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Analyzing Support Texts for Fundamental Belief #8: The Great Controversy

What Adventists Believe About The Great Controversy

Each of the twenty-eight Seventh-day Adventist fundamental belief (FB) statements has an appended set of biblical texts intended to support at least some aspect of the statement. This study examines each supporting text cited in FB 8 “The Great Controversy” (GC)1 to determine the degree to which it supports the theme.

The Texts: Genesis 3

This chapter abruptly follows chapter 2, which ends with the creation of a woman, a supporting statement on marriage, and the couple’s unashamed nakedness. Chapter 3 starts without warning or introduction: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made” (verse 1).2 This unidentified snake immediately had a confrontational conversation with the woman about eating from the forbidden tree (verses 1–5).3 There is no indication how they came together or how they knew about the tree—the woman called it simply “the tree that is in the middle of the garden.” The snake implied that God had prohibited eating fruit from any tree. The woman, without hesitation or surprise to be addressed by a snake, replied that the ban pertained only to the tree in the middle of the garden and death would result not only from eating its fruit but from even touching it—exceeding God’s statement. So, the snake countered by declaring God a liar—you won’t die—and by suggesting that God had also been less than truthful—eating from this tree of knowing good and evil would actually make them4 more like God. No wonder God had banned it!5

The woman—convinced that this was good food, that the tree looked beautiful, and that it could make one wise—took some fruit and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was there, and he also ate it (verse 6). Just as the snake had said, they didn’t die, and they learned something—but not what they had expected. They suddenly were ashamed of their naked bodies and tried to make themselves some rudimentary clothes (verse 7).6 Meanwhile, the couple, hearing the andromorphic deity taking his evening stroll in the garden,7 hid themselves (verse 8). When God called to the man,8 “Where are you?” he replied that he had heard him in the garden and was afraid because of his nakedness and hid. God wondered who told him he was naked and asked if he had eaten from the forbidden tree. The man acknowledged his guilt but indirectly blamed it on God who had given him the woman who offered him the fruit. Ignoring this, God asked the woman what she had done. She admitted eating the fruit but blamed it on the snake who tricked her. So, God turned to the snake and without a question, cursed it, and declared it would travel on its belly and always eat dust. Also, the snake and its offspring and the women and hers would be enemies, with the latter causing the greater injury. He then proceeded in reverse order to curse the woman and the man. Childbirth for her would be difficult, and her husband would rule her. In seeking food from the ground, the man would find it cursed and difficult to work because its thorns and thistles. After toiling with difficulty throughout his life, he would return to the ground from which he had come. Then the man named his wife “Eve,” and God made them proper clothes.

The chapter ends with God pondering on how “the man” had become like God—knowing good and evil—as the snake had promised. But what God feared most was that he may eat “from the tree of life…and live forever” (verse 22). So, God expelled the man from the garden and installed angels to guard “the way to the tree of life” (verse 23).

In many ways, this text, along with chapter 2, stands in stark contrast to the majesty and order of chapter 1. In chapters 2–3, God is portrayed as a jealous landlord, like a human neighbor. Whereas, chapter 1 has cosmic elements but no conflict, chapter 3 has conflict but no cosmic elements. The combatants are a snake and a woman—not Satan (or the devil)9 and God (or Christ). The issue may involve God’s behavior, but the snake told the truth, at least in the immediately ensuing events. If there is any notion of salvation in God’s curse of the snake, it is very distant and extremely mysterious at best.10 Although containing the full story of the fall of humans in Eden and, thereby, an account of the beginning of sin and evil in the world, this text does not support the cosmic conflict or Great Controversy.11

Genesis 6-8

Genesis 6–8 include the narrative of the Flood and some of the story of Noah. It is not clear why this block of text is cited as support for the GC.12 If it is intended to support the notion that the world experienced “its eventual devastation at the time of the global flood,”13 then chapter 7 would seem to have sufficed. If it is to reflect to whole Flood story, then 6:1–9:17 would have been more appropriate.

