From Creation to New Creation: A Journey Through Genesis with N.T. Wright

Day 1 of 7 • This day’s reading


Purpose – The Human Vocation

There are many ways to approach a reading of Genesis. Some treat the book as a historical account of creation and ancient near eastern history. Others approach it through a lens of myth or source criticism. Taking the book as we have it, Genesis itself seems to present a narrative that prefigures and sets up the arc of the whole Old Testament, which in turn foreshadows God’s all-encompassing plan for Creation. In this way of reading, the characters of Genesis cease to be strictly moral exemplars, paragons for Christians to emulate, but rather more flawed, dare we say human, characters. Nevertheless, God’s plan moves forward through all their mistakes.

This mirror narrative is established right from the beginning. Not only do humans mirror God into the world, but the shape of the Creation story mirrors the rest of Genesis, the rest of Genesis mirrors the Old Testament, and the whole Old Testament mirrors God’s New Creation plan. For the original readers, Adam and Eve’s creation would be less about the human race’s scientific origins than about the Jewish people’s unique origins among a culture littered with polytheistic religions. Adam and Eve are placed into a world already peopled and given a new project by God. Likewise, through Abraham, God singles out the Israelites and sets them about a new project to signal God’s rulership in the world. And just as Adam and Eve are exiled for disobeying God’s specific instructions – for trying to find a shortcut to God’s purpose – the Israelites will be exiled to Babylon for disobeying the specific instructions given to them by God for their ‘garden,’ the promised land.

God’s ultimate goal for Creation is to dwell with humanity, establishing humans as wise rulers over the earth. God creates humanity not simply to be admired but to do something, to carry on a project. By bearing God’s image, humans extend God’s act of creation. In this context, an image-bearer signals rulership. Humans image God, signaling that God rules over the whole inhabited earth.

Question: Reflect on how you’ve traditionally been taught to approach Genesis. What value has it held in your life? How has it been a source of inspiration, confusion, etc.?

Practice Prompt: Read the Creation accounts (Genesis 1 & 2) and think about its ancient near eastern context. What new insights/questions come up for you?