I believe the Bible is the infallible word of God which should be taken literally. That’s the position from which I intend to do this study. That means that I’m not going to attempt to disprove evolutionary theory. Genesis already does that. I’m not going to attempt to prove that the flood was worldwide. Genesis already does that. Those topics may crop up (or may not), but that isn’t my focus. I want to study to find out what God actually has to say in Scripture as opposed to how people have interpreted it.
So why am I using commentaries? For one thing, I don’t know Hebrew so I have to refer to those who do. For another, I can learn from those who have gone before. I just don’t intend to take them at their word without checking it against the actual text. Many people have tackled Genesis by explaining things away. I just want to try to explain them.
If you tell me I don’t understand Scripture, that gives me incentive to keep trying. If you tell me I can’t understand Scripture, then there’s no reason to look at it at all. The latter view has become very popular, even among Christians, with the inevitable result. I’m just doing my best, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I hope, to find the truth.
I began by reading through the introductions of the commentaries listed below and marking anything I found interesting and informative.
We surely need not accuse the Bible of vagueness or inconsistency in order to explain the diversities of its interpretation. For, if we be observant and honest, we must often ourselves feel the difficulty of approaching the sacred writings without bias, seeing that we bring with us a number of stereotyped ideas, which we have received as absolutely certain, and never think of testing, but only seek to confirm. And yet, could we but fearlessly and impartially investigate, we might find that some of these ideas are not in the Bible at all, while others are plainly contradicted by it. For the tracks of many a popular doctrine may be followed through the long range of Church history, till at length we start with affright at the discovery that we have traced them back to the very entrance of the enemy’s camp. — Pember, pages 8-9.
Must the first chapters of Genesis be taken as history or as symbol and poetry?
As history, because:
- it is related as history.
- It is understood by the Bible itself as history.
- Christ authenticated it as history.
- The apostles understood it as history (Romans 5:11-19).
- Revelation 20-22 form the counterpart of it to show that God made re-creation and full restoration of the fallen creation.
- Only unbelief in its many forms has a desire to depart from the historical idea.
- The whole plan of salvation is based upon the historical reality of these chapters. — Bultema, page 4.
If Genesis were not historically trustworthy, then simple logic showed that neither was the rest of the Bible, including its testimony about Christ. — Morris, page xii.
Genesis, by virtue not only of its place in the canon, but also in the timeline of biblical and revelatory history, is filled with events and concepts that, in the context of their first appearance, are intended both logically and theologically to be viewed as patterns, or paradigms, by which to understand those same or similar events and concepts whenever they appear later on, both in Scripture as well as in history generally. it is in this vein, for example, that Paul writes concerning all that befell Israel in their first national appearance, as recorded in the Pentateuch, that “these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction” (1 Corinthians 10:11). By studying the details of the biblical record, in other words, we can better understand that details and patterns of behavior, both positive and negative, divine and human, as we see them played out time and again in both biblical and post-biblical history, within Israel as well as within the Body of Christ, the Church. — Wechsler, page 21.
The Book of Genesis gives vital information concerning the origin of all things—and therefore the meaning of all things—which would otherwise be forever inaccessible to man.
- the universe.
- order and complexity.
- the solar system.
- the atmosphere and hydrosphere.
- the chosen people.
The Book of Genesis thus is in reality the foundation of all true history, as well as true science and true philosophy. It is above all else the foundation of God’s revelation, as given in the Bible. No other book of the Bible is quotes as copiously or referred to so frequently, in other books of the Bible, as is Genesis.
The New Testament is, if anything, even more dependent on Genesis than the Old. There are at least 165 passages in Genesis that are either directly quoted or clearly referred to in the new Testament. Many of these are alluded to more than once, so that there are at least two hundred quotations or allusions to Genesis in the New Testament.
Furthermore, everyone of [the first] eleven chapters is alluded to somewhere in the New Testament, and every one of the New Testament authors refers somewhere in his writings to Genesis 1-11. On at least six occasions, Jesus Christ Himself quoted from or referred to something or someone in one of these chapters, including specific reference to each of the first seven chapters.
It is quite impossible, therefore, for one to reject the historicity and divine authority of the Book of Genesis without undermining, and in effect, repudiating, the authority of the entire Bible. If the first Adam is only an allegory, then by all logic, so is the second Adam. If man did not really fall into sin from his state of created innocency, there is no reason for him to need a Savior. If all thigns can be accounted for by natural processes of evolution, there is no reason to look forward to a future supernatural consummation of all things. if Genesis is not true, then neither are the testimonies of those prophets and apostles who believed it was true. Jesus Christ Himself becomes a false witness, either a deceiver or one who was deceived, and His testimony concerning His own omniscience and omnipotence becomes blasphemy. Faith in the gospel of Christ for one’s eternal salvation is an empty mockery. — Morris, pages 17-22.
That Moses did write the entire Pentateuch (and thus Genesis) is nonetheless clearly indicated elsewhere in the Bible, in light of which there can be no doubt on this issue for those who affirm the full inspiration of “all Scripture” (see 2 Timothy 3:16). Indeed, Moses is identified—either explicitly or implicitly—as the writer of the Pentateuch more often than any other writer is identified with any other biblical book(s). — Wechsler, page 1.
Morris has a view of the writing of Genesis that runs counter to that of the other commentaries I’m using. I haven’t come to my own conclusion on this, in part because, even if Morris is correct, it doesn’t alter my view of the divine inspiration of Scripture. In short, he believes that many of the people who show up in Genesis were keeping a record of what happened during their lifetimes. These were then all passed down to Moses who compiled them into Genesis.
While Moses actually wrote the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, he served mainly as a compiler and editor of the material in the book of Genesis. This in no way minimizes the work of the Holy Spirit, who infallibly guided him in this process of compilation and editing. Just as He later did the unknown compiler of the book of Kings and Chronicles. it would still be appropriate to include Genesis as one of the books of Moses since he is the human writer responsible for its present form. In fact, this explanation gives further testimony to the authenticity of the events recorded in Genesis, since we can now recognize them all as firsthand testimony.
It is probable that these original documents can still be recognized by the key phrase: “These are the generations of …” The word “generation” is a translation of the Hebre toledoth, and it means essentially “origins,” or, by extension, “records of the origins.” There are eleven of these divisions marked off in Genesis:
- “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth” (Genesis 2:4).
- “This is the book of the generations of Adam” (Genesis 5:1).
- “These are the generations of Noah” (Genesis 6:9).
- “Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (Genesis 10:1).
- “These are the generations of Shem” (Genesis 11:10).
- “Now these are the generations of Terah” (Genesis 11:27).
- “Now these are the generations of Ishmael” (Genesis 25:12).
- “And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son” (Genesis 25:19).
- “Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom” (Genesis 36:1).
- “And these are the generations of Esau, the father of the Edomites in Mount Seir” (Genesis 36:9).
- “These are the generations of Jacob” (Genesis 37:2).
The weight of evidence suggests that the respective names attached to the toledoth represent subscripts or closing signatures. The events recorded in each division all took place before, not after, the death of the individuals so named, and so could in each case have been accessible to them. — Morris, pages 26-27.
There is no question, of course, that some portions of Genesis are treated as types in the New Testament. The first Adam is taken as a contrasting type of the second Adam (Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45-47). Eve is taken as a type of the church (Ephesians 5:29-33). Abraham and Isaac are discussed as a type of the Father offering up His only-begotten Son (Hebrews 11:17-19).
It should never be forgotten, however, that types must be considered only as illustrations or applications, not as doctrinal interpretation, except to the extent that the inspired New Testament writers themselves make such applications a part of their own doctrinal systems. — Morris, pages 31-32.
Genesis is important not only as a history of man’s origin, but also as a prophecy of man’s future.
The first chapters of Genesis describe a perfect world, made for man and placed under his dominion. Had man not sinned, he would have continued to rule and develop that perfect world, for man’s good and God’s glory. Since God cannot be defeated in His purpose, even though sin and the curse have come in as intruders for a time, we can be sure that all God intended in the beginning will ultimately be consummated. The earth, therefore, will be restored to its original perfection, and will continue eternally. Sin and the curse will be removed, and death will be no more. — Morris, page 32.
Here are the commentaries I’m using. When I quote from one of these books in my blog, I will just use the author’s last name and the page number.
Brief Notes on Genesis, by Harry Bultema (Grace Publications)
Notes on the Book of Genesis, by C. H. Mackintosh (1879)
The Genesis Record, by Henry M. Morris (Baker Book House, 1976)
Earth’s Earliest Ages, by G. H. Pember (Fleming H. Revell Company)
Gleanings in Genesis, by Arthur W. Pink (Moody Press, 1922)
The New Scofield Reference Bible KJV, notes by C. I. Scofield (Oxford University Press, 1967)
The Six Days of Genesis, by Paul F. Taylor (Master Books, 2007)
Commentary on Genesis, by Michael G. Wechsler (written by a professor of Old Testament at Moody Bible Institute, as study notes for a class he teaches)
Complete Bible Commentary, by George Williams (Kregel Publications, 1994)