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Chapter 5: Beginnings


Sitara:

I did more than I said.

Nathan:

What did you do?

Sitara:

I thought everything through.

I agree that the Gospels can be trusted as reliable eyewitness accounts in their significant details. Based on these reports, it's very likely that Jesus was raised from the dead.

This probably doesn't make me a Christian because I sense a big gap between my experience and what I see in Naomi's life. I borrowed a Bible from Naomi and started reading John's Gospel.

Though I get the essential meaning, the writing is really quite deep. I just began chapter three, and already I'm stuck.

Nathan:

That's about Nicodemus visiting Jesus at night.

Sitara:

Yes. I'm impressed by the fact that he was a man of great prestige and power among the Jews, and yet came humbly to visit Jesus. He believed Jesus was from God. I'm no less surprised than Nicodemus to hear Jesus saying that one must be "born again." What could that possibly mean?

Nathan:

To understand the meaning of being born again, we have to go back to the very beginning to see what led to the human condition today. We need to find clues in Genesis, which is the first book of the Bible.

Sitara:

What's the book about?

Nathan:

It's about beginnings. We'll focus only on the first few chapters, which tell the stories of the creation of the physical world and the first human couple, and some very important things they did.

Sitara:

I thought such creation stories are myths.

Nathan:

It's the popular idea. But there's something we need to think again.

The Genesis account obviously was written as factual. To believers, the strongest support is what other biblical writers, and ultimately Jesus, say.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul says, "For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God." [Note 1 ] This corroborates the first verse of Genesis, which says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." [Note 2 ]

Genesis also records the creation of the first two humans, named Adam and Eve. In his letters, Paul clearly considers Adam as a historical individual. [Note 3 ] In Luke's genealogy of Jesus, he explicitly traces right up to Adam, and so implies that the first man was historical. [Note 4 ] Jesus referred to the first couple indirectly when he talked about marriage. [Note 5 ]

Sitara:

It would be quite difficult to find evidence even just for the assertion that God created the universe.

Nathan:

The assertion that God is the Creator of everything could be supported by how well the narrative provides an explanation for observed reality.

But we need to be careful in interpreting the Genesis account because of its style, purpose, and unique content. We should not take it as a simple chronology of events. We should not take everything literally and ignore subtle meanings of the words used. We'll see that a good interpretation of the Genesis account does lead to an understanding that coheres well with empirical evidence.

Sitara:

I used to think that taking text literally at its obvious meaning is the reasonable and common way to understand it. You're saying that we need to exercise care. What then is a good interpretation?

Nathan:

I agree that we should, in general, approach a piece of text in the common-sense manner, especially when we're sure that the writer both intended and was able to express facts plainly. But the literary style, purpose, and brevity of the ancient Genesis text really call for a more careful approach.

A good interpretation means that we don't read into the text what it doesn't say, or misrepresent what it says to make the creation account easily refutable.

FOOTNOTES:

  1. Romans 1:20. [Back ]
  2. Genesis 1:1. [Back ]
  3. Romans 5:12-14; 1 Corinthians 15:22; 15:45; 1 Timothy 2:13-14. [Back ]
  4. Luke 3:38. [Back ]
  5. Mark 10:6-9. [Back ]
     

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