Questions in Genesis

questions in genesis

God created ha’adam in his image;

In the image of God He created him. 

Male and female he created them.  (Genesis 1:26-28)


I was chatting with a former EFCC pastor recently and he was bemoaning the fact that the majority of young people raised in the church have nearly identical beliefs about sex, gender, sin and other moral issues as their unchurched friends (for a statistical study on this see Kinnamon & Matlock, Faith for Exiles).  My immediate response to him was, “we need to help our people understand God’s beautiful plan for human flourishing (Genesis 1-2) and then see the world’s counterfeits to God’s plan in the context of Genesis 3 and the fallSadly, we have only taught our people what we are against – not what God is for.”

I am entitling this post “Questions in Genesis” because I think we would be well served by asking better questions regarding Genesis 1-2, rather than the “Answers in Genesis” approach.  That approach assumes that the essential theological issues worth fighting over have to do with answers regarding science and the mechanics of creation.  I believe that using Genesis 1-2 primarily as an apologetic against modern science has led to two problems.  First, we often overlook Genesis 1-2 in our gospel presentations.  We start with “you are a sinner” (Genesis 3).  The we skip the OT and go straight to the cross.  The upshot of this “sin management gospel” is accept Jesus, be forgiven and then be good.  This misses out on the richness of God’s redemptive narrative throughout the rest of the Bible.  The second problem with reading Genesis 1-2 this way is we miss out on what the author is really focusing on.  Genesis 1-2 is essential reading for understanding the good/beautiful character of the Hebrew God (versus the pagan gods of the land).  It is also one of our most powerful passages for understanding God’s beautiful plan for His creation (and for humans in particular).

I believe that historically we have brought tons of cultural assumptions into the text of the Bible.  This can lead us to miss the point of what the Spirit wants us to know and live out when we do it to passages like Genesis 1-2.  In this blog I simply want to surface several questions that help to expose some of the cultural assumptions we impose on this text.

  1. How would OT Jews have read this text?  Would they have looked for answers regarding the science and mechanics of creation?  Or would they have seen the Spirit presenting an apologetic regarding how good/moral/beautiful Yahweh is compared to the gods of the land?  Would they have marveled at how a good God initiated a beautiful plan for human flourishing?
  2. Do the English translations feed into some of our cultural assumptions about men and women?  For instance, the Hebrew word for “Adam” (quoted above) is not used as a name for the first man until chapter 4!  Adam and Eve are both “Ha’Adam” = human.  “Ezer”, translated “helper” or “helpmate” makes it sounds like Eve is a second-rate servant, created only to wait on Adam.  Yet “ezer” is a strong military term that denotes protecting someone from danger.  Yahweh is the “Ebenezer”, the “Rock of help”.
  3. What does it mean for both men and women to be made in the image of God? What would Jewish followers of Yahweh have understood about humans bearing the imprint of the King?  How does that speak to the dignity of humans?
  4. What does it mean for those made in the image of God to “be fruitful and multiply”? Could this have great utility in encouraging followers of Jesus to flourishing and bearing shalom in creation?
  5. Does God really set up an eternal hierarchy in Genesis 1-2? Or do we read this in because of our cultural biases?  Are there clear structures and commands for hierarchy in these chapters or do we have to work hard to infer them into the text?

In the coming months, I want to ponder each of these questions a bit more fully.  Not only do I think that the questions help us better understand what the Spirit wants us to understand but they also provide powerful context and direction for dealing with many of the critical issues of our day!

Bill Taylor
EFCC Executive Director