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Genesis 1 – Functional Creation, Temple Inauguration, and Anti-Pagan Polemics

Abstract: In this paper, I will argue that Genesis 1, when interpreted in its Ancient Near Eastern context, is not about God materially creating the universe over 6 calendar days or even 6 long ages. Rather, the text is a theologically rich statement affirming three major things (1) That God assigned functions to everything that exists, and that his is what it means when it says “God created”, (2) that the 7 day structure of the account depicts the inauguration of the universe as God’s Cosmic Temple. (3) The author, while asserting that God declared how everything will function within his temple (i.e the universe), He also made it a point to make jabs at the pagan religions of his day, their gods, and what their gods were said to do when they (supposedly) created the world. He did this to telegraph to the reader that Yahweh is the supreme God we should worship instead of lesser gods. Consequently, Genesis is not about material origins, but about functional origins. At the end, God “rests” in the universe as His temple, ceasing the work of assigning functions and beginning the work of running the cosmos. Therefore, Genesis 1 is compatible with any scientific model of origins scientists may want to posit. 

Looking At Genesis Through Ancient Eyes 

While The Bible was written for us, it was not written to us. It was written to Israel, in their language, in their culture, with their background. One of the widely accepted principles of biblical hermeneutics is to interpret The Bible in its cultural context. What this means is to interpret Bible passages the way the original author and audience would have understood it. As my hermeneutics teacher put it “We need to get into the shoes of the author. We need to step into his world and think like he thinks”. Or as Dr. Michael Heiser frequently says on The Naked Bible Podcast, “We need to have the Israelite in our heads as we interpret The Bible”. When looking at any passage of scripture, we need to ask “Is this how an ancient would understand this phrase?” If not, we can dismiss that as an accurate interpretation. One way of stepping into the shoes of The Bible’s ancient audience is to read the literature that was written during that time period. A survey of Ancient Near Eastern literature can give you clues into how ancients would understand things such as what the sky is made of, the shape of the Earth, what the entrails are for, and so on. Another way is to look at the original language of The Biblical text itself. The Bible was inspired in Hebrew, not in English, and therefore some Hebrew words may carry meanings or connotations that get lost in translation.

Theologians and apologists frequently make interpretations that go beyond what the the original author and audience understood. For example, Hugh Ross argues that the text of Genesis and other biblical passages that make reference to the natural world would have been read within the ancient “dome cosmology” 1 framework of the day, but their true meaning, their scientifically accurate meaning, wouldn’t be known for thousands of years. So while Dr. Ross would agree with scholars who would say that readers of Scripture wouldn’t have gotten big bang cosmology from Genesis 1:1 and the various references to God “stretching out the heavens”, while the original human authors didn’t mean that, God did. In the collaborative work between science/faith organizations Reasons To Believe and BioLogos, titled Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation?, Dr. Hugh Ross wrote “Reasons to Believe holds to a constructive integration model, otherwise known as soft or moderate concordism. We see considerable but far from total overlap between the Bible and science. For example, we believe Genesis 1–11 offers a literal, chronologically ordered account of the origin and history of the universe, Earth, Earth’s life, and humanity. We believe Job 37–39, Psalm 104, and Proverbs 8, as well as several other Bible passages, add substantial scientific details to the Genesis 1–11 accounts of natural history. However, we acknowledge that most of the Bible’s teachings are scientifically neutral or irrelevant and that most scientific findings have no bearing on the Bible or the Christian faith.”2  Dr. Ross’ colleague Ken Samples later wrote in that same book “A concordist model allows Scripture to be a revelation to all generations, not just the generation in which its biblical human author lived. While understanding the biblical author’s intention is a necessary condition in interpreting any passage of Scripture correctly, that factor alone is not sufficient for capturing the entire breadth of biblical inspiration. Concordism allows for additional messages bearing significance only for future generations to be embedded in the inspired words of ancient prophets.”3 This is an appeal to what theologians call The Sensus Plenora of Scripture.

The Sensus Plenora principle states that since The Bible has two authors, the human writing it down and The Holy Spirit, the former could be conveying more information than he knew. While Moses, Elijah, and Isaiah didn’t know about Big Bang cosmology or the Cambrian Explosion, The Holy Spirit did. After all, He created the universe and possesses the property of omniscience (see Psalm 139:1-4, Psalm 147:5, Proverbs 15:3, Isaiah 46:9-10, Hebrews 4:13). Moreover, there are New Testament texts that either re-interpret or shed additional light on Old Testament passages such as Hebrews 1 making Psalm 45 a conversation between God The Father and God The Son. 

Given these facts, why do I insist that we do not go beyond scripture’s Ancient Near Eastern context, beyond what the human author intended? In the collaborative work between science/faith organizations Reasons To Believe and BioLogos, Dr. John Walton of Wheaton College explained the problem as follows: “Such extended meanings can claim no authority since they do not derive from inspired sources. They cannot justifiably represent claims to perceive meanings that God intended, because they are not meanings that are independent of our own imagination. Both our organizations affirm that the “two books” can and should be read together. Yet we do not undertake such reading in the same way because at BioLogos we recognize a weakness of concordism that is found in the very flexibility that it exploits. No matter what the modern scientific consensus might be, concordists can feasibly find Scripture to support it. When people believed that the earth was the center of the universe, Scripture could be cited in support. When the steady-state universe was the reigning model, Scripture was found to be in conformity. Then when the Big Bang and expanding universe replaced the earlier cosmology, sure enough, Scripture came to be seen as supporting that. This flexibility argues against putting stock in such a methodological approach.”4

In other words, as much as we trust that science has it right, as much scientific evidence that we have for The Big Bang, Cambrian Explosion, etc. Science is nowhere near bearing the authority of holy writ. The scientific consensus could change someday. There is always a possibility (even if it’s infinitesimally small) that that could happen. Moreover, as Walton said above, scripture was said to be in conformity with scientific theories in the past, and we now know these theories are false. So did The Holy Spirit really mean we live in a geocentric universe?  The only way we could extend the meaning is if The Holy Spirit gave us additional revelation to tell us “Yep. That reference to place of Darkness in Job is a subtle allusion on my part to the presence of dark energy.”5 Perhaps if we had good reasons to believe that Ross’ books should be canonical books of scripture, we could accept his interpretation. However, in light of such evidence, in light of a “New New Testament”, we should go no further than the original author and audience’s understanding. I would not be confident in a concordist reading of the text in the absence of such a revelation.

(Plank 1) God Assigned Functions To Everything That Exists

To know what it means to “create” something, we must know what it means for something to “exist”. After all, I think we can all agree that what it means to create something is to bring it from non-being into being. Therefore, understanding what it meant for the original author and audience for something to exist will shed light on how we ought to view the creation account of Genesis. The culture of the Ancient Near East is preserved for us through the variety of writings that have survived up until the present era that have been discovered (and are still being discovered) by archeologists. When one does an examination of the various creation myths of the Ancient Near East, one finds that they define existence not in terms of something’s material properties, but how it functions in an ordered system. 

It is very counter-intuitive for us to think that something could be called non-existent if it has material properties, but doesn’t function in an ordered system. Our idea of what it means for something to exist is so deeply ingrained in our thinking that we often aren’t even aware that other cultures in other time periods could have thought differently. What it means for something to exist is, in philosophical terms, “ontology”. Our ontology can be labeled a “material ontology” while the ontology of the ancients can be labeled “functional ontology”. To give an illustration, you might say my computer exists because it is composed of atoms, molecules, and wires. You can see it, touch it, taste it, and use it. Because it has the material properties present, it “exists” on a material ontology. However, what if my computer broke? In that case, someone with a functional ontology would say that the computer ceased to exist, even though, materially speaking, it didn’t vanish in a puff of smoke. In this scenario the computer would not “exist” because I cannot surf the internet on it, write books, blog posts, or do Skype calls on it. In a functional ontology, given that the computer no longer does anything for anybody, it no longer exists.

What kind of ontology did Ancient Near Eastern peoples have? When you look at their origin myths, you find that they are not concerned with answering the question of how and when and what order their gods made everything, but with why their gods made everything.In other words, they are concerned with functional origins, not material origins. They are concerned with how something came to exist in an ordered system than how and when it took material shape. Let’s look at some of these Ancient Near Eastern texts. 

The Egyptian Papyrus Insinger is from the Ptolemaic period. Although the manuscript comes from the first century after Christ, the material within the manuscript dates much earlier, to either the second or third century before Christ.6 Approximating closely to the climax of this document, the document describes eighteen lines of the creative handiwork of the god.

“He created light and darkness in which is every creature. 

He created the earth, begetting millions, swallowing them up and begetting again. 

He created, day, month, and year through the commands of the lord of command. 

He created summer and winter through the rising and setting of Sothis. 

He created food before those who are alive, the wonder of the fields.

He created the constellation of those that are in the sky, so that those on the earth should learn them. He created sweet water in it which all the lands desire.

He created breath in the egg though there is no access to it. 

He created birth in every womb from the semen which they receive. 

He created sinews and bones out of the same semen. 

He created going and coming in the whole earth through the trembling of the ground. He created sleep to end weariness, waking for looking after food

He created remedies to end illness, wine to end affliction

He created the dream to show the way to the dreamer in his blindness.

He created life and death before him for the torment of the impious man. 

He created wealth for truthfulness, poverty for falsehood.

He created work for the stupid man, food for the common man.

He created the succession of Generations so as to make them live.” 7 (emphasis mine in bold)

Here, the functional nature of the creation text is overwhelmingly evident. The god is said to have created summer and winter. Why? For the rising and setting of Sothis. Moreover, seasons such as summer and winter aren’t material objects. He created food for the sake of living creatures. He created the constellations. Why? So that those on the earth should learn from the constellations. The god is said to have created remedies to end illness, wine to end affliction. It says he created death for the purpose of punishing the impious man. Every line in this creation text is loaded with functional ontology. The creation of these things was functionally oriented towards a purpose. Summer and Winter for the rising and setting of Sothis, food to nourish creatures, constellations so that Earthlings could learn the messages of the stars, and so on and so forth. This is only one of a plethora of Ancient Near Eastern texts that present a functionally oriented creation.

The Babylonian creation epic known as Enuma Elish tells the tale of Marduk defeating all the rebel deities, and when they are defeated, the text goes on to describe his work of “creation”. This work of creation is to be found in the fifth tablet, and as you read it, you can clearly see the functional orientation of the created features.

John Walton, in his book “The Lost World Of Genesis One”, outlines these functional features as follows. John Walton writes:

“• Lines 1-24 show Marduk organizing the celestial sphere: stars, constellations, the phases of the moon. 

  • Lines 25-45 are not represented in many of the translations included in the major anthologies of ancient texts. Even in their broken form, however, their basic content can be discerned.’ In 38-40 Marduk makes the night and day and sets it up so that there is an equal amount of light hours and night hours over the course of the year. On line 46 he fixes the watches of night and day. These creative activities have to do with organizing time. 
  • Lines 47-52 are more legible and deal with the creation of the clouds, wind, rain, and fog, and appointing himself to control them. Here the functions that concern the weather are created. 
  • Lines 53-58 tell of the harnessing of the waters of Tiamat for the purpose of providing the basis of agriculture. It includes the piling up of dirt, releasing the Tigris and Euphrates, and digging holes to manage the catchwater. 
  • Lines 59-68 conclude with the transition into the enthronement of Marduk and the building of his temple and the city of Babylon-the grand climax. It is no surprise that a creation text should ultimately be about the god who controls the cosmos and about the origin of his temple.”8 9

In a Sumerian document pre-dating Enuma Elish by a thousand years, Enlil is described as being involved in creation in these same areas (i.e daytime and nighttime; fertility and food; sluices of heaven/weather and seasons):

“An [god’s name] lifted his head in pride and brought forth a good day. He laid plans for …… and spread the population wide. Enlil set his foot upon the earth like a great bull. En lil, the king of all lands, set his mind to increasing the good day of abundance, to making the …… night resplendent in celebration, to making flax grow, to making barley proliferate, to guaranteeing the spring floods at the quay, to making …… lengthen (?) their days in abundance, to making Summer close the sluices of heaven, and to making Winter guarantee plentiful water at the quay.”10

The Egyptian Instruction of Merikare says:

“Well tended is mankind—god’s cattle

He made sky and earth for their sake . . .

He made breath for their noses to live.

They are his images, who came from his body . . .

He made for them plants and cattle,

Fowl and fish to feed them . . .

When they weep he hears .“ (emphasis mine in bold)

Notice the strong functional orientation in The Egyptian Instruction Of Merikare. Over and over again functions are emphasized. He made this for that, and this for that, and this for this purpose.

Assyrian Kar 4 says:

“After heaven was separated from earth, its firm companion, so the mother goddesses could live there;. after building up the earth to make the ground firm, when the designs were made firm in heaven and earth to establish levee and irrigation ditch in good order. …the great gods, the Anunna, the great gods, sat down in a lofty dais … Enlil himself deliberated.” (emphasis mine in bold)

We’ve gone over five examples of Ancient Near Eastern creation myths, and each one shows that the author is more concerned with function than material, with why the gods made everything rather than how and when the gods made everything. 

In the previous sub-subsection, we can see that the Ancient Near East conceived of ontology and ergo creation in functional terms. However, does The Bible follow suit? The Bible was inspired in Hebrew and Greek, not in English, and words in the original languages sometimes carried nuances that English words don’t always have. Though even the English word “create” can refer to material creation or functional creation, as my computer and blog post analogies above illustrate.

The meanings of words are established by their usage. It is the context that determines whether the Hebrew word “bara” is intended to be taken as an act of material creation or functional creation. Sometimes in The Bible, “bara” is intended to convey material creation, but there are many examples in which the term is used and no material object subsequently comes into being in a material sense.

Biblical Examples Of Create/Bara Not Referring To Material Manufacturing

Example 1: Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” – Psalm 51:10

This Psalm is King David’s prayer of forgiveness after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had Uriah killed. Here, we have a clear cut example of creating (bara) not being used to refer to the material manufacturing of anything. No one thinks that David is asking God to physically manufacture a new blood pumping organism (i.e heart) ex nihilo and then give it to him to either supplement or replace the one he already has. Rather, the Psalmist is asking God to reorient his moral character towards goodness instead of evil, godly desires rather than his own sinful ones. For God to “create in [David] a pure heart” would be to transform his character. Obviously, that does not involve manufacturing anything material, in neither the ex materia nor ex nihilo way.

Example 2: “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing.” – Isaiah 40:25-26 (ESV).

In this passage, God asks through the prophet Isaiah whom he will compare God with. God tells him to look to the heavens. If we want an idea of what God is like, we are to consider the vastness of the cosmos. This passage had an impact for the ancients because, although they didn’t know just how big the universe was, they knew it was of substantial size. This verse has more of an impact for us today because we know just how vast the universe really is. For us, it’s a billion times over larger than people in the Ancient Near East believed it was. The universe is the closest thing God can point to for a comparison of Himself.

The point I want to make here, however, is that God asks “Who created these [the stars]? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name.” While we moderns know that stars are gigantic burning balls of gas thousands or millions of lightyears away, the original audience Isaiah was addressing did not. Ancient Israelites did not know that the sun, moon, and stars were physical objects. They considered them non-physical. Therefore, reading the text like an ancient would, we would have to say that when God speaks of “creating” the stars, he isn’t referring to the manufacturing of anything material. The stars were not material in their thinking.

Example 3: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” – Isaiah 45:7 (KJV)

Although the English word here is “form”, the Hebrew word is “Bara” which is usually translated as “Create”. Now, we know that darkness is not a physical substance. Darkness is the absence of light. Moreover, according to Ancient Near Eastern thinking, again, they would not have considered even light to be a physical substance. They were not thinking in terms of particles and waves. Reading the text through an ancient’s perspective, this verse doesn’t really say that God created anything material. The KJV renders the second set of contrasts “peace” and “evil”, and atheists have used this (not to mention Calvinists) as a proof text to argue that God is the author of sin. However, a better translation would be “disaster”. Notice that “peace” is not the opposite of moral evil. Good is the opposite of evil. The opposite of peace is a disaster, or conflict, or tension, or war. More current translations have rightly translated the word as “disaster” (NIV, CSB, HCSB), “bad times” (NLT), or “calamity” (ESV, Berean Study Bible). But, however you translate it, we can see that what God is saying He makes is not a material thing. Disasters, calamity, evil, these things aren’t physical. Sure, they involve physical things. For example, disaster may involve crumbling physical buildings, peoples’ physical bodies becoming injured, homes being destroyed, etc. But the “disaster” itself is not physical. The disaster is a non-physical thing which affects that which is physical. A storm is physical and property damage is certainly physical, but the “disaster” is not the same thing as a storm. After all, who would consider the raging hurricanes on Jupiter a disaster? After all, it’s not destroying property or hurting anyone?

Example 4: “And he said, Behold, I make [bara] a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the LORD: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee.” – Exodus 34:10 (KJV)

Are covenants physical things? No. A covenant is an agreement between two parties. Again, one may point out that material things are included in covenant making (circumcision in the Abrahamic covenant being one example), but the covenant itself is not. So, here is another example of God bara-ing something and no material thing is made. Moreover, notice that covenants bring order to a system. In a covenant, things go well when both sides keep their end of the bargain.

Kenneth Matthews, in his book The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Exposition of Holy Scripture, Genesis 1:-11, volume 1 says, “Bara refers to God bringing about a new activity, not necessarily a new thing.”11

The fact that there are uses of Bara that do not involve God bringing any new material into being opens up the possibility that when this word is used in Genesis, it may not be referring to the material origin. In order to know what “bara” actually means in Genesis, we’d have to look at how it is used in Genesis. After all, even if Bara doesn’t mean material manufacturing in other places of The Bible, it still could be used that way in Genesis. So which meaning it takes would be ascertained by looking at how it’s used in Genesis. We will go through Genesis chapter 1 a little later in this paper. 

Table 1 – Instances Of Bara In The Old Testament (taken from “The Lost World Of Genesis One” by John H. Walton)




Gen 1:1

Heavens and earth


Gen 1:21

Creatures of the sea


Gen 1:27


Male and female

Gen 1:27 (2)


In His Image

Gen 2:3



Gen 2:4

Heavens and earth


Gen 5:1


Likeness of God

Gen 5:2


Male and female

Gen 6:7



Ex 34:10


parallel to ʿāśâ (made/did)

Num 16:30

something new (debatable)

Earth swallowing rebels

Deut 4:32



Ps 51:10

Pure heart


Ps 89:12

North and south


Ps 89:47


For futility

Ps 102:18

people not yet created 

to praise the Lord

Ps 104:30


Renewing the face of the earth

Ps 148:5

Celestial inhabitants

To praise the Lord

Eccles 1:12



Is 4:5

Cloud of smoke


Is 40:26

Starry host

Called by name, kept track of

Is 40:28

Ends of the earth


Is 41:20

Rivers flowing in the desert

To meet the needs of His people.

