Monday, May 04, 2009

Creation Ex Nihilo? Creation Ex Christo...

I don't know the original languages so can't really test this, but how about this as a way to translate the start of the Bible:
“At the head (Christ) God (the Father) cut the heavens and the earth (by the Spirit)”
Has the feel of being right. All things start with Christ and find their end in him. And then we can start reading Genesis 1 onwards as Christian Scripture. This week I'll be spending some time working on some initial outlines for an evangelistic series in the early chapters of Genesis (part of my Sabbatical), rather than get stuck in debates about origins it'll be refreshing to think about Christ.

I'll also be starting in Genesis 36-50 to conclude the journey through Genesis with Matt. And I'll blog the last part of chapters 25-35 sometime in the week.

14 comments:

  1. That would seem to be a useful Christian reflection on Gen 1:1 - as a translation, not so keen! (It's disputed whether the word 'bara' is even related to the forms involving cutting/clearing etc, by the way). It seems to be a case of resting more weight on individual words than they are able to sustain.

    Perhaps we read Gen 1:1 as Christian Scripture and see Christ in it because of the canonical link with the NT and therefore the historical link with the incarnation? That way we don't have to juggle the words to get Christ in there, we can just take the plain meaning and understand in light of the resurrection that Christ is involved..?

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  2. Hi Daniel, there are always 'disputes' among linguists ;-)

    I'm always keen to take a theological view of why certain homonyms are homonyms. (Even calling them homonyms makes it sound like we're meant to separate them, which is questionable).

    Create and cut.
    Eye and fountain.
    Remember and male.
    Kneel and Bless.

    Makes you think huh? And I reckon it's supposed to.

    Glen

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  3. Nice thought, Dave - and as Daniel says, I'm sure you're right theologically and canonically. But almost certainly not linguistically.
    One should be careful before drawing too many theological conclusions from linguistic points - although, in the case of homonyms or more commonly, assonance, perhaps one can if there is clear evidence that an author is wanting to create a pun. But even then, these don't necessarily get you very far, other than helping you to understand how the author communicates.
    But I've been teaching NT Greek for 10 years now and one of the things I always say is in language studies (esp dead languages) a little knowledge is a very dangerous thing! After all, take these English homonyms:
    board & bored
    foul & fowl
    naval & navel
    There's no linguistic significance apart from the fun one can have at the potential confusions they might cause!!
    So "'disputes' among linguists" can actually be helpful. A classic case in point is Eats Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss (although that's specific to punctuation.
    I'm going to come out of pedants' corner, now!
    Keep up the good work though!

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  4. Like I say, I have no idea if it works as a translation (it's cited from elsewhere), but I like the idea - and if it's not Genesis it is Colossians!

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  5. absolutely. And if you want to be really swanky, you can say:
    "Creatio ex nihilo a Christo"
    !!!

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  6. My Latin has faded badly from 20 years of not being used...

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  7. another sabbatical project, perhaps...

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  8. Hi guys!

    Thanks for taking time to comment on the post which I've written however long ago (I think almost just over a year ago).. it was inspired from a meditation made at an All Souls (where you preach Mark! :) ) SWOT II meeting and much thanks to Dev Menon for leading the group and Leon Sim's essay on the word 'bara' for giving us insight as to how to read the Hebrew of Genesis and the extremely important Christ-focused truths behind even the very first verse of Scripture (yes Dave, I actually think Colossians 1 was inspired by Genesis 1 rather than the other way round as some suggest!)...

    By no means do I proclaim to be a Hebrew linguist but like you all I'm just a student of Christian theology and we can keep refining and sharpening one another by the Word and understanding that objective truth which we never perfectly express (of course that's no justification for lowering our benchmark or fervour on that front). That post was a very good example of that. I do, however, enjoy the phrase "Creation ex nihilo a Christo" coined by Mark and will be sure to meditate over all of your comments when I get around to re-treading Genesis after I'm done looking through the rest of the Bible...(hopefully not too many years from now). I do hope you all will continue to respond to the thoughts which I've attempted to ground in Scripture over at my blog over the Scriptures from Genesis (to the book of Joshua so far), whether due to my poor linguistic attempts or theological preciseness for which I need continual guidance and exhortation.

    Thanks once again; am enjoying the stuff you post over here Dave!

    -Jacky

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  9. Jacky, I'm loving your commentary - I've got Genesis 36-50 printed out on my desk to help me prepare some studies on it later this week, along with Exodus 18 cos I'm preaching on that in July.

