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Christianity and Science, Guest Posts, theology

The Life Dialogue: Matt Moss Guest Post Part 3

This is part 3 of a series of guest posts by Matt Moss on the Genesis Creation account. Check out the first post here, and the second here.

Thesis 5Genesis 1 – 2 describes the whole of creation as God’s (pre-fall) Temple.

When examining the seven days of creation we see several factors that indicate something cultic (meaning religious) taking shape. The first three days show a forming of the earth which (in v. 2) was “without form.” In the second set of three days you see a filling of the earth which (in v. 2) was “void.” Walton, in keeping with his functional model suggests a better translation of these words tohu and bohu (without form and void). Similar to bara’ he provides a survey of tohu’s use in the Bible (bohu occurs three times, always with tohu) and shows that the word “describes that which is non-functional, having no purpose and generally unproductive in human terms (48-9).” In light of this, the state of tohu and bohu means that the earth has a functional non-existence. Thus, when God begins His bara’ work, the functional bringing into existence of all that He does, Genesis 1 wants us to see what purpose everything serves.

Examining the functions in Genesis 1 we will find many parallels to the religious life of ancient Israel as studied in Exodus, Leviticus, and the rest of the OT. I’d like to turn now to days 4 – 7 of the Genesis 1 account (1:14 – 2:3) to examine the indicators that the Genesis 1 cosmology is a temple cosmology.

Genesis 1:14-19 (ESV) – “And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.”

So let’s look at what functions these lights in the sky are given:

1) to separate the day from the night

2) to be for signs and for seasons (moed) and years

3) to give light upon the earth

4) to rule the day & night

5) to separate the light from the darkness

Now you may be asking yourself, “I don’t see anything here that is particularly temple focused. First I would like to point out that in a society where watches & clocks are not present, the Sun, Moon, and stars are what tell you when it is time to worship (they did so much more often than once a week). Second, we can see throughout the OT that specific days of specific months are given festivals and holidays. These were mapped out by using these very lights, after all that is their given purpose in point two, “to be for signs and for moediym and years.”

The word moed occurs 223 times in the OT, so we have a large cross section of uses to help us nail down the possible meanings and the intended meaning within this context. The basic lexical entry is “appointed time.” However it is important to note that in Exodus 23:15, God says, “You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the moed in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt.” At the very beginning of the cultic/religious life of Israel upon exiting Egypt this word is tied to their religious festivals! Throughout Exodus, Leviticus, & Numbers moed is unanimously used in the phrase “tent of meeting (moed)” for the tent in the centre of the Tabernacle (the travelling version of the Temple before Solomon builds the first Temple). Now, beyond this there are countless uses of moed as “appointed time” in the worship life of Israel. I would thus maintain that Genesis 1 claims the functional purpose of the Sun, Moon, and stars is to indicate the daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly worship schedules of God’s people. In other words, when the ancient Israelite children asked their parents, “why is that moon shining in the sky?” the parents would answer in accord with Psalm 104:19 and say, “God made the moon to remind us when to observe the Feast of Passover and the other feasts/festivals.”

There is one more minor indicator that I would like to bring up when discussing the functional creation of Light. When we examine Genesis 1 as a Temple cosmology we realize just why something seemingly inconsequential like the Golden Lampstand (Ex. 25:31ff) is present in the Temple. Not only does it serve to light the room, but it is absolutely necessary to have this light in the Temple because this Temple reflects the Cosmic Temple corrupted in the Fall. If the Cosmic Temple has Light (Gen 1:3-5, 14-19) so must the Tabernacle/Temple have that Light (Ex. 25:31-40; 2 Chron 4:7).

Genesis 1:20-23- “And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.”

Granted, there is not much here that we would directly relate to the Temple if we did not first see that days 4-6 are paralleling days 1-3. Now, when we look back to verses 6-8 and read it in the light of other ancient Near Eastern cosmologies we see that on days two and four more than any other we find the physical shape of a temple. The Lutheran Study Bible footnote on these verses is very helpful in pointing out the structural/functional aspect of how the “expanse” works and the image it evokes. “The point of the image is the function rather than the substance: the sky serves as a divider. The Israelites often used figurative terms to describe the cosmos as it appeared to them (cf. Is 40:22, where the sky is described as a “curtain” and a “tent”).”

[Further expansion of thesis 5 coming later this week]

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

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  1. Pingback: The Life Dialogue: Matt Moss Guest Post Part 4 « - July 26, 2010

  2. Pingback: The Origins Debate Within Christianity « - August 9, 2010

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