Is 42:5


Stretched out

Is 43:1


= Israel

Is 43:7

Everyone called by my name

For my glory

Is 43:15



Is 45:7


Parallel to forming light

Is 45:7


Parallel to bringing prosperity

Is 45:8

Heavens and earth

To produce salvation and righteousness

Is 45:18


To be inhabited

Is 48:7

New things


Is 54:16


To forge a weapon

Is 54:17


To work havoc

Is 54:19



Is 65:17 

new heavens and new earth


Is 65:18 

New heavens and new earth


Is 65:18


To be a place of delight

Jer 31:22

New thing

Woman to surround man

Ezek 21:30



Ezek 28:13

King of Tyre


Ezek 25:18

King of Tyre


Amos 4:13



Mal 2:10

Covenant People


The verb “bara” occurs 50 times in The Bible, and as you can tell, many of these examples cannot be taken to refer to material manufacturing of material objects, but creation of functions instead. Other examples are ambiguous and could refer to soley functional creation or material creation with functional creation, but in no case does bara absolutely have to mean material creation. 

Biblical Examples Of Asa/Make Not Referring To Material Creation

While some might concede that bara (create) may not refer to material creation, surely asah, “make” does, right? No. Any Hebrew lexicon will tell you that Asah doesn’t always refer to “making”, but also “doing”. Asah means “to make” or “to do”.12 In some instances, it is even translated as “prepared” or “appointed. For example, 1 Samuel 12:6 says “Then Samuel said to the people, ‘It is the LORD who appointed [asah] Moses and Aaron and who brought your fathers up from the land of Egypt.’” Obviously, we don’t read this verse and think that God made Moses and Aaron ex nihilo. No, he merely assigned them the function of being the deliverers of the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt. Psalm 118:24 says “This is the day which the LORD has made; [asah] Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” While this is properly translated as “made”, notice that God didn’t “make” anything “material”. A day on your calendar is not a material thing.

Genesis 1:1 is almost always translated as “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. This wording makes verse 1 an independent clause and makes it sound like a definite beginning point that takes place outside the seven creation days. However, many biblical Hebraists are not convinced by this reading and argue that verse 1 should be translated When God created the heavens and the earth.” I agree with them for three reasons. 


Reason 1: The Verse Lacks The Definite Article 

As biblical grammarian Robert Holmstedt explains: 

“In a nutshell, the interpretation and translation of the first complex word, בְּרֵאשִׁית, in the Masoretic text of the Leningrad Codex as an absolute temporal prepositional phrase, ‘in the beginning, …’ is grammatically indefensible. Period. End of story.

If one wants to ignore the Masoretic vocalization and read the word with an articular vowel with the preposition, i.e., *בָּרֵאשִׁית, “in THE beginning,” as the Samaritan Pentateuch appears to do, fine. But one must not only recognize that such a choice is a departure from the Masoretic text, but also fails to explain the Greek Ἐν ἀρχῇ, which also lack the definite article.

What is the grammatically justified analysis? The noun ראשׁית is bound to an unmarked relative clause,’beginning-of (that/when) God created …’. This construction, which is found in Ge’ez, Old South Arabian, and Akkadian, must be as old as Semitic itself. In other words, the noun-bound-to-clause structure of ראשׁית ברא in Gen 1.1. finds a clear parallel in the Akkadian pattern di:n idi:nu “judgment (that) he judged/rendered” (Lipinski 2001:533-34; also see Deutscher 2001, 2002 for insightful linguistic discussion of origins of the Old Akkadian relative clause).”13

As Michael Jones of Inspiring Philosophy says “At first it doesn’t seem like much, but this simple change has drastic implications. For one, it transforms verse 1 into a dependent clause instead of an independent clause. This makes verse 1 dependent on verse 2 and it suggests that when God showed up to create the heavens and the earth, the earth was already “formless and void”. Thus, Genesis 1:1 would not be indicating an absolute beginning of all things, but a point in time when God showed up to initiate a specific change upon the earth (namely to transform it from a state of being formless and void.”14

Now, scholars who disagree with this point out that the original Hebrew language did not have vowel points, and on that basis we can’t use the lack of a definite article to indicate how verse 1 would have been originally interpreted, which leads to the second reason why I believe that this should be read as a dependent clause. 

Reason 2: The Usage Of The Term In Other Places In The Bible 

We can mount an argument on the basis of Hebrew grammar and usage in other places in Scripture. First, John Sailhamer writes in his book Genesis Unbound that “The Hebrew word reshit, which is the term for ‘beginning’ used in this chapter, has a very specific sense in Scripture. In the Bible the term always refers to an extended, yet indeterminate duration of time — not a specific moment. It is a block of time which precedes an extended series of time periods. It is a ‘time before time.’ The term does not refer to a point in time but to a period or duration of time which falls before a series of events.”15

Sailhamer appeals to Job 8:7 which simply talks about the early days of Job’s life before all Hell broke loose rather than the definite point of the beginning of Job’s very existence. The verse says “And though your beginning [reshit] was small, your latter days will be very great.” Sailhamer also points to Jeremiah 28:1 which refers to the early period of Zedekiah’s reign. “In that same year, at the beginning [reshit] of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah…”16 And by the way, let me just point out that the same applies to Nimrod’s kingdom in Genesis 10:10.

Sailhamer recognizes that this supports the proposition that Genesis 1:1 is implying an extended period of chaos prior to Genesis 1:1 when God showed up to transform the earth from a chaotic state to an ordered state.

Reason 3: Inductive Inference From ANE Creation Texts

An inductive case can be made for making Genesis 1:1 a dependent clause on the basis that a plethora of Ancient Near Eastern Creation myths begin the story this way. 

Table 2: Ancient Near Eastern Creation Texts Beginning With A Dependent Clause


When these three arguments are taken together, a good cumulative case can be made that Genesis 1:1 should be translated “When God created the heavens and the earth” rather than “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.” 

Dr. William Lane Craig of Reasonable Faith ministries dismisses this and says that the vast majority of biblical scholars do not think that Genesis 1:1 should be taken as a dependent clause.17 However, as Michael Jones said in episode 48 of The Cerebral Faith Podcast, while this is true of Christian scholars, the majority of Jewish scholars agree that it should be a dependent clause.18 Besides, this is the ad populum fallacy. It doesn’t matter how many scholars agree or disagree with this translation. What matters is what the evidence supports, and as we’ve seen above, the evidence from the Hebrew grammar and syntax, the usage of Be’reshit in other places in The Bible, and the way Ancient Near Eastern creation accounts typically began, the evidence is in favor of Genesis 1:1 being a dependent clause rather than an independent clause. 

Genesis 1:2 is almost always translated as “the earth was formless and void…” with little variation. However, Dr. David Tsumura has done a linguistic study of the Hebrew term tohu ‘wa bohu (the phrase often translated “formless and void”) and concluded that it should probably be translated “unproductive wasteland.” So Genesis 1:2 would say “the earth was an unproductive wasteland. Darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the waters.” Why does Dr. Tsumura made this claim? Because when you look at the various instances of which Tohu occurs in The Bible (bohu never occurs without being in conjunction with Tohu), it always refers to things that are non-functional, purposeless, wasteful, or broken.

Table 3: Usages Of Tohu (taken from “The Lost World Of Genesis One” by John Walton) 

Deut 32:10

Parallel to Wilderness, described by howling

1 Sam 12:1

Descriptive of idols who can accomplish nothing

Job 6:18

Wasteland away from wadis where caravans perish for lack of water

Job 12:24

Wandering in a trackless waste

Job 26:7

What the north is stretched over

Psalm 107:40

Wandering in a trackless waste

Is 24:10

A tohu settlement is described as desolate

Is 29:

With tohu, they turn aside righteousness

Is 34:11

Measuring line of tohu and plumb stone of bohu

Is 40:17

Worthlessness of the nations, parallel to “nothingness” and the “end” (?) 

Is 40:23

Rulers of the world made as tohu, parallel to “end” (?) of their deeds. 

Is 44:9

All who make images are tohu, parallel to without profit. 

Is 45:18

God did not create the universe tohu, but formed it for habitation (intended function).

None of these instances is concerned with the material shape or lack thereof. The wilderness in Deuteronomy 32:10 wasn’t shapeless. The idols mentioned in 1 Samuel 12:21 certainly had form and had various shapes, but The Bible says that idols are worthless and can accomplish nothing (i.e non-functional, without purpose). Since tohu always carries the notion of purposelessness or non functionality and never refers to shapelessness, it’s very likely that this is what tohu means in Genesis 1:2 as well. 

The Implications Of This — Genesis 1:1 doesn’t imply an absolute beginning to all matter, energy, space, and time, but like other creation accounts of that time begin with the implications that there was an unspecified amount of chaotic time prior to the creation week.

