ.  In the Letter of Barnabas, the author notes this "rest" symbolizes new beginnings - just as the original Creation was a new beginning in a real sense, the Resurrection of Jesus is a new beginning in a spiritual dimension, as we do become new creations in Christ when He saves us (II Corinthians 5:17).  It is also worth saying that the Fathers also affirmed that although Scripture says God "rested," His governance continues - Chrysostom notes that "work" is the maintenance of created things.  And, as St. Bede the Venerable notes, the lesson for us is that a work that is "good" which is done in life will lead to an eternal rest for us.  (References to the Church Fathers here taken from Andrew Louth and Thomas C. Oden, ed. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture - Old Testament I: Genesis 1-11.  Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 2001.  pp. 45-46)

A few centuries after the Church Fathers,  St. Lawrence of Brindisi also addressed this in his commentary on Genesis when he reaffirms what we have just concluded in that God's "rest" doesn't denote weariness, but rather is just a practical statement of fact which says essentially that God's "rest" was just a cessation from creative activity (Toth and Warkulwicz, St Lawrence of Brindisi:  On Creation and the Fall.  Mount Jackson, VA:  The Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation, 2009.  pp. 99-100).  This could be a foreshadowing of the Sabbath too, although the Sabbatarian system would not be formally enacted until the time of the Exodus.  God therefore completed His work and didn't add new work at that point - the power of the Creator therefore is again for the maintenance of the created.  

As we read on in verse 3, there are two actions God does here:

1.  He blessed:  Blessing adds goodness to the created endeavor, and His blessing is another way of saying "it is good." 

2.  He sanctified:  The Creation was made holy by God Himself.

And, here is something interesting - St. Ambrose postulates in his writings, notably in his Hexamaeron, that the timing of Creation took place in the spring of the year (Louth and Oden, p. 46).  This is contested by Archbishop Ussher, who sets the first day of Creation at October 23, 4004 BC on the Julian calendar, and on September 21st of the same year on the Gregorian calendar, which would set the Creation by that reckoning during what would later be the Day of Atonement on the Jewish cycle (James Ussher, The Annals of the World.  Originally published in 1658 and edited, revised and updated by Larry and Marion Pierce.  Green Forest, AR:  Master Books, 2003. p. 17).  Although Ussher makes a good case for timing the Creation at what is essentially the start of the Jewish calendar, to be honest I don't think personally that the original date of Creation was that precise, and St. Ambrose's postulation of a spring setting for Creation is more feasible in lieu of Church tradition.  The reason for this is simple too - the spring is generally thought of as a time of new life "springing forth" from a dead earth, and therefore marks the beginning of generation of life (or regeneration in the seasonal cycle).  Although honestly we cannot know the exact day and time of Creation, and probably will not know those details until we pass onto our eternal reward one day, it in no way subtracts from the fact that Genesis contains the literal truth of God's creative act.   Therefore, being the author of Genesis (traditionally held by the Church to be Moses) didn't specify a date (let's face it - neither the Julian nor Gregorian calendar systems existed at the time of the Creation!) it is not to be the focus of the narrative.   We know God created the universe, and the reality of that ties into the overall theme of Holy Scripture and the narrative of salvation history it conveys to us.

As we proceed onto verses 4-6, what we first of all see is something St. Chrysostom in his Homilies on Genesis notes as being the earth in compliance with the Lord's direction and spoken word (Logos) and the focus Chrysostom has here is on the generation of the plant life.   God's Logos produced plant life, and those plants were endowed with fertility before even the creation of the sun.  This is sort of a summary as well of what was covered in Genesis 1, with some detail added.  But, how were these plants sustained before the natural processes of sunlight, precipitation, etc.  This passage gives some insight into how God sustained life while He was yet forming the details of the earth.

If you have ever noted a morning with heavy fog when you wake up, you will note a heaviness and an abundance of moisture, but oftentimes it has little to do with precipitation.  This thick condensation is a type of "mist," and according to the Genesis narrative, God had a "mist" that rose from the ground and watered the whole face of the earth.  The fog we often see today in the early mornings is generally the result of a heavy cloud that settles on the earth, but in the Genesis narrative God caused this "mist" to rise from the earth.  Prior to the Flood, there was no recorded instances of precipitation in Scripture, and it is assumed by some Creationist scholars that actual precipitation didn't become a part of established weather patterns until the Flood.  Therefore, in the earliest days of Creation, where did this "mist" come from then?   Some accounts say that springs from the earth at various places produced mist clouds that watered the surface of the land and provided sustenance to plant growth, and that indeed is a possibility - if you will note natural springs in parts of the world today, for instance, many of them do have moisture clouds which surface from them as they flow, as do waterfalls and other phenomena.  To take this a step further, these "mist clouds" may have also aided in God's creative acts.  St. Lawrence of Brindisi, for instance, notes in his commentary that the generation of the mist was in concert with man's formation, in a similar way that a baker mixes water and flour to produce bread (Toth and Warkulwicz, p. 106).  As we have seen in earlier studies, it is not outside the realm of possibilities that God may have used created base materials to form new life, and this is also one reason why so many evolutionists wrongly assume that humans and apes have common ancestors - rather than saying that, perhaps they should come to understand that maybe they had a common designer rather than a common ancestor!  Even today, for instance, human life is dependant upon a complex mix of minerals and other elements to maintain existence, and our bodies are also said to be 95% water - biology in this case would be substantiated by Scripture then!  The bottom line of all this is that the Creator Himself formed the mist as a supernatural phenomenon to initiate the formation of natural life.   Therefore the initial production and creation would be supernatural, but after the Fall God would instill natural processes to form life and sustain it. 

