My previous blog post about Genesis 1:1-2:3 is available here. Nevertheless, I wanted to add some observations that I hadn’t made before regarding the structure of Days 1-6 furthering the framework hypothesis. The framework hypothesis is that the days are not literal and not sequential (with respect to fulfillment on earth, they are literal and sequential with respect to heaven) and it relies on the structure of the text to support this position. As I mentioned to the Sunday School class at First Baptist Church in Niagara Falls, every time I look at Scripture I see something new. Despite having spent a huge amount of time on this particular passage during seminary and teaching on this passage at several Presbyterian churches, I keep seeing new things. Here is a pdf with many of these new insights.
Even since sharing this document originally I’ve added a couple of things. First of all, there is the genre clue of the wisdom literature pattern of 3+1+3+1. I’ve discussed this pattern at length elsewhere on this website and we’ve seen this pattern over the years in many passages of Scripture. The insight also speaks to the issue of authorship since there is clearly a wisdom edit to the Tanakh most obvious at the seams (for example, at the end of Deuteronomy, beginning of Joshua, end of Malachi, beginning of Psalms). In other words, Genesis 1 may very well be part of the wisdom edit of the whole Tanakh–as was suggested by Sailhamer. Thus it is perhaps noteworthy that Genesis 1 follows this wisdom pattern with regard to days 1-6. That is, Day 3 has two parts and Day 6 has two parts corresponding to two creative acts on each of these two days. Day 3a concerns the creation of land and Day 3b concerns the creation of vegetation; Day 6a concerns the creation of land animals and Day 6b concerns the creation of human beings. As one would expect with the wisdom pattern of 3+1+3+1, the second plus one packs the bigger punch. That is, it is the more significant part of this story. Thus when we are thinking about the genre of Genesis 1, we need to be thinking in terms of wisdom literature. One of the main themes of wisdom literature elsewhere (including the Psalms, etc.) is creation. So it is perhaps not surprising that Genesis 1 fits into this genre classification.
One of the most noteworthy insights that I’ve had in recent weeks has been into the various triads of Genesis 1. The breakthrough was when I recognized that there are a total of ten triads in the right hand column (Days 4-6) with five falling in Days 4-5 and five falling in Day 6. Indeed, three of these triads fall on Day 4 and three of these triads fall on Day 6b and two of these triads fall on Day 2 and two of these triads fall on Day 6a. Until just now, I didn’t even notice that chiastic pattern of 3, 2, 2, 3. I had been focusing on five and five and will make that change to the pdf now. In any case, the number of triads is clearly intentional because some are repeated. This is one of the things that we notice in Genesis–you can tell that the text didn’t unintentionally follow a pattern because of repetition that was necessary to make the pattern work. For example, the triad of purpose on Day 4 is repeated in a different order and the triad of animal taxonomy on Day 6a is repeated in a different order. Without listing these twice, the pattern wouldn’t have worked. This is one of the least obvious patterns in Genesis 1–but the clue that should’ve led me to finding it earlier was this unnecessary repetition. This pattern also serves to support the framework hypothesis because it shows that the structure of the text proposed by the framework hypothesis is intentional. Other such insights that we’ve noticed before are the seven times that the text says that God saw it was good or very good and the seven times that the text says “and it was so,” or “and light was so.” Out of the eight sections of Days 1-6, the phrases are missing in parallel days: Day 2 and 5. The days are also connected by the chiastic order of the creation of kingdoms and kings–sky, sea, sea creatures, birds. The clearest indication that the framework hypothesis makes the most sense of Genesis 1 is the recapitulation on Day 4 of things that were said to have been done on Day 1.
