Sons and Daughters of Noah and the Insanity of Racism

Creation, Culture, The Gospel

skincolor(By: Nick Kennicott)

On the way home from watching Is Genesis History? last night, my oldest daughter and I had a wonderful conversation about all the people of the earth coming from Noah (and, of course, Adam before Noah). The discussion began as we talked about how the different kinds of cats in the world (e.g. lions, tigers, cheetahs, etc.) could come from only two felines from Noah’s Ark since a housecat and a lion is so different. Very quickly we began talking about the same issue with humans and how people have different features (e.g. skin color, facial features, bone structures, etc.), not because we are inherently different as human beings, but because God created us in such a way that small changes would take place over time for our bodies to adapt to our environment in a way that it is best suited to withstand our regularly recurring conditions. A person’s skin is darker when they descend from ancestors who, for many generations, have been in environmental conditions that are harsher in terms of heat and light, as opposed to those with much lighter complexions whose descendants are from colder and darker climates. Likewise, people who, for generations, have come from climates with a lot of snow will likely have eyes that are more narrow because they need protection from light glare off the white surface, whereas dark and dreary climates might mean larger, rounder eyes.

We then discussed how we live in a time where many of these differences are coming together in ways they haven’t in the past because of the ease of travel and communication around the world. Until the modern era, it wasn’t likely that someone from Mongolia was going to have much interaction with someone from Mexico, however, it is very possible that today a Mongolian man might meet a Mexican woman and the two marry and have children. We are seeing new ethnic make-ups that we’ve never seen before, and it’s exciting! What will the great-grandchildren of those children look like over the next 100 or 500 years? Only God knows, but it’s wonderful to consider how He is glorified by displaying his creative power and diversity through the many differences that exist amongst the people of the world and how those differences coming together makes for all new possibilities.

I was reminded in our discussion of the insanity of racism. In fact, I don’t prefer the term racism at all because it implies that there is more than one race–We are all humans. More accurately, what we understand to be racism is ethnocentrism or cultural bias, because the differences that are highlighted in bias only pertain to one’s physical make-up or cultural nuance, not the condition or make-up of the soul. Every human being, be they a Mongloid-Mexican or an Australian-Filipino, bleed real blood, have real physical needs, and most importantly, are dead in trespasses and sins apart from Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:1). Ethnocentric bias is insane because it’s based on genetic differences that developed over time through environmental adaptation. If we trace our lineages back far enough, all of our ancestors looked alike. My heart was glad to hear my (very) white daughter say, “If I marry a man with dark skin like our friends from Nigeria, our babies aren’t going to look like they would if I marry a man from China or a man who is white like me… that’s really cool!” Indeed, that is really cool.

I have been reminded once again of the beauty of the gospel to make right what sinful man has gotten so wrong. I praise God that one day all of His people will be intimately aware of the insanity of man’s sinful projections on others when we see the multitudes gathered in worship. “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'” (Revelation 7:9-10).

Our Lady of the Rib: The Making of the Type of the Church

The Church, The Gospel, Theology

(By: Chris Marley)

Read Part 1: Introducing the Princess Bride

Read Part 2: Prototype of the Ideal Husband

ribHaving used the Bride of Christ metaphor to revisit the Pactum Salutis in Introducing the Princess Bride and the creation of Adam in Prototype of an Ideal Husband, we now turn to a different kind of Creation.

Genesis 2:20-25 recounts an act of what we call Creatio Passiva or Creatio Secunda, wherein God creates something out of something, as opposed to the first part of creation where he created out of nothing (Adam’s creation falls into this category as well). After the type of Christ in Adam is made flesh and blood from the dust of the earth, the type of the church in Eve is formed from Adam’s side. While tradition has translated this as “one of his ribs,” the most literal rendering is just that she is taken from out of his side. There is no other ancient Near-Eastern creation narrative that parallels this. In and of itself, the rib-woman is a phenomenon that holds many facets of application as a metaphor of the church.

Eve created from a rib taken from Adam teaches of gain from loss. He loses a rib to gain a wife. As Adam’s bride was gain from loss, so was Christ’s bride gain from loss. Christ descended from the glory of heaven, endured the wrath of God, and even surrendered his spirit in order to gain for himself a people to call his bride.

