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“Human Fascination With Evil”

I recently picked up a book that looked interesting at a local thrift store. The book is titled “ANTICHRIST: TWO THOUSAND YEARS OF HUMAN FASCINATION WITH EVIL” written by Bernard McGinn. This might be the one of the best texts I have read that explains the various understandings of the devil, demons, antichrist, evil, and wickedness that I have ever read. McGinn writes in a textbook manner and offers so much historical data to consider and review. It’s safe to say I was shocked at how much I enjoyed this book I bought for less than $3 at the thrift store.

I have been working steadily on Wicked. (which is expected to be released at the end of May 2017). As I come to chapters in regards to these wicked things (Satan, evil, demons, etc) I have been reviewing some books I own on the topics. I was not expecting such a fascinating book as ANTICHRIST. Now, I want to say something about fascination and the topic of evil. Unfortunately our “total depravity” (to borrow a doctrinal term from reformer John Calvin) shows all to often when we are so quick to jump into topics about wicked things, and offer up our opinions and thoughts (leaning upon our own misunderstandings and offering more confusion to the mix). And boy oh boy are we quick to do so.

Last week I post a status on my Facebook page and it brought over 87 mostly aggressive comments within 2 hours. Yikes! Arguments went on and on. Some almost calling each other Satan and evil things. Wickedness ran rampant.

I’d like to say that my fascination with the topic is a bit different and prayerfully I will detail that as I share some of the points from ANTICHRIST with you in this blog. Ultimately of course, I would encourage you to keep an eye out for my upcoming book, Wicked. My fascination is more from the standpoint of a student of Scripture and a follower of Jesus Christ. I desire to know the depths of what the Scriptures are revealing. In doing so, I often times bump heads with the Establishment (the traditional Fundamentalist crowd within the Church). An honest study through history show this. Reading and studying through the chaos revealed through Church history on the topic is outrageous, especially detailed so fully in Bernard McGinn. This is or should be a textbook on the topic.

“…I write in the conviction that the Antichrist has already come – That is, the most important message of the Antichrist legend in Western history is what it has to tell us about our past, and perhaps our present attitudes toward evil”. – McGinn 

McGinn begins by detailing Isaac Newton’s distaste for those who were always searching for the Antichrist, as well as explaining that much of what people believe today as wickedness show influence of 2nd Temple Judaism/ Hellenism (ultimately confusion that ran rampant among national Israel (God’s vessel up until the time of Christ) from the 3rd century BC to AD 70. “Ultimately that and more led to the coming of the Lord in that generation”. I surely could appreciate even though we may disagree on many specifics – end times taken “seriously but not literally”.

There is so much that can be said about how McGinn shared all these details on the Antichrist. I loved the format of the book! McGinn highlighted the views that were noted (the resources he looked into could be compiled as an encyclopedia) throughout various points of history (which I will share near the end of this blog). Also, McGinn really piqued my interest in reading quite a few resources:

  • 2nd Temple literature/ Apocalypses, Enoch, etc)
  • The Maccabees and some highlights in Hellenism (1 Macc: 1:11-16; 2 Macc 4:7-18)
  • Sibylline Oracles and the Book of Jubilees

In talking about the ancient world McGinn rightly noted the importances of myths:
“Myths serve as archetypal narratives that exercise a special part of the human imagination” to which I would challenge with a proper understanding of the “prophetic imagination” as seemingly understood by the early Hebrews. McGinn notes, “Myth explains, not in an intellectual way by giving an argument, but rather by presenting an accounts of origin or essential structure that mediates meaning to the present”. Essentially myths were natural man’s way of “making sense of reality”.

McGinn really helps provide for an appreciate in regards to history. The style in which he writes captures what he refers to  as the “Matrix of Early Christianity” –
– Positive memories of Israel’s great kings
– Remembrance of oppressors and fear of worst in future
– The Messiah as an apocalyptic hope

The best way I can show you some of the great details McGinn brought forth is to use his historical outline/ sections and share my notes.