Regarding the triads it also interests me that the triads of kings on Days 4 and 5 have two kings for the negative kingdoms and one for the positive kingdom. That is, we know that the kingdom of Day is positive. This also highlights a light versus darkness theme. God saw that the light was good–He doesn’t say the same about the darkness. Instead, the darkness is bounded. We also know that the kingdom of the sky is positive because it is named “heaven.” Nothing is said positively about the waters below in Days 2-3 until the sea is bounded even more and land appears. Not only was darkness there in the beginning but so too was the deep. Thus my thought that this may suggest a heaven vs. deep theme or even a life vs. death theme. That God created was enough for the patriarchs to believe that God can resurrect. The kings involved on Day 5 are the sea monsters (sea-serpents) and fish for the sea and the birds for the sky. Likewise, the kings involved are the greater light for the day and the lesser light and the stars for the night. These are actually ordered this way: 1 king for the positive kingdom of Day, 2 kings for the negative kingdom of Night, 2 kings for the negative kingdom of the Sea, and 1 king for the positive kingdom of Heaven (sky). Some of this appears to be polemical against other ANE religions–not naming the Sun, for example, which was often worshipped by other ANE religions and mentioning the stars as an afterthought unlike the astrology common in other ANE religions. Likewise, the reference to the sea-serpents also appears to be polemical because they are creatures created by the Creator rather than playing a major role in creation. Sea-serpents were often associated with evil governments like Egypt and Babylon. The sea also often had a negative connotation for Israel. Setting aside how to understand the triad of animals classified for Day 6a, though perhaps creeping things and beasts are meant to be negative and livestock positive. The former being associated with the serpent in the garden and perhaps even beasts like those in Daniel. The most curious is how there are two plants associated with people in Day 6b and one with the land animals. This could also be preparation for the conflict in Genesis 2-3. It may also simply answer the animal taxonomy triads–livestock are for human beings and there are two other types of animals and the animals get one kind of vegetation and human beings get the other two kinds.
I know that I’ve spoken before about the flood and exodus and baptism themes of Genesis 1. The way that the waters are parted are meant to make us think of the Exodus Event. Indeed, the Exodus Event is the event that would’ve been the main inspiration for how to understand creation. Both the flood story and the Exodus Event show us the theme of new creation. I suggested to the class that maybe one of the important trees in Genesis 2-3 was an olive tree, considering that it was an olive branch that the bird brought back to Noah on the ark. Israel itself has been often described in Scripture as an olive tree. When we keep in mind that Genesis 1 is a prologue to Genesis, and a prologue to the story of Israel, and a prologue to the story of Christ, it is not surprising that these themes of flood, exodus, and baptism are all in the background. After all, the Spirit hovered over (like a bird, dove?) over the face of the waters.
Another observation that I’m sure I’ve made before but want to highlight more clearly now is the two major Old Testament promises. These two major promises were the Promised Land and the seed of the woman. It is instructive that Days 1-3 build up to the giving of the Land (and not barren land (Day 3a) but fruitful land (Day 3b)) and Days 4-6 build up to the creation of humanity as male and female with a sevenfold blessing to be fruitful and mulitiply, etc. (i.e., they point us to the seed of the woman). Perhaps this is why it was natural for God to point Abram/Abraham to the stars (created on Day 4) when promising to multiply his seed (Gen 15:5, 22:17). These observations also support the framework hypothesis. I’ve noted before the two things mentioned in Genesis 1:2 — a desert (better translation than formless) and empty are dealt with using this framework hypothesis. The desert becomes a garden in Days 1-3 and the empty creation becomes a creation with kings blessed to multiply and fill the earth in Days 4-6.
I’ve also written previously about how the antonymn of “in the beginning” is “in the latter days.” And I’m sure I’ve mentioned that the eighth day is the Day of the Lord (judgment day). Day Seventh has no ending formula, but Day Eighth has already begun because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The reason for the document saying Day 1, Day 2nd, Day 3rd, etc. is that is the way the Hebrew text is written. Some languages do this where the first day is a cardinal number and the rest are ordinal numbers. It has also been noted that there is no definite article, so it isn’t “the first day” but just “day one.”
