Christianity and Science, Creationism, Guest Posts

The Life Dialogue: Matt Moss Guest Post Part 4

This is part 4 of a series of guest posts by Matt Moss on the Genesis Creation account. Check out the first post here, the second here, and the third here.

It would now be my contention that day two and its parallel day four are the building and filling of the Cosmic Temple. In the religious Tabernacle/Temple of Israel this comes off a bit differently because of the Fallen status of the world. Day 2’s establishment of the expanse parallels the setting up of the tent of the Tabernacle and the walls of the Temple. Notice then that day 5 is the creation/assignment of the birds of the sky (above the tent’s curtain) and the sea creatures (below the tent’s foundation). What fills the temporal Temple will come on days 3 and 6.

For now I would like to add one more decorative indicator of Temple cosmology. If you remember your temple diagrams that you’ve seen and the Levitical procedures you may have read about in various OT courses/studies, you will surely remember the pools and the washings! Priests had to regularly wash themselves and their robes before proper use in the Temple. For the Tabernacle, see Exodus 30:17-21. And for the Temple see 1 kings 7:23-26; 2 Chron 4:2-5. As with the lampstand above, these serve a symbolic purpose as well as a practical one! They are part of the Temple precisely because they are part of the Cosmic Temple in Genesis 1!

Genesis 1:11-13 and 24-25, “And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day… [day 6] And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”

As foreshadowed above, on day 3 we have a further establishment of the Cosmic Temple and on day 6 we have the first part of the filling of the Cosmic Temple. First I will deal with day 3. While travelling through the wilderness, the Israelite Tabernacle did not uproot and replant trees in the Tabernacle every where they went. However! You will read and see Acacia wood being used in everything from the Ark of the Covenant to the pillars that hold up the curtain and the walls of the Holy Place (see The Lutheran Study Bible page 141 for a great breakdown of materials used). The tent posts all the way around the outer court too serve as a garden image with all their rich colours. Later in the Solomonic Temple, there is a similar tree-like architectural feature. First we note that cedar and cypress timber from Lebanon was used (1 Kings 5:8-9; 6:14-18). Just as the trees and vegetation of day 3 served to decorate the Cosmic Temple, so also the acacia, cedar and cypress wood are used to decorate Israel’s Tabernacle & Temple.

As for day six, I have isolated the first part from the second part (mankind) simply because man deserves a bit of time on his own. Much like the birds and fish are to fill the Cosmic Temple but are kept out of the temporal Tabernacle/Temple, so too these animals are included in the Cosmic Temple BUT are only brought into the Israelite Tabernacle/Temple to be sacrificed (more on this later!).

Genesis 1:26-31- “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

I’ll cut right to the chase. Man is the priest of the Cosmic Temple. This becomes even more explicitly clear in 2:15, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” These two tasks, “to work it and keep it” (avad and shamar) are only used together in reference to the Levitical priesthood. Upon God’s resting of day seven, the Cosmic Temple is fully ordered and filled, that is, it is fully functional! God is present and he places His man in the Garden of Eden, the Holy of Holies of this Cosmic Temple, to be the High Priest who serves God by working and keeping this Temple. And at the centre of this Cosmic Temple stands the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil. Man is given one command by which he might serve and love the gracious Creator, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die (Gen 2:16-17).”

Despite avoiding material creation questions throughout his book, Walton appears to lean toward the special creation of mankind. He therefore rejects the evolution of man even though he allows room for evolution of animals. For him, Genesis 2 allows us to have a material understanding of man’s formation/creation (out of the dust). I don’t think it’s the strongest part of his book, but for now I am too fixated on the notion of the man as priest of the Cosmic Temple.

God then makes a suitable helper for the man (gender roles, order of creation, marriage, and the like are topics for further discussion in other forums). We all know what happens next. The perfect, complete, finished, and functional Cosmic Temple, perfectly and wonderfully ordered by God that He might live in communion with His creation, is disturbed. No, that’s too weak a description. The fully ordered creation is hurled into disorder, chaos, and disarray. SIN enters in 3:7.

The next post will discuss Thesis 6.

About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.


