Genesis 1 – Framework Interpretation:

a Bible-based hypothesis for The 6 Days

This page has three parts, written by Milne & Bohlin, Rusbult, and Hill.

1.  an excerpt from Christian Views of Science and Earth History by Rich Milne and Ray Bohlin, writing for Probe Ministries:

      Another view of the account of creation according to Genesis that has become popular with progressive creationists as well as theistic evolutionists is the structural framework hypothesis. {8}   This literary framework begins with the earth formless and void as stated in Genesis 1:2.  The first three days of creation remove the formlessness of the earth, and the last three days fill the void of the earth.  On days one through three God creates light, sea and sky, and the land.  On days four through six, God fills the heavens, sky, sea, and land.
      There was a pattern in the ancient Near East of a perfect work being completed in six days with a seventh day of rest.  [editor's note: This supports a claim, by Carol Hill & others, that the six-day framework is a worldview-related literary structure.]  The six days were divided into three groups of two days each.  In Genesis chapter one we also have the six days of work with a seventh day of rest, but the six days are divided into two groups of three days.  So maybe this was only meant to say that God is Creator and His work is perfect.

8 (footnote):
Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis: Part 1: From Adam to Noah, trans. Israel Abrahams (Jerusalem Magnum Press, 1978), 12-17.
Henri Blocher, In the Beginning: The Opening Chapters of Genesis, trans. David G. Preston (Leciester Press and Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1984), 49-59.

2.  an excerpt (with extra ideas added) from an FAQ about Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design by Craig Rusbult:

      One interpretation of Genesis 1 is based on the literary framework formed by the six days.  This framework describes the history of creation in a logical structure that is defined by two connected problems in Genesis 1:2 — the earth was "formless and empty."  The connection between these two problems is accentuated by the rhyming phrase used for them in the original Hebrew, tohu wa bohu.  The two connected solutions are to produce form, and to fill, with a parallel relationship (shown in the "paired colors" below - blue for 1/4, green for 2/5, purple for 3/6) between three aspects of their solution.  The first 3 days produce form by separations that produce light and darkness (for day and night), waters above and below (in sky and sea), and land (with plants);  the second 3 days fill these forms with sun for day and moon for night, birds for sky and fish for sea, and land animals that eat plants:

     produce form by separation        fill each form
 1  separating day and night    4     sun and moon for day and night  
2 separating sky and sea   5 sky animals, sea animals
3 separating land and sea,
land plants are created
  6 land animals and humans,
plants are used for food

      Days 1 and 4 describe two related aspects of what happened in creation history — there was a separation of light from darkness (Day 1) due to God's creation of our sun (Day 4).  But there could be no literal physical separation (Day 1) until the sun was created (Day 4).  If this causal relationship is correct, the "form and fill" description in Days 1 and 4 is logical but is not chronological.  In another "form and fill" relationship, Days 2 and 5 describe two historical aspects of creation (for creating a sea filled with sea animals, and sky filled with sky animals) and the actions in Day 2 occur before those in Day 5.  In a similar way, we see two pairs of related creations in Days 3 and 6 (for creating land filled with land animals including humans).    {note: The separation in Day 2 is compatible with either of two interpretations for raqia, either as an "expanse of sky" with the water in clouds that can produce rain, or as a "solid firmament" that separates the waters above and below, with the space between these waters becoming the sky.}
      When we see the histories combined — when we view God's work in groups of threes (1-2-3, 4-5-6) and also twos (1-and-4, 2-and-5, 3-and-6) — the six days describe God's creation as being orderly and complete, in both structure (the forms) and content (the fillings).

