Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

14 May 2012

What about the Framework Interpretation? (Part 1)

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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.

21 Responses

  1. I think it is important to note that Kline strongly affirms the historicity of Adam as the first man as well as the fact of the Fall.Needless to say for those who have read Kline, he was most emphatic about the Covenant of works and Adam’s federal headship. I had professor Kline for Old Testment Biblical theology at Westminster back in 1978 and he would have been greatly upset with the views of Peter Enns as recently setforth in his book ,’The Evoultion of Adam’.

    1. Bob McCabe

      I have read enough of Dr. Kline to know that he affirmed exactly what you have stated and that he would not have agreed with Enns as well as anyone else denying the historicity of Adam or the Fall. Your point is well taken. Thanks

  2. Steve Drake

    How does the ‘analogical day’ view differ from the framework view in your estimation? Does this have better exegetical support than the framework view?

    1. Bob McCabe

      Like the framework, the analogical day view maintains that the days are analogous to earthly days. One of the key differences is that the analogical day view maintains that that the “days” of the creation week are broadly consecutive. The framework does not take the creation days to be broadly consecutive. It seems like the analogical day view is roughly a combination of the day age view and the framework.

      Advocates of both views provide some exegetical support. However, in my understanding, the tradition view of the creation week has the most consistent exegetical support and is consistent with the Scripture’s overall message about creation.

      1. Steve Drake

        Dr. McCabe,
        Thanks. One last question. You mention Kline as the popularizer of the Framework View, and in your technical journal paper mention Noordzij and his earlier work, something that Kline may have used and referenced perhaps, but in who do we find the origins of the ‘analogical day’ view and when?

        1. Bob McCabe

          The analogical days view is a reaction to some of the problems with the day-age view. This reaction is reflected in the late 19th century by Shedd. He reflects some form of this view when he says: “The seven days of the human week are copies of the seven days of the Divine week” (Dogmatic Theology, 1:477). Again, Bavinck (in his book In the Beginning, a translation of his 1895-1901 Gereformeerde Dogmatiek) states that “for all these reasons, ‘day,’ in the first chapter of the Bible, denotes the time in which God was at work creating.…The creation days are the workdays of God” (pp. 125-26).

          The current popularity of this approach is because of the work of C. John Collins. He has written a few articles supporting this view. He defends this view is in his book, Genesis 1–4.

  3. Steve Drake

    Dr. McCabe,
    Okay, sorry, more questions. What do you see as the biggest theological question that the Framework view and ‘Analogical Day’ view fail to take into account?

    1. Bob McCabe

      They do not address the connection between death and the Fall, yet both views assume that death and suffering came before the Fall. This is incompatible with Genesis 3 and Romans 8.

  4. Steve Drake

    Dr. McCabe,
    Yes, I would agree. But they will say that ‘death’ as an entity is not what God is speaking about in Gen. 2:17. Only that this ‘death’ was for Adam and humankind, not animals. Where does the six-day literalist find succor in Scripture, that there was no animal death before the disobedience (Gen. 3:1-7) and that God’s ‘good’ and ‘very good’ mean just that (no animal death)?

  5. Bob McCabe


    Would you not agree that Romans 8:19–22 has a bearing on this subject? “or the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now

    To me it seems inescapable that the creation is suffering death, decay, and suffering that started when God subjected it to the curse/futility. The whole creation includes animals. Further, the curse, in Genesis 3, over the world that Adam ruled over Genesis 3 is consistent with Romans 8.

    If you want to read more about this, please read the articles that I linked to in my post.

  6. Steve Drake

    Hi Bob,
    Yes, I agree that Romans 8 has everything to do with this. I have read your chapter in ‘Coming to Grips with Genesis’ and agree with it. I have the book, and refer to it often. I am a six-day biblicist mature creationist myself, but only am asking for scriptural support as one of your students might for the belief that there was no animal death before the Fall. This is the baliwick of the Framework View and Analogical Day view, no?

  7. Bob McCabe

    Hi Steve,

    Since you have read my chapter in Coming to Grips with Genesis, you understand what I am arguing for. I might also add that my two journal articles on the framework are more extensive, about 120 pages in total. I have done much reading on both the framework and analogical day view. In my opinion, each view minimizes the significance of Romans 8.

    In addition, Genesis 3:14 states that serpent is cursed above all the livestock and beast of the field. This certainly indicates that all the livestock and beast of the field were also cursed. The serpent was cursed in an additional way.

    Thanks for reading my blog entry as well as my chapter.


  8. Steve Drake

    Brother Bob,
    Bless you brother! The argument about animal death before the Fall of Adam is paramount with our brothers and sisters in the Church today. The ‘alleged’ scientific evidence for millions and billions of years based on radiometric dating is permeating my brothers and sisters within our churches. With that, they conclude that there must be some kind of God-directed evolutionary happening with man and the rest of the biodiversity of life before the sin of Adam. They conclude that death in the animal kingdom must have been going on for a long time before Adam sinned. I was only looking for your conclusions on the matter, your defense from Scripture.

  9. Bob McCabe


    I am neither a scientist nor the son of a scientist. So I do not have much recourse to science. Nevertheless, all of my training is in exegesis and theology. When I became interested in biblical creationism, I was surprised to see how much the Bible has to say about creation. For about the last 15 or so years of my life, I have attempted to use my training in exegesis and theology to contribute to the subject of biblical creationism. Because of the drift of the Christian community, myself and my colleagues at DBTS saw that this was a need with our student body.

    Though I was not certain where you were coming from, the way you framed the questions I suspected that you were at least sympathetic to my entry. However, I recognize that my post only scratched the surface of the subject. And, my chapter does a more thorough treatment on the subject.

    Do you think that there are other texts that have a bearing on the issue of animal death?


    1. Steve Drake

      Hi Bob,
      Personally, I think one has to come at it from several directions. There does not seem to be any direct evidence in Scripture except as one looks at the meaning of Gen. 1-29-30. Does the text signal exlusivity, that ‘only’ plants yielding seed and fruit yielding seed shall be food, or does it leave open in a general sense that man and animals with the breath of life were given plants for food? In your opinion, does the Hebrew indicate this exclusivity?

      Other supporting evidence I think is as one looks at the word ‘good’ (six times in Gen.1), and ‘very good’ (Gen.1:31). We make an argument that God’s ‘good’ and ‘very good’ could not have included death, even as an entitiy before the sin of Adam. Of course many will say not necessarily so, point to Ps. 104:21 for instance, and claim that God’s ‘good’ included carnivory.

      One also has to take a look at the meaning of God’s curse in Gen. 3: 14-19, as you have already pointed out. If death had already been occurring in the animal kingdom prior to Adam’s sin, then what really changed with God’s curse on the animals in Gen. 3:14? What did the curse actually do to the animal kingdom if death and carnivory were already in existence?

      Thanks for your prompt replies Bob. I appreciate the willingness to pick your brain a bit. I’m a layperson with no special training in Hebrew or Greek, and am only seeking confirmation for the six-day recent mature creation view I hold. The issue of animal death before the Fall is one of the more thornier ones.

      1. Bob McCabe

        Hi Steve,

        I agree with you that the use of “good” and “very good” in Genesis 1 provides solid support for not seeing death in Genesis 1.

        Because of the precise wording of Genesis 1:30, I understand that the plants and fruit yielding seed was intended for man and animals.

        Though some take Psalm 104 as a psalm of creation, the details of the text are broader than creation but includes elements of God’s providence in controlling his creation. His providential control even includes ships in v. 26. So my preference is not to see Psalm 104 as being applicable to our discussion.

        Thanks for the feedback


  10. Dr. McCabe, I assume that you are familiar with Vern S. Poythress’s book: “Redeeming Science.” He seems to borrow heavily from the framework hypothesis although he differs in points. This Kline and Poythress thinking appears to represent a new outlook on creation at Westminster.

    Although I have some familiarity with the framework hypothesis, I have not read much of Kline. How can he maintain the historicity of Adam/Eve, the Fall, etc. consistent with his framework hypothesis?

    1. Robert McCabe

      Thanks for the question, Roland.

      I am familiar with Dr. Poythress’ Redeeming Science. On p. 131, n. 1, Poythress claims that, though he does not agree with Collins’ analogical day view at every point, he considers his view to belong to the same category as Collins’ view.

      The reason why there are a number of similarities is that the analogical day view is something of a hybrid between the framework and day-age views.

      In my opinion, Kline and other old-earth advocates inconsistently hold to a historical Adam. However, because of their Reformed backgrounds, they have not given up on this, unlike Peter Enns and others. The way they get around this inconsistency is by maintaining that Genesis 1 is not a genuine historical narrative (but something of a semi-poetic or exalted prose passage) like the remainder of the Genesis narrative.

      I have argued in a few places that Genesis 1 has the marks of a historical narrative like the rest of the narrative sections in Genesis.

      1. Dr. McCabe, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to reply to my post.

        Regarding Genesis 1, one may argue either historical (and I would agree) or poetic based on the nature of the text, but how does one get around the apparent acceptance of Genesis 1 as a literal, historical account from Christ’s and Paul’s statements in the NT?

        1. Robert McCabe

          Roland, I cannot figure out how a few “evangelicals” get around the NT evidence. This does not make sense to me. One of things that I have thought for some years is that drinking too long at the well of ancient Near Eastern studies places one in a position to reinterpret what Christ and Paul had to say.

          This is a sad commentary on the state of some phases of evangelicalism.