Accommodating Evolution and the Problem of Evil

I recently provided a guest post at the BJU School of Religion blog about Evolution and the Problem of evil. My main point was that evangelicals often seek to harmonize Scripture with Evolution for apologetic reasons. But the consequences of the proposed harmonizations create further theological and apologetic problems. 

Read the whole thing here.

Land: Genesis 10

Genesis 10 demonstrates that the blessing of Genesis 1:26-28 as reaffirmed in Genesis really did come to pass. Noah’s sons were fruitful and multiplied and filled the earth (McKeown, THOTC, 67). The structure of the chapter is built around tracing out the offspring of Noah’s three sons. Each section ends with a refrain that is a variation of: “by their clans, their languages, their lands [אֶ֫רֶץ], and their nations” (10:31; cf. 10:5, 20).

Land words also highlight countries that will be significant in Scripture. The “land [אֶ֫רֶץ] of Shinar” is closely connected to Babel and Assyria (10:10-11). Verse 19 gives the boundaries of the “territory [גְּבוּל] of Canaan.” The word גְּבוּל is can be translated territory or boundary. It occurs most often in Joshua, frequently with reference to the setting of the tribal boundaries in the latter part of that book. The “settlements” [hcsb; מוֹשָׁב] of the sons of Joktan are also noted, but their location is uncertain (Mathews, 1:465).

The final significant land word is found in 10:25: “in his [Peleg’s] days the earth [אֶ֫רֶץ] was divided.” Wenham says, “Here ‘the earth’ denotes the peoples of the world” (WBC, 1:230). This most likely refers to the scattering of the peoples at the tower of Babel.* This hints at what will become clear in chapter 11: the fulfillment of the blessing to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth is not unalloyed from elements of sin and judgment.


*Other options are noted by Wenahm and Mathews, but this traditional interpretation is deemed by them most likely. Wenham, WBC, 1:230-31; Mathews, NAC, 1:464.

Books and Articles Read in July and August

July

Books

Schreiner, Thomas R. The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013.

In this biblical theology Thomas Schreiner studies the themes of the books of the Bible (Paul’s epistles are grouped together in a single section, as are some other smaller sections, like Luke-Acts). Schreiner either follows a thematic approach or a literary one in which he traces the main themes of successive sections. Overall, his comments are insightful and the book gives a good overview of Scripture’s main themes.

Bird, Kai. The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames. New York: Crown, 2014.

Lewis, C.S. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Articles

Witherington III, Ben. "Not So Idle Thoughts about Eidolothuton" Tyndale Bulletin 44.2 (1993) 237- 254.

Witherington argues that all the occurrences of εἰδωλόθυτος refer to food eaten in the temple precincts. It does not refer to meat offered to idols that is served outsides the temple precincts. The weakest point of Witherington’s argument is that the three items restricted in for Gentile Christians in Acts 15 don’t seem to have to do with what went on in the temple, as the must in Witherington’s argument. He admits in a footnote that strangling was not a common practice in Greek and Roman temples and chalks it up to James being a provincial Judean who didn’t really know much of what went on in Roman and Greek temples. I don’t find that line of reasoning persuasive (nor did Thiselton). (I do, however, think that Witherington is correct that Acts 15 is not about keeping a modicum of Jewish or Noachic food laws.) Garland objects to Witherington on the grounds that all the early Church Fathers also exclude eating from the marketplace meat specifically identified as idol-meat. He notes that if Witherington’s view is correct then all subsequent early interpreters of Paul misunderstood, which Garland finds unlikely.

Gerhard, Johann. On the Nature of Theology and on Scripture. Saint Louis: Concordia, 2009.

Gerhard is a Lutheran scholastic who followed Martin Luther and Martin Chemnitz as the great Lutheran scholar of the third generation of Lutheranism. Reading his On the Nature of Theology should dispel the notion that the Protestant scholastics were rationalists or without real piety. Gerhard rightly argues that theology is not derived from reason but that reason is a tool to be used in understanding Scripture. His treatment of Scripture is excellent. He has one of the most detailed discussions of why the Apocryphal books are not to be included in the canon that I’ve read. Indeed, I sometimes wonder if the Protestant scholastics have been maligned because their opponents would rather dismiss them than engage their careful, detailed arguments.

August

Books

Wright, Lawrence. The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. New York: Knopf, 2006.

Eliot, George. The Mill on the Floss.

McKenzie, Robert Tracy. The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us About Loving God and Learning from History. InterVarsity, 2013.

The primary question that McKenzie is answering in this book is how Christians should practice the discipline of history. He uses the story of the first Thanksgiving as a case study. Readers will therefore learn a about the Reformation, Puritans, Separatists, their culture, and their beliefs. This is a valuable part of the book. But readers will get more. They will also learn how to appreciate Christian forbearers without turning them into idols. They will learn the benefit of challenging one’s modern ideas by exposure to historical ones. They will learn that historical honesty is more important that using history for political purposes: Christian or otherwise. Highly recommended.

Beeke, Joel. Developing Healthy Spiritual Growth: Knowledge, Practice and Experience. Grand Rapids: Evangelical Press, 2013.

This brief book of three sermons on Colossians 1:9-14 has been the most spiritually nourishing book that I have recently read. It led me to desire to know Christ more, to follow him better, and to grow in my experience of the Spirit’s sanctifying work.

Articles

Head, Peter. "Graham Stanton and the Four-Gospel Codex: Reconsidering the Manuscript Evidence," in Jesus, Matthew’s Gospel and Early Christianity.

Head argues that the manuscript evidence does not support Stanton’s argument that the acceptance of the four Gospels was linked with four-gospel codices.

Brack, Jonathan M. and Jared S. Oliphint. "Questioning the Progress in Progressive Covenantalism: A Review of Gentry and Wellum’s Kingdom through Covenant," Westminster Theological Journal 76 (2014): 189-217.

Brack and Oliphint critique Gentry and Wellum’s Kingdom through Covenant on three grounds. First they challenge their exegetical methodology, next they challenge their understanding of covenant theology, third they challenge their understanding of the New Covenant. I find Brack and Oliphant’s critique on the first two points valid and helpful. I think they go astray on the third point.

The methodological critique focuses on the use of ANE background material. I believe that Brack and Oliphint are correct to welcome insights from ANE background while at the same time insisting that material external to Scripture not be allowed to supersede Scripture itself―including Scripture’s own canonical interpretation of Scripture. In addition to displacing Scripture itself, Brack and Oliphint note two additional problems with privileging background material in one’s hermeneutical method. First, it may neglect to note how Scripture transcends cultures. Second, it fails to acknowledge that the original audience often did not understand Scripture. "Conjecture on what would have been adequately understood by Scripture’s original audience is a poor test for what qualifies as biblical exegesis" (195).

In the article’s second section Brack and Oliphint critique Gentry’s treatment of the covenant’s and Covenant Theology. They note that their treatment of covenant theology relies on the writings of Michael Horton and Doug Wilson while neglecting the diversity that really existed among the key covenant theologians. Differences over whether the Mosaic Covenant is part of the covenant of grace or covenant of works or whether the covenant of grace is the new covenant or encompasses all (or most) of the covenants. I think this is a valid criticism. Ironically the treatment of Dispensationalism is much better (this aspect of Kingdom through Covenant is not dealt with by Brack and Oliphant). All too often Covenant Theologians treat Scofield as representing all of Dispensationalism, with perhaps a nod to later developments. To their credit Wellum and Gentry avoid caricature and represent Dispensationalism in all its variety.

Ironically, in the third section Brack and Oliphint are the ones who forget the diversity of Covenant Theology and are the ones who impose an external paradigm on Scripture rather than giving the text priority. In this section they object to Wellum and Gentry’s argument that, unlike the OT covenants, the members of the new covenant are not a mixture of believers and unbelievers. They also downplay the progress from the OT to the new covenant indicated by the newness of the indwelling Spirit for new covenant believers. On this count I find the Exegetical arguments favoring Wellum and Gentry’s position to be stronger. Brack and Oliphint, on the other hand, made primarily theological arguments that depended on their paedobaptist version of covenant theology. They read statements about the necessity of the Spirit indwelling made in the New Testament back into the Old Testament. And though they in another context noted works like Pascal Denault’s, which answered their theological objections, they failed to acknowledge that the objections they raised do have answers that Baptist theologians have provided. This part of the paper was disappointing. Because it raised old arguments without engaging response to those arguments, it failed to advance the discussion.

From my theological perspective, I think the real value of this review is its discussion of ANE material in one’s hermeneutics. The errors the critique seem to be spreading at present, and I believe their critique on this point to be spot on.

Edwards, Jonathan. "The Mind." In Scientific and Philosophical Writings. Edited by Wallace E. Anderson. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980. [Also read much of the editor’s introduction]

Edwards’s idealism is far from convincing, but the editor’s introduction helpfully explains the materialist challenge to Christianity that Edwards was seeking to counter. Some of the most interesting aspects of the essay to my mind was the discussions of aesthetics. Edwards ties aesthetics to proportion. Thing with proportion are beautiful. This means there can be things that are ugly when viewed narrowly, but which are beautiful when seen in a larger context in which proportion becomes evident. Ethically this explains how something sinful can appear beautiful when viewed narrowly. But when viewed from the broadest perspective, it would not be so.

Michael J. McClymond and Gerald R. McDermott. "God as Trinity." "The End of God in Creation." "Providence and History." The Theology of Jonathan Edwards. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

I find Edwards’s account of the Trinity overly speculative and unhelpful. His view on the end of God in creation I find superlatively biblical and essential reading for all literate Christians. Edwards’s history of redemption I find to be a mixed bag. I really like what he is attempting, but I don’t always find his typology convincing. McClymond and McDermott provide very helpful summaries of all three of these topics.

Warfield, Benjamin B. "John’s First Word." In Benjamin B. Warfield: Selected Shorter Writings. Edited by John E. Meter. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1970. pp. 148-50.

Warfield’s main point is that Jesus is the One who reveals the Father’s glory. That is why he is pictured as the Word and the light, the One tabernacling among God’s people and exegeting the Father.

Land: Genesis 9

In chapter 9, the text moves from relating God’s speech within his own heart to relating his speech to Noah. The blessing that God first relates is a reiteration of the creation blessing of Genesis 1:28. Verse 1 of chapter 9 is an exact quote of 1:28a except for the alteration of the persons to whom God is speaking. Verse 7 of chapter 9 is similar to 1:28a except for the replacement of וּמִלְאוּ אֶת־הָאָרֶץ (“and fill the earth”) with שִׁרְצוּ בָאָרֶץ (“swarm on the earth”). The word שׁרץ is used in Genesis 1:20, 21 of living creatures that swarmed in the waters and in 7:21 of creatures that swarm on the land. Thus the blessing of being fruitful, multiplying and filling or increasing greatly on the earth is reiterated in 9:1 and 9:7, forming an inclusio (Matthews, NAC, 1:397).

Missing from this quotation of the creation blessing is the phrase “and have dominion over” (1:28).* That aspect of the creation blessing is taken up in 9:2. The phrases in the statement “over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” from 1:28b or close analogues all appear in 9:2. In place of “and have dominion” (1:28b) are the statements “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be . . .” and “into your hand they are delivered” (9:2b). The concept of dominion is not absent but is placed into the context of the Fall.**

Verse 3 quotes 1:29 and expands on the liberty to eat plants given there. One of the effects of the Fall is the death of animals, and man is now permitted to eat them. Verse 5 then places a limitation on this new liberty—no animal blood may be eaten. The mention of blood raises the issue of the shedding of human blood. The reason given for this is the image of God born by man (1:6).

Thus 9:1-7 is a reaffirmation of the creation blessing in a fallen world. All of the same elements are found in 9:1-7 as are found in 1:26-29: the image of God in man, the blessings of fruitfulness and dominion, and the provision of man’s needs, specifically food, by the creation.

In 9:8-17 God covenants with Noah what he had purposed in 8:21-22. The heart of the covenant is that God will never again destroy the earth with a flood. Great emphasis is placed on the earth in this passage. Animals are identified as being “of the earth” or “on the earth.” The covenant is even said to be made with the earth itself (9:13). The covenant therefore guarantees that the earth will remain a stable place for God to work out his plan of redemption, despite the continuing sinfulness of man which deserves God’s judgment.

Land, important in creation, is reaffirmed as important in 8:20-9:17. It remains the sphere of mankind’s rule. In addition it is the platform on which the plan of redemption is worked out (McKeown, Genesis, THOTC, 61-62).

Genesis 9:26-27 also has land promise implications. Cain will become the servant of Shem when Israel conquers the land of Canaan and makes it her own. Japheth dwelling in the tents of Shem*** could refer to the salvation of the Gentiles and the special role that Israel will have in the coming kingdom. Though there is an equality of all believers in Christ, Israel is given a special role relative to the nations in the future (see Ex 4:22; Dt 26:19; Isa 11:14;14:2;49:22-26; 60:12; Jer 31:7-9).

 

*The LXX adds καὶ κατακυριεύσατε αὐτῆς (“have dominion over it”) to 9:1, using the exact words found in 1:28a. Some interpreters also wish to emend the repetitive וּרְבוּ־בָהּ (“and multiply in it”) at the end of 9:7 to וּרְדוּ־בָהּ (“and rule it”). Jeremy Cohen, "Be Fertile and Increase, Fill the Earth and Master It": The Ancient and Medieval Career of a Biblical Text (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989), 26-27. Both the LXX and the emendation reveal a lack of understanding of verse two. See above.

**Some might claim that God is limited dominion in this passage to rule over the animals whereas in Genesis 1 his rule extends to all the earth. It is unlikely that a limitation on the creation blessing is intended here. Furthermore, rule over the animal world alone implies extensive dominion over the earth. Gootjes notes this in his discussion of Klaas Schilder’s view of culture: “The cow has been created; it exists in the created world. But it wanders around freely. Man is given the right to domesticate it and to use its milk. The horse too has been created; it is galloping about in Eden. Man has the right and the ability to catch it, to tame it, to bridle it, and to ride it. Imagine what a development this means to created man. He can go more quickly than he could on his own feet, and he can carry heavier loads. But also imagine how much man has to invent to do this, even in a sinless world. He has to invent the bridle, reins, the wheel and a cart, stables, and fences. All this belongs to having dominion over a horse. Man can also use sheep. They can be shorn, and the wool can be used for making cloth. The dominion over the animals undoubtedly involves a cultural task. Man’s dominion becomes even more impressive when we realize that God also gave mankind dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air. They too have to serve man (after their own fashion). But in order to have dominion over fish and birds, man has to extend his influence to the sea and to the air. He has to develop the means to reach fish and birds. In other words, this dominion requires cultural development.” N. H. Gootjes, "Schilder on Christ and Culture," in Always Obedient: Essays on the Teaching of Dr. Klaas Schilder, ed. J. Geertsema (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1995), 45.

***Scholars disagree over who inhabits Shem’s tents. For an argument in favor of God dwelling in Shem’s tents, see Kaiser, Toward and Old Testament Theology, 82. For an argument in favor of Japheth dwelling in Shem’s tents, see Hamiltion, NICOT, 1:362.

Land: Genesis 8

Ground and earth terms recur in verses 1-14 with an emphasis on the need for the ground to dry before disembarkation from the Ark can occur. In verses 15-19 the emphasis is on earth as the place where humans and animals live. The importance of earth in this chapter is as the sphere for living life.

The account of the Noahic covenant begins in Genesis 8:20-22 with Noah’s sacrifice. The sacrifice elicits God’s purpose to covenant with Noah.[1]

In 8:21, God purposes to not again curse the ground (ESV, HCSB, NASB, etc.) or to not add to the curse of Genesis 3:17 (Wenham).[2] This verse cannot be saying that God lifted the curse of Genesis 3:17. Romans 8 teaches that the earth still groans, waiting for its redemption. Obviously painful labor and labor pains persist after the Flood.[3] In addition the ground [אֲדָמָה] referred to here is likely world-wide in reference. Clearly Israel will face ground-related covenant curses in the future.[4]

Given that that God is proposing a real limits on the curse in this verse, and given the canonical confinement to what these limits cannot mean, this verse may teach that God will not keep adding to the curse of Genesis 3:17 on a worldwide scale despite mankind continuing to sin on a worldwide scale.

The immediate context of Genesis lends credence to this understanding. The case of Cain demonstrates that God did curse the ground with a curse that went beyond that given in Genesis 3. The Flood was obviously a curse upon the earth that went beyond the curse given in Eden. Lamech’s comment in 5:28 may indicate that these were not the only instances in which the curse on the earth was intensified. In conjunction with 8:21, 5:29 may hint at a large scale intensification of the curse as human sin spread and intensified.[5] In this understanding, the covenant with Noah brought relief from the intensification of the curse that mankind experienced in the antediluvian world and promises that such intensification will not take place again on a worldwide scale. The advantage of this view is the way it coherently connects 8:21 and 5:29; the disadvantage is the necessity to infer an increase on the Genesis 3:17 curse. An alternative view understands the fulfillment of 5:29 in the preservation of the earth promised in the Noahic covenant which finds its ultimate redemptive fulfillment in the removal of the curse in the redemption of the earth in the last day.

Second, God purposes to never again kill every living thing as he did in the Flood (8:21).

Third, God purposes that the world will be a stable place. The regular seasons and daily cycles will continue. In addition the vocabulary of this verse is packed with vocabulary from Genesis 1.[6] God’s original purposes for his good creation are preserved by the Noahic Covenant.

The reason for this covenant is also made clear in these verses: “for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Isaac Backus explains: “The great Ruler of the universe directly after the flood, gave this as one reason why he would not bring such another with the earth remains, namely, For the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; so that if he was to drown them as often as they deserved it, one deluge must follow another continually.”[7]


[1] Wenham notes that God does truly respond to Noah’s sacrifice in this passage. So in a sense the covenant is a response to the sacrifice. Yet it must also be understood, says Wenham, God appointed sacrifices for this purpose. Wenham, WBC, 1:190. In other words, Noah is not meriting a covenant by his religious observance.

[2] Wenham proposes the translation “I shall not curse the soil any further.” Wenham argues, “It is important to note the position of עוד in this sentence, coming after לקלל to ‘curse,’ not after אסף ‘do again’ as in the parallel clause ‘Never again shall I smite.’ This shows that God is not lifting the curse on the ground pronounced in 3:17 for man’s disobedience, but promising not to add to it.”

[3] Wenham, 1:190; Mathews, 1:394.

[4] In his list of the covenant curses found in the Pentateuch, Douglas Stuart includes the following categories: drought, crop pests, other agricultural disasters, famine, desolation of the land, and exile. He is draws primarily on Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. For a full listing with verse citations, see Douglas Stuart, Hosea-Jonah, Word Biblical Commentary, ed. Bruce M. Metzger (Nashville: Nelson, 1987), xxxiv-xxxvii.

[5] “Prior to the flood the shedding of innocent blood polluted the ground, decreasing significantly its fertility. In 9:1-7 God issues certain instructions which are intended to prevent the earth from being contaminated in the future. These focus of the ‘lifeblood’ of both animal and humans which must be treated with due respect.” Alexander, From Paradise to Promised Land, 135.

[6] Matthews, NAC, 1:396-97.

[7] Isaac Backus, An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty against the Oppressions of the Present Day, 6. Geerhardus Vos explains why there is no contradiction for this statement as a reason for staying future curses while the similar statement in Genesis 6:5 is given as reason for judgment. “Before the deluge almost identical words were spoken by God to motive the necessity of the judgment, 6.5. How can the same statement explain, first, that the judgment is unavoidable, and then that there will be no repetition of the judgment henceforth? The solution of the difficulty lies in the addition of the words ‘from his youth; in the second case. What was described in Gen. 6.5, was the historical culmination of a process of degeneration; that called for judgment. What is here described is the natural state of evil in the human heart as such, altogether apart from historical issues. Because the evil is thus deep-seated, no judgment can cure it. Therefore other means must be resorted to, and these other means would become impossible of execution, if repeated, catastrophic judgments of this nature in the sequel interfered with the ordinary unfolding of history.” Vos, Biblical Theology, 52.