Also, notice that material is already present in verse 2. In verse 2, we have the Earth, water, and darkness. The Spirit of God is hovering over the surface of the waters. Now, we have to ask; if this were an account of material origins, shouldn’t it begin with no material? The text does not tell us where the earth and water came from! Instead, the creation account begins with earth and water already present. Additionally, since verse 1 is a dependent clause, this makes verse 2 a circumstantial clause, and verse 3 the main clause. God doesn’t start His creative activity until verse 3. So, what this means is that this creation account begins with the material already present. But again, I ask you, if this were an account of material origins, wouldn’t it begin with no materials? Instead, what we see is that the creation account begins with materials, but no functions (as indicated by the meaning of the earth being “tohu”). 

Right from the first second of the creation week, we have very powerful evidence that this is not an account of how God physically brought everything from physical non-existence to physical existence, but how God brought order to the disordered cosmos. 

The evidence is even stronger when you realize just what “the sea” meant to an Ancient Near Eastern person. Ancient Near Eastern peoples did not consider the sea to just be the realm where Spongebob Squarepants and his buddies hung out. To an ancient, the sea was a realm of chaos and non-order. 

In Enuma Elish, the symbol of chaos is the goddess Tiamat who personifies the sea. As Old Testament Scholar Michael Heiser wrote “In the ancient world, the original (‘primordial’) chaotic conditions of creation were often portrayed as a monstrous dragon. This is reflected in stories from ancient Babylon and Israel’s closest neighbor, Ugarit (ancient Syria, just north of Israel). In the literature of ancient Ugarit, the god Baal battles Yamm, who is portrayed as a chaotic, churning sea and a terrifying sea dragon named Tannun or Litanu. These terms are equivalent to the Hebrew words in Psalm 74:13–14: ‘You divided the sea (ים, yam) by your might; you broke the heads of the sea monsters (תנינים, tanninim) on the waters. You crushed the heads of Leviathan (לויתן, liwyatan).’”20

What we can infer from the fact that in ANE thinking the sea equaled a condition of chaos is that, well, if the material is already present, and the state of the world is chaos, then creation would be bringing order out of chaos. In other words, creation would be an activity of giving functions to that which have no function. It would be to impose order on a non-orderly realm.

*DAY 1 – 

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that it was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness he called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning — the first day.” (Genesis 1:3-5, NIV)

In Genesis 1, God’s first creative act is “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). This cannot be interpreted as an act of material creation if for no other reason than that the ancients did not consider light to be a material sort of thing. They had no knowledge of photons. For them, light did not consist of anything physical. Therefore, the author of Genesis could not have meant that when “God said ‘let there be light’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3) that anything physical came into existence.

But, moreover, it is interesting that God does not call the light light nor does He call the darkness darkness. He calls the light “day” and the darkness “night” (verse 5). Why is this? “Light” and “day” are not synonyms, even in Hebrew. Professor John Walton argues that the figure of speech known as “Metonymy” is being employed here. Metonymy is a figure of speech that substitutes the effect for its cause, mentioning the cause instead of the effect. “Light” is substituted for “Day” and “Darkness” is substituted for “Night”. What God is referring to is the period of light and the period of darkness (i.e daytime and nighttime). What this suggests is that what God creates is time. Time is what is created on Day 1! Day and Night! This is further supported by what Genesis says in verse 4, the verse immediately preceding verse 5 “God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness”. If these were material objects scripture was talking about, verse 4 would make no sense as darkness and light cannot be joined together. They can’t co-exist. Since they can’t be together, they cannot be separated. Now, if it’s the period of light and the period of darkness (time) that scripture is talking about, then Genesis 1:4 makes a lot more sense. What God separates is the period of light and darkness, not physical light from physical darkness.

From looking at scripture alone, we can see a good basis for affirming that God created a function on day 1, not anything material.

*DAY 2 –

And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse ‘sky’. And it was evening, and there was morning — the second day.” (Genesis 1:6-8, NIV)

On Day 2, the most important thing scripture is trying to communicate is not whether there is literally a solid dome moderating the amount of cosmic waters that fall down upon the Earth, but that God set up a weather system that would regulate the amount of rain that would fall upon the Earth. This is important. After all, too little rain and we starve because there’s no water to make crops grow. Too much rain and we are overwhelmed. That scripture refers to a “vault” or “firmament” is merely an incidental feature of the Ancient Near Eastern Cosmology. The main point that The Holy Spirit’s inspired author is trying to get across is that God set up a weather system. The functional ontology of the “vault” is explicitly stated by God, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” What’s the function of the vault? To separate water from water.

*DAY 3

“And God said, ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground ‘land,’ and the gathered waters he called ‘seas.’ And God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the third day.” (Genesis 1:9-13, NIV)

On Day 3, we have God installing the cycle of naturally grown food. When I have argued for the functional perspective of Genesis, people have objected that here on Day 3, we have a clear example of material creation. God decrees that the land would “come forth” and the land would “produce vegetation”. This is obviously a physical process that can be observed in time and space. It’s not merely the assignment of functions, right? Well, I can see why people might think that, but based on the immediate context of day 3 and the cultural context of Genesis as a whole, I propose the following. 

God is not be creating the very first fruit trees and plants to ever exist in a material sense, whereas our world had no vegetation before. Instead, what we have here is God decreeing that the purpose of the land is to sprout vegetation and the purpose of the vegetation is to provide food.

“Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation ([I hereby decree that the purpose of the land is to produce vegitation]: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it [i.e I hearby decree that the purpose of seed-bearing plants and trees is to produce food], according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds [i.e the aforementioned land and plants are carrying out the function as God decreed]. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.” – Genesis 1:11-13

It is literally true that God designated the functions of vegetation-producing to the land and food production to the vegetation. There’s nothing esoteric about this reading of the text. Of course, as I have argued earlier in this paper, whether this reading is justified or not has to be decided by looking at the context of this creation day with the rest of Genesis 1, how “Bara” and “Asa” can be used, how Ancient Near Easterners understood ontology and whether they would be concerned with explaining material origins, etc.

And we see that when we look at Genesis 1 through Ancient Near Eastern lenses, when we understand that the cognitive environment was that of a primarily functional ontology, and so on, you do have a good case for reading Day 3 in the way that I have described above.

What God “creates” on days 1, 2, and 3 are the functions of time, weather, and food. These are essential attributes the cosmos must have for humanity to live. It’s noteworthy that these same essential features show up in The Egyptian Papyrus Insinger. Moreover, in Genesis 8:22, after God had flooded the world and the floodwaters had departed, God states the re-installation of the functions of time, weather, and food and declares that they shall never cease. 

*DAY 4

And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so. God made the two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the fourth day.” (Genesis 1:14-19, NIV)

God is installing functionaries which carry out their own functions delineated in the first 3 days (Time, Weather, Food). The text offers no material nature of the celestial bodies. All it says materially speaking is that they exist in the heavens. This is not problematic if this is an account of functional creation. The function of the heavenly bodies is clearly stated “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so.” (Verse 14, emphasis mine). The purpose of the sun, moon, and stars are to mark time “seasons, days, and years”. 

Before I move onto day 5, I want you to keep in mind that by “function”, I do not mean scientific function, but an anthropologically oriented function. That is to say, function in related to how the created things serve humanity.

If anthropological functional ontology is the purpose of Genesis 1, then the fourfold description of the sun, moon, and stars (signs, seasons, days, years) are pertinent only to homo sapiens. The one that seems to be the odd one out is “seasons”. However, we shouldn’t conceive of seasons here in the sense of winter, spring, summer, and fall. Rather, seasons here most likely refers to festival celebrations, and obviously, festival celebrations are something carried out by human beings. This conclusion is drawn from the fact that the Hebrew word in other places in The Bible refers to precisely that.20 In other places in The Bible, the Hebrew word translated “seasons” designates the festival celebrations that are associated with the sowing season, the harvesting season and so on.

Remember that I pointed above that the word “asah” which is present in this text is often translated as “Do” “doing”, “prepare”, “ordain”, etc. I would argue that given the functional orientation of this passage as well as Genesis 1 as a whole, this word should properly be translated as “God prepared the two great lights” or “God ordained the two great lights”. 

*DAY 5  – 

“And God said, ‘Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.’ So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” – Genesis 1:20-21

On Day 5, the functionaries simply carry out their own functions in the cosmic space that they inhabit, unlike the functionaries on day 4 which help accomplish the functions associated with the sphere they inhabit. The Bible talks about what these critters do rather than the roles that they serve. Fish teem in the waters. Birds fly high in the sky. But even though the primary purpose of the sea creatures and sky creatures is said to teem in the waters and fly in the sky, notice that a functional assignment is not absent from the text. The passage above goes on to describe God assigning the fish and birds functions. What’s the function? To be fruitful and multiply. It is the function of the fish and birds to be fruitful and multiply. That is their function in their respective realms. Their function is to make the ocean abundant with life.

*DAY 6 – 

“And God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:24-25, NIV)

On Day 6, God creates land animals and human beings, and He creates human beings “in His image” (Genesis 1:26-27). Now, the fact that humans are made in the “image of God” will provide a powerful piece of evidence for the second plank in this paper; that God considers the universe His temple and 7 days were part of His temple’s inauguration. Since treatment of the image of God overlap in the evidence for Plank 1 of my view and Plank 2, I think I will move on to the second plank of my view.

