Tag Archives: John Sailhamer

Genesis 1:24-31 – Sixth Day of Creation – Part 4

Today we finish up Day Six.

  • In Part 1 we contrasted/compared the six days to show not only how different each one was from the other, but also to show how significantly different the second event of Day Six is from every other event.
  • In Part 2 we explored the meaning of the “Let Us” plural as well as what it meant to be made in God’s image.
  • In Part 3 we dealt with the creation and blessing of man and their relationship to redemptive history.
  • Today we look at Sailhamer and Walton’s views on the creation of mankind.

 

 

Day Six – John Sailhamer’s Take:

John Sailhamer believes that mankind was specially created on day six.

  • Mankind was the only part of creation that was not part of Genesis 1:1’s creation event.

 

Sailhamer puts it like this:

“…Human beings were not created ‘in the beginning’ with the rest of God’s creation. Human beings were ‘latecomers’ according to the biblical account. They came only after the indefinite period of time denoted by the term ‘beginning.’ The genealogy of Adam recorded in Genesis 5 makes it clear that all humanity stems from the single man and woman created in Genesis 1:26–27” – John Sailhamer.

 

He gives us four reasons for this.

  • And in the process, he clarifies the importance of the relationship between “asah” and “bara”.

 

(1) He notes that the creation of man begins similarly to the other days, “And God said…”.

  • However, it quickly is set apart from the other events.
  • Instead of the expected, “Let there be man”.
  • The text says, “Let us make (asah) man” in verse 26.
  • “This contrast is striking and shows the central importance the narrative attaches to the creation of the man and woman” – Sailhmer.
  • I can’t help but think of the Seinfeld episode where George began to speak in first person.
    • “George is getting upset…” from The Jimmy episode.

 

BTW – In relation to this, Sailhamer addresses the issue of “asah” vs. “bara”.

 

There was confusion last week so I want to flesh this out a bit.

  • Sailhamer says “asah” normally means “to appoint”, “to aquire”, “to put something in good order”, “to make it right”.
  • It can mean the same as the English expression “to make” a bed – Sailhamer.

 

Throughout the OT the word is used to describe:

  • Cutting one’s fingernails (Deut. 21:12).
  • Washing one’s feet (2 Sam. 19:25).
  • Trimming one’s beard (2 Sam. 19:24).

 

In other words, “asah” is used with something that already exists.

 

Sailhamer says, we see this use of “asah” in Genesis 1:7.

  • Genesis 1:7 (ESV) — 7 And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so.

“When the land was covered with water, it was not yet right (or fit) for human beings. God commanded the waters to recede from the land so that it would be a dry place for human habitation. It was in that sense that God ‘made’ the land and the sky on the second day” – John Sailhamer.

 

So why does Sailhamer take the “asah” of man as a synonym for “bara” and assign it the meaning of create?

  • Sailhamer agrees with the others that the use of “asah” in vs. 26 is in parallel with vs. 27’s  “bara”.
  • They are therefore synonyms in this context.
  • Just as they are in Genesis 2:4.

 

This is called a Synonymous Parallelism.

  • A prominent feature of the OT.
  • “In synonymous parallelism the same sense is expressed in different but equivalent terms” – AYBD.
  • Psalm 112:1 is an example.
  • Psalm 112:1 (ESV) — 1 Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments!
  • Fearing the Lord, in this parallelism, means delighting in his commandments.
  • This is why “asah” in verse 26 actually means the same as the “bara” in verse 27.

 

Back to why Sailhamer sees mankind as being the only part of creation not included in Genesis 1:1.

 

(2) In almost every other event, creation is made “according to its own kind”.

  • But verse 26 says something completely different from this.
  • Let us make man in our image…

 

(3) The creation of man is the first event that gender is introduced.

  • Gen. 1:27 tells us, “male and female he created (bara) them”.

 

(4) The only creature given dominion over creation is mankind.

  • Verse 26 says, “Let them have dominion over…
  • “Why has the author singled out man in this way? An obvious answer is that he intended to portray man as special. He is a creature marked off from the rest of God’s works” – John Sailhamer.