Eve from a rib showed much being made from little. Certainly this is a small matter for the God who spoke and created from nothing, but it is impossible for man to create a hundred-pound anything from something that is only a few ounces. Yet we see that Christ took Adam and Eve and produced from the whole human race. From Abraham he produced all of Israel. From the disciples and a murdering Pharisee (Saul/Paul) he produced a church that would span the globe. He made his beloved bride from worthless sinners.

Eve from a rib taught Adam that his completion was outside himself. The world is filled with people seeking to discover happiness within themselves. They seek wisdom within themselves. They think that through self-confidence and ego they can become complete in and of themselves. There are even “religious” people who believe that they are capable of saving themselves. Yet, the scriptures teach that salvation, joy, and peace that surpasses understanding are found in God who is completely other than us.

Eve from a rib points to Eve’s identity deriving from Adam. Calvin writes, “In this manner Adam was taught to recognize himself in his wife, as in a mirror…”[1] and in the same way, Eve saw herself in Adam. Likewise, it is essential that the Church derive her identity from Christ from whom she is derived. There are many assemblies calling themselves churches that derive identity from philanthropic interests, human heritage, or even race. A true church should have an identity founded solely upon her savior and husband, Christ. Her understanding of him in terms of who he is, how he saved her, and how he labors in and through her should shape her identity. The identity of the church is in the very gospel that created her.

When the Eve-rib was taken from Adam’s side, he was under divine general anesthesia of sleep. Adam felt nothing as God took the rib from his side. It was a painless creation of the bride in a world into which sin had not yet entered. In the pre-fall world, the creation of Adam’s bride required no pain. This contrasts drastically with the identity of the Bride of Christ formed after the fall. For that bride, the bridegroom did not lose a rib during sleep, but was crushed in the body. Adam’s account would serve a more peaceful foreshadowing of Christ’s passion with a surprising number of correlations. As Claude Chavasse states, “Christ’s Death and Passion would thus be prefigured by Adam’s sleep, and the opening of his side to take out the rib; his Resurrection, by Adam’s waking again. Round the Rib was built up the new Bride, who may thus be said to have slept and woken again with the new Adam.”

Finally, Eve was taken from life to perpetuate life. This woman would be the mother of all living men and women. This is why Adam would call her Eve in chapter three. Her life would produce life, which ties into a subject I will deal with in a later article regarding the meeting of the husband and wife producing life, but it serves well to briefly address some aspects here. God chose not to create Eve in the same way as Adam. She was not formed from dust to have life breathed into her. Adam was formed in an event unique to only him, but Eve was created from the first Adam.

Christ was born of Mary as a virgin. Scripture gives us a limited account in the prophecy by angel in Luke 1:35. His birth was as unique to history as Adam’s was. From Christ’s life, his bride’s life would be produced. His side would be opened by a Roman spear following his real death, paralleling Adam’s figurative death. Her life would be the source of life of children beyond count or measure. In the world we know, and all of history excluding Adam and Christ, life follows a consistent pattern. Cells are formed by mitosis (where a parent cell gives of itself to produce a new one), and people are formed from an already present and living mother.

While it is important to emphasize the nature of salvation as by God alone, he uses the church as an instrument in his hands to bring about new life. We are born again by Christ through the church. This is why Scripture emphasizes evangelism and preaching. If you look back to your own conversion, it was not by God speaking in an audible voice, calling you to repent and believe. After the Apostles and Paul, Christ always used human servants to spread the Gospel. Whether by the proper preaching of the Word or by the testimony of a believer, every Christian comes to new life through the church.

—–

[1] Calvins Commentary Vol. I, p. 132

This article first appeared at Credomag.com and is used here with permission. Chris Marley is the pastor of Miller Valley Baptist Church in Prescott, AZ.

 

Non-Biblical Literature and the Bible: Ancient World Literature (Tenth Post, Part I)

Books, Christian Education, Christian Living, Theology

This post will be a two-parter and the last in our series on non-biblical literature and the Bible (other than a bibliography we are developing to supplement the material). In it, we want to look at how a Christian can read and think about literature that is found all over the world, in both ancient and more recent times. We will tackle this from several different perspectives, though this doesn’t come close to exhausting the possibilities.