However, no matter what part of Genesis should be cited here, the main issue concerns the use of the Flood story to support the GC theme. The antagonists are not Christ and Satan—neither is mentioned in the story. The issue is the largely undefined wickedness of humans (6:5) and the earth’s corruption and violence (6:11–12). It does not include a challenge to the character or sovereignty of God or to his law. The only effect stated in FB 8 is the Flood itself, but the dots are not connected. God simply reacts to human and terrestrial evil by deciding to destroy the earth—all but eight humans—and all land animals and birds (except some representatives of each) but seems to regret it later and promises not to repeat it (8:21–22). One wonders what the animals did to deserve such annihilation! While this plays out on the earth, there is no indication of the rest of the universe having any knowledge of or interest in this event. Although the story shows that God can do most anything he wants, it does not promise his ultimate victory in the conflict—cosmic or otherwise.

The beginning of chapter 6 contains some rather mysterious material pertaining to the reason God decided to destroy the world and its life forms. It starts by stating the obvious—the population was growing and people were having daughters. The mystery begins in verse 2, “the sons of God” saw these beautiful daughters and married them. Immediately, God was inexplicably upset and declared to give humans only another 120 years (6:3). Why? There’s more. Enter the Nephilim, the old heroes and renowned warriors (sometimes called “giants”14), who were the offspring of the “sons of God” and their human wives. The text returns to God’s reaction to what he considers the great wickedness of humans and their endless, evil thoughts. He decided that he should not have made humans and would destroy them along with the animals and birds.

Is this a tale of good boy meets bad girl and good boys marry bad girls and have kids. That’s how Christians often understand this story—seeing the “sons of God” as the God-fearing descendants of Adam (through Seth) being seduced by evil women (descendants of Adam through Cain).15 Many Jews in the time of Jesus16 and, at least, some New Testament writers17 understood this differently—taking the “sons of God” as fallen heavenly beings and the “daughters of men” as simply human women. But what does the text say? Clearly, the “daughters” were human women, not only capable of having children, but actually described as doing so. They are not said to be innately evil or from the bad side of the tracks, as it were. 

But who were these “sons of God”?18 The fact that the text refers to the women as the “daughters of humans”19 suggests that their husbands were not humans. The only other Old Testament mentions of the “sons of God” are in Job,20 where they are what the NRSV calls “heavenly beings.” They are part of what appears to be a celestial council representing parts of the universe. Satan (more specifically “the satan”) is among them, apparently representing the earth.21 So, if Genesis 6 is to be understood not only according to its internal clues but especially through the only other references to the “sons of God” in the Old Testament, we must conclude, notwithstanding biology to the contrary, that the text refers to some type of heavenly beings who cohabited with human women and had unusual children with them. This seems to be the cause of God’s regrets and decision to destroy humans through the Flood. This would certainly involve a cosmic element, but not one included in the GC.

Not surprising is the absence of any awareness in FB 8 of the compositional issues associated with this text or more accurately with 6:1–9:29. It has long been recognized by many biblical scholars22 that this narrative is the edited weaving together of two ancient stories—each complete within itself. The distinctive narratives were first identified by their use of different names for God—one with Elohim (I will call it story A); the other with Yahweh (story B). There is more. Story A has all animals and birds entering the ark by twos, male and female (6:19–20; 7:8–9); story B has seven pairs of “clean” animals and birds and one pair of the others (7:2–3); Story B has the rain and water build up lasting forty days (7:2, 16a; 8:6); Story A, the flood lasted 150 days (7:24; 8:3).

Whether one considers the whole, redacted narrative or its individual sources for evidence of the GC, the result is the same. This is not biblical support for the theme. At best, it reflects the co-existence of good and evil, with God’s violent, and later regretted, action against the latter.

Job 1:6-12

6One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 8The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.” 9Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

Here Satan is הַשָּׂטָ֖ן (“the satan”; ὁ διάβολος [“the devil” LXX]), who seems to be part of the celestial council (בְּנֵ֣י [lit. “his sons,” i.e., “God’s sons”], οἱ ἄγγελοι τοῦ θεοῦ [“the angels of God” LXX]), representing the earth. He certainly does not seem to be the antagonist in a GC against God. He merely answers God’s question about his “servant Job,” opining that Job is not obedient to God for nothing. So, God gives the satan permission to test this theory. With the satan as one of God’s sons (Hebrew) or one of his angels (LXX), this does not seem to support the notion of the GC. The fact the satan was wrong about Job does not change his role in the celestial government according to this biblical text.

