Saturday, December 20, 2014

Creation, the "Cosmic Temple" and the flow of typology

First in line is the curious fact that the number seven appears so pervasively in temple accounts in the ancient world and in the Bible. Thus the seven days of the Genesis account of origins has a familiarity that can hardly be coincidental and tells us something about the seven-day structure in Genesis 1 that we did not know before and that is not transparent to modern readers. That is, if Genesis 1 is a temple text, the seven days may be understood in relation to some aspect of temple inauguration. What would days of inauguration have to do with creation? What is the connection? If Genesis 1 were an account of material origins, there would be no connection at all. But as an account of functional origins, creation and temple inauguration fit hand in hand. Given the relationship of the temple and the cosmos, the creation of one is also the creation of the other. The temple is made functional in the inauguration ceremonies, and therefore the temple is created in the inauguration ceremony. So also the cosmic temple would be made functional (created) in an inauguration ceremony.

We must draw an important distinction between the building of a temple and the creation of a temple. ... The temple uses that which is material, but the temple is not material. If God is not in it, it is not a temple. If rituals are not performed by a serving priesthood, it is not a temple. If those elements are not in place, the temple does not exist in any meaningful way. A person does not exist if only represented by their corpse. It is the inauguration ceremony that transforms a pile of lumber, stone gold and cloth into a temple. [John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (Downers Grove, IL, 2009), 86-7]

Flowing from his postulation that the Genesis account is about "functional ontology," Walton states that it is focused on the inauguration of the cosmic-temple, using analogies from other ANE temple accounts to make his case. Now, we have already established that Walton's main argument collapses because of his philosophical confusion. Thus, applying the correct categories and discounting the idea of "functional ontology," we will say that the ontology of a temple consists of a building, sacred object(s), priest(s), and ritual(s) to connect with the divine. Its telos is to function as a site for religious devotion. As such, the inauguration of a temple completes it by adding the elements necessary for its ontology. Now of course, an empty temple building is still called a "temple," but that is to focus on the building with the understanding that the other elements are supposed to be present there. A "temple building" without those elements has a temple architecture, but it is not in fact a temple.

Concerning the ANE, the supposed seven days in the ANE temple accounts might parallel the seven days of creation, but we can say that it is expected if we hold that the ANE accounts are corruptions of the true religion. More serious is the supposed parallel between the Genesis creation and the temple accounts themselves. But here, we must ask ourselves, why do we assume that the temple inauguration is not meant to reflect something, instead of the other way seeing the creation account as a reflection of temple inauguration?

Here, we come to the issue of typology, which is to say that there are types and shadows throughout the Bible where the type prefigures what it intends to portray. If we start with creation, then it seems clear that temple accounts are meant to reflect the creation of the universe, especially the first garden-temple of Eden. In other words, creation comes first, and the temple accounts were meant to typify it in their worship. This is in contrast to the approach taken here, and taken by those like Peter Enns, that make the creation texts typify the ANE and Israel in her religious life. That approach is wrong because it makes a primary theme of Scripture (i.e. creation) into a type of a secondary theme (the cultic element, which prefigures Christ and the salvation He purchased). Both Walton and Enns reverse the flow of typology in this area, and thus they are in error in how they read these texts.

No comments: