Day Four in Genesis week on the blog. This time, the book under review is God's Pattern for Creation: A Covenantal Reading of Genesis 1 by W Robert Godfrey. This was a little shorter than some of the other books, but then it does only deal with the first chapter of Genesis. However, it was still a useful addition to the reading I had undertaken, helping to shape the important first sermon in the series by focusing on the order and plan of creation, through the lens of the covenant.
It's essential to start well, as the author points out: 'Beginnings are important, and if we want to understand the teaching of the Bible as a whole, it is vital to understand what it teaches about creation.' Noting the challenges to the authority of Genesis in revealing the work of creation, he declares that: 'In some ways such controversy is a good sign for the people of God. It means that people are studying Genesis 1 with great interest and care.'
The structure of the book is very simple, and follows Godfrey's reading of Genesis 1: the first three days; the last four days; and then the message of the chapter. He demonstrates his interest and care as he carefully examines the text of Genesis and draws out the meaning of the words, and how they fit together. He notes the patterns of words - not just the seven days, but also the threefold use of 'create', as well as the seven 'and it was so' uses, and the ten 'let there be' and 'make'. There are useful figures and diagrams, setting out the chiasms found in the text, again highlighting the structure carefully written by Moses as led and inspired by the Holy Spirit.
The issue of the seventh day - the Sabbath - takes up a lot of space, as he discusses the options of what the rest day means for God and for us, and its connection to the 'rest' to which Hebrews points us forward. His conclusion is interesting:
All of our considerations of the Bible's teaching on days and time should lead us to the conclusion that the days and week of Genesis 1 are presented to us as a real week of twenty-four-hour days. These days and week, however, do not describe God's actions in themselves but present God's creative purpose in a way that is a model for us. The purpose and message of Genesis 1 is that God created the world for humankind - a world in which man could be the image of God in his working and his resting.
While there may come a stage when you've read so many different points of view that you become totally confuddled, this book didn't add to the confuddling. While it's short, it's a great help in getting to the original language of the text (without a Hebrew character appearing in the book), and would be useful for anyone wanting to think further about the order and purpose of the days of creation. The summary at the end, presenting ten theses on creation, is spot on in providing the takeaway message.