(Plank 2) The 7 Day Structure Of The Account Depicts The Inauguration Of The Universe As God’s Temple

I agree with biblical scholars such as John H. Walton and J. Richard Middleton that the 7 day creation account should be viewed as a type of ceremony in which inaugurates the universe as God’s temple, and the inauguration is finalized on Day 7. There are 4 pieces of evidence from both The Ancient Near East and within the biblical text (in both Testaments) to support this. 

1: The Ancient Near Eastern Creation Texts Closely Link Temple Creation and Temple Building.

As J. Richard Middleton explains “The notion of the cosmos as temple has its roots in the ancient Near Eastern worldview, in which temples were commonly understood as the royal palaces of the gods, in which they dwelled and from which they reigned. Furthermore, creation, followed by temple building and then divine rest, is a central theme in Mesopotamian, and perhaps Ugaritic, mythology (both Marduk and Baal have temples built for them after their conquest of the chaos monster).”21

The notion of Yahweh’s and Baal’s creation narratives both involving the making of the cosmos their temple will come up again in Plank 3. For now, we should observe that two ANE gods in two creation narratives — The Gudea Cylinder (2125 BC) and Ugaritic Texts (KTU 1:4:VII 16-40) respectively — end their work of creating with the establishment of temples, thus lending corroborative evidence from the cultural cognitive environment to support the proposal that this is what is going on in Genesis as well.

Other Ancient Near Eastern Creation Texts strongly hint at the same. 

The Temple Hymn Of Kes:

” House …… inspiring great awe, called with a mighty name by An; house …… whose fate is grandly determined by the Great Mountain Enlil! House of the Anuna gods possessing great power, which gives wisdom to the people; house, reposeful dwelling of the great gods! House, which was planned together with the plans of heaven and earth, …… with the pure divine powers; house which underpins the Land and supports the shrines! House, mountain of abundance which passes the days in glory; house of Ninhursaja which establishes the life of the Land! House, great hillside worthy of the purification rites, altering (?) all things; house without whom no decisions are made! House, good …… carrying in its hands the broad Land; house which gives birth to countless peoples, seed which has sprouts! House which gives birth to kings, which determines the destinies of the Land; house whose royal personages are to be revered! Will anyone else bring forth something as great as Kec? Will any other mother ever give birth to someone as great as its hero Acgi? Who has ever seen anyone as great as its lady Nintud?”22

In many creation, texts describe the absence of a temple as a major part of the pre-cosmic condition. This is clearest in the preamble that concerns the founding of Eridu.

“The holy house, the house of the gods, in the holy place had not yet been made; No reed had sprung up, no tree had been created. No brick had been laid, no building had been set up; No house had been erected, no city had been built; No city had been made, .no creature had been created. Nippur had not been made, E-kur had not been built; Erech had not been created, E-ana had not been built; The Deep had not been created, Eridu had not been built; Of the holy house, the house of the gods, the habitation had not been made. All lands were sea. At that time there was a movement in the sea; Then was Eridu made, and E-sagil was built, E-sagil, where in the midst of the Deep the god Lugal-dul-azaga 1 dwelleth; The city of Babylon was built, and E-sagil was finished.”23

Then Marduk settles the gods into their dwelling places, creates people and animals, and sets up the Tigris and Euphrates.

In a prayer to dedicate the foundation brick of a temple,  it is obvious that the cosmos and temple were conceived together and thus are virtually simultaneous in their origins.

“When Anu, Enlil, and Ea had a (first) idea of heaven and earth, 

They found a wise means of providing support of the gods: 

They prepared, in the land, a pleasant dwelling, 

And the gods were installed in this dwelling:

Their principle temple.”24

3: In The Bible, The Number 7 Is Frequently Associated With Completion And Is Used In Religious Practitioner Settings (Tabernacle, Temple).

*The construction of the tabernacle was completed in 7 stages (Exodus 40:19-32).

*The ordination of a priest was 7 days (Leviticus 8:33-35).

*Solomon’s temple was constructed in 7 years (1 Kings 6:38)

*Dedicated to God during a 7 day festival on the seventh month (1 Kings 8:2, 65) 

*Even Solomon’s dedication speech was given in 7 petitions (1 Kings 8:31-35).

4: The Bible Uses Temple Imagery To Describe The Cosmos Outside Of Genesis.

J. Richard Middleton wrote “In the Old Testament, perhaps the most important text for our purposes is the oracle recorded in Isaiah 66:1– 2. Attributed by many scholars to Third Isaiah, this oracle calls into question the postexilic attempts of pious Jews to rebuild the Jerusalem temple (which had been destroyed by the Babylonians):

‘Thus says YHWH: Heaven is my throne and earth is my footstool. Where could you build a house for me? What place could serve as my dwelling? All this was made by my hand, And thus it all came into being —declares YHWH.’

The text does not say that God has no need for a temple, merely no need for a humanly constructed one, since God has already (by his own “hand”) built a cosmic sanctuary, and that should be sufficient. And this sanctuary in which God dwells is also portrayed as God’s palace, from which God reigns— hence the language of throne and footstool. The cosmic temple, in other words, is clearly equivalent to God’s kingdom.”25

Psalm 132:7-8 says “’Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool!’ Arise, O Lord, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.” 

This passage refers to The Temple as God’s “resting place”. God “rests” in the temple. God “rests” in Genesis 1, at the end of the creation week. And since we know from Isaiah 66 that God considers the cosmos His resting place (He considers the heavens His throne and the Earth His footstool). In light of this, a strong inference can be made that God considers the cosmos His temple, and what happens in Genesis 1 is the creation of His temple, in which He “rests” at the end.

Temples don’t exist unless the deity has come to take up his rest in it, and religious rituals are being performed. Without the deity and the rituals, all you have a physical building. Just as without chefs preparing food and people placing orders, you would only have a building and not a restaurant. The temple would “exist” in a material sense, but not in a functional sense. God may have taken billions of years to prepare the physical structure of His cosmic temple, but the cosmic temple was not a cosmic temple until God took 7 days to inaugurate it with the culmination of Him taking up His rest.

5: The Image Of God Indicates The Cosmos Is God’s Temple

We come back to the loose end I left in plank 1 concerning Day 6’s functions and what exactly the imago dei (image of God) is. It was a well known fact in the ancient world that after you materially manufactured the temple of your god and then did the inauguration ceremony that you would end the inauguration by placing a carved image of the deity in the temple to represent it. The way idolatry in the ancient world works is widely misunderstood by many Christians today. Contrary to popular lay belief, the ancients weren’t so dumb as to think the image they carved was a deity itself. Rather, the carved image was a vessel to house the spirit of the deity. 

As John Walton explains in his book Ancient Near Eastern Thought And The Old Testament 

“The deity’s presence was marked by the image of the deity. ….The existence of an idol needed to be approved by the god whose image was being made, so the gods were responsible for initiating the manufacturing process At the end of the process, rituals were performed to transfer the deity from the spiritual world to the physical world, a process that one may refer to as ‘actualizing the presence of the god in the temple.’ Consequently, the production of the image was not viewed in human terms, but as a miraculous process through which the deity worked, ….The most significant ritual was the mouth-washing ritual. This procedure was carried out to enable the image to eat bread, drink water, and smell incense, that is, to receive worship on behalf of the deity. It purified the image from the human contamination involved in the manufacturing process and thereby enabled the statue to function as deity. At the end of the mouth-washing ceremony, as the deity entered the inner sanctum, an incantation was pronounced indicating that hereafter the god would remain in his house, where he would receive his food day by day. In this way the image mediated the worship from the people to the deity. …. From the above, we can conclude that the material image was animated by the divine essence. Therefore it did not simply represent the deity, but it manifested its presence.”26

Given the close connection between “images” that represented the deity in the temple, and given that at the end of Genesis 1, we have God creating images of Himself, and given that we already have several good reasons to believe Genesis 1 is portraying the creation of the universe as Yahweh’s temple, an inference can justifiably be made that what it means for humans to be made “in the image of God” is to represent God. We are the images set up at the end of the inauguration of God’s cosmic temple. We are God’s statues, so to speak.

Michael Heiser agrees. In his book The Unseen Realm, he writes “Humankind was created as God’s image. If we think of imaging as a verb or function, that translation makes sense. We are created to image God, to be his imagers. It is what we are by definition. The image is not an ability we have, but a status. We are God’s representatives on earth. To be human is to image God. This is why Genesis 1: 26– 27 is followed by what theologians call the ‘dominion mandate’ in verse 28. The verse informs us that God intends us to be him on this planet. We are to create more imagers (‘ be fruitful and multiply … fill’) in order to oversee the earth by stewarding its resources and harnessing them for the benefit of all human imagers (‘subdue … rule over’).”27

This supports the functional creation interpretation that I defended in Plank 1, but it also relates to the universe as being God’s temple in Plank 2. 

(Plank 3) Genesis Also Makes A Point To Make Polemics Towards The Gods Of Israel’s Neighbors.  

So far, we’ve seen that Genesis 1 is about God decreeing functions within a 7 day period in order to set up the Cosmos as His temple. Nevertheless, that is not the only thing the author of Genesis sets out to do, as many scholars have noted. There is also evidence of anti-pagan polemics in the text. Indeed, as I’ll argue later in this paper; the sheer fact of saying the whole universe is God’s temple is the ultimate anti-pagan polemic. Thus, Plank 2 of my view essentially bleeds into Plank 3. While I don’t think polemics is the primary goal of Genesis 1, it would be a mistake to argue that it isn’t in the text at all. 