 

 

Day Six – John Walton’s Take:

In opposition to every scholar we have surveyed, John Walton does not believe that Day Six involves the material creation of mankind.

  • In spite of all the ways the second event of day six is set apart, he holds fast to his functional view.
  • This means that for him like the rest of creation, mankind existed prior to Genesis 1:1.
  • Mankind was materially created in the “preface” of Genesis.

 

He says that the second event of Day Six is the functional creation of mankind.

  • On this day, God assigns purpose, order and function to humanity.

 

Functions Assigned to Mankind:

  • (1) Similarly to the rest of God’s creatures, mankind’s function is to “populate the world”.
    • Be fruitful and multiply…” vs. 28
  • (2) “They also have a function relative to the rest of God’s creatures, to subdue and rule” – Walton.
    • …have dominion over” vs. 28
  • (3) “They have a function relative to God as they are in his image” – Walton.
    • This is acting in the role of the vice-regent/representative of God in creation.
    • He agrees with our discussion of this last week.
  • (4) “They also have a function relative to each other as they are designated male and female” – Walton.
    • male and female he created them” vs. 27

 

What does Walton say about all the evidence that sets the second event of Day Six apart as a material, special creation event of mankind?

 

He says that if you look closely, there is no reference to material creation at all.

  • All you see is the assigning of purpose, order and function.
  • He says we have a purely, “functional orientation with no reference to the material at all” – Walton.
    • Remember, he says “bara” is functional in meaning not material.
    • To see “bara” as material creation is to take Genesis 1 out of its ANE context.
    • It is to read into it a modern material view of creation.

 

My question would be this.

  • It is clear that the “bara” of mankind is set apart from the rest of Gen. 1.
  • We saw this when we charted the six days a few weeks ago.
  • And we have seen that our scholars agree that, textually, the creation of man is set apart.
  • Now if nothing new is being declared, and all we have are just more functions, what is the point of textually setting the creation of mankind apart from the rest of Genesis 1?

 

In other words, Sailhamer acknowledges that the creation of mankind is set apart because on his view it is in fact different from what happened before it.

  • It isn’t preparation, but it is actually creation.

 

Walton, by contrast, has to somewhat downplay the “set apartness”, because for him it is just the continuation of the assigning of more functions.

  • For him, the “set apartness” is to be found in the unique function of mankind as image bearers.
  • Mankind is portrayed as functioning far differently that every other creature.

 

But there is another problem.

  • Although we are jumping ahead, Genesis 2 seems to throw a wrench in his view.
  • Genesis 2 clearly introduces material and not just function into the creation of mankind.
  • …the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground” (2:7)
  • …the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman” (2:22)

 

Archetypal Adam:

His answer to this problem is where he introduces his archetypal view of Adam and Eve.

  • He says archetype handlings of mankind are a common feature of ANE functional creation stories.
  • “An archetype serves as a representative for all others in the class and defines the class” – John Walton.
  • Modern literature and movies make use of archetypes on a regular basis.
  • For example, the “damsel in distress”, “the villain” or the “hero” are common archetypes.

 

So for Walton, the “dust” and “the side of man” are archetypes – as are Adam and Eve.

  • In Walton’s opinion, Moses is telling us about the archetypal significance of Adam and Eve, not their genetic significance.

 

He says of the dust.

  • “The dust is an archetypal feature and therefore cannot be viewed as a material ingredient. It is indicative of human destiny and mortality, and therefore is a functional comment, not a material one” – John Walton.
  • But didn’t our mortality come from the Fall not the dust, after all our life comes from God’s breath?

 

He says of the woman.

“The situation is no different with the creation of woman. Being drawn from the side of man has an archetypal significance, not an anatomical one. This is the very aspect that the text draws out when it identifies the significance of the detail: ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh’ (Gen 2: 24). This is true of all mankind and all womankind. Womankind is archetypally made from the side of mankind. Again we can see that this is a functional discussion, not a material one” – John Walton.

