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Exploring God's Route 66: An introduction to the Bible
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Chapter 2: The Law of Moses
Genesis: Book of beginnings
Genesis is the first of five books of the Pentateuch--also known as the Books of Moses, the Law of Moses, or
Torah. We believe that Moses wrote these books substantially as we have them. There are many reasons to
believe Moses wrote them:
* he had the educational and personal qualifications (Acts 22:7);
* as a leader of his nation in crucial times, he would naturally commit the history and laws to writing;
* the Pentateuch claims he wrote it (Exodus 24:4 and elsewhere);
* the rest of the Bible claims Moses authorship of the Pentateuch (Joshua 1:7-8; 1 Cor. 9:9 and
Jesus said Moses wrote it (John 5:46-47 and elsewhere).
For more about the origins of Genesis, see the paragraph headed "Problems: real or imagined?"
The content of Genesis.
We accept that all scripture came from God through inspiration, and that all of the Bible is perfect: however,
God did not give all his truth at the beginning. He did so progressively. New truths about God's relationship
with mankind unfold with the ongoing progression of scripture. Genesis and the other books of the Pentateuch
lay the foundation for all scripture that follows.
The turning point in human history occurred in the third chapter of Genesis when Adam and Eve chose
to rebel against God. By disobeying they introduced sin and death into God's perfect world.
Genesis is a book of beginnings, not just of the created universe, but of at least eight other beginnings
critical to our understanding of God's plan and program. Genesis also records nine family histories that illustrate
God's early dealings with mankind.
A central figure in the book
Abraham stands out as one of the most important people in Genesis. In Genesis 12, God made a covenant with
Abraham and then expanded on it as the book progressed. God promised that Abraham and his descendants
* inherit the land of Canaan;
* become a great nation;
* become the avenue through whom all the nations would receive blessing.
This promise becomes the foundation of all the great truths of the Bible that follow.
Genesis 15:6 says, "Abraham believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness."
The New Testament picks up the theme and says in Galatians 3:8:
The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance
to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." So those who have faith are blessed along with
Abraham, the man of faith.
Jews consider Abraham as father of their nation; Christians look to him as their father in the faith.
The twelve tribes of Israel
Abraham had a son, Isaac, who had two sons, Jacob and Esau. Jacob, also known as Israel, had twelve sons. As
the Bible story progresses, the sons of Jacob become the basis for the twelve tribes of the nation Israel. Jacob's
deathbed blessing on his sons in Genesis 49 foreshadows the biblical narrative to follow.
Outline or structure of Genesis
Genesis lends itself to many good outlines. You could develop the nine beginnings or nine family histories
shown on page 13 into excellent outlines. An outline simply helps the reader grasp the general content of the
book. A basic outline for Genesis looks like this:
1.0 Creation and early history of humanity (chapters 1 through 11).
2.0 Abraham--the beginnings and history of God's people (chapters 12 through 50).
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SCRIPTURE READING: You should try to read the whole book of Genesis soon if you
have never read it, or if you haven't read it recently. Without a good understanding of this
book, you can never understand the frequent references to it throughout the rest of the
Bible. For this study, read Genesis 1 and 12:1-8.
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Christ in Genesis
Jesus said of Moses ". . . for he wrote about me" (John 5:46). Many Bible scholars believe that the first recorded
prophecy pointing toward Christ appears in Genesis 3:15. When God cursed the serpent (an embodiment of
Satan), he used these words, ". . . I will put enmity between your offspring and hers: he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel." The offspring (seed in some Bible versions) of the woman can be none other than
Here in this verse, the antagonism between people and snakes symbolizes the outcome of Satan's great
struggle against God. It is truly one-sided, for Satan would manage only to strike Christ's heel, but Christ would
succeed in crushing Satan's head. Although Satan injured Christ on the cross, Christ had the final victory that
will lead to the destruction of Satan (see Rom. 16:20).
Key phrase of Genesis
Key words or phrases help us unlock the books of the Bible, giving us a special insight into the message of the
book. The key phrase of Genesis is "the generations of," an expression that occurs 11 times in ten separate
passages. This illustrates that Genesis traces the line of descent of the promised offspring, "seed," or descendant
of the woman who would crush the serpent's head. Some generations appear, only to be set aside, while others
continue the line that stretches from Adam and Eve to Jesus Christ.
Problems: real or imagined?
Did God employ creation or evolution? Arguments abound today between creationists and evolutionists. If we
accept holus-bolus the theory of evolution, we remove God from the picture, making him a later invention of
man. If the stories of Genesis have no basis in fact, we eliminate the entrance of sin into the world and the
subsequent need for salvation.
If we accept the arguments of science that the world is much older than the 6,000 years suggested by
the genealogies of Genesis, then we need to understand or interpret creation in a fashion that harmonizes both
views. Christians have proposed many theories to remove the dissonance caused by trying to believe opposing
theories. As a believer, you must sort through them and decide for yourself which fits best with a life of faith
and a high view of the Word of God. See "Creation Theories" on page 13 for views put forward by various
| We need a view that accepts the basic facts taught by Genesis, but allows us to honestly deal with other
evidence presented by science. Whatever view you accept, you should do so with great thought or study. Even if
you have the intellect of a person like Einstein, it could take you a whole lifetime of diligent investigation.
