The Political Theology of Genesis 1-3

John C. Rankin

In Genesis 1-3, an exegetical overview of the text reveals a remarkable assumption that theology and political theology occupy the same territory, as the story line of creation, sin and redemption is introduced. In other words, the Bible is all about the kingdom of God, the attempt of a demonically-driven human kingdom to supplant it, and eventual triumph of the original kingdom of God. So here are thirty textual observations, as ordered as possible as the story line unfolds, followed by two capstones in the New Testament that fulfill these assumptions in Genesis:

  1. The definitions of “the heavens and the earth” (ha’ shamayim w’ eth ha’ eretz) in 1:1 as they introduce divinely and humanly governed domains;
  2. Thus the nature of the “heavenly court” as the original proactive polis and its many assumptive references across the whole canon;
  3. The relationship of 2:1 to 1:1 relative to an original presence of “armies” (ts’baam) in that original court;
  4. Thus the assumptive presence of the later identified fallen cherub, Lucifer, and thus the implicit freedom given to the angels;
  5. That which presupposes this freedom and the giving of freedom is intrinsic to the nature of the Sovereign, the Creator, Elohim;
  6. Thus the origin of the nature and name of Satan (ha’ satan) is assumed;
  7. Thus, the further nature of the heavens as a polis where divine order must be guarded;
  8. The “framework structure” of chapter 1 relative to defining these domains as originally given, and rulers in place over them (in Day 1 and Day 4, the domain of light and the governors of the sun, moon and stars; Day 2 and 5 vis-à-vis the waters and the sky, thus the birds and the fish governing their respective domains; Day 3 and Day 6 vis-à-vis the dry ground and first, the land creatures, and second, man and woman, as the governors; and Day 7 as the domain and rule of Elohim, to which man and woman also aim in the telos of their governing stewardship);
  9. The progress of the framework structure from the most remote to the most immediate, the lowest forms of life to the highest, all under man and woman under Elohim;
  10. The introduction of “to govern” (mashal), vis-à-vis the greater and lesser lights, and the stars “to give” (natan) light to the earth as they “separate” (badal) the day and the night;
  11. The repeated use of “it was good” (ki-tov) across the days of creation for the earthly domain, and “it was very good” (eth kal eth ashah w’ heneh tov) when all was done and given to the man and woman to govern;
  12. 1:26-28 in the giving of the image of Elohim (tselem elohim), and the introduction of a different verb “to govern” (radah) the good creation;
  13. The nature (and in terms of shalom) of the “rest” (shabat) of Elohim, and how shabat represents the structure and telos of governing the good creation as given to man and woman;
  14. The literary distinction between Genesis 1:1-2:4a and 2:4a-25, where the former addresses the grand design of Elohim as the Creator, the latter addresses the first covenant between the named Creator, Yahweh Elohim, and the first man and woman, located theologically in the sixth day of chapter 1;
  15. Human nature in 2:7 in terms of the corporeal needfulness of nephesh hayeh (“person or soul alive”), alongside the etymological realities of nephesh as “thirst” and “hunger” for life and freedom, and as dependent on Yahweh Elohim’s life-giving breath, mediated through the given ecosphere and divinely established social order;
  16. The nature, geography and description of the Garden of Eden where man and woman are first placed to govern;
  17. The command to work and “guard” (shamar) the Garden in 2:15 as the human polis is given;
  18. Thus, the assumption concerning why the human polis is to be guarded, and from whom, rooted in 1:1 and 2:1;
  19. The first words of Yawheh Elohim to Adam in 2:16-17, giving the metaphor of freedom, traditionally translated “you are free to eat” with its opposite “you will surely die;” but in the Hebrew, literally akol tokel, “in feasting you shall continually feast,” versus moth tamuth, “in dying you shall continually die,” and as parallelistically constructed opposites, where a level playing field is given to choose between good and evil, life and death, freedom and slavery, is intrinsic to the nature of the good;
  20. Thus, the assumption that 2:16-17 makes explicit the covenantal nature of freedom in the human polis as rooted in the implicit freedom given the angels in 1:1 and 2:1;
  21. akol tokel as the first definition of human freedom in recorded history, entirely proactive in defining a freedom to do the good, an unlimited menu of good choices and creativity in governing the good creation, and as an unsullied freedom for in the face of also being able to say no to it;
  22. How this freedom for is given to Adam before Eve is created, and how it defines the nature of power and human relationships in marriage on outward;
  23. An implicit centrality in governing as free moral agents in the asking of Yahweh Elohim and one another questions in an original freedom for in the learning, discerning and governing process;
  24. The intrusion of the “serpent” (nahash) in 3:1ff, and where he seeks first to destroy the freedom for by divorcing the decision making process between Adam and Eve in the face of Yahweh Elohim, and thus reverses the language of 2:17 in 3:4 with “in dying you shall not continually die” (lo moth tamuthon), thus leading to a breaking of the human polis;
  25. The failure of Eve, then Adam, vis-à-vis shamar, in their governing authority, to question, discern and judge the trespasser;
  26. Yahweh Elohim’s curse on the serpent for reversing the governing authorities in creation;
  27. The ensuing war between the seeds of the ancient serpent and the woman (3:15) with the purpose to reverse this reversal of this broken polis through an act of governing judgment;
  28. The social effect of the curse as Adam seeks to “rule” (mashal) “among” or “over” Eve;
  29. The resulting banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden and its now polluted polis;
  30. The commissioning of members of the remaining heavenly court, the cherubim, to guard (shamar) the original polis from further trespass, of the demonic and now, due to sin, the human; thus
  31. Setting the stage for the meta-narrative conflict of sin v. redemption, where the human polis in creation is broken, and set to be redeemed by the renewal of ouranon kainon kai gen kainen “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1) with the ten polin ten hagion Ierousalem kainen, “the Holy City, the new Jerusalem” (21:2), literally, the new polis; and
  32. The Lord’s Prayer as Jesus says eltheto he basileia sou genetheto to thelema so hos en ourano kai epi ges: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, in heaven and on earth.”

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