Saturday, January 03, 2009

Notes on the Bible January 3-4

Follow-up on Gen 6:1-4. The line of Seth/line of Cain explanation has been the traditional Reformed interpretation of the passage. It is only in the latter part of the 20th century that this began to change, in part under the influence of Meredith Kline. The Reformation Study Bible (and Bruce Waltke's commentary on Genesis) reflect a different understanding. Any of the older commentaries in the Reformed tradition will present the case for Cain and Seth. Gordon Wenham in his Word Biblical Commentary gives a useful bibliography, as well as a concise synopsis of the various explanations of the passage.

Genesis 7-12

The Universality of the Flood. Traditionally, Noah's Flood has been understood to be a universal flood. Until the late eighteenth century, geological data such as rock strata and fossils were understood to have been the result of the Flood. As geological science changed in the first part of the nineteenth century, the idea of a universal flood began to change (a useful book on this transition is Charles Coulson Gillespie's Genesis and Geology). Thus, many in our day will argue for a local flood. There are two problems with that explanation. The first is the repeated use of "all" in Gen 7:17-24. The second is a rational difficulty. If the flood were merely local, there was no need for the building of the ark. Animals destroyed by a local flood would have either fled the flood area, or would have survived outside of the flood area. Further, Noah and his family would only have had to move to another area, rather than to spend approximately a year with a floating zoo. Add those difficulties to the fact that the flood traditionally was understood to be universal, and the evidence against a local flood is overwhelming.

The Sign of the Covenant and its Purpose. God's word established the rainbow as a sign of the covenant between God and man regarding the stability and longevity of the earth (see 8:20-22). It seems at first glance that the rainbow then has its primary purpose as a reminder to man of God's promise. Given this, it is curious that God says (9:14-15), "That the bow shall be seen in the cloud, and I will remember my covenant." That is, the sign of the covenant functions both Godward and manward. It is indeed a reminder to man, but it also serves as a "reminder" to God. God certainly does not need to be reminded, but it underscores the certainty of God's promise.

The Table of Nations. This is the title usually given to Genesis 10. Notice that the descendants of the non-elect lines (Japheth and Ham) are given before the elect line. This is a consistent practice in Genesis

The Story of Abraham. It really begins in 11:27, and continues to 25:11. From 25:12 through 25:18 we have the story of Ishmael. The 25:19 begins the story of Isaac. The phrase "these are the generations of" (or something) similar are used throughout Genesis to mark off the major segments of the story. 12:1ff is a continuation of the story, not the beginning of it.

Matthew 3-4

"To fulfill all righteousness." Jesus' baptism by John has evoked a great deal of discussion. Obviously Jesus being sinless, he did not need a baptism for repentance, for he had nothing of which to repent. Why then was he baptized? The NKJV Study Bible suggests three possibilities. The first is that by being baptized Jesus joined himself to the believing remnant of Israel who were receiving John's preaching. Second, Jesus' baptism was a confirmation of the message of John. Third, Jesus' baptism was a fulfillment of the Father's will. To these I would add a fourth. That Jesus, in being baptized, was acting as the representative head of his people, and his faithfulness in this matter is then imputed to their account.

The Temptation of Jesus. Following his baptism, Jesus entered into the temptation of the devil. Following up on the last reasons just given, Jesus' temptation (and his successful resistance of it) also is on behalf of his people. This is shown by the fact that all his citations are taken from Deuteronomy, where they apply to Israel (who failed the test). Jesus, however, embodies the New Israel, and his faithfulness is imputed to those who make up the New Israel.

No comments: