I am one who fully endorses what I like to call The Cosmic Temple Inauguration interpretation of Genesis 1. Although technically, the name doesn’t fully encompasses my entire view or the view of the Old Testament scholar this view is most commonly assosiated with, it does point to the main point of Genesis 1; that God has prepared the cosmos to be His temple over a period of 7 days. Throughout the 7 days, God has assigned functions to everything that exists. Genesis 1 is not about material origins at all. It’s not a scientific account. It’s not account of natural history. Indeed, to read modern scientfic concepts out of Genesis 1 is really not to read anything OUT of Genesis 1 at all, but INTO Genesis 1. We must interpret The Bible the way the original author and audience would have understood it. In The Lost World Of Genesis One, Old Testament scholar John Walton claims that the ancient near eastern hearers/readers of Genesis 1 (i.e the original recipients) would have read the account as two things; God bringing everything into existence and God preparing the universe to be His temple to dwell in. However, what “create” means, while still meaning to bring something into existence as most of us assume, is nevertheless not the creation of material objects. Rather, it is assigning something function within an ordered system. Walton makes his case from Ancient Near Eastern creation myths that show time after time that they are not concerned with how and when everything physically came into being, but rather they were concerned with why everything came into being. Why did God or the gods make what they did? Walton also examines the bibical text in its original languages and mounts arguments within the text itself that this is how we ought to be reading it.
For interested readers, I myself have mounted a comprehensive defense of this view in my essay; “Genesis 1: Functional Creation, Temple Inauguration, and Anti-Pagan Polemics”.
In this article, I will respond to the late biblical scholar Noel Weeks who wrote an article for WTJ titled “The Bible and The ‘Universal’ Ancient World: A Critique Of John Walton”. This is the article I’ll be interacting with throughout.
First Argument: We Don’t Have Enough Texts To Conclude That ANE People Had A Universal Mindset On Ontology.
Dr. Weeks writes ““It is commonly claimed that Mesopotamian literary culture was diffused throughout the ANE. That is because Mesopotamian cuneiform texts from the second millennium and even earlier have been found in Syria, Anatolia, Palestine, and even Egypt. While the diffusion is not in question, its significance is. In the second millennium the cuneiform script was adapted to write Hittite and Hurrian. Furthermore, Akkadian was adopted as the language of international diplomatic correspondence so that the Egyptian Empire and its Palestinian and Syrian vassals corresponded in adapted forms of Akkadian.13 Since the cuneiform script and Akkadian were taught using literary texts, that means that scribes being taught to write would be copying Mesopotamian texts, and such instructional texts have been found in Egypt.14 It is a reasonable assumption that all across the area between Mesopotamia and Egypt scribes were copying Mesopotamian texts. There was at least enough interest for some Akkadian texts to be translated into Hittite.15 We have no idea how deeply these Mesopotamian texts penetrated into the mind and ethos of the locals.”
“Next in volume come Hittite texts. Generally Hittite texts are not considered in biblical comparisons. The Hittite approach to writing history, however, is generally closer to the biblical one than either the Mesopotamian or Egyptian styles.21… The Hittites are an interesting example of a people who clearly absorb some things from outside, but yet retain some very distinct characteristics of their own
Once more a methodological issue intrudes. I think there were huge differences between Mesopotamia and Egypt, but if there were not, would it be valid to cite the evidence of just these two cultures as revealing the universal mind of the ANE?”(essentially, What’s to say the israelite culture didn’t have the same beliefs as the rest of Egypt or mesopotamia?)”
Rephrasing the argument in my own words, it seems to me like Weeks is claiming that given that many ancient texts have been lost to history, can we really be sure we have enough evidence to claim that ancients were united on holding to a functional ontology with a corresponding understanding of what it means to create something? Additionally, Weeks claims that the material from Egypt vastly differs from that of Mesopotamia, but even if there weren’t, would citing texts from just these two places be enough?