Books and Articles Read in June 2014

Books

Lucas, Sean Michael. Robert Lewis Dabney: A Southern Presbyterian Life. P&R, 2005.

This is a superbly written but sad biography. Dabney is a tragic figure. He had a first-rate intellect that rightly saw dangers in modernism and critiqued them cogently. He defended orthodox theology. But he was deeply racist, defending slavery as biblical and opposing the ordination of black men after the war. Indeed, he opposed anything that would uplift black people. Lucas presents Dabney’s views fairly while also providing a biblical critique. The concluding chapter reflects on Dabney’s contribution both positive and negative. He notes the influence of Dabney’s racial views in past years on Lucas’s own denomination, the PCA, and his alma mater, Bob Jones University. He also includes a helpful comparison and contrast between Dabney and Abraham Kuyper. He notes that while both held problematic racial views, both defended Christianity from modernism, and both offered a public theology, Kuyper has received greater appreciation than Dabney. While noting ways in which Kuyper’s theology is a richer resource than Dabney’s (the antithesis, common grace, sphere sovereignty), Lucas still holds that Dabney has much to teach us. In the end, Lucas seems to prefer Dabney’s spirituality of the church position to Kuyper’s (which he thinks in danger of falling into theonomy). Indeed, the final critique of Dabney was his failure in that he created a public theology more Southern than Christian.

Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877. Peter Smith, 2001.

Johnston, Philip and Peter Walker, The Land of Promise: Biblical, Theological, and Contemporary Perspectives. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000.

This book has two great failings. First, many of the essays begin with the concern that the modern state of Israel treats the Palestinians unjustly and that a theology of the land must be found to undermine Israel’s claim to the land. Second, many of the essays evince little sympathy for opposing viewpoints and thus deal with caricatures or weak representatives of these viewpoints. For instance, the chapter "Dispensational Approaches to the Land," is not written by a dispensationalist. Instead the author begins with such representative dispensationalists as Jerry Falwell, Jim Bakker, Paul Crouch, Pat Robertson, and Jimmy Swaggart and ends by connecting dispensationalism to the Crusades and Manicheanism. The substance of the chapter is given to John Nelson Darby, C. I. Scofield, Hal Lindsey, and The International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem. Blaising and Bock are dispatched with a sentence, and other recent dispensationalist scholars don’t even merit a mention. Another author suggests dispensationalists adopt a literal interpretation of land prophecies because they don’t understand figures of speech or metaphors; because they are committed to "empirical positivism"; because they have adopted an American Dream utopianism; or because they are inerrantists. The authors rightly reject the idea that the modern state of Israel has a biblical mandate to reconquer the promised land. But they seem to conflate this error with any claims that Israel will receive the promised land in the future. What is more, the chapter presenting a Jewish Christian perspective on the land clearly denies that disobedient Israel can claim the land promises while also affirming the future fulfillment of the land promises for Israel. Unfortunately the other contributors fail to interact with this chapter, preferring easier targets instead. In addition, while several authors bring up injustices perpetuated by Israel against Palestinians, only one mentions the fact that Jews "are the target of special enmity." A book written by those sympathetic to those of other viewpoints would have stressed both the need of Israel to act justly toward Palestinians and of Palestinians to act justly toward Jews.

Though many of the chapters are written by conservatives, some fall short in their bibliology. One author speaks of "the failure of prophecy" when the utopia that the prophet predicted upon the return of the people failed to come to pass. He rejects moving the fulfillment into the "unpredictable and indefinite future." Instead he proposes reading prophecies as ancient hyperbole that must be radically re-read in light of Christ.

Regarding specific exegetical proposals, Williamson had somewhat helpful essay on the universalization of the land promise to encompass the whole earth. While I agree this is a feature of the Bible’s teaching, I thought Williamson stretched exegetically to find it in the Abrahamic Covenant itself. I also fail to see why universalizing the land promise, extending it to other nations, strips Israel of the promise. Do all get the promise except Israel? Walker also put forward some interesting proposals. He began his essays on the land in the New Testament promisingly by affirming that the New Testament authors did view the land as an important concept despite the paucity of direct references to the land. However, he concludes that Hebrews 3-4 when combined with Hebrews 11 reveals that the land promise is to be fulfilled by heaven. He thinks that as the author of Hebrews indicates the temple was a shadow, so the land was a shadow. It is worth pointing out, however, that the author of Hebrews does not call the land a shadow, as he does with the temple. Further, the city that Abraham looks forward to is the New Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven to the new earth. The heavenly country is the renewed earth, and our eternal rest takes place on literal land. Similarly more persuasive readings exist for each of Walker’s key texts.

Books that deal with the theological theme of land are relatively rare. It is therefore a disappointment that this volume did not even deal at an acceptably scholarly level with opposing viewpoints.

Leder, Arie C. Waiting for the Land: The Story Line of the Pentateuch. P&R, 2010.

The subtitle of this book describes its primary function: it maps out the story-line of the Pentateuch. Leder takes seriously the five book division of the Pentateuch rather than trying to construct an outline that breaks up the Pentateuchal material differently. He holds the Pentateuch follows an ABCB’A’ pattern. Leviticus is the center, framed by Exodus and Numbers. Genesis and Deuteronomy frame the whole and provide the beginning and the conclusion of the narrative. The central narrative problem of the Pentateuch, according to Leder, is exile from the presence of God. The holiness material in Leviticus is central because it is essential to overcoming this narrative problem.

The heart of this book are the five chapters that examine the five books of the Pentateuch. For each of these Leder provides a summary of the book, identifies the "central narrative interest," identifies the narrative problem of the book, outlines key points of the plot, and traces the structure of the book.

The title of the book identifies a minor theme that runs throughout. Each of the five central chapters ends with a section on waiting for the land. The final chapter of the book also takes up this theme. Leder’s basic contention is that the Pentateuch closes with Israel outside the land to show the relative unimportance of the land in comparison to God’s presence. Exile from Eden is not resolved by the land promise but by the presence of God among his people. I remain unconvinced by this thesis, especially as it leads Leder to take the wilderness wanderings and Babylonian exile as normative for the church. The conquest of Canaan and dwelling in the land are discussed in somewhat negative terms. This approach would seem to make normative the judgments of Israel rather than the promises. Yet if the tabernacle, the dwelling place of God, is a microcosm that also reflects Eden, then the theme of God’s presence should not be separated from the land promise. God intends to dwell with his people in his land (cf. Exodus 33)—which in the end will encompass all the earth. This is not to discount some agreement with Leder: there is some parallel between Israel outside the land but enjoying God’s presence in the tabernacle and the church, which is the temple of God’s Spirit, awaiting the renewed earth.