Isaiah 14:12-14

12How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! 13You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of assembly on the heights of Zaphon; 14I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.”

The whole chapter is a prophecy of the restoration of Israel and the devastation of Babylon, its principal nemesis. The text begins by focusing on the new Israel as an oppressor of the nations who had oppressed them. Verse 4 starts a “taunt against the king of Babylon,” that continues through verse 23—Babylon is still being discussed by name in verse 22! It is wrong to single out verses 12–14 as dealing with the fallen Lucifer (King James Version) and disregard verses 4–11; 15–23, all of which are about the oppressive Babylon and its leaders. 

Verses 12–14 were selected as alleged support for the GC for one reason—the King James Version translates the Hebrew הֵילֵ֣ל as “Lucifer.”23 However, the Hebrew הֵילֵ֣ל (used only here, from הָלַל, “to shine”) simply means, “the shining one” and is followed by the comparable expression בֶּן־שָׁ֑חַר “son of dawn”—also used only here. In this context, the expressions are figurative descriptions of the king of Babylon. Although the NRSV properly translates the second Hebrew expression, its “O Day Star” for the first expression strangely follows the LXX (ὁ ἑωσφόρος, “morning star”). Of the 7 uses of ἑωσφόρος in the LXX, only this one “translates” the Hebrew הֵילֵ֣ל. The other uses are in Job 11:17 (בֹּקֶר, “morning”); 1 Samuel (1 Kings) 30:17 (נ֫שֶׁף, “twilight”); Job 3:9; 38:12; 41:9 (10) (שַׁחַר, “dawn”); and Ps 110 (109):3 (מִשְׁחָר, “dawn”). Linguistically, “Lucifer” is an untenable translation in Isaiah 14:12. It is equally inappropriate contextually.

What would “in the sides of the north” (verse 13 [KJV]) have to do with Satan? The rest of the “Babylon” material contains even more unlikely connection to the devil—“Is this the man that made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms” (verse 16); “who overthrew [the world’s] cities” and “who would not let his prisoners go home” (verse 17); “you are cast out, away from your grave, like loathsome carrion” (verse 18).

Ezekiel 28:12-18

12Mortal, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord God: You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, carnelian, chrysolite, and moonstone, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald; and worked in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. 14With an anointed cherub as guardian I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked among the stones of fire. 15You were blameless in your ways from the day that you were created, until iniquity was found in you. 16In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and the guardian cherub drove you out from among the stones of fire. 17Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. 18By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade, you profaned your sanctuaries. So I brought out fire from within you; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you.

Like Isaiah 14, this chapter in Ezekiel is about the restoration of Israel and the devastation of its enemies, in this case, Tyre and Sidon. The diatribe against the former occupies verses 1–19 and the related attack on the latter is in verses 20–23. The final section (verses 24–26) is a more general statement of the exaltation of Israel among its neighbors.

Contextually, verses 12–18 are simply part of the largest section of the chapter (verses 1–19), the whole of which deals with the prince (verse 2) or king (verse 12) of the city of Tyre. The descriptions of the “prince of Tyre” (verses 1–10) and the “king of Tyre” (verses 11–19) have many similarities. Both texts note that the prophet receives a divine message (verses 1, 11) and describe the prince (verse 1) and the king (verse 12) as each receiving divine oracles—“Thus says the Lord God” (verses 2, 12). Each has a “proud” (גבהּ) heart (verses 2, 17) and “wisdom” (חָכְמָה, verses 4, 12), and engages in “trade” (רְכֻלָּה, verses 5, 16). Both will suffer a violent and permanent end (verses 8 and 19). If anything, the description of the “prince” is more damning than that of the “king.” The “king of Tyre” was bad—he is characterized by “iniquity,” “violence,” sin, corruption, and “unrighteousness” (verses 15–18). But the “prince of Tyre” was worse—he declared “I am a god” (verse 2; cf. verses 6, 8). In fact, the “prince” seems like a more fitting metaphor for the fallen Satan than the “king”! But that is not how the selective interpretation of FB 8 saw it.