To me, what would be devastating to Walton’s view of functional ontology being a given in the ancient near east is if we had several texts that undoubtedly had a material ontology or could not be construed to be only about functions.
It is true that different people can have different views and ideas of things. In Jesus’ day, there was the party of the Pharisees who believed in a future bodily resurrection, and the Saducees who denied that there would be a resurrection. In the modern day, you have lots of different competing views. Even scientifically, not everyone holds to big bang cosmology and evolution. Shoot, even flat earthers are a thing for some reason.
It might be too daunting of a task to try to prove a “universal” mindset among ancient near easterners. In fact, it might not be reasonable. Perhaps all that is needed for Walton’s proposal to go through is if a functional ontology is the dominant view among ancients. Perhaps Weeks makes a good point that we ought not be making universal claims such as “EVERYONE in the Ancient Near East believed such and such”. Nevertheless, if even the majority of people held that for something to exist, it has to have a function in an ordered system, and that material composition wasn’t enough to constitute existence, then that would set the probability in favor of Walton’s hypothesis.
However, I don’t recall any creation myth in the Ancient Near East that would lend itself to a material ontology. I’m about to bring an expert witness to the trial. That witness would be Old Testament scholar Ben Stanhope. in Episode 118 of The Cerebral Faith Podcast, titled “Episode 118: Ben Stanhope Responds To Terry Mortenson’s Article ‘Reading Genesis; ANE Hermenuetic VS. Plain Meaning'”, Ben Stanhope told me that he’s read lots of creation myths outside of the Ancient Near East and that they all lend themselves towards a function only sort of view. He said this around 49 minutes into the episode.
“When I was in college, I went and I got several books that just contained creation myths from all around the world and – this is before. I think, before Walton had even published. I didn’t even have this on my mind. But I remember being distinctly disappointed because I was expecting to open these up and it would be like in ancient Greek creation myths where they were very often were concerned with material formation of the cosmos, but in every other creation myth of every other civilization, they aren’t. They’re typically concerned with function just like Walton claims that Genesis 1 is. And that’s not just like Ancient Near Eastern stuff, that’s like all around the world. That just blew my mind. As a modern person, I was just so disappointed with that expectation that I was bringing to these ancient texts from popanewgeny or Australia or Africa and so forth, those authors and those native cultures did not care about my concerns about what they thought about the material formation of the cosmos. They did talk about it some.” 1
He then said he couldn’t remember the title, but the author’s last name is Sproul and that he cited it probably 15 times at the end of his book, (Mis)interpreting Genesis.
I looked it up and the book is by “B. Sproul”. It’s called “Primal Myths” (New York: Harper & Row, 1969).
If that’s the case, I think that would be a strong rebuttal to Weeks’ claim. Again, we don’t need every last person to hold a functional ontology instead of a material ontology for Walton’s view to go through; we just need to show at minimum that that view was the norm and that deviations would be really strange. Sort of similar to how the flat Earth is a strange deviation from the idea that the Earth is a sphere. Does everyone in our modern western culture hold to the view that the Earth is round? No. But more people do than the ones that don’t. Does everyone hold that all animals are related through common ancestry? No. And here, there’s a bigger split than there is with the shape of the Earth. Nevertheless, anti-evolutionary forms of creationism are deviations from the commonly accepted Darwinian scenario.
Now, when it comes to the Cosmic Temple aspect of Walton’s view – which is much less contested albeit still controversial2 – we only need to show that the author of Genesis was aware of the Ugaritic and Babylonian literature to make an ANE Mindset type of argument. Here, we undoubtedly have a direct link, especially since The Bible seems to be one big polemic against Baal, particularly in the prophetic literature.3
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).”4
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?”
Though it should be remembered that the Cosmic Temple aspect of Genesis 1 can be argued from statements and features within the text as well as from ideas that come from the surrounding cultures. For example, the fact that the number 7 is so often used as a sacred number, and that The Bible refers to the universe in ways that we would expect if He made it His dwelling place (read: Temple).
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.”