6 thoughts on “The Life Dialogue: Matt Moss Guest Post Part 4

  1. Matt,

    It seems to me that this “temple theology” account of Genesis could easily be compatible with any of the views I’ve been discussing throughout this series (namely, Young/Old Earth Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Theistic Evolutionism). In fact, it seems to me as though, if we are to read the Genesis account in this manner, then it is extraordinarily friendly to just about any “origins of life” view, as long as that view involves God in some manner. What are your thoughts on this? Do you see this view as conducive to theistic evolution, for example?

    I think it definitely would be, if one takes this as THE way to read the text. Instead of having a literal creation account, then, we have a theological narrative which takes creation and parallels it with the temple (a hypothesis which seems highly likely and would also wed very well with N.T. Wright’s view of Christ).

    Of course, now that I’ve mentioned N.T. Wright I can’t help but notice how very well this view of the Genesis account would line up with his view of Christ, that is, that Christ saw Himself in some ways as the “new” Temple and was doing things only God could do. I’m not sure how familiar you are with the breadth of Wright’s work, but if you are familiar enough, I’d like to hear your thoughts on this, because it seems as though if one took the creation account as temple theology, and then took Jesus as a temple figure (not downplaying his divinity, but certainly making a different account than traditional theology has), then we have a highly coherent account of the whole of Scripture, framed as it is by the Temple.

    Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 26, 2010, 8:57 AM
  2. It’s not NT Wright’s view of Christ as new temple… Christ claimed that interpretation first (John 2:18-22). My later posts delve into this whole Christ/Cosmos Temple discussion even more… eventually seeing Revelation 21-22 as an “inclusio” that parallels (in Chiasm) Gen 1 -2.

    As to the creation models: Walton has a whole section dedicated to listing the errors that each view presents when lined up with this scriptural account. I would add my own critiques to Walton’s model as well to the others. Theolistic Evolution for one often has God start the process but then go hands off, that is completely contrary to the Biblical view of God as creator AND sustainer of all life. The Biblical view is that God starts it AND is daily involved in the operations of this world.

    “In fact, it seems to me as though, if we are to read the Genesis account in this manner, then it is extraordinarily friendly to just about any “origins of life” view, as long as that view involves God in some manner.”
    > Involving God in some manner is a gross understatement of what this view purports. Other ancient Near Eastern cosmologies have their gods involved in some (limited) manner. In Gen 1-3 and in the rest of Scripture God is the sole source, provider, and sustainer of all life.

    I can’t speak for Walton beyond what he’s written, but I would still hold that models of the origins of life that include death of the living are directly contrary to the Biblical account. I would like to note that what modernity calls “life” is not necessarily what Genesis calls “life.” As we see the plants are given for food before the Fall. We would include plants as “lifeforms.” Biblically, for something to “have life” means that it has the breath (ruach-spirit/breath/wind) of life in it- creatures and humans.

    I know we’ve talked about this before, JW, but I’ll reiterate it. We need to be less eager to jump into bed with the various Origins of Life explanations. 1) They attempt to mask faith as science. Even pure atheistic evolutionists need to admit that their model is more based in faith than science. They interpret evidence based on a priori suppositions that cannot be empirically proven because the hypothesis cannot be tested with repeated trials (I recall that being part of the “Scientific Method”). 2) If we acknowledge that these origins of life groups are truly based in faith and not solid science then we need to see just how far from The Faith they have gone. For this, Walton does an adequate job pointing out the Scriptural weaknesses of each of the ones you have cited. I would add some Scriptural weaknesses to his own view and those he cites. 3) When we jump to origins of life discussions we are hastening to tertiary questions (in the eyes of the Biblical text).

    One of my main points in this entire series of posts is that the question of how/when life came about is at best of third degree importance.
    Of primary importance is: God, the true and only God of Israel, is the Creator of all things. (answers the question “Who?”)
    Of secondary importance is: Why did God make this, that, us, and so on? This metaphysical question gets to the very heart of the meaning of life! The debates about the ORIGIN of life CANNOT give answer to the MEANING of life. And I would contend that Scripture is almost wholly taken up with this very metaphysical question of the purpose of our existence. If the “how” question comes in third I hardly think we need to discuss it at the length that it has been discussed in books, debates, and media. After all, can we ever fully exhaust the metaphysical question? Why should we so concern ourselves with the mechanics of “how” and “when” when our daily lives demonstrate great misunderstanding of the metaphysical question of “why are we here?”

