A Telling in Six Ordinary Days

Theology

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #1

@deuteroKJ, @Ronald_Cram, @Jordan, @Philosurfer @Ashwin_s

The other thread on Genesis prompts me to put out a different idea. This isn’t about concordism, but more about inerrancy and “literal” readings of genesis.

Let me assert that Genesis speaks in the language of ordinary perception (phenomenological), from the view point of a person with feet on the ground. That is the only way to understand “mornings” and “evenings”, because from space there are no mornings and evenings, even if we think its speaking from a geocentric perspective (which I am not convinced of). So it seems these really are “ordinary days”, not day-ages, or so it seems.

I wonder if it is valid to see it as a “six-ordinary day telling” of the creation story. A couple clues are the fact that there are mornings and evenings before the sun exists. The story does seem to evoke notions of the beginning of everything, but also seems to describe phenomena that show the earth already exists (the Spirit of God over the water). Also, no human was around to see all this in the first place, so some how it was conveyed.

What if it is that God told the story, perhaps even performing it, in six ordinary days?

In this case, each day would literal days (not ages), that also refer to larger periods of time. It would be like watching a play or a movie of a much longer event. For example, imagine we are watching a 2 hr movie about the Civil War. We might accurately say that the Gettysburg address takes place on the 10th literal minute of the movie, which refers to the real Gettysburg address which actually took place in 1863. We could then watch the Civil War play out over the course of 95 literal minutes, even though this is referent to a much larger period of time.

In this way, the days in Genesis would be both ordinary days, and long ages. More precisely, they would be ordinary days that refer to long ages.

The details that are difficult to line up with science might actually be 100% accurate in what happens in the telling, an inerrant description of what happens in the telling. It might be understood as a play-byplay account of the telling, which has been reworked for human perception. For example, we can’t even really perceive the inflationary membrane from which the Big Bang begins. So it makes sense that God would just symbolically show this as His Spirit moving over the waters. It is not that he his teaching us of the Big Bang, but He is telling a story which is faithfully and in-errantly recorded, and like all stories, has a multilayered timeline (e.g. the timeline of the story and the referent) and meaning (e.g. the actor and the character the actor plays).

So, my question is, how plausible or crazy is a six ordinary day telling?


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Do Plants Before Animals Mean Young Earth?
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Gap Theory: Genesis 1:1 and 1:2
Daniel Deen and Joel Oesch: The Lutheran Voice and Crosswise Institute
(Mark M Moore) #2

You did not ask me but I don’t think its crazy at all. How long something takes depends on one’s reference point, this is well known. And there is no greater difference in reference points than High Heaven and Earth. We are in a universe where space itself is being stretched, including all EM radiation in it which contains information. What does that look like from a place which is not being stretched? I doubt this graphic will make sense without the dreaded video add on, but here goes. Just note that the same length of line (“days” are same length of line in both places) have different amounts of information/perceived occurrences. In the land above they are seeing event “F” while on earth on “day” 2 event “A” is not even complete yet.


(Ashwin S) #3

One thing that supports this idea is that the first chapters in Genesis is “Dramatic” in its mood and makes for a good narrative.Its short and gripping. This seems to be intentional on the part of the author.
However, the i think the best understanding is that “day” involves a long time period…
Afterall, when it comes to creation, God is still in the 7th day… We are not in a an 8th or 9th or 10th day for God.

I doubt we can really say with certainty that the initial hearers of the Genesis account understood the word “yom” as 1 day. And hence the person on the ground argument might not stand.


(Jordan Mantha) #4

That certainly seems plausible. My concerns with they way a lot of Christians read Genesis is that my basic understanding of the scholarship on how we got the Old Testament indicates that it was written thousands of years after the actual events would have happened, even for the YEC case. It seems entirely plausible that the written Bible we have now originated with oral story telling of the history of Israel. What you’re describing would seem to fit well with that understanding.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #5

This might have some strengths in some denominations that require six ordinary days (hint hint). It allows for them to be six-ordinary days, no problem. However, there is not good case I’ve seen against these six days being referent to larger time periods. It seems both can be true, day-age and six-ordinary-days, at the same time.


(Daniel Deen) #6

In your quest to discover/unpack/make public the Lutheran option, I would say this is one if not the fundamental question. I, as a somewhat representative Lutheran, want to read the scripture literally (at least the ESV in front of me, not necessarily like @deuteroKJ :wink:) and I’m committed to inerrancy (at least in the original autographs that I take we have really good copies of comparatively to the rest of the texts in the ancient world).

