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9-3: Meredith G. Kline Strikes Back, Part 2

Biblical Chronology, Vol. 9, No. 3
Copyright James B. Jordan 1997
March, 1997

In our first essay we looked at Kline’s flawed exegesis of Genesis 2:5 as it relates to Day 3 of creation. Now we turn to Kline’s new argument against a chronological reading of Genesis 1, as found, again, in "Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony," Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 48:1 (March, 1996):2-15.

We must set out Kline’s argument in some detail in order to deal with it. He begins by writing that "another line of exegetical evidence has come to fore in my thinking. It concerns the two-register cosmological concept that structures the whole Biblical cosmogony" (p. 2). Kline’s argument will be that just as there is, within the creation, a heavens above and an earth beneath spatially, so also there is a heavenly time and an earthly time. Since there is no question about the former, it is the latter that Kline must establish.

Kline rightly points out that God created two realms in the beginning: heaven and earth. Clearly these two eventually were to become one, and that is what the history and maturation of humanity would lead to as a final eucatastrophe (good catastrophe). Moreover, as Kline points out, God set up within the lower (earthly) creation an upper and lower level, with the sky and its inhabitants called "heaven" and imaging the highest heaven within the earthly cosmos. Kline goes on to point out that the Tabernacle and Temple were also cosmic models, with the Holy of Holies as the highest heavens, and the Holy Place & Courtyard as visible heavens and earth.

(Since I am reviewing this article here, I should point out three errors in Kline’s otherwise fine discussion of these matters. On p. 3 he writes, "Taking its name from this above-section of visible space, supernal space (the above-section of the two-register cosmos) is then called `heaven.’" Actually, it is the other way around: The visible heavens are called "heavens" because they reveal aspects of the invisible heavens.

(Second, on p. 4 Kline writes, "The tabernacle and temple … are made after the pattern of the upper register temple revealed to Moses and Solomon." Rather, the Temple was revealed to David, who gave instructions to Solomon (1 Chronicles 28:11-19). Solomon and all the later temple-restoring kings, are equivalent to the Bezalel who built the Tabernacle under Moses’ instruction.

(Finally, also on p. 4, Kline writes, "Because of the Fall, the eschatological omega-point had to be won by the second Adam." Without taking it up here, I seriously question the notion that if Adam had not fallen Christ would not have been born. Everything in the Bible, especially the fact that humanity is the image of God, indicates to me that a Son of Man would eventually come to bring humanity to its eschatological glory, even if man had not sinned. If Adam had not sinned, he would have set humanity on the right course, but the climax would still have been a marriage of God and humanity through the incarnation and glorification as Human Son of His Eternal Son.)

Now Kline goes on from his general explanation of the two-tiered creation to a discussion of the six days. He advocates the notion that the first three days set out realms, while the next three set out rulers; kingdoms and kings:

Day One: Sky realm Day Four: Sky rulers

Day Two: Upper and lower realms Day Five: Birds and Fishes

Day Three: Earthly realm Day Six: Earthly rulers

Without going into all the points he makes, I must raise questions about this approach. This is surely one way to look at Genesis 1, and it is not without value, but it is not the most comprehensive and valuable way of looking at it.

The first observation is that the birds and fishes of Day 5 and the land animals of Day 6a are not said to rule anything. They are only said to multiply and fill. Whatever else may be said about them in later Biblical passages (some of which Kline references), nothing about ruling is said here. The parallel is not as exact as Kline would like it to be. Within the passage, the parallel for the filling and multiplication of birds, fishes, and animals is the filling of the earth with grain plants and fruit trees on Day 3.

Moreover, second, birds are not said to dwell in the firmament or the sky, paralleling Day 2. Rather, they are said to multiply on the earth (Genesis 1:22). They only travel in the sky. Indeed, they nest and dwell on the earth and trees, which associates them more with Day 3, and accordingly the fishes with the seas of Day 3. Indeed, the order (fishes and then birds) follows the order of Day 2-3 (sea and then land/trees).