    If you really want a mechanical “how” for the origins of life, turn to John 1, not Genesis 1. John 1 will interpret Genesis 1’s how… How was everything made? “All things were made through him (the Word of God), and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

    For apologetic purposes with atheist evolutionists, there can be no honest discussion on the mechanics (how and when) of the origins of life until they admit that their model is based primarily on faith in their own suppositions, not empirical, scientific evidence. The biblical understanding is certainly based on things we cannot test, observe, or see and we’re willing to admit that. The atheist’s understanding, whether it’s the Alien Sperm, the Big Bang, Anti-matter, or whatever, they are all based on suppositions that cannot be tested, observed, or seen. Once they admit their own faith THEN we can talk on an equal plain about historic grounds for such opposing faiths.

    Posted by Matt | July 26, 2010, 9:52 AM
    • Matt,

      Despite the misgivings of other origins of life views, I still think this specific view of Genesis 1-3 as “… an ancient Temple Cosmology that does not specifically address the questions of how or when God did His material creating work. ” (this from the end of your 5th post) paints these chapters more as metaphorical than it seems you are using them. I’m not sure if I’m making too much of an “either/or” distinction here, but it at least seems to me as though one cannot first declare that Genesis 1-3 is ancient temple cosmology which doesn’t address the workings of the material world and then turn around and use it as literal, specific history of how the material world worked.

      It seems to me that if we are to take this account as a “type” of Temple Cosmology pointing ahead towards Christ, it certainly opens it to use for any ‘origin of life’ position. While one may argue that typology or metaphor does not strip any literal meaning away, and that therefore the Genesis account does raise extreme issues with certain accounts of the origins of life, one could also argue that the whole thing is a metaphor for temple theology.

      I may be wrong, but it seems this view can be comfortable with anyone from Young Earth Creationists to Theistic Evolutionists.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 11, 2010, 12:31 AM
      • JW- to quote a seminary professor, your problem is not your theology, it’s your philosophy. You’ve spent 20+ years living in a western society engrossed in Aristotelian philosophy, Hegelian dialectic, and countless other world-view affecting philosophies that are completely foreign and absent in the writing of this ancient near eastern Hebrew narrative.

        For instance, you say that the Cosmic Temple reading paints these chapters as metaphorical. Sure, that might be a problem for an Aristotelian where every metaphor has a type and arch-type. If Aristotle ruled over Genesis then we would have trouble- because the type is never actually the arch type. Betty is a rose, but she is in historical factual truth, NOT a rose. We cannot force a Hebrew narrative that pre-dates Aristotelian philosophy into that type of box. That’s how I would respond to your second paragraph. One cannot as you say, “argue that the whole thing is a metaphor for temple theology,” because now that one is transposing Aristotelian understandings of metaphor onto a text that works differently with metaphors, puns, and literary devices that themselves have changed over time. The same is true for typology. I see nothing inherent in typology that denies historicity. As another seminary professor likes to say, “Jesus didn’t fulfill passages, he fulfilled historical events.” If we think as Christians, even as skeptics, does it not logically flow that a God who is daily active in His creation can preserve, guide, and direct human history to accentuate His Son? A modern interpreter may look at typology and say, “it’s just the author’s attempt to make a point, a mythological truth not based in reality (Aesop’s fables).” That, however, is a wrong-headed question. It does not consider if that is what the author of Genesis is doing. Let’s assume for discussion that Moses is the author/compiler of Genesis. Is it not possible for him to take the oral history and record it with tabernacle language considering he and his Israelites are traveling through 40 years of wilderness (functionless chaos) and God’s own Self-designed place of reconciliation is the Tabernacle. What a perfect source of imagery to tell the history.