I have started looking into some of the Lutheran literature on Genesis 1 as well as the early Lutheran theologians (17th century) dealing with Copernican thought. My neurons and synapses keep firing in odd ways as I think through how the conversation might have gone with evolutionary biology (broadly construed) and those 17th century theologians. The conversation about “days” was largely ignored, and the ones who gave commentary day-by-day on creation were more interested in establishing God’s power, wisdom, and goodness versus discussing any mechanics. In this way, I think the early Lutherans would be classified non-concordists, except that our doctrine of vocation allows for deep engagement as a scientist that immediately raises the questions about concordism! Another one of those odd tensions/paradoxes that Lutherans tend to have coursing through their veins. The vocation aspect is also related to your concern about social justice raised in your last blog post, although I am not sure we (speaking broadly Lutheran) are viewing social justice in the same way. However, I seem to be finding that the theology, science, and larger community seem intimately intertwined in the conversation. I’ll start interspersing some of this in quote fashion as I see fit throughout the conversations here at PeacefulScience.

This sounds similar to Father Capon (Anglican) and his take on creation in, Genesis: The Movie. I have not read the book, but listened to him discuss Genesis: The Movie here. I don’t think he quite commits to

but takes up that God telling a story motif.

I’m not sure it is crazy, but you may run into some of the same problems that were brought against @Ronald_Cram concerning a dual intent. In fact, I think you raised that concern against him in his discussion concerning Genesis.

My early research on a Lutheran perspective would be something like this:

  1. Genesis is written in the phenomenal experience, although NOT eyewitness!
  2. We must take Genesis at face value due to Christ’s affirmation of Genesis
  3. Genesis is historical-poetry (perhaps ala Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade” ?)
  4. The history it presents however is more general in nature illustrating the goodness, wisdom, power of God.
  5. Genesis, and scripture generally, does not provide evidence for/against a “worldview” – by which I mean something that is a comprehensive take on what a Christian should believe about cosmological matters (maybe the how God created?)
    5a) Creation, Providence, and Christ work together to preserve the Christian in faith, not provide a systematic or even unsystematic treatment of our scientific experience of the world
  6. Tension will arise between scripture and science through the ages, but science ought not be condemned as long as it is not directly working against 5a.

Leaves much to be desired, and may not bear directly on the question you threw out at me, but somehow seems appropriate here…


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #7

There is tablet theory among YECs, where this would not be the case. Perhaps that also requires a relook too given the GenealogIcal Adam…? The Tablet Theory and Hints from the Text of Scripture. I have no idea, honestly, how to asses that though.


(George) #8

The tablet theory has always implicitly existed.

It is Text Critical analysis that suggests a more recent compilation than the time frame discussed…

Much like estimates that Homer was compiled around 800 BCE…WHILE THE battle of Troy was set around 1200 BCE.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #9

I’m not sure I’m subject to this objection. I’m saying something different. This does not require @Ronald_Cram’s dual authorship hermeneutic. I’m not reading science out of Scripture (or into it).

I’m saying that the author’s original intent (no dual intent here) was to accurately tell the story God told/showed him over the course of six ordinary days. It would be understood this way by the readers, because there are sufficient textual facts to make this clear. For example, the earth pre-exists the story, though the story also evokes the view that it is the story of the creation of the earth. Also, there can be no one there logically to observe the referent (Adam is not created yet), so it is almost self-evident this is a telling, not a direct report. Though there is clear perspective (morning and evening), so a direct report of a telling seems to be very textually grounded.

We can also see how the Sabbath is reference later. That “day” is both to an ordinary day and a year (the Sabbath year). This is yet another clue that the days have a multivalent meaning. This also shifts the debate in an interesting way. Rather than debating whether or not they are ordinary days, we now place the burden on them to demonstrate that the ordinary days cannot be referent to ages. That is a much stronger place to be.

I’m not saying Genesis is telling us modern science. I’m more arguing we can grant that the days are ordinary days, literally, but are referent to day-ages.


(Kenneth Turner) #10

Why equate inerrancy with literal reading?

Agreed

Yep, it’s a viable reading (a la P. J. Wiseman and Duane Garrett; cf. B. Ramm), though not a common one. (Wiseman and Garrett see this “retelling” to Moses on Mount Sinai.)

I see no problem with this since I see v. 2 temporally preceeding v. 1 (and vv. 3ff).

That’s an option on this view. It’s just not my view b/c it assumes a level of concordism I don’t need.Are you suggesting the order of created acts in Gen 1 matches the scientific consensus?

Well that’s one way to “clear up” the discrepancies

This again assumes a level of concordism (which is fine, if people want to go there, but it’s not a prerequisite for me).

AS I stated it’s held by a few (though not many) reputable scholars. Not crazy. I myself don’t find it as plausible as other options.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #11

GREAT. Someone else has thought of this. I’ve been looking for this. Can you give me the reference in full? And maybe the PDF?