Weeks does well to caution us to be careful when claiming something is THE definitive, universal view on something in the Ancient Near East, but ultimately I think the evidence we have is in our favor rather than those who would contend for material origins. However, with some things, I think we can be certain when we claim “ANE peoples believed such and such”. For example, when I (and Walton) argue that Day 1 doesn’t have the origin of anything material because it’s just light and darkness being created and the ancients didn’t know about photons and other particles, I think we can be pretty certain that no one secretly held to modern physical ideas of light. We don’t even really need for an ancient author to tell us what he thought light was or wasn’t. We can be just as sure that they didn’t believe light to be a physical thing as we can be sure they didn’t hold to universal common ancestry or general relativity!
Second Argument: There Are Two Clear Examples Of Material Creation In The Babylonian Literature
Noel Weeks writes; “One is the test that was put to the god Marduk where he had to show the ability to destroy a constellation and then recreate it, both by simply speaking. Surely the point here is the existence of the constellation rather than its function. The second is the drunken competition between the gods Ninmah and Enki where the test is whether one can create a human so deformed or restricted that the other cannot assign a role to that specimen of humanity.32 Surely here there is a conceptual distinction between existence and function. That is not to say they engaged in philosophical discussions about the nature of existence, but what societies typically do and what they are capable of doing are two different issues. Certainly they usually did not think of bare existence, but once we have exceptions Walton’s argument is crucially weakened. Why could not a biblical author also be an exception?”
Well, first let me address that last line first. Weeks seems to think the functional creation view rests solely on showing some kind of universal mindset of the Ancient Near East. Yet, at the end of the day, we are concerned with what the biblical text says. The Ancient Near Eastern mindset can be helpful in informing us, but it’s not determinative. After all, as Walton put it in his book The Lost World Of The Flood, in the river of ideas, sometimes Israel went with the flow and at other times, they swam upcurrent.5 So it is not sufficient to do a survey of extra-biblical texts and call it a day. We must also go to the biblical text and see if it follows suit or if it brings a departure. ANE background can strengthen an exegetical case that would be weaker if you stayed inside the Bible alone, sure, but it doesn’t determine it.
Secondly, as I’ve already said, I think it’s an overstatement to say exceptions crucially weaken Walton’s view. All Walton and other proponents of his view would need to do is revise their argument and make a more modest claim about the ontological views of the ANE. If it can be shown that a functional ontology was the dominant view and that material ontology was the exception, then that would still make a functional ontology in Genesis 1 more probable than not.
Thirdly, let’s look at the examples that Weeks claims to be two exceptions.
First example is Marduk making a star go out of and back into being. This is how the text reads. It’s from Tablet 4, lines 21-29
“”Your destiny, Be-l, is superior to that of all the gods,
Command and bring about annihilation and re-creation.
Let the constellation disappear at your utterance,
With a second command let the constellation reappear.”
He gave the command and the constellation disappeared,
With a second command the constellation came into being again.
When the gods, his fathers, saw (the effect of) his utterance,
They rejoiced and offered congratulations: “Marduk is the king!”
They added to him a mace, a throne, and a rod,”
One response that could be offered is that he’s presupposing what “came into being” means. Maybe Marduk rendered the constellation non-functional and then restored its function. That’s possible, although I’m not sure how probable that is. I think a stronger response would be to say that although ANE peoples (at least generally, I say this mindful of possible exceptions I don’t yet know of) thought of existence in terms of function in an ordered system, they were not completely unaware of material creation. Obviously they knew that not everything they saw was eternal and uncreated in the material sense. The birth of babies, the construction of houses and temples, the planting and growth of plants, for examples, showed that something can come into material existence. And they likely reasoned that if something could come into material existence, then it could theoretically go out of material existence as well. However, the question Walton would pose is “Is material composition all that’s needed for something to truly ‘exist’ in the ancient’s mind?” To phrase this philosophically, we could say that the ancient saw material composition as a necessary condition for existence, but not a sufficient condition. Something had to have a material body in order to exist, but if that’s ALL it had, then it could not rightly be said to exist.