      A coherent form-and-fill structure seems clear.  After recognizing this logical structure, we can ask whether the six days are also chronological.  The meaning intended by God could be only logical (not chronological, not making statements about the sequence or duration of creation), or both logical and chronological (this would be compatible with either young-earth or day-age views), or — if there is no framework — only chronological (as in a young-earth or day-age view).   { Based only on the text, can we conclude that the framework is non-chronological?  Or, if we view scripture as having two levels of co-authorship, by humans and by God, we may get different answers when we ask “did the original human writers think their description was chronological?” and “did God intend it to be chronological?” }
      It's important to recognize that non-chronological does not mean non-historical.  In Genesis 1 the literary framework is a historical framework because it is used to describe historical events that actually did occur.  These real events are organized by topic, so the result is called topical history.  This is consistent with the fact that history is often written by arranging topics in a logical framework, not in a chronological sequence.  For example, a comprehensive history of the 1900s could be written using a chronological organization, beginning at 1900 and including many aspects of history (religious, cultural, political, military, economic, educational,...) and then doing this for 1901, and continuing in 1902 through 1999.  Or a historian could choose a topical organization by describing religious aspects of the century's history, and then cultural aspects, and so on.    { note:  In practice, written history is often organized in ways that are less simple, that cannot be so easily categorized. }

    Most criticisms of a framework view avoid the obvious question — Is there a framework? — because the obvious answer is YES, so instead the criticisms focus on “extras” that don't need to be associated with a framework view.  I think “too much” is claimed by some proponents of a framework interpretation, so we should focus on Essentials not Extras.   /   Is there a framework?  You can answer this for yourself by reading the text of Genesis 1 carefully, with an open mind, and I think you'll see the framework with two logical patterns (123 456, 14 25 36) in the six days.
      A major difficulty for chronological interpretations is a creation of the sun in Day 4.  In a 144-hour creation this would require three 24-hour days that were not normal solar days.  And in a day-age view with each yom being a long period of time in a creation process lasting billions of years, plants would have to exist for a long time without the solar energy they need.  Advocates of young-earth and day-age views have responsed to these questions, but are their answers adequate?

    All interpretations of Genesis 1 should acknowledge and emphasize the important theological statements in Genesis 1:  All that we see in nature is a creation of God, subordinate to God.  There are no polytheistic "nature gods" so we should worship only the one true God who created everything.  Nature is placed in proper perspective;  God's creation is good but is not divine.  God declared the creation to be "very good" so we can reject any idea that physical things (in the creation) are intrinsically bad;  our problem is sin, not physicality.  And humans are special because God created us in his own image.

3.  excerpts from a recent paper by Carol Hill — An Alternative to Concordism and Divine Accomodation: The Worldview Approach — published in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, June 2007:

The basic premise of the worldview approach is that the Bible in its original text accurately records historical events if considered from the worldview of the biblical authors. ..... 

The most important aspect of the literary view is that it maintains that Genesis 1 was written following the convention and style of literary works prevalent in the ancient Near East about 4,000 years ago.  And that is where the worldview approach comes in because in order to correctly interpret Genesis 1, one must understand the mindset of the people who wrote the original Genesis text.

Here is the worldview approach to Genesis 1.  The whole chapter of Genesis 1 is based on a system of numerical harmony.  Not only is the number seven fundamental to its main theme (God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh), but it also serves to determine many of its details.  To the Mesopotamians, seven was the number of fullness and perfection, and thus the basis of ordered arrangement;  also, particular importance was attached to it in the symbolism of numbers.  It was considered a perfect period (unit of time) in which to develop an important work, the action lasting six days and reaching its conclusion and outcome on the seventh day.  It was also customary to divide the six days of work into three pairs; i.e., into two parallel triads of days.  So, a completely harmonious account of creation, in accord with other ancient examples of similar schemes in the literature of that time, and using the rules of style in ancient epic poetry and narrative prose of the ancient Near East, would be the parallel form of symmetry found in Genesis 1.  In Genesis 1 the first set of three days represents a general account of creation, while the second triad is a more specific account of the first three days.  [you can see this 3-and-3 structure in Table 1]  ..... 

The Genesis author was simply writing in the ‘politically-correct’ cosmogenic and prose-narrative style of that day.  Thus, the Genesis 1 text was not meant to represent a sequential order of creation or one that needs to fit with modern science.  It was simply the literary way that writers of that day wrote down their narrative thoughts.  In other words, God gave the revelation to the people mentioned in Genesis, but then the biblical authors wrote this revelation down in their own literary style.

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Here are other related pages:

 Creationist Interpretations of Genesis 1  
framework, day-age, 144 hour, and more,
with views from many different authors 

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