There is no contextual basis for extracting verses 12–19 in Ezekiel 28 as descriptive biblical proof of the fall of Satan. There is no material that describes a primordial, celestial conflict between God and a high-level heavenly antagonist. The most that this text can contribute to the GC theme is a metaphorical comparison between the prince and king of Tyre on one hand and Satan in Eden on the other. More than that would be speculation.

Romans 1:19-32

As with some of the other texts in this support list, this one—too long to include—does not follow conventional boundaries. Here, the contextual unit begins in verse 18, not in verse 19 (cf. NA28 and NRSV). However, by far the more serious problem is that the whole cited unit, even including verse 18 has little or nothing to do with the GC theme. The text simply acknowledges the antiquity of evil in the face of divine revelation in nature and declares that God has essentially abandoned the world to its evil.

Romans 3:4

4By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written, “So that you may be justified in your words, and prevail in your judging.”

I first note that this text, typical of others in the list, is stripped from its context. The literary unit is verses 1-8— consisting of a short discourse on the advantage of being a Jew. Its only remote connections to the GC are a loose recognition of the co-existence of good and evil and the prospect of divine judgment. The reason for including the text as support for GC seems to be the Old Testament quotation it contains—referring to God, it declares: “That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” Furthermore, only the King James Version of the text, as cited here, conveys the notion of God being on trial and prevailing, as affirmed in FB 8.

The quotation in verse 4b is from Psalms 51:4b24 (לְמַעַן תִּצְדַּ֥ק בְּדָבְרֶ֗ךָ תִּזְכֶּ֥ה בְשָׁפְטֶֽךָ), which the KJV translates, “that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.”25 More specifically, Paul quotes verbatim from the LXX, where the clause of interest is καὶ νικήσῃς ἐν τῷ κρίνεσθαί σε. The issue concerns the meaning of the inf. expression ἐν τῷ κρίνεσθαί σε. An inf. with ἐν τῷ conveys the temporal notion of something happening in the present as opposed to the past or future. The acc. pron. σε (“you” [sg.]) acts as the “subj.” of the inf. The inf. κρίνεσθαί is pres. tense, mid. or pass. voice of the verb κρίνω (“to judge”). Although the KJV translates it in Romans 3:4b as pass.—God is judged, the mid. or pass. of this verb may have the act. notion of “to engage in a judicial process, judge, or decide.”26 The LXX clearly employs this meaning when translating the act. voice idea of Psalms 51:4b. Paul reflects it also by his verbatim quotation of the LXX text.27

This act. voice understanding of the inf. construction in Romans 3:4b is further confirmed by its parallel ideas: ὅπως ἂν δικαιωθῇς ἐν τοῖς λόγοις σου // καὶ νικήσῃς ἐν τῷ κρίνεσθαί σε (“So that you may be justified in your words” // “and prevail in your judging”). When God speaks, he is justified; when he judges, he prevails. This text does not refer to God being vindicated when he is on trial. It does support that affirmation of FB 8.

Romans 5:12-21

This text—also too long to include—discusses the origin of sin and death in the world in the setting of the divine plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. Aside from those affirmations, this text has little to say about the GC and actually nothing about the cosmic dimensions of the ultimate origin of evil and its eventual eradication according to the doctrine.

Romans 8:19-22

19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now;

This is another text selected without proper regard to its contextual boundaries. It should begin with verse 18 and continue at least though the sentence that ends in verse 23. As it stands, the text involves the personification of “creation,” seen “longing” for the revelation of God’s children and “groaning in labor pains”—which presumably will not change until it is freed “from its bondage to decay” caused by someone “who subjected it.” This convoluted construction acknowledges the co-existence of good and evil, even in the natural world, while teasing its origin and resolution. It provides little biblical support for the GC.

1 Corinthians 4:9

9For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals.