As Tony L Shelter writes “Yahweh often does in history the actions claimed by other gods in the mythologies of Israel’s neighbors. This process, known as ‘demythologizing,’ occurs in the Genesis creation accounts. The first creation story in Genesis demythologizes the cosmogony of Hermopolis. The four conditions present at the beginning of creation in Genesis parallel those represented by the Ogdoad of Hermopolis. However, rather than the elements of the creation having a volition of their own, the text portrays them as inanimate objects which move according to the direction of Yahweh’s word.”28

To prevent this paper from being longer than it has to be, I will only present a few examples.

1: They’re Just Lights Not Worthy Of Even Being Named. 

Have you ever wondered why the text on Day 4 calls the sun and moon “Greater Light” and “Lesser Light”? Why doesn’t the author simply call them “sun” and “moon”? There were Hebrew terms for the sun and moon (they are “שֶׁ֚מֶשׁ (meš)” and “וְיָרֵ֖חַ (wə·yā·rê·aḥ)” as in Joshua 10:12), so why not go with those terms instead of “הַגָּדֹל֙ (hag·gā·ḏōl) הַמָּא֤וֹר (ham·mā·’ō·wr)” and “הַקָּטֹן֙ (haq·qā·ṭōn) הַמָּא֤וֹר (ham·mā·’ō·wr)”? I think, as Tony Shelter and Michael Jones do, that the reason the author doesn’t label them is that the Hebrew names of the sun and moon were similar to the names of gods in pagan religions that were identified with those terms. It was not uncommon in religions outside of Israel for the sun, moon, and stars to be identified with the deities who controlled them, or even to be thought of as the deities themselves.29 

This is also why the creation of the sun, moon, and stars isn’t mentioned until the creation account is almost halfway over. They aren’t mentioned until day 4, even though they are, as seen earlier in this paper, the functionaries that carry out the function on Day 1. It would make sense to mention the creation of the functionaries and functions on the same day…that is, unless you wanted to get a point across. The sun, moon, and stars — gods to the pagans — aren’t mentioned until after the halfway point in the creation narratives, and even then their names aren’t mentioned. What a spit in the eye to those who worshiped these celestial bodies as deities!

2: Marduk Is Not The Creator Of Everything, Yahweh Is. 

Scholars have noticed for ages the similarity in content between Genesis 1 and Enumma Elish, the Babylonian creation narrative. Peter Enns argues that the reason for this similarity is that the author wants to establish the supremacy of Yahweh over the god Marduk. Enns writes 

“Scholars have termed Enuma Elish the ‘Babylonian Genesis.’ The reason is that both stories share some concepts that were immediately apparent.

  • In both stories, matter exists when creation begins. Similar to Enuma Elish, 
  • Genesis 1 describes God ordering chaos, not creating something out of nothing.
  • Darkness precedes the creative acts.
  • In Enuma Elish the symbol of chaos is the goddess Tiamat who personifies the sea. Genesis refers to the “deep.” The Hebrew word is tehom, which is linguistically related to Tiamat.
  • In both stories, light exists before the creation of the sun, moon, and stars.
  • In both stories, there is a division of the waters above and below, with a barrier holding back the upper waters.
  • The sequence of creation is similar, including the division of waters, dry land, luminaries, and humanity, all followed by rest.”30

Enns goes on to say “Genesis 1 is a bold declaration that the God of a tiny nation with a troubled past is the one responsible for what you see. The gods of the superpowers didn’t do it, Yahweh did. In the ancient world, those are fighting words. Genesis 1 is certainly not just a Hebrew version of Enuma Elish. But we cannot fully appreciate the distinct theology of Genesis 1 without first seeing what it shares with Enuma Elish and other ancient narratives.”31

3: The Temple Is Yahweh’s, Not Marduk’s or Baals. 

The Gudea Cylinder (2125 BC) and Ugaritic Texts (KTU 1:4:VII 16-40) mention Baal establishing the cosmos as his temple after his creation of everything, and Ennuma Elish also links the establishment of Marduk’s temple with the completion of creation as we saw in Plank 2. From the Old Testament historical narratives, we know that of all the gods Yahweh had to contend with for the loyalty of His people, Baal was his biggest rival. Even a casual reading of The Old Testament will alert the reader that Baal is the Israelite’s favorite god to commit spiritual adultery with. Given that the Baal worshippers teach that the universe is Baal’s temple, it would make perfect sense for Genesis 1 to (A) depict Yahweh as the creator of all things, and (B) do it in such a way as to telegraph that the cosmos is Yahweh’s temple, not Baal’s. Yahweh rests in the cosmic temple, not Baal. 

This is only one of a plethora of ways Yahweh’s supremacy is asserted over Baal’s in the Old Testament. There are others. For example, as Michael Heiser writes “Throughout the Ugaritic texts, Baal is repeatedly called ‘the one who rides the clouds,’ or ‘the one who mounts the clouds.’ The description is recognized as an official title of Baal. No angel or lesser being bore the title. As such, everyone in Israel who heard this title associated it with a deity, not a man or an angel.

Part of the literary strategy of the Israelite prophets was to take this well-known title and attribute it to Yahweh in some way. Consequently, Yahweh, the God of Israel, bears this descriptive title in several places in the Old Testament (Isaiah 19:1; Deuteronomy 33:26; Psalm 68:33; 104:3). For a faithful Israelite, then, there was only one god who ‘rode’ on the clouds: Yahweh.”32

Baal’s not the cloud rider, Yahweh is. So why worship Baal when you can worship Yahweh? He does everything Baal can do and more! 

Interacting With Interlocutors 

The view I have just proposed is a minority view among biblical scholars, but as the saying goes, “A lie is a lie even if everyone believes it. The truth is the truth even if no one believes it.” How many people embrace the view that Genesis 1 is about functional origins and temple inauguration doesn’t matter. What matters is what the evidence cites. That said, those who disagree have their reasons. Let’s look to see if any of these reasons are sufficient to doubt this interpretation. For space concerns, I’ll only deal with the most powerful and most common objections.

Objection 1: Why Can’t Genesis 1 Be About Both Functional Origins and Material Origins?

By far the most common objection I’ve seen to this view is that it commits the false dichotomy fallacy. That is, detractors argue that there’s no reason to think Genesis 1 has to be only about functional origins or only about material origins, it could be both. 

Theoretically, there could be both material and functional creation, in the text, at least if all you’re doing is examining verb uses (i.e bara and asa, create and make). However, I am skeptical that both are present in the text on the basis of the following reasons.

Reason 1: The Account Begins With No Functions Rather Than No Material 

As I argued earlier in this paper, we have good reasons to believe that God’s first creative act is in verse 3 rather than in verse 1. This is because verse 1 is an independent clause. Because there is no definite article (among other reasons), it should be translated “When God created the heavens and the earth” rather than “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. Translating verse 1 this way makes it a dependent clause, which then makes verse 2 a circumstantial clause, which then makes verse 3 the main clause. This structure can be seen in other Ancient Near Eastern creation texts such as Enuma Ellish and Atrahasis. This means that when God shows up, so to speak, to create the heavens and the earth, the material is already present! “The earth was formless and void. Darkness was over the surface of the deep.” Where did the earth come from? Where did the deep come from? Genesis doesn’t say. Wouldn’t a material origins account begin with no material? I should think so! The fact that the account begins with material already present, this indicates that the author is not concerned with explaining material origins. If he was, he wouldn’t leave the watery earth unaccounted for. 

The point is made all the more powerfully when you realize what “the deep” represented in ANE thought. As I said earlier in this paper, the ancients didn’t view the sea as simply the place where aquatic life lived. It was the source of chaos and disorder. It was a crazy place where all sorts of monsters lived (like Leviathan). The gods were seen as constantly keeping the sea at bay to prevent it from taking over the ordered realm, and in Enuma Ellish, Marduk creates the world by killing the goddess of the sea, Tiamut, ripping her body in half and using one half to create the dry land and the other half to create the sky.

Since the sea represented non-order (read lack of functions), wouldn’t it make sense to view creation as the imposition of order (functions)? 

Reason 2: Days 1, 2, and 4 Don’t Have Anything Material Being Created. 

If Genesis 1 is about material origins, then we have to conclude that nothing material is actually created on Genesis 1. Why? Because, again, the ancients didn’t conceive of light, darkness, or the stars as material entities. We moderns know that the sun is a gigantic burning ball of hydrogen and helium 93 million miles away, we moderns know that the moon is a large rock that is 239,000 miles away, we moderns know that the stars are suns like our own, just farther away. However, the ancients did not. The ancients believed the celestial bodies to be immaterial lights; either inanimate in some cases or gods in others. To read the text according to an ancient understanding rather than our modern understanding, we cannot import our knowledge of the physicality of the sun, moon, and stars into the text. We have to look at them the way an ancient Israelite would. However, when you do that, you find that Day 1 doesn’t have anything material being made (light and darkness aren’t material, and time isn’t material), and Day 4 doesn’t have anything material being created (the sun, moon, and stars weren’t material in their understanding).