Another interesting aspect of this passage is prior to Adam, there was no man to till the ground.   The natural conclusion here is that what God had in mind for man eventually, no other creature could perform.  As Henry Morris III points out in Volume I of The Book of Beginnings (Dallas:  Institute for Creation Research, 2012) on page 161, in the original translation of this passage the Hebrew word abad, which is a verb meaning "to serve," was an implication of stewardship.  There has been some teachings that have been going around over the decades about this passage that are just plain erroneous, and the more I learn myself the more convinced I am that they are simply wrong.  We will be discussing many of those in future parts of this study, but one I want to tackle now is an idea that for some reason, work and labor were somehow just a result of the Fall and that prior to the Fall man did nothing but lounge around the Garden of Eden eating fruit and stroking animals in his naked glory.   If God gave man initial dominion over the earth, I don't think He did so man could sit around idly fiddling the day away while life directed itself.  No, rather, this idea of stewardship was integral to the very beginning - God worked in creating the earth and the entire universe, and man, who was created in the image of God, was given creative capacity from the outset.  When God gave man dominion over the earth and everything in it, He did so with the intention of giving man the responsibility of managing what God had created.  The "dominion" aspect therefore was only part of the whole picture - it also involved service and protection as well.   What came after the Fall though was the vice of sloth, which disdained work and work was turned into a burden rather than a joy, but work did pre-exist before the Fall.  Although corrupted by our own concupiscent nature, work has never ceased being a good thing, and diligent work produces its own reward.  I like what the late bandleader Lawrence Welk said when he asserted that "Work is the master key that opens the door to all opportunity.  As long as the people of this great nation are willing to work, the American dream is very much alive."  (Lawrence Welk, This I Believe.  Englewood Cliffs, NJ:  Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1979. p. 176).  It is interesting that when freedom is threatened, one of the primary attacks is upon creative originality inherent to all human beings.  Likewise, when the mind and hands are not occupied, the risk factors for sinful action are increased - create a "welfare state" for instance, and crime, substance abuse, and other vices increase.  Also, a lack of exercise, in part due to the concupiscence we inherited from the Fall, results in shorter lifespans and reduced quality of life and health.  Work is, and always has been, a good thing for people to engage in.  And, it was so before the Fall, and continued to be so after the Fall although other factors made work even more necessary and challenging after.  Work was therefore part of that original "good" that the Creator spoke, but it only became associated with sorrow and cursing after the Fall.  Morris, on page 163 of his book, notes that there are five very important aspects that the authority God endowed man with entailed, and this is what they are:

1.  Science - This uncovers how things work and is obedient to the "subdue" mandate.
2.  Technology - This utilizes knowledge to produce things useful in obedience to the "rule" mandate.
3.  Commerce - This is the process of distribution of "useful things" in obedience to the "fill the earth" mandate.
4.  Education - This instructs others in specifics in obedience to the "teach all things" mandate.
5.  Humanities - These disciplines glorify the Creator with praise and beauty "to the glory of God." (art, music, and other aesthetics)

As we conclude this lesson, there are some observations to make.  First, this passage is a connector that summarizes what was learned thus far in Genesis 1 but also gives a preview into what we see in Genesis 3.  Second, this section of Genesis 2 ties Creation to man's story, and also shows how sin and death corrupt God's creation but do not necessarily destroy it - there is still good there, and in its being Creation is still good but not perfect as it was before the Fall.  Finally, in its being, all Creation is indeed good, and therefore the Gnostic heresy of denying the material in order to exalt the spiritual insults God's creative work.  However, sin and death corrupt that goodness and often turn what is good into something burdensome that it was not intended to be.  With that, we also conclude the parts of Genesis that deal with the Creation in general, and from this point the narrative will be dealing with man's role in God's plan of salvation.