Similarities and Apologetics

Indulge me for a moment and check this out. I think you will find it fascinating:

THIS IS THE ACCOUNT of when all is still silent and placid. All is silent and calm. Hushed and empty is the womb of the sky.

THESE, then, are the first words, the first speech. There is not yet one person, one animal, bird, fish, crab, tree, rock, hollow, canyon, meadow, or forest. All alone the sky exists. The face of the earth has not yet appeared. Alone lies the expanse of the sea, along with the womb of the sky. There is not yet anything gathered together. All is at rest. Nothing stirs. All is languid, at rest in the sky. There is not yet anything standing erect. Only the expanse of the water, only the tranquil sea lies alone. There is not yet anything that might exist. All lies placid and silent in the darkness, in the night.

All alone are the Framer and the Shaper, Sovereign and Quetzal Serpent, They Who Have Borne Children and They Who Have Begotten Sons. Luminous they are in the water, wrapped in quetzal feathers and cotinga feathers. Thus they are called Quetzal Serpent. In their essence, they are great sages, great possessors of knowledge. Thus surely there is the sky. There is also Heart of Sky, which is said to be the name of the god.

THEN came his word. Heart of Sky arrived here with Sovereign and Quetzal Serpent in the darkness, in the night. He spoke with Sovereign and Quetzal Serpent. They talked together then. They thought and they pondered. They reached an accord, bringing together their words and their thoughts. Then they gave birth, heartening one another. Beneath the light, they gave birth to humanity. Then they arranged for the germination and creation of the trees and the bushes, the germination of all life and creation, in the darkness and in the night, by Heart of Sky, who is called Huracan.

First is Thunderbolt Huracan, second is Youngest Thunderbolt, and third is Sudden Thunderbolt. These three together are Heart of Sky. Then they came together with Sovereign and Quetzal Serpent. Together they conceived light and life: “How shall it be sown? When shall there be a dawn for anyone? Who shall be provider? Who shall be a sustainer?”

“Then be it so. You are conceived. May the water be taken away, emptied out, so that the plate of the earth may be created—may it be gathered and become level. Then may it be sown; then

Mayan Creation Story

Mayan Creation Story

may dawn the sky and the earth. There can be no worship, no reverence given by what we have framed and what we have shaped, until humanity has been created, until people have been made,” they said.

Then the earth was created by them. Merely their word brought about the creation of it. In order to create the earth, they said, “Earth,” and immediately it was created. Just like a cloud, like a midst, was the creation and formation of it.

Then they called forth the mountains from the water. Straightaway the great mountains came to be. It was merely their spirit essence, their miraculous power, that brought about the conception of the mountains and the valleys. Straightaway were created cypress groves and pine forests to cover the face of the earth.

Thus Quetzal Serpent rejoiced: “It is good that you have come, Heart of Sky—you, Huracan, and you as well, Youngest Thunderbolt and Sudden Thunderbolt. That which we have framed and shaped shall turn out well,” they said.[1]

From here, the story explains how animals were created after the land. The animals were given homes and were treated well by the gods. So the gods expected something in return. They expected worship, but the animals were only able to squawk and chatter and roar, because they were animals. And “this was not good.” After destroying these animals, the gods created men out of mud, “But this was not good” either. For, the mud-men came undone and crumbled. This “mistake” caused the gods to topple the mud-men. Next, they tried making men out of wood, but they forgot to make them with souls and minds, and thus they could not worship either, so the gods beat and disfigured them and destroyed them in a great flood. The final attempt (so far) was to make men out of sacred corn. As of today, the gods have not yet destroyed them.

The similarities (and differences) between this story and the one told in Genesis are stunning, especially considering that it comes from a place that is over 7,000 miles, two continents, and an ocean away from Jerusalem. This is from the Popol Vuh codex, one of only a few Mayan (yes, I said Mayan) writings to escape burning at the torches of the Roman Church.

