How to Teach Genesis 1  – Part I: Don’t Begin with “In the Beginning . . . “

Given that my post How to Teach Genesis 1 in 30 Minutes remains one of my most popular posts, I thought my readers (new and old) might appreciate a little more detail and a slower walk through the process.

While my previous post was aimed at a single session, this series will hopefully aid those who teach introductory or survey courses either in an academic or church setting.

Related Posts: Why Seven Days?Review of Michael Cosby’s Interpreting Biblical LiteratureHave Sex and Eat: The First Two CommandmentsWhen is a Snake not Merely a Snake?Review: Pete Enn’s Inspiration & Incarnation 1

Mistakes to Avoid:

Mistake 1. Beginning with Genesis

Do not begin with Genesis. As I have stated elsewhere, I think the majority of textbooks and biblical overview courses make a pedagogical error in beginning with “In the beginning . . . ” In any other subject, you teach the basics first before you jump into the really difficult material. You don’t jump into Hamlet before you teach grammar and the basics of poetry.

What’s a rhyme? What’s a simile? What’s a metaphor? Am I reading a comedy or a tragedy? If Romeo & Juliet is really a love story, then why do they die in the end? If Hamlet is a tragedy, why are there so many funny moments? Is that another dirty joke? Err, I mean, Is that more ribald humor? How come the clowns aren’t funny? Continue reading “How to Teach Genesis 1  – Part I: Don’t Begin with “In the Beginning . . . “”

What Motivates N.T. Wright? Well, Why not Ask Him? So, I Did.

A Brief Interview with N.T. Wright

As I was writing my previous post, What Motivates Ken Ham? or What AiG Gets Wrong about N.T. Wright, I thought to myself maybe I should just ask Dr. Wright myself.

I wonder if the folks at Answers in Genesis have thought of this radical off the wall approach to dialogue. Do the writers at AiG consider actually engaging in conversation with the scholars that they so readily judge and condemn? I have it on good authority that Wright and other scholars do receive mail from Young Earthers, hate mail, that is.

In my view, scholarship is engaging in an ongoing conversation. Conversation requires listening and responding. Moreover, as the word itself suggests true conversation allows for the possibility of conversion. That is, when one enters into a conversation it is possible that you or your conversation partner may have a change of mind. (see “The Discipline of Study” in Richard Foster’s The Celebration of Discipline) In Academics, this dialogue is often carried out by reading one another’s writings and seriously engaging with and responding to each other’s arguments and thoughts.

Now, I have met Wright a few times at Regent College and at Society of Biblical Literature meetings. He likely does not remember me but we do have some mutual friends who could vouch for me. So, I re-introduced myself and asked him the following questions:

1. What motivates you to engage the Academy?

2. What motivated you to accept the theory of evolution (if indeed you have)? Continue reading “What Motivates N.T. Wright? Well, Why not Ask Him? So, I Did.”

What Motivates Ken Ham? or What Answers in Genesis gets Wrong about N.T. Wright

A common tactic of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis (AiG) is to attack fellow Christians and accuse them of being “compromised Christians.” In the process, if they don’t outright misrepresent these men and women (mostly men), then they most certainly under represent their significant and valuable contributions to the Church and yes, even to, the Academy.

Most recently, Simon Turpin, one of the UK spokespeople for AiG, has aimed his crosshairs at the distinguished Biblical scholar and former Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright. (Click for AiG article.) Wright has devoted his entire life to the service of the Church and the Academy. Moreover, he is of that all too rare and special breed of scholar who is not only able to write to his academic peers but to translate that work into simpler, more accessible, popular books. Indeed, he helps his reader by using the name N.T. Wright on his more difficult and erudite books and Tom Wright on his more popular works. In addition, he is an incredible public speaker and is among the best preachers I have had the privilege to hear.

Later in this post, I will address Turpin’s misleading portrayal of Wright. For now, it is enough to suggest that even Wright’s “secular” colleagues and critics would be amused to hear him described as compromising and seeking their approval. Indeed, if they read Turpin’s descriptions, they would likely mistake his descriptions as ironic or satirical like when you name an elephant Tiny. Having met Wright myself, I suspect this description would be met with a chuckle. Continue reading “What Motivates Ken Ham? or What Answers in Genesis gets Wrong about N.T. Wright”

Sarai’s Exodus: from My Princess to Princess (Genesis 12)

In Genesis 12:10-20, immediately after the call of Abram (aka Abraham) and his journey to Canaan (aka the Promised Land), the author tells the following disconcerting narrative:

Abram and Sarai in Egypt

Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to reside there as an alien, for the famine was severe in the land. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know well that you are a woman beautiful in appearance; and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account.” When Abram entered Egypt the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. When the officials of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female slaves, female donkeys, and camels.