I’m not doing this. I’m rather acknowledging that some parts of the church see reason to read Genesis as literally as possible.

I’m not sure how this is concordism. I’m not saying Scripture is teaching this. I’m not saying this is the message of Scripture. I’m making a different point. Do you get it?

I’m curious who. Whether or not it is your view, I think it will be exceedingly helpful in @Philosurfer’s context, and for many in the AIG camp.


(Kenneth Turner) #12

It’s a hypothesis at best! Do the tablet theorists not know that Hebrew is a Canaanite dialect that appeared much later in human history?


(Daniel Deen) #13

I have found that actual discussion about days in the early Lutheran theologians to be pretty bland. They actually almost ignore it, except to establish God’s wisdom, power, and goodness. One author explicitly stated that he takes the days homiletically (sp?), which I will discuss with my brethren at assessment day tomorrow at my college (pray for me that I don’t break any (impossible) too many commandments against my administrators!). It really looks, at least according to early Lutherans that “days”, in terms of time, did not matter much.

This does not mean that it should NOT be an issue today. Sorry for the double negative!

Okay. I think part of what I was getting at in my last larger post was that there would need to be strong linguistic evidence that what you are offering is established textually. Perhaps your Sabbath point helps in this regard. But, the plain (common sense, albeit from my 21 century mind) reading of Genesis does not seem to suggest your interpretation. This does not mean that I am forbidden from entertaining it and seeing what work it my do, where it might lead, what value it has in given contexts (e.g., apologetics).


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #14

Wiseman of the Tablet Theory? interesting…


Also @jongarvey accidentally came accross this, of interest to you:

Isaac M. Kikawada, “The Double Creation of Mankind in Enki and Ninmah, Atrahasis I1–351, and Genesis 1–2,” Iraq 45 (1983): 43–45. https://www.jstor.org/stable/4200176?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

I’m not sure…I think there is compelling reason in a plain reading to recognize off the bat that this is a telling, from the ordinary perception of an observer. We know upfront that no person was there, and that someone had to tell the writer of the story. Remember every story has a multilayered timeline. This is not unique to this story. Every story has this feature.


(Kenneth Turner) #15

Garrett’s book is Rethinking Genesis; I don’t have anything else off hand (but this is familiar in my field and probably easy to Google…try “revelation day view”).

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If you mean, “I’m trying to give an ‘out’ or way for people of a certain commitment to put 2 and 2 together,” then I get it. Otherwise, help me out.

I mentioned Wiseman and Garrett, and added Ramm.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #16

I am no defender of this, so do not misinterpret my explication. I think the claim is that scribes would often update copies with modern dialect and the modern names of places. Also, the original tablets would not have been in hebrew. They would have been translated to hebrew.


(Kenneth Turner) #17

I understand you’re not advocating this. The evidence of scribes doing this is later than would fit the earliest of proto-history (of course, we don’t really have evidence of any practice that early).


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #18

I’m asking a different question.

I’m not saying the passage is teaching day-age or that God was intending to communicate this. Rather, I am saying the author was intending to communicate his perception of a telling, that he knew it was a telling, and expected his audience to know it was a telling too.

If that is the case, we can ask (theologically not hermeneutically) why God might have done a telling this way? If we think there is validity to the scientific account, we can see some obvious reasons why God would have told the story this way. There is no way, for example, he could have given a vision of an inflationary membrane and the big bang in some way understandable by ordinary perception. He didn’t try. Instead he symbolically told the story (no scientific content), in a telling that was literally reported to us.

A six ordinary telling is also a really long telling, but also within the range of ordinary perception. He couldn’t tell the story in years or ages without losing the observer’s attention. So it makes sense, even, that these are six-ordinary days. This comes to suggest (though not quite teach) that this was a really long period of time over which God created everything, because a six day telling is a very long telling.

That is not concordism (in a negative sense), right? It is just showing there is some theological coherence to this reading.


(Kenneth Turner) #19

It’s an option…assuming that Gen 1 is teaching something (scientific?, historical?). This works especially for those who think Gen 1 is teaching creatio ex nihilo. It’s also assuming the details of Gen 1 were revealed to the human author (within the rhetoric you’re supposing), rather than Gen 1 being a creative theological reflection apart from direct revelation. I’m fine with either.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #20

I’d say Genesis is teaching us of our origins…How we got here, which instructs us in who we are and who is God. Origins can be described from multiple points of view (including scientific and historical). I’d say Genesis 1 was given to be understood through the ages, both in the original context and into our time. There is a timeless quality to it, which is why I resist mapping it too closely to scientific claims (which are bound to our moment).

You are right. It does seem to take that view. Though I am not sure exactly what the theological reflection could be upon if not an account of origins.


From the Beginning: Question from a High School Student