Framework interpretation (Genesis)
- This article focuses on the views of certain Christian commentators and theologians. For a more general account of the topic, see Genesis creation narrative.
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The framework interpretation (also known as the literary framework view, framework theory, or framework hypothesis) is a description of the structure of the first chapter of the Book of Genesis (more precisely Genesis 1:1–2:4a), the Genesis creation narrative.
It can be illustrated with the following table:
|First triad||Second triad|
|Day 1||Let there be light (1:3).||Let there be lights (1:14).||Day 4|
|Day 2||Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters (1:6).||Let the water teem with creatures and let birds fly above the earth (1:20).||Day 5|
|Day 3||Let dry land appear (1:9).
Let the land produce vegetation (1:11).
|Let the land produce living creatures (1:24).
Let us make man (1:26).
I give you every seed bearing plant… and every tree that has fruit with seed in it… for food (1:29).
Two triads and three kingdoms
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Genesis 1 divides its six days of Creation into two groups of three ("triads"). The introduction, Genesis 1:1–2, "In the beginning… the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep…", describes the primal universe containing darkness, a watery "deep", and a formless earth, over which hovers the spirit of God. The following three days describe the first triad: the creation of light and its separation from the primal darkness (Gen. 1:3–5); the creation of the "firmament" within the primal waters so that the heavens (space between the firmament and the surface of the seas) and the "waters under the firmament" can appear (Gen. 1:6–8); and the separation of the waters under the firmament into seas and dry land with its plants and trees. The second triad describes the peopling of the three elements of the first: sun, moon, and stars for the day and night (Gen. 1:14–19), fish and birds for the heavens and seas (Gen. 1:20–23), and finally animals and man for the vegetated land (24–31).
|Creation Kingdoms||Creature Kings|
|Day 1: Light||Day 4: Luminaries|
|Day 2: Sky/Water||Day 5: Birds/Fish|
|Day 3: Land/Vegetation||Day 6: Land animals/Man|
|The Creator King|
|Day 7: Sabbath|
Differences exist on how to classify the two triads, but Meredith G. Kline's analysis is suggestive: the first triad (days 1–3) narrate the establishment of the creation kingdoms, and the second triad (days 4–6), the production of the creature kings. Furthermore, this structure is not without theological significance, for all the created realms and regents of the six days are subordinate vassals of God who takes His royal Sabbath rest as the Creator King on the seventh day. Thus the seventh day marks the climax of the creation week.
Supporters and critics
The framework interpretation is held by many theistic evolutionists and some progressive creationists. Some argue that it had a precedent in the writings of the early church father St. Augustine. Others claim Augustine was a young earth creationist. Dr. Arie Noordzij of the University of Utrecht was the first proponent of the Framework Hypothesis in 1924. Nicolaas Ridderbos (not to be confused with his more well-known brother, Herman) popularized the view in the late 1950s. It has gained acceptance in modern times through the work of such theologians and scholars as Meredith G. Kline, Henri Blocher, and Bruce Waltke.
It has been unfortunate that one device which our narrative uses to express the coherence and purposiveness of the creator's work, namely, the distribution of the various creative acts to six days, has been seized on and interpreted over-literalistically… The six day schema is but one of several means employed in this chapter to stress the system and order that has been built into creation. Other devices include the use of repeating formulae, the tendency to group words and phrases into tens and sevens, literary techniques such as chiasm and inclusio, the arrangement of creative acts into matching groups, and so on. If these hints were not sufficient to indicate the schematization of the six-day creation story, the very content of the narrative points in the same direction.— Gordon Wenham
The framework view has been successful in the modern era because it resolves the traditional conflict between the Genesis creation narrative and science. It presents an alternative to literalistic interpretations of the Genesis narratives, which are advocated by some conservative Christians and Creationists at a popular level. Creationists who take a literalist approach have laid the charge that Christians who interpret Genesis symbolically or allegorically are assigning science an authority over that of Scripture. Advocates of the framework view respond by noting that Scripture affirms God's general revelation in nature (Ps 19, Rom 1:19–20), and therefore in our search for the truth about the origins of the universe we must be sensitive to both the "book of words" (Scripture) and the "book of works" (nature). Since God is the author of both "books", we should expect that they do not conflict with each other when properly interpreted.
The framework interpretation is rejected by some biblical scholars, such as James Barr, Andrew Steinmann, Robert McCabe, and Ting Wang, Some systematic theologians also oppose it, including R.C. Sproul, Wayne Grudem, and Millard Erickson, who deem it an unsuitable reading of the Genesis text.
- Ruiten 2000, p. 9.
- Ruiten 2000, p. 10.
- Kline 1996, p. 6.
- Young, Davis A (1988). "The Contemporary Relevance of Augustine's View of Creation". Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith. 40 (1): 42–45. Retrieved 2007-02-19.
- Zuiddam, Benno A (2010). "Augustine: Young Earth Creationist" (PDF). Journal of Creation. 24 (1): 5–6.
- McCabe, Robert V (2005). "A Critique of the Framework Interpretation of the Creation Account (Part 1 of 2)" (PDF). Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal. 10: 19–67.
- Wenham, Gordon J. (1987). Genesis 1–15. Waco, TX: Word Books. pp. 39–40. ISBN 978-0-8499-0200-0.
- Ham, Ken; Sarfati, Jonathan; Wieland, Carl. Batten, Don, ed. "Did God really take six days?". Answers book. Answers in Genesis.
- Berry, R. J. (2003). God's book of works: the nature and theology of nature. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. ISBN 0-567-08915-0.[page needed]
- Batten, Don; Catchpoole, David; Sarfati, Jonathan D; Wieland, Carl. "Is Genesis poetry/figurative, a theological argument (polemic) and thus not history?". Creation Answers Book. Creation Book Publishers.
- Kelly, Douglas. "Creation and Change: Book – Christian Living, Controversies in the Church, Creationism". Ligonier Ministries. Retrieved 2012-02-06.
- Grudem, Wayne A. (1994). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester: Inter-Varsity. pp. 302–4. ISBN 978-0-310-28670-7.
- Erickson, Millard J. (1998). Christian theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. pp. 407–8. ISBN 0-8010-2182-0.
- Blocher, Henri (1984). In the Beginning: The Opening Chapters of Genesis. InterVarsity Press. ISBN 978-0-87784-325-2.
- Futato, Mark (Spring 1998). "Because it Had Rained: A Study of Genesis 2:5–7 With Implications for Genesis 2:4–25 and Genesis 1:1–2:3" (PDF). Westminster Theological Journal. Gordon. 60 (1): 1–21. Reprinted in "Part 1", Reformed Perspectives Magazine, Third mill and part 2.
- Irons, Lee (January 2000). "The Framework Interpretation: An Exegetical Summary". Ordained Servant. Upper register. 9 (1): 7–11.
- ———; Kline, Meredith G (2000). "The Framework Interpretation". In Hagopian, David G. The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the "Days" of Creation. Global Publishing Services. ISBN 978-0-9702245-0-7.
- Kline, Meredith G (May 1958). "Because It Had Not Rained". Westminster Theological Journal. 20 (2): 146–57.
- ——— (1996). "Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony". Perspectives on Science & Christian Faith (48): 2–15.
- Longman, Tremper III (2005). How To Read Genesis. InterVarsity Press. ISBN 978-0-87784-943-8.
- Ridderbos, N.H. (1957). Is There a Conflict Between Genesis 1 and Natural Science?. Eerdmans.
- van Ruiten (2000), Primæval history.
- Waltke, Bruce K; Fredricks, Cathi J (2001). Genesis. Zondervan. ISBN 978-0-310-22458-7.