Alasdaire Paine, vicar of St. Andrew Cambridge, England, makes clear in his little book The First Chapters of Everything that the opening chapters of Genesis were written to answer questions as: Who are we, and why are we here? Why is life both beautiful and tragic? What is real hope?
Questions about the relation between the account in the Genesis and findings of science must not divert our attention from the key teaching of the opening part of the Bible. This does not mean that Paine considers the first chapters of Genesis less than history; certainly not. He is convinced that it is real history.
He highlights that is of special importance to uphold that the whole mankind is the offspring of Adam and Eve and that the Fall of Adam was a historical fact. The death of man does not belong to God’s original creation. Het rejects the view of C.S. Lewis and others that although Genesis 2-3 is history, it tells us history in a non-historical way. The fact that what is told has a deep symbolical meaning does not preclude its literal and real historical character.
The first book of the Bible is structured by the phrase: ‘These are the generations of’. Gen. 1:1-2:3 must be considered as a prologue to the whole book. Gen. 2:4-4:26 is the first section introduced by the phrase ‘These are the generations of’.
Genesis 1 shows us that God is the God is the Creator of all things. He created out of nothing. The question ‘who made God?’ betrays a misunderstanding about the nature of God. Out Him, through and to Him are all things. Man is made in God’s image. He is made to glorify God. The task of man given him by God is to subdue the earth. Paine pointedly remarks that to subdue is different from to exploit.
Genesis 1 and 2 explain the origin of marriage between one man and one woman as God’s creation institution. Adam names Eve and not the other way around. This fact points to the headship of Adam over Eve and the headship of a husband over his wife. In marriage and family the ultimate responsibility rests with the husband.
At the same time the fact Eve is called the helper of Adam is an indication of the honorable position of the husband. The name helper is given in the Bible quite frequently to God himself. The fact that the husband is the head of the family does not mean that he has the right to use his headship in a wrong way. The New Testament teaches us that husbands ought to reflect Jesus and the wives out to reflect his church.
The first creation account closes with the Sabbath. The Sabbath as weekly day of rest is founded on the fact the God’s creation week ended with the Sabbath. Under the new dispensation the first day of the week, called the Lord’s Day in Rev. 1:10 became the day on which Christians met for corporate worship. Must the first day of the week seen as a Christian Sabbath?
Paine does not think so, because it is not explicitly stated in the New Testament. He thinks that the fourth commandment being fulfilled by Christ has only a spiritual meaning under the New Testament dispensation. Here I disagree with Paine. The Bible shows us that there is a close relationship between the day of rest and the day of corporate worship. This relationship, I am sure, is not abrogated under the New Testament dispensation.
In Genesis 3 we read that the serpent questions God’s goodness. He gives a false impression of God. This is the tactic of the devil until now. The essence of the Fall is that he wanted to be his own master judging himself what is right and wrong. The result of the Fall was that Adam and Eve were banished from the Paradise. We are not exactly told in Genesis 3 how the connection between the Fall, human death and suffering works. We are simply told that it is a reality.
Genesis 3 tells us not only about the Fall, but also has a message of hope. God wanted rebels back. Already the fact that God asks Adam ‘Where are you?’ points in that direction. In the curse on the serpent comes a remarkable promise. All Old Testament’s hopes of a Great Rescuer and Redeemer start here.
Genesis 4 shows us God’s persistent grace. Here we also see the beginning of a spiritual division in mankind. Abel is the first martyr. He was murdered by his brother Kain. The final reason was that Abel served God while Kain did not. God provides for Adam and Eve in his place another son who is named Seth. From Seth comes Enosh and the beginning of another line besides that of Kain. It is the line of them who want to live for God.
It was that this time that people began to call on the name of the LORD. It is not without significance that the second literary unit of Genesis ends in this way. The meaning of the name LORD was only much later revealed to Moses. Gen. 4:26 points to the fact that is was to this God, the God of Eden, to whom they called.
The New Testament makes us abundantly clear that the living God is the triune God. Not only God the Father is LORD, but also God the Son. There is only salvation is his name. We invited and urged to call upon him as Lord to be saved.
The First Chapters of Everything is a good introduction to the first chapters of Genesis. It focuses on the message of the chapters and its meaning of us. In postscript the author point to the relationship between the opening chapters and the closing chapters of the Bible. The New Jerusalem seen by the apostle John on Patmos is more than a restored Eden.
The final glory of the new creation far surpasses the initial glory of the old creation. The only way of entrance to the New Jerusalem is Jesus Christ and faith in him. Besides eternal bliss Scripture speaks about eternal woe. So let is call on the Lord Jesus Christ and put our trust in Him.
Alasdaire Paine, The First Chapters of Everything: How Genesis 1-4 Explains Our World, Christian Focus Publications, Fearn, Ross-shire 2014; ISBN 978-1-78191-323-9; paperback 189 pp., price £7,99.