300 BC – AD 50 : A time marked by Jewish apocalyptic visions, 2nd Temple period, and the Qumran community.  A time filled with blasphemy against the One True God, persecution of His Faithful, and false religious leadership (hypocrites). We also see how these historic times mark out the internal conflict between good and evil, or what we might call the “psychological dualism of the struggle of the spirits of good and evil within the human heart”.

AD 50 – 100: A time of the 2nd Adam and His opposite. McGinn highlights that “After the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in AD 70, both Jews and Christians had to face a new religious situation, one that profoundly affected their respective beliefs and the increasing divergent roads these religious traditions would take”.

The teachings of Jesus Christ surely took precedent during this time. In literature and preaching we read of the “Man of Sin”, “the Beast”, Satan/ devil, the evil trinity, and the abomination of desolation. I love the following quote from Gerhard Eberling because it demonstrates that the Christian hope is based upon a reorienting all that was being hoped for through the lens of Jesus:

“What stands at the beginning of Christian theology is the apocalyptic modified by faith in Jesus”. 

AD 100 – 500: Throughout this time period we see the Antichrist develop as Christianity itself is developing. We read of “provocative new twists” from Church Fathers through this time of “persecution, heresy, and self-deceit”. Unfortunately, confusion runs rampant during this time. Surely applying the “end times” and the “Deceiver of the world” to a time past the events of the Roman-Jewish war is a misplace concept and bred much confusion in the Church. Some writings that stand out from this period which I seek to read and review in the near future are:

– The Apocalypse of Peter
– The Apocalypse of Elijah – which has been said to be “one of the most complete, but also obscure accounts of the Antichrist in patristic literature”.
– The writings of Hippolytus, presbyter in Rome from AD 200-235A
– The Catechetical Lectures by Cyril (AD 315-386) – these were instructions given to converts as the Roman world became increasingly Christian.

Prior to the Middle Ages it could be said, “….in the West at least, the apocalyptic theology advanced by Augustine and Tyconius emphasized a moral and internal reading of the Antichrist symbolism…”

AD 500 – 1100: The Middle Ages were characterized by various and different enemies being labeled “antichrist” by the Church. The confusion continued into what I would refer to as “scattered thoughts lacking consistency and context”. For example, a monk named Adso wrote some apocalyptic thoughts in which he detailed a 40 day period (or completeness) wherein the Elect would not be temped by the Antichrist due to offer up penance (“…the Lord will grand the Elect 40 days to do penance because they were led astray by the Antichrist”).  During this time we see the rise of the “Irish Antichrist tradition” (a writing that stands out is “The 15 Signs Before Doomsday”). Also, Islam saw a rise during this time, and the development of the Dajjal (Antichrist) which resulted from the Hadiths.

AD 1100-1200: In this period of time we saw the effects of the Great Schism in the Church between the East and the West. The formation of the Ordinary Gloss which is “a great Biblical textbook created in the nascent universities of the 1200’s”, which served as commentary during that time and further. We also read of the Moralized Bibles, or “medieval picture Bibles”  published during this period which largely included imagery of the Antichrist in different perspectives. This period of time provided interest in reading through the works of Honorious, namely his commentary on the Song of Songs.

AD 1200 – 1335: A time of Church issues and Papal name calling.

AD 1335 – 1500: Surely this period of time was seen as the eve of the Reformation. The term “Antichrist” during this time surely came to be a “symbolic representation of ultimate human evil”. We see the late medieval pessimism during this time with calculations of the coming Antichrist in almost every year (prophesies of 1346, 1347, 1348, 1360, 1365, 1375, 1387, 1396, 1400, 1418, —> and these are just some of the dates listed up until 1450 (that surely should cause us to pause and reconsider dating details that are so often abused in regards to Bible prophecy).

The rise of reformers during this time period is very evident and mark out some of the contemporary mindsets as well. John Wycliffe (1337) labeled the Papacy as Antichrist and John Huss (1372-1415) was apparently killed for referring to the Pope as Antichrist.

