KERUX: A JOURNAL
Editor: James T. Dennison, Jr.
Assistant Editors: Richard A. Riesen and David L. Roth
KERUX is a publication of Kerux, Inc. and appears three times each year (May, September, December). Editorial offices are located at 1131 Whispering Highlands Drive, Escondido, CA 92027-4961. Correspondence should be directed to the editor at this address. Subscription rates for one year are: $15.00 (U.S. and Canada); $20.00 (elsewhere). All remittances should be made payable in U.S. Funds. KERUX is: abstracted in Old Testament Abstracts, Washington, DC and Religious and Theological Abstracts, Myerstown, PA; indexed in Elenchus of Biblica, Rome, Italy.
ISSN: 0888-8513 September 1994 Vol. 9, No. 2
By My Spirit*
Meredith G. Kline
II. The Spirit and the Messiah
God's presence in the midst of his people is a key theme throughout Zechariah's visions. He is present in the person of the Messiah. This Immanuel presence takes the form of the messianic rider of the red horse, stationed in the midst of the myrtles (vision one); and of the Angel-measurer, who proclaims the evangel, "Behold I come and will dwell in the midst of you" (2:10, 11 [14,15]), and who testifies that his messianic appointment will be validated by his finishing his building mission (vision three). Again in vision four the messianic Angel is present with the covenant community, represented by Joshua the high priest, who is also identified as a type of the messianic Servant. And once more here in vision five, now under the typological figure of Zerubbabel, Messiah is seen participating with his people in the work of restoration. Also, the voice of the Messiah is heard here in the word of the Lord, declaring (as in vision three) that the triumphant completion of his rebuilding commission will confirm his identity as one whom the Lord has sent into the midst of the menorah-community.
Constantly bound up with Messiah's presence is a presence of the Spirit. The mounted rider is attended by agents of the Glory-Spirit, emissaries of the court of heaven symbolized by the horsemen in vision one and by the expert destroyers in vision two. The divine measurer in vision three states (according to the preferable rendering) that he had been sent "with the Glory-Spirit" (2:8 ).15 In vision four the combination of the sign of the Messiah-Ser-
vant and the seal of the Spirit suggests the intimate association of the two.16 It is this theme of the interrelationship of the Son and the Spirit as it is developed in the vision of the menorah and its mission that we shall now explore.
Here in summary outline is what we shall find. The Son is anointed with the Spirit and he is the anointer with the Spirit. As the Spirit-anointed one, Messiah is himself the model (i.e., perfect) menorah. He is therefore also a model (in the sense of paradigm) for the menorah mission of shedding light in the dark world, the mission-imperative entailed in the menorah identity. Now curiously the menorah mission involves making the menorah. Hence, the Messiah as ultimate executor of the menorah mission is the maker of the menorah, the builder of the church. Expressed in the typological idiom of the fifth vision, Zerubbabel is the builder of the temple (Zech. 4:7-10). Further, in the course of making the menorah, Messiah commands the menorah to fulfill its mission as a light to the Gentiles, the mission which he models,17 and thus to participate in making itself. That is, Christ promulgates the Great Commission. And in order to empower the menorah-church for that mission, which is accomplished not by human might but by God's Spirit, Messiah, the anointed with the Spirit, becomes the anointer with the Spirit. In the symbolism of vision five, he becomes the channel of the oil from the olive trees to the menorah (Zech. 4:11-14). To be the menorah-maker means Messiah is mediator of the Spirit. Christ pours out the Spirit upon the church. He complements the charge of the Great Commission with the charism of Pentecost. So he creates the menorah-church a likeness of the Spirit.
A. Messiah-Anointed with the Spirit: Model for the Menorah. As shown by his designating the Messiah "my Servant the Branch" (Zech. 3:8), Zechariah draws upon Isaiah for his messianic portraiture. And in Isaiah's prophecy, anointing with the Spirit is a hallmark both of the coming branch from David's line (Isa. 11:2) and of the Servant of the Lord (Isa. 42:1; 61:1; cf. Luke 4:18). Now, Spirit-anointing imparts Spirit-likeness18 and, agreeably, in Isaiah 11 the anointing presence of the Spirit of Yahweh on the messianic shoot out of the stock of Jesse endues him with the wisdom and power characteristic of the Spirit (vv. 1, 2). Translated into Apocalypse idiom-the messianic lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David (Rev. 5 :5) is the Lamb with seven horns (power) and seven eyes (wisdom), which are the seven Spirits of
God ( Rev.5:6, an allusion to Zech. 4:10).
Also, according to Isaiah, the Anointed of the Lord bears the likeness of the Spirit's radiant splendor, the Glory-light aspect of the Spirit which is replicated in the menorah. To his chosen Servant, on whom he puts his Spirit (Isa. 42:1), the Lord says: "I give you . . . for a light to the Gentiles," to illuminate those in darkness (Isa. 42:6, 7; 49:6; cf. Luke 2:32; Acts 26:22, 23). The advent of this divine prince to occupy David's throne forever is the shining of a great light on the people who walked in darkness (Isa. 9:1, 2 [8:23-9:1]; cf. 60:1-3).
Christ, the true anointed Servant, the true Israel, is the true menorah-light, the perfect likeness of the Glory-Spirit. And as the true menorah, Christ carries out the menorah mission of witnessing to the living God, who has "given him for a witness to the peoples" (Isa.55:4).
Perfect image of the archetypal Glory-Spirit by virtue of his anointing, Christ serves along with the Glory-Spirit as a model which is replicated in the menorah community. Fashioned anew in the likeness of the Anointed one, the members of that community too are God's servants (Isa. 41:8, 9; 44:1, 2), God's witnesses (Isa. 43:10, 12; 44:8), and as such a light to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 13:47; 26:22, 23).
Like Zechariah, Daniel exhibits this same Isaianic complex of themes. After the pattern of Isaiah's suffering Servant, the mashiah nagid, "Anointed-Prince," of Daniel 9:24-27 is cut off to make an atonement for the many, so ratifying the covenant of grace and becoming a covenant of the people. In Daniel 7:13, 14 the Messiah appears as the heavenly son of man, whose parousia with the clouds of heaven is a revelation of him as the perfect image of the Glory-Spirit. All the glory-components that constitute the imago Dei are present here: the glory of dominion over a universal and everlasting kingdom, the glory of holiness prerequisite to his reception and exaltation before the ancient of days at the white throne, and the glory of luminous majesty as one invested with the clouds of Glory.
Also, as in Isaiah and Zechariah there are indications in Daniel that the Messiah is a model that is reproduced in God's people. For the interpretation given of the vision of the son of man identifies the saints of the Most High as
participating with him in the glory of his kingdom's dominion (7:18, 22, 27). And in Daniel 12:3 the faithful are likened to the archetypal Anointed one in his specifically menorah character as light and witness. They have been witness-lights who turned many to righteousness, and at their resurrection-glorification they will be radiant lights, replicas of the son of man adorned with the Glory-clouds, shining as the brightness of the firmament, as the stars for ever and ever.
The menorah vision of Zechariah 4 receives explicit canonical exposition in the lampstand symbolism of John's Apocalypse. Our examination of this begins with a brief notice of John's broader use of the metaphor of light for Christ and his mission. In John's Gospel, Christ's identification as light (John 1:4b, 5, 9) is related to his identity as the Logos-declaration of God, the one who shows us the Father (John 1:1, 14a, 18; 3:34; 8:19, 28; 12:49, 50; 14:6-ll, esp. v. 9; 17:8; cf. 1 John 1:2), who is light (1 John 1:5). It is particularly through his advent that the Logos is light. He is light in relation to men (John 1:4).19 He shines as a light among us (John 1:14), in this world and its darkness (John 1:5, 9, 10a). He identifies himself as the light of the world, designed to give opening of eyes to the blind and the light of life to those in darkness (John 8:12; 9:5).
In the terms of Zechariah's fifth vision, Christ as Logos-light performs the menorah mission. He, the Word of God, speaks the words of God whose word is truth (John 17:17; cf. 14:6). These words are the words of eternal life (John 6:68; cf. 63) which he gives to his disciples (John 3:34; 14:10; 17:8)to evoke faith in God, who delivers from the judgment and transports believers from death to life (John 5:24; cf. 4:14, 41; 6:63, 68; 8:51). The light of the Logos is a witness-light shining to bring those without the knowledge of God to the light of the knowledge of God radiating from him, the image of God (John 1:10b, 14b; 12:35, 36, 46; cf. 2 Cor. 4:4-6), the glory of Israel and a light to the Gentiles. The Logos-Lamb is the lamp (Rev.21:23).
Further, the Logos-light is an archetypal model for the menorah, a light that is replicated in believers. He is the true, the heavenly light (John 1:9; cf. 1 John 2:8); they become "sons of light" (John 12:36; cf. Matt. 5:14-16). Illustrative of this reproduction of the Logos as the menorah or witness-lamp is John the Forerunner-herald, the witness to the true light (John 1:6-8, 15,
19ff.), the lamp that lit the way to the Lamb (John 5:35).
There are two passages in the book of Revelation where Zechariah's lampstand imagery is taken up by John, and in both the idea is clearly conveyed that the model of the glorified Christ is being replicated in the menorah-church. In the opening vision, the heavenly son of man, his countenance like the sun, his eyes like flames of fire, appears in the midst of the radiant lampstand churches. Lights in the world, they are fashioned in the likeness of their glorious Lord, the archetype light of the world (Rev. 1:12-20; cf. 21:11).
In Revelation 11 (esp. v. 4), the most explicit reference to Zechariah's fifth vision, the menorah symbolism is applied to the two prophet figures representing the church. An extensive parallel between the nature and historical course of the missions of Christ and the prophet-menorah community directs attention to the way the church is being formed in the Lord's menorah image. "As their [the two prophets'] career unfolds in verses 3-12, the reader cannot miss the similarity of its pattern to that of Jesus' ministry. A time of proclamation and signs, issuing in Satanic opposition and the violent death of the witnesses in the great city, 'where also our Lord was crucified' (so verse 8 adds, making the parallelism explicit), is followed by the resurrection of the martyrs and their ascension in a cloud."20
As the canonical connections of Zechariah 4 reveal, the Spirit-anointed one of whom the prophet speaks is the model for the menorah-community and its world mission. Christ is the kerux who issues his evangel-command to all afar off and so sets the pattern for the church in fulfilling the Great Commission.21 The identification of Messiah's people by the symbol of the menorah indicates that the kerux-likeness of the Light of the world is being reproduced in them. In the midst of a crooked and perverse generation they "are seen as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life" (Phil. 2:15, 16). So is fulfilled the eternal purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his will: "For whom he foreknow he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29).
B. Messiah-Agent of the Spirit: Masterbuilder of the Menorah. The menorah epitomizes the temple and accordingly in Zechariah 4 the menorah's mission is expounded in terms of a building of the temple. To build the templeto make the menorahis the historical task of the menorah. Since Messiah provides the model for the menorah-church and its mission, he is the maker of the menorah, the masterbuilder of God's temple-church. A typological picture of this is given in Zechariah's fifth vision under the figure of Zerubbabel engaged in the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple (Zech. 4:7-10).
Zechariah 4:6-10 is a double oracle of Yahweh, with introductory formulae in verses 6a and 8. Each oracle contains three sections, the two sets paralleling each other to produce an A.B.C//A'.B'.C' pattern. The B-sections pose challenging questions to the antagonists and gainsayers (vv. 7a and 10a), and the C-sections refer to the temple building activity of Zerubbabel, each reference involving the symbolism of a stone (vv. 7b and l0b). The A-sections present the primary affirmation, an assurance that the house of God will be built. Verse 6b attributes success in this enterprise directly to God's Spirit. Verse 9 focuses on the royal messianic agent of the Spirit. It declares that "the hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house and his hands shall finish it" (v. 9a). It also states that completion of this mission will attest that he (the messianic Angel who speaks here in the first person is "Zerubbabel") is indeed the Anointed agent of the Spirit, the Christ of God: "You will know that Yahweh of hosts has sent me unto you" (v. 9b).
1. Temple-building: Crown and Covenant: (a) Crown Construction: Building a temple is a royal task. We shall presently trace the biblical history of this royal enterprise back to the first Adam, but it will suffice here to cite the temple Zerubbabel was rebuilding. Planned by king David, executed by king Solomon (cf. Ezra 5:11), the Jerusalem temple was clearly crown construction. The incorporation of the commission to build the temple in a covenant that was predominantly a confirmation of the perpetuity of David's royal dynasty emphasizes the peculiarly royal nature of temple building (2 Sam. 7:13a; I Chr. 17:12; cf. Psalm 132). Such a commission indeed validated the appointed builder's right to the crown (cf. 1 Chr. 28:5-7).
In the extrabiblical accounts of temple building in the ancient world the
same situation obtains: it is the king who plays the main role. He was not merely titular director of the project but took an active part, especially in key symbolic rites. How important such projects were for the king's reputation is indicated by the inclusion of this function among the royal titles, as well as by the celebration of temple building in royal documents. The peculiarly royal responsibility for various other major construction projects, particularly cities, is also evidenced by references to such achievements in summaries of royal reigns.22
In keeping with the royal status of temple builders, Zerubbabel, the one selected as the type of Christ the masterbuilder in Zechariah 4:6-10, was a scion of David's dynasty. He and the high priest Joshua are a complementary typological pair in visions four and five. Together they prefigure Messiah's dual office and function as priest-king. Since there is a royal dimension to the high priest's office, which is reflected in the crowning of Joshua and the association of the Branch title with him in vision four and again in the episode of Zechariah 6:9-15 (which, moreover, speaks of the Branch as building the temple), the choice of the Davidic Zerubbabel instead of Joshua as the messianic type in vision five is significant. It points up the fact that however the high priest might be associated with the monarch in the project (cf. Hag. 1:12, 14; 2:2, 4), temple building is properly and distinctly the function of the king (cf. Hag. 2:21, 23).
(b) Divine Commission and Covenant: Divine commissioning is a conspicuous feature of accounts of royal temple construction in the Bible and elsewhere in the ancient world. In the extrabiblical accounts the decision of the gods was expressed in a command to build revealed to the chosen royal builder through dreams or omens, or possibly through a prophet. At times a king might take the initiative but he must secure divine approval through mantic means before proceeding. Divine commission provided necessary legitimation and carried assurance of success. According to the biblical narratives, the erection of holy dwellings for God is likewise a matter of divine mandate, and if, as in the case of David, the human king conceives the purpose to build, the Lord's approval must first be sought (2 Sam. 7:1ff.; 1 Kgs. 5:5; 8:17ff.; cf. Ps. 132:2ff.).
Throughout the biblical history of temple building the divine commis-
sion is more specifically a covenantal commission; the building mandate is incorporated in the terms of a particular covenant. The following sketch of this history to Zechariah's day will seek to indicate primarily how the project is in each case a covenantal commission and a royal enterprise. Subsequently we will supplement this by observing how the several accounts consistently include the features of conquest as prelude to construction and of temple building as an imitation of creation.
The relevant biblical accounts are found to belong to a standardized Near Eastern literary pattern used in narrating temple building events from at least the second millennium on. It will be useful to present in summary at this point the several main topics in this thematic structure. This may be done by identifying them within the record of the construction of Solomon's temple.23
Standard elements included: the decision and commission to build (1 Kgs. 5:15-19); the acquisition of building materials (1 Kgs. 5:15-26) and drafting of craftsmen (1 Kgs. 5:13ff.; 7:13); description of the temple and its furnishings (1 Kings 6 and 7) with statement of completion as specified (1 Kgs. 6:9, 14, 38); dedication end deity's entry of his residence (1 Kgs. 8:1-11, 62-66); dedicatory prayer (1 Kgs. 8:12-61); blessings and curses (1 Kgs. 9:1-9). There are further significant details in the biblical accounts, like the divine provision of an exemplar, that also belong to the common pattern.
(i) Adam and the Covenant of Creation: God is the original temple builder, the builder of the heavenly Glory-temple. His epiphanic Glory constitutes the ultimate temple; God is his own temple. The Glory-filled cosmos is a royal house of the divine King, with heaven his throne and earth his footstool. On earth, the Creator made a microcosmic copy of the Glory-temple in the form of the garden of Eden, with its mountain of God, the throne site of a visible, localized projection of the heavenly Glory-Spirit.
The creation "week" saw the beginning of another kind of divine dwelling as God brought forth creatures made in the likeness of the Glory-Spirit temple. By the provisions of the Covenant of Creation man was commissioned to enter into the process of constructing this people-temple. As the Creator fathered Adam as a son in his image (cf. Luke 3:38), Adam was to father sons in his likeness (cf. Gen. 5:1-3). Through the ongoing procreative
multiplying of humanity the human temple would be produced, each new person another "living stone" in the growing holy edifice.
Envisaged as the consummation of the covenant order was a human temple transfigured into a radiant replica of the archetypal Glory-temple. Glorification, that final step in the construction of the temple, would be an act of the Creator. But meanwhile the cultural mandate of the covenant called on man to participate in this temple building by multiplying his kind, so producing the global community of mankind, God's people-temple. Embodied as it was in a royal mandate to subdue and occupy the earthly domain, this assignment to build the people-temple was also a royal commission. The covenantal service of temple building was a function of kingship. At the same time, since the temple is a house of prayer and worship, it is evident that performing the cultural task of the king served the purposes of the priest's cultic functioning. The telos of the kingdom is that God may be all in all.
Because the history of man in Eden terminated abruptly in the Fall, the narrative of the Covenant of Creation contains only the commissioning of the human king to his part in building the people-temple, not the other elements that round out the accounts of redemptive temple construction. However, the Genesis prologue does record the Creator's work of constructing the cosmic temple, a project that was brought to completion. Though this temple building was unique in being the work of God alone and the account of it does not, therefore, exhibit precisely all the usual features of the standard temple building accounts, the essential components are nevertheless present, mutatis mutandis.
Though there is no commissioning of a human king, there is the divine decision to build, registered in the succession of divine fiats.24 Though there is no conscription of laborers or acquisition of materials, there is the creative word of God which by itself effects all, producing all the materials, doing all the work. And the other major components of the standard pattern are quite plainly present. Within the six-day schema the process of construction is delineated and the form and furnishings of the temple are described. The record of the seventh day contains the statement of the completion of the project and the approval of the work as in accord with the divine plan and exemplar; the celebration of the enthronement of the deity within the temple
and its dedication to him; and, in the instituting of the Sabbath ordinance, a declaration of sanctions. The creation prologue of Genesis is then actually the archetypal temple building account.25 To portray the building of later temples after this pattern was to identify these redemptive projects as acts of (re)creation (a theme we shall return to below).
(ii) Noah and the Ark Covenant: The story of Noah's building of the ark fits into the present survey, for the ark was a temple structure. It was designed to be a copy of the cosmic temple made by the Creator. Its three stories correspond to the cosmos conceptualized as divided into the three levels of the heavens, earth, and the sphere under the earth. Its window corresponded to the window of heaven and its door to the door of the deep (cf. Gen. 7:11).26 The ark's temple identity is corroborated by the reflection of its architecture in the Mosaic tabernacle and the Solomonic temple. Their structure too reproduced the three story pattern of the cosmos both in their horizontal floor plan and in their vertical sectioning.27 Note also the three-storied side chambers of the temple. In addition, the temple had the features of the door and upper window, and it shared the ark's vertical dimension of thirty cubits.
Further, the narrative of the building of the ark exhibits in a comprehensive way that complex literary form conventionally employed in biblical and extrabiblical accounts of temple building. It begins with the divine decision that the chosen human agent should build the ark. This purpose is disclosed as a covenantal commission with a divine commitment to prosper the undertaking (Gen. 6:13ff.). Other standard elements are the description of the ark and its occupants, the design being given by divine revelation (Gen. 6:14ff.); the acquisition of materials (Gen. 6:14) and the assembling of the furnishings, here in the form of the representatives of the plant, animal, and human spheres that occupied this holy cosmic kingdom structure (Gen. 6:18ff. and 7:1ff.); the statement that the ark was built according to specifications and completed (Gen. 6:22); date formulae (Gen. 7:6, 11, 13); and the dedication of the ark-kingdom (Gen. 8:20), followed by a declaration of future sanctions.28
Constructing the ark-temple was a covenantal project. The commission to build the ark is given within the divine revelation in which the actual term
berith, "covenant," first appears in the Bible (Gen. 6:18). In fact, the verses containing the commission and the covenant declaration (vv. 14 and 18 respectively) occupy parallel positions in the literary structure of the flood account.29 Implicit but unmistakable in the commission thus equated with the covenant is a commitment on the part of the Lord, the divinely sanctioned commitment that qualifies this arrangement to be called "covenant". In commanding Noah to make the ark (v. 14) the Lord was covenanting to prosper the enterprise. This becomes more explicit in verse 18 where there is an immediate association of the two; God's promise to fulfill this covenant is at once followed by further details of the commission, instructing Noah to enter the ark to be kept alive when God brings his judgment on the rest of the world (v. 17).30 The commission to build the ark-temple was then clearly a covenantal commissioning.
The ark was crown construction, for Noah had royal status within the kingdom-typology of this covenantal event.31 Within the holy bounds of the theocratic ark-world Noah's role was a redemptive resumption of Adam's royal position and prospects under the Covenant of Creation. He was king of that temple-kingdom, with all the creatures placed under his rule, with the creation and all its tempestuous forces made subservient to his honor and blessing. Royal dominion as experienced by Noah in the ark-theocracy exceeded what Adam enjoyed as an original endowment of the creation covenant; it was a symbolic equivalent of the lordship Adam was to secure as a reward for success in his probationary mission. Noah's kingship was thus prophetic of the kingship of Jesus, the second Adam, who accomplishes the act of probation-righteousness and thereby attains the position of glory and honor where all things have been effectively put in subjection under his feet (Heb. 2:6-9). It was the ark-covenant that invested Noah with this royal dignity and it was as type of the messianic King, the masterbuilder of the church-temple, that Noah was commissioned to build the ark-temple.
(iii) Moses and the Old Covenant: The interrelation of the tabernacle and the covenant mediated through Moses at Sinai is patent. Construction of this divine dwelling was the immediate, major assignment stipulated for the vassal community of Israel in this covenant. A house of God is already mentioned (Exod. 23:19) within the account of the ratification of the covenant
(Exodus 19-24), which is at once followed by the detailed prescriptions for the tabernacle (Exodus 25-31) and by the narrative of its actual construction (Exodus 35-40). This amounted to a record of the confirmation and inauguration of the covenant order, for the tabernacle was the supreme expression of God's covenant relationship to Israel. Even the interruptive episode of the golden calf (Exodus 32-34) attests in its negative way to the correlation of the tabernacle and covenant by showing how the loss of covenant status (through Israel's covenant-breaking) meant the loss of God's Presence and the forfeiture of his tabernacle-residence in their midst.32
Like the narrative about Noah's ark-temple, Exodus 25-40 exhibits the pattern of the common Near Eastern temple building accounts, including the following elements: the divine decision to build revealed as a covenantal commission to Moses (Exod. 25:1, 8) and mediated by him to the people (Exod. 34:29-35:19); the prescriptive description of the tabernacle and its furnishings (Exod. 25:10ff.), along with its priesthood and their accoutrements (Exod. 28:1ff.)a human replication of the tabernacle, affording an intimation of the living people-temple to be built by the messianic masterbuilder; the heavenly exemplar (Exod. 25:9, 40); the acquisition of materials (Exod. 25:3-7; 35:4-29; 36:3-7) and the securing of expert craftsmen (Exod. 35:30-36:9); the actual building process (Exod. 36:8-40:33) with notice that all was completed according to specifications (Exod. 39:32, 42, 43; 40:16, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 32, 33); the blessing on the people (Exod. 39:43; cf. Lev. 9:22, 23); the dedication by symbolic anointing (Exod. 40:9-16; cf. 30:22-23; cf. Lev. 8:10; Numbers 7) and by the entry of God's Glory into his holy house (Exod. 40:34; cf. 29:44; Lev. 9:23, 24).33
Though the covenant stipulation to build the tabernacle was given to the covenant community as a whole and the entire nation, especially its gifted artisans, was engaged in the work, it was more particularly a divine commission to Moses as mediator of the covenant program. Completion of it all is attributed to him (Exod. 40:33). Building the house of God was, therefore, in the case of the tabernacle once again crown construction. For Moses was the shepherd-king of God's flock, the one set as royal ruler over the entire theocratic community (cf. Num. 12:7; Heb. 3:2).
(iv) Solomon and the Davidic Covenant: We have already seen that the
biblical narrative of the building of the Solomonic temple is an outstanding example of the conventional Near Eastern literary form used for such affairs. This episode is also a classic instance of temple building as a task for kings, the project having been proposed by king David and carried out by king Solomon. And here again there is a close correlation of temple building and covenant. The Lord's approval of David's proposal, revealed through the prophet Nathan, was incorporated in and was a central feature of a divine covenant of grant (2 Sam. 7:4ff.; 23:5; Ps.89:3).
The covenantal context of Solomon's temple building is underscored by repeated rehearsal of the terms of the Davidic Covenant in the narrative of the process of construction: in David's preparatory charge to Solomon (2 Chr. 22:6ff.) and his related address to Israel's leaders (1 Chr. 28:2ff.); in Solomon's communication to king Hiram of Tyre when launching the actual project (1 Kgs. 5:3-5 [17-19]; 2 Chr. 2:4ff.); in a revelation of God to Solomon recorded in the midst of a description of the temple structure and its furnishings (1 Kgs. 6:11-13); in Solomon's pronouncing of blessing at the completion of the project (1 Kgs. 8:15ff.; 2 Chr. 6:4ff.) and his prayer of dedication (1 Kgs. 8:23ff.; 2 Chr. 6:14ff.; cf. Psalm 132); and in a further revelation of God to Solomon when the temple was finished (1 Kgs. 9:4ff.; 2 Chr. 7:12ff.).
When defining the function of temple building in the Davidic Covenant we must distinguish between the two levels of the kingdom covenanted to Abraham. In relation to the typological level administered through the old (Mosaic) covenant,34 the Davidic Covenant was a covenant of grant, rewarding David for faithfully waging the war of the Lord. This works principle, operating at the typological level of the kingdom, was further evidenced in the fact that the continuance of the typological kingdom under the Davidic dynasty was made dependent on the continuing allegiance of the Davidic kings to their heavenly Suzerain, as expressed in their compliance with the probationary stipulations of his covenant. Within this covenant of grant, the temple building commission was a covenant stipulation to be obeyed, and the obedient performance of this service would function as the meritorious ground for dynastic confirmation and continuance (cf. 1 Chr. 28:5-7).35 At the same time, this commission was a high honor and privilege, a sign of
God's favor, for the temple represented the dwelling of Immanuel with his people, the ultimate blessing of the covenant.
In relation to the messianic level of the kingdom inaugurated and defined by the new covenant, the Davidic Covenant was one of sovereign grace. It guaranteed the everlasting dynasty and kingdom as a gift of redemptive love. As in the case of the typological kingdom, bestowal of this antitypical kingdom-temple grant involved the accomplishing of a probationary act of righteousnessnot, however, by David and his successors in the old Jerusalem. This grant was rather a reward given to the messianic son of David for his meritorious service in fulfillment of the intratrinitarian covenant made in heaven before the world began. At this antitypical level too, temple building functions as validation of royal claim. The bringing of the church-temple to consummation, the work of the ascended Christ through the Spirit, demonstrates the validity of his claim to the crown of heaven and earth. It attests to the Father's establishment of the Son as King of kings on the throne of David at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
In Zechariah 4 this validating messianic achievement is proclaimed in the announcement that the Christ-figure, Zerubbabel, begins and finishes the temple (v. 9a) and the conjoined declaration by the messianic Angel of the Lord (cf. v. 8): "You will know that Yahweh of hosts has sent me unto you" (v. 9b).
(v) Postexilic Temple and the Davidic Covenant: In the resumption of the Mosaic-Davidic covenantal order after the exile (cf. Hag. 2:5), the Davidic Covenant still provided the primary authorization for the erecting of God's house in Jerusalem (cf. Ezra 5:11). Divine confirmation of the temple (re)building commission came through the prophetic ministry of Haggai and Zechariah, prompting the community to proceed with the task forthwith (Ezra 5:1, 2; 6:14).
This commissioning of temple construction was, as usual, a royal mandate, even though no Israelite king occupied the throne in Jerusalem. For at this juncture in the history of the theocratic nation, when Israel was being restored to their typological heritage after the exilic lapse in the Mosaic Covenant relationship, it pleased God to draw king Cyrus, the Persian ruler of the
Israelites, into the typological drama of redemption in the role of restorer. By special divine appointment, king Cyrus was constituted a prefiguration of Messiah, who would one day restore the true Israel of God from their exile east of Eden and who would build the true temple of God. "Yahweh stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia" so that he issued a decree for the restoration of God's house in Jerusalem, asserting therein that he had been charged to do so by the God of heaven (2 Chr. 36:22, 23; Ezra 1:1-4; 5:13; 6:14). This happened in fulfillment of God's remarkable word through Isaiah, beforehand identifying king Cyrus as his anointed shepherd-king, whom he would commission to build his city and temple (Isa. 44:28; 45:1ff., esp. v. 13).
The narrative of the building of the postexilic temple in Ezra 1-6 contains most of the standard features of such accounts. In addition to the divine commissioning of king Cyrus, these include: the acquisition of materials and enlisting of workmen (Ezra 1:5ff.; 3:7ff.); description of the structure (Ezra 6:3, 4) and the progress of the building to completion, in accordance with God's command(Ezra 3:2,11; 5:2; 6:14), with dates (Ezra 3:8; 6:15; cf. Hag. 1:1, 15; 2:10); and dedication festivities (Ezra 6:16-18).
This history of the restoration of the temple was, of course, the immediate context in view in Zechariah's fifth vision, providing the typological imagery for the prophecy of Messiah, the royal masterbuilder of the menorah-temple. As previously indicated, the choice of Zerubbabel as the type of Christ related to the principle that temple building is a task for kings, Zerubbabel being a prince of David's dynasty.
Christ, the true theocratic king, would lay the foundation of the true temple, typified by Noah's ark, Moses' tabernacle, and the Solomon/Zerubbabel temple, and he would complete it. His temple would be a Spirit-people-temple, such as was envisaged in the royal mandate given to Adam under the Covenant of Creation. Christ received his royal commission in the eternal intratrinitarian covenant with the Father and as agent of the Spirit he carries out the holy building task in his administration of the new covenant, by the Great Commission enlisting his followers as his fellow-workers in the menorah mission.
(vi) Excursus: God's covenanting with man is a controlling element in
biblical religion, but elsewhere covenant is not so evident a feature of the relation of deity to men. However, the divine commissioning of kings to build temples, as narrated in the standard accounts, involved the essential ingredients of a suzerain-vassal covenant. By charging the king with the task of erecting the temple, the deity exercised his sovereignty over him and facilitated the ongoing administration of the tributary relationship inasmuch as it was in the temple that the vassal king's tribute offerings were brought before the divine suzerain. Also, inherent in the commission to build the temple, and specified in the king's dedication prayer, was the deity's commitment to grant various boons: the entrance of the deity into the temple; the exaltation of the king and extension of his scepter to distant days; and the fertility of his land.36 Such divinely sanctioned commitment is definitive of covenant. And since, according to the dedication prayer, the promised blessings were to be bestowed on the king for his good services (i.e., for his obedient performance of the commission), divine commission to build a temple was tantamount, more particularly, to a proposal-of-grant covenant.
This covenantal arrangement was established by divine declaration;37 no treaty text functioned as an instrument of ratification. But the affair was documented by the inscription containing the temple building account, and the possibility suggests itself that the conventional treaty form has influenced the shaping of these accounts. For the basic sections of suzerainty treaties find their counterparts in the building inscriptions: the preamble and historical prologue sections presenting the suzerain's claims on the vassal's service; the stipulations section stating the suzerain's commandments; and the sanctions section enunciating the constraints on the vassal's loyal obedience. In the building accounts, the suzerain's claims are presented in the very identity of the divine author of the decision to build and in his authoritative communication of the assignment. The contents of the commission are, of course, the covenant stipulations, and the benefits promised to the royal builder are the sanctions. Of special interest is another variety of the sanctions found in many building accounts, one that is reminiscent of the treaty form (though also present in other kinds of texts). It consists of a closing section pronouncing curses and blessings on future rulers, according to their treatment of the temple and its building inscription. At times this was modified into a more general appeal to future kings to show piety towards the gods, with promise
of divine blessings.38 This obviously reflects the concluding section of curses and blessings in the classic treaty form,39 but in addition the sanction relating to the treatment of the building inscription is akin to the curse against tampering with the treaty text found in the distinctive document clause of the treaties.
*This is a continuation of an article begun in Kerux 9:1 (May 1994), pp. 3-15.
15. Cf. Kerux 7:3 (December 1992), p. 42.
16. Cf. Kerux 8:2 (September 1993), pp. 22-29.
17. The Isaianic Servant figure introduced in Zechariah 3 is thus interpreted in Zechariah 4 as both an individual and corporate servant.
18. Cf. Kerux 9:1 (May 1994), pp. 6, 7.
19. This is not to deny that the Logos-designation may refer in the first instance to the ontological pre-incarnational relation of the Son to the Father. But John 1:4, like 1:10, should be understood in terms of the incarnation, not of the general divine providential government of creation. Identification of the light of the Logos with life in John 1:4 and 8:12 is compatible with its revelatory, witness function, for this life is knowledge: "This is life eternal that they should know thee, the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, Jesus Christ" (John 17:3). Cf. E. L. Miller, "The Johannine Origins of the Johannine Logos," JBL 112:3 (Fall 1993), p. 446, n. 7.
20. Images of the Spirit, pp. 90, 91. See the context of this quotation for a detailed account, which leads to the conclusion: "In sum then, the scenario of the whole Revelation 10 and 11 complex is taken over from the Old Testament model of the Angel-prophet directing the prophets, fashioning them in their covenantal office in his own prophet-likeness. Under this figure of the Angel, the Apocalypse portrays Christ structuring the apostle-church in his prophetic image" (p. 93).
21. For the development of this theme, see the discussion of Zechariah's third vision in Kerux 7:3 (December 1992), pp. 39-61.
22. For biblical examples, cf., e.g., 1 Kgs. 9:15-19; 15:23; 22:39; 2 Kgs. 20:20. The messianic temple building of Zechariah's fifth vision amounts to a resumption of the theme of messianic city building in vision three, the counterpart to the fifth vision in the chiastic pattern of the seven visions.
23. Our treatment of this subject is much indebted to V. Hurowitz, I Have Built You an Exalted House: Temple Building in the Bible in Light of Mesopotamian and Northwest Semitic Writings (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992). Hereafter cited as Hurowitz.
24. For a related decretive word of God to the heavenly council, cf. Gen. 1:26.
25. The mythologized mutations of the true creation tradition also preserve the temple building perspective of the event. So, for example, the gods construct the Esagila sanctuary in honor of Marduk at the conclusion of the "creation" in the Enuma Elish (VI, 45ff.). The conventional pattern for building accounts attested in the extrabiblical literature and in the Bible alike stands in continuity with the literary traditions of creation accounts.
26. For details see my Kingdom Prologue, pp. 139, 140.
27. See the discussion in my Images of the Spirit, pp. 39-42.
28. The account of the making of the vessel in the Gilgamesh epic, as narrated there by Utnapishtim (the Noah figure) exhibits this same pattern. The form-critical evidence of the integrity of the temple-building pattern in Genesis itself and the comparative evidence of the acknowledged unity of the Gilgamesh text contradict the customary source-critical partitioning of the biblical text.
29. For details see my Kingdom Prologue, p. 142.
30. This administration of the salvation and kingdom blessings of the Covenant of Grace reported in Genesis 6:13ff. is to be sharply distinguished from the common grace covenant with all the earth recorded in Genesis 8:21-9:17.
31. Whether or not Noah was king of his earthly city (as the flood hero is in the Mesopotamian tradition) is not relevant to the theme of temple building as a task for a king, for the common grace world is not the holy sphere to which God's temple and his royal messianic temple builder belong.
32. Parallels have been noted in Mesopotamian texts where the account of the building of the temple is interrupted by a rebellion against the divinely designated builder. See Hurowitz, p. 111.
