The current popularity of the framework interpretation of the Genesis creation account is largely a result of the work of Reformed scholar Meredith G. Kline. His initial entry was an article in the late 1950s, “Because It Had Not Rained” (Westminster Theological Journal 20 [May 1958]: 145–57). Since Kline’s initial article, other reputable Christian scholars have attempted to provide defenses of the framework interpretation (for a fuller discussion of this view as well as scholars supporting it, see my two journal articles here and here; for a condensation read my chapter in Coming to Grips with Genesis).
The framework view asserts that the creation “week” of Genesis 1:1–2:3 is a literary device intended to present God’s creative activity in a topical, non-sequential manner, rather than a literal, sequential one. Kline and others support the framework theory with three primary arguments. First, advocates of this position contend that the figurative nature of the creation account demonstrates that it is arranged topically rather than chronologically. Second, it is further asserted that ordinary providence governed the creation account. Third, this view maintains that that the unending nature of the seventh day indicates that the six days of the creation week are not normal days.
In this post and two subsequent ones, I will critique the framework view. With this entry I will briefly outline the first thesis and then follow with an evaluation. In following posts, I will examine the other two theses.
The Literary Nature of the Creation Account — The framework interpretation argues that God uses the imagery of an ordinary week to serve as a rhetorical structure for God’s acts of creation. Using the literary metaphor of a “week,” the author of Genesis uses something of a semi-poetic account, where Days 1–3 find a parallel in Days 4–6. Both triads are subordinate to God’s eternal Sabbath rest on the seventh day. Framework advocates use the following chart to explain this scheme.
As this chart shows, the structural arrangement of both triads indicates that the literary arrangement of the creation account reflects a topical arrangement rather than a chronological sequence, and it emphasizes divine creative activities that culminate with the Creator King’s Sabbath rest. Further, the luminaries of Day 4 control Day 1, the creatures of Day 5 govern Day 2, and the creatures of Day 6 have jurisdiction over Day 3.
However, there are at least two problems with interpreting the creation account as a semi-poetic account. First, while Genesis 1:1–2:3 reflects a somewhat stylistic use of Hebrew narrative because of its repeated phrases, the 55 uses of waw consecutive (a Hebrew verbal form that is predominantly used in Hebrew sequential narrative literature) strongly argues that the creation account is a sequential, chronological narrative and not a semi-poetic account. Second, the supposed parallels between the two triads are strained. For instance, the framework argues that the luminaries of Day 4 are an intentional replication of the light created on Day 1. However, this overlooks the important point that the luminaries of Day 4 are placed in the expanse created on Day 2. Thus, the luminaries of Day 4 presuppose the creation of the physical phenomenon of light on Day 1 and the expanse on Day 2. Consequently, there is nothing significant in Genesis 1:1–2:3 to undermine the traditional view that maintains this is a historical, sequential account affirming that God created the heavens, the earth and all things therein over the course of six literal, sequential days.
In the next post, I will look at the second thesis supporting the framework.