Overall, the book is accessibly written. Though it contains what I view as some missteps, and though he could have dug deeper at several points, the book also contains good insights into the themes and structure of the Pentateuch.

De Angeli, Marguerite. The Door in the Wall. Laurel Leaf, 1949.

Cook, David. Understanding Jihad. Berkley: University of California Press, 2005.

Cook helps his readers do exactly what his title says. He carefully works his way through the sources about Jihad from Mohammad until the present day. He finds the evidence that jihad meant an internal struggle rather than military conflict historically wanting. He is sympathetic with Muslims who make these claims in the hope of reforming Islam, but he finds these claims historically inaccurate. Cook also finds fault with those who believe that since Islam historically spread by the sword that modern day Islamic terrorists stand within the mainstream of Islamic jihad. The use of martyrdom or suicide bombers and the targeting of non-military targets are two significant departures from the jihad tradition. The careful discussion of primary sources and the distinctions of varying views of jihad make this perhaps the best book on the subject.

Gouge, William. Building a Godly Home. Volume 2. Reformation Heritage, 2013.

Volume one of this edited and slightly modernized version of William Gouge’s Domestical Duties is an excellent exposition of Ephesians 5:22-6:9. This volume provides practical application of the husband and wife’s mutual duties to each other, the wife’s duties toward her husband, and a husband’s duties toward his wife. According to the editors this book was the most influential Puritan book on marriage and family. It is easy to see why. It is full of careful, biblical guidance. Hermeneutically, Gouge is sometimes over-reliant on biblical examples that should not be taken as normative. Overall, however, his counsel is biblically grounded.

As expected, Gouge presents the biblical teaching of a husband’s leadership in the home and the wife’s submission to her husband. Gouge also sees the wife as holding an exalted position in the home, and his counsel repeatedly calls on the husband to lovingly treat her in way that honors her station. Egalitarian caricatures of what life in a biblically ordered home fall flat here as would any attempts to misuse the biblical teaching about the husband’s authority in order to demean the wife.

The overall effect of this volume is to challenge husbands and wives in their daily life to reflect Christ and the church. Gouge writes in a way that is direct and challenging while also being inspiring. These volumes by Gouge may still be the best books on marriage and the family on the market. They certainly are worthy of being as widely read today as they were in Puritan times.

Hill, Charles E. Regnum Caelorum: Regnum Caelorum: Patterns of Millennial Thought in Early Christianity, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001.

Though the earliest writers who touch on the issue of the Millennium hold a millennial view, both Justin and Irenaeus affirm that some of orthodox Christians also held to an amillennial view. Hill proposes that we can identify who these people were by trying to identify wider systems of eschatology that extend beyond the millennial issue alone. Hill argues that those who affirmed a millennium also held that the redeemed existed in a subterranean intermediate state awaiting the resurrection of the body. On the other hand Christian writers who oppose millennialism all held that the soul ascends to God’s presence in heaven in the intermediate state. Hill grants that it is theoretically possible that a person held to a heavenly intermediate state and a millennium, but he argues in response that there is no evidence that such a position existed.

Based on the link between a heavenly millennial state and amillennialism, Hill concludes that Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Athenagrous, Meilto of Sardis, and others held to the amillennial position. The most significant name on that list is Polycarp. Polycarp is the link between the apostle John and Irenaeus—between the apostle whose writing contains the key New Testament millennial text and the chief early defender of the millennial position.

If Polycarp held to an amillennial position, how did his student, Irenaeus, come to hold a millennial position? Hill argues that Irenaeus changed to the millennialist position in the course of writing Against Heresies in order to strengthen his position against Gnosticism. Gnostics would be content with a spiritual existence in the presence of God but a subterranean intermediate state defers that until after the bodily resurrection and a Millennial reign of Christ affirms the goodness of the material creation.

If Hill is correct, then Irenaeus inherited an amillennial position from Polycarp that he later abandoned. Since Polycarp was a disciple of the apostle John, this would strengthen claims that John was not a millennialist. Indeed, Hill argues that since John (and the rest of the New Testament) teach a heavenly intermediate state at odds with the millennial position’s subterranean intermediate state, the New Testament is amillenial.

Hill is an erudite scholar who is familiar with the patristic writings. In closely examining the passages that Hill claimed evidenced changes in Irenaeus’s theology, I found convincing the claim that he shifted from a heavenly to a subterranean intermediate state. However, I found unconvincing the claim that he shifted from an amillennial to a millennial position. The texts that Hill appealed to as being amillennial were not clearly such. In addition Irenaeus explicitly claims having received his millennial interpretations from the elders, which would likely have included Polycarp. Further, a key point in Irenaeus’s theology is that what is received from the elders is the authoritative interpretation of Scripture. It is unlikely that he would have changed positions on an interpretation he attributes to the elders. The upshot of accepting HIll’s argument that Irenaeus changed positions on the intermediate state but rejecting his argument that Irenaeus changed millennial positions is that evidence does therefore exist for millennialists who also held to a heavenly intermediate state (the early Irenaues being a prime example). Hill’s claim that belief in a heavenly intermediate state is evidence of amillennialism therefore does not hold. Indeed, if one shifts from a focus on the intermediate state to eternal state, it becomes clear that the patristic amillennialists held to a spiritual eternal state while, according to amillennialists such as Turretin, Bavinck, Hoekema, Horton, and Venema, the NT teaches an earthly eternal state.

Lewis, C.S. The Magician’s Nephew.

Articles

Carson, D. A. "Sin’s Contemporary Significance." In Fallen: A Theology of Sin. Edited by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson. Crossway, 2013.

This is Carson at his best: exegetically careful, theologically insightful, and devotionally stirring.

Arnold, Matthew. "Dover Beach," "The Buried Life," Empedocles on Etna."

Was the Serpent a Real Serpent?

Karl Giberson writes of his de-conversion from orthodox Christianity, “I began to wonder how an old story about a guy named ‘Man’ in a magical garden who had a mate named ‘Woman’ made from one of his ribs could even be mistaken for actual history. And yet this was exactly what I had believed just one year earlier. Talking snakes, visits from God in the evening, naming the animals—the story takes on such a different character the moment one applies even the most basic literary analysis. The literalist interpretation I had formerly embraced and defended so vigorously began to look ridiculous, as did the person I had been just one year earlier.” Karl W. Giberson, Saving Darwin: How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution (New York: HarperOne, 2008), 8.