220154-apocalyptic-and-post-apocalyptic-fiction-ragnark

Ragnarök

From the Popol Vuh to perhaps the opposite end of the historical spectrum in something like the apocalyptic battle of Ragnarök–the end of all things in the Norse sagas called the Eddas (poetic and prose)–people otherwise completely unassociated with the world of the Bible (except remotely through Noah) have remarkably parallel stories that tell of origins and endings of the world. This is something altogether different from what we saw in the post on ANE literature, which the biblical authors sometimes incorporated into their own polemics.

While some use these similarities to discount the Scripture, this is anything but a necessary conclusion. Curiously, it was these similarities combined with the fact that the Bible purports to tell the demonstrable history of a God-man rising from the dead that was the final nail in C. S. Lewis’ atheistic coffin.[2] He says we should expect the similarities, while also expecting to see the fullness or finality come to pass in reality, which is exactly what Scripture tells us. In this way, read and understood in the context of Scripture illuminating the truth, This type of literature can actually be used as a kind of apologetic to help people understand the truth, much like Paul does when quoting Greek poets to the Athenians.[3] You have heard of the unknown God. Now, let me tell you about him…

In Part 2 of this post, Nick will add some thoughts as together we give a few more ideas on reading world literature and wrap up the series.

(by: Doug Van Dorn)

[1] Allen J. Christenson, Popol Vuh: Sacred Book of the Quiché Maya People (Mesoweb Publications, 2003), 58-62.  Available online: http://www.mesoweb.com/publications/Christenson/PopolVuh.pdf

[2] See the important and fascinating essay by C. S. Lewis, “Is Theology Poetry?” republished by Samizdat University Press, 2014. http://www.samizdat.qc.ca/arts/lit/Theology=Poetry_CSL.pdf, last accessed 3-23-2015.

[3] Thanks to Kathy in my church for sending me this timely link. Daniel Foucachon, “Plundering the Egyptians,” Classical Conversations: Classical Christian Community, https://www.classicalconversations.com/article/plundering-eqyptians, last accessed 2-24-2015.

Christ in the Old Testament (Part X)

Christ in the Old Testament, Theology

Christ in the OT 10 Christ the Son of God

Christ: The Son of God

In the NT, a phrase occurs identifying Jesus Christ as “The [only begotten] Son of God” (John 1:14, 18; 3:16; 1Jn 4:9). It is familiar enough, but its origins might not be. This exact phrase does not appear in the OT LXX, so where might it come from? In this post we will look at two Psalms (Ps 2, 82) and Genesis 1 along with some NT reflections (John 10; Col 1) on these passages for an answer. The most obvious place where we see something conceptually similar is Psalm 2:6-7. “I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you” This passage is cited several times by the NT as referring to Jesus (Acts 13:33; Heb 1:5; 5:5).

There is a fascinating and deliberate connection between this Psalm and Psalm 82. Consider these two verses: “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (Ps 2:8). “Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!” (Ps 82:8). The former verse has the Son inheriting the nations, while the later has “God” inheriting them. The conceptual parallels between the two Psalms would suggest that the Son is God. But we can see this in Psalm 82 all by itself.

The first verse has “God” taking his place in something called “the divine council” (ESV), where “in the midst of the gods he holds judgment.[1] These “gods” are called “sons of God” in vs. 6, and when they judge badly, the foundations of the whole earth shake (vs. 5). The “sons of God” (beney ha-elohom) are the heavenly beings that were praising God while he was creating the universe (Job 38:7). In both the Bible and neighboring nations, they were considered God’s heavenly royal family.[2]

Jesus cites Psalm 82:6 to the Pharisees (John 10:34-35). For a host of reasons[3] (not the least of which is the connection between Ps 2 and 82), the best interpretation of this passage is to see Jesus as claiming to be one of these heavenly beings. After all, he has “come down from heaven” (seven times in John 6). This is why they still want to kill him for blasphemy after he quotes the verse. Yet, he is also different from them, for he has a unique relationship to the Father, as he is “in” the Father and the Father is “in” him (John 10:34:36-38), or as Psalm 2 informs us, he is “begotten.”

