You are hereN. T. Wright on Genesis 2 and 3

N. T. Wright on Genesis 2 and 3

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By Ransom - Posted on 27 February 2010

Please see The BioLogos Foundation's site, where the following video and discussion is found. How does this understanding comport with the Covenant Creation model? ~ Ransom

Wright begins by noting that while there are divergent views on the date of authorship of Genesis—with some scholars attributing its authorship to Moses, thus dating it c. 1500 B.C., and others dating it around the third century B.C.. Regardless of its actual date of composition, however, Wright is most interested in the way in which Jesus’ antecedents would have read the text in the period right before the New Testament.

He asserts that any Jew from the period of the Babylonian exile to the life of Jesus reading the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden—and their ultimate expulsion after violating the terms of their covenant with God—would have identified with the story on a deep level. These readers would have thought “this is our story” because Israel had repeated this experience.

In the Adam and Eve narrative, humankind was given a gift—a wonderful identity and a wonderful place in which to exist. Their failure to uphold the terms of their agreement with God results in their exile from the Garden. In kind, through Israel, God offers an opportunity to remake that human project. He gives them their land and identity—and in return, they are to follow his commandments. When they fail, like Adam and Eve, they are exiled from the land.

Readers of Genesis who focus simply on the smaller, literal picture—that is, the number of days of creation and whether there is evidence in the text pointing to an old or new earth—are in effect not reading the complete text. To fully appreciate the richness of the text, we should think about the functionality and reception of the text as opposed to solely the words on the page.

As you watch this, listen especially closely to the section beginning at 2:25. Here, Genesis 2 and 3 are placed in the context of not just the exile ("we blew it again"), but in the context of the answer to this problem as described in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, the Acts, and by Paul. Has the unity of the Scriptural message ever been put more succinctly? This, perhaps, is N.T. Wright at his very best.

JL's picture


I've not seen the video yet, but these comments on the meaning of Genesis are in perfect concordance with Covenant Creation.


JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

Sam's picture

well, if you read "Surprised by Hope" (N.T. Wright), his view on the "exile" as "death" for Adam was the result for the "whole human race." Adam, made in God's image (thus, all of humanity is in God's image), is under the "condemnation" of Adam's sin, only to be removed "in Christ." Thus, he sees a "both/and" aspect here. So, yes, in so many words, he utilizes what a Preterist would see (already), but still has the "not yet" aspect as well. It was "creation" (the Genesis cosmos) that has become "out of joint" because of Adam. By restoring the image of God in Christ, humanity can now "begin" to remake creation anew until God comes and does the "final" shaking. Wright's view is akin to a postmillennialism, but more along the lines of amillennialism. He is, from his work in Genesis, passionate about this-worldly affairs, for, he believes, rightly so, that Genesis is talking about the cosmos. He makes this very explicit in this book.

Sam's picture

I might also add, just for whatever, that Wright, in his commentary on Romans (The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary series), affirms, "Paul clearly believed that there had been a single first pair whose male, Adam, had been given a commandment and broke it." They are "the first historical pair" (p. 526). Yet, he also affirms, that "natural death" (what we call natural, or biological death) was something at work within creation before the fall - it had no "sting." This is a brilliant stroke of exegesis. There is "sting-death" and "no sting death" (using my words). Sting death is what is opposed to creation, in that, through evil actions, creation becomes corrupt. But, reversely, through law-obedience, God can "bless" creation. Good stuff, indeed.

mazuur's picture


so what? That merely means he still hasn't made the complete connection yet....YET! He is getting close. Shouldn't be much longer.



Sam's picture

It could be, Rich, that there is no connection to be made. Take sheol, for example. Why would those not "in Adam" (in your view) go to sheol, if the sting of death is "the sin" of Adam? If Adam came from pre-existing nations, how could these nations go to sheol? Under what penalty? Did Adam start the "sheol" process, or was it already there before? If it was there before, how could it have gotten there apart from the Law? "The sting of the death (of Adam) is the Sin (of Adam), and the power of the sin (of Adam) is the Law (of Adam, and "added to" in Moses)." Sheol is the result of breaking the "commandment". So, you would have to come up with a way in which those who existed before Adam were sentenced to Sheol - that there was no salvation prior to Adam - no chance of it. I asked Norm this question and the response was an appeal to the sovereignty of God and a "I don't know." But, this is a massive problem that an "I don't know" won't solve.

Sheol is the result of a penalty. You would have to posit that God made previous human beings, that they had no souls (no living covenantal breath) and thus, there was no sheol - they were simply annhilated. Which means, God made man with no soul, like an animal (which Norm sort of, but not entirely states). Adam was the "first man" to be taken out of this miserable lot of human beings (beasts, if you like), and was given the chance for eternal life. But, he blew it. And, for his "line" (and the nations that came from him - Genesis 10) NOW went to sheol and were not annihilated. But, when you start down this path, you are completely in the realm of pure speculation.

Wright (and Walton) see the implications of the genealogy of Adam and the clear universal ties that Paul interpreted the Gn account with. And, it is for this reason that I am "stuck" where I am. I am compelled to submit to Scripture rather than try to force Scripture to align with some sort of pet project of mine that is not entirely worked out.

JL's picture

11Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Rev. 20:13 answers the question fine. The Sea, that is the gentiles, gave up their dead. Somehow, the names of some (in the technical logical sense) of the dead were found in the book of life. It appears that, The Sea fared better than The H&E which fled from His presence.

The answers are there.


JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

Starlight's picture

I’ll let the scriptures pretty well speak for themselves.

Eze 31:14 to the end that none of all the trees by the waters exalt themselves in their stature, neither set their top among the thick boughs, nor that their mighty ones stand up on their height, even all that drink water: for they are all delivered unto death, to the nether parts of the earth, in the midst of the children of men, with them that go down to the pit.

Eze 31:16-18 I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him down to Sheol with them that descend into the pit; and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, were comforted in the nether parts of the earth. (17) They also went down into Sheol with him unto them that are slain by the sword; yea, they that were his arm, that dwelt under his shadow in the midst of the nations. (18) To whom art thou thus like in glory and in greatness among the trees of Eden? yet shalt thou be brought down with the trees of Eden unto the nether parts of the earth: thou shalt lie in the midst of the uncircumcised, with them that are slain by the sword. This is Pharaoh and all his multitude, saith the Lord Jehovah.

Rev 20:1-3 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. (2) And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, (3) and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

Rev 20:13 And THE SEA GAVE UP THE DEAD who were in it, DEATH AND HADES GAVE UP THE DEAD who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.

Jon 3:8 But let man (adam) and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.

Of course the beast must have been animals dressed up in sackcloth and crying along with the adamites so they could turn from their evil beastly ways;-)

Joe 2:22 Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength.

Ecc 3:18-21 I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. (19) For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. (20) All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. (21) Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?

Joe 1:20 The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.
Eze 36:11 And I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.

Dan 4:16 Let his (King Neb’s) heart be changed from man's, and let a beast's heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him.

Dan 7:3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.

Anyone want to speculate what the mind of a beast represents when King Neb lost his mind? ;-)

Dan 4:31-36 While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. (32) And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field:… (33) The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, …. And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him … (36) At the same time my reason returned unto me

King Neb almost became a Beast yet he turned to the Lord and became a man again.

Rev 13:1 And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea,

Rev 13:11 And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth;

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