But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh called Abram, and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her, and be gone.” And Pharaoh gave his men orders concerning him; and they set him on the way, with his wife and all that he had. (Genesis 12:10-20 NRSV)

So, what is going on here?

Think Exodus. Continue reading “Sarai’s Exodus: from My Princess to Princess (Genesis 12)”

Dear Abe: Bronze Age Advice for Post-Modern Times

Dear Abe,

Recently, my wife and I moved to a new town to look for work. My wife is very beautiful. The other day, I noticed a local business owner checking her out. Is there anyway I can turn this into a job opportunity?

Sincerely,

Married in Memphis Continue reading “Dear Abe: Bronze Age Advice for Post-Modern Times”

Book Review: Inspiration and Incarnation (Chapter 3: The Old Testament and Theological Diversity)

In this chapter on theological diversity in the Old Testament, Peter Enns offers an engaging and helpful introduction to what most biblical scholars Christian and non-Christian have come to recognize as simply being the nature of the Old Testament. Moreover, for many of us with strong commitments to the authority of Scripture, the recognition of theological diversity in the OT has not only enriched our understading of the Scriptures themselves but of the God who inspired them including what it might mean to be creatively inspired by the Creator.  There are three key aspects to Enns chapter on diversity in the OT.

  1. The Old Testament is not a flat text. It is a textured text. Not all books can be read in the same way and some work needs to be done to understand the different genres in the Old Testament.
  2. The books of the OT were written in differing time periods and show signs of being edited to some degree and therefore to some degree there is evidence of the develoopment and revision of thought over time and according to chaning circumstances.
  3. And related to the latter, there are ongoing arguments, discussion, and unresolved tensions within texts and between texts of the Old Testament. (Some of these tension are resolved by and in Christ Jesus.)
  4. Continue reading “Book Review: Inspiration and Incarnation (Chapter 3: The Old Testament and Theological Diversity)”

Ken Ham’s Doctrine of Accelerated Evolution or Supranatural Selection

One of the strangest elements of the teaching of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis (and that’s saying something when you are talking about people who insist human beings and dinosaurs co-existed) is that with all the fuss they make over the theory of evolution, their position entails the acceptance of an accelerated evolutionary model.

Ham and the folks at AiG insist that the earth (and, indeed, the cosmos) is less than 7,000 years old. The cosmos originated in 4004 BC or 0 anno mundi (See their time-lines.) In keeping with their literalist interpretation of Genesis 1-11 and based on the well-known Noah story, they also insist that there was a global flood in 2348 BC. During this flood, Noah rescued 7,000 “kinds” of animals. Kinds should not be confused with the modern scientifc term species. Nevertheless, from these 7,000 kinds (which included some dinosaurs) all the land animals, aviary animals, and most of the amphibious animals are descended. Continue reading “Ken Ham’s Doctrine of Accelerated Evolution or Supranatural Selection”

Sons of God, Daughters of Adam, and the Nephilim (Genesis 6:1-5)

In my recycled posts about aliens in the Bible, I poke fun at some popular Christian authors who argue that UFOs are real, aliens are really demons in disguise, and therefore suggest that the Bible tells us we will be deceived by these demon-aliens. Often UFO and alien abduction enthusiasts read alien visitation into ancient texts, ancient artifacts, and structures. Who really built the pyramids? Why are gods from the heavens?

Continue reading “Sons of God, Daughters of Adam, and the Nephilim (Genesis 6:1-5)”

Moses Strikes Out: Why was Moses not allowed into the Promised Land? (Exodus 17 & Numbers 20)

If Numbers 20 is read in isolation, God’s judgment that Moses not be allowed to enter the promised land seems disproportionate to Moses’s action of striking the rock in anger. Moses seems justified in being angry with Israelites and God’s response seems to be excessive and therefore unjust. Continue reading “Moses Strikes Out: Why was Moses not allowed into the Promised Land? (Exodus 17 & Numbers 20)”

Genesis 3: When is a Snake not merely a Snake?

While I highly recommend Michael Cosby’s Intepreting Biblical Literature (see my post on this textbook), I have yet to read a textbook where I agree with everything in it. In his chapter on the Primeval History or Genesis 1-11, Cosby writes the following, “The talking snake in Genesis 3:1-5 is merely that — a snake.”

So, when we get to this moment in a classroom setting, I usually put this quote on the screen followed by the question in my title:

When is a snake not just a snake?  Continue reading “Genesis 3: When is a Snake not merely a Snake?”