Genesis 1-2: In the Beginning
January 1, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Critically, these two chapters have become deeply controversial in Christian circles and in non-Christian circles alike. What do they say (if anything) about evolution, creationism, science, the origin of life, the universe, and everything—not to mention the origin of evil (but that is more chapter 3)! It is impossible in these few words to cover these complicated matters other than to point to the intention of the author of Genesis itself.
That intention is to ground all of reality in the primacy of God. “In the beginning God” (matched by John’s Gospel’s majestic countervailing origin, “In the beginning was the Word”) displaces all human origin myths with the truth of the Bible. You and I are not at the center of the universe, and life is not best understood through our own eyes, or from our own perspective. Our life finds its meaning, its practical purpose and glorious culmination, by starting as the Bible starts—with God.
We should not force these chapters to do disservice to faithful Christians who work in the science departments of major universities who reconcile their teaching easily enough with contemporary science, nor should we use them as a weapon to war against those who we think are ignoramuses by the light of our (soon-to-be passing) “knowledge.” No, instead, we should let the text speak for itself and humble us all—from whatever camp, campaign, or perspective we come—by the majestic call to glory in the One who simply is, and there is no other, and in whose light all is enlightened, and by whose truth all is revealed, and against whom the darkness cannot prevail.
He made all, and he declared it all good. And having made all, he set humanity at the pinnacle of his creation—male and female he made them, each alike in his own image, designed to be the rulers (under His rule) of creation, his moral vice-regents of the universe, going out from the garden to tend to the whole world and so declare through their careful “gardening” the Lord of glory’s loving kingdom. We find them in chapter 2 in this garden.
Long ago, the rabbis’ understanding of how these two chapters fit together was that chapter 2 was a filling out of the creation story already told. None would be so foolish as to place two different accounts next to each other, accounts which when read easily coincide.
The Garden of Eden, with its trees of life and the knowledge of good and evil (2:9), teaches us that only God is truly independently immortal, and even then in the innocence of the garden that man and woman were dependent on God (“In the beginning God”) for their life. And the knowledge of good and evil is an indication at the beginning that they are made in his image (not the other way around—a reversal which Chapter 3 gives inglorious witness to). They are his, he is not theirs, they are to lead as he leads, and to follow his prescription for what is best and highest and most true.
The man and woman come together. The man, in Matthew Henry’s wonderful phrase, has the woman formed out of his rib and near his heart so that he can take care of her under his arm and next to his heart to adore her. And when the man sees the woman, he writes the first love poem. He can hardly contain his breathless excitement—this! This! Wow, I love this! And there is no shame. They are naked. Sex is part of the original good gift of God, for procreation certainly, but also for the enjoyment of each other in the innocence of the garden—a world forever lost, or so it appears as the unfolding drama of the Scriptures begin.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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