Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Toledoth in Matthew 1:1

The Toledoth in Matthew 1:1, supposedly the only one in the New Testament, seems at first to contradict the thesis of P.J. Wiseman that Toledoth are colophon endings, rather than headings. Though it does conform nicely with his argument that Toledoth refer to "ancestors" not "descendants".But the Gospel of Matthew is, like so many other Bible books, chiastically structured, with the first division coming at 1:17. In other words Matthew 1:1 chiastically connects with 1:17. And, guess what, "generations" is mentioned 4 times in 1:17.
So that is our colophon, whereas 1:1 is just a link (perhaps Wiseman's 'catch-line' theory) to 1:17.
Wiseman must not have recognised 1:17 for what it is. It may open up a whole new field.THE ‘GENERATIONS’ OF JESUS CHRIST

he AMAIC has written extensively about the structure of the Book of Genesis, based on the discovery of Air Commodore P. J. Wiseman, that Genesis comprises eleven clearly discernible divisions stating:
“These are the generations of …”

(Hebrew toledôt, or toledoth, “generations”). See e.g. our “Tracing the Hand of Moses in Genesis” (http://www.specialtyinterests.net/Tracing_the_hand_of_moses_in_genesis.html). These toledoth are actually the patriarchal signatures (Adam, Noah, Terah, Isaac, etc.), written at the end of each respective family history. Thus Moses was the editor only, not author, of Genesis. Though he substantially wrote the Pentateuch (the first five books).
Now Matthew Buckley of Queensland, Australia , who is well familiar with the toledoth theory, has wondered why, then, the toledoth in Matthew’s Gospel (the only apparent toledoth in the New Testament) stands right at the beginning of Matthew (1:1):
“The generations of Jesus the Messiah …”

and not at the end of a section.
That is a very good question, as we have maintained that the toledoth is an ending (a colophon), rather than a beginning (against biblical critics who insist that the toledoth is a heading, or introduction).
Thanks for the question, Matthew. Concerning the answer, we are grateful to the findings of a recent study (to be discussed at a later time) of the structure of Matthew’s Gospel, according to which the first natural division in this Gospel occurs at verse 1:17. And what do we find there? We find that key word, “generations” (Greek geneai, as Matthew’s Gospel is now in Greek). And it occurs there FOUR TIMES. This, then (verse 1:17), must be the real toledoth of this Gospel. Thus the colophon is situated exactly where it should be (according to a right understanding of the toledoth theory), at the end of a natural section. The mention of “generations” in verse 1:1, right at the beginning - that Matthew Buckley had wondered about - is therefore merely a ‘catch-line’ (a common feature in ancient tablets), serving to link the beginning of the text (1:1) to its colophon ending (1:17). See e.g. our http://genesis1.blog.com (on the “Six Days” of Genesis), where is found the exact same situation, in which the title ‘catch-line’ of Genesis 1:1 is repeated in the ‘catch-line’ of the colophon: “… the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 2:4), with which it forms a literary link.
So, it looks like we may indeed be on the right track with our P. J. Wiseman-inspired toledoth theory.
The Book of Genesis is comprised of a series of family histories (Hebrew tôledôt) of the great patriarchs, from Adam to Joseph.
Genesis therefore is made up of a series of books, or diaries; the first of which covers verses 1:1-2:4 and is called The Book of the Heavens and the Earth; the title being taken from its opening line: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (1:1). The Septuagint in fact tells us that this section of Genesis was a written account, or book (Hebrew sêpher): “God made the written account of the origin of the heavens and the earth”. In other words, God was not creating the universe during those Six Days. He had already done that in the beginning, all at once. That is why Exodus 20:11 and 31:17, when referring to God’s activity during the Six Days, do not once use the Hebrew word for create (bara), but use the far more flexible in meaning, asah. (See ‘The Nature of God’s Creative Act’ above).
What God apparently was doing was writing a book for an already existing Adam and Eve. It was like a day-class with God as Teacher. The Almighty was doing what He would later do on Mount Sinai, in the presence of Moses: making a revelation and writing down on tablets what He wanted to be preserved in perpetuity, engraved in stone.

