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Genesis is focus of journal issued by Southern Seminary

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Few books of the Bible have intrigued Christians and non-Christians alike as that of Genesis.

In it is detailed the foundation of the Christian faith — the creation of the universe, the fall of man and the grace of a loving and righteous God.

To some, though, Genesis also raises a host of questions. Was the flood during Noah’s time worldwide or merely local? Who were the “sons of God” and “daughters of men” described in Genesis 6? And, can the book lead to a justification of racism?

A handful of seminary professors tackle these and other tough questions in the latest edition of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, a publication of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Titled simply “Genesis,” the journal includes essays by professors from five seminaries. In addition, it includes expository discourses on Genesis by 18th-century Baptist minister Andrew Fuller as well as more than 10 book reviews.

Thomas Schreiner, professor of New Testament at Southern, writes the lead editorial.

“We cannot understand who we are and where we are going without understanding our origins,” Schreiner writes. “Genesis is a book of beginnings, a book that sets the foundation for all that follows in the Scriptures.”

Even though it is a book of beginnings, Genesis points to Christ, Schreiner asserts.

“The book of Genesis, like all of Scripture, as Jesus himself taught us … points to Christ,” Schreiner writes. “We must interpret the [Old Testament] in its historical and cultural context, but if we do not see how it points to Christ, then we have not yet progressed to a true understanding of its contents.

“My prayer is that this issue of the journal will help readers understand the message of Genesis.”

Mark Rooker, professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, takes on several critical issues in his essay on the Genesis flood.

While some modern-day scholars argue that the flood was limited to one region — also known as a “local” flood — Rooker gives eight reasons why it must have been worldwide. One reason, he argues, is that a local flood could not have covered the Arafat Mountains, which are some 17,000 feet high. Also, Rooker asserts, God’s “promise never to destroy the earth again with a flood” would have since been broken because “many have died in local floods since the time of Noah.”

Rooker also confronts one of the more disputed passages in the Bible, Genesis 6:1-4. It is here that the account speaks of “the sons of God” taking “the daughters of men.” While some have interpreted the “sons of God” to mean angels, Rooker argues that they are in fact the descendants of Seth. The daughters of men, then, are Cain’s offspring, he writes.

“The great sin in the account of Genesis 6:1-8 is thus that the godly line of Seth had compromised its faith and began to intermarry with the ungodly line of Cain,” Rooker writes.

Another contributor, Kenneth Mathews of Beeson Divinity School, debunks the belief that Genesis supports racism and segregation. Race, Matthews argues, did not divide people in the times of Abraham.

“Race as we think of it was not important for ancient peoples, including the Hebrews, and rarely appears in ancient texts or the Bible,” he writes. “Typically, the Hebrews, like the peoples of the ancient Near East, identified foreigners in terms of their language, locale, religion or customs.”

Mathews, who also serves as an adjunct professor at Southern Seminary, asserts that laws against intermarriage were meant to protect the Israelites’ “religious fidelity” and had nothing to do with race.

Russell Fuller, assistant professor of Old Testament at Southern Seminary, outlines the model for interpreting Genesis, which, he argues, was set by the Apostles themselves.

“The goal, in short, is to understand and to interpret Genesis 1-11 by the Apostles and to observe and to imitate their method of interpretation as closely as possible,” he writes.

This model should be used in interpreting Genesis 1:1-2, Fuller argues. Fuller points out that the New Revised Standard Version’s translation of the verses differ from other translations by reading, “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep … .”

The problem with this translation, Fuller writes, is that it ignores the doctrine of God creating the universe out of nothing. The Apostles, on the other hand, preferred a more traditional translation, and this can be seen in John 1:1, where it is written, “In the beginning was the Word.”

“Without a doubt, the Apostles confirm the traditional understanding of Genesis 1:1 as an independent statement teaching the biblical doctrine of creation out of nothing,” Fuller writes.

Paul R. House, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, shows how other Old Testament books refer back to the creation account of Genesis 1 and 2. The Old Testament prophets, House shows, use the creation story — and its reference to an all-powerful God — to either comfort or warn people.

“Isaiah and Amos accept and build upon the points made in Genesis 1-2,” House writes. “Writing to a dispirited, wavering people of uncertain faith, Isaiah uses creation theology to comfort, challenge, correct, embolden and instruct. … On the other hand, Amos has little comfort to offer his erring, stubborn, oppressing audience. He uses creation theology to punctuate warnings about judgment for oppression and announcements that the creator’s patience with sinful Israel has been exhausted.”

Another journal writer describes and then refutes what is known in scholarly circles as the “documentary hypothesis” — a complex system that, among other things, argues that Moses did not write the first five books of the Old Testament (the Pentateuch). Instead, supporters of the hypothesis argue, they were written by various authors centuries after the time of Moses.

The writer, Duanne Garrett of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, asserts that the hypothesis should be discounted for many reasons.

“If the hypothesis is true, then the Pentateuch is essentially fiction,” he argues. “Worse than that, it is a confused, self-contradictory fiction with no unified theological message.”

One of the journal’s most interesting sections includes copies of letters written to former Southern Seminary professor A.T. Robertson, who taught from 1890 to 1934. One of the letters was from a 19-year-old Bruce Metzger, who went on to teach at Princeton Theological Seminary.

The journal includes book reviews of James R. White’s “Mary — Another Redeemer?,” Bruce Wilkinson’s “The Prayer of Jabez” and Jerry Sutton’s “The Baptist Reformation.”

Excerpts of the SBJT (Volume 5, No. 3) can be read online at http://www.sbts.edu/news/sbjt/sbjt.html. For information on purchasing the SBJT, call 1-800-626-5525, ext. 4413.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: SBJT: GENESIS.

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  • Michael Foust