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The Implications of Genesis 1:26-28 and 5:1-3 for Gender Identity and Marriage: A Structural Analysis of Humanity's Blueprint

The primary passages in the Bible that set off human beings as distinct from the rest of creation, including Animalia, are those in the creation narrative. Specifically, Gen 1:26-28 (and 5:1-3) describe the Creator's blueprint for humanity.
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    Copyright © 2016 by R. Brian Rickett. All rights reserved. The Implications of Genesis 1:26-28 and 5:1-3 for Gender Identity and Marriage: A Structural Analysis of H umanity’s Blueprint Prof. R. Brian Rickett BMATS   The primary passages in the Bible that set off human beings as distinct from the rest of creation, including Animalia, are those in the creation narrative. Specifically, Gen 1:26-28 (and 5:1-3) describe the Creator’s blueprint for humanity. Consider that  : 1.) the structure of these lines, 2.) their placement within the larger narrative, 3.) the expression of the Creator’s unique design interest, and 4.) the larger portion of space within which these verses are situated, sets them off not only in terms of content, but visually and structurally from the rest of the narrative. This is done purposely-to communicate something unique about the object of the Creator’s interest. Such observations are not new.  However, these structural features have not received the careful attention they warrant from evangelical scholars. Even more, new analysis is especially crucial in view of current cultural, theological, practical, and ecclesiastical concerns for which these verses provide clear and important bearing. INTRODUCTION Recent attempts to address human sexuality and gender identity within the Judeo-Christian traditions may be classified into two main categories: those interested in taking the  biblical text/perspective seriously, and those not interested in taking the biblical text/perspective seriously. Theologically liberal Jews 1  and Christians not only seem to differ little from secular 1   Evangelicals are well aware of inconsistencies within the “Christian” community on these issues. However, for an example of the disconnect between religious tradition, practice, and scriptural authority in the Jewish tradition, consider a 2015 incident that took place in Jerusalem and was recently commemorated. During a Gay Pride march last summer in  Jerusalem , a young celebrant in the parade was murdered by an orthodox Jew due to the incompatible religious views of Orthodox Judaism and the sentiment celebrated by the non-orthodox Jewish  participants in the parade. Ironically, to honor the deceased and “preserve her memory,” HIV expert Professor Mark Weinberg of McGill University chose to donate a historic, restored Sefer Torah to an Ethiopian Jewish community in Jerusalem- in the deceased’s honor  . The mayor of Jerusalem was present at the commemoration and eulogized the honoree. Those concerned with taking the text of Scripture seriously, may be justifiably baffled by the seeming contradiction. Why donate a Torah in honor of someone marching to promote a position contrary to the Torah, and  2 Copyright © 2016 by R. Brian Rickett. All rights reserved. liberals on social issues, but also as pertains to their view of the text of Scripture. Perspectives from this second category seem clearly detached from any legitimate notion of biblical authority. 2  The expected result is that they would have little motivation to engage in serious analysis of the biblical text, or at least an analysis that seeks to honor the authorial intent of Scripture. This seems clear. However, those from category number one, those that seek to engage the text, particularly from professedly Christian perspectives, have typically fallen into four categories on issues related to gender, sexuality, and marriage. First, are the open or pro-gay marriage, pro-homosexual practice perspectives, represented by writers like Matthew Vines and Mark Achtemeier. 3  Second are the rebuttals from prominent evangelical voices, like Kevin DeYoung, who was killed in the very act of celebrating the banned activity, and     by someone wishing to preserve the Torah’s  principle in a way seemingly consistent with that proscribed/celebrated by the Torah? Even more, consider that the woman’s assassination (?) occurred when the perpetrator unilaterally took the victim’s life in a zealous act seemingly consistent with the Torah’s principle for handling such behavior. Cf. Le v. 20:13; Num. 25:1-16; 1 Kings 22:46. Examples of these sorts of seeming contradictions in Christianity are legion, but not unique to Christianity. See Israel National News http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/206653#.Vs31WPkrJj2.  2  For example, Dr.   