Thesis 6: The Fall of Man into Sin destroys the order of God’s Cosmic Temple.
This destruction and disarray can be seen firstly in this: Man has tried to make himself God. This is what the deceiver promised in 3:5- “eat of the tree of which you were commanded not to eat and you will be like God.” Man has separated himself from communion with God in this Cosmic Temple. The price for his rebellion is expulsion from the Cosmic Temple, man and woman are cast out, East of Eden (this will be important in a moment).
A brief note on “sin:” I must say that one of the worst parts of Walton’s book is when he tries to address the place of death in creation before the 7 days of functional ordering and how it fits in after the Fall. I think this happens because Walton suffers from the same fate as most reformed evangelicals who deny any hereditary original sin that is a condition plaguing all mankind and even causing detriment to the world around us. Surely he would hold that all are sinful, but his language in the book leaves the door open for someone to think that he defends natural disasters and animal attacks on humans as if that’s always the way it was meant to be. He gives no indication that sin is a condition of chaotic disorder in this world. For him, sin is simply a wrong action we commit (or good we omit).
In retrospect I think Walton would find that a Lutheran understanding of Sin would actually HELP the case he tries to make in the book and even make sense of some of the loose ends that he leaves untied. Allow me to explain how a Lutheran understanding of Sin fits into this Genesis 1 Cosmic Temple. The word for sin in Hebrew is hta. Many have said that this is the word for when an arrow misses its mark. That is true, but it is not speaking of the ACTION of missing the mark (sin as an action would be what Walton and the reformed hold as do Lutherans although we do not limit it to that).Hta is the condition that things are not as they are intended to be! Sin is not, “oops I missed the target” (an act of committing wrong). Hta is “I shot the arrow straight down and now gravity is going UP!” or better yet, “I shot at the target and now the arrow is facing the opposite way, impaling my heart!” The correct condition is that the arrow is where it belongs: in the target. The hta is the condition where the arrow is completely confounded and misplaced.
When it comes to the Cosmic Temple then, the entrance of SIN (hta), as this condition of chaos, reverts the perfect, ordered, functional Cosmic Temple to the chaos of 1:2a. God spent seven days ordering this Cosmos into a Temple of communion between God and man and now man has rejected this Temple and sent all of creation back into tohu andbohu, purposelessness and functionlessness, worse than that! The world is now a place of rebellion and death. The ground of the earth is cursed (3:17-18) and as man and woman are expelled from the Cosmic Holy of Holies they are sent into the wilderness where animals, weather, and nature itself are now hostile to them! Throughout the OT and even into the NT the wilderness is viewed as the land of desolation, tohu and bohu, and separation from God. And yet, God is not about to let their chaotic overturn of His creation be the final word on the matter!
Thesis 7: God’s establishment of the Israelite Tabernacle/Temple serves to return mankind to the divine order of the Cosmic Temple: communion with God.
Finally we get to the point of all these temple comparisons. What was the point of all those tabernacle/temple regulations in Exodus and Kings? Why was God so specific? Because God wanted to show them in explicit visual detail that He was opening a new Eden by which the Israelite sinners could return to communion with their God! However, one thing had changed. Man was no longer pure and clean. Man was sinful and defiled and would need atonement to come before God. This is why the ONLY thing that differs between the Cosmic Temple and the Israelite Temple is the sacrificial system.
Allow me to quickly go through some of the aspects of the Temple that reminded Israelites that they were returning to God’s Holy Eden- the pleasure of His presence. First, recall that the man and woman were banished EAST of Eden. The Tabernacle and Temple of Israel each had the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy of Holies positioned in the West and the worshipers would enter through the East gate. By going from East to West they are coming home from the way God banished them.
Second, we recall the rivers of Eden: the Pishon, the Gihon, the Tigris and the Euphrates. In addition to the water basins looked at above, it is also of remarkable note that there stands a spring just south of Solomon’s temple, in the Kidron Valley which was named, “The Gihon Spring.” Hmm. Very Interesting!
Once inside the main gate the Israelite worshiper walks among the courts, surrounded by wooden walls and looking at the pillars of the Holy Place with their decorated tops made to look like trees. Even to this day Cathedrals all throughout the world use pillars with decorated tops to act as trees leading to the centre of the Garden: the Holy of Holies in the Temple and the Chancel of the Cathedral!
Inside the Holy Place you have your lampstands to mark the minor lights just like the large menorah in the outer court acts as a greater light! Finally, you find behind the curtain of the Holy Place the Holy of Holies where God Himself sits on the Mercy seat. For Israel worship at the Temple is a return to the divine order of Creation as God intended, the sinful corruption of the world is made right. And yet, all of this was incomplete. The sacrifices all looked forward to a final sacrifice. Through the Israelite Temple worship God was reconciling His people, but through the final redemption, all the Earth would be restored to the Cosmic Temple God created.
Thesis 8: Jesus Christ finalizes the restoration of the Cosmic Temple.
Hebrews 10:1-18 is worth your read right now! Once you’re done, come back and read on.
Christ is the finale of the sacrificial system as surely as he is the only true sacrifice. More than this, the tearing of the Temple curtain at his crucifixion speaks of this restoration. Through Christ Jesus man is reunited to God and the Cosmic Temple is restored. Likewise, going back to our seven days of creation, there is now an eighth day of creation. Just as God rested on the seventh day, so Christ rested in the tomb on the seventh day. Then on the eighth day Christ was raised from death to life and established a NEW Creation through Resurrection!
“It doesn’t look so new,” you might say. “There is still death and disaster, pain and suffering.” Yes indeed. We live in a period of “now and not yet.” We are saved yet we are not in heaven yet. Sin has been defeated, yet we live in a fallen world. As Paul writes in Romans 8:18-30 (do look it up and read it, I won’t post it all here, the post is long enough) we and the whole of creation await the future glory. I find it marvellous that in the last two chapters of Revelation we find an undoing of the seven days of creation. In Revelation 21 – 22 we read of the New Heaven and the New Earth and we see an unravelling of what was created in Genesis 1. The sea is no more but all will drink from the spring of the water of life (cf. John 4; 7:37-39- the latter occurring in the Temple during the Feast of Booths where water is poured out as libation). The sun and the moon are no more because Christ the Lamb is their light (cf. John 8 “I am the Light of the world”- said while he was in the Temple for the Feast of booths, standing by the menorah)! In every way the New Heaven and New Earth are much greater than the pre-Fall Cosmic Temple.
To summarize what the last posts have addressed: Genesis 1 – 3 is an ancient Temple Cosmology that does not specifically address the questions of how or when God did His material creating work. Beyond that Genesis 1 – 3 serves as a Liturgical text, a Temple text, a Christological text, a Trinitarian text, a Redemption text, a Sacramental text, a Teleological text, and an Eschatological text, but NOT a 21st century scientific treatise. As I have told many people before, there is such a wealth and richness to these initial chapters that we simply miss the point of the text when we try to force it into modern scientific debates and attempt to answer questions that God did not deem important enough to address in His revelation to ancient Israel. What God does answer in these chapters is why He has made creation work the way it does, how man has thrown it into chaos, and how He will restore it to an even greater glory.