33. With reference to Pentateuchal origins, it is significant that the structural pattern of the Exodus account of the tabernacle is particularly close to building accounts of the mid-second millennium B.C. (cf. Hurowitz, pp. 64, 110).
34. The connection of the Davidic Covenant, with its temple building commission, to the Mosaic Law-Covenant is reflected in the attention given by the building narrative to the presence of the two tables of the Torah-covenant in the ark in the temple (cf. l Kgs. 6:19; 8:3, 9; 2 Chr. 5:2ff., esp. v. 10). This interrelationship is also attested in the echoes of the concepts and expressions of the Mosaic Covenant (as formulated in its Deuteronomic renewal) which are found, especially, in Solomon's dedication prayer and God's response. Cf. Hurowitz, p. 301.
35. The correlation of temple building and the establishment of dynasty is indicated by the incorporation of the account of the construction of Solomon's palace in the story of the building of the temple (1 Kings 7). Construction of the palace waited on the completion of the temple, which confirmed Solomon's right to the theocratic throne.
36. Cf. Hurowitz, pp. 298, 303, 322.
37. Cf. P. Kalluveettil, Declaration and Covenant (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1982), pp. 93ff.
38. Cf. Hurowitz, pp. 304, 306.
39. In the account of Solomon's temple building, God's closing reply to the king is a statement of blessing and curse on the Davidic dynasty and the nation Israel, conditioned on their fidelity or failure in meeting the demands of the Torah-covenant (1 Kgs. 9:4-9), and the wording of the sanctions is
taken from the Deuteronomic treaty (cf. Deut. 28:1, 37, 45, 63; 9:23-26).
Seminary in California
Come and See
James T. Dennison, Jr.
John's Prologue concludes with the statement that the only-begotten has explained the Father since no one has seen God. The word for "explained" is exegesato (Greek) or "exegeted". The exegesis of the Father is the only begotten son. Exegesis is the process of drawing meaning out of the text of scripture. It is interpreting the word of God. The Logos-Son is the exegesis of the Father; he draws out and interprets the person and work of God to the creature. Exagesato in v. 18 forms the bridge from the Prologue to the body of John's gospel. The heart of this gospel (1:19-20:31) will be John's witness to the Son's exegesis of the Father. He will draw out the Father's love for his sheep; he will exegete his desire to feed and nourish them with more than earthly fare; he will set forth the display of his glory in and through his Son so that his friends may glorify him; he will draw them to the foot of a cross in order to behold the exegesis of God's wrath upon a Son who bears the sin of the world; he will bring us into a garden tomb where a weeping woman will find her Rabboni. The exegesis of the Father by the Logos begins in John 1:19.
From 1:19 to 1:51, the apostle presents Jesus through the witness of John the Baptist and the disciples. The transition from the old to the new is displayed in the witnessing characters, even as it was displayed in the movement
of the Prologue (see Kerux 8/2 [September 1993], 3-9). John the Baptist is the end of the Jewish era. He is the last Old Testament prophet. His witness to Messiah-Christ must yield to the testimony of the new community gathered in this the fullness of the times. This new community is composed of the disciples of Jesusthose who follow him, eager to understand and proclaim his glory. As the old Israel consisted of twelve tribes, so the new Israel consists of twelve disciples. The inaugural call of the twelve in 1:35-51 marks the inception of the new Israel as it comes and sees the glory of Jesus.
This advent and encounter with the Christ will be consummated in the post-resurrection appearance of the risen Messiah (Jn. 21). With consummate symmetry, the gospel epilogue concludes in the way the gospel proper itself beginswith the encounter between Christ and his disciples, the twelve, the new Israel. We meet Simon (Peter), son of John (N.B. only in 1:42 and 21:15-17); Nathaniel (N.B. only in 1:45-49 and 21:2); and John, the disciple whom Jesus loved (1:35-40 and 21:20-25). The call to discipleship dominates 1:19-51; the function of discipleship (i.e., witness) dominates chapter 21. Even the knowledge of Jesus is a central theme in both chapters 1 and 21 (cf. 1:26, 31, 33, with 21:4, 12, 15, 16, 17, 24). The encounter of the disciples begins with the invitation to "come and see"; it concludes with the commission to "go and feed" the flock of Christ.
Other structural devices in 1:19-51 include the repetition of "the next day" (Greek, te epaurion). This phrase links the narrative sequentially to the initial witness of the Baptist. The exegesis of the Father is through the Son who is "Lamb of God", "Messiah", "Son of God", "King of Israel", "Son of Man". Note further that the witness of John the Baptist is in two stages: 1:19-28 and 1:29-34. The witness of the initial disciples is also in two stages: 1:35-42, 1:43-51. The witness which is displaced (John the Baptist) is replaced with the witness which will mark the new Israel (i.e., the Christological titles noted above).
We notice also the testimony of John the Baptist to himself (i.e., what he is not, 1:19-28) followed by the Baptist's testimony to Jesus (i.e., what He is, 1:29-34). This sequence of witness is related to the diminishing focus upon the Baptist (cf. 3:30) and the increasing focus upon the Christ. In words, even for John the Baptist, Christ is central!
Finally we observe a structural sequence in the encounter with the disciples (1:35-51). Broadly speaking, we detect the pattern: call by Jesus (1:35-39 with 1:43), a called one brings another to Jesus (1:40, 41 with 1:45), the one brought to Jesus has a personal encounter with the Christ (1:42 with 1:47-51). Discipleship begins in Christ's initiative, is perpetuated in the eagerness of those brought to him and climaxes in personal communion with him. The content of that communion will be described below. It suffices to observe at this pointthat content is Christological.
Following the shift of focus by John the Baptist from himself to Jesus (1:19-34), the key word in 1:35-51 is "follow" (Greek akolouthein). Those with a personal attachment to Jesus are followers of the Christ (1:37, 38, 40, 43). True followers are eager to "come" to him, to "see" him, to "listen" to him, to be with him. John has directed our attention to the exegesis of what it means to be born of God (1:13). Birth from above (cf. 3:7, margin NASB) places one on the path of a follower of Jesus. And those who follow Jesus are eager to "come and see" this One upon whom the Spirit remains (Greek emeinen). They too remain (Greek emeinan) remain with him (1:39). And as they remain with him, they listen to him say that he is the one they have been seeking, longing, yearning to find. In communion with Jesus, they begin to understand the mystery of the Logosas John the Baptist expressed it, "He who comes after me is become before me, for he existed before me" (1:15; cf. 1:30)
Discipleshipbelieving the witness of Christ and the witness to Christdiscipleship is being drawn to come and grow in understanding the mystery of the incarnation of the Word. The exegesis of Logos occurs through incarnation. The Word becomes flesh in the history of redemption. He comes to his ownIsrael after the flesh. He comes to an arena retrospectively connected with the former era in the history of redemption. The disciple enters a dramatically new era. He or she enters the era of fulfillment wherein all things are made new. It is not disciples of Moses who emerge in this new age; it is not disciples of the prophetseven the disciples of John the Baptist cannot remain with him (cf. 1:37). The discipleship of the former era passes
away with the appearance of the eschatological Rabbi. From now, "we would see Jesus". And the Jesus whom disciples of the age to come "come and see" is "the Lamb of God", "the Son of God", "the Messiah", "the King of Israel", "the Son of Man".
The most remarkable aspect of this discipleship section of John 1 is the plethora of Christological titles. In the space of seventeen verses, we discover six Christological titles. Who Jesus is is as crucial to discipleship as following him. In fact, it is because of who he is that the disciple follows. He is the eschatological lamb, Son, rabbi, Christ, prophet, king, man.
The eschatological lamb comes to complete and to fulfill all the sacrificial imagery of the former era. This lamb is the last lamb for sinners slain. This lamb's blood speaks better things than the lamb Abel offered and the lambs offered at Passover (cf. 19:14). This lamb will put an end to offering lambs. After this lamb, no more lambs. For when this lamb removes the world of sin, behold no more condemnation!
In John the Baptist's phrase ("the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," 1:29, 36), there is a telescoping summary of Old Testament lambs from Egypt to the Temple to the Suffering Servant (Is. 53). A victim spares the people of God from receiving the just deserts of their iniquities. A vicarious victim willingly imputes their guilt and shame to himself in order to impute to them forgiveness and covering. The portrait of every previous vicariously atoning victim flashes across the mind of John the Baptist. Jesus is the eschatological victim, the eschatological sin-bearer, the eschatological sacrifice. When his work is done, the sin of the world is placatedfinishedonce and for all propitiated.
The eschatological Son comes to complete and to fulfill all the imagery of sonship of the former era. If Israel functions as "son of God" (cf. Ex. 4:22; Hos. 11:1), it is due to the relationship covenantally established between God and themselves. This adoptive role in which God is to them a "father" and they are to him a "son" (cf. 2 Sam. 7:14) establishes the household of faith, the family of God. But the eschatological Son is Son not by adoption or
covenantal relationship; the eschatological Son is Son by nature, by ontological essence. This Son of God is without beginning or ending of days. This Son of God is before David, before Moses, before Abraham. This Son of God is I AM! John the Baptist confesses Jesus Son of God (1:34); Nathan confesses Jesus Son of God (1:49); we too must confess him Son of God. For this Son will make us (beget us) sons and daughters of the Father. By his Spirit, in and through his grace from above, we too will believe and confess that Jesus of Nazareth is the ontological and eschatological Son of God.
The eschatological rabbi comes to complete and to fulfill all the rabbinical imagery of the former era. If Israel yearns for the teacher who will make all things plain, Jesus comes to proclaim, "I AM HE!" This rabbi has, as it were, the law written on his heart. As he is the exegesis of the Father, so too he is the exegesis of the will of the Father. He teaches his followers all the wisdom hidden from the ages; he conveys the perfect will of God. In fact, this rabbi embodies the will of God. He himself is a living incarnation of that good and perfect will of the Father. No more Rabbi after him; no more rabbinical mystery after him. Jesus of Nazareth is the eschatological Rabbi. "Hear him!"
The eschatological Christ/Messiah comes to complete and to fulfill all the imagery of the Christ/Messiah of the former era. If Israel yearned for an anointed of the Lord like unto David, this One is great David's greater son. If Israel sang of One anointed with "oil above his fellows" (Ps. 45:7), this One is anointed with the Spirit of the end of the age. If John the Baptist may be mistaken for the Christ, he bears witness of the One upon whom the Spirit rests. If Andrew says that he has found the Christ/Messiah, this long awaited Jesus will be an unexpected an hidden Christ/Messiah. This eschatological Messiah opens heaven's realm; he tramples the powers of darkness beneath his feet; he extends his scepter from a bloody cross. And yet, this eschatological Messiah anoints his disciples with his very own Spirit (20:22). Jesus of Nazareth has the eschatological anointing and we receive that unction in confessing him "the Christ".
The eschatological prophet comes to complete and to fulfill the prophet imagery of the former era. If Israel longs for a prophet like unto Moses (cf. Dt. 18:15, 18); if the spirit of the prophets joins them to this majestic march
of redemptive history; if Malachi projects a prophet like Elijah suddenly coming to his temple, then Philip confesses that Jesus is that prophet (1:45). The mind of the Father is revealed in this One. The mystery hidden from the ages is manifest in him. What the prophets peered to see, what they searched as the spirit within them strained with the unknown, that has been declared in the "prophet" from Nazareth (cf. 1:45, 46). But now, in the end of the age, this prophet speaks from before the face of the Father. His words are the words of God. His revelation is the final prophetic word. In Jesus of Nazareth, the eschatological prophet has spoken. No more revelation beyond him!
The eschatological king comes to complete and to fulfill all the imagery of kingship of the former era. Israel's monarchy was launched in a shepherd-king, one who protected and ruled the flock of God. Israel's failed monarchy set the flock of God yearning for the ideal king who would reign in true righteousness and justice. This king would not show partiality nor would he shun the widow and the orphan. This king would deliver his people from their enemies and protect them within his citadelthe city of the great king. This king would sit upon the throne of David and to his court the nations would stream. Jesus of Nazareth is the eschatological king. Unto his throne are gathered the outcasts of the nations and he rules with grace and truth. The confession of Nathaniel (1:49) is the acknowledgment of a true disciple. No succession of kings any morethe eschatological King of kings has come to his own.
