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Genesis 1 and the Spirit: A Narrative-Rhetorical Ancient Near Eastern Reading in Light of Modern Science

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image of Journal of Pentecostal Theology

The creation narrative in Genesis 1 has historically presented a number of interpretive difficulties to Torah and Old Testament scholars. That this ancient account might correlate in a harmonious manner with physical reality seemed difficult to believe. It has been considered to be a myth, while some have adopted it to ideology. But these interpretive perspectives have proved to be insufficient and premature. When confirmation of a cosmic beginning was found in 1963, Gen. 1.1 and the ensuing account of the Spirit's role in Earth history became a topic of serious investigation. With the ongoing discoveries of many anthropic-looking aspects of cosmic history, giving the cumulative and substantial impression that the universe had been designed for humankind, a divine role in optimizing Earth for life became an attractive consideration. The ensuing abrupt appearance of diverse life-forms, eventually including humankind, as sequentially described in this creation narrative, now appears to be heuristically compatible and consistent with experimental scientific findings. These findings are increasingly unharmonious with the speculation of the non-existence of God and with the impossibility of divine action, from the cosmic to life's biochemical realm. The present study argues, against the background of ancient Near Eastern literary texts, that the Genesis creation narrative was specifically designed by the Spirit and composed by a firmly guided littérateur so as to be understood from within its contextual literary setting, and that it is a unique written prophecy, originating in a distinctive Sabbath-keeping culture. On this hypothesis the text serves originally to remind attentive like-minded readers of the cultural significance of Sabbath observance, while detailing a series of unobservable creative events. However, the text appears also designed to be read, still within the original cultural perception of literary-minded Sabbath-keepers, from a perspective that is aware of the Spirit's intentional transparent design of the universe for the benefit of humankind. Using the narrative techniques of point of view, resumptive repetition, and rhetorical or communicative intention, techniques found in ancient literature, the present study suggests that previous interpretive difficulties yield to a literary solution, which offers an explanation for the potentially mysterious features of this prophetic composition. In divine foreknowledge the current modern witness of this remarkable narrative to the Spirit's past creative deeds now becomes more visible as a testimony to the invisible God.

Affiliations: 1: Church of God Theological Seminary 900 Walker Street NE, Cleveland, TN 37311, Email:


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