AD 1500 – 1660: During this reformation time we surely read of the cries of Reformation regarding the Antichrist Papacy. “Antichrist was definitely seen as a legendary projection of human evil forming the reverse image of the Christian Redeemer”. The splinter groups formed after the Reformation surely caused differences in regards to how evil was viewed, aways seeming to be defined in more contemporary styles. During this time we read of reformers such as Englishman John Jewell, Nicholas von Amsdorf, John Calvin, and Melchior Hoffman. Hoffman was an Anabaptist who prophesied of the end and the coming Antichrist in 1553. Von Amsdorf in 1554 wrote “Five Principles & Certain Signs Before the End”.

We also read of the “counter-reforms” being done in and through the Catholic Church during this time. We see the rise of various Jesuit understandings (some which pointed backwards in history as the fulfillment of prophecy rathering than regarding the Pope as Antichrist). It’s been said, “Catholic preaching and teaching on the Antichrist down to the latter half of the 17th century was partly a repetition of patterns inherited from early era’s and partly a reaction to the Protestant challenge”.

AD 1660 – 1900’s: McGinn properly noted, “While a number of important thinkers continued to speculate about the Antichrist, in many ways the Last Enemy became the hobby of cranks after 1660”. More defining of things based on contemporary situations led to more and more confusion. The early Puritans who had come to America viewed England as the Antichrist, in France due to the French Revolution there was a lot of throwing around of who was the “Antichrist”, and so we see the early confusion and void of clarity that allowed for a renewed interest in Milleniarism and ultimate Dispensationalism. These two doctrinal views has crept in and caused so many chaotic and confusing interpretations into the Christian Church.

That is where we are at now. McGinn’s eloquently detailed where all the confusion has led us: “…the increasing vagueness of the term Antichrist (as seen through the history of the Christian Church) has reached the point where universal invective overwhelmed effective application”. 

As I plan to continue to sift through and study these details further I am glad that I sit on the side of careful historical and context review. A Preterist. Every generation thinks excitedly that they are the “terminal generation” as shown through this lengthy review. Surely, I would apply much of the details found in prophecy to the generations it was prophesied to as well as ultimately the generation to whom Christ came and revealed things to. The Biblical Antichrist was revealed in that generation.

However, our understanding of Antichrist, or better said our understanding of evil, need not, must not, stop there. McGinn wrote and I couldn’t agree more, “…Biblical texts, such as the 1st epistle of John, and other major Christian thinkers – Origen, Augustine, Gregory the Great, William Langland – use Antichrist motifs – and insist that the true meaning of antichrist is to be found within, that is, the spirit that resists Christ”.  I regularly praise God that as I “study to show myself approved (2 Tim. 2:15)” and go through details for my writing of Wicked. I see the application of various concepts in Scripture.

In my upcoming release Wicked. I detail these “conceptual realities”, which the philosopher Paul Rocoeur in his seminal work, The Symbolism of Evil, explained very well when he noted how contemporary reflection on the symbols found in the ancient myths of the origin of evil could “still give rise to thought”; that is, they provide an “occasion for thought, something to think about”. Surely looking through history in regards to all the characters of evil we have pinpointed we have a lot to ponder. The Qumran community in the first century spoke of the “spirit of perversity” (which we all have the capability to live in and under) as the ultimate evil. In a similar vein, detailing “Who is the Antichrist?”, Church Fathers like Augustine noted “Everyone must question his conscience whether he be such”. In closing, let’s catch this concept as our definite understanding of the Antichrist:

“There you have the Antichrist – everyone that denies Christ by his works”. – Augustine

Some more contemporary resources I plan to take a look at (noting here for my and your benefit):

  • The Antichrist by Vincent P. Micelli
  • Catholic Prophecy: The Coming Chastisement by Ives DuPont
  • The Devil (4 part series) by Jeffrey Burton Russel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review – Fulfilled Eschatology by Tim Liwanag

As Pastor of The Blue Point Bible Church, I am always on the lookout for a simple enough yet concise and comprehesive resource to help others understand our views on Fulfilled Eschatology. Sure enough, in his book, Fulfilled Eschatology, Mr. Tim Liwanag delivers exactly that.

Right from the beginning of the book, one can easily notice that Mr. Liwanag has done much research and utilized many resources (books, articles, and learning from others in the Christian community) to formulate his excellent effort of systematizing the story within Scripture. Two teachers that I greatly admire wrote ‘introductions’ to the book, Mr. Joe Daniels & Mr. Larry Siegle, therefore I new it was going to be an enjoyable read, and there introductions to the book were right on target. Mr. Siegle mentioned that the book was full of great lists of Scripture and might offer some new insights to the reader, that surely explains the benefit of this great read. Mr. Daniels rightly noted Mr. Liwanag’s great exposition on the Deity of Christ, and his efforts to exalt Christ that are prevalent throughout the entire book.

It is not uncommon for me to read the works of other Believer’s who have come to agree with Fulfilled Escatology and yet find areas of major disagreement. This is largely due to the fact that the truths of Fulfilled Eschatology have the ability to cross denominational lines and bring light to the context and truth of Scripture. Yet confusion is still there. I am glad to say that Mr. Liwanag was not afraid to utilize Scripture to formulate conclusions even in areas that many Bible expositors are afraid to venture (i.e., the lake of fire a.k.a. “hell”, fulfilled eschatology’s application for today, resurrection, the book of Revelation, etc.), yet I found no areas of disagreement.

This is a testament to Mr.Liwanag’s respect for the context and application of Scripture. To that I must say, “Thank You”. The lists of passages provided to make points was so clear and concise, that I was excited to continue reading.

Mr. Liwanag’s explanation and usage of ‘audience relevance’ is commendable, and it clearly seen through his retelling of the story with a focus on Israel (what some have come to refer to as the “Hebrew Exclusivity” noted in Scripture). The lengths he went to provide lists of Scriptures and passages to support the details is astounding, and surely provided me with some lists I can use in teaching others.

According to John chapter 4, those who worship God must worship Him as He desires, and that is in Truth and in Spirit. The clear-as-day exaltation of Christ that Mr. Liwanag provides throughout the writing is refreshing, and shows us the goal of his writing this book. Also, it is a common trend today for many “Christians” to obsess over fantastic notions of ‘heaven’ that they have made up, rather than paying attention to “Covenant-Fulfillment”, which is expressed through understanding the ‘full narrative’ of Scripture- gladly Mr. Liwanag brings out these details in Fulfilled Eschatology as well.

This book is a must read, and for many of the discussions going on within Preterist circles, and the rapid expansion of Fulfilled Eschatology, this book is right on time! Just as the Preterists like things.

Nearing the end of the book, Mr. Liwanag notes, “So where do we go from here? The answer is not “towards fulfillment” but “from fulfillment in Christ onwards” and then he goes on to say, “At this point, however, what remains is for us to show by the Scripture again the fulfillment message is not finished yet, even though all things written to and for the Israelites were fulfilled”. Amen to that!

I can’t wait for Mr. Tim Liwanag to get his book, Fulfilled Eschatology, in print so I can put it in the hands of others who desire to understand the context of Scripture. Another great ‘Preterist Resource’ to enable others to see the power of living in “Christ’s Glorious Presence Now”.

In His Service,

Pastor Michael Miano

Blue Point Bible Church

www.bluepointbiblechurch.org

P.S.- There always seems to be confusion on what exactly is means to be a “Christian”. In his book, again noting how all encompassing the book really is, Mr. Liwanag gives a great description of the term “Christian” as applying to God’s people:

“At first believers had no distinctive name, but were called among themselves “brethren,” Ac 6:3; “disciples,” Ac 6:1; “those of the way,” Ac 9:2; “saints,” Ro 1:7; by the Jews (who denied that Jesus was the Christ, and so would never originate the name Christian), in contempt, “Nazarenes.” At Antioch, where first idolatrous Gentiles (Cornelius, Ac 10:1, 2, was not an idolater, but a proselyte) were converted, and wide missionary work began, they could be no longer looked on as a Jewish sect, and so the Gentiles designated them by the new name “Christians.” The rise of the new name marked a new epoch in the Church’s life, a new stage of its development, namely, its missions to the Gentiles.”

In the first-century Messianic age, it is a Christian’s creed, not only to represent Christ’s name, but also to be defamed for it:

“If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or asa thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” (1 Peter 4:14-16; Revelation 3:12)

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“What will people do if they believe they have complete freedom as a Christ-follower?”

