I’ve recently been chewing on a different genre of Genesis 1 and would love some feedback on it. Iron sharpening iron…
We usually see people discussing Genesis 1 from two common points of view. One side says it is some type of metaphor, poetry, story, legend etc., while the other side says it is literal. Of course there is a spectrum here, and many accept some as literal and some as figurative, etc. It recently struck me that there is a whole other type of genre that could be considered, and I’ve had no luck finding anyone who has written about it from this perspective.
A fully separate genre in the Bible is the genre of genealogy. Looking at the Bible, we learn several rules about this type of writing:
It is meant to be factual and historically accurate, but it goes by its own rules. Time and years can be “telescoped.” Generations can be skipped without being accounted for. Grandsons can be called sons. One can be “begat” from a distant grandfather. This is important: many people see these as errors, but they are simply accepted rules for writing genealogies. The writer of Matthew was not simply ignorant when he skipped two known people in the line of Christ, he did it on purpose. Which brings me to the next point.
Genealogies are “history with a purpose.” They are meant to prove something about the future, and prove something about the past. About the future, they could be proving how long it will be until some event happens. About the past, they could be proving a historical bloodline and right to a throne. They can be proving a lineage as accurate, without trying to count every year or every person. It is a true history, but a larger history. A history with a point that is besides the point of filling in all the details.
In this way, genealogies don’t really fit in the genre of history, but they don’t really fit in the genre of metaphor. They are a distinct genre with their own rules.
I was studying them, and studying the genealogy of Genesis 5, when I made a connection of phrases. Notice the language that denotes a genealogy:
Gen. 5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; 2 Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. 3 And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth: 4 And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters:
See it again in Matthew:
Matthew 1:1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;
Again for Noah’s genealogy:
Gen. 6: 9 These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
The same language, these are the generations of so and so, is used over and over to denote a genealogy. Just do a search for generation and you’ll see them all.
But you’ll notice the FIRST use of the term. It’s not in Gen 5 for Adam’s genealogy, as I suspected. It’s in Genesis 2:
Gen. 2:4 These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, 5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. 6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. 7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
What if the reason Genesis 1 seems to baffle everyone by being not quite history, and not quite metaphor, is because it is a different genre altogether, the genre of the genealogy?
Is it possible that Genesis 1 is the first genealogy… the genealogy of the creation?
If this was the case, genealogical rules fit very well:
It is giving true history, but time and years are flexible. Generations and spans of time can be skipped, and although the connection from Adam back to the beginning would be literally true, it would be much more flexible in its time, like the flexibility of a genealogy.
Genesis 1 would be “history with a purpose.” It would be meant to show something about the future (7 days, sabbath, 7,000 prophetic years, etc.) and meant to show something about the past, namely the connection of lineage of the earth and heavens itself, from where it is today, back to God as the beginning of the lineage. It would show God as the rightful heir of heaven and earth using a kingly lineage from the King Adam (who was given dominion over all the earth), back to the first King, God.
Has anyone ever seen Genesis 1 referred to as the genealogy of heaven and earth? I’d love to read on it if there’s something out there. If this case could be followed through and proven Biblically possible, it would connect with Biblical literalists (conservative-minded Christians) as it would appease their plea to keep strictly to scripture, and it would leave plenty of room for science to work within the unspecific details of time and form in genealogies.