Cosmic Temple View of Genesis 1

For those who are familiar with this interpretation of Genesis 1, does this interpretation exclusively for a “functional” creation, and no material creation during the 7 days? I know that’s the view of John Walton, but it seems like there are many scholars who think Genesis 1 is BOTH material and functional creation. So I guess my question is, does the Cosmic Temple view not allow for material creation at all, or is there room for that?

If the answer is both “material and functional” then that seems problematic to me. I agree that Genesis 1 should not be read in a “scientific” way, however if there were claims of some material creation in this 7 day event, then to me, the overall “cosmic temple inauguration” doesn’t flow as well as it does in Walton’s ‘functional only’ view.

Hoping for some more clarification on this. My own view is that Genesis 1 is ONLY talking about functional creation, and not concerned with material. But I don’t understand why more scholars don’t hold to this. It seems like Walton is one of the only ones.

I don’t know much about Genesis scholarship in general, but I appreciate Walton’s interpretations. I think even a functional interpretation can allow for a generalized material creation, such as within the very first verse of Genesis 1 – “God created the heavens and the earth” could be all that was communicated about material creation, which then leads into functional – both are important but functional was the important story to be recorded in Genesis. I don’t think that’s Walton’s view, but I can see it making sense. I wonder how many scholars see Walton’s views as “compromise” or a “slippery slope” since they do leave room for evolution even though it’s not a part of Genesis.

The reason why true scholarship ignores this is because it’s a rabbit hole of bifurcating metaphor. This is all part of the American evangelical-YEC war; in dubious battle.

YECs will reject it for obvious reasons, and since Tremper Longman was sacked from WTS most NA Reformed theologians will reject any material on Genesis that uses large amounts of parallelism. You may think that this is because they want to play nice with the YECs in their own denominations and among their donors, and you may be right.

From a discussion with two BioLogos stimuli elsewhere.

There are scholars other than Walton who hold this view - checking his bibliographies would be a good place to start.

As for FUNCTIONAL vs MATERIAL. The functional view can be held in addition to a material creation view, heck it could even be synthesised with a YEC interpretation. However, the functional does not require Gen 1 to be a literal account of material creation to be correct (as YEC does). That is, in my view, it’s strength.

YEC as taught by organisations like AiG is a totalitarian theology - it will except no rivals or equals. The strength of the functional view is that one can teach Genesis 1 and then allow people to make their minds for themselves about the science of material origins without the pressure to conform to one narrow interpretation of the facts over all others.


There are scholars other than Walton who hold this view - checking his bibliographies would be a good place to start.

I have Lost World of Genesis 1 and Adam and Eve but they are both audiobooks. Would you, if you own the books, mind sharing with me a few of these other scholars who also hold to the same “functional only” interpretation as Walton?
That would be greatly appreciated!!

I know Scot McKnight holds to it, as well as Dennis Venema (but he’s not a Hebrew/OT scholar). Other than these two guys, I don’t know of anyone else.

Sure, I’ll see what I can do. Pretty sure that Gordon J. Wenham holds to the functional view in his Word Biblical Commentary on Genesis. But not 100% from memory.

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It’s just trying to get at what the text is talking about and making claims about. I think Walton says the idea that God was the material creator was assumed in the culture, just not in focus in this passage. I think it’s hard to argue exegetically that the passage is teaching both at the same time, because words are used with one sense at a time, your brain has to pick a lane. If Walton successfully argues the word (what is it? bara or something) is used in the sense of setting up or making functional then it can’t also mean create out of nothing at the same time, that’s not a linguistic possibility. But if the passage is about functional creation, it’s wrong to say it teaches God didn’t materially create the world, because it’s just not commenting on that.

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But Walton is huge. In the library of resources we have for Bible translators in Mexico most of the OT references have Walton as an editor or contributor. He’s an authority and has convinced many OT scholars of his view and they willingly put their name on the books he edits and collaborates on. So I don’t think he is the only one, I think he is the main scholar who has worked on this idea, but it’s been widely adopted. He’s not an outlier.


Sometimes double entendres are intentional. ; - ) Maybe in poetry too? (Not that I can think of an example.)

Yes, puns and intentional plays on words would be the exception, and there is a marked processing cost to “getting” them.

Maybe some lane markings didn’t exist in the past. When we pick a lane, we shouldn’t rule out the older, wider lanes that span what recent construction has twinned or tripled. What looks like dangerous swerving or an illegal lane change may be, to ancient travellers on a simpler road, the expected way to reach one’s destination.

For example, our culture paints a double solid line between supernatural and natural. Every last thing must travel on one side or the other. But in the Bible, especially the First Testament, that line is dotted at best and often nonexistent. A Hebrew word like ruach that we tend to julienne into spirit / Spirit // wind / breath might have held together on the ancient road. When God’s Spirit gives every creature breath and wind comes from God’s nostrils to reveal God’s presence, the lanes are not so clear.

Perhaps functional vs. material creation is another case where we’ve added a line or erected a concrete barrier over a dotted line. Forcing each statement in Genesis 1 to be about one or the other may say more about our culture than theirs.

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Oh, I was referring specifically to the linguistic fact that you can’t use a polysemous word with two senses at once unless it’s a pun. So when we are talking about the sense of the word for create, if the argument is one sense is functional and another sense is material (and I’m not sure that is even the argument) then that one word can’t refer to both senses in one use. However, at the conceptual level, of course we can hold multiple things in tension and see God as both functional and material Creator.

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