Some Mixed Thoughts......I
- Dear Icon Friends,
The Nature of Scripture : Can we interpret the Genesis account of Creation as spiritual or allegorical? A significant reason for the need to interpret lies in the nature of Scripture itself. Historically the Church has understood the nature of Scripture much as the same as it has understood the person of Christ - the Bible is at the same time both Divine and Human. Someone told that "The Bible is the Word of God given in the words of people in history." It is this dual nature of the Bible that demands of us the task of interpretation, Exegesis and Hermeneutics - unfortunately, our both seminaries lack the subject of Hermeneutics in their carriculam.
Because the Bible is God's Words, it has eternal relevance; it speaks to all humankind, in every age and in every culture. God chose to speak his Word through human language in history, every book in the Bible also has historical particularity and each document is conditione by the language, time, and culture in which it was originally written. At least, some education in hermeneutics will help them to understand that Genesis accounts of creation should not be interpreted spiritually or allegorically, as one priest questioned.
There is no warrant for modern scientific and spiritual interpretation of Genesis. Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim.3:16), written by holy men moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21) and supremely attested by our Lord "Thy Word is truth"(John 17:17). The Bible is supreme truth, and therefore, it is the standard by which scientific and other twisted theology should be evaluated, not vice versa. Although many have tried to set science against Scripture, science never has disproved one jot or tittle of the Bible and it never will.
A clear pattern for interpreting Genesis is given to us in the New Testament. If the language of early Genesis were meant to be interpreted spiritually or figuratively, we will end up denying the historicity of Adam,Eve, Noah,Abraham including Second Adam. After all, New Testament is itself inspired Scripture, so it is the Creator's own commentary on the Genesis. What do we find in the New Testament? In every New Testament reference to Genesis, the events recorded by Moses (by the way Moses was a great prophet of past too) are treated as historical events. And in particular the first three chapters of Genesis are consistently treated as a literal record of historical events.
New Testament affirms, for example, the creation of Adam in the image of God (James 3:9). Paul wrote to Timothy "Adam was formed........transgression" (2:13-14 and 1Cor.11:8-9). And Paul's presentation of the original (Adamic) sin in Romans 5:12-20 depends on a historical Adam and literal interpretation of the account in Genesis about how he fell. Also Paul writes about the justification by faith depends on that "For as in Adam......made alive" (1 Cor. 15:22). Clearly Paul regarded both the creation and fall of Adam as history, not allegory or mere spiritual. Jesus Himself referred to the creation of Adam and Eve as a historical event (Mark 10:6). To question the historicity of these events is to undermine the very essence of Christian doctrine and Church Fathers' teachings. In fact, when the New Testament refers to creation (Mark 13:19; John 1:3; Acts 4:24: 14:15; 2 Cor.4:6; Colo.1:16; Heb.1:2, 10; Rev.4:11; 10:6; 14:7), it always refers to a past and completed events, an immediate work of God, not a still - occurring process of evolution. The promised New Creation, a running theme in both Old and New Testament is portrayed as an immediate creation too, not an eons - long process (Isa. 65:17). The model for the New Creation is the original creation (cf.Rom.8:21; Rev.21:1,5). Creation ex nihilo (out of nothing) is the clear and consistent teaching of the Bible and divine creation was done by a divine fiat (Heb.11:3).
"The terms 'evening'(Hb.ereb) and 'morning' (Hb.boqer) each occur more than one hundred times in the Old Testament and always have the literal meaning - that is the termination of the daily period of light and the daily period of darkness, respectively. Similarly, the occurrence of 'day' modified by a numeral (e.g. "third day") is a construction occurring more than one hundred times in the Penteteuch alone, always with a literal meaning. Even though it may challenge our minds to visualize the lands and seas, and all plants, being formed in one literal day, that is a twenty-four hour day, that is exactly what the Bible says! We are not justified at all in questioning either God's power to do this or His veracity in telling us that He did" (Henry Morris, The Genesis Recor, 64). If a God so powerful to create the whole universe and its contents in a simple six days, he could create that earth looks billions of years old. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 28 to 31 days a month, 12 months a year, that is what exactly the Holy Bible says and our Church fathers' teaching is exactly the same. Believe it, read Penkeeza Namaskaram for the Rsurrection Sunday, Midnight, 1st wake (Onnam Kauma), Sedra. ( MOC publication, Translated from Syriac by H.H.Baselius Augen I, Bawa Thirumeni). Genesis 1-3 is a historical and literical interpretation, no more or no less. Don't question any skeptics before you read that Sedra I mentioned above. "Open my eyes, And I shall understand the wonders in Your Law" (Ps.119:18).
May God bless all,
Fr.Dr.V.C.Varghese, Sugar Land, Tx.
