Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Guest Post: Paul's Response to My Assessment of His Commentary of Genesis 2

[Read John Daniel's original response to Paul's blog here]

By writing that the Bible is God’s self-revelation I more meant in the sense of written revelation, not sole revelation to humanity. I would certainly amen your stating that Jesus is God’s ultimate revelation. I don’t see the two as being mutually exclusive.

As for academia, I suppose if push came to shove, I would also agree that academia allows for other things to aid in interpretation, at least at schools like Regent (although much more liberal universities do endorse a more heavy form criticism). However, I would say, and I think this is what I meant but perhaps didn’t say in the best way in order to amplify the point, the grammatical-historical context is chief, which any other contexts (theological, etc.) being subordinate to it. Your analysis of the history of Christian exegesis in defense of this practice does stir some questions: Were Christians wrong interpreting as they did, and if so, why is the theological interpretation of Scripture currently making strong inroads into exegesis? If it was wrong, how come the grammatical-historical position never really took off beyond academia? Can the method be found in any major way before the Enlightenment, and if not, what does that mean? Lastly, doesn’t the New Testament teach that Christians should read the Old Testament through a specific Christocentric lens, which would in many cases go against what the author allegedly intended?

In regards to my “sovereign God” motif, I did perceive that it might be viewed as not having been defended adequately from the text itself. My support for this conclusion, however, came by two ways. First, I did specifically iterate in my opening paragraph. The second of which was a central themes approach, where the Bible is oriented around several themes, of which one would be “one, sovereign God, Who operates with two motivations; the first of which is His worthiness of praise throughout His creation” (though if stated officially as an overarching biblical theme, I might have phrased it less local to the Genesis 2 account). Secondly, I did labor to set Genesis 2 in a very close relation to Genesis 1, which was then cast in a liturgical light. Here, God is cast as sovereign in that He creates, and His praiseworthiness is demonstrated by the tabernacle correlation (p.s. thank you for the article suggestions on this theme; I will check them out).

You go on to mention some Trinitarian distinctives, which I think would be a better conversation over a cup of coffee as semantics might come into play. I would agree that each member defers glory to the others, but when viewed at a distance, could it not be said this is a self-glorifying venture? The three are one after all. Trinitarian matters seem to turn on a matter of perspective as there are the two aspects of diversity in three separate persons and unity of one God involved. Often emphasizing one aspect or spectrum-end to establish a point results in the neglect of the other.

Next, Adam, Eve, and complementarianism. I did, at your suggestion, read your article. There are several direct line of rebuttal that could be undertaken here; but they really almost require their own series of full-on posts, and they are somewhat dependent upon the presuppositions one brings to the text. To avoid getting too lost in the fray, I’ll just mention a couple broad points. First, complementarianism is supported by the complete teaching of Scripture on the subject. So any and all relevant passages must be surveyed, which would take one far beyond Genesis 2. Second, I think there is a bit of a straw man in your argument. No one is calling women “mere afterthought[s],” etc. Thirdly, the debate, theologically framed, is complementarianism vs. egalitarianism. In contrast, if the former is set against feminism, which is how you framed the debate, I would submit that some of the bias motivating one’s agenda is revealed. Lastly, even granting all of what you presented (which I wouldn’t), the fact that Genesis 2 is pre-fall, as you explicitly point out to distinguish between Adam's Genesis 2 naming of woman and his Genesis 3 naming of Eve, has to be reckoned with. We are still living in an age where the actions of the First Adam have influence. Men still work by the sweat of their brow, women still have pain in child birth, both still return to the dust from which they came, and serpents still crawl on their bellies. It seems these will not be restored until the next age begins. So, they would still be in effect today. Ergo, there is some sort of role hierarchy within marriage (which can be approached in a God-prescribed way through the aforementioned teaching on the subject from the entire canon). In closing this part of the response, I could have mentioned the naming of the animals and probably would, have I the chance again.

In terms of authorship, I believe there is ample intrabiblical support for Mosaic authorship. Jointly, as to the academics claiming otherwise, there are as you mentioned those who do not affirm the documentary hypothesis. But mainly, I lean on the biblical record itself. In regards to the ex nihilo doctrine, I could equally argue the passage doesn’t support any other conclusion than God creating out of nothing. One’s presuppositions will determine how one interprets the passage. For me, the overwhelming biblical testimony seems to support the ex nihilo belief.

I figured you wouldn’t comment on the opening verses of Genesis 2. In truth, I almost didn’t. Everyone groups the seventh day with the events of chapter 1. In the end, I included it because it is technically in chapter 2. The word in Hebrew simply means to desist, that God abstained from creative work.(1) Coupled with, again, a fuller biblical context, it can in no way imply that God was tired so much that He needed a break, as He does not grow weary from exercising His power. I would wholeheartedly allow for and agree with God resting for the purpose of modeling the Sabbath, which would perhaps be a dynamically equivalent paraphrase: God "Sabbathed."(2) I would also posit that the other translative suggestions I mentioned in my original post don’t do injustice to the text. My point was to highlight God’s nature not necessarily what His action implied for man.

With you, I thoroughly enjoyed this discussion and would love to do it again sometime! Brainstorm we will indeed sir! Formally, I do thank you for your efforts and time.

Paul Imbrone holds an Associate's Degree in Practical Theology, and is a senior in Biblical-Theological Studies at Regent University (find his blog here). 

(1) John MacArthur, The Macarthur Bible Commentary: Unleashing God's Truth, One Verse at a Time (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 12.
(2) Gordon J. Wenham et al., eds., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1994), 61.

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