by Dr. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr.
President, Professor – Historical & Systematic Theology
Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
The purpose of my presentation is to critique the Framework theory of interpreting Genesis 1.1 The framework hypothesis asserts that Genesis 1 is not to be taken as a literal, chronological account of creation, but rather a topical account which asserts God created all things. The Geneva Study Bible says,
Finally, some scholars argue that the “days” of creation constitute a literary framework (vv. 3-31 note) designed to teach that God alone is the creator of an orderly universe, and to call upon human beings made in the image of the creator God to reflect God’s creative activity in their own pattern of labor (2:2; Ex. 31:17). This “framework hypothesis” views the days of creation as God’s gracious accommodation to the limitations of human knowledgean expression of the infinite Creator’s work in terms understandable to finite and frail human beings. This last group of scholars observes that the universe gives the appearance of great antiquity, that the phrase “morning and evening” seems inconsistent with the “day-age theory,” and that the notion of intervening ages between isolated 24-hour days is not apparent from the text.”2
This position is held by some Bible-believing evangelicals. According to Blocher, the strength of this position is that it removes the possibility of conflict between the theories of modern scientists and the Bible and avoids the conflicts of sequence between Genesis 1 and 2. He says:
This hypothesis overcomes a number of problems that plagued the commentators. It recognizes ordinary days but takes them in the context of one large figurative whole; the differences in order between the two “tablets” no longer cause difficulties, neither does the delay in the creation of the stars, nor does the confrontation with the scientific vision of the most distant past.”3
Those defending this position often begin their case with the evidence of Genesis 2, interpreting Genesis 1 in light of Genesis 2. They maintain that, since Genesis 2 is marked by a highly structured style and has thematic parallels with chapter 1, it may serve as the interpretative grid for chapter 1. Furthermore, chapter 2 offers a key to chapter 1 by establishing the necessity for normal providential preservation to be at work throughout the period of creation. In dealing with chapter 1 (including 2:1-3), the advocates maintain that the literary structure demands a topical rather than chronological interpretation. In my lecture, I will critique some of the evidence offered by the proponents of the framework hypothesis and will offer proof that Genesis 1 is a description of literal, sequential days.
Admittedly, Moses uses a literary structure to reinforce the fact that God created with purpose and that man is the climax of creation. But are we forced to the conclusion that highly organized structure and symmetry rules out a straightforward narrative? In answering this question, I will demonstrate that there is nothing in the text that demands a non-chronological, topical structure but, in fact, the text of Genesis 1 requires chronology and that there is no conflict between a literary structure and a chronological order. Furthermore, the testimony of the rest of the Bible confirms that Genesis 1 is to be taken in a literal, chronological fashion.
The question was raised earlier whether the careful construction of Genesis 1 excluded a literal interpretation. We find no evidence of such thinking in the passages from the rest of Scripture which allude to it. Surely all indications point to the literal reading as the most natural, the most in harmony with the larger context, and the most supported by the rest of Scripture.4
I point out that the order of the text is in fact consistent with the progressive order with which God acts even in supernatural events. We note the same orderly progression of events in all the great works of God (the covenant in the garden, Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, the unfolding of progressive revelation, the incarnation, and the events leading up to the completed work of Christ). We notice the same pattern in the supernatural application of redemption. God works with discernible order. The creation account unfolds progressively with each creative act laying the foundation for the next. On Day 1, God created light and energy which we know are essential to all things. The work of Day 2 (separation of waters above from the waters below) is necessary for the events that follow. The division of dry land from water is necessary for the creation of plants on Day 3. The work of Day 4 depends on the work of Day 2. The creation of sea creatures, flying things, and animals on Days 5 and 6 presupposes the work of Day 3. The creation of man is the fitting climax (Gen. 2:7,19). Ridderbos says, “It is clear that the work of creation culminates in the creation of man. In a certain sense it may even be said that all the rest is preparatory to the creation of man.”5
The full paper may be viewed here.
1 The sources used are: Meredith G. Kline, “Because It Had Not Rained,” WTS 20 (1957-58), 146-157 (referred to as Kline 1 in the remainder of this paper); Meredith G. Kline, “Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony,” Perspectives on Science & Christian Faith 48 (1996) 2-15 (Kline 2); Henri Blocher, In the Beginning (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984); a lecture by Dr. Mark Futato, cassette recording of lecture at New Life Presbyterian Church, Escondido, CA.; Mark Futato, “Because it Had Rained: A Study of Gen. 2:5-7 with Implications for Gen. 2:4-25 and Gen. 1:1-2:3” (unpublished paper, March 14, 1997); N.H. Ridderbos, “Is There a Conflict Between Genesis 1 and Natural Science?” (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Co, 1957); Lee Irons, “The Framework Interpretation Explained and Defended” (unpublished paper, 1998).
2 Geneva Study Bible, p.7. Unfortunately, the author of this section apparently caricatures the view that Genesis 1 is a record of a literal six-day creation. Though the purpose of this paper is not to establish exegetically the position that the days in Genesis 1 are to be taken as 24-hour days, this is the position of the author, and some of the evidence given about the creation is corroborative to this end.
3 Blocher, 50.
4 Ibid. 116.
5 Ridderbos, 61, cf. 69. Jeff Ventrella points out that we have sequence of material throughout the chapter: Light separated from darkness; dry land from the chaotic, watery mass; plants, animals and man from earth.