“What will people do  if they believe  they have complete freedom as a Christ-follower?”

Recently I read “Free Book” by Brian Tome. The fact that the word “fanatic” on the cover was enough to intrigue me enough to read through this book. I loved how blunt Pastor Brian was throughout the book.

         I love the fact that he mentioned that there are millions of books about religion and self-control but so very few about freedom. Jesus Christ talked about freedom so much- why does this seem to be the missing link in Christianity?

In 2009 I seemed to be bent on “living life to the max” and have a couple blogs that one could go back and read. (Disclaimer- remember I have grown Spiritually and mentally quite a bit since 2009). I have come to love the term “hedonist” which John Piper brought into the Christian realm. A hedonist is someone who lives for the pursuit of pleasure. I believe that Kingdom-life through Jesus Christ is the pursuit of the ultimate pleasure, or life to the full (John 10:10).

The man that led me to Christ (Paul Curran) was very big on “embracing your vulnerabilities” in an effort to “access the power of Christ” ( a writing of his about this topic is in the appendix of my book, Freaked Out by the New Covenant). Embracing your vulnerabilities is allowing yourself to die, so to speak, or be weak that way Christ is your strength.  I believe this to be quite the liberating experience.

I remember brother Paul aways citing 1 John 4:8, “perfect love casts out fear”, as a primary thought to challenge people to live without fear. Pastor Brian says this in the book:

“Fear  might keep you  from going places you could enjoy, talking with people who could expand your thinking,  and trying things that will grow you”.

LET YOUR LOVE FOR LIVING YOUR GOD-GIVEN LIFE TO THE FULL CAST OUT FEAR. Make the pledge today to live fearlessly. “Freedom is being who God designed you to be”.

“Instead of being so concerned about what might happen if you get too close to the proverbial line- because there are plenty of those messages out there- we need more voices saying, “You are free, and don’t allow anyone to bum you out by judging you”.

Let me make sure you know something upfront. The minute you decide to take control of your own life and live free- there are always those who will “judge you” and try and bring you back into bondage. I would say this is one of the “universal truths” we can derive from the 1st century gospel message (the contrast between the persecuting “Hagar” and the free “Sarah” – read Galatians 4:21-31).  As Saul Alinsky once said:

“Change means movement. Movement means friction”.

“If you are focused on maintaining balance- trying to satisfy all the people in every area of your life and just skating by with a little energy here and there- you probably aren’t moving, and you probably aren’t experiencing  the blessings that come from a life lived in freedom”.

Another disclaimer is the fact that freedom is kinda scary. It’s the unknown. A favorite author of mine, Shane Claiborne, talks about this is his book- The Irresistible Revolution. He speaks about how perhaps the most dangerous place to be is in the hands of God. A God who challenges men to trust Him and walk on water- Yes, God will bring you to some interesting places.  Sadly, as was said in the book:

“…when a new way of living is introduced, we are hardwired to think it is in our best interest to eliminate in and not change”.

So I want to initiate something here. Let’s call it the Caleb Project. If you read about Caleb in the book of Numbers and the book of Joshua you learn about his steadfast faith in God- willing to have what is called “risky faith”. I am asking you to consider that today. Let’s put this freedom thing to the test.

Have you ever written your bucket list? Write down those things you want to do and get started. Here are a couple of things I ready to start within the next couple weeks and it would be awesome to hear that you are involved.

The LIAR LIAR EXERCISE which is dedicating a day to being “brutally honest” with anyone and everyone you meet. This is quite the daring experience but I imagine it will be quite liberating, and yes- fun. Ha Ha, I just have to include this clip from the movie Liar Liar:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DP2PlE41wpE

Pay It Forward is another liberating experience wherein you do a good deed for someone, or pay for their food, in the effort that they will do the same thing. Let’s start a chain reaction. I can give you story after story of how that looked on the Starbucks Drive-Thu line.