This is another unfortunate extraction of a text from its context. The section here should include verses 7–13, not just verse 9. The purpose of the supporting text seems to be the embedded declaration, “we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals.” If this is indeed the intended focus, the selection is even more compromised, because in this verse, Paul is actually talking about himself and his fellow apostles (ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀποστόλους) as those who are “a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals” (θέατρον ἐγενήθημεν τῷ κόσμῳ καὶ ἀγγέλοις καὶ ἀνθρώποις). I am sure those who selected this “support” text assumed their featured part of it referred to all Christians and not just to Paul and his fellow apostles. That would have better fit their understanding of the cosmic witness of those on the positive side of the GC. Alas, this text does not support that notion.

Hebrews 1:14

 4Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

This is the strangest support text in the list to this point. At least 1:1–4 would have made more sense in this regard. The only apparent contribution of verse 14 is the notion that angels—presumably the good ones—are part of “the divine service” to “those who are to inherit salvation” (διὰ τοὺς μέλλοντας κληρονομεῖν σωτηρίαν, lit. “because of those who are about to inherit salvation”). However, this last assertion may connote the problematic idea of predestination.

1 Peter 5:8

8Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.

This is another problem with text boundaries. This unit involves verses 6–11, where the contrast between the prowling devil and the caring God is explored. Because both refer to the devil (διάβολος), this citation should at least have included verses 8–9. 

The reason for this citation is probably the line that the devil is like “a roaring lion,”28 prowling “for someone to devour.” This isolated reference to the devil contributes little to support the notion of the GC.

2 Peter 3:6

6through which the world of that time was deluged with water and perished.

This text is even worse than Hebrews 1:14 as a biblical support for the GC. First, it is a text fragment—a partial sentence that depends on verse 5 for any sensible meaning. Second, it says nothing other than the assertion that “the world” of a certain unspecified time “was deluged with water and perished.”29

Revelation 12:4-9

4His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born. 5And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; 6and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred sixty days. 7And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, 8but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

This is clearly a pivotal text for the support of the GC, but the textual boundary problem applies here also. It starts with “His tail swept down …” Whose tail? Of course, had this included verse 3, it would have been clear that it was the tail of the “great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.”30

However, this is far from the main problem of this convoluted text. First, there is the challenge of timeline. The text moves relentlessly from the dragon’s tail sweeping “down a third of the stars of heaven”—to the dragon standing “before a woman” about to deliver a child so the dragon could immediately eat it —to the women delivering a boy who will rule all nations but is suddenly taken to God—to the women escaping for 1,260 days to the a safe place prepared in desert by God—to a war in heaven where Michael and his forces fight the dragon and his forces, who, though fighting back, were defeated—to the dragon, i.e., the devil, Satan, and world deceiver, and his forces being thrown down. Did you follow that? I certainly didn’t! I also have no idea how this convoluted chronology helps to define the GC. 

But that’s not all. The second challenge concerns the details of this confusing narrative. In verses 1–2, we are introduced to a delivering, pregnant “woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” None of these descriptive details—the woman, her celestial outfit, the nature of her pregnancy, her delivery agony— are defined or explained in what follows. As we have noted, verse 3 introduces the “great red dragon” with its multiple, crowned heads and horns. This character, which is the focus of the whole cited section, is not identified until verse 9, where it is finally said to be “the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.” Meanwhile, the dragon has swept to earth one third of the stars with its tail, stands ready to eat the woman’s child when born, and engages in a celestial war with “Michael and his angels,” and, along with his own angels, is defeated and thrown to the earth. Other than the likely reference to the talking snake in Genesis 3, this description of the dragon’s activities is unexplained or interpreted in the text.

The unidentified woman, introduced in verse 1, is secondary to the dragon in verses 5–9. She gives birth to a son, an unidentified tertiary character, who is said to be a destined ruler but is “snatched away” to God’s throne. Meanwhile, the woman “fled” to “the wilderness.” God—another character in this narrative—not only took the woman’s son to his throne but also prepared the woman’s place in the wilderness and fed her there for 1,260 days. Except for their references to “God,” these narrative details in the cited text are undefined and unexplained. Therefore, they contribute nothing to an understanding of the GC except the general notions of the co-existence of good and evil. Even the allusions to divine victory and human salvation in verses 10–11 are not part of the cited text.31