Judith Morishima-Nelson (M.D., Psychiatry) admits the point in her Amazon.com review of a major Genesis commentary consulted for the present project. The particular commentary under consideration has as its main purpose that of addressing literary structures in Genesis, see Genesis  (Berit Olam: Studies in Hebrew Narrative & Poetry, Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press, 2003). She states, “While I as a liberation theologian am not usually enthusiastic about literary criticism, Cotter employs it in the service of liberation in this commentary.” Further, “ These important connotations of words that are so frequently utilized by Christians such as salvation and justice are sorely needed in these days of abundance of superficial, self-centered Christianity. By reading, learning and incorporating Cotter's work we can gain a fuller appreciation of the meaning of these and other theological words in terms of God's orientation towards those on the margins of society, the voiceless, ostracized, and victimized. We learn that God intervenes in history on their behalf. The implication would  be that those who claim to love and follow that same God need to work on behalf of justice for these same oppressed.”  Notice that the above reviewer, a self- identified “liberation theologian,” really only appears to be interested in Genesis, or in the literary analysis (“criticism”) of Genesis, to the extent that it may be used to support her preferred theological framework. Her interests may be noble, but to seal oneself off from the text in this way is dangerously closeminded and prevents growth and insight in other areas. However, for Morishima-Nelson, and for many others, the theological framework is the most important consideration, and the actual meaning of the text is valued or rejected in view of these preferred interests. 3  God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships  (New York: Convergent Books, 2015). See also Mark Achtemeier, The Bible’s Yes to Same - Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart (Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014).  Note: The Amazon.com’s promotional copy describes the book thus: “ Readers will discover how reading snippets of Scripture out of context has led to false and misleading interpretations of the Bible's message for gay people. Achtemeier shows how a careful reading  3 Copyright © 2016 by R. Brian Rickett. All rights reserved. Al Mohler and others. 4  Third are other popular-style projects promoting a high view of Scripture and faithful practice, from a sort of experiential, personal, or mediating perspective like those of Wesley Hill and Sam Alberry. 5  Finally, there are books of a more academic, exegetical flavor, like Robert J. Gagnon’s monumental work. 6  What the projects in each of the above categories lacks, however, is the sort of thorough exegesis of the text of Scripture necessary to ensure the highest level of theological fidelity and  biblical praxis. Until that happens, the various perspectives represented can be as varied (and unconvincing) as the writers appealing to Scripture and tend to say more about the individual interpreter than the text of Scripture. 7  In the case of Vines, in the introduction to his book, in the section entitled, “Searching Out What the Bible Really Teaches,” V ines explains that there are essentially six key biblical  passages that “have stood in the way of countless gay people who long for acceptance….” 8  At the outset, Vines’ goals and method are clear  . He views homosexual practice and marriage as legitimate options for Christians and identifies several key passages that  stand in the way . He then intends to interpret/reinterpret these passages in such a way as to allow for his conclusions. of the whole Scripture reveals God's good news about love, marriage, and sexuality for gay and straight people alike.”   4  Kevin DeYoung, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality  (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2015), Al Mohler et al., God and the Gay Christian?: A Response to Matthew Vines  (Louisville, Ky: SBTS Press, 2015). 5  Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality  (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2010). See also Sam Allberry,  Is God Anti-Gay  (Questions Christians Ask) (England: The Good Book Company, 2015). 6  Robert J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Text and Hermeneutics  (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 2002). 7  This is not a suggestion that non-exegetical works are insufficient, but that they must be based on sound exegetical analysis to insure fidelity and prevent aberration. See the quote below from Van Til on the appropriate relationship of the various disciplines. 8  Note the wording of the section. Implicit is the idea that traditional views are not what the Bible really intends. Vines, God and the Gay Christian , p. 7.  4 Copyright © 2016 by R. Brian Rickett. All rights reserved. Rather than engaging in careful exegesis 9   of the passages that describe God’s blueprint for human sexuality, he selects the passages that stand to be obstacles to his conclusions and sets about to renegotiate the terms. These passages, he writes, are Genesis 19:5, Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; and 1 Timothy 1:10. If these passages can be interpreted in such a way so as not to ban gay practice, then, he argues, it is permissible. Taking this approach, Vines does not address Genesis 1:26-28 or 5:1-3 because they are not prohibitive in nature. That is, the reason he does not address these passages, presumably, is that they do not explicitly ban or condemn homosexual practice. What many writers have missed, though, is that Scripture states explicitly that there are specific intentions for human sexuality and marriage. When these are ignored, it results not only in misapprehension of the Creator’s intent, but in decidedly aberrant views and practices. God’s design purposes for human sexuality and marriage are much more architectonic, theologically  profound, and morally, spiritually consequential than could ever be understood by simply looking at the limitations of practice. 