Interpreting Genesis 1–11 -- By: Russell T. Fuller
SBJT 5:3 (Fall 2001) p. 18
Interpreting Genesis 1–11
Russell T. Fuller is Assistant Professor of Old Testament at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Fuller earned his Ph.D. at Hebrew Union College and was appointed to the Southern faculty in 1998. He has written journal articles and book reviews and has several articles in the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (Zondervan).
The proliferation of methods and approaches characterizes biblical hermeneutics in the twenty-first century. Each method has its own focus. Some read the text holistically; others fragment the text. Some stress the oral, pre-literary stage; others, the final editing. Each method even has its own audience. The Feminists have their method, the Marxists theirs, along with the Environmentalists and the Post-modernists, to mention only a sample. Few students of the Bible realize that an understanding of Marx, Heidegger, or the latest thinker is a prerequisite for interpreting and for understanding the Bible. In the end, these methods and approaches relativize the text, usually to politicize it. But for the Christian there remains a more excellent way: (1) follow the hermeneutical footsteps of the Apostles by understanding the text according to its plain sense; (2) see the unity of the Scriptures with a “Christ-centered” hermeneutic; and (3) unfold its theology through divinely intended typology.
This thesis, of course, assumes three truths. First, it assumes that God inspired and superintended the process of the writing of the Scriptures so that the human authors, although free as any other human author, produced, both in thought and in word, the word of God. Second, it assumes that the Scriptures, although having many authors over many centuries, reflect one divine mind with one unified theme and with one consistent message. Consequently, Scripture best interprets Scripture. Earlier Scripture lays the foundation for understanding later Scripture; later Scripture provides a superstructure for understanding earlier Scripture. Third, it assumes that this thesis does not cover all apostolic methods of interpretation. The goal, in short, is to understand and to interpret Genesis 1–11 by the Apostles and to observe and to imitate their method of interpretation as closely as possible.
Usually, the apostolic writers interpret Genesis 1–11 as straightforward historical narrative according to the “plain sense” of the text. Christ understands, for instance, that God created Adam and Eve as male and female at the beginning, and that marriage, both then and now, requires a bond and unity of life (
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