Third, I think it can easily be shown that the Seven Days of Genesis One are a chiasm, to wit:

Day One: Light

Day Two: Firmament mediating between earth and God

Day Three: Sea, Land, and Trees

Day Four: Light Bearers in the Firmament (link to 1 & 2, 6 & 7)

Day Five: Dwellers of Sea, Land, and Trees

Day Six: The creatures who mediate between earth and God

Day Seven: Sabbath

Fourth, not only does this outline do better justice to the raw data, it also takes better account of what is said in verse 2, to wit: The earth was formless, empty, and dark. There are three "problems" to solve, and Genesis 1 solves them. The "kingdom and kings" approach to Genesis 1 does not take account of the fact that the entire passage is set up to "solve" these "problems." To wit:

Day One: Darkness (light)

Day Two: Formless (firmament)

Day Three: Emptiness (grain and fruit plants)

Day Four: Darkness (light-bearers)

Day Five: Emptiness (fishes and birds)

Day Six: Formless (man the ruler/former/organizer)

Day Seven: Darkness (God’s judgment-light)

Thus, while Kline is certainly right to see heavens above and earth below as structuring the cosmos in Genesis 1, his attempt to show that this is the overarching concern in Genesis 1 is in error. The theme is not as prominent as he supposes. As we shall see, part of his argument against taking the days of Genesis 1 as normal earthly days is this supposed overarching concern with matters above and below.

Sacred Time

At this point, Kline makes the mistake of creating a false analogy between heavenly space and heavenly time. Just as heavenly space is different, so he supposes is heavenly time. (Remember, neither Kline nor I am discussing the eternity of God, but rather the flow of time in the created heavens of the angels.) Kline writes, "Therefore, when we find that God’s upper level activity of issuing creative fiats from his heavenly throne is pictured as transpiring in a week of earthly days, we readily recognize that, in keeping with the pervasive contextual pattern, this is a literary figure, an earthly, lower register time metaphor for an upper register, heavenly reality" (p. 7). (I have shown above that the "pervasive contextual pattern" is lacking.)

There are a couple of global problems with this general argument, which I shall address before moving to Kline’s particular contextual argument. First, Kline rightly argues that when God’s Glory Cloud appears, it is the heavenly realm inserting into the earthly. But this means that God marches in earthly time along with His people. The Cloud parked in the Holy of Holies is experiencing earthly clock-history right along with Israel. Thus, even if there were two kinds of time, God chooses to come into earthly time and move with it. And since Genesis 1 has to do with the lightening, forming, and filling of the EARTH, it should have to do with earthly time.

Second, there is no reason to think that heavenly time has a differently ticking clock from earthly time. There is no evidence in the Bible for such a notion, however it may be expressed. Quite the opposite: In the book of Revelation is it clear that heavenly time is the same as earthly time. The angels wait for Jesus’ ascension. At God’s command, they come down into the earthly realm and perform actions in human history. To be sure, all the time statements in Revelation are symbolic, but it is clearly a symbolism common to the heavenly and earthly realms.

So, how does Kline argue? His argument, in brief, is this: The alternation of day and night presupposes the creation of the sun, and so Days 1 and 4 must happen at the same time, chronologically speaking. Since this is so, he argues, the events of Genesis 1 must all reflect intrusions of heavenly "days" into the earthly temporal realm, and we should not take the "days" chronological in an earthly sense.

Kline begins, "Earthly time is articulated in the astronomical phenomena that measure off and structure its flow" (p. 7). What Kline does not say is that the week is an exception to this astral measurement, and Genesis 1 is precisely a week. True, the day and the year and the month are measured by sun and moon, but the week is measured only by God, angels, and men. The week, as a measurement of time, has its root in man’s "position in the firmament" between heaven and earth. Man is lord of the week. The human week is not copied from the sun, but from God’s pattern of working in Genesis 1.

Ah, Kline says, but the human week consists of solar days. And so it does. Now Kline must show that from the beginning all days were solar days. He begins by asserting that Day Four must overlap Day One, for the alternation of day and night must be produced by the sun. He continues by arguing against various "day-age" notions, such as that the sun was only revealed on the fourth day.