        We see this in the Gospels too! Rather than harmonize the Gospels into one long account, read them individually. Each takes different facts of the crucifixion, leaving some out, choosing different words or images all to convey a specific image of the crucifixion for the intended audience of each Gospel. The Crucifixion is no less historical because Mark portrays it as Jesus being abandoned, mocked, and derided by all and Luke portrays it as a Roman praise-worthy death. Both include the history, but they tell it with a purpose for their hearers. I would say Moses tells Genesis 1-3 as he does not to deny any literal or historic understanding of God’s creative action, but because his hearers need to hear it spoken of in this manner. If their society was full of evolutionists and atheists who purported the kind of stuff we hear today perhaps Moses would have used less Temple imagery and more clear, material wording like we would like to have today.

        For the record, I don’t think it’s all just one big metaphor. I’ll demonstrate this by addressing your comment, “it at least seems to me as though one cannot first declare that Genesis 1-3 is ancient temple cosmology which doesn’t address the workings of the material world and then turn around and use it as literal, specific history of how the material world worked.” You’re painting with too broad a brush. In Genesis 1 the text does not give much if any answer to HOW, HOW LONG, WHEN, WHERE. However, when you begin Genesis 2, the most important HOW that Genesis 1 left unanswered IS in fact answered. Genesis 2 does answer HOW man is made and how woman is made.

        As far as “literal, specific history of how the material world worked” I might like to point out that you cannot read anything “literally” without understanding the “LITERAture” it comes from. Hebrew narrative is complex with double meanings and the telling of history through puns, parallelism, and descriptive techniques such as these connections to the Temple. The approach you’re speaking of here is what Walton calls the “Framework Hypothesis” that rightly sees the literary structure and theological features of the text. However, this hypothesis and you with your comment have to answer the question—Did ancient Israelites only view this text on literary & theological terms? You’re risking oversimplification and reductionism. Simply calling it a Temple cosmology seems to ignore the entire discussion on Functional creation and how that does not negate or deny ANY form of material creation. Example- Man. In Genesis 1 and 2 man certainly is functionally created with the purpose of serving in the garden. But Genesis 2 also specifies HOW man is materially created. Just because Genesis 1 is a Functional creation of a cosmic temple does not mean that material creation in that very chapter is absent or denied. If we allow scripture to interpret scripture we’ll find plenty of Psalms, Job, Gospel of John, Revelation and much more that testifies to creatio ex nihilo and material creation (likewise there are passages showing more functional creation proofs).

        “I may be wrong, but it seems this view can be comfortable with anyone from Young Earth Creationists to Theistic Evolutionists.”
        Walton certainly does not rule out any of these, but he has caveats for all of them! As you and I have talked before, each of the popular material theories have Scriptural errors and difficulties. The question remains what are you going to side with? The text of God’s Word or theories of material origins that may never be proven right or wrong… and I won’t call them Scientific theories, because it’s impossible for them to apply the Scientific method to their hypotheses (repeated tests? Bah). It’s just faith. And since it’s faith that tries to warp the text and place reason above the Word, I can’t really endorse any of them. Walton has criticisms for each that I will briefly place below. Perhaps the quote of the day from that section is when he is criticizing OEC but it applies to all the theories- “Taking the text seriously is not expressed by correlating it with modern science; it is expressed by understanding it in its ancient context (p111).”

        YEC- the reading of “day” as 24 hours is correct, however they are too narrow-minded about words like create (bara’) and made (‘asa). They have never even attempted to understand a functional reading of the text. As Walton says, “The text can be taken at face value without necessitating all of the scientific gymnastics of YEC.”

        OEC- Walton critiques Hugh Ross’s attempt to validate Genesis 1 claiming that Ross does not take the text at face value any more than YEC people do. Connecting the “days” to long eras of planetary dust and then water cycles etc fails the test question: Is that what the author is trying to convey? Certainly, the answer is no. Advanced, 21st century scientific content if present is most certainly latent to the text. Heck, we could force fit Babylonian and Egyptian creation accounts into modern science if we wanted to. (Although, I’d rather not explore how the one god’s masturbation fits into modern science’s origins debate).

        I hope this answers your thoughts. Thanks for asking.

        Posted by Matt | September 11, 2010, 7:03 PM


  1. Pingback: The Life Dialogue: Matt Moss Guest Post 5 « - August 9, 2010

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

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