John Walton points out that Day 2 has a potentially material component (i.e the firmament) but that “if this were a legitimate material account then we would be obliged to find something solid up there.”33 If we take Genesis 1 as an account of functional origins, then we are not obliged to find a solid dome up there. In his Defenders class, Dr. William Lane Craig takes Walton to task in making this objection, accusing him of resorting to concordism to support the function only view!34 Dr. Craig misunderstood Walton’s point though. In his book, Walton made this point as a reductio ad absurdum to people like Dr. Craig who insist that Genesis 1 must be talking about material creation. If it’s about material creation, then you do have to say that God actually, physically made a solid dome in the sky. But no scientifically literate person could believe such a thing. So, three options are available: 1) interpret raquia (the Hebrew word translated as firmament) in a way that would be foreign to an Ancient Near Easterner (which is what concordists do), 2) prove that the ancients didn’t believe the sky was a solid dome, or 3) accept the function-only view. In other words, William Lane Craig and others who insist on material origins need to pick their poison.

William Lane Craig would opt for the second option. Although I don’t find that to be sustainable, the second option is actually problematic for a material origins view, for if the ancients really didn’t conceive of the sky as solid, then that means that God doesn’t make anything material on day 2, which is really odd for an account supposed to be about material origins. 

Why is this supposed material origins account lacking material on 3 out of 6 days of creation? Maybe because it isn’t about material origins. Maybe it’s a function-only account.

Reason 3: Days 4 and 6 deal explicitly only with material components on a function level.

Dr. William Lane Craig responds to this point by saying “This might be the case for the sun, moon and stars admittedly, but it’s clearly false for the animals when God says, Let the earth bring forth living creatures. And it’s probably false for man as well when God says, Let us make man in our image, since man was not among the animals. He didn’t exist at that time, and so needed to be created by God. So I think that days 4 and 6 do deal with the creation of material objects and not just functions.”35

Why think that it’s “clearly false” though? Just because the text says “let the earth bring forth living creatures?” But what if God is assigning the function of the earth? That’s the earth’s job: to bring forth living creatures. That’s its function. That’s what God hired it to do, so to speak. We need not see this as the original material creation of animals unless we come to the text presupposing that Genesis 1 is about material origins. Dr. Craig once again begs the question against the function origins view. As for man, the text says “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.‘” (Genesis 1:26, emphasis mine). Well, would you look at that? Functions! Man’s function is (including but not limited to) ruling over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and the land animals. This is part of imaging God.

Also, what does Dr. Craig mean that the functional view is probably false for man because the man didn’t exist at that time and needed to be created by God? It’s true that man was not functioning in the cosmic temple prior to being assigned a role, but he did exist in a material sense. It seems Craig is again begging the question in favor of material creation.

Reason 4: Jeremiah 4:23-27 Uses Creation Language In Reverse

Jeremiah 4 is about the prophecy of the Babylonian Exile. In verses 23-27, Jeremiah uses exactly the same kind of language that Genesis uses to refer to the desolation of Jerusalem, and describes it as a sort of de-creation. The text says “I looked at the earth, and it was formless and empty; and at the heavens, and their light was gone. I looked at the mountains, and they were quaking; all the hills were swaying. I looked, and there were no people; every bird in the sky had flown away. I looked, and the fruitful land was a desert; all its towns lay in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger. This is what the Lord says: ‘The whole land will be ruined, though I will not destroy it completely. Therefore the earth will mourn and the heavens above grow dark, because I have spoken and will not relent, I have decided and will not turn back.’”

“The earth was formless and empty” The Hebrew term here is Tohu Wa Bohu, the same term used in Genesis 1:2. Now, does this mean that the entire planet ceased to exist in a physical sense? That the world was nothing but a water ball as is commonly assumed in Genesis 1:2? Of course not. Moreover, no one interprets this text as saying the sun and stars and popped out of existence. We certainly know that humanity did not vanish from the face of the Earth when The Babylonian Siege occurred. What Jeremiah is clearly saying is that when Babylon destroys the city of Jerusalem, it will no longer be a fully functioning society. Chaos and disorder will reign, just as it reigned in Genesis 1:2.

Objection 2: You Must Go Outside The Text To Infer That Genesis 1 Is About Temple Inauguration. 

This is another objection I heard William Lane Craig make. He said “To justify his interpretation, Walton has to go outside of Genesis since it’s not in the text of Genesis, which is, I think, in and of itself a dubious procedure.”36 

Of course you’re going to look at the cultural context. Why wouldn’t you look at the cultural context? If you’re going to read a text that’s thousands of years old and that comes from another country, you had better understand the literature of that time period and area so you know how they thought and don’t impose your own cultural presuppositions onto the text. As Inspiring Philosophy pointed out in his own response to Dr. Craig, Dr. Craig’s objection is tantamount to saying “How dare you go outside The Declaration Of Independence to understand it by going to the federalist papers?” Of course you would do that! John Locke can provide some light on The Declaration Of Independence. It’s a part of the cultural context. Likewise, looking at other documents of the time and geographic location in which Genesis was written can provide some light on the cultural themes of Genesis 1. Moses was writing to a high context audience, not our low context audience. They were already thinking in terms of functional ontology, creation being about order and not material manufacturing, and they would see Yahweh resting on Day 7 after placing an image of Himself on Day 6 as loud indicators that this is a temple text. It goes over our heads because we don’t think in terms of functional origins and we don’t think in temple terms. So what would have been obvious to the ancients is obscure to us. 

So, I don’t think it’s at all a “dubious procedure”. When you do go to the ANE texts (not to mention other places in The Bible), you do find support for seeing God’s resting on the seventh day as God taking up His residence in a temple.

Many creation texts describe the absence of a temple as a major part of the pre-cosmic condition. This is clearest in the preamble that concerns the founding of Eridu, but it’s also in Enuma Elish. Moreover, The Guidea Cylinder explicitly says that Baal made the universe his cosmic temple after a 7 day creation period. Additionally, we know that a god’s image (an idol) was set up in said god’s temple after a period of inauguration. That humans are made in God’s image right before He takes up rest is a powerful indicator that this is a temple text. 

Objection 3: Why Would God Make The Very First Passage Of The Bible So Hard For The Common Person To Understand? 

Dr. Hugh Ross wrote “To conclude that interpretations of the Bible’s science/creation content were wrong prior to the discoveries in recent times of ancient Middle Eastern literature seems to demean the inspiration of Scripture. If the Bible is indeed God’s message to humanity, would He not inspire the human authors in such a manner that their writings would communicate truth, and nothing but truth, to all generations?”37

I see no reason to think this view demeans the inspiration of scripture. That we didn’t have a fully orbed picture of Genesis prior to the recent recovery of various Ancient Near Eastern documents doesn’t mean Genesis 1 hasn’t spoken to all people in all generations. Anyone who reads Genesis 1 can readily discern the following truths; God is the creator of all things, God assigned each thing its function (regardless of whether a material act accompanied the assigning), and that God crafted the universe for humanity’s benefit, that humanity is made in God’s image. These are the most important truths Genesis 1 conveys. That Genesis 1 is devoid of material creation, that the 7 days represent temple inauguration with God taking up His temple rest on day 7, are truths, but they are in the periphery

The major points are clear to anyone who reads The Bible, but getting the minor points will require that you do the work of exegesis; examining the original language and culture, and other Bible passages that touch on the subject. Thus, while the major points of Genesis 1 were clear to all generations, the minor points weren’t recovered until recently.

The Bible is clear on all of the most important things God wants us to know (e.g that He is the creator of all things, that humans are sinners, that Jesus died to atone for our sins and rose from the dead and that if we believe in Him, we will have eternal life), but it isn’t always clear on all of the peripheral issues. I recall the words of the early church father Tertullian; “Scripture is shallow enough for a child to drink from it without fear of drowning, but deep enough for theologians to swim without ever touching the bottom.” (paraphrased). I think Genesis 1 is a nice example that shows us both the shallowness of scripture’s meaning and it’s surprising depth

Objection 4: God Didn’t Do Any Work During The 6 Days? 

Dominic Statham writes that “Walton’s rejection of Genesis 1 as an account of material origins hardly fits the statement of Gen. 2:2–3, which makes clear that, after Day 6, God ceased from work. If God had not created anything material, but simply proclaimed the functions of that which already existed, what work had he done?” 38

This objection is pitiful, and while I know I said that I would only address the ones I considered the most formidable, I’m going to take exception here. God was assigning functions to time, weather, food, sea creatures, animals, and humans. Just because God wasn’t materially bringing these things into being doesn’t mean that He was doing nothing. Has a king done nothing when he determines the roles his subjects will have in his kingdom? If I’m a seminary teacher and I declare that everyone is going to write about a particular argument for God’s existence and then read his essay allowed to the class, and I assign each argument to a particular student, am I not going to get paid because I allegedly didn’t do anything?

God was indeed working. He was assigning functions. Here’s what John Walton says in his NIV Application Commentary On Genesis; “The seventh day is marked by God ceasing the work of the previous six days and settling into the stability of the cosmos he created, perhaps experiencing refreshment as he did so.”39

If the objection here is based on the fact that material creation involves far more effort than merely decreeing how things should function, let’s remember that for an omnipotent God, everything is effortless. 

Objection 5: Would This Translation Be As Appealing As It Is If You Didn’t Feel That Modern Science Forced You Into It?