With that in mind, notice that if you physically annihilate something, you’ve not only removed its physical being, but you’ve taken away its function as well. If an arsonist reduces a house to ashes, the house no longer functions as a home. Material form is logically prior to having a function which is logically prior to existing.
If Walton is correct, then Marduk making the star come into and go out of being was indeed a de-creation and re-creation of that star. He moved both the necessary prerequisite of existence (its material composition) as well as its function (being a source of light for mankind). Of course, I’m assuming for the sake of argument that the ancients would have understood celestial bodies as physical objects.
So while this may appear to be an exception at first, I’m not really convinced that it is.
Let’s move onto the second example. “The second is the drunken competition between the gods Ninmah and Enki where the test is whether one can create a human so deformed or restricted that the other cannot assign a role to that specimen of humanity.”
I think the same thing that I said about the first example could be said of the second. Ancient peoples knew of things physically coming into being and physically going out of being, but – and even my language betrays my ontology – was this enough to truly bring something into “being”? Perhaps such could be called “Partial creation” of something that almost exists.
Something could be said to be created if it was already there and assigned a function OR if it was brought into both material and functional existence. But if Walton and others like myself are correct, if material is all that’s brought to the table, that’s not a full creation of something that actually, truly exists.
This brings up the question that so many Waltonian critics bring up; “Why can’t it be both? Genesis 1 is about God bringing material into being AND assigning things their functions?” They may concede that function was a necessary and sufficient condition in the mind of the ancient but contend that like Marduk making the star pop into and come back into being, God was doing just this in Genesis 1. I think it would be good to go back to Genesis 1. I’d like to speedrun through the list of arguments for why maintaining both material and functional creation is problematic.6
Day 1 – Light and darkness are created. Neither were material on an ancient understanding. Their separation indicates that it was time that was created. Time is not material.
Day 2 – If God materially made something, you are committed to solid dome sky or to inserting modern meteorology into the text (an act of concordism). If committing yourself to bad science or eisegeted science is not something you’d like to do, then your other options are just to concede the argument or to say that God didn’t really make the sky.
Day 3 – Seeing the creation of vegetation as function only is contingent on establishing function only of the rest of the chapter. So…
Day 4 – Sun, moon, and stars. Not material on ANE understanding. Functions most explicit here than anyway (i.e they are for signs, seasons, days, and years – timekeeping). It’s true there could be different astrological understandings throughout the ANE, but I doubt anyone believed they were big gas balls. Twinkling inanimate lights that aren’t material in some cases, gods or other spiritual beings in others.
So if you maintain a material AND functional view of ontology/creation, you are at least committed to saying God didn’t make anything on 3 of the 6 days. Four depending on where you fall on the sky trichotomy. A material view is more plausible for the animals and humans on days 5 and 6. Like Day 3, I think establishing that only functions are being created on these days is contingent on the rest of the exegetical case for Genesis 1. What kind of material creation account doesn’t have anything material being made during half of the week?
This also answers Weeks’ rhetorical question near the end of the quoted section where he asks “Why couldn’t the biblical author also be an exception?” Even assuming these two cases in Enuma Elish are exceptions, we still have grounds for making Genesis 1 not an exception.
Third Argument: Time, Weather, and Fecundity Are Abstract Concepts. Too Abstract For The Ancient Mind To Grasp.
Weeks writes “The functions he sees as created on the various days,33 have a very abstract nature. Day 1 is about time, day 2 the architectural design of cosmic geography, day 3 fecundity. If we remember that Gen 1 is supposed to conform to the ancient mind, which is claimed to be incapable of thinking of existence apart from function, it is an interesting paradox that the days are really about such abstract concepts. Walton has to do this because only at that abstract level can he find parallels to the biblical text.”