Some more orthodox Christians try to split the difference. D. A. Carson says, “I hold that the Genesis account is a mixed genre that feels like history and really does give us some historical particulars. At the same time, however, it is full of demonstrable symbolism. Sorting out what is symbolic and what is not is very difficult.” Carson introduces his discussion of the Genesis 3 by comparing the historical account of David’s sin with Bathsheba and Nathan’s parabolic parallel, concluding: “So in Genesis 3. This serpent may be the embodiment of Satan, or he may be the symbol for Satan, and the Bible doesn’t really care to explain which.” D. A. Carson, The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010), 15, 29-30.

Contrary to Giberson’s claim, however “the most basic literary analysis” points toward a real serpent’s presence in the garden. Geerhardus Vos comments on the claim that the serpent is a symbol: “This view is contrary to the plain intent of the narrative; in Gen. 3.1, the serpent is compared with the other beasts God had made; if the others were real, then so was the serpent. In vs. 14 the punishment is expressed in terms requiring a real serpent.” Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (1948; repr., Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1975), 33.

In fact, it is surely no accident that Satan appears as a subtle beast, a form that enhances his opportunity to tempt, but as a beast, a form that Eve and Adam knew they had dominion over and should have exercised dominion over. In this light, the reality of the serpent is literarily and theologically significant.

The plausibility of an animal being controlled by a demon or being given the ability to speak should hardly be an obstacle for Christians (Mark 5:1-13; Num. 22:28-30). To materialists who deny the supernatural, such accounts do appear “ridiculous.” But giving up the supernatural is to give up Christianity.

Books and Articles Finished in May 2014

Books

Tolkien, Christopher. History of Middle-Earth II’>The History of Middle-earth II. HarperCollins, 2002.

Traces in great detail the manuscript development of the Lord of the Rings.

Verbeek, Theo. Descartes and the Dutch: Early Reactions to Cartesian Philosophy, 1637-1650′>Descartes and the Dutch. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992.

This book documents the conflict between Descartes, his followers, and the Reformed Orthodox. The Orthodox had several concerns with Descartes.

First, they thought that his methodological skepticism was sinful: to doubt the existence of God is a breach of the first commandment. It is not a way to knowledge. Though Descartes did argue for the existence of God, the Orthodox found his arguments weak. They believed the net result of starting with methodological doubt and following with weak arguments for the existence of God would be an increase in atheism.

Second, they held that reason was an instrument of knowledge that should always be subject to Scripture. They rejected the concept that reason is an "independent source of knowledge." They were concerned that if reason was raised as an authority above Scripture that doctrines such as the Trinity, incarnation, original sin, and eternal punishment might be rejection as contrary to reason. The Orthodox were also concerned by Descartes dismissal of the human senses as reliable. They believed that since the senses were given by God they were, in general, reliable. Voetius indicated that, "People who reject the senses are like the philosopher who, for the sake of wisdom, put out his own eyes in order to meditate at his ease" (56).

Third, the Orthodox were concerned that Descartes approach was too speculative. Descartes argued that even God must be caused, if only by himself, since all beings must have a cause. The Orthodox held that speculations about the being of God are dangerous; they believed they could say from Scripture that God is not caused by anything else. Beyond this they did not wish to go.

Fourth, the Reformed Orthodox were also concerned that Descartes placed human free will over the sovereignty of God.

Wright, N. T. The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential’>The Case for the Psalms: Why They are Essential. HarperOne, 2013.

For anyone interested in an introduction to the Psalms, Gordon Wenham’s, The Psalter Reclaimed would be a much better resource than Wright’s Case for the Psalms. Though not without occasional insight, I did not find time, space, and matter to be the most compelling or insightful way to unpack the themes of the Psalter.

Articles

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion’>Institutes of the Christian Religion’>Institutes of the Christian Religion. Edited by John T. McNeil. Translated by Ford Lewis Battles. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960. [2.9-14]

Chapters 9-11 deal with continuity and discontinuities between the Old and New Testaments. Calvin is right to see both present, but he is wrong to see the continuity as one covenant of grace under different administrations. I think he is further wrong to locate part of the discontinuity in making the OT about physical promises and the NT about spiritual fulfillments.

Chapters 12-14 deal with the humanity of Christ. Calvin does an excellent job of demonstrating why Christ must be man. He answers the objections of heretics to the humanity of Christ, and he lays out the orthodox position

Books and Articles Read in April 2014

Books

Lloyd-Jones, D. M. & Iain H. Murray. John Knox and the Reformation. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2011.

This small book is a collection of two address by Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Iain Murray about John Knox. In the first address Lloyd-Jones first distinguishes between doing history for antiquarian reasons and in order to learn from godly men of the past. He argues for the latter. Lloyd-Jones emphasizes the authority of Scripture, the justification by faith alone, the assurance of salvation, simplicity of worship, the power of prayer, and the primacy of preaching. On each of these points he draws lessons from Knox’s life that can be applied to present-day life. In the second message Lloyd-Jones demonstrates John Knox’s formative role in the for Puritanism. Iain Murray provides the final essay in the book. His is a more biographical treatment from which lessons may be drawn for contemporary church life. Recommended.

Dallimore, Arnold. Spurgeon: A New Biography. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1985.

Dallimore’s biographies are invariably edifying, and often the edification comes in his unpacking of the theology of his subjects. In addition the chapter on the downgrade controversy is excellent. It was my reading of Spurgeon on the downgrade controversy as a first year grad student that convinced me that the idea of separating even from brothers who tolerated false teachers within the church was biblically necessary for the health of the church.

Wright, N. T. Jesus and the Victory of God. Christian Origins and the Question of God. London: SPCK, 1996.

This is the second book in N. T. Wright’s project on New Testament Theology, and its focus is on the historical Jesus. As is typical with Wright it is alternatively enlightening and problematic. Part I provides an excellent summary of the various debates and positions regarding the historical Jesus. Wright is firmly on the side of the synoptic gospels providing accurate historical information about Jesus; his critiques of the Jesus Seminar and other skeptics are incisive. However, Wright plays too much by the rules of critical scholarship. As Jonathan Pennington noted in Reading the Gospels Wisely, Wright presents readers not with Jesus as he is presented in the Gospels but with his historical reconstruction of Jesus developed from the Synoptic Gospels. The emphasis on historical reconstruction and the exclusion of John leads to a number of errors, not least the denial of Jesus’s awareness of his deity. On this last point Wright not only fails to engage evangelical author’s such as Geerhardus Vos, but his language is immoderate, calling the traditional Protestant position "would-be orthodox" and "docetic." In a similar vein Wright accuses the Reformation of not knowing what to do with Jesus’s life by placing too much emphasis on Jesus’s death and reducing Jesus to a teacher of timeless truth in the space between his birth and death. If this is indeed an error of the Reformation (of which I have doubts), Wright over-corrected. He has very helpful treatments of Christ as prophet and king, but very little on Christ as priest. Wright has a helpful treatment of the historical motivations of the Jewish leaders for seeking to put Jesus to death. He also affirms that Jesus died a sacrificial death to cleanse the temple and defeat Israel’s enemies, including primarily the satan, but how this sacrifice resulted in the victory of God is left vague.

