The Cosmic Temple Interpretation

I found this interpretation quite plausible and recently encountered this view of Genesis 1. I just want to know if ancient audience really understood the then world in that way.

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Could you provide a description of The Cosmic Temple Interpretation.
We can look it but we might not find the same sources and it make things easier.
It helps hooks people into th debate if it interesting.


I can provide a brief description.

The idea is that Genesis 1 it is a temple inauguration ceremony, with the temple being the universe. In the Ancient Near East, the number 7 was commonly used in relation to building or inaugurating temples. It took 7 days to inaugurate the tabernacle, as well as 7 years to build the temple in Jerusalem. The 7 days in Genesis 1, therefore, are 7 days of inaugurating a cosmic temple if the universe. Each day refers to God assigning functions to parts of creation out of a chaotic and formless universe (chaos was a common ANE concept), with it ending by God “resting”, or taking up residence in the temple.

This setup was also used in other ANE creation stories. Genesis shares many parallels with such accounts, such as sharing the same creation sequence as the Egyptian creation account, the universe starting out as a functionless chaos of the waters, and the “creatures of the deep” such as the Leviathan. The key difference between pagan creation stories and Genesis is that Genesis is directly refuting certain concepts, such as creation being born out of a war, God being a sexual being, and that he is supreme over chaos, a standard no other pagan god could ever hold to.

The key idea of all of this is that the ancient Israelites would have understood that God was not only supreme over everything, but that everything is a reflection back to him.

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I think many agrees with the gist of it as far as within the genesis myth the story was written to be understood by them back then. I think the story is in part describing the function. But I’m not 100% sold on the idea in the ways I’ve seen it presented.

It’s a common take on the narrative.

John Walton writes about it.

Richard Middleton too.

None of us are psychic so the best we can do is make inferences about their worldview based on evidence from the literature and art they left. That’s the kind of evidence that is being used to support the interpretations. It’s not like Bible scholars just made it up out of their imaginations and thought it worked.


That made me smile because thinking of day the sun is “created” reminds me of that quote from Terry Pratchet’s “The Hogsfather” to think… ah the day that flaming ball of gas illuminating the planet became the sun rising over the earth


I have been reading the book ‘The lost world of Genesis one’ by John Walton.
The strong side of the hypothesis proposed by Walton is that it gives a credible and logical explanation of how ANE people might have understood a story about the creation of cosmos.

The weakness of the explanation is that Walton concentrates on the points that support his explanation. Other aspects are forgotten or treated very lightly. For example, the later command to rest on the last day of the week (Shabbath) follows the idea of God resting, apparently not the idea of an active God ruling in His temple. This is not necessarily in conflict with the explanation proposed by Walton, it is just one example of an aspect that does not get enough attention in the book.

If I understood the explanation right, the first sentence of Genesis one would be the creation story (In the beginning…). The narrative starting from verse 2 would be a description of how God created order to an existing but ‘chaotic’ world. Verse 2 describes how the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. In the ANE world, it was apparently common to believe that the starting point of creation was a chaotic primeval sea. This connection fits nicely to the explanation given by Walton.

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There does seem to be some evidence that a Priestly Editor put together Genesis 1 in such a way as to embody the Sabbath into Creation different from the original 10 Commandments. This would unite a spiritual and “scientific” understanding of Creation into a common mythical view.

Jesus the Logos disputed this view of the Creation/Sabbath and so should we as His disciples.

In the ANE cultural frame rest=rule. You might like this Walton video about God’s seventh day rest and how it connects to the temple inauguration.

Rest and Day 7 - John Walton - YouTube

What I find intriguing is that there is no European consideration of this. I’ll ask. There’s not even a Wiki entry. It’s opposed by William Lane Craig, which is a huge plus in its favour, but its self declared ‘Cerebral’ supporters embrace Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument, which is a non-starter. It looks like a totally American evangelical vs. YEC tension nonetheless both on the literalist, historical-grammatical spectrum.

PS Feedback so far

That sounds a lot like the sort of thing that would come from the more esoteric end of freemasonry. With the caveat that masonry isn’t a religion, but that some of those who take the allegory too far would fit right in with that interpretation.

It is easy to believe that God’s rest = God’s rule.

For humans, the Sabbath rest was restriction of activity (rest=rest). We can of course speculate that the temple was a place of true rest for humans. When people get to God’s temple, they can rest there because God takes care of the work. Yet, the external form of Sabbath was a commandment of not to do.

Jesus gave a better interpretation of the commandment by telling that it is ok to make good deeds in Sabbath. Even in that case, Sabbath was still the resting day, the day when you should not do various things.

I don’t claim that there is a controversy. I just noted that Walton should have explained better how the active rule of God turns into a day when you are not allowed to do many things.

I will point out that the list of “many things” is a human interpretation of what the Sabbath should be so perhaps this is a case of where the human authors didn’t get the idea right from the start. Jesus certainly seems to say we got it wrong.

A big part of the problem if you take the Bible seriously is that there are two 4th Commandments. The command to rest is the same, but the rationales are quite different. The Exodus command is because God rested on the 7th day. This was interpreted by the Pharisees to mean that God stopped working. It is interpreted by Walton as stopped creating and began ruling from God’s throne, which was a resting place. This seems to be the understanding of the Priestly Editor.

The Deuteronomy command was based on the Exodus event. The rest was to be living reminder to the Jews how YHWH rescued them from slavery in Egypt. It was not just for them, but for all to remind them that they must not enslave others. It was not really about rest, although rest is important, it was about their relationship to YHWH. It was a day of worship.

This understanding of the Sabbath is much closer to the Christian understanding of the Lord’s Day, which is the primary day of Christian worship. It is consecrated by the salvation events of Palm Sunday, Resurrection Sunday, and Pentecost Sunday.

This understanding connects Creation with God’s reign over God’s Creation, which is the basis of our view of science.

This understanding demythologizes life and Christianity.

One way I have heard the idea of Sabbath explained is that humans are commanded to rest from their because their labors are their attempts to order and rule their worlds. On the Sabbath, they rest from those labors (providing food and money) to consciously remind themselves that God is the true ruler and provider and orderer of our lives.


I imagine Walton and all GLEs here are OK with Tremper Longman in this BioLogos interview with Walton and he.

Truth be told, the Bible knows no category of “innocent” persons who died in the flood. Even babies have a propensity to self-seeking that is out of keeping with God’s creative intention for his human creatures—and no child (other than Christ) ever grew up to be sinless.

There is something deeply, deeply sick in American religion.

As I said, this is all on the same spectrum.

How does this jibe with the view thar humans are viceroys of God? Why did Jesus say that the Father and the Son never stopped working? Why are Christians not called to keep the Sabbath?

We are. The first day of the week is the Lord’s Day, the Christian Sabbath, when God truly rested from the most unimaginably difficult labor and his redemptive work of bringing order out of the chaos of sin.

I really do not see God’s redemptive work completed until Jesus’ coming again. The world is still lost in a chaos of sin. If the Father and the Son did not rest as Jesus testified, is there any mandate for us to rest?

Is there any mandate for us to not steal?

What’s a GLE? (Hmm. Genteelly liberal Episcopalian? That doesn’t seem to fit. Germaphobic lackadaisical epidemiologist? Sounds a bit like me, so maybe I should be offended? Generally literalistic Evangelical?)


“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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