I thought the first couple of rounds of objections to Walton’s Function-Temple hypothesis were pretty potent, which is not something I say often about critics of this view. However, this one is really weak. In what sense is time, weather, and food abstract? It seems to me like these would be the most concrete realities of the world. Even more so to the ancients than to us modern westerners who either go to the grocery store or order our food online (though we still fuss about time quite a bit). The Ancient Near East was a tremendously agricultural time and place and the necessity of time, weather, and fecundity would have been at the forefronts of their minds. It was a time when people lived hand to mouth and where a bad season of crops could spell starvation. I really fail to see how these could be abstract concepts to the ancients.
It’s also not true that the ancient mind “is claimed to be incapable of thinking of existence apart from function”. Weeks is attacking a straw man. Walton never claimed that they were incapable of thinking of creation in terms of material, just that they didn’t! If anyone’s incapable of thinking anything, it’s Walton’s critics being incapable of thinking of something having material being but not truly “existing” because it was non-functional.
Fourth Argument: So gods Only Rest In Temple? What about Ptah? He didn’t!
“Walton is undoubtedly correct in saying that temples were depicted as dwellings of gods.
Walton also refers to the statement that the Egyptian god Ptah rested after making the gods and other things.43 However, his rest is not said to be in a temple.”
I’m not really sure what point Weeks is trying to make here. Although I suspect that Weeks is going after Walton’s argument which could be syllogistically styled
1: If a god dwells somewhere, it’s a temple.
2: The Bible says the cosmos is God’s dwelling place (Isaiah 66:1)
3: Therefore, the cosmos is God’s temple.
And Weeks would be refuting premise 1 showing that there’s an example where a god doesn’t dwell in a temple, so why say God’s residence within the cosmos means the cosmos is God’s temple.
Besides the fact that this isn’t the only argument in favor of the Temple Inauguration interpretation, I think this rebuttal is really weak. A god can dwell somewhere that isn’t a temple, sure, but surely temples are the normal dwelling places of a god. And surely a god would desire a temple than just any ole place. Some humans live in cars, some people live under bridges, but surely the norm is for humans to live in houses (or apartments). Indeed, most of the time even if something isn’t a house proper, if it is a dwelling place, humans tend to think of said dwelling place as though it were a house – be it an apartment or an RV. Though this obviously wouldn’t apply to the homeless who sleep outside.
The argument should actually be stated as follows;
1: If a god dwells somewhere, more likely than not it is to be considered a temple
2: The Bible says the cosmos is God’s dwelling place (Isaiah 66:1)
3: Therefore, the cosmos is more likely than not God’s temple.
Ultimately, Weeks tries to use an exception to argue against the rule. Now, to be fair to Weeks, John Walton does say in his popular book “Deity rests in a temple, and only in a temple” (page 72) and maybe that’s why Weeks thinks this exception is such a powerful response. Nevertheless, it still seems to me akin to someone saying “Humans live in houses, and only houses.” and then thinking you’ve accomplished something by pointing to a homeless person or someone who lives in a camp trailer. Even if deities have rested outside of temples, it should be recognized that these are the exceptions, not the rule.
Fifth Argument: The Temple Building Account Of Baal Fails As a Legitimate Paralelle To Genesis 1.
“The most detailed description of temple building that we have from the ANE, the cylinders of Gudea, ruler of the Sumerian city of Lagash around the end of the third millennium BC. Though this is the most elaborate description of temple building we possess, very little space is devoted to the actual building phase. More space is given to the god’s instructions to build the temple, the acquiring of materials, the consecration of the building, and the accompanying celebrations. It is in connection with the last that seven days appears, specifically as the period that peace reigned in the city, which by implication would be the period of the celebration of the building when the gods were treated to a great feast, which humans also enjoyed.54 The second case occurs as part of the Ugaritic myth of Baal. We are told in connection with building a temple for Baal that after the precious materials had been assembled, fire raged in the accumulated material for seven days, at the end of which the temple was revealed in magnificent completion.