The eschatological man comes to complete and to fulfill all the imagery of man's relationship to his Creator of the former era. If Adam is made a little lower than the angels, if man in the image of God is crowned with glory and honor, then this One is before the angels and his glory makes him worthy of all honor. Whether apocalyptic or protological the eschatological Son of Man is the incarnation of what man was made to be. In this One that revelation is manifest. Jesus of Nazareth is the eschatological man. In him, men and women find their true human identityto have come from God and to go to God.
The Eschatological Ladder
The four scenes in 1:19-51 climax in the remarkable statement from
Jesus that he is the ladder bridging heaven and earth. Scene one (1:19-28) directs our attention from the last prophet of the former era to the eschatological prophet of the era in which heaven is semi-eschatologically present on earth. Scene two (1:29-34) declares baptism of the eschatological era to surpass every previous water ritual. Scene three (1:35-42) displays the eschatological Israel forming in the protological disciples. Scene four (1:43-51) contains various declarations of the presence of the eschatological Israel.
The theophany at Bethel (Gen. 28:10-22) is the background to the ladder imagery of Jn. 1:51. But that prototypical scene in which Jacob views the angelic host drawing the glory of the eschaton up and down is now to be surpassed in the eschatologically guileless Israelite. Jesus is no Jacob trickster, deceiver, cheater. Jesus is a true Israelitea prince with God. But even moreJesus is God. The transcendent view of Jesus is that all his disciples will learn he goes beyond Jacob-Israel, he surpasses the ladder at Bethel. For he is the one who beholds the face of God and he has shown/exegeted that face to us. On the ladder which is Jesus, we not only ascend to the Father, even now we possess all the gifts of the age to come as they descend to us!
As chapter one closes, we have been invited into the open heavens through Christ. This Jesus who is Lamb of God, Son of the Father, Rabbi, Messiah, Prophet, King and Son of Manthis Jesus is the incarnation of Israel and in him we become the Israel of God, the sons and daughters of God, the little flock of God, the ones anointed with the Spirit, the royal generation of heaven. As we move forward to chapter 2ff., we continue to confess and bear witness to Christ as the first disciples confessed and bore witness to him. By faith we have come and we have seen the Logos-Son, our Savior. In possessing him, we possess the ladder that bridges earth and heaven.
Genesis and the Real World
It Is Written
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." This seems pretty straightforward, doesn't it? And yet so much of what we read about Genesis these days implies that it's really not so straightforward, after all. Take, for example, the claim that in Genesis 1:1, the phrase 'the heavens', "refers to the component of space in the basic space-mass-time universe." And that, "the term 'earth' refers to the component of matter [or "mass"] in the universe..." (Only later is the planet earth itself made from this initial stuff called "the earth"). According to this interpretation then, Moses meant to say, 'at the beginning of time God created space and matter'.
Now, you certainly can't argue with the fact that God created what we call "space" and "matter". But was Moses really trying to specify those particular concepts here in Genesis 1:1? Did he need modern scientific categories to come along so we'd finally understand what he meant by the phrase, "the heavens and the earth"'? Or does this, in fact, sound more like somebody reading modern science into Genesis?
Interestingly enough, this "space " and "matter" interpretation is the opinion of Dr. Henry Morris (on pages 40 and 41 of his The Genesis Record). Dr. Morris has built quite a career and reputation on supposedly taking the Bible at face value, come what may. And in the mind of many conservatives, anyone who disagrees with him is necessarily indifferent to the Scriptures (to
say the least). Even so, I'm not at all sure how his exegesis could be called "literal" here, unless the word means something other than what I thought it did. But one thing is for sure: he's not giving us a straightforward reading of Genesis 1:1, call it "literal" or not.
Maybe I shouldn't single him out. Except that, as I said, he is so often taken to be the champion of straightforward, no nonsense interpretation of Genesis. And in this instance, he clearly does not do so. What's more, we don't have to be liberal, evolutionist badguys to see that he doesn't, either. Many others also offer commentary and opinions that, in one way or another, seem far removed from a plain reading of this passage of Scripture. And it doesn't always help to know whether the one commenting is a conservative or a liberal. Part of the problem may be that commentaries present Genesis to us in a dissected and analyzed form along with a lot of background material that is thought to be crucial to understanding the text. So much so that many commentaries just don't seem much like the Genesis that we remember reading in the first place. (The Genesis that Moses wrote, I mean). And we end up having trouble putting the two versions together in our minds. The actual words of Moses become, in a sense, replaced by the commentary, rather than being made clearer and more accessible to us.
Obviously, some of this can't be helped. A commentary is supposed to be more than a verbatim repetition of a particular passage. Or it just wouldn't be "commentary". It has to interrupt a plain reading if it is to do any commenting. Still, I wonder if, somewhere along the line, we haven't become dulled to the fact that the Bible itself is written. Written with just as much care and purpose as any commentary is. Writtennot some sort of mindless aggregate of unrelated words, thoughts and phrases that can only be made sense of by experts. Nor is the Bible a mere religious database from which to collate verses for the seven steps to this and the ten principles of that. The Bible was crafted in a premeditated way by those in whom the Spirit acted to write the Word of God in the first place. And this deliberately literary nature of scripture is often more evident in a plain reading of it than in the commentaries that are supposed to be helping us understand what we're reading. This seems especially true of Genesis 1. Oh, we're right in using commentaries and other tools. There's no excuse for laziness in Bible study. But I wonder
if, in the end, we aren't too easily satisfied with manipulations of words, phrases and imagesnever taking the time to go back and read what Moses (or any other Bible author) actually wrote. And to see if the commentary is really telling us what God said or not. There is something to be learned from those noble minded Bereans.
Now, making a big deal about the literary nature of Scripture might make you a little suspicious (especially in the context of Genesis 1). Suspicious because "literary character" usually means that a liberal is trying to sneak something in on you. There's no denying the fact that one way to 'handle' (rather than understand) Genesis 1 is to ostensibly appeal to its literary qualities. Concern for "literary genre', for example, is often just a pretext for purging a passage of its specificity, historically speaking. Genesis, "properly" interpreted, is not supposed to involve specifics of real world history. And so an endless parade of literary categories are inventively applied to Genesis 1 to make it historically inert. In fact, when talking about religion, many intellectuals use the terms "reality" and "truth" as merely existential categories rather than as both existential and ontological ones, like they do when talking about history and science. l mean that 'religious' or 'theological' truths of Scripture are treated as alien to the world of specific historic facts; as if there is no necessary connection between the two. 'Religious' meaning and actual facts are not seen as belonging to the same reality. Sort of like Aesop's fables. The people, places and events of his stories are not historically specific. Rather, they are vehicles for generalized truths. Truths contained in the gist or moral of the stories.
Paul, in talking about how history and religion are related to one another, makes the 'religious' meaning of the resurrection dependent upon the historic fact of the resurrectionl Corinthians 15. If we take away the fact we also take away the religious meaning too! This is no less true of Genesis I. Again though, certain ways of 'handling' Genesis narratives serve to keep them in a detached, literary world away from causing intellectual problems for the real world. Practically speaking, this attitude eventually makes religion little more than structured symbolism of realities that are ultimately knowable through nonreligious means (a la Joseph Campbell).
Anyway, the point is that intellectual subterfuge is not at all what I have
in mind by bringing up the literary nature of Scripture. Quite the opposite. Acknowledging literary dynamics of a Bible passage does not mean we accept that passage as nothing more than a literary dynamic. The passage does not have to be seen as locked in sort of an a-historical loop. The fact that Moses (or any other Bible writer) uses language in a premeditated, artistic way to articulate something does not reduce that articulation to mere metaphor or fable. In fact, it is through the literary character of Biblical revelation that its meaning is best guarded against the errors of wolves and of fools. When you and I talk to each other, we use all sorts of gestures, inflections and so onthings that provide context for the words we're usingas a way of getting our intent across. If the Bible, for its part, had no artistryno literary characterit would be far more difficult to pin down the intentions of its authors. This is certainly true of the narrative of Genesis 1.
There is nothing particularly mythic about the language, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." In the narrative that follows this declaration, Moses continues talking about this same "God". And he still talks about the same "heavens and earth" that God "created". And he uses straightforward language like "light", "sky", "land", "birds", "man" and so on. There's nothing here about using body parts of some deity to form the world we know. What then is so myth-like about this narrative?
Well, it's not so much the literary character of the narrative that gives some people the impression of myth-ness in Genesis 1. It is that what we read doesn't seem to them to fit the real world (at least as it has been articulated by our sciences). Genesis 1 is consequently 'interpreted' in a way that permits a kind of generalized understanding of ita religiously useful understanding without getting specific with real world detail. Rudolf Bultmann (one who approached the New Testament in this way) once wrote: "Myths give worldly objectivity to that which is unworldly". And that's just how many see Genesis 1. That is, as a vehicle to bring concrete, this world expression to truths that are actually beyond this world.
Divine revelation is not seen as being connected to the Bible in a way that demands absolute integrity of the textany textof Scripture. There is no intrinsically necessary connection between the specific way the Bible has come to us and divine revelation. The Bible is an accident of history, not
integrally involved in divine revelation itself. This attitude can be seen, for example, in the way that the revelational content of Genesis 1 is so often reduced and generalized to that of "general" revelation. Compare, for example, what Dr. Howard Van Till says about Genesis 1 in The Fourth Day and what Paul says we all know without even reading Genesis (Romans 1).
Nearly everybodyeven the more 'progressive' among usagrees that Genesis 1 presents God as the Creator. And, of course, it does teach this. The thing is though, it presents God as the Creator. Not as merely a creator or as merely creative. My point is that the assertion that God is the Creator is much more historically specificmuch more tied-in with the intricacies of real world historythan many modern commentators allow for. We aren't talking about a religious truth that is the consequence of reflection on reality. Reality is itself the consequence of God being "the Creator".
God is the Creator. That is specific. Too specific, in fact, to dismiss the possibility of conflict between the Bible and our culture's sciences. Attempts to bring these two together nearly always means subordinating the articulations of the Holy Spirit to those of the sciences. Where this two-world approach is used (see The Fourth Day and Portraits of Creation), you can never exegetically establish that God is the Creator. Oh, you might genuinely believe that he is the Creator. But you could not derive it exegetically. Not from Genesis 1, anyway. And that's because the issue here is not so much one of literary constraints of a genre on our thinking as it is philosophic constraints of our thinking being imposed on the text. For one thing, there would be nothing to link a supposed Near Eastern mythic world to the real one; nothing in the text itself, because we just don't have a 'moral of the story' to tell us what this supposed myth has to do with the real world, like we do with Aesop. In the end, the very attempt to save Genesis from 'too much' specificity, empties it of any real specific religious meaning too!
Your exegesis could be no more specific than to say that God is a creator, or that he is creative. You just can't expect an ancient Near Eastern myth to serve as proof that God is the Creator. All this accomplishes is to show that the god mentioned in the myth created the world of that myth (the a-historical loop I was talking about earlier). And we'd be left to imagine a connection between that mythic world and the real world of our experience. That con-
nection wouldn't be exegetical. It wouldn't be a teaching of Genesis 1. But the context of Genesis as a whole, and its place and use in the rest of Scripture eliminates such an approach to what Moses wrote, if we're going to take Genesis seriously.
Again, the problem with the modern approach boils down to the fact that what God created is the real world. This world that God is said to have created, here in Genesis 1, is the same world that the rest of Scripture takes place in. The same world, in other words, that the whole history of redemption unfolds in and partakes of. It is the venue God made to display his glory in. If the Genesis world was a metaphor, myth or saga, what must be said about what takes place in that make-believe world? Even Adam's sin and our need of a Savior would be part of the mythic construct. The idea behind so much of what we hear about Genesis seems to be that divine revelation is exclusively made up of truths that would obtain whether this world existed or not. But Jesus (the focus of divine revelation) was himself incarnated into this same Genesis world. He lived and died and rose gain in this God-created reality introduced to us in Genesis 1. The same reality that you and I now call "the real world".
