The use of Genesis in the New Testament

Article by Lita Cosner (original source here)

I am often asked why someone specializing in the New Testament would care about the “Old Testament” issue of creation. After all, one’s view on the first chapters of Genesis seems peripheral at best when it comes to interpreting the New Testament. But I believe that one’s interpretation of Genesis has implications for many doctrines which are taught most clearly in the New Testament.

First, a New Testament scholar’s view of creation matters because Genesis was important to the New Testament authors. Every New Testament author quotes or alludes to Genesis. The New Testament has a total of 60 allusions to Genesis 1–11 specifically, and when we widen the search to include all of Genesis, the number grows to 103. For such a tiny body of literature, the New Testament has a staggering amount of references back to Genesis (see the list below).

But simply giving a list of references to Genesis proves nothing—we must look at how the New Testament authors used Genesis in order to discern their view. Overwhelmingly, it is presumed to be a historical document; the only place where it could even be argued that it is not necessarily used historically is in the borrowing of Edenic symbols in Revelation to describe the New Jerusalem (depending on one’s eschatological view1). But this is the exception, and in any case, even a symbolic use has an underlying literal reality—the figurative “strong as an ox” would mean nothing unless an ox were literally strong, and the allusion to an Edenic paradise underscores the reality of this pre-Fall world without a curse.

Jesus and the Gospels

Jesus’ use of Genesis sets the tone for how it will be used in the rest of the New Testament. He uses it both to explain doctrine and to draw historical analogies. An example of the former use is in Matthew 22:15–22 (parallels in Mark 12:13–17 and Luke 20:20–36) where the Pharisees and Herodians questioned Him about taxes. For Jesus, because the coin bears Caesar’s image, it is Caesar’s property and should be rendered to him—but He adds the command to give to God what is God’s. In the context, the image on the coin determines who owns it, so specifically what is in view here is that which is in God’s image. Jesus is referring back to Genesis 1:26–27:

“In the present, proper humility before God requires the payment of Roman taxes, but if it is true that some of one’s money should go to the Caesar, it is so much more true that all that one is needs to be handed over to the God in whose image one is made.”2
Of course, if humanity had not actually been made in the image of God like Genesis teaches, the whole precedent would fall apart.

Luke’s genealogy back to Adam, who is called a son of God (not the son of ape-like creatures or pond scum). There is absolutely no evidence that Luke takes the earliest ancestors to be less historical than the more recent ones. Continue reading

Josephus on Genesis

Article: Josephus says, ‘Genesis means what it says!’ by Frank Luke (original source here)

Many people who compromise on the plain meaning of Genesis claim that the literal interpretation is a modern invention. Instead, they claim that most commentators in the past took a long-age view.

On the contrary, the vast majority interpreted the days of Genesis 1 as ordinary days. Furthermore, even those who did not, such as Origen and Augustine, vigorously attacked long-age ideas and affirmed that the world was only thousands of years old.1 Among the Jewish commentators, the first-century historian Flavius Josephus (AD 37–ca. 100) stands out from the rest.

Having been born in Judea and living there in his formative years, Josephus is unquestionably the most important Jewish historian outside of Scripture. Were it not for Josephus, entire periods of Jewish history would have been lost in the mists of time. Like any good Jew, Josephus recognized that one could not understand Jewish history without first understanding its religion. As Scripture defines Judaism, Josephus first explained Judaism by defining Scripture and the Jewish love of their holy books.

“For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from, and contradicting one another, [as the Greeks have], but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine;2 and of them five belong to Moses, which contain his laws and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death. This interval of time was little short of three thousand years; … the prophets … in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct of human life.”3

As always, Josephus cuts to the heart of the matter. No further explanation is needed to clarify his plain words. He explicitly states that man had been around for only 3,000 years by the time of Moses. He goes on to say that Jews hold Scripture so sacred that they would rather die than add to, subtract from, or change any of the divine doctrines of Scripture!4

In the preface to Antiquities, easily his most important work, Josephus further explains his interpretation of Scripture. When explaining why Moses began with the creation account, Josephus records that Moses taught humanity that God blesses those who love and serve Him.

