Creation Pt. 4: The Literary Framework View

 

My previous three posts in my series on creation dealt mostly in some preliminary issues on the doctrine of creation. But with post, I am now turning my attention to dealing with specific interpretations of the creation account found in Genesis 1. Up first, is a very interesting and thought provoking view that takes a non-chronological interpretation of Genesis 1.

I. An Introduction to the Literary Framework View

The Literary Framework View is an interpretation of Genesis 1 that dispels the notion of the author seeking to convey a chronological account of the creation of the universe. In fact, one of the proponents of this view, Henri Blocher, said that “chronology has no place here.”[1] The main attribute of this view is that it emphasizes the parallelism between days 1-3 with days 4-6. This symmetry can be expressed in the following chart:


Days 1-3                                                             Days 4-6

1. Light and darkness separated.       4. Sun, moon, stars

2. Sky and waters separated                 5. Fish and Birds.

3. Dry land and seas, plants.                 6. Animals and man.


The symmetry can be found between the corresponding days of days 1 and 4, 2 and 5, and 3 and 6. It could be helpful to think of these two groups of days as periods of “forming” and “filling.”[2] The first three days are composed of the “formation” of a sphere or substance, and the last three days are the creation of particular bodies or creatures to “fill” the broader spheres.”

As has already been stated, this interpretation of Genesis 1 is not meant to convey any sort of chronological truth. It would be wrong to understand this chapter as teaching a history of consecutive creative acts. “The six ‘days,’ which are neither twenty-four-hour days nor long periods of time, give us six different ‘pictures’ of creation, telling us that God made all aspects of the creation, that the pinnacle of his creative activity was man, and that over all creation is God himself, who rested on the seventh day and who calls man therefore to worship him on the Sabbath day as well.”[3] All in all, the Literary Framework View takes the creative account to be a carefully constructed, poetic, and figurative method of teaching the singular truth that God is the Creator of all things.

II. The Strengths of the Literary Framework View

A. The neatness of the the way in which the pairs of days line up (as seen in the chart above.)

B. This view is devoid of any conflict with modern science. Since this view claims that Genesis 1 makes no attempt at explaining the chronological origins of the universe and the inhabitants thereof, the believer who holds this view is free to follow the consensus of scientific research wherever it may lead.

C. Since the creation account is merely poetic and figurative, this view bypasses the apparent discrepancy of sequence between Genesis chapters 1 and 2, where chapter 2 seems to have the creation of man (2.7), taking place before the creation of plants (2.8) and animals (2.19).

III. The Problems of the Literary Framework View

A. The supposed neatness of the pairs of days is not as exact as it would appear at first glance. There are multiple issues that can be found.

  1. The sun, moon, and stars that are created on day four are said to have been placed in the expanse/firmament. But the expanse/firmament is not created, much less mentioned, until day two, not day one. (It should still be noted that day four still corresponds with day one in terms of light/darkness, and day/night.)
  2. The creation of the fish on day five would seem to make better sense of being paired with the “forming” aspect of the creation of the seas on day three, rather than day two. Verse 22 has God saying to the fish,”Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas.” Later, in verses 26 and 28, the fish are referred to as the “the fish of the sea.” Though to be fair, day two does mention the creation of waters below the firmament (1.7). It could be noted that another problem linking day five with day two is that nothing is created to fill “the waters that were above the expanse” (vs. 7).
  3. Looking at days two and five again, the creation of birds being linked to day two is problematic because God commanded them to “multiply on the earth” and the dry land that would have appeared on day three (Gen. 1.22)
  4. Nothing in the “filling” category of creation of land animals and mankind found on day six is made to fill the “seas” created on day three, only the dry land. So the parallel is not as precise here.
  5. It has also been pointed out that the creation of plant life on day three seems out of place. It would make more sense for plants to play the role of “filling” rather than “forming,” and thus should be a part of day six.[4]

B. The claim of the Literary Framework View allowing the believer freedom to follow science wherever it may lead is not unique to this view. Proponents of all interpretations of Genesis 1 seek to arrive at a synthesis between the text and science (regardless of whether or not they are successful in that endeavor). To put it one way: “So great is this advantage [of readily accepting scientific evidence], and for some the relief, that it could constitute a temptation… We must not espouse the theory on grounds of its convenience but only if the text leads us in that direction”[5].

C. Perhaps the strongest argument against the Literary Framework view is that it seems much more plausible and readily apparent that Genesis 1 is written with a chronological sequence of events in mind. There is a clear progression from the less complex (light and dark) to the most complex (humans bearing the image of God). Also, when a sequence of numbers (1-2-3-4-5-6) is attached to the days of creation, and then later used as the basis of the seven day week found in Exodus 20.8-11 the implication of a chronological narrative is all but inescapable.


[1] qtd. in Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. 301.

[2] Wolf, Herbert. An Introduction to the Old Testament Pentateuch. 102.

[3] Grudem. Systematic Theology. 301.

[4] Wolf. An Introduction the Old Testament Pentateuch. 103.

[5] Blocher, qtd. in Grudem. Systematic Theology. 302.

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