What God Created
All Scripture is literary in nature. So identifying literary qualities in any particular portion of Scripture (say, Genesis 1, for instance), does not indicate that such a passage is merely metaphorical or poetic in character. It doesn't mean that it must be understood by just 'getting the gist of it' like we might a fable of Aesop. Nor does it make us "liberal" if we acknowledge the obvious literary nature of Scripture. There is, in fact, nothing up my sleeve in emphasizing that Scripture is deliberately composed writing. That's what it is. And we ought to read it that way. With that in mind, let's read Genesis 1 again (the narrative in view here actually covers Genesis 1:1-2:3. But I'll call it "Genesis 1" to make it easier to refer to). By the way, it would really help here if you'd have your Bible open.
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." I'm sure you know this verse by heart. But how does it read to you? I mean, is it a complete thought? Or is it completed only when you've finished reading the en-
tire narrative (Genesis 1:1 through 2:3)? I ask this because we often quote Genesis 1:1 as a proof-text for saying that God created everything. And yet, at other times, we take verse 1 as an incomplete thought. I mean, it is taken as the first of a sequence of discrete acts described in the course of the narrative ending up in verse 31. In other words, verse 1 says God created "the heavens and the earth". Then verse 2 picks up where verse 1 left off. He created more. Then verse 3 picks up where verse 2 left off. And so on until we read that the work is "completed" (2:1). Read in this way, verse 1 relies on the verses that follow it to round out the thought that it began; to complete the sequence of events that it started. Does "the heavens and the earth" refer to all that God created? Or does it refer only to some initial stuff?
Taken as an incomplete thought, of course, Genesis 1 can't stand by itself as a proof-text for saying that God is the Creator. "The heavens and the earth" would not then include vegetation (which doesn't show up until verse 11), birds and sealife (verse 20), land animals (verse 24), nor even man himself (verse 26). In fact, according to Dr. Morris, it wouldn't include the sun, the moon, the stars, or the planet earth! So again, what is Genesis 1:1 saying that God created?
I think that we are right in using Genesis 1:1 as Biblical proof that God is the Creator. In other words, that verse 1 here is a complete thought. Look, for example, at how the phrase, "the heavens and the earth" is used a little later, in 2:4: "This is the account of the heavens and the earth". 2:4 relates to us something of what comes from "the heavens and the earth", its resultant history. I do not believe that Genesis 1 is talking about the same thing. Genesis 1 is not "the account of the heavens and the earth". That is what the narrative initiated in 2:4 goes into. Genesis 1 is about the "creating" of the heavens and the earth.
The phrase, "the heavens and the earth" is not so much a list of what God created as it is telling us that God created everything. "The heavens and the earth" is to the range of things God created, what "springtime and harvest" is to passing time and "ladies and gentlemen" is to an audienceall inclusive. Joining two opposites into one phrase here indicates comprehensive inclusion, even of things not specifically listed. All of which is to say that in the beginning God created everything. Period.
Oh, and something else here. Saying that this creating took place, "In the beginning" isn't a problem either. Moses is not saying that 'at the first instant of time' God created the heavens and the earth. (This could be a problem because Moses would be saying that God created everything in an instant. Then he would go on to speak of the six days of creation). "In the beginning" corresponds to the phrases "when they were created" and "in the day that the Lord made earth and heaven" (chapter 2, verse 4). The reference is not to a point of time but to a period of time. A period that constitutes the early portion of history. Not, "At the beginning...", but "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
Genesis 1 in Context
Alright then, if for the sake of argument, Genesis 1:1 stands as a complete thought, how is it supposed to fit into the rest of the passage? Well, it seems to be something of a heading to initiate the narrative that follows it, 1:2-2:3. In fact, it seems that Moses planned out the entire book of Genesis in this way. That is, using headings to initiate narratives. The book of Genesis progresses from "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" to the children of Israel poised to enter the promised land. This progressive unfolding of God's plan (his election) can be easily seen in the headings themselves. These headings are characterized bywhat should I call them?toledot phrases. Toledot (toe-le-dote) is the Hebrew word often translated "generations". But here, see what I mean for yourself:
(Genesis 2:4) "These are the toledot of the heavens and the earth. "
(Gen. 5:1) "This is the book of the toledot of Adam."
(Gen. 6:9) "These are the toledot of Noah."
(Gen. 10:1) "these are the toledot of Shem, Ham and Japheth..."
(Gen. 11:10) "These are the toledot of Shem. "
(Gen. 11:27) "These are the toledot of Terah."
(Gen. 25:12) "These are the toledot of Ishmael. "
(Gen. 25:19) "These are the toledot of Isaac."
(Gen. 36:1) "These are the toledot of Esau."
[(Gen. 36:9) "These are the toledot of Esau." (yes, this is a repeat)]
(Gen. 37:2) "These are the toledot of Jacob. "
Where does Genesis 1:1 fit in? Well, suppose you were looking over Moses' shoulder as he wrote. And suppose that you noticed that he had used the toledot headings to shape and direct the narratives that make up Genesis. What's more, you were familiar with the creation stories of the surrounding nations; not to mention Moses' own education in Egypt. All of which, in some form or another, say that the creation is materially derived from divinity. Looking over his shoulder then, you might well have expected him to begin Genesis: 'This is the toledot of God.' Thus Genesis 1:1 would fit right at the top of the list I just gave you. It would fit his style as well as the conventional wisdom of the day.
So why didn't he do that? Quite simply because there is no toledot of God. And "the heavens and the earth" is not derived from God. The creation is not a product of divine 'substance' as was commonly held. God is just not part of the history of things in that way. God created the heavens and the earth out of . . . what? If the heavens and the earth is not a toledot of God, then what were they made out of ? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
It must be said here that the word "created" (Genesis 1:1; "bare" in the Hebrew), does not mean "created out of nothing", as is often suggested. Not by itself, anyway. Look down at verse 27, for example. There the word 'bare' is used several times. God "created" man. Male and female, he "created" them. Out of nothing? Hardly. Chapter 2 says that God made man out of the dust of the ground (2:7). And in I Corinthians 15, Paul makes something out of the fact that man did not come "out of nothing". This historic fact (revealed in Genesis 2) that man came from the dust of the earth is theologically important to Paul's discussion there (verses 42-49). So Moses did not use the word "bare" thinking that it meant 'created out of nothing'.
Don't get me wrong though. Genesis does teach that "the heavens and the earth" were created out of nothing ("ex nihilo", as we like to say). But it does so contextually rather than lexically. And that's where Genesis 1:1 comes in. Moses does not begin Genesis with 'This is the toledot of God'
because "the heavens and the earth" did not come out of God. History is not eternal. It is not simply an extension of the life of God. "The heavens and the earth" came out of nothing. And God made it come out of nothing. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." It is precisely its placement at the beginning of the toledot narratives that drives home the point that God "created" out of nothing. The universe is a toledot of nothingGod created it. It does not descend from anything, much less from God himself.
You see, Genesis 1:1 does belong at the beginning of the toledot narratives, right where Moses put it. After all, it too is a heading that initiates a narrative. And that narrative logically precedes the one that starts with "the toledot of the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 2:4).
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1)." That's where it all started. God made something for himself: the heavens and the earth. That is what our narrative here is about. Then, having established this, Moses goes on in Genesis to center our attention on "the toledot of the heavens and the earth (2:4ff.)". Out of everything that we might want to keep track of to trace the toledot of the heavens and the earthyou know, the vegetation, the animals, the birds, Adam and the rest of the stuff mentioned in chapter oneout of all of this, Adam is brought centerstage (5:1ff.). Then, out of all the people that make up the toledot of Adam (all of mankind to that point), Moses focuses on Noah (6:9ff.). And then his sons (10:1ff.). And then one son in particular, Shem (11:l0ff.). And so on. This narrowing of focus, this display of the election of God, continues (with some inclusions of reprobation) until we reach the toledot of Jacobthe children of Israel [here you may want to look again at the list of toledot headings above].
God, having brought history to this point, will further refine his revelation of himself in the law and so on. Ultimately, of course, Jesus is the final and complete focus of God's revelation of himself; the consummation of election in history; the goal of the law; the most perfect display of God himself. But, for its part, Genesis only goes through the toledot of Jacob.
We can see God through the course of Moses' writing of Genesis. God continually narrows the spotlight to focus on his own glory as history progresses toward Christ. From the creation of the venue of his glory, "the
heavens and the earth", to the people he has chosen to call his own and dwell among, Genesis is the revelation of God himself. That's what Moses wrote about. That is Genesis. To God be the glory...
Genesis 1 is the beginning of this revelation. In fact, it is quite a visual narrative for this very reason. Because of God's glory, I mean. Glory in the Bible is most closely associated with visual perception. It is something to behold. So Moses, quite appropriately, writes this very visually oriented narrative.
Genesis 1 is not a mere introduction to the rest of Genesis. At least, not in the sense that it falls outside of the revelatory message or the literary style of the rest of Genesis. It is part of the whole. And, accordingly, Genesis 1:1 is a heading for the narrative that immediately follows it (in lieu of a toledot heading, but having the same relationship to its narrative that the toledots do to what follows them).
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." All that God "created", including the angelic beings, is referred to in verse 1. But going on from there, Moses only narrates certain aspects of God's creative work (in 1:2-2:3, that is). The fact that particular facets of the universe are not mentioned though, should not be construed to mean that they fall outside of the assertion of verse 1. It only means that God through Moses, was not offering a mere inventory of all that he created. Moses' narrative takes place sometime "in the beginning" not after "the beginning". And what happens within the narrative has to do with the creating of the heavens and the earth, not with events after that creating (at least not until we get to chapter 2 and God's rest).
The Narrative of Moses
Moses wrote Genesis. And he did so deliberately. Which brings up the issue of literary devices. Any time that we talk about literary devices red flags go up. And that's because some of us are worried that the literalness of the "days" of creation are threatened. And if the "days" aren't taken as straightforward, 24-hour "days", then the integrity of Genesis 1 is being challenged. There are some legitimate concerns in this area. But whether the "days" are taken as 24-hour days, as epochal periods or as a literary cadence
of some sort, we still have little insight into Moses' narrative. The problem is that Moses relies on something other than the "days" to set forth the substance of what he wanted to say. So even if I could convince you of my opinion in this matter, we would have progressed little in our understanding of Genesis 1. It is for that reason that I'm going to bypass that issue for now.
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." This having been said, Moses then begins a creation narrative that falls somewhere within the all-encompassing assertion of verse 1. And he begins by setting the scene for his narrative: "Now the earth..." Excuse me, I need to interrupt myself for a second. I am generally following the New American Standard Bible (or version). But it incorrectly reads "And the earth..." here. It's not a big deal, except that it can be misleading. It suggests that verse 2 picks up where verse 1 leaves off. Which isn't true and isn't required by the language Moses actually used. Down in Genesis 2:4, there is a similar situation. There is a heading that initiates a narrative: "This is [the toledot] of the heavens and the earth. Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth..." The same prefix that is rendered "and" in 1:2 is rendered "now" in 2:5. The NASB should have followed their own rendering of 2:5"now"in 1:2 (like the NIV did). Now the earth was so and so....
"Now the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters" (1:2). Moses prepares us for what is to follow, by telling us about the initial setting of the narrative. Each of the elements will find expression and counterpoint in the body of the narrative. (You may also notice that these elements figure prominently in the later history of redemption. For instance, take a look at Jeremiah 4 and Revelation 21 and 22, when you get a chance).
First of all then, the earth was "formless and void". At least, this is how most of us remember the verse. The problem is that using "formless and void" to translate 'tohu' and 'bohu' gives us the wrong idea about what Moses was saying about the earth. He wasn't trying to conjure up images of a chaotic swirl of molecules somewhere out in space. The idea is that the earth was barren and uninhabited. This is also the meaning intended in the only other passage where these words occur togetherJeremiah 4:
"I looked on the earth, and behold, it was tohu and bohu; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking, And all the hills moved to and fro. I looked, and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens had fled. I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a wilderness ('bohu'), And all its cities were pulled down before the Lord, before His fierce anger." (Jer.4:23-26)
He looked upon the earth, the sky, the mountains and the land (hardly a chaotic swirl of molecules!). Not "formless" and "void". But "barren" and uninhabited". Moses' contrast in Genesis 1 is not between chaos and order, but between barren emptiness and the fulness of life. Just as the re-creation contrast is not so much chaos and order as death and life. "Now the earth was barren and uninhabited". It is this situation that will be dealt with in the coming narrative. Not the formation of a planet from some primordial swirl of stuff. To be more specific, the barren and uninhabited state of the earth will be addressed and counterpointed by the appearance of life on the earth; the vegetation, animals and finally, man. Man will then be given dominion over life (not necessarily over all the things mentioned in chapter 1). There will be no more 'tohu' and 'bohu'. The earth will be inhabited by life. Which is appropriate since the Creator is himself the living God. And Moses is talking about the creation of the venue for this living God's glory.