“Now when Moses was desirous to teach this lesson to his countrymen, he did not begin the establishment of his laws after the same manner that other legislators did; I mean, upon contracts and other rights between one man and another, but by raising their minds upward to regard God, and his creation of the world; and by persuading them, that we men are the most excellent of the creatures of God upon earth. Now when once he had brought them to submit to religion, he easily persuaded them to submit in all other things; … while our legislator speaks some things wisely, but enigmatically, and others under a decent allegory,5 but still explains such things as required a direct explanation plainly and expressly.”6

After explaining his methodology, Josephus launches into the Creation account. He quickly established that he considers Moses’ account to be quite literal. He comments, ‘And this was indeed the first day’7 and ‘in just six days the world, and all that is therein, was made.’8 Josephus gives no indication that he considers these words to be enigmatic or allegorical. His comments are as plain in their meaning as Moses’ words in Genesis. Continue reading

The Most Offensive Verse In The Bible

Excerpt from an article “The most offensive verse in the Bible” by Dan Phillips (original source here)

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” – Genesis 1:1

“The most offensive thing I believe is Genesis 1:1, and everything it implies. That is, I believe in a sovereign Creator who is Lord and Definer of all. Everything in the universe — the planet, the laws of physics, the laws of morality, you, me — everything was created by Another, was designed by Another, was given value and definition by Another. God is Creator and Lord, and so He is ultimate. That means we are created and subjects, and therefore derivative and dependent.

Therefore, we are not free to create meaning or value. We have only two options. We can discover the true value assigned by the Creator and revealed in His Word, the Bible; or we can rebel against that meaning.

Any time you bring up questions about any of these issues, you do so from one of two stances. You either do it as someone advocating and enabling rebellion against the Creator’s design, or as someone seeking submissive understanding of that design. You do it as servant or rebel. There is no third option.

So yeah, insofar as I’m consistent with my core beliefs, everything I think about sexuality, relationships, morals, the whole nine yards, all of it is derived from what the Creator says. If I deviate from that, I’m wrong.

To anyone involved in the doomed, damned ‘you-shall-be-as-God project,’ that is the most offensive truth in the world, and it is the most offensive belief I hold.”

The Sons of God

Article by Dr. R. C. Sproul (original source here)

In the twentieth century, the German biblical scholar Rudolf Bultmann gave a massive critique of the Scriptures, arguing that the Bible is filled with mythological references that must be removed if it is to have any significant application to our day. Bultmann’s major concern was with the New Testament narratives, particularly those that included records of miracles, which he deemed impossible. Other scholars, however, have claimed that there are mythological elements in the Old Testament as well. Exhibit A for this argument is usually a narrative that some believe parallels the ancient Greek and Roman myths about gods and goddesses occasionally mating with human beings.

In Genesis 6, we read this account: “When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose… . The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown” (vv. 1–4).

This narrative is basically a preface to the account of the flood God sent to eradicate all people from the earth, except for the family of Noah. Of course, the flood narrative itself is often regarded as mythological, but this preparatory section, where we read of the intermarriage of “the sons of God” and “the daughters of man,” is seen as blatant myth.

The assumption in this interpretation of Genesis 6 is that “the sons of God” refers to angelic beings. Why do some biblical interpreters make this assumption? The simple answer is that the Scriptures sometimes refer to angels as sons of God, and it is assumed that the reference in Genesis 6 means the same. This is certainly a possible inference that could be drawn, but is it a necessary inference? I would answer no; I do not believe this text necessarily teaches the idea of sexual relations between angels and human beings.

To understand this difficult passage, we have to look at the broader application of the phrase “sons of God.” Pre-eminently, it is used for Jesus Himself; He is the Son of God. As noted, it is sometimes used to refer to angels (Job 1:6; 21:1; Ps. 29:1). Also, it is sometimes used to speak of followers of Christ (Matt. 5:9; Rom. 8:14; Gal. 3:26). So, the concept of divine sonship in the Scriptures is not always linked to a biological or ontological relationship (relationship of being). Rather, it is chiefly used to set forth a relationship of obedience. This means Genesis 6 could simply be speaking about the intermarriage of those who manifested a pattern of obedience to God in their lives and those who were pagans in their orientation. In other words, this text likely describes marriages between believers and unbelievers. The immediate context of Genesis 6 supports this conclusion. Continue reading

Genesis 1:1 The Most Offensive Verse

genesis1_1Dan Phillips Lists “Twenty-Six Reasons Why Genesis 1:1 Is the Most Offensive Verse in the Bible” (original source not as a conclusion reached at the end of a syllogism or evidence chain. We don’t get to stack the deck by massaging a preselected set of facts to adorn our predetermined conclusion. (It isn’t our deck to stack.)

2. Genesis 1:1 presents God alone as sovereign and self-sufficient. We like to reserve those adjectives for ourselves.

3. It was counter-cultural when Moses wrote it, and it is counter-cultural today. Attempts to argue the contrary have been shelled to ruins.

4. It explains why actual science can even be done. Many erstwhile scientists hate this fact, twisting themselves into pretzels in an effort to erect a contrary. Continue reading