This week, we’re starting a brand new series exploring the narrative books of the Old Testament. Our aim is to get a big picture overview of God’s story of redemption leading up to the coming of Jesus Christ. This week, we start at the very beginning of the Old Testament – Genesis chapters 1 and 2.
Unfortunately, these beautiful chapters can be the cause of much confusion and hurt among Christians. Those who think that Genesis 1 teaches a young, 6000 year old, earth find themselves at odds with those who think that Genesis 1 lines up with a far more ancient earth, in the order of millions, perhaps billions, of years.
But what if both groups have been misreading Genesis? What if Genesis 1-2 isn’t trying to teach us anything about the physical construction of material? What if the questions we bring to the text simply aren’t the questions Genesis wants to answer?
Imagine a learner driver going for their final driving test. They get in the car, greet the examiner, adjust their seatbelt, and start driving. Now imagine that the examiner starts quizzing the driver on the mechanics of the car. How was it constructed? Is it a radial engine? What, if it is a manual car, are the different linkages between the clutch pedal and the clutch assembly? Those are great questions to ask of a car mechanic – but a learner driver wouldn’t have come prepared to answer them. They’d have come prepared to drive.
As we approach the Bible, we need to do so on the basis not of what we think it should be saying, but on the basis of what it actually is saying. That sounds simple enough, but what complicates things a bit is the fact that the Bible wasn’t written to us. Although we are among those for whom it was written, we have to
remember that the first recipients were from a different time, and had a different language and culture to us. As the original recipients, the Bible
was written to them in their language, and referencing their cultural assumptions and beliefs. We have to translate not just from Hebrew, but also from the ancient culture they lived in. As a simple example, when the Bible describes Abram’s wife
Sarah as beautiful, we shouldn’t assume that their idea of beauty is necessarily the same as ours.
Coming from a culture where the how questions are most important, we might assume that Genesis will address them. But what if Genesis has something different, more important, to say to us? What did God want both ancient Israel and us to understand?