Then he comes to the only argument he can muster against a literal view of the days of Genesis 1. He writes, "Some speculate about a supernatural light source, a manifestation of divine glory in space. But that distorts the eschatological design of creation history, according to which the advent of God’s glory as the source of illumination that does away with the need for the sun awaits the Consummation" (p. 9).

If, however, we go back to Genesis 1:2-3, such a "glory light" view seems quite natural. The Spirit entered the earthly realm and hovered over it. Then the Spirit gave forth God’s glory-light for the first day. Kline’s own fine study, "Images of the Spirit," shows that the appearance of the Spirit in history is accompanied by glory phenomena. He is forced by his position to make Genesis 1:2-3 the only exception to this observation.

Moreover, a simple read of Genesis 1 would lead us to see that the sun was made to fit the preexistent day, not vice versa. The alternation of day and night already existed, and the heavenly bodies were set up to fit that preexisting pattern.

Kline, however, asserts that God’s glory-light is eschatological; and he is right. The night does move to day. The night is not pitch black, for there are lesser lights in the sky; but such nights do move toward the Day of the Lord. And I suspect Kline would see that motion in Genesis 1:2-3, dark to light. What he does not want to see is Genesis 1:3 as a typological revelation of the eschatological light. It must be, in his view, some lesser light.

Perhaps this is because that light is followed by another evening. Yet, when God appears in His glory light in later history, such glorious appearances are also followed by evenings. The light is withdrawn. Only at the full end will light be perpetual. Thus, there is no problem with seeing God’s glory light in Genesis 1:3, a light that is shortly veiled and then reappears twice until the sun is created.

Moreover, it is entirely appropriate that God initiate history with a revelation of where history is going. That is, it is entirely fitting that God reveal His glory at the beginning, to set humanity in motion. This is clear from the fact that man was created later in the sixth day, so that his first full day was God’s glory-sabbath. Man was to be given a taste of eschatological sabbath glory at the beginning, to set him on his goal.

Agreeable to this, God appears in glory when He initiates covenants in the Bible. He puts the bright and glorious rainbow in the sky when He initiates the Noahic covenant. He appears as a pillar of glory-fire when He leads Israel from Egypt (Exodus 13:21-22). He appears in bright lightning flashes from His glory cloud at Mount Sinai, the point of full initiation of the Sinaitic covenant. And of course, Jesus is transfigured at the very point when He initiates the Church, revealing as the hymn says, "the glory that the Church shall share" (Matthew 16:13 – 17:8).

O wondrous type, O vision fair:

The glory that the Church shall share,

Which Christ upon the mount displays,

The sun unequal to His rays.

(Latin hymn, 15th c.; trans. J. M. Neale, modified)

Thus, contrary to Kline, everything in the immediate text and in Biblical theology points to a revelation of God’s own created heavenly glory-light on Day 1. Nothing hints that the sun must have been made at that point.

Kline’s conclusion, however, is: "Temporal recapitulation most certainly occurs at day four and hence there is no escaping the conclusion that the narrative sequence is not intended to be the chronological sequence." Since Kline’s foundation is completely wrong, his conclusion does not stand.

This is Kline’s argument, but he also points to a couple of other factors. First, he says that "in the beginning" must refer to God outside of time and history, for it is from that situation that He made the universe. Quite so. But having made it, what indicates that there are two different kinds of time operating in it? From outside time God made time and heaven and earth. Nothing indicates two different flows of time. This is especially the case since Kline, rightly I think, argues that God’s speaking into the earthly creation during the days of Genesis 1 is not from His eternal existence but from His (created) heavenly throne. Kline would have to show that angelic clocks run differently from human ones, and that he has not done. Whatever the case, the phrase "in the beginning" in Genesis 1:1 does nothing for his argument.

