History and Literature of Ancient Israel
5 February 2013
The Hermeneutics of Genesis 1
There are many different interpretations of the first chapter in the book of Genesis. Countless theologians have tried to find an explanation as to whether or not the first chapter is literal, literary, or somewhere in between. As explained in the Genesis 1 lecture, there are four main types of interpretations of the text that are commonly held. Out of the four views: literal, literary, concordist and contextual, the literary approach seems to be the most logical position on interpreting Genesis 1. Defined in the lecture, the literary perspective views the days of creation as literary devices used for the purpose of organizing the details of creation according to material not sequence. The chiastic structure, highly stylized repetition of language, and the absence of ordinal numbers lead to further support the literary interpretation of Genesis 1.
Unlike the second chapter of Genesis, another account of creation, Genesis 1 uses a chiastic structure in the text. Genesis 1 lays out creation with three days of forming followed by three days of filling, with the second and fifth day implementing the chiasm. This literary device is a very stylized Hebrew structure. Chiasm, a type of parallelism, is found in many times in the Hebrew Bible, specifically in the Psalms. It seems very likely that the author of Genesis 1 used this type of structure for literary effect. Instead of putting importance on the events of creation, the author puts more significance in the type of style that is used in the first chapter of Genesis. The chiasm that appears between the second and fifth day also seem to further implement a literary effect for the audience, helping foster the literary position of Genesis 1. Not only does the chiastic structure, but also the highly stylized repetition used in the days of creation help provide evidence for the literary interpretation.... [continues]
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