         In the next week or two, I will begin the 3 Day Challenge of Living on the Edge. I will be trying to get as many people as possible to participate. Let me know if you are willing to try it out. Learn more by visiting this website:

http://www.liveontheedge.com/3day.html

Some other ideas I am going to try out are living off the land for a week or so and being a freegan. Yeah Google that term it’s quite interesting.

       I know this is not exactly my usual “intellectual” style blog. I pride myself on not taking life too serious, living radically and loving Jesus-m demolishing strongholds and enabling others to find abundant life in Christ. I call this “living lightly”- something I look to get tattoed and start a chain reaction too. Are you willing to try out FREEDOM?

“Because Caleb has different fuel in his tank- a fire burning in his belly- he followed God full-on, and God decided to bless him remarkably through his life and his lineage”.

   I look forward to your responses. Blessings in Christ.

        -Pastor Michael Miano

Here are links to the blogs I had written back in 2009:

 

http://www.newsfromthetribe.blogspot.com/2009/06/dont-wanna-waste-my-life.html

http://www.newsfromthetribe.blogspot.com/2009/06/its-like-being-born-again.html

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The Creation Question that NEEDS To Be Answered! Review of John Walton’s book- The Lost World of Genesis One

“The Old Testament does communicate to us and it was written for us, and for all humankind. But it was not written to us. It was written to Israel. It is God’s revelation of Himself to Israel and secondarily through Israel to everyone else”.

It is a rising notion that when we read the Scriptures we must remember we are reading ancient Jewish documents. Popular writer and theologian, N.T. Wright recently noted, “

“Twentieth-century scholorship has atleast one great advantage over its predecessors…it has been realized that Jesus must be understood in His Jewish context”.

At the advice of many leaders within the Preterist Movement I finally had the opportunity to read and finish John Walton’s book, The Lost World of Genesis One.

After reading I am not sure that John Walton is a preterist but it was encouraging that he sees the importance of what is called “audience relevance”.  As John Walton notes, “The most respectful reading we can give to the text, the reading most faithful to the face value of the text- and the most “literal” understanding, if you will- is the one that comes from their world not ours”.

As I have allowed myself to investigate what is called “Covenant Creationism” I have sought to be intellectually honest. As I begin reading the Bible from the beginning there are a couple contextually issues I run across. The first issue would be the covenantal term “heaven and earth” which is used throughout the Scriptures to speak of God’s covenant with His covenant people- i.e. Dueteronomy chapter 31, Jeremiah 31, and Revelation 21.  Another issue I run across is the context- Genesis is compiled by Moses as part of the Torah. Was the Torah revealed to all the nations? God revealed his truth and promises to Israel- not the other nations (Psalm 147:19 ;Romans 9:4-5; Romans 15:8-13). The “other nations” or Gentiles would come in as a result of the work of Jesus Christ- first to the Jew, then to the Gentile (Romans 1:16).

When looked at through this lens we can explain the focus on Israel that we read from the founding of the tribes of Israel onward. Simply put, the Biblical message is about how God fulfilled His covenant with Israel. Many proponents of Fulfilled Bible prophecy see this at “the end” but fail to be consistent in regard to the beginnings.  I have had the opportunity to speak with Jeff Vaughn, one of the co-authors of Beyond Creation Science, and I asked him “who were those in Adam”. He began to explain the ancient city/state covenants and how most ancient civilizations would have identified themselves by their deity- i.e. Rome= Romulus. Adamites would have been no different leading us into what is called preadamism. Recognizing the Biblical account of “Adam” as the story of the beginning of covenant- Adam being the first covenant man.

One of the thoughts I have had fairly recently is that of the land of Nod. Who was Abel afraid of when he said:

“Behold, you have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me (Gensis 4:14)”.

So who exactly was going to find Cain and kill him in the land of Nod? Consider that is we take this story to be the literal creation story we have Adam, Eve, and Cain…? Where did his wife come from?

This leads us into the preadamite conversation- where they people created before Adam? I personally believe so. I believe the Biblical account of Adam was a creation story- the historical creation of God’s covenant with Adam and through that lineage. So…did the people in the land of Nod have a god? Jeff Vaughn answered this recently by saying:

My guess is that they certainly did, but it would be impossible to prove. Is it possible to determine who the patron of the ancient city of Enoch was? The patron god of Enoch could have been the patron god of the inhabitants of Nod. However, they could have replaced their old god when they founded that city”.