Secondly, Kline notes that there is a sense in which the seventh day is unending. We "enter into" God’s preexistent sabbath in Hebrews 4. Correct; but the seventh day is not said to have an evening and a morning either. There is no problem at all with the traditional view that we have six normal days followed by an unending one.

Evening and Morning

And this brings Kline to an attempt to deal with the repeated phrase "and there was evening and there was morning," which is said regarding the first six days. This phrase is generally regarded as the hardest problem for both the framework hypothesis and for the day-age hypothesis. Kline, however, simply dismisses the problem. He asserts: "The IMAGERY of the evening and morning is SIMPLY a DETAIL in the creation-week PICTURE. This refrain thus function as part of the FORMULARIZED framework of the account" (p. 10; emphasis added). This statement, however, is precisely what Kline needs to demonstrate, not merely assert. Kline seeks to pass off the data as "simply a detail in the imagery of a picture."

He asserts that "the six evening-morning days then do not mark the passage of time in the lower register sphere" (p. 10). They were "upper register" days. But on what basis does Kline assert this? He has given no credible evidence to suppose that there is any such thing as a different heavenly time. He asserts that the six days "are not identifiable in terms of solar days, but relate to the history of creation at the upper register of the cosmos" (p. 10). Well, even if so, so what? He has not shown that upper register time is any different from lower register time.

Moreover, this whole assertion strains at a gnat and swallows a camel. It is precisely the EARTH that is being lightened, formed, and filled in Genesis 1. The evenings and mornings are measured out by light and light-bearers WITHIN the earth. The evenings and mornings are as much part of the "lower earthly realm" as trees, fishes, and human beings. We have no reason to believe in an alternation of evenings and mornings in the upper heavenly realm. Evening and morning are, it seems, exclusively earthly phenomena. Thus, so are the days.

Kline states that "in the beginning" is timeless in some sense, and that the sabbath day is unending; therefore, the days bracketed by these two statements are not ordinary chronological days (p. 10). This is an amazingly gratuitous assertion. Rather clearly, the six days are precisely ordinary chronological time. God initiates history "in the beginning," and ends it at the sabbath. What is in between? History! Clock time! The creation week typologically reveals the unfolding of history to us: initiated by God and consummated by His sabbath judgment and rest. Just as God appears as Glory to start men off in their covenantal work (as we saw), so He also provides a microcosmic picture of history to show us where we are going. It is precisely history and chronological time that is revealed in the six days.

Genesis 1 shows God initiating the world and then working with it for six days before entering into His sabbath and turning the project over to His servants. This is said to be a pattern for human work in Exodus 20:11. As a father patterns for his children, so God patterns for us. If the six work days of Genesis 1 are not "lower realm" earthly days, then they don’t have much relevance to the life of mankind.

And again, it is precisely the "lower realm earth" that God is manipulating in Genesis 1. To assert that God is working in earthly space using heavenly days is virtually a contradiction (assuming that heavenly days are any different).

Conclusion

We have seen that Kline’s attempt to create a contradiction between Day 3 and what is said in Genesis 2:5 is based on very poor exegesis. There is no contradiction.

We have seen that Kline’s attempt to make the events of Day 1 and of Day 4 the same chronologically is also devoid of foundation, and goes against Biblical theology.

We have seen that these are the twin pillars of Kline’s argument for a non-chronological "framework" approach to Genesis 1. This is by his own statement (p. 2). Without these two pillars, Kline’s position falls by his own hand.

Finally, nothing else Kline has noted along the way provides any evidence for a framework view.

We conclude that the framework approach to Genesis 1 is nothing but a groundless and arbitrary assertion, and unworthy of serious consideration.

The fact that the blocks of events are called "days" could, by itself, arguably be evidence of the "invasion of history by God’s glorious day-ness," analogous to the various "days of the Lord" in the Bible. In fact, we can readily grant that this is one aspect of the theology of Genesis 1. But that the days are sequentially numbered, that they have mornings and evenings, and that in context the sun is said to measure the length of these very days after the fourth day, demonstrates fully that the events of Genesis 1 are chronologically sequential, and that the days are of short and ordinary duration.