This is a question I’ve asked of myself as I researched the arguments for and against this interpretation. We want The Bible to speak for itself. It is God’s word to us (2 Timothy 3:16) and every word God speaks is true (Proverbs 30:5). We don’t want science to determine how we read the text. We want to know what the text says regardless of what science may or may not say, and if the interpretation we come to conflicts with the scientific consensus, so much the worse for the scientific consensus. All our beliefs should be tried before the bar of Scripture. 

While I cannot speak for everyone who adopts this view, I myself don’t feel compelled to adopt this because of the evidence for an old Earth and for macro evolution. There are many interpretations of Genesis 1 which are compatible with mainstream science besides the one I’m advocating in this paper. In fact, I was a Day-Age proponent for years before adopting this view. In fact, the only interpretations that would conflict with modern science are the Calendar Day Interpretation (the Young Earth Creationist’s interpretation) and The Gap Theory. 

I think this interpretation is plausible on the basis of the evidence put forth in this paper. If I find out that it’s wrong some day, then there is no need for me to continue to hold to it on the basis that my only other options would be Young Earth Creationism or disagreeing with The Bible. 


Genesis 1, when interpreted in its Ancient Near Eastern context and in its original language, surprisingly presents us with a view that is not only compatible with any type of material origins one may want to propose, but is also a theologically rich passage. It tells us that everything in the universe has a purpose, that God is sovereign over all of creation, that He and no other god is responsible for why the universe is the way it is, and that He rests and reigns in this realm He declares His temple. We are God’s images. We are to represent Him to the rest of creation. We are to co-rule with Him. 

Genesis 1 is not a part of The Bible that any Christian needs to be embarrassed about. It is not in conflict nor does it provide support for any view of origins scientists may want to propose. It is a metaphysical account rather than a physical account. It declares the who and why of creation, rather than the when and how. 



1: See, for examples, the article “The Ancient Universe and the Cosmic Temple “by J. Richard Middleton, July 19, 2016,, 2 “Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern Cosmology” by Dr. Michael S. Heiser –>, “Scripture and Cosmology: Reading The Bible Between The Ancient World and Modern Science” by Kyle Greenwood, IVP Academic, September 3rd, 2015. See also John Walton’s books “The Lost World Of Genesis One” and “Ancient Near Eastern Thought and The Old Testament”, both published by IVP Academic. See also The NIV FaithLife Illustrated Study Bible, page 5.

2: Old Earth or Evolutionary Creationism? Discussing Origins With Reasons To Believe and BioLogos, InterVarsity Press, 2017, pages 25-26

3: Old Earth or Evolutionary Creationism? Discussing Origins With Reasons To Believe and BioLogos, InterVarsity Press, 2017, page 46

4: ibid. Page 39.

5: On pages 60-63 of his book Hidden Treasures In The Book Of Job, Dr. Hugh Ross makes the claim that Job 38:19-20 is a biblical reference to what science would later discover as dark energy. In this passage, God asks Job “What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings?” Even back when I was a concordist, I thought this was a stretch.

6: See The Lost World Of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and The Origins Debate by John H. Walton, InterVarsity Press, 2009, page 32

7: Translation from Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature (Berkley: University Of California Press, 1980), 3:210-11

8: John H. Walton. The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (Kindle Locations 383-395). IVP Academic. Kindle Edition.

9: As you can tell, I didn’t quote the Enuma Elish. I quoted John Walton’s summary of it. You may be wondering why. The reason he doesn’t directly quote from Enuma Elish (and neither do I) is that it’s a very, very long account. However, if you’re interested, the entire epic can be read on Ancient History Encyclopedia’s Website. —>—the-babylonian-epic-of-creation—fu/ 

10: As cited in John Walton’s “The Lost World Of Genesis 1

11: Kenneth Matthews, The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Exposition of Holy Scripture, Genesis 1:-11, pages 128-129

12: See

13: Robert Holmstedt, “Genesis 1.1-3, Hebrew Grammar, and Translation” – November 11, 2011 — 

14: Michael Jones, Inspiring Philosophy, “Genesis 1a: Then God Said”, June 7th 2019 — 

15: John Sailhamer, Genesis Unbound: A Provocative New Look At The Creation Account, pages 38-40, Dawson Media

16: ibid. 

17: See The Reasonable Faith Podcast, “John Walton’s View Of Genesis, Part One”, – October 14th, 2019, – 

18: Listen to my interview with Jones here →

19: David T. Tsumura: “Creation And Destruction: A Reappraisal of the Chaoskampf Theory in the Old Testament” Eisenbrauns; Revised ed. edition (July 1, 2005)

20: “The phrase ʿāśâ nepeš can mean ‘to take people under your care’ (Gen 12:5; cf. Eccles 2:8). For the midwives who defied pharaoh, God provided families (ʿāśâ bāttîm, Ex 1:21). The Israelites are to celebrate the Sabbath from generation to generation (Ex 31:16; cf. Ex 34:22; Num 9:4-14; etc.). Responsibilities are assigned to the Levites (Num 8:26). Priests are appointed (1 Kings 12:31). The phrase ʿāśâ šālôm means ‘to establish order’ (Job 25:2; cf. Is 45:7).”

— Walton, John H.. The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate (p. 31). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

21: Middleton, J. Richard. The Liberating Image (p. 81). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


23: The Seven Tablets of Creation, by Leonard William King, [1902], at,

24: As cited in The Lost World Of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and The Origins Debate by John Walton, page 79, IVP Academic.

25: Middleton, J. Richard. The Liberating Image (pp. 81-82). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition

26: John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and The Old Testament, first edition, page 118, Baker Academic, 2006

27: Heiser, Michael S.. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (pp. 42-43). Lexham Press. Kindle Edition.

28: Tony L. Shelter “Genesis 1-2 In Light Of Ancient Egyptian Creation Myths”, a paper presented at the second annual Student Academic Conference held at Dallas Theological Seminary in April 18, 2005. —

29: See Inspiring Philosophy, “Genesis1b: And It Was Good”, 14:47 — 

30: “Genesis 1 and a Babylonian Creation Story”, By Pete Enns on May 18, 2010 — 

31: ibid. 

32: Michael S. Heiser, “What’s Ugaritic Got To Do With Anything?” — 

33: From “The Lost World Of Genesis One”

34: William Lane Craig, Excursus on Creation of Life and Biological Diversity (Part 9): A Critique of John Walton’s Functional Creation Interpretation, Part 2 — 

35: ibid. 

36: ibid. 

37: See “Defending Concordism: A Response To The Lost World Of Genesis One” by Hugh Ross. — 

38: “Dubious and Dangerous Exposition: A review of The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate by John H. Walton” by Dominic Statham of Creation Ministries International ( — 

39: I can’t remember what page this was on.

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Jon Smith

    Dear Evan,

    I noticed that you forgot to cite
    Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible
    Book by Brandon J. O’Brien and E. Richards
    I’m sure it was an oversight, also I noticed that wasn’t much interaction with the sources, I’d personally like to see you interact with the sources more rather than just quoting them. Been following you for years, I’m a big fan.
    Have a great day!

    1. Evan Minton

      Where do you think citing this book would have been appropriate and why? Under the subheader “Looking At Genesis Through Ancient Eyes”? And what do you mean that there wasn’t much interaction with the sources? I tried to cite and compile as extensive of a list of my sources in the footnotes as I could. Or are you referring to the ANE creation texts?

      1. Jon Smith

        hey evan thanks so much for your response! I’m honored! I was thinking that my professors told me that academic writing is more like interacting with sources like instead of just citing them. Like exegesis but for other texts besides the Bible

        1. Jon Smith

          ooo also I said you needed another citation cause you said your hermeneutics teacher said something but that was a quote from a book haha and you don’t go to college so you don’t have a teacher?? Idk I’m just confused

          1. Evan Minton

            This was a course I took several years ago at Five Point Church in Spartanburg South Carolina. The one who taught the class was was a man named Paul Jordan. It wasn’t in anywritten source or even a recorded video that could be cited, so I can’t cite it.

  2. Jon Smith

    ooo also I said you needed another citation cause you said your hermeneutics teacher said something but that was a quote from a book haha and I’m pretty sure you don’t go to college so you don’t have a teacher?? Idk I’m just confused


    Dear Evan, I have a chicken and egg problem with the temple. Was the material creation, focused on the garden, a physical expression of a cosmic temple or was the temple a physical, and later, representation of the garden? In revelation there is no temple but there clearly is a garden. I ask because of the human tendency towards man made structures and ceremony that facilitates ego, power structures and materialism. By claiming that God’s original is a temple this encourages temple mentality with all its trappings. But if the temple was a temporary expedient designed to represent the garden (and surrounding cosmos) – a place for a simpler, less resource devouring place of walking and communing with God, might we have a justification for dismantling the excessive temple structures and ecclesiastical administrations that so many branches of Christendom love to erect their own versions of. God does not live in temples made with human hands but his desire was to live within and among humans. I don’t see where a pre-human temple fits in or is necessary.

    1. Evan Minton

      I think it’s the latter. Although I didn’t have the time to get into this in this essay, other Temple Inauguration proponents (including Walton) have called attention to the similarities between the garden of Eden and the Jerusalem temple. The temple in Jerusalem was to be “a microcosm of the universe”.
      This 7 minute video gets into God’s cosmic and Earthly temple parallels in a concise manner. –

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