Another element that Moses presents is the "darkness". "And darkness was over the surface of the deep...." This "darkness" is nothing mysterious. And it isn't something that existed eternally, as some have suggested. Darkness is nothing. It is a non-category apart from the capacity of sight. Just as a shadow is nothing but what it takes from light, so too is "darkness" nothing without light. That's why Moses mentions it. He plans to address the matter of darkness in the narrative starting with "Let there be light". On the fourth day the sun, moon and stars visibly give light on the earth and regulate the light and the dark. These light bearers are given dominion: the "greater light" to "govern the day" and the lesser light (and starsPsalm 136:9) to "govern the night". This governing takes the form of their being seen in the sky at their appointed times. Thus the darkness is counterpointed in the narrative.
We should probably mention "the deep" or "the waters" too. While the
presence of the deep is here taken for granted, like the earth itself is, the deep is utilized in the narrative that follows. These waters will be parted like curtains to reveal the sky and then later, the dry ground. What's left of the waters will be called "the seas". And they will come to have living creatures in them. It's hard not to jump ahead to the flood, where the waters again prevail on the earth. And to the re-creation that God brings about after his wrath is spent. But here in Genesis 1, there is no hint of "the waters" as a tool of judgment. They are here, simply a part of the initial conditions of the narrative.
The last element, but by no means the least, is the stirring presence of God himself. "And the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters." The Spirit is brooding over this dark, lifeless earth. In the narrative that follows, he is mentioned some 31 times ("creating", "saying", "seeing", "calling", "making" and so on). Then the counterpoint: The Sabbath. The Spirit at rest. And the narrative is complete. It begins with God and it ends with God.
"Now the earth was barren and uninhabited, and darkness was over the surface of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters." This is, I believe, the literary device that Moses uses to artistically structure his narrative. He sets the scene and then goes on to develop it. It is a very deliberate narrative, not a myth or saga. God created a venue for his glory. Part of that venue (humankind) was made in his image to behold that glory. God saw that this venue of his glory did what it was supposed to do. He saw it and was pleased. He rested and was refreshed. That is Genesis 1.
Cultural Obstacles to Understanding Genesis 1
It is necessary here, to digress a bit. It may not be immediately obvious how this digression fits in with the discussion so far. But I hope to make it plain as soon as I can. Such a digression is made necessary, in my opinion, because of some deep seated assumptions that I find coming up all the time in discussions of the meaning of Genesis 1 (particularly when the relationship between the Bible and science is in view).
It's certainly no secret that we Christians have a credibility problem these days. Our culture sees us as we often see children, newlyweds and seminar-
ians. As being in dire need of a dose of real life, I mean. How many parents, frustrated with their teenager's unrealistic outlook on things, haven't resorted to: "Just wait till you get out into the real world. Then you'll see...." They will "see" just as soon as their naivete and idealism meet up with cold, hard reality. Or something like that.
Similarly, we Christians are thought to represent a kind of old world naivete. The way we look at reality seems naive and idealistic because we insist on always bringing up God and the Bible. Things that are okay as personal, private beliefs. But not the sort of things that make us practical and keep us grounded in reality. At least, not reality as our culture sees it.
Our view of reality is suspect because it involves so much reliance on the Bible. And this supposed naivete on our part, inevitably leads us to ideas and behavior that are considered culturally 'inappropriate' or just plain 'irrelevant'. Irrelevant in that we ask the wrong questions, we misframe the issues of life and, in general, we just don't seem to get it.
The upshot is that our culture takes upon itself the job of setting us straight. This is mainly done by imposing on us its idea of what "reality" means. And our culture's idea of reality either leaves no room for our beliefs, or it trivializes them. Trivializes them by assigning our religion to a special category of belief separated from reality. Nobody's expected to actually know anything about reality to have a religious belief.
This cultural attitude toward Christians and what we believe is nowhere more evident than in that part of our culture interested in things "scientific". Not that science is the only cultural activity where this attitude exists. Nor can it be said that everyone in science shares such an attitude. They don't. It's just that in public institutions that are passing on our culture, science holds a special place. A place that has made it the most powerful and authoritative cultural tool in our society's rejection of God. It hasn't caused that rejection. But it is being used to legitimize that rejection just the same.
For decades now, we have been taught that reality lies beyond our everyday, human faculties. And that the sciences offer our only objective interface with realitythe only way for us to really get in touch with the way things are. In school, to drive this lesson home, we were told that the desks upon which
our elbows rested were not really what they seemed to be. They were really made up of mostly "space" (referring to the 'spaces' in the atomic and subatomic structure of the material that makes up the desk). It was supposed to follow that our confidence in the solidness of desks was, therefore, something of an illusiona sort of crude approximation of reality. What we were so sure we knew about our desks was really just an impression derived from our rather dull senses and their inability to precisely engage reality. Thinking of the desks as "solid" is as close to reality as we can expect to come, left to ourselves. Through the sciences though we know better. (Oh, we may still talk about "solid" desks if we want to. But only as a naive convention of language. Because the desks aren't really solid, after all).
This lesson was supposed to impress upon our young minds that we need science in order to correctly articulate reality. And that it is through the sciences, rather than religion, that we actually come to understand reality. And further, that it is upon the sciences, rather than religion, that we must build engaged and relevant and responsible lives for ourselves, especially if we intend to be practical about things.
Another example of this culturally directed use of science in education was the insistence by our science teachers that the sun doesn't really rise and set. We were supposed to think in terms of the earth spinning on its axis as it orbits the sun. You know, like those wall charts with the sun at the center and all the planets going around it in elliptical orbits. That's the way things really are. We were supposed to realize that such an out-in-space perspective on things articulates reality much more correctly than our terrestrial perspective ever could. And, indeed, there are some special, technical situations where an out-in-space frame-of-reference is more useful than a terrestrial one. Like sending a spacecraft to give us a closer look at Jupiter and Saturn. Useful or not though, it is a bit much to claim that such an out-in-space perspective is more accurate that our usual, terrestrial one is, just because there are some uses for such a perspective. On the whole, there are comparatively few such uses in the life of humanity. Here again though, we were taught that because our everyday frame-of-reference is naive, we need science to give us the correct perspective on reality.
Now, don't get me wrong. What I'm saying is not anti-science. It would
be silly to sit here and deny subatomic phenomena or our galactic environment. And, in fact, I'm not trying to do that. I am taking exception though, to the cultural imposition of a particular, supposedly "scientific" attitude toward reality which is really a philosophic attitude. An attitude that insinuates that our human scale of reality is somehow less real than the subatomic scale of thingsthat our scale of experience is merely a second-hand, statistical impression of what's realjust because someone in a lab coat discovered subatomic structure in things. It simply does not follow that if we identify subatomic structure in a desk, for example, that the desk we see is less real than the particles and forces we don't see; as if the whole desk is nothing more than its subatomic parts. Or, more to the point, that "reality" is nothing more than a label to identify the furthest limits of our atomistic reduction of things. And that since only the sciences can "see" this reality, it is to the sciences that we must turn if we are ever to understand reality at all.
It's silly to insist that it is inaccurate or primitive, to talk about the sun rising and setting. Of course the sun rises and sets! It's not a matter of accuracy, but of being consistent with a particular frame-of-reference. And from here on earth, the sun rises and sets. It really rises and sets. There's nothing more realistic about an out-in-space view of things. The problem is that when "reality" is defined according to the prevailing theoretical view of things, then every time someone in science comes up with new numbers or a new spin on old numbers, we are expected to react by changing our whole view of what reality is.
Our culture seems to think that its sciences actually see behind the stage-set that most of us think of as reality. They can see behind it, what props it up and what makes it seem to be something it's not. Even God himself is seen as part of this facade of reality. The sciences have gone backstage and know what's real. This is just plain nonsense.
Nonsense or not though, that's where we are. And such depreciating of the human scale and the human frame-of-reference has taken its toll on Biblical religion in our culture. Obviously, Biblical religion doesn't come about by looking at the subatomic scale of things. Nor does it originate from considering large scale motions in the universe either. So it stands to reason that unless our religion is actually revealed to us by God (which is patently absurd
to our culture, and therefore not a real option at all), then it must have been dreamed-up at the human scalethe naive scale of things. And, in fact, religion is widely regarded as the outcome of efforts by human imagination to cope with reality rather than to actually understand and articulate it. Religion is assumed, thereby, to have no more grounding in reality than does our imagination. Our religion is reduced to mere personal and social conventionscategories imposed upon realityrather than being intelligently engaged articulation of reality like science is supposed to be. Again, you just aren't required to know anything specific about reality to have a religious belief. Religion isn't thought to be anchored in reality but in second-hand, remote impressions of reality.
To understand reality, we're expected to turn to our culture's sciences rather than to the Bible. Because human consciousness is at arm's length from what is real, it will be impossible to live out our lives in an engaged, intellectually responsible way if we rely on religion. So we're told, anyway. And this attitude has a profound effect on what is considered acceptable as far as Genesis 1 goes. Obviously, we can't understand it in a straightforward manner. That's so unrealistic!
We Christians should know better than to buy into this cultural deception. But I wonder sometimes. Hence this digression from Genesis 1. Reality is not at the limit of atomistic reduction of things. We don't find reality by smashing things into pieces until, at last, the pieces won't break anymore and then call that "reality". Nor do we find reality by flying off into space to see what we look like from way out there.
It ought to be plain enough from reading Genesis that "reality" is what was made to be viewed and experienced on the human scale and from within the human frame-of-reference. God did not place our consciousness at the wrong scale or within the wrong perspective. What we know as "reality" is the venue God created for his own glory. That's not just some sort of religious spin that we put on an otherwise inert, non-religious object called the universe. The universe is actually a thing to display the glory of God. And because this is so we'll never find the bedrock of realitythat which is irreducibly realby scientific inquiry. There isn't a more accurate scale on which we can perceive reality than the human one. Nor is there a more accurate tempo-
ral or spatial frame-of-reference that what we find ourselves in. For centerstage in the theater of reality is our Lord Jesus Christ.
This certainly does not mean that science says nothing about the universe. But a scientist does not, by his work, get as close to reality as he would if he understood Scripture and faithfully responded to God. The more he moves away from the human scale and the human frame-of-reference, the more he moves into incomprehensibility. Over the years some amazingly ridiculous claims about reality have been made based on the apparent behavior of subatomic particles. Again, the assumption being that this subatomic stuff gets us to the real-ness behind the impressions of our scale of experience (our "reality"). But, in fact, our culture isn't understanding reality better. Reality is becoming more and more incomprehensible. And as the absurdities multiply, so does our confidence that we understand more and more about the universe and the nature of reality!
It's awfully easy to lose sight of the centrality of Christ and the fit-ness of Scripture to substantively articulate reality. Our culture seems to have so much knowledge. And the way that such knowledge is presented to us doesn't help any, either. For instance: from millions of miles out in space, a camera was turned so that we could see what we look like from way out there. The earth looks like a bluish dot in a sea of darkness and stellar light. And we were given expert commentary on what we were seeing. What we saw is powerful evidence of our insignificance in the grand scheme of things. Just see for yourself. All of which trivializes man and the events that have taken place on earth.
God's glory and our responsibility to appreciate that glory are trivialized by our culture. Trivialized by requiring that we change the scale of our thinking and the perspective from which we think about the earth and the events that have taken place here. We are expected to see that praising God is but one of a number of possible responses of the otherwise non-religious, objective events of reality.
We are supposed to realize that Biblical history even Jesus himselfis but a tiny element of the history and composition of the universe as a whole. Our religion is just our spin on that tiny part of the universe that happens to
fall within our naive range of experience. Salvation in Jesus Christ is but one of a myriad of issues and topics we could choose to pursue. Glorifying God is not viewed as an intelligently engaged or enlightened response to the real world. It is merely a personally meaningful way of ordering our very limited range of perceptions and experiences. So we're told.