    I urge you onwards!

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  10. Again, calling them 'homonyms' decides the question before it's really asked. There's nothing in Scripture itself to say that 'bara' and 'bara' are unrelated roots. All we see in Scripture is 'bara' here and 'bara' there. Do we really think it's unreasonable to see some kind of semantic link between create and cut? We know that hebrew uses the semantic range of single words to make theological points - eretz means 'the land' (= promised land) and 'the earth.' Same form. Different but related meaning. And a deep theological significance to the use of one form / two meanings.

    I think there are *lots* of similar examples of this. Create <=> Cut is just one more.

    Keep up the good work Jacky. :-)

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  11. Arguably, both 'by christ' and 'out of nothing' are are NT theology read back into OT. Many theologians think "ex nihilo" is only implicit in OT.

    While clearly explicit in NT, the OT emphases in eg Genesis, Job & Psalms seem to be God's calling cosmos out of chaos, light out of darkness, land out of waters (cf Revelation 21-22). Personally, I think there's a strong victory motif in Genesis 1.

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  12. I'd agree with Mark's comments about homonyms - Jacky has lots of insights but some of the word study stuff is really false - he says himself that he's not a language guy. In this case, copying and pasting Hebrew letters from the Masoretic text doesn't mean you've understood the point. See my comment on his post.

    I don't like coming down like a ton of bricks on Jacky, but you just can't make such scholarly-sounding statements referring to verb forms etc. if you haven't studied Hebrew, especially if the statements are wrong!

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  13. Hi Sam,

    I've replied to your message over on my site :)

    I'm afraid you got the wrong end of the stick, and if so I'd like to direct you to my 'about' page (entitled under Ego Trip actually!) where I say that I need mutual exhortation in my theological conclusions, which no doubt include language and whatnot. What I've written, as I've stated, are personal thoughts to be shared and mulled over - you are free to of course take me as a scholar, but be warned, that would be assuming too much!

    Having said that, I'd hate to make myself "scholarly sounding" if it gives the air of intellectual pomposity, especially if there's so much for me to learn as a quote unquote church layman. Perhaps I should be clear about the Hebrew so no-one misunderstands - I've studied it a bit over at All Souls (a bit meaning I've gone through the Hebrew of Genesis 1 with brothers and sisters hours and days on end), and took it further through personal study and researching debates on the word 'bara' which you've disputed. I'm not a Hebrew scholar, but I am a student and practitioner of law, and for better or worse my secular education ironically taught me how to carefully look at texts and I've hopefully redeemed those secular skills into aiding my scrutiny of linguistic texts (what I'm trying to say is that though I haven't exactly written all the references down, it's not the same as not using references altogether which would be a logical fallacy on your part). I hope I'm not throwing 'qualifications' at you, but I'm sure your statement that (a) I haven't studied Hebrew and (b) copying and pasting Hebrew letters from the Masoretic text carelessly, must be written in anticipation that it would elicit some type of detailed response from me :)

    Now, enough response from my end on that - what I'd like to know is two things if you could constructively aid me.

    (1) How else would you translate Genesis 1:1; and what justifies that translation, and furthermore the ambit of different translation(s) the sentence could also bear. If Hebrew is a living Asian language like my native Chinese (again, I'm not making direct parallels or comparisons here for fear of offending people who are linguistically acute), then translation is not without its certain presuppositions which I believe you have taken from the German book(s) which you've studied Hebrew from, and which I believe I have taken from the context of the theology behind how creation came around (so in a certain sense, the theological insights which I bore have driven my translation - dangerous at times, I know, but something I've chosen to hold onto in certain contexts).

    (2) What do you think about christthetruth (glen)'s comments on homonyms and the verb 'bara', s'th which I'm currently meditating over as well, given the vast richness of etymological roots especially in pictorial Asian languages?

    By the by, feel free to end the discussion whenever you feel like it because this isn't exactly a simple (or short for the matter!) topic, but incredibly edifying nonetheless - at least for me anyway :) Sorry for bombarding you with questions over on my site too, I will totally understand if you need to take your time in answering all of them.

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  14. Hi fellas,

    Thanks to Dave for the blog being a sort of 'platform' for this discussion. I'm not sure whether it's ending anytime soon, but we've moved it over to my site, so do take a look s'time!

    http://thesentone.wordpress.com/2008/04/28/genesis-11-2-in-christ-god-cut-the-heavens-and-the-earth/

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