Wright sometimes chafes at his conservative critics, but calling them "would-be orthodox," "docetic," and claiming once again that the Reformation got it wrong—without interacting at length with their actual writings, as he does with positions to his left—only invites critique.

Cooper, John W. Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting: Biblical Anthropology and the Monism-Dualism Debate. Updated Edition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000.

When Christians think of conflicts between prevailing scientific theories of science and the Bible, the creation-evolution debate comes readily to mind. But other areas of conflict exist as well, including whether the humans have a soul or not. For many the soul seems to be unneeded as scientists can map the functions of the mind to the brain, reducing the mental to the physical. Cooper defends the traditional Christian position that humans have distinguishable souls and bodies. He grants, however, that Scripture tends to speak of people holistically. In contrast to monists (who deny that humans have a soul), Cooper identifies his position as "holistic dualism" or "dualistic holism."

The heart of Cooper’s argument is that the Bible teaches that humans exist and interact in an intermediate state between death and the resurrection of the body. The fact of the intermediate state indicates soul and body must be separable. He considers alternative approaches such as "soul-sleep" or immediate resurrection and finds them exegetically lacking. Prior to making this argument, Cooper surveys Scripture and finds that it emphasizes holism but presupposes a dualism. In other words, the emphasis of Scripture is on the whole person though it can distinguish body and soul. After making his argument that the intermediate state requires a distinction between soul and body, Cooper examines theological, philosophical, and scientific objections. For instance one theological objection is that the Bible portrays the dead as bodily beings. In response, Cooper notes a number of responses are possible that harmonize with holistic dualuism: the language in those instances is not intended to be metaphysical, that souls maintain a bodily from, as Thomas Aquinas taught, or that the dead are "quasi-bodily" beings. The primary scientific objection is that states of mind and emotions can be mapped to the brain; indeed that these states of mind are not even possible when certain areas of the brain are damaged. Cooper responds on a number of levels: (1) The correlation between mind and brain is more complex than direct correlation. (2) He denies that even exact mind-brain correlation would not prove that it is the brain the causes all mental activity. While granting that the brain can affect the mind (something Cooper says has been known since people began to drink alcohol), there is no reason to deny that the mind affects the brain. (3) Cooper highlights the importance of distinguishing between empirical data from brain studies and the interpretation of that data. Materialism would be one interpretation, idealism another, and body-soul interaction another.

In all Cooper tackles a complex subject in an understandable fashion and with compelling argumentation.

Articles

D.A. Carson, "The Hole in the Gospel," Themelios 38 no. 3 (Nov 2013): http://thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/the_hole_in_the_gospel accessed 4/12/2014

This is the pith of the article:

"The gospel is the great news of what God has graciously done in Jesus Christ, especially in his atoning death and vindicating resurrection, his ascension, session, and high priestly ministry, to reconcile sinful human beings to himself, justifying them by the penal substitute of his Son, and regenerating and sanctifying them by the powerful work of the Holy Spirit, who is given to them as the down payment of their ultimate inheritance. God will save them if they repent and trust in Jesus.

"The proper response to this gospel, then, is that people repent, believe, and receive God’s grace by faith alone.

"The entailment of this received gospel, that is, the inevitable result, is that those who believe experience forgiveness of sins, are joined together spiritually in the body of Christ, the church, being so transformed that, in measure as they become more Christ-like, they delight to learn obedience to King Jesus and joyfully proclaim the good news that has saved them, and they do good to all men, especially to the household of faith, eager to be good stewards of the grace of God in all the world, in anticipation of the culminating transformation that issues in resurrection existence in the new heaven and the new earth, to the glory of God and the good of his blood-bought people.

"Once again, as in our brief treatment of sin, much more could be said to flesh out this potted summary. But observe three things:

"1. The gospel is, first and foremost, news—great news, momentous news. That is why it must be announced, proclaimed—that’s what one does with news. Silent proclamation of the gospel is an oxymoron. Godly and generous behavior may bear a kind of witness to the transformed life, but if those who observe such a life hear nothing of the substance of the gospel, it may evoke admiration but cannot call forth faith because in the Bible faith demands faith’s true object, which remains unknown where there is no proclamation of the news.

"2. The gospel is, first and foremost, news about what God has done in Christ. It is not law, an ethical system, or a list of human obligations; it is not a code of conduct telling us what we must do: it is news about what God has done in Christ.

"3. On the other hand, the gospel has both purposes and entailments in human conduct. The entailments must be preached. But if you preach the entailments as if they were the gospel itself, pretty soon you lose sight of the reality of the gospel—that it is the good news of what God has done, not a description of what we ought to do in consequence. Pretty soon the gospel descends to mere moralism. One cannot too forcefully insist on the distinction between the gospel and its entailments."

D.A. Carson, "The Hole in the Gospel," Themelios 38 no. 3 (Nov 2013): http://thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/the_hole_in_the_gospel accessed 4/12/2014

Luther, Martin. "Sermons on Psalm 110." In Luther’s Works. Volume 13. Edited by Jaroslav Pelikan. Saint Louis: Concordia,1956.

Though the sermons could at places be improved in exegesis and theology, overall they present sound theological in a powerful exhortational manner.

Examples:

"How do you harmonize the statement that this King is to sit at the right hand of God and is to be almighty God and Lord with the fact that He is always to have many enemies and to meet with resistance of various sorts? Indeed, He is to be surrounded by enemies, as David also says later on: “Rule in the midst of Thy enemies.” How is it possible to say this of such a powerful King and the Lord of all creation? Why should He endure those who thirst to fight Him and who show themselves as enemies? . . . To all the world it seems an extraordinary kingdom, for it combines the highest authority and power with weakness and frailty."13:246-47.
"Thus it may be known, as St. Paul says (1 Cor. 1:25), that what appears to be foolishness in His Word and work is wiser than all the wisdom and intelligence of men, and that what appears to be weakness in Him is stronger than all the strength and power of men. Therefore in this kingdom He does not want to be a God and Savior of the strong, mighty, wise, and holy—as human reason would like to see Him, and as it also pictures Him—who do not need such a God. He wants to be a God and Savior of the weak, the unwise, the insignificant, the miserable and afflicted poor sinners who certainly need such a God and Savior. This He does in order to make them strong while they are weak, righteous and joyful while they are convinced and frightened by sin, alive and blessed while they suffer and die; as He says (2 Cor. 12:9): “My power is made perfect in weakness.” He does this, and must do it, especially to thwart and vex both His enemies, the devil and the world, that they may experience in the end what His wisdom, authority, and power—which they judge to be impotent and nothing—really are and can do." 13:254-55

"Let Me handle those who despise and reject this or oppose themselves to it and persecute the Christians for it. I will take care of revenge. I will put a damper on their power and might and will overthrow them. I have more than enough power and might to lift them out of their thrones and cast them under the feet of this Christ. Sufficient for Christians—and let this be their comfort—is My promise that their enemies shall not accomplish their designs; for I have ordained it and spoken the judgment that they shall and must become the footstool of this Christ, whether they like it or not.” 13:255-56

Potential Interpretations of Genesis 5:29 in conjunction with Genesis 8:21

The Vineyard Option

Lamech’s words in Genesis 5:29 refer to Noah’s planting of the vineyard in Genesis 9:20. No connection is made to Genesis 8:21 (Held by Wenham, Waltke; held as a possibility by Hamilton).