Conclusion

FB 8 ends with the citation of fourteen texts—five from the Old Testament and nine from the New Testament—as its alleged biblical support. However, none comprehensively discuss the affirmations of the faith statement. Some, like Genesis 3, have conflict but no cosmic element. Some, like Romans 5:12-21, describe the origin of sin but not in cosmic terms. Some, like Genesis 6–8; Romans 1:19–32; 8:19–22, reflect the coexistence of good and evil. Some, like Romans 3:4; Revelation 12:4–9, are based on untenable translations (cf. Isaiah 14:12–14). Some, like Isaiah 14:12–14; Ezekiel 28:12–18; 1 Corinthians 4:9, have very different meanings when read in their contexts. Others, like Job 1:6–12; Hebrews 1:14; 1 Peter 5:8; 2 Peter 3:6, mention only single GC-related elements. These cited biblical texts offer no support for the GC as described in FB 8.

The most surprising thing about this set of texts is what they do not include. For example, there are no texts from the Gospels. Although the Gospels do not provide comprehensive support for the GC theme, especially as enunciated in FB 8, they do contain narratives about the wilderness temptations of Jesus and many exorcisms that contain some GC elements.

Warren Trenchard - La Sierra University

About the author

Warren Trenchard served as a faculty member and senior administrator at what is what is now Burman University in Alberta, Canada and at La Sierra University for over thirty-five years. In retirement, he is professor of New Testament and early Christian literature and director of graduate programs in the H.M.S. Richards Divinity School at La Sierra University. His principal teaching and research interests include New Testament Greek language; history, backgrounds, and interpretation of the New Testament and its individual documents; and history and literature of Early Christianity. More from Warren Trenchard.
  1. FB 8 includes these elements: antagonists (Christ, Satan); issues (character of God, God’s law, God’s sovereignty); scope (heavenly origin, fall of humans, worldly arena, observed by universe); effects (God’s image in humans distorted, creation disordered, global flood); outcome (God’s love vindicated). “28 Fundamental Beliefs,” Adventist.org, 2020 Edition, https://bit.ly/4a274Ug. ↩︎
  2. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations are from the NRSV. ↩︎
  3. The tree first appeared in 2:9, 16–17 as “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” When introducing the forbidden tree, God said that eating from it would result in immediate death (“in the day that you eat of it you shall die”). ↩︎
  4. Not only does verse 6 state that the woman was not alone at the forbidden tree—her husband “was with her,” but also the Hebrew verbs and pronouns in verses 1–8 are plural, as are those of the LXX—clearly indicating that the snake was speaking to the Garden couple and not just to the woman. ↩︎
  5. By that logic, one may question why God put the tree there at all! ↩︎
  6. The text says, “they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves,” suggesting that they had tools and skills. ↩︎
  7. The deity, who in chapter 1 magisterially issues remote, creative declarations that instantly result in the cosmos and the earth and its life forms, in chapter 2 makes a human from the soil and activates him by blowing into his nose, plants a garden and makes all kinds of food-producing trees out of the ground, makes all the animals and birds out of the ground, and, after putting the man to sleep and surgically removing one of his ribs, made him a female companion. One God is אֱלֹהִ֑ים Elohim (1:1–2:3). The other is יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים Yahweh Elohim (2:4–22; 3:1–23), including all references to deity in chapters 2 and 3 except 3:1, 3, 5 (x2), where the speakers—the snake, woman, and snake respectively— use only אֱלֹהִ֑ים. Besides walking in the garden and taking to a snake and two humans, in chapter 3 God made proper clothes for the naked pair—“garments of skins”—and “clothed them.” Such clothes required the killing of one or more animals. ↩︎