Two Approaches to Genesis 1

Regarding the meaning of the ‘Six Days’ (Gk. Hexaëmeron), debate has tended to divide commentators into two camps, namely:
  1. Those who favour the view that the world was created during six real, 24-hour days. This is often referred to as the literalist approach, because the Hebrew word for ‘day’ (yom) is taken in its literal meaning of a 24-hour day;
  2. Those who favour an allegorical interpretation, e.g. the ‘theistic’ evolutionists, who might argue, for instance, that the ‘Six Days’ could refer allegorically to geological periods of millions of years. Or some other such non-literal interpretation.
There is no doubt that by far the majority of the Fathers favoured the so-called literalist interpretation of the Hexaëmeron. We can name here such luminaries as Sts. Basil, Jerome, Chrysostom, Ephrem. (The Syro-Arabic, Jewish and Persian commentators also definitely favoured the view that God created the world during Six Days).
But not all the Fathers of the Church accepted this interpretation. The famous Alexandrian School, which included of course St. Clement, and the erudite Origen, preferred a more allegorical approach - which, however, needs to be distinguished from that of the ‘theistic’evolutionists. Origen ridiculed the notion of a creation that lasted during six days. And even the proponents of this approach have to concede that there are significant problems with it, for example:
  • How could there be “evenings” and “mornings” on the first three days if the sun was not created until the fourth day?
  • Why would Almighty God need to cease from His work because of the turning of the world on its axis?
  • Etc.
Not to mention the metaphysical difficulty discussed above of how God’s creative act could have had temporal duration; directly in conflict, it seems, with the quotation from Sirach 18:1. Omnia simul, God created all things at once!
The fact that the so-called literalist approach has not been fully able to deal with all the contingencies of the Genesis text - despite the weight behind it of so many Church Fathers (amongst whom, it should be noted, there was nevertheless great variety of interpretation) - could lead us to conclude that in this case there may be need to, as Pope Leo XIII said, go “beyond” the Fathers [in Providentissimus Deus, 1893, II, C, d. Emphasis added]:
"But [the expositor of the Bible] must not on that account [i.e., of duty to “follow the footsteps” of the Fathers “with all reverence”, # c.] consider that it is forbidden, when just cause exists, to push inquiry and exposition beyond what the Fathers have done; provided he carefully observes the rule so wisely laid down by St. Augustine - not to depart from the literal and obvious sense, except only where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires [De. Gen ad Litt., viii, 7, 13]; a rule to which it is more necessary to adhere strictly in these times, when the thirst for novelty and unrestrained freedom of thought make the danger of error most real and proximate".
Turning now from the literalist to the allegorical approach, we can say that well-known from ‘creationist’ literature are the problems encountered by the ‘theistic’ evolutionists and others. As said above, the Hebrew word yom is clearly pointing to a 24-hour day, which fact Genesis 1 reinforces by adding “evenings” and “mornings”. But the evolutionist approach cannot come to grips with - account for - any of this.

The Solution

Certainly there is merit in some of the things that both sides have put forward. But, insofar as they have generally insisted that Genesis 1 is about the duration of God’s work of creation, they have all been barking up the wrong tree. The Bible and the Church’s omnia simul tells us that there was no duration because God is outside time.
As St. Augustine rightly perceived, Genesis is a revelation, by the Creator to the creature, of His works of creation already completed.
Sts. Thomas and Albert the Great thought that Augustine’s view here was the best of all interpretations of the text. Apparently, therefore, God was the direct author of Genesis 1, and it was He who “finished” (Genesis 2:1) writing the series of tablets - not “finished” the creation of the universe, as is often thought - just as later He “finished” (Exodus 31:18) the “two tablets” that He gave to Moses on Mount Sinai.
One usually finds that the proponents of the literalist interpretation of Genesis 1 are not all that literal. And the problem is their general ignorance of the Hebrew language. They get right the meaning of the Hebrew word, yom, as a 24-hour day. But, because they cannot cope with the precise meaning of the other important Hebrew words used in the text, they come up with the theory that God was creating the universe over six such days.

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