Once again the question arises of whether this is adequate evidence of the universal ANE mind. Strictly speaking, the seven days of Gudea are not days of building but days of celebration. Walton can somewhat nullify the force of that fact by claiming that the biblical text is not about the building of the cosmos but about the devotion of various parts of it to functions. Nevertheless the seven days with Gudea appear to be after the building is fully equipped and occupied by its divine householders. It is not as though the seven days are a major theme of the text: they occur in one line referring to what happens in the city during the period of celebration, rather than what happens in the temple. The building of the temple is the theme of an inscription on a statue of Gudea, and once more the seven days appear in connection to what happened in society rather than with the temple.56 No other Mesopotamian temple building text mentions seven days. The inscriptions of Gudea are not of a style that points to cultic use.57 Actually the Baal text appears more significant because the seven days were connected this time to the formation of the temple. Once it was created by this miraculous means, Baal would have occupied it. Yet if we exclude the Gudea text as isolated and not really relevant, is this one instance in a Ugaritic text sufficient evidence of the universal ANE mind? There are many cases of the use of seven as a significant number throughout the ANE.58 The connection of those uses of seven to the biblical usages is a difficult question. The seven days in the Baal text may belong to this general tendency for seven days to appear as a significant period in ANE texts, rather than to a specific connection to temple building. Once again this is insufficient evidence of a general ANE mentality”
I decided to ask Stanhope about this over Messenger and this is what he said. I’m going to read his answer instead of the same one I came up with except his is a lot less verbose. Though I can get into the answer I typed up if there’s time.
He said “All of our best and overwhelming evidence that the seven days in Genesis are related to temple building derives from comparing them to biblical texts about the building of Solomon’s Temple and the tabernacle. If we didn’t have the Baal cycle or Gudea cylinder the evidence that Genesis 1’s seven days are related to temple building would still be absolutely overwhelming and beyond doubt and are accepted as such by virtually everyone I’ve read on the subject. So is the fact that near eastern temples are virtually universally patterned after the cosmos as a rule.
These extra biblical cases are merely interesting suggestive parallels that may contextual or what we can already prove with the Bible..”
However, like I said, this argument means at worst that the Baal Cycle would not be relevant evidence. But that doesn’t mean we have no justification for the temple interpretation of Genesis 1 though. In his book (Mis)Interpreting Genesis: How The Creation Museum Misunderstands The Ancient Near Eastern Context Of The Bible, Ben Stanhope presents us with a cumulative case.
“What justification do we have for reading into the seven days the idea that the whole of the world is Yhwh’s temple? The first is that the construction of the Israelite Tabernacle and the world both use similar language. Indeed, the parallels between the construction of the world and the Tabernacle are overwhelming:
1) Moses builds the Tabernacle in Exod 40:17-33. Seven times in the building process, it is repeated that Moses carried out the construction of a given part, ‘just as Yhwh had commanded Moses.’ In other words, the Tabernacle, like the world, was constructed in seven stages of divine commands.
2) The Tabernacle priests were ordained in a seven-day process (Lev 8:33-35).
3) Gen 2:2 says, ‘God finished the work….’ Exod 40:33 reads, “When Moses had finished the work…”
4) Gen 2:3 says that after the completion of creation, ‘God blessed the seventh day….’ After the completion of the Tabernacle in Exod 39:43 we read that, ‘Moses blessed them….’
5) After the blessing, Gen 2:3 speaks of God ‘sanctifying’ creation. Exod 40:9 speaks of Moses ‘sanctifying’ the Tabernacle ‘and all its furnishings.’
6) God’s presence was in Eden as it was in the Tabernacle. We are told that he would ‘walk’ about in the garden (Gen 3:8). Commentators note that this same Hebrew verb is strangely used of God ‘walking about’ in the Tabernacle in Lev 26:12, and Deut 23:15.
7) We are told that Adam and Eve were to ‘work and keep’ the garden. These same two Hebrew verbs are only used together elsewhere to describe the job obligations of the priests who kept the Tabernacle and later Temple (Num 7–8; 8:25–26; 1 Chron 23:32; Ezek 44:14).”7
All of these reasons show that there’s a paralell between God’s man made dwelling place with the peopel of Israel and God’s creation of the universe. The number 7 has significance in both cases,
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).
