Thursday, June 17, 2010

Chapter 2: In the Beginning

Chapter 2

In the Beginning

What led up to where we are today? It has been said that if you don’t know where you are going, chances are you won’t get there. Likewise, it is important to know where you are coming from; what led up to where you are now.

Genesis to Revelation

The opening chapters of the Bible contain much symbolic language as well as the last book of the Bible, Revelation. As such, much speculation goes into trying to understand the symbolism employed. Oddly enough, many have attempted to imply a literal meaning to passages of scripture where the language is symbolic and allegorical, and imply allegory to language that should be taken more literally. But such is the nature of the study of the Bible by various people over time.

In the opening pages of Genesis, we read the narrative of God’s creation of the heaven’s and the earth, culminating in the creation of man, said to be created in God’s image. Is this to be taken literally in the sense that we physically look like God, or are we to take this more symbolically and figuratively in a more non-physical way, such as mental make-up, for instance? After all, God is described as a Spirit, and strictly speaking, spirit is not physical. Yet we try to anthropomorphize such statements as a means of trying to understand that with which we have no experience or association. If one is careless, they might just end up making God after their own image!

The man and the woman are placed in a garden with instructions to care for this garden, and that their provision is provided for by the God who created them. They live in Eden, a place name that has come to be associated with a place of perfect peace and harmony; an idyllic setting where everything they could want or need is literally at their finger tips. But, as the story goes, the plot thickens. There is a creature there, identified as a serpent, elsewhere identified or at least equated with the one known as Satan, the devil; the adversary of God, who had rebelled against God and was cast to the earth.

Another item important to the plot development is the existence of two trees within this garden of Eden that have a symbolic importance: The tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – a rather cryptic name for this particular tree.

God instructs the man what He wants him to do in relation to the one particular tree: And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. — Genesis 2:16-17
In the New Testament writings, Jesus the Christ is identified as this tree of life, where it comes out that eternal life only comes through Him; that He was with God from the beginning, and indeed is God (John chapter 1). He is the bread of life, and that those who partake of Him will have eternal life (John chapter 6). But not much thought is given by many as to the nature of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The association will surprise some people, and outright anger others, for that tree represents that covenant law given to and required of Israel when they came to Sinai after leaving Egypt. This will be explained in further detail elsewhere, but for now suffice it to say that it is the law that taught the Israelites good and evil; right from wrong, and prescribed punishments upon all who transgressed that law. The fruit of the law indeed was death, for all that law could ever do was condemn the one who transgressed it, and all who were ever under the law transgressed the law.

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. — Romans 7:7-13
All too many today believe the law is an end in itself, teaching that Christians should be keeping that law. One of the keys to understanding Scripture and indeed our own selves is to comprehend that the law proved no one righteous. All that law could do was condemn the transgressor and prove man to be sinful in nature.

Those who are big on the law are quick to cite Jesus from Matthew chapter 19 and claim Jesus is saying one must keep the law in order to be saved. The context proves otherwise further on in the chapter. What these proponents of law do not stop to consider is that, if keeping the law results in eternal life, and they can indeed keep it, then what need is there of Christ? Is He some pocket sacrifice they think they can pull out every time they transgress the law, wave it magically in the air and put it back in their pocket again, to be taken out the next time they break the law?

In the beginning, a pattern was set; the Adamic nature where it is all too easy for us to imagine evil, and act on the imagination. The onset of this Adamic nature was in the thought process that led to their rebellion against God. Adam and Eve entertained the idea God had lied to them. They entertained the idea of eating that fruit believing there was something greater to gain. The serpent had told them that to eat of that fruit they too would be as gods, knowing good from evil. The unspoken declaration? You don’t need God. You can, based on your own efforts, be as God. The unspoken declaration of those who insist on keeping the law states the same thing; you can, based on your own efforts, become like God by keeping the law. You can “prove” yourself worthy by keeping that law. You can prove yourself righteous.

The devil was out to make man over into his own image; a rebellious creature that believed he could be like God, and no longer dependent upon God, having abandoned faith in God.

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. — Isaiah 14:12-14

Man was destined to fall, but under conditions mankind could be redeemed, unlike the angelic beings who followed the lead of Satan.

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. — 1 Peter 1:18-21
Adam to Noah God evicted Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. You know how it goes... violate your lease agreement, and out you go. With their departure went their provision by God, and now Adam and Eve were going to have to make it on their own with the added difficulty of having the ground cursed, where it would be even more difficult to bring forth groceries from the earth. God wanted to really drive it home that Adam and Eve messed up big time. Their “death” was their separation from Him and everything that went with being in His Presence.

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; . . . — Ephesians 2:1
The Patriarchs are examples of those willing to follow God and live by faith, with Abraham being the father of the faithful. The balance of the old testament revolves around the children of Israel, and the examples of their faithlessness, and their relationship to the law of the old covenant that was given to them in order to be a witness against them in relation to their faithlessness and rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 31:26-27).

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's
coattail into the Kingdom. ; )

Acts 17:11



xHWA said...

"The opening chapters of the Bible contain much symbolic language as well as the last book of the Bible, Revelation." -Bill

"I also consider that what is written in Revelation, and the fact that so much of it is allegorical and figurative language, that anything written there should not be used as a basis for doctrine." -Bill

And if we use one standard of measurement for Revelation, we should apply the same standard to these opening chapters of Genesis. And in the spirit of honesty and even-handedness, we must conclude about Genesis "that anything written there should not be used as a basis for doctrine."

Bill said...

Not all of Genesis is written in such language, unlike Revelation, where it is almost entirely so. Regardless, have I made any doctrinal conclusions so far based solely in Genesis?

Bill said...

It looks like I need to be quite specific in my language and semantics.

My comments regarding Revelation, being primarily written in figurative and allegorical language means, to me, that it would be unwise to render a concrete belief based upon the content of that book only, even if the language appears to be literal. The item in question had to do with whether "Lord's day" was/is a literal day of the week, or whether it was the Day of the Lord from a more eschatalogical viewpoint. Seeing as there is nothing concrete in the rest of Scripture other than how the old covenant was translated into Greek and a particular Greek phrase was associated with the "day of the Lord" eschatalogically, which happens to not the the phrase used by John, cannot positively demonstrate what John meant one way or the other.

Now, if something is written symbolically in Genesis, and there are issues and statements found throughout the rest of Scripture that alludes to those symbolic statements, I would say that's a bit better indication of what the symbols or symbolic language means and represents.

There was a tree of life. We see evidence in the rest of Scripture that refers to Christ as being the source of life; the "true vine" for instance; the "bread" of life, and even his flesh and blood being partaken of leading to life.

Can we safely, reasonably conclude what that tree of life represents?

It doesn't take too much to conclude the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents the OC law when Paul refers to the law's "fruit" as death, and the law being what taught him "good and evil."

And, unlike the situation in Revelation, is there another viable option? Is there something else that "fits the bill" when it comes to recognizing that other tree?