A summary of conclusions
Here is a summary of the conclusions that I reached from my study into the early chapters of Genesis. These are based on the principle of letting the Bible interpret itself.
The first creation record
The first creation record is a piece of allegorical writing that describes God’s purpose for mankind. The passage is set out in an order that primarily supports its figurative meaning. Like the allegory in Galatians chapter 4, aspects of it can also be understood on a literal level. It shows that God created the Earth, Solar System and life on Earth, but it does not give the order of the literal creation.
Genesis 1 v 1 - 2
This is a heading that summarises what is to follow in the rest of the first creation narrative. The remainder of the account describes how God created what are termed “the heavens and the earth”.
Genesis 1 v 3
This is the first use of light as a metaphor in the Bible. Light stands for the things of God and how he shows them to mankind. Darkness is also a metaphor and describes the things that are opposed to God.
Genesis 1 v 4 - 5
Day and night are also metaphors and describe times of spiritual light and darkness. These are times when God is visible and is working to fulfil his purpose, and times when he is not.
Genesis 1 v 6 – 10
The firmament or heavens is where those who rule over the earth are. This is God’s dwelling place, but earthly rulers can be here as well.
The waters above the firmament represent how God works to influence the earth or dry land. The waters below the firmament are where ungodly nations are. The earth or dry land is where God’s salvation is visible. Often it is used to describe the land of promise.
Genesis 1 v 11 – 13
Grass, herbs that bear seed and trees which have seed bearing fruit appear. Plants are produced as a result of the working of God’s spirit. The ones that bear seed give spiritual life. The grass represents God’s provision for the rest of mankind.
Genesis 1 v 14 – 19
The lights in the firmament of the heavens are related to the light of Genesis 1 v 3. They represent things that show God’s light, including the law of Moses, the Lord Jesus Christ, the gospel and those who walk in God’s ways.
Genesis 1 v 20 – 23
The creatures that live in the waters represent ungodly peoples. They do not arise from the land of promise. The great sea creatures represent rulers and kingdoms that have dominion over the other creatures who live in the waters, which in turn symbolise their subjects.
The birds represent peoples who arise from the earth, a place where God is visible. However, they are subjects in a succession of kingdoms and don’t seem to be righteous.
Genesis 1 v 24 – 25
These verses list three sort of living creature that arise from the earth. They are cattle, creeping things and beast of the earth. The cattle represent the people of Israel, whereas the other two sorts of creatures represent peoples in the land of promise who were regarded as unclean by the Israelites, and who showed violence towards them.
Genesis 1 v 26 - 28
Man is made (consisting of male and female). This is what Paul calls the last Adam and consists of the Lord Jesus Christ and those who are redeemed through his saving work. This Adam has dominion over the other creatures (i.e. other groups of people).
Genesis 2 v 1 – 3
The seventh day is when God rests, and represents the kingdom of God which will appear after the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The second creation record
This is a piece of writing similar in style to an ancient myth, which describes the spiritual effects of man committing sin for the first time.
Genesis 2 v 4
The second record describes the creation of “heavens” and “earth”. These terms have the same meaning as in the first creation narrative, and refer to the hierarchy between God and man. It places this passage in the time of the second and third days of the first creation record.
Genesis 2 v 5, 6
The meaning of the earth and the rain are the same as in the first creation narrative. The rain represents how God influences mankind. The earth is where God’s purpose for man is revealed.
Genesis 2 v 7
The man in the second creation narrative is different to the man in the first one. This man is what Paul calls the first man Adam, and is portrayed as a servant in the garden of Eden.
Genesis 2 v 8 – 15
The language of the second creation narrative indicates that it is set in a time of agriculture (the Neolithic Age), and that the location of the Garden of Eden was in South Eastern Turkey.
The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil employ the same metaphorical meaning of plants as was used in the first creation record. They are things that come from God and show his purpose to mankind. They also have the potential to bring about salvation.
Genesis 2 v 16 – 17
The man in the Garden of Eden was the first man in the sense that he was the first man to be spoken to by God, and to receive commands from him. It is unlikely that the man in Genesis chapters 2 and 3 was the first man ever to exist.
Genesis 2 v 18 – 25
Eve is taken out of the man. This shows the closeness between man and woman and prefigures the way in which Christ’s bride will be formed. She is a helper, which means that she will bring about the salvation of the man. The man and the woman are naked in the sense that there is no way of covering sins, but at this stage they have no need to be covered.
Genesis 3 v 1 – 7
The serpent is a metaphor and represents opposition to God and to his purpose.
Genesis 3 v 8 – 10
The man and woman sin and are now naked in the sense that they have disobeyed God, and have no covering for their sin. At that time there is no means of having their sin covered.
Genesis 3 v 11 – 15
The woman’s seed is introduced, who will bruise the head of the serpent’s seed. This is a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. The serpent’s seed represents those who oppose God and his purpose.
Genesis 3 v 16
The woman’s sorrow and conception are not physical but spiritual. Her children are a reference to those who are redeemed in Christ, but they only achieve salvation through spiritual sorrow and trials.
Genesis 3 v 17 – 19
The man’s labour is to make bread and is ultimately without reward. This shows that serving God through things like the law of Moses, where justification comes from works, is fruitless. The true bread that gives life is the Lord Jesus Christ, and this is provided by God.
Genesis 3 v 20
Eve is the mother of all living in the sense that her seed, the Lord Jesus Christ, brings eternal life for those who are saved through his sacrifice.
Genesis 3 v 21
Man cannot make his own clothing to cover his sins, only God’s covering for sins is acceptable.
Genesis 3 v 22 – 24
There is a way to the tree of life, and this is through the Lord Jesus Christ, the woman’s seed.
If the early chapters of Genesis are interpreted allegorically using the rest of the Bible, then there is no clash with scientific discoveries about the start of the universe and current views about the appearance of life on the Earth.
It is unlikely that the Adam of Genesis chapters 2 and 3 was the first man to exist. As such, the Bible is silent on the process used to make the man of Genesis chapter 2. All we know is that he was made from the things of the ground.