  8. The clear focus of Genesis 2–3 is “the man”—not the woman or the couple. The woman in chapter 2 was an afterthought, stimulated by the man’s discontent with his situation. The two may have “become one flesh” (2:24), but that one entity was the man. In chapter 3, the man was at the forbidden tree with the woman (verses 1–6); their eyes were opened to their nakedness only after the man eat the forbidden fruit (verse 7); God called the man, asking where he was and if he had disobeyed (verses 9, 11); the man answered and blamed the woman (verses 10, 12), the man will rule the woman (verse 16); the man named his wife (verse 20), as he had named the animals in chapter 2; God noted that the man had become divine-like (verse 22); and God expelled the man from the garden (verses 23–24). ↩︎
  9. Neither “Satan” nor “the devil” are mentioned in Genesis 1–3. ↩︎
  10. No reader of this text prior to Paul the Apostle would have anticipated the woman’s offspring to be Jesus of Nazareth. ↩︎
  11. Because this and the next text are the longest of the citations appended to FB 8—one complete chapter (24 verses) in Genesis 3 and three chapters (68 verses) in Genesis 6–8—my discussions of them are the longest in this paper. Also, because of their length, I have not provided the full translations of these texts. ↩︎
  12. The Flood is described in Genesis 7:1–24; 8:1–19. The stated reason for the Flood is in 6:1–7, and its aftermath, in 8:20–22; 9:1–29; 10:1–32. The story of Noah extends from 5:28 through 10:32 except for 6:1–7. ↩︎
  13. FB 8. ↩︎
  14. This Hebrew word נְּפִלִ֞ים appears only here and twice in Numbers 13:33, where it is part of the spies’ report of their encounter with “giants” on their surveillance trip into Canaan (“we say the Nephilim [the Anakites come from the Nephilim]; and to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”). Although the NRSV reads “Nephilim” in Genesis 6 (cf. RSV), the KJV has “giants”—cf. George W.E. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch, Chapters 1–36; 81–108, Klaus Baltzer, ed., Hermeneia (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 2001), 174. ↩︎
  15. See, e.g., SDABC, vol. 1 on Genesis 2:25. ↩︎
  16. Typical of this is the third century BCE material in 1 Enoch 6–7. See Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 170, 174–186. ↩︎
  17. Consistent with this understanding are 1 Peter 3:18–22 and especially Jude 5–7; 2 Peter 2:4–10. ↩︎
  18. Genesis 6:2, 4 (Hebrew הָאֱלֹהִ֔ים בְּנֵ֣י [lit. “sons of God,” cf. NRSV]). ↩︎
  19. NRSV. Hebrew בְּנ֣וֹת הָֽאָדָ֔ם (lit. “daughters of men.”). ↩︎
  20. Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7. ↩︎
  21. See on Job 1:6–12 below. ↩︎
  22. See, e.g., John Kaltner and Steven L. McKenzie, The Old Testament: Its Background, Growth, and Content (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2014). ↩︎
  23. The translation “Lucifer” is found nowhere in the NRSV (Old Testament, Apocrypha, New Testament). The KJV has it only in Isaiah 14:12. ↩︎
  24. The Hebrew is 51:6b. In the LXX, this is 50:6. ↩︎
  25. Cf. NRSV, “so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.” Both versions convey the act. voice of the verb, i.e., God is blameless when he judges. ↩︎
  26. BDAG, s.v. κρίνω. ↩︎
  27. Cf. NETS. ↩︎
  28. The reference to “a roaring lion” (ὡς λέων ὠρυόμενος) may be a deliberate echo of Ezekiel 22:25 Hebrews; the LXX has the plural ὡς λέοντες ὠρυόμενοι. ↩︎
  29. This is presumably the reason the text was included here. FB 8 lists the “devastation at the time of the global flood, as presented in the historical account of Genesis 1-11” as one of the effects of the GC. Not only is this assertion of FB 8 dubious, but this text offers no support for it. ↩︎
  30. The boundary issue appears again at end of the cited text. To have any value as a potential support for the GC theme, the citation should have included vv. 10–11, where a celestial proclamation starts with “Now” salvation has arrived because “the accuser”—presumably the previously described dragon— has been defeated. But this presents a major problem for the GC theme, where the salvation proclaimed here did not occur at the end of the celestial battle! ↩︎
  31. Although they have no bearing on these texts as potential supports for the GC, there are some interesting parallels between Genesis 3 and Revelation 12:1–11, at least pertaining to the characters in each text. Both include an unnamed woman, her eating, her clothes, her birth pains, her offspring, and her location. Both feature a snake and its fate. Both refer to God and his care for the needs of the woman. ↩︎
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