Getting through this discussion is so complicated because as Walton notes in his book,

“Rather than translating the culture, we need to try to enter the culture”. It’s a complicated thing to lose all of our cultural paradigms and be willing to be led by understanding another culture.  For example, John Walton is asking us to consider the Genesis creation account in light of other Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) creation accounts. 

“Comparing the ancient cultures to one another will help us see those common threads even as we become aware of the disnctions that separated thenm from one another”

Does anyone ever ask why we accept the Old Testament creation account over the Book of the Dead or other creation stories? I would imagine half the populace are not even aware of other creation accounts.

The following quotes from John Walton’s book demonstrate the vital need for us to consider understanding the Israelite culture and how THEY would have understood the creation account and challenge our preconcieved notions.

“For the Israelites, Genesis 1 offered explanations of their view or origins and operations, in the same way that mythologies served in the rest of the ancient world and that science serves our western culture. It represents what the Israelites truly believed about how it works, though it is not presented as their own ideas, but as revelations from God”.

“Some Christians approach the text of Genesis as if it has modern science embedded in it or it dictates what modern science should look like. This approach to the text of Genesis 1 is called “concordism”, as it seeks to give a modern scientific explanation for the details in the text. This represents one attempt to “translate” the culture and text for the modern reader. The problem is, we cannot translate their cosmology to our cosmology, nor should we”.

“The ancients would never dream of addressing how things might have come into being without God or what “natural” processes he might have used”.

“The Bible’s message must not be subjected to cultural imperialism. Its message transcends the culture in which it originated, but the form in which the message was imbedded was fully permeated by the ancient culture”.

“In this book I propose that people in the ancient world believed that something existed not by virtue of its material properties, but by virtue of its having a function in an ordered system”.

One of the definitions of the term ‘ontology’ is “a particular theory about the nature of being or the kinds of things that have existence”. That is precisely what is being discussed here. What type of ontology is happening in Genesis? How would the ancient Israelites have understood this text?

“In a functional ontology, to bring something into existence would require giving it a function or a role in an ordered system, rather than giving it material properties. Consequently, something could be manufactured physically but still not “exist” if it has not become functional”.

What John Walton is seeking to demonstrate is that the Genesis account is using creation imagery in a fashion to explain not necessarily how things came into being but why. This would be referred to as a “functional ontology” and in his book, John Walton seeks to demonstrate this is exactly how the ancients would have understood a creation text. He uses the following illustration:

“As employees we pay little attention to the history of the company we work for. We are more interested in its corporate structure and what responsibility each department has”.

An important thing to notice in the text which is hardly possible for those of us who are not fluent in the Hebrew of Genesis would be the verb Bara that is used for the word ‘create’. There are 2 words used throughout the Hebrew text that is translated as create. Bara is always used for that which God creates, whereas asah is used to say ‘made’.

OT scholar John Walton argues that the Hebrew word “bara” does not mean to create “ex nihilo”, but rather it means to give already existing material a function. Eg. in Gen 1:1, “in the beginning God created” is inherently ambiguous; he believes it should say, “when God began to create” and so in verse 2, “the earth was without form” means that the earth always had existed and God was simply working with pre-existing materials.

“If this is not an account of material origins, then Genesis 1 is affirming nothing about the material world. Whether or not there actually are cosmic waters being held back by a solid dome does not matter. That material cosmic geography is simply what was familiar to them and was used to communicate something that is functional in nature”.

Dealing with the functional origins rather than the material origins, John Walton also notes:

“…Genesis 1 is not an account of material origins but an account of functional origins, specifically focusing on the functioning of the cosmos as God’s temple”.

Moshe Wienfield, a former professor of the Bible at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, explained Genesis as a ‘temple text’. Utilizing the ancient understanding of deity and how the deity rests in the temple, John Walton demonstrates that the 7 day rest denotes creation as a ‘temple inaguration’. The following links have more information about this topic specifically:

http://ocabs.org/journal/index.php/jocabs/article/viewFile/43/18

http://nearemmaus.com/2012/04/11/john-waltons-ninth-proposition/

The “cosmic temple inaguration view” has validity to it when looked at as an Ancient Near East text and especially in light of what the Jewish historian Josephus had to say:

“However, this proportion of the measures of the tabernacle proved to be an imitation of the system of the world: for that third part thereof which was within the four pillars, to which the priests were not admitted, is, as it were, a Heaven peculiar to God…” Josephus, Antiquities, Book 3, Chapter 6, Paragraph 4, Section 123).

“When Moses distinguished the tabernacle into three parts, and allowed two of them to the priests as a place accessible to the common, he denoted the land and the sea, these being of general access to all; but he set apart the third division for God, because heaven is inaccessible to men” Josephus, Antiquities, Book 3, Chapter 7, Paragraph 7, Section 181).

As proper “audience relevance” would note:

“I believe if we are going to interpret the text according to its face value, we need to read it as the ancient author would have intended and as the ancient audience would have heard it”.

John Walton isn’t afraid to be challenged either as he writes:

“One of the most common questions about this view comes from those who are struggling with the worldview shift from material orientation to functional orientation (a difficult jump for all of us). In a last effort to cling to a material perspective, they ask, why can’t it be both?”.

His answer actually blew my mind since this is a question I myself have heard many people ask.

“The comfort of our traditional worldview is an insufficient basis for such a conclusion. We must be led by the text. A material interest cannot be assumed by default, it must be demonstrated, and we must ask ourselves why we are so interested in seeing the account in material terms…”

He then accounts the facts that the nature of the verb bara which is used to express “create” in Genesis is functional, the context of Genesis itself is functional, the cultural context of Ancient Near Eastern writings is functional, and clearly when we read Josephus we see the understanding during the time of Jesus Christ was functional- NOT CONCERNED WITH MATERIAL CREATION!

“As a result, it is difficult to sustain a case that the account is interested in material origins if one does not already come with that presupposition”.

And just to again make the point clear:

“Viewing Genesis 1 as an account of functional origins of the cosmos as temple does not in any way suggest or imply that God was uninvolved in material origins- it only contents that Genesis 1 is not that story. To the author and audience of Genesis, material origins were simply not a priority”.

The fact is that in ancient civilication it would have been unthinkable that the deity (in this case the God of Israel) was uninvolved in the creation of all material things- therefore there would have been no need to stress an account of those things. As I have become accumstomed to saying- the Bible was not written to atheists to prove the things about God. Rather the Bible is the historical documentation of how and why God fulfilled His covenant relationship with Israel. Long live FULFILLED ESCHATOLOGY.

Here are a couple ending quotes from John Walton’s book that I thought to share:

“…the Bible upholds the idea that God is responsible for all origins (functional, material, or otherwise), if the Bible does not offer an account of material origins we are free to consider contemporary explanations of origins on  their own merits, as long as God is seen as ultimately responsible”.

“…it is much more important to say that God has made everything work  rather than being content to say that God made the physical stuff. The purpose, teleology (which is the most important part), is located and observed in the functional, not the material”.

“I have proposed that the most careful, responsible reading of the text will proceed with the understanding that it is ancient literature, not modern science”.

So still you ask? “Wny can’t Genesis 1 be both functional and material?

“Theoretically it could be both. But assuming that we simply must have a material account if we are going to say anything meaningful is cultural imperialism. We cannot demand that the text speak to us in our terms. Just as we cannot demand a material account, we cannot assume a material account just because that is most natural to us and answers  the questions we most desire to ask. We must look to the text to inform  us of its perspective. In my judgment, there is little in the text that commends it as material account and much that speaks against it”.

I hope this review helps. Below I will include a couple more links to further your studies on this matter.

Blessings in Christ,

Pastor Michael Miano

http://www.bluepointbiblechurch.org

Links:

http://biologos.org/blog/adam-is-Israel

http://planetpreterist.com/content/hermeneutic-covenant-creation-taught-berkeley-mickelsen

http://deathisdefeated.ning.com/profiles/blogs/the-covenant-creation-archive

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