Seeing the Bible as something capable of articulating reality is patronizingly deemed old world naivete. This is because, of course, the Bible was generated on the human scale and from within the human frame-of-reference. Its language is restricted to a narrow range of experience from within those dimensions. As our knowledge and awareness goes beyond these primitive restrictions, we're better able to frame questions and concerns to fit our more comprehensive grasp of reality. We can step back and appreciate the diversity of perspectives from which to view the real world. (In my own denomination, there was an officially sanctioned traveling sideshow designed to teach this very thing. It is so sad to see Calvinists who once worked so hard to give our religion cultural expression now being satisfied in merely giving our culture religious expression).
God created this universe to serve his purpose. And he has chosen to speak to us on the human scale and from within the human frame-of-reference. It is here at the center of things that God revealed himself to us in his Son-revealing himself in a fullness and clarity unprecedented in all of the universe, at any possible scale or from within any possible perspective. The earth isn't important because of where it is in the universe. But because this is where Jesus came. The events of the Bible aren't important because of where they fall in the line of history of the universe. But because those events have to do with Jesus.
The best place to begin understanding the real world is with the fear of the Lord and in departing from evil. This is true for both the scientist and the carpet cleaner. What we Christians are about has everything to do with reality. Not just some personally meaningful, fringe realities. But the very heart of reality itself.
You see, Genesis 1 is not a naively conceived account of things. There's no reason why it would have been written differently if it were written today
instead of in Moses' time. We should not confuse our assessment of our cultural sophistication with the wisdom of God. And we ought not presume that God had to condescend to the ancients but not to us. As if we have gotten beyond where they were so that we don't need to listen to what Moses says in Genesis 1. We haven't. Maturity isn't measured by cultural technology. For we in western culture are no more grown up than any son of Adam or daughter of Eve has ever been. The 'darkness' of an age is not determined by its religious devotion, but in what it does to either acknowledge or to conceal reality. Reality that was created by God to glorify God.
The fact that God did not choose to send Jesus to the spatial center of the universe, or to reveal himself only to particle physicists does not make the history of redemption incidental to reality. Nor does it make our interest in the things of God merely an arbitrary choice out of a whole universe of possible interests. Our religion deals with what the Creator says is important and significant in the universe he made. If we look elsewhere, our grip on reality will be compromised. The Holy Spirit, through Moses, wrote Genesis to introduce us to God, the Maker of the real world. We ought not presume to rise above his condescension to us.
Resuming Moses' Narrative
Returning again to our reading then: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was barren and uninhabited, and darkness was over the surface of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, 'Let there be light', and there was light."
Okay, so where is this "light" that Moses is talking about here? Does his narrative take us to the center of the universe? Are the several degrees of 'background' radiation that we detect in space, the remnant of "Let there be light"? No, no, no. That's not it at all. Moses does not mention light in order to account for electromagnetic radiation. Nor does he care here whether light is particle or wave. Light is mentioned because it makes it possible for the reader to see. To see the glory of God. That is, light has a place in this narrative because it relates to human beings and our necessary appreciation of God.
At this point in the narrative, you don't see the light so much as you see by means of the light. When you turn a light on in your room, it is not so much the light itself that greets your eyes. It is the objects in the room that are illuminated by the light that you see. It isn't until the fourth day that there are any apparent sources of light to actually look at. But the fact that vision is possible is important to Moses here. The stage is lit, so to speak.
Where is the "and there was light" taking place? Well, let me ask you this: where is the darkness? Moses sets up his narrative by mentioning that "darkness was over the surface of the deep" because that is precisely where the light now is too. He goes on to say that the light and darkness were not in the same place at the same time. I mean, there is a separation between the two; between seeing and not being able to see.
The separation is not so much spatial as it is temporal. For God named the lightthe time of seeing"day" (a temporal designation). And the darknessthe time you can't seehe named "night". All of which leads to that familiar refrain, at the end of this same verse: "And there was evening and there was morning, one day." This evening/morning phrase will also serve to divide the several activities of God as Moses' narrative progresses. "Evening" signals the end of the day (light), "morning" the end of the night (darkness). Each of God's activities seem to take place in the day, rather than the night.
The sky is next. Perhaps "the waters" which are above the sky [the clouds?] blocked the sun, moon and stars from sight. I don't know. But, in any case, these upper "waters" sort of just fade out of the narrative. The waters below the sky, however, will be the subject of another "day". The sky itself will come to be a place to see birds, the sun, the moon and the stars. But not yet. For now, the sky keeps "the waters" at bay, separated from the waters above. "And there was evening and there was morning, a second day."
Now come the landscape and the seas. The "waters" which were once separated like curtains to reveal the sky are drawn back and gathered to let the land appear. And God causes plants and trees to grow up from the land. The end of the 'tohu' and 'bohu' is near for the land is living. "And there was evening and there was morning, a third day."
At this point the sun, the moon and the stars become visible. Not all at
once mind you. The sun is seen in the day, the moon and stars at night. Moses probably doesn't mention these "great lights" until now (rather than when there was first light), simply because from the terrestrial perspective of his narrative there was no place for them. He says that they belonged in the sky, the place where we would see birds. And the sky was not, as such, around until the second day. So he pretty much had to wait until at least the third day to mention them.
Question: Is Moses naive for not calling the sun a star? Would he have called the sun a star if he'd written Genesis knowing what we know? No. It may serve a particular purpose to call the sun a star. But to do so is not, ipso facto, a more accurate way of describing the sun. From here on earth, the sun does not look or act like a star. It isn't even seen at the same time as the stars. And there is nothing more real about adopting an out-in-space perspective to talk about the sun. Similarly, it is not naive to speak of the moon as a "light", even though we know that it reflects light rather than generates it. It is a source of light, from a terrestrial perspective. A more 'scientific' account would not be any more true to reality than what Moses has written here. He is being consistent with the frame of reference of his narrative.
In the daytime, the source of the light of day 1 can be seen. Maybe the waters that were above the sky only let light in without the sun actually being visible (as on an overcast, cloudy day). l don't know. Moses did not bother to tell us everything that happened. Even about the making of the earth itself. He just starts out his narrative with the earth as given. Other details that we might have included, were we writing Genesis 1, are also passed over. I'm thinking of the heat of the sun and the tidal effects of the moon. Things like that. So it is not far-fetched to imagine that he leaves out other details too, confining himself to details relevant to his narrative. In this case, the appearance of light on day 1 and the appearance of light-givers on day 4.
The idea that the sun was itself obscured by something like overcast skies on day 1, seems more fitting to Moses' narrative than other scenarios I've heard. Particularly so the view that God created a sourceless light (a creation that would no longer be part of the heavens and the earth). Oh not that God couldn't do that if he wanted to. But why would he? And why would Moses tell us about a part of creation that was irrelevant to creation itself
after the fourth day? Not to mention using space in this brief narrative to mention something irrelevant to Genesis 1 or any of his later narratives or to the rest of Scripture? There is no reason to think that Moses conceived of a sourceless light in day 1.
Moses says that "God made the two great lights.... " But the sentence isn't finished (in case you were thinking that the sun and moon didn't exist till now). "God made the two great lights... to govern." To govern the day and the night, that is. So the wording here isn't really a problem. The sun, the moon and the stars are given dominion over the light and the darkness. That is what they were made for. These lights would now be visible at their appointed places and times, which is probably the substance of their dominion. I mean that their dominion would be tied up with their being seen rather than their assuming an active, cognitive ruling of something. Again, in keeping with the visually oriented narrative of Moses. "And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day."
Birds and sea creatures are introduced onto this stage now. The 'tohu' and 'bohu' are addressed yet again. The skies have life in them. And so do the waters that were once barren and uninhabited. "And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day."
Next onto the scene are the land animals: "cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth". And then, in the completion of the counterpoint to the 'tohu' and 'bohu' man is created. Created and given dominion over life. [Which only makes more terrible the fact that we chose death over life there in the garden and later spread it to the ends of the earth. And isn't it something to marvel at that we who were children of death should now be charged with bringing the word of life to the ends of the earth?Matthew 28:18-20]. As the image bearer of God, man is at once part of God's created venue or stage for his glory and the audience to behold that displayed glory. Remember though that man is not the central figure in Genesis 1. God is. This narrative isn't about the greatness or worth of man. The bearer of the image of God is given dominion over life. That is where man fits in here. Moses is narrating the creation of the venue of God's glory. God saw that this venue did what it was supposed to and was pleased with what he had done. "And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day."
Chapter 2, verse 1 brings us back to the beginning of Moses' narrative. The creating is done. God created the heavens and the earth. But the narrative is fully completed only when the Spirit that moved over the waters rests from all his work. "Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God created and made." [That's the sabbath day to remember in order to keep it holy. For since Israel did not enter it, it remains for some to enter it. There remains a sabbath rest for us! We have a stake in that rest of God that Moses talks about (Hebrews 4).]
This is Moses' narrative. It is not some sort of a naive, primitive myth that we must condescend to. We are today in the same frame-of-reference that Moses was, way back then. Moses (and through him, God) is talking to us as much as he was talking to the people of his day. And, contrary to many modern opinion makers, Moses is not merely anticipating Paul's discussion in Romans 1 here.
He begins by declaring that God created the heavens and the earth. And that this creation is venue for God's glory. This glory of God is most often conceived of in terms of our visual sense. It is something we see. Moses' narrative here is therefore appropriately very visual in style, not mythic. It has to do with the real world.
One day this venue, this "heavens and earth", will give way to a new venue, "a new heavens and a new earth" (Revelation 21). And just as we are suitably made for this one, so we will be given new bodies suited to that one. That new venue will not be tohu and bohu. The deep will be gone. And there will be no darkness, no time that we cannot see the glory of God, "for there shall be no night there". And life will be everywhere and always. And we will enter God's rest. And God will be glorified there forever. Even so, Lord come quickly.
Geerhardus Vos, Grace and Glory: Sermons Preached in the Chapel of Princeton Theological Seminary. Edinburgh, Scotland and Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1994, 276 pp., $15.95 cloth. ISBN: 0-85151-663-7.
This volume needs no commendation from me; nor does it require promotion to our readers. We have eagerly anticipated the announcement of its release. Its contents were featured in these pages when, in 1986, Kerux published the first previously unpublished sermon from Vos's personal sermon notebook. The Banner of Truth Trust under the direction of Iain Murray has packaged all the Grace and Glory sermons of 1922 together with the sermons printed in Kerux. The Board of Kerux, Inc. is deeply indebted to the Trust for gathering the extant Vos sermon corpus into one volume.
As the readers of this journal know already, these messages are a feast of Christ-centered and God-centered preaching. In fact, we taste the fruit of a tree that will never bring death or sorrow or banishment. We are filled with the meat and drink of the word of lifean inexhaustible source for those hungering and thirsting for righteousness. In our lost estate, we are assured of the seeking, saving grace of our all-sufficient Savior. We are greeted, as Mary Magdalene was on that first Easter morn, with a risen Savior. Our ministryour erasurpasses the Mosaic as the glory of the age to come surpasses the veil over Moses' face. We sojourn, as Abraham did, looking for that heavenly citythe new Jerusalem. We run a race in which we wait upon and long for the communion which comes from above. Our hope is rooted and grounded in heaven which has become ours by rebirth from the dead. The resurrection life which has burst upon us since the empty tomb transforms us from glory to glory. Our hearts sing the songs of Zionthe new Zion where righteousness dwells. Our path to glory lies along a road marked Self-denial, every step of which is overshadowed by a cross. Our captain in this pilgrimage is the Son of God himselfthe ever-same Jesus Christ. His resurrection is the guarantee and assurance of our own. He feeds us at his table, provisionally even now as we lift the cup and taste the bread. Our feast in remembrance of his sacrifice is not only a nourishing of our heart's delight, but a reminder of the awful holiness of God.
This volume completes phase one of the goal of the Board of Kerux to make unpublished Vos materials available to the church. Phase two is the publication of his "Old Testament Eschatology" manuscript and phase three is the English translation of his Dutch letters to Herman Bavinck and Abraham Kuyper. We hope to have news of the availability of these items in a year or two.