 

His justification for material as archetype and not physical creation comes from a comparison with other ANE creation stories.

  • He says that other ANE creation stories “contain numerous references to human beings being created out of a variety of materials” – Walton.
  • The fact that Genesis does as well only shows, as with Genesis 1, that Genesis 2 is sticking to the ANE functional creation script.

 

He gives us some examples:

  • “The materials or ingredients that are attested in the ancient Near East are tears of a god (Egypt), blood of a god (Atrahasis), and the most common, clay (both Egypt and Mesopotamia ). These ingredients are offered as common to all of humanity…” – Walton.
  • He then says that because these ANE stories use material to refer to all of humanity they “have archetypal significance” – they are not individual specific.
  • The “clay” is the archetype like the “damsel in distress”.
  • It represents and tells you something about those that are “clay” or “damsels”.

 

The problem is that Genesis isn’t dealing with the “mass of humanity”.

  • It deals with Adam and Eve.
  • It appears that the rest of humanity did not come from the dust but came from Adam and Eve.
    • We will see what Walton says about this in just a moment.
  • So, Genesis seems too different from ANE stories to maintain the archetype parallel.

 

Walton tries to address this problem:

  • He says that this feature of Genesis “…does not change the significance of the reference to the materials in Genesis 2” – John Walton.

 

Why?

 

(1) It is not material because it is ANE.

  • “The fact that the ancient Near East uses the same sorts of materials to describe all of humanity indicates that the materials have archetypal significance” – Walton.
  • This seems to be begging the question and circular.

 

(2) He says mankind’s function to procreate and have dominion applies to all people.

  • This supports an archetypal view.
  • In other words, Adam and Eve represent archetypally those that are to procreate and have dominion.
  • Similar to how a “damsel in distress” represents the one in need of rescue from the villain.

 

(3) He says Genesis 3:19 supports an archetypal view.

  • Genesis 3:19 (ESV) — 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

“An individual named Adam is not the only human being made of the dust of the earth, for as Genesis 3: 19 indicates, ‘Dust you are and to dust you will return.’ This is true of all humans, men and women. It is an archetypal feature that describes us all. It is not a statement of chemical composition nor is it describing a material process by which each and every human being is made” – John Walton.

 

My concern is that Walton too readily dismisses the significant differences between Genesis and its ANE counterparts, as well as the differences between the creation of mankind and the rest of Genesis 1, in order to maintain his functional and archetypal view.

 

His summary of the archetypal view:

Day Six and Genesis 2 focus their “attention on the archetypal origins of humanity, mankind and womankind. This interest is part of functional origins. Humankind is connected to the ground from which we are drawn. Womankind is connected to mankind from whom she is drawn. In both male and female forms, humankind is connected to God in whose image all are made. As such they have the privilege of procreation, the role of subduing and ruling, and a status in the garden serving sacred space (Gen 2: 15). All of these, even the last, were designed to be true of all human beings” – John Walton.

 

But please note:

  • “In my view, Adam and Eve are historical figures — real people in a real past. Nevertheless, I am persuaded that the biblical text is more interested in them as archetypal figures who represent all of humanity” – John Walton.
  • He does not want to “diminish in any way the importance Adam and Eve being real people”.
  • Yet, because Adam and Eve are archetypes, “Adam and Eve also may or may not be the first humans or the parents of the entire human race” – John Walton.

 

ANE Polemics:

We will end with a few more ANE polemics that Walton points out.

  • “It has already been mentioned that whereas in the rest of the ancient world creation was set up to serve the gods, a theocentric view, in Genesis, creation is not set up for the benefit of God but for the benefit of humanity— an anthropocentric view” – John Walton.
  • “Another contrast between Genesis and the rest of the ancient Near East is that in the ancient Near East people are created to serve the gods by supplying their needs. That is, the role of people is to bring all of creation to deity— the focus is from inside creation out to the gods. In Genesis people represent God to the rest of creation” – John Walton.