As I said in my last entry (Pt. 19) this post will complete my review of Peter Enn’s examination of the Book of Genesis.
This chapter has two more sections: “Creation and Sanctuary” and “The Gospel and Primordial Time.”
In the first part, Enns presents an argument regarding the cosmos as a temple that is similar to the one presented by John H. Walton in The Lost World of Genesis One. While Enns’ view is not one and the same, I think it is sufficient to say that readers of this blog likely know this argument well enough that I don’t have to rehash it here. If you are interested in how Enns develops this idea (he does have some insights not shared by Walton) then I recommend reading his book! I will share one summary section though:
“When we read Genesis 1, therefore, we are not to think simply of a description of cosmic events. The creation story was written with Israel’s temple and the Sabbath rhythm in mind. The seven-day pattern of creation in Genesis 1 is not the source of the rhythm of Israel’s liturgical week. Rather, as with Adam, Israel’s seven-day pattern is brought into primordial time (Kindle Locations 1868-1870).”
Enns continues to show how everything from creation, to the flood, and other aspects of Genesis 1-11 echo stories of the surrounding cultures. He argues that Israel morphed their stories to provide “self-definition.” This is why the stories are similar sharing a worldview while unique as Israel tells themselves how they are different from the other nations.
In the second part Enns shares his view of how the Book of Revelation uses creation imagery to show that the same God who tamed the chaos in primordial time is doing it again through Christ. He discusses Revelation 21-22. In conclusion,
“One might say that God’s goal all along has been to bring humanity and all of creation back to the paradisiacal state of Genesis. That which was lost is now regained through Christ’s resurrection, God’s final act of chaos-taming, where, through the overcoming of sin, the ultimate and universal enemy, death, is actually (not symbolically) brought to its knees (Kindle Locations 1900-1903).”
Also, he addresses how John writes about Jesus being the Word arguing that in Jesus, “
“Primordial time meets present time in as full an expression as possible, the ultimate instantiation: the incarnation of God. Jesus is the Word, who was with God at the very beginning, through whom all things were made (Kindle Locations 1906-1907).”
He connects the sanctuary/temple theme of Genesis with the same theme in John 1.14 discussing what this says about Jesus. What value does Enns find for their primordial narratives as regards Christian thought?
“In the Old Testament, Israel transforms the traditions common to the ancient Near East into vehicles for expressing who their God is and who they are as a people bound to him. Likewise, the New Testament transforms Israel’s own traditions to address the climactic turn of events in the gospel. How Israel articulates the intersection of primordial time and history is no longer adequate. Israel’s self-definition is not abandoned, but it is transformed to account for the climactic act of God. In the resurrection of the Son of God, the people of God now see more deeply what the Israelites have expressed in their own way. Some of their articulations remain as vibrant as ever, while others are exposed as mere shadows, awaiting the clearer word that is in Jesus (Heb. 1:1–4; 8:5–6) (Kindle Locations 1919-1925).”
And this is meaningful for the present:
“It remains for Christians today to continue thinking through this unavoidable issue of continuity and discontinuity between Israel’s Scripture and the gospel, which in some respects is the very stuff of Christian biblical theology. A proper Christian understanding of the creation narratives will follow the lead of the New Testament writers in seeing the gospel as the culmination of the ancient message. Christians should not search through the creation stories for scientific information they believe it is important to see there. They should read it, as the New Testament writers did, as ancient stories transformed in Christ (Kindle Locations 1925-1930).”
Enns turns to evaluate the thought of Paul next.