Can the number 7 sometimes not have a spiritual meaning? Sure. But again, Weeks seems like he’s accomplished something by showing an exception to the rule. Even if Genesis is not arguing against the Gudea Cylinder by making Yahweh the occupier of the cosmic temple after 7 days, 7 is still a significant number for the biblical authors. Certainly if one rejects a concordistic view and embraces the idea of Genesis as mytho-history,8 one has to recognize that the number of the days must have SOME significance.
Sixth Argument: Would God Really Make A Fallen Creation His Temple?
“Walton gives little attention to the biblical texts, which seem to give God an alternate throne room. Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple goes out of its way to place God in heaven (1 Kgs 8:22–53). If there is one topic on which the biblical and the ANE view of the temple come together, it is preservation from defilement. Is Walton to have us believe that God makes this fallen and defiled creation his throne room?”
I was astonished to read this! This sounds very much like Gnosticism; which includes the idea that the material world is evil and so, God can’t have anything to do with it! I know that’s probably not Weeks’ intention, but it certainly comes across that way. Why would God be defiled from taking up residence in the cosmos?
The late Noel Weeks has presented, in my opinion, one of the more potent critiques of The Functional Origins/Temple Inauguration view to Genesis 1 that I have read. I found some of his arguments more forceful than others, but after giving his critique much thought, I do not find that he has sucessfully refuted The Functional Origins/Cosmic Temple interpretation. In my assessent, Weeks’ rebuttals started out strong and got weaker as they went. Still, overall, it is a subtantitve critique that I felt was deserving of special attention.
1: The Cerebral Faith Podcast, “Episode 118: Ben Stanhope Responds To Terry Mortenson’s Article ‘Reading Genesis; ANE Hermenuetic VS. Plain Meaning'” – https://anchor.fm/evan-minton/episodes/Episode-118-Ben-Stanhope-Responds-To-Terry-Mortensons-article-Reading-Genesis-ANE-Hermeneutic-VS–Plain-Meaning-e15im8u
2: Ben Stanhope, J. Richard Middleton, Michael Heiser, and Peter Enns are just some of the Old Testament scholars who agree that Genesis 1 is about God inagurating the universe as His temple. See, for example, J. Richard Middleton’s BioLogos blog post “The Ancient Universe and The Cosmic Temple”, July 19th 2016, https://biologos.org/series/evolution-and-biblical-faith-reflections-by-theologian-j-richard-middleton/articles/the-ancient-universe-and-the-cosmic-temple, Ben Stanhope’s book “(Mis)Interpreting Genesis: How The Creation Museum Misunderstands The Ancient Near Eastern Context Of The Bible”, Scarab Press, December 14th 2020, chapter 6. For J. Richard Middleton’s defense, see his book “The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei In Genesis 1”, Baker Academic, Illustrated Edition, (March 1 2005).
3: For some examples, see this exerpt of a presentation by Brian Godawa on YouTube; “God Against The gods 3: Yahweh VS. Baal”. —https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=aXl-5LCaVQY&t=396s
4: Middleton, J. Richard. The Liberating Image (p. 81). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
5: See Longman III, Tremper; Walton, John H.. The Lost World of the Flood: Mythology, Theology, and the Deluge Debate (p. 6). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
6: See, for example, Walton, John H.. The Lost World of Genesis One (The Lost World Series) (p. 93-97). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
7: Stanhope, Ben. (Mis)interpreting Genesis: How the Creation Museum Misunderstands the Ancient Near Eastern Context of the Bible (p. 110). Scarab Press. Kindle Edition.
8: For a definition on Mytho-History, see this short video by Dr. William Lane Craig on the Reasonable Faith website. –> https://www.reasonablefaith.org/videos/short-videos/what-is-mytho-history