- Respected father,
Genesis 1 says ' In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morningthe first day.' If this is to be taken literally, God created the heavens and the earth before creating light and day. The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. For how long did the Spirit hover over the waters as per our estimation of time? When did God say "Let there be Light."? Immediately after the creation of the heavens and the earth? God is infinite, Alpha and Omega. Could there be a separation of time in God? Did time, as we know it now, exist before creation of day & night? Did a single day have 24 hours from the beginning? Did the earth rotate at the same speed then? We have also heard of the prophet making the sun go backward. Why should God act like present day sellers of antiques and make a new earth appear old? As Sunday School children ask, where did Cain go and whom did he marry? 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground." Mark 10:6. "But at the beginning of creation God `made them male and female.' Was that first man, a mankind with both male and female characteristics? Could be because when God decided that this man's solitude was not good he created woman out of the first human. Gen 2:20 But for Adam, no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs/part of the man's side and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib[h] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called `woman,' for she was taken out of man." If we accept this at face value, woman is not an additional creation, but a remodeling of mankind - a separation of the female from the 'male and female' Adam. Though St. Paul keeps reminding that Sin came to the world through a woman, why is it not remembered that 'in the fullness of time' God chose a woman to bring to mankind the Second Adam and through Him redemption? Genesis 1:26 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,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.' So even though God says He would create man in His image & likeness, he created man in His own image- there is no mention of likeness here. So God's creation of man was incomplete wasn't it? He planned that man should gain His 'likeness' also. But after man ate of the fruit, God seems to be afraid and says "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." God, by the same might which He used to predate the earth, could have brought instant redemption to man, but God did not.
Again, Moses brought down the 10 commandments and gave laws, "An eye for an Eye" whereas Jesus asked us to love our enemies and forgive 70 times seven. I believe that whatever God gave through His Spirit was suitable for His people (all His creation) as they were at the time. As people developed in awareness and knowledge, God reveled more and more to them. The creation story is not refuted by evolution theory even though the evolution theory is not without faults. We all know that though the first 5 books are attributed to Moses, he could not have written all of them fully since there is also a record of his death in Deuteronomy 34:5 and thereafter. Did the God who pitched His tent among the people stop speaking? Did He not promise to be with all of us always? Does He not speak in the events of the world even now? Was it not His plan to groom Moses in the science and wisdom of Egypt by making him grow up in the palace of Egypt with Ramses?
I believe that God of the Old Testament causes economic crises and shows us the danger of our ways when we forget Him just as He sent Israel to captivity when Israel forgot Him. He is as present today as He was then-in the events of the world as well as in our individual lives.
To be continued
Susan Eapen, Thiruvananthapuram
- Respected Father,
I had the good fortune to come across a book "Orthodox Psychotherapy' by Metropolitan. He says in Chapter 3 'Having presented several elements that make up the definition of the soul, we must proceed a little further to the topic of the creation of the soul. The soul is created, since it was made by God. Our basic source is the revelation which was given to Moses: "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (Gen.2,7). This passage describes the creation of man's soul. In his interpretation of it, St. John Chrysostom says that it is essential to look at what is said with the eyes of faith and that these things are said "with much condescension and because of our weakness".
The phrase "God made man and breathed into him" is "unworthy of God, but Holy Scripture explains it in this way for our sake because of our weakness, condescending to us so that, being made worthy of this condescension, we may have strength to rise to that height" (10). The way in which God formed man's body and made him a living soul as described in Holy Scripture is condescending. It is described thus because of our own weakness. St. John of Damascus writes that whatever is said about God in human terms is said symbolically" but has a higher sense, since "the divine is simple and formless". And since Scripture says that God breathed into man's face, we may look at the interpretation by St. John of Damascus concerning the mouth of God: "By His mouth and speech let us understand the expression of His will, by analogy with our own expression of our innermost thoughts by mouth and speech" (11). Certainly mouth and breath are two different things, but I mention this as indicative, since there is a relationship and a connection. Generally, as St. John of Damascus says everything that has been affirmed of God in bodily terms, apart from what was said about the presence of the Word of God in the flesh, "contains some hidden meaning which teaches us things that exceed our nature" (12). What is our weakness? The weakness of our understanding because of our ignorance, is it not?
This is my limited understanding. Thank you achen for broaching this subject because it is a really troublesome topic.
Susan Eapen, Thiruvananthapuram
- Dear All,
Mrs. Susan Eapen had put down as follows in ICON Digest 4360 as part of
"Some Mixed Thoughts... Some Questions and and Doubts-1" :
<I believe that God of the Old Testament causes economic crises and shows
us the danger of our ways when we forget Him just as He sent Israel to
captivity when Israel forgot Him. He is as present today as He was then-in
the events of the world as well as in our individual lives. >
In Genesis 15:12-21; it was very clear that Abram was foretold about his
discendents will be subject to captitivity & slavery, and it also their
future inheriting the land that will produce milk & honey. "As the sun was
setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness
came over him. Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that for four
hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own
and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the
nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great
possessions. You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried
at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back
here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a
blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD
made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land,
from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— the land of the
Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites,
Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites".
Often we compare the life of a faithful as the Isralites great struggle to
reach the land of Canan. We should remember that How Great our Lord was
towards the well being of the chosen tribe before they plung into slavery.
Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob was sent as a slave to Egypt, but by His
providence Joseph has been elevated to the second most position of that
country. The Isralites were not send to Egypt not as slaves, but as a most
respected group of people, but the time had made them slaves. We should
remember here that each soul is received and accepted as most respected in
this world, but the time make us plung into sin, and at a chosen time we
all have given the freedom from the slavery. Knowledge one can acquire, but
wisdom is a gift of our Creator.
Another important aspect which need to be studied is about Terah, father of
Abram and other siblings - Nahor and Haran. Terah was the great great
grandson of Shem,son of Noah. The ripe time to raise a special Tribe fell
only on Abram. No one can change His Almighty's plan, and the perfect
timings. His selection of one to put on a place is unquestionable. No one
can prevent His timings. We should be submissive, humble and obedient to
hear the call. Let us pray to Almighty to give us wisdom to hear the call.
Varughese C J, Ahmedabad