One more observation concerns the relationship of Genesis 1 to ideas like evolution. The text does not rule out evolution, with the exception of the creation of humanity. It might even support the idea to some extent given the way that God said, “Let the earth sprout,” and “Let the earth bring forth creatures,” on Days 3b and 6a. Further linking these two ideas is the way that the text says, “And the earth brought forth vegetation….” Even if we assert that it rules out macro-evolution due to the language of according to its kind, it doesn’t rule out micro-evolution nor does it rule out these things rising up out of the ground (even man is made from the ground). This particular line also supports the idea that God used natural means in Days 1-6 rather than extraordinary means. In other words, we should not expect that He would have sustained light for Day on Days 1-3 without the use of the sun until Day 4. The 24-hour day creation view has to hold to such a special situation because it believes the days are literal 24-hour periods of time (before such a distinction was made on Day 4) and that the days are sequential. It also should have to deal with why it takes the firmament figuratively rather than literally. The framework hypothesis is the only view that can explain why things are meant to be taken figuratively or literally and when. Genesis 1 isn’t a science textbook, so we aren’t looking for answers to the questions of science. The issues raised by science aren’t motivating this literary-canonical reading of Genesis 1. Nevertheless, this doesn’t seem like an insignificant insight.
Let me conclude by making observations about replication, which is unique to the framework hypothesis. I have noted that Day 4 recapitulates text from Day 1. These two days also replicate the upper register heaven. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The heavens in that verse is best understood as what Meredith Kline called the upper register of creation. It refers to the heaven of heavens—the invisible heavens. The earth in that verse, however, refers to the lower register of creation. This can be seen even in the usage of the word earth in Genesis 1:2–“Now the earth was a desert and deserted…” Other verses of Scripture make this clearer—cf. Colossians 1:16 and Nehemiah 9:6. Kline points out that this chiastically is related to Day 7, which takes place in the upper register. I’ve noted this in the document saying, “God had finished His work of creation, rests from that work, and is enthroned as King of Kings over it all in the upper register.” And I mentioned that God blesses the Sabbath Day in the lower register. To clarify, God is doing the blessing from the upper register and the day being blessed is a lower register calendar day. After all, all of the action on Day 7 is in the upper register. Notice then how the upper register calendar (Days 1-7) informs the lower register calendar (our week). Israel was to rest on the seventh day because God rested on the seventh day in upper register. One hint that this is upper register time is that there is no ending formula for the seventh day. Kline then notes that Days 1-3 have to do with kingdoms and Days 4-6 with kings. Thus the whole passage follows an A, B, B’, A’ chiastic structure. Suddenly the framework hypothesis is getting even more detailed. Complicating things further it is well worth noting that each day begins in the upper register with God speaking and ends in the upper register with the concluding formula for each day. Also, each time that God saw that it was good–He saw from the upper register. Likewise, he pronounced blessings and named things from the upper register. What he names these things is instructive too. He often uses names from Genesis 1:1 when speaking of parts of what is created during those six days. Thus the sky is called heaven and the land is called earth. Furthermore, Days 1 & 4 speak of the lower register heavens. Days 2 & 5 speak of the lower register heavens and earth. And Days 3 & 6 speak of the lower register earth. Thus the pattern of heaven/earth in Genesis 1:1 is replicated during Days 1-6 as heaven/earth.
Also speaking of this replication we can note several things created on Days 1-6 that are replicas of heaven. An obvious example might be the sun because it shines like the glory of God. The heavenly calendar mentioned on Day 4 also is a kind of replication. The firmament (a star-studded canopy) on Day 2 is a replica—it is similar to what the prophets describe when talking about the invisible heavens. Mountains (the first land one sees when the waters recede) on Day 3a and trees on Day 3b are also replicas. Mountains, especially when they are in the clouds, are commonly understood as heavenly sanctuaries. Scripture also speaks of the tops of trees in the same way. Not least among the replicas are people who are created in the image of God. All of this is to say that creation (both upper and lower register) is God’s cosmic temple, courtroom, and palace and these are miniature replicas of that temple, courtroom, and palace.
editor’s note: as I was teaching on this passage it dawns on me that the left column shows the creation of almost everything necessary for a garden…light (Day 1), water (Day 2), fertile ground (Day 3a), and plants (Day 3b). Now Genesis 2:5 says that there was yet no rain and no man to irrigate. Thus while all of the elements are there (light, water, good ground, and seeds), the garden still needs a way to get the water to the seeds and plants.