9   Matthew Vines is not an exegete and doesn’t have the requisite training to engage in high level textual analysis, but this is a symptom of the problem. The current cultural milieu is one where skilled textual analysis is simply not valued, often even by evangelicals. Until evangelical leaders recommit themselves to analyzing the text of Scripture in a way that it deserves, with sobriety, careful reflection, and skill, the ease at which novel and heterodox positions gain acceptance will flourish, and not just in areas of cultural interests. Evangelicals need to increase their cultural and academic respectability by cultivating a reputation of excellence in thought and work  product. For example, consider the historical case of Karl Barth. Carl F. H. Henry lament ed Barth’s efforts w ith regard to the latter’s  formulation of natural revelation. Henry states, “ However earnestly Barth strives to present a theology of the Word of God, however magnificently architectonic his framework of revelation may be, he frequently says less or more than the Bible says and at times other than what it says. Such speculation may be motivated by legitimate concerns  —in Barth’s case, to connect revelation with the doctrine of the Trinity and to  preserve some priority for the apostolic testimony. But the dynamics of divine disclosure are inevitably blurred where divine revelation is not allowed to indicate its own framework for an exposition of its forms. ” See Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation and Authority: God Who Speaks and Shows , 6 vols. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1999), 2:147. Henry thus argues that when it comes to producing a systematization of general revelation, Scripture ought to have first been examined to see if it provided a set of parameters within which to wo rk. Because of Barth’s failure to be rigorously biblical, he ended up saying other than what the Bible said and therefore erred. When evangelical leaders meet novel, unorthodox views on their own terms, i.e. in ways that are not rigorously biblical, they unintentionally give validation to the sort of superficial approaches used by novices. This needs to change.  5 Copyright © 2016 by R. Brian Rickett. All rights reserved. Even in academic circles, including the evangelical community, there is a lack of thorough exegetical analysis of the relevant biblical texts, especially in the Old Testament. Take Gagnon’s project, for example . In his helpful work, he seeks to engage in serious exegetical analysis, but he stops short of looking at the more nuanced aspects of exegesis involving literary and structural analysis, both of which are part of exegesis, and without which, exegesis is incomplete. 10  The reason these are important, explains Robert Alter, is that “literary art” plays a crucial role in the “shaping of biblical narrative.” He rhetorically asks, “What role does literary art play in the shaping of biblical narrative? A crucial one, I shall argue, finally modulated from moment to moment, determining in most cases the minute choice of words and reported details, the place of narration, the small movements of dialogue, and a whole network of ramified interconnections in the text.” 11  David Dorsey elaborates, All literary compositions have structure. A book, a personal letter; a sermon, even a recipe, has an internal arrangement, sometimes referred to as “surface structure….” The practice of structuring communication, whether written or oral, is universal among humans as shown by studies among numerous languages and dialects thr  oughout the world…. This was true in ancient Israel. The pages of the Old Testament reflect a keen interest in literary structure. Hebrew authors and editors generally took great pains to arrange their compositions in ways that would help convey their messages. 12  These structures are crucial to understanding the text of Scripture, but it takes more than casual observation to grasp their roles in the construction the text and their part in 10   As noted by Walsh, although literary and structural analysis like “symmetry” was largely ignored by past scholars, now in the 21 st  century, these components of exegesis are beginning to come to maturity. This is being done, he explains, with effective, judicious use for interpretation. However, if evangelicals really want to be the standard bearers when it comes to a high view of Scripture in faith and practice, it must be their scholars that lead the way in all areas of biblical, theological studies and especially in those divisions that are the most technical requiring the highest level of devotion and discipline. See Jerome T. Walsh, Style & Structure in Biblical Hebrew  Narrative (Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press, 2003), p. 8, fn. 4. 11  Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1980), p. 3. 12  David A. Dorsey, The Literary Structure of the Old Testament: A Commentary on Genesis-Malachi  (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1999), p. 15.
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