Videtur quod sic [arguments in favor]

1. The growth of a vineyard shows the fertility of the ground.

2. The text says “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief.” Noah planted a vineyard and the wine that comes from the vineyard is a relief to man in a fallen world.

[Wenham and Waltke do not give argumentation, so the above are possible arguments in favor of this interpretation]

Sed contra [arguments to the contrary]

1. Mathews notes that verse 29 does not say the comfort comes from the ground, as this interpretation seems to presuppose. The mere growth of a vineyard does not indicate relief from the curse. Doubtless vines and plants also grew before the Flood.

2. The argument that wine itself provides man relief from runs contrary to the Scripture’s teaching that seeking comfort or relief from toil in wine is folly.

Respondeo dicendum [response & conclusion]

This is one of the weaker interpretations. It possibly rests on a misreading of the verse and, depending how it is framed, may stand contrary to biblical teaching about wine.

The Flood Option

Lamech’s words in Genesis 5:29 refer to the Flood. Lamech’s “wish” becomes a “nightmare.” “Comfort (nḥm) does come with Noah, but it is a different kind of comfort. What comes is the Lord’s repenting desire (nḥm) to destroy humanity. Thus Lamech’s wish turns into a nightmare" (Hamilton). Thus 5:29 connects with 6:6-7. No connection is made with 8:21

Videtur quod sic [arguments in favor]

נחם occurs only here and in 6:6-7 in this part of Genesis. It does not occur again until chapter 24. It is thus likely that there is a play in words intended here.

Sed contra [arguments to the contrary]

נחם is used in 5:29 in a different sense than in 6:6-7. The recurrence of the same word in a different sense doesn’t necessarily indicate a connection between the two passages. In addition Noah does bring blessing, so it would be more likely to understand Lamech’s words as fulfilled positively rather than negatively.

Respondeo dicendum [response & conclusion]

This is also one of the weaker interpretations. The arguments to the contrary are stronger than the arguments in favor.

The Remnant Option

Lamech hoped for relief from the curse. He does not receive his wish. However, Lamech’s desire finds an analogue in the preservation of the Sethite line that Noah achieves through the ark and the new beginning given to the human race (Wenham, Mathews). There is a loose connection to 8:21 in that there the preservation of the post-flood world is promised.

Videtur quod sic [arguments in favor]

1. Lamech’s words are not prophecy but a hope. Lamech’s hope is fulfilled but not in the way he wishes. What Noah actually does is not remove the curse from the ground but preserve the line of Seth, and brings a new covenant relation between man and God as a ‘new Adam.”

2. This interpretation is able to maintain a natural interpretation of both Genesis 5 and Genesis 8. It does not attempt forced readings of either passage.

Sed contra [arguments to the contrary]

1. The attempted connection between preservation of a remnant and hope for removal of the curse is rather tenuous.

2. An interpretation that demonstrates coherence between Lamech’s words and Noah’s life is to be preferred over an interpretation that posits a divergence between the two accounts.

3. Biblical narratives are economical. If Lamech’s words have little to nothing to do with the Noah narrative that follows, why are they given? This is especially relevant since Lamech’s words are embedded in a genealogy. The other comments added to the genealogy are those about Seth being in Adam’s image and those about Enoch’s translation.

Respondeo dicendum [response & conclusion]

This is a viable, but unlikely, option. It should be preferred if attempts to show Lamech’s words are fulfilled prove to be exegetically untenable. If the fulfillment of Lamech’s words are demonstrated to be exegetically plausible, this interpretation should not be preferred.

The Covenant Option

The covenant with Noah creates a “new . . . relationship between God and mankind,” and one that touches on the land. It is the Noahic covenant that fulfils Lamech’s words (Leupold).

Videtur quod sic [arguments in favor]

The nature of the Noahic covenant is to set bounds on the curse so that God’s plan of redemption can be worked out in the world. The culmination of the redemption made possible by the Noahic covenant is the removal of the curse. In this way Noah plays a significant role in God’s plan to bring the earth relief from the curse.

Sed contra [arguments to the contrary]

The covenant with Noah itself does not bring relief from work or painful toil.

Respondeo dicendum [response & conclusion]

This is a viable option. Lamech has a hope or a prophecy about the curse in relation to Noah and God made a covenant with Noah that limited the curse that God would bring on the world. The weakness is that Lamech’s hope for relief from painful toil and the promises of the Noahic covenant don’t align precisely. The covenant preserves the world until that hope is fulfilled on the New Earth.

The Mitigation of the Curse Option

Lamech says that Noah will bring relief from the agonized labor brought by the cursed ground. The next passage in which the language of cursing appears in 8:21 (though the Flood itself as a curse on the ground does intervene). If 8:21 is translated, “I will never curse further the ground because of man” (Wenham), it would indicate that God will not add to the curse of Genesis 3:17. An implication of this view is that the curse had intensified from Genesis 3 until the time of the Flood and that this intensification would be arrested and reversed after the Flood.

Videtur quod sic [arguments in favor]

1. The account of Cain and the Flood itself demonstrate that the curse of Genesis 3 could be added to because of additional sin.

2. It seems from 8:10, 12 that the translation of עוד as “further” is viable.

3. This interpretation results in the closest harmony between 5:29 and 8:21, which is preferable.

Sed contra [arguments to the contrary]

1. The implication that God had been adding to the curse of Genesis 3:17 until the time of the Flood is speculative.

2. The translation of עוד as “further” is not attested in key lexicons such as CHALOT.

Respondeo dicendum [response & conclusion]

This is a viable option.

1. The speculation necessary for making this interpretation work is reasonable given the evidence in Genesis 4 and the Flood account itself that the curse may be intensified. However, the speculation could be avoided by adopting the previous solution.

2. More work should be done, but the usage of עוד within Genesis 8 seems to allow for the translation, “further.”

3. An interpretation of coherence between 5:28 and 8:21 is to be preferred. Whether this position with its tighter coherence but greater speculation or the previous position with its looser coherence and less speculation is to be preferred is an open question. I lean toward this position.