The NT comes along and uses the word “only begotten” (monogenes) and applies it to Jesus. This word means “unique” or “one of a kind,” as is easily seen by the fact that Isaac is the “only begotten” son of Abraham (Heb 11:17), even though Abraham had Ishmael 13 years earlier (I think it is actually a double entendra, as it can also means “begotten”[4]). Thus, anytime we see “sons of God” or even “gods” in the OT, our thought should go to the unique Son of God, the one who created any others who “may be called gods” (1 Cor 8:5).

prototokosSpeaking of this creation, in Colossians 1:15-18, the Apostle Paul, reflecting upon creation and Genesis 1 (we talked about this in the previous post) explains, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (15). “God” seems to refer to the Father here. The word “firstborn” is the word prototokos. It comes up again in vs. 18 where it says, “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn (prototokos) from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” But Paul has not given up his treatment of creation in between these two verses, much less is he saying that this firstborn was created. For he says, “For by him [the firstborn] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (16-17). Notice how predominate the creation of heavenly beings is in this text.

“But who is this “he,” this “firstborn,” this “beginning?” Psalm 8 called him “Wisdom.” But here, he is deliberately called “His beloved Son” (13). What is amazing about this is how the Church Fathers knew of translations of Genesis 1:1 that went this way: “In the beginning, God became a Son” or “In the beginning, God made for himself a Son.”[5] Depending on the exact Greek terms, these are most likely heretical ideas. However, the Latin Father Jerome states the opinion of people saying, “Most people think that in the Hebrew is contained In the Son, God made heaven and earth.[6] This is perfectly orthodox, but how could anyone possibly get this from Genesis 1:1?

The word reshith can mean either “beginning” or “first” or even the idea of a “firstborn” in Hebrew (cf. Gen 49:3). Thus, the Bible in Basic English reads, “At the first God made the heaven and the earth” (Gen 1:1 BBE). In English, “first” can have the idea of either time or rank (the same is true in Greek and Hebrew). If I say, “She was the first in class,” I could mean either that she was the first to arrive to the classroom, or that she was had the best grades in his class (in my experience, girls were usually first in class). Paul may in fact have this idea in mind and may be capitalizing on it in Colossians, though as John 1:1’s “in the beginning” shows, this would clearly be seen as a flexible idea. So it is strangely possible to translate Genesis 1:1 with the firstborn in mind, even as we have seen that it also includes ideas of the word and wisdom as well. All of this relates to Christ as the Son of God. The NT is not making the idea that Christ is the only begotten Son of God up. It is getting it from the OT.

In the next installment, we will look at Christ: The Glory of God.

 

[1] I realize there is controversy surrounding who these “gods” are among Evangelicals. For reasons why they cannot refer to humans see Cyrus Gordon, “אלהים (Elohim) in Its Reputed Meaning of Rulers, Judges,” Journal of Biblical Literature 54 (1935): 139–144; W. S. Prinsloo, “Psalm 82: Once Again, Gods or Men?” Biblica 76:2 (1995), 219–228; Lowell Handy, “Sounds, Words and Meanings in Psalm 82,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 47 (1990), 51–66; Michael S. Heiser, “Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God,” Bibliotheca Sacra 158:629 (Jan-Mar, 2001): 60-72 [52-74].

[2] I have written about this in the Introduction to my book Giants: Sons of the Gods. There is a host of other literature that delves into this as well. Perhaps the best place to be introduced to this whole fascinating subject is the Divine Council website of Dr. Michael Heiser who did his dissertation on the subject.

[3] See Michael S. Heiser, “You’ve Seen One Elohim, You’ve Seen Them All? A Critique of Mormonism’s Use of Psalm 82,” FARMS Review 19/1 (2007): 221–266.

[4] On “begotten” see Lee Irons, “The Eternal Generation of the Son,” last accessed 8-15-2014. Basically, two etymologies have been proposed for monogenes. “Gennao” (Ps 2:7 LXX) means “to bear, beget.” “Genos” means “unique, class, kind.”

[5] See Tertullian, Against Praxeas 5.1.

[6] Jerome, Questions in Hebrew, in Genesis i. 507. Quoted in Saint Jerome’s Hebrew Questions on Genesis, trans. C.T. R. Hayward (Oxford: Oxford University Pres, 195), 30.

(By: Doug Van Dorn)