What do you think of Sailhamer's interpretation of Genesis: Historical Creationism


Hey folks, new here, and am still trying to get used to the layout. Hopefully I’m doing this right.

I only skimmed through the thread, but I didn’t see it mentioned, and wondered what you all make of John Sailhamer’s view of Genesis 1 and 2 as he laid it out in his book Genesis Unbound?

Christy linked to several approaches to the Genesis narrative, but I didn’t see Sailhamer’s approach, that he called Historical Creationism, listed.

Historical Creationism is somewhat similar to the Gap theory, but different in a number of key ways. Sailhamer takes the sentence, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”, and points out that “heavens and earth” is a merism for all of creation, and that this creative act took place at some indeterminate time in the past. So, basically all of creation happens in that first sentence at some point in time that is never fully revealed. Sailhamer goes on to argue that the rest of the Genesis narrative is not a reference to the creation of the earth, but instead to the preparation of the Promised Land (the Promised Land being the primary focus of the Torah). Sailhamer posits that before this preparation, the area that would become the Promised Land was a wilderness that God brings order to. So, when God commands “Let there be light”, this is not exactly a creative act (creation of the sun and moon were already accomplished in verse 1), rather it’s an ordering of the wilderness. Sailhamer also is in agreement with John Walton that there is a sense of associating purpose to these things.

A good summary on Sailhamer’s approach can be found on John Piper’s website here, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/science-the-bible-and-the-promised-land

What I like about this view is that it provides a literalist reading of the Genesis 1 narrative that is still Old Earth Creationist in nature. The one area I take issue with Sailhamer is that he rejects evolution, particularly human evolution, but his reasons for doing so don’t appear to me to be very good, and I think one can hold to a Theistic Evolutionist view, and still find Sailhamer’s Historical Creationist view handy. Adam and Eve are still uniquely created beings in that, while they may not be the first man and woman, they are the first man and woman made in God’s image…that they are the first man and woman who have God’s spirit in them.

Anyhow, just wondered if you all were familiar with Sailhamer’s view, and what you thought of it!

How can Genesis be interpreted to agree with Theistic Evolution?
(Christy Hemphill) #2

Welcome to the forum! I moved your post to its own topic so it would hopefully get more interaction.


Sounds good. Thanks!

(RiderOnTheClouds) #4

I see it as a real possibility, as I’ve discussed elsewhere, my argument is based on the fact that Genesis 1 and Ezekiel 28 both use temple imagery:

I disagree with Sailhamer that Adam and Eve had to be uniquely created however.


Yep, sounds like we’re on the same page. Thanks for your input! I’ll check the other thread out.

(Peaceful Science) #6

@Jon_Garvey has covered this extensively on his blog, and summarized here:

Sailhammer’s interpretation, but don’t forget to look at how Seth Postell extended it, and how @Jon_Garvey is synthesizing it with the science.


Huh. Fascinating. Thanks so much for the link. It’s really too bad that Sailhamer is no longer with us. I was really hoping for a sequel to Genesis Unbound that we never got. Good to hear that others are taking his work and expanding on it.

(system) #8

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