Did Moses really write it all? Does our belief in the authorship of Moses mean that he must have
penned every word of Genesis, indeed of the Pentateuch? If we believe that, then he must have written the
account of his own death at the end of Deuteronomy. Or did Moses leave the unfinished manuscript with a
scribe to complete after his death?
Similarly, did Moses write all of the chapters that preceded him in history? Did God dictate all of these
accounts to him, or did Moses make use of older documents and oral tradition? If he used other accounts, it does
not weaken our doctrine of inspiration, for God would have guided him to use the correct accounts.
Bible critics point to differences in style in the early chapters, differences they believe prove that Moses
did not write them. But if Moses worked as a divinely inspired editor, would not the differences still exist?
Many written accounts of creation and the flood story existed long before Moses-accounts some scholars
believe are hundreds, if not thousands, of years older. A sound view of inspiration would hold that God had
given mankind a written account of his presence in history long before Moses. Moses knew those stories,
recognized the authentic ones, and under the guiding hand of God incorporated them into Genesis.
An ancient creation hymn
A hymn that could predate Moses by 1,000 years says in part:
Death was not then, nor was there aught immortal:
no sign was there, the day's and night's divider.
That one thing, breathless, breathed by its own
nature: apart from it was nothing whatsoever.
Darkness there was: at first concealed in darkness,
this all was undiscriminated chaos.
All that existed then was void and formless: by the
great power of warmth was born that unit.
Do you see the striking similarities between this ancient Hindu hymn and the first chapter of Genesis?
Human intellect might bring us to believe that Moses and the early writer of this creation hymn got their ideas
from the same original document. But faith alone draws us to conclude that Moses, whether writing or editing
under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, got it right.
Differing views Christians hold about the origins of man and the universe
1. The literal view
God created the earth and the universe in six literal days approximately 6,000 years ago.
2. The gap theory||
Some interpret Genesis 1:2 as meaning "Now the earth became formless . .." This suggests a gap of great time occurred between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.
The original creation of verse one, which included all the geological ages
and things like dinosaurs, passed away. Verse two speaks of a new creation
that includes man.
3. The flood theory
All the appearances of eons of geological history resulted from the flood. The flood caused the "evidence" that scientists find today and interpret as
evolution and a very old earth.
4. The age-day theory
Each day in the Genesis record really refers to a great period of time, not literal days. Elsewhere the Bible uses the word day in a non-literal sense. The chronology of Genesis virtually agrees with the scientific explanation
of beginnings of various forms of life on earth.
5. The real time theory
When God created Adam as a mature man, Adam carried in his body all the evidence of birth and growth. God had simply broken into the middle
of a normal cycle to get man started. In the same way, he created the earth
with all the evidence of an earlier birth and development.
6. The liberal view
The story of Genesis is not literal. It contains metaphor or spiritual truth. However, God "superintended" creation or evolution.
7. Intelligent Design
This theory has begun growing in popularity in the scientific community. Itargues against evolution as a satisfactory answer to the origins of the
universe and for the presence of an intelligent designer. There are non-
Christians as well as Christians who espouse this concept.*
* See the book: By Design Or By Chance: The Growing Controversy on the Origins of Life in the Universe
by Denyse O'Leary.
In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.
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UNDERSTANDING GOD'S SIGNPOSTS:|
We have already looked at revelation, illumination, and inspiration (in chapter 1). Now let's add a new word to
the mix--interpretation. While illumination speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit in helping us to understand the Bible,
interpretation deals with the use of our intellectual
powers to understand the Bible. We have already noted that Christians differ in their
interpretation of the creation story. The same holds true with many other parts of the
Bible. Often godly, sincere Christians will take very different sides on a controversial
issue. This grows out of differences in education, culture, and personal
experience--because of these differences, they interpret Bible passages differently.
God expects us to use God-given wisdom. Paul said in 1 Cor. 10:15 "I speak to sensible
people; judge for yourselves what you say."
In his book Understanding the Bible, John Stott tells us to look for three things when trying to understand the Bible.
The natural sense, which he calls the principle of simplicity. When reading a
passage of scripture, always look for the obvious and natural meaning. Always look first
for the literal meaning. If a passage does prove to have a figurative meaning, still look for
the literal meaning taught by the allegory or metaphor.
The original sense,
which he calls the principle of history. If we understand the historical background, we will
understand if we should interpret the passage as applying to us as a direct command, or
as a lesson from which we should derive principles for living. We need to understand the
style and the background of the writer. Is he writing law, poetry, history, hymns, or
prophecy? What did the words mean in the original language at the time of writing?
The general sense, which he calls the principle of harmony. Although the human
writers of the Bible came from many historical and cultural backgrounds, the message of
the Bible came from one mind--the mind of God. If we choose to interpret parts of the
Bible so that they contradict other parts, we have erred. The Bible must agree with itself.
So we must interpret the more obscure passages in light of the plain teaching of other
In regard to this great book, I have but to say,
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it is the best gift God has given to man.
All the good saviour gave to this world was communicated through this book.
But for it we could not know right from wrong.
All things most desirable for man's welfare, here and hereafter,
are to be found portrayed in it.
|1. Do you believe Genesis records the true beginnings of humanity and the universe? Why?
|2. Can one believe in evolution and still be a Christian? (Think about the definition of Christian.)
|3. Who is your favourite character in Genesis? Why?
|4. How many great books, stage productions, or movies based on Genesis can you list?
|5. List the key things this chapter has taught you (or brought back to mind).
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