The End in the Beginning: A Biblical-Theological Catechism (Genesis)

CovenantsChristIn December 2013, Kerux published James Dennison’s very useful biblical-theological catechism of the theology of Genesis in their journal. In it, Dennison teaches us, in 100 Q & A’s, how to read the Genesis  narrative eschatologically in  light of the full redemptive revelation of Christ. You can find a PDF of the journal here, or read the catechism below:

Q. 1. What does “Genesis” mean?

A. Book of “beginnings”

Q. 2. What is begun in Genesis?

A. The beginning of creation; the beginning of the world; the beginning of man and woman; the beginning of sin; the beginning of redemption.

Q. 3. What other book of the Bible begins like Genesis?

A. The gospel of John—“In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1)

Q. 4. Why does John begin his gospel this way?

A. Because the incarnation of the Word is the beginning of a “new creation”.

Q. 5. Who reveals himself as Creator in Gen. 1:1?

A. The One who is Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (Rev. 22:13ff.).

Q. 6. How does he reveal himself?

A. By making all things very good (Gen. 1:31), i.e., a reflection of his glory.

Q. 7. Who was placed in God’s protological garden?

A. The first (protological) man

Q. 8. In what relationship was Adam to God by creation?

A. He was related as God’s very own image.

Q. 9. You are suggesting something personal and intimate between God and Adam via creation?

A. Yes, Adam was related to his Creator as a “son” (Luke 3:38)—the image-bearer of his Father in heaven.

Q. 10. So the relational aspect was dependent on something prior—the creational?

A. Yes; before God personally related himself to his image (Adam), he  generated his being in an act of creation.

Q. 11. Is there any antecedent paradigm for the Adam-God relation by creation?

A. Yes. There is the Adam-Christ paradigm relation.

Q. 12. Explain

A. Christ is called the second Adam, but he is prior to the first Adam.

Q. 13. How can Christ Jesus be prior to the protological Adam?

A. As ontological Son of God.

Q. 14. What does ontological mean?

A. It refers to “being”. The Son of God is the Being of God—one of the three personal Beings (without separation) in the Godhead.

Q. 15. Say this another way.

The Son of God is very God as God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are very  God.

Q. 16. How is the Son of God related to his Father?

A. Via an un-creation, i.e., a generation of a Son to a Father as a God-Son by a God-Father—an eternal Father-Son relation; an eternal Son-Father generation.

Q. 17. Is there any priority to this relation and generation?

A. Yes

Q. 18.  How does one express priority in an eternal relation via an eternal generation?

A. Both relation and generation are eternal as both Father and Son are eternal.

Q. 19. And yet, the Father stands first in order?

A. Yes, even as the Son stands second in order.

Q. 20. But does this not imply a temporal priority in either the Father or the Son?

A. No. There is no temporality in un-created Beings, i.e., in God in his tri-personal essence.

Q. 21. So there never was a time when the Father was not eternal Father and the Son was not eternal Son?

A. No. The un-created Father eternally generates the un-created Son: ontological relation, ontological generation, ontological un-creation.

Q. 22. Is the eternal Son of God the image of God his heavenly Father?

A. Yes; he is the very image of the essence of his Father—the very eternal image of his very eternal Father in the very eternal essence of Godhead (Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:20; Phil 2:6; John 1:1).

Q. 23. Hence, this un-created relation of essential Godhead personally distinguished (but not separated) as Father and Son, generator and generated, begetter and begotten, eternally imprints the image of the Godhead Father Being upon the Godhead Son Being. And thus there is an antecedent precedent in the ontological God the Father, God the Son relationship for the redemptive-historical heavenly Father-Creator, earthly son-creature relationship/paradigm.

Q. 24. What does this imply about the image of his heavenly Father in the Adamic son?

A. Though a created image bearer, the protological Adam (son) mirrors the eschatological Adam (Son), the uncreated image bearer.

Q. 25. In what condition was the protological Adam?

A. He was in a probationary state of mutable righteousness

Q. 26. What do you mean by probationary state?

A. He was being tested with respect to obedience to his Creator’s will.

Q. 27. A probationary state suggests a state which is not complete or perfect?

A. Yes

Q. 28. What state was beyond the protological man?

A. The eschatological state was placed before him.

Q. 29. How could he have attained that eschatological state?

A. By the merit of his works, i.e., by obeying God’s command, he would have earned the eschatological reward.

Q. 30. Was God obligated to enter into this probationary arrangement with Adam?

A. No. God owed the creature—even his perfect creature, Adam—nothing (Luke 17:10).

Q. 31. Then what do we call this act on the part of the transcendent God in which he relates himself imminently to his creature?

A. It is a divine act of willing or non-obligatory stooping or humbling of himself to the creature. This act is often called God’s “voluntary condescension.”

Q. 32. And in this voluntary condescension, God bound himself by a personal relationship (or covenant) to reward Adam’s obedience?

A. Yes; God was faithful, that had Adam “done this” (obedience), he would have  “lived” (eternally).

Q. 33. What do we call this covenant relationship?

A. The covenant of works

Q. 34. Did the first, protological Adam keep the covenant of works?

A. No; he disobeyed his Creator by eating the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:6).

Q. 35. Did the second, eschatological Adam recapitulate the covenant of works?

A. Yes; Christ Jesus our Savior, obeyed the law of God at every point.

Q. 36. Did the second, eschatological Adam recapitulate the probation of the first man?

A. Yes; Christ endured the temptation of the serpent-Satan in the wilderness and triumphed where Adam failed (see especially Mark 1:12–13 where the image of the ‘pacified’ beasts recalls Adam’s dominion over the animal world in giving
each creature its proper name, Gen. 2:19).

Q. 37. What has the eschatological Adam attained by his obedience?

A. Christ has merited/earned the right to the tree of life in the center of the Paradise of God.

Q. 38. Has the second Adam merely earned this right so as to restore us to the Eden-garden of  the first Adam?

A. No; the eschatological Adam has earned the title to the heavenly/eschatological  arena by his merit.

Q. 39. Has Christ earned the right to the glory-heaven for himself alone?

A. No, even as the protological Adam earned the right to damnation for himself and all whom he represented, so the eschatological Adam earned the right to salvation for himself and all whom he represented (Rom. 5:12–21; 1 Cor. 15:22).

Q. 40. Whom did the protological Adam represent?

A. The whole human race—those “in” him (en Adam—Greek of 1 Cor. 15:22)

Q. 41. Whom did the eschatological Adam represent?

A. The whole elect human race—those “in” him (en Christo—Greek of 1 Cor. 15:22)

Q. 42. In other words, the protological and eschatological Adams are representative figures—all represented by them are included “in” them.

A. Yes, the covenantal or representative principle is rooted in the “in” inclusion. The first is universal; the second is particular. But both are federally or covenantally prescribed.

Q. 43. Where is the first record of this distinguishing and redemptive revelation?

A. The so-called protoevangelium/protoevangelion (“first gospel”) of Gen. 3:15.

Q. 44. Why do you say “redemptive” revelation?

A. Because this is the protological promise of grace and salvation to fallen sinners.

Q. 45. Yet it is not the first eschatological revelation, is it?

A. No

Q. 46. If, then, the eschatological arena was held out as Adam’s destiny before the fall, what precisely is unique about Gen. 3:15 and eschatology?

A. Gen. 3:15 reveals God’s divine initiative to bring sinful man into the  eschatological arena by way of a substitute—a Savior.

Q. 47. Gen. 3:15 is thus the announcement of a new covenant!

Yes, the eschatological is now to be attained by the gracious provision of a Savior.

Q. 48. What do we call this new, eschatological covenant?

A. The covenant of grace.

Q. 49. What is grace?

A. A free (sovereign, i.e., at God’s initiative), undeserved (sinners do not earn it; the sinless Savior earns it for them), favor (kindness, gift, cf. Eph. 2:8) of God
(it does not have its source in the creature, only in the Creator-Redeemer).

Q. 50. How did Adam and Eve understand the protological announcement of the covenant of grace?

A. They heard God declare that a man (one born of the seed of the woman) would undo what Adam had just done, i.e., he would destroy the works of the Serpent by delivering a capital or fatal blow to his head, while suffering a lesser blow himself in so doing to his own heel.

Q. 51. How was this eschatological promise of grace a reversal of the reversal?

A. In the fall, Adam, formerly the friend of God and enemy of Satan, had become the enemy of God (NB: he hid from him, Gen. 3:8) and the friend of Satan (i.e., Adam, like Satan, soon becomes a liar, Gen. 3:11–12). Sin’s reversal must itself
be reversed by pledging “enmity” between the friends—man and Satan. The implication is that those who are enemies after the fall—i.e., God and (sinful) man—will become friends (enmity reversed) through the crushing of the Serpent’s head and the bruising of the “seed’s” heel.

Q. 52. Who brings this eschatological covenant to fulfillment?

A. The eschatological Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:45, 47)

Q. 53. Who is the eschatological “seed” of the woman?

A. Our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Luke 3:23-38)

Q. 54. What is the significance of God clothing Adam and Eve with skins?

A. Sinful nakedness could not be covered with the works of man’s hands (fig leaves). Only a covering provided by the hand of God was sufficient to robe man’s unrighteousness in God’s sight.

Q. 55. What is the eschatological significance of the skin covering?

A. What God provides to hide the sinner’s guilt, shame and unrighteousness enables the sinner to receive the acceptance of the Lord, i.e., to be received into his glory-presence.

Q. 56. What about the image of God in redemptive paradigm?

A. Defaced by the fall, the reverse renewal of the image of God in sinful man is undertaken Christologically. God the Son (true imago Dei) assumes the image of man in order to restore the undefaced image of God to fallen sinners in union with
him (Eph. 4:24).

Q. 57. Why did God place a flaming sword and cherubim at the entrance of the garden?

A. To guard his garden-presence, even as the cherubim guard his heavenly glory-throne.

Q. 58. Was man banned from the garden forever?

A. Only a Man with an “endless life” could pass through the flame of fire and under the sword of death; only he could open the way to the tree of life once more.

Q. 59. Why did God cast Adam and Eve out of the garden?

A.      a. To indicate that sinners may not approach the tree of life without a substitute.

b. To preserve them from the permanent eschatological curse of being fixed forever in a state of condemnation and damnation (Gen. 3:22–23). “East of Eden” is the way of wandering.

Q. 60. Why are Adam and his wife sojourners?

A. They are separated from God’s Paradise while they travel in a wilderness subject to the curse under which the whole creation groans.

Q. 61. What is revealed in the history of Cain and Abel?

A. From the beginning of man’s history outside of the Garden, there are two seeds, two lines, two races: the seed of the woman and the seed of the Serpent. Cain is a snake in the grass; Abel “being dead, yet speaketh”.

Q. 62. What is the significance of Abel’s lamb?

A. This “protological” lamb is an anticipation of the eschatological Lamb. Behind the lamb Abel offers stands the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

Q. 63. Why was Abel’s sacrifice “more excellent” or “better” than Cain’s?

A. Because it was a sacrifice which had to be slain (as Abel confessed he deserved on account of his sins), a sacrifice of blood (to cover or atone for his guilt and shame), a sacrifice which had to be wholly consumed (as Abel prayed his sin and
punishment would be wholly consumed by the grace of God). All this Abel believed. By “faith” (Heb. 11:4), he possessed the end from the beginning as the (new) beginning in his offering anticipated his end (the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, i.e., heaven).

Q. 64. How is the division of the two races or two seeds evident in the descendants of Cain?

A. They have a fortress mentality, building cities for their security—demonstrating in their works that they belong to the horizontal only, i.e., to the world.

Q. 65. How is this division evident in the descendants of Seth who replaced Abel?

A. They are known for calling on the name of the Lord (the vertical dimension), i.e., they show that they belong to the world to come (Gen. 4:26).

Q. 66. How is this division evident in the seventh from Adam in each line (i.e., the line of Cain and the line of Seth)?

A The seventh from Adam via Cain is Lamech (Gen. 4:19–24) whose savage defiance of God and his righteousness displays the reprobate spirit of those abandoned to their lusts and brutal passions. The seventh from Adam via Seth is Enoch (Gen. 5:21–24) who walks with God and is raptured to the glory-presence of his Lord without tasting death.

Q. 67. How is Enoch able to walk with God?

A. Because God first walks with him. Enoch experiences God with him, i.e., Emmanuel

Q. 68. What is the significance of the Flood (Gen. 6-8)?

A. It is the initial un-creation—cosmic reversal of the created order through judgment. Mankind’s wickedness brings the eschatological judgment—the flood of death and destruction. The earth is turned back to a formless void—empty of
life save what is preserved in the ark.

Q. 69. What is the significance of the ark (Gen. 6:14-22)?

A. The ark is God’s instrument of deliverance for those who have received his grace. Noah and his family are borne up above the waters of destruction, vindicated as righteous through divine grace alone—acquitted by preservation (1 Pet. 3:20; Heb. 11:7).

Q. 70. What is the eschatological significance of the Flood?

A. It anticipates the fearful judgment of the flood of fire which will cover the earth at the last day. The two seeds are parted by water and by fire. The warning of the flood water is an intrusionary announcement and anticipation of the more
dreadful flood of fire (2 Pet. 3:5-7).

Q. 71. Is there any righteousness in Noah which earns him the reward of the ark on the ground of his good works?

A. Absolutely not. Any suggestion of good works in Noah as a meritorious ground of reward diminishes the sufficiency of the grace of God and exalts human insufficiency in an inappropriate and unbiblical manner. Noah, as all sinners, is
subject to the declaration of God himself to Job, as endorsed by the apostle Paul: “who has first given to him (God), that it should be paid back to him again?” (Rom. 11:35 citing Job 41:11). The obvious answer to the question is: no sinner!

Q. .72. God’s plan telescopes downward to Abram/Abraham in Gen. 11-12ff. What is the significance of this telescoping pattern?

A. The cosmic focus of God’s design at the protological level has been conspicuously narrowed to a single individual in Gen. 12. Abram alone is “effectually called” out of Ur of the Chaldees. Out of the mass of sinful mankind, God’s sovereign, electing, eschatological initiative detaches Abram from the perishing multitudes. And God does this in order to restore the cosmic focus present at the beginning.

Q. 73. What do you mean God restores the “cosmic focus” of the beginning?

A. Abram, a solitary individual, is elected to be the father of a multitude of believers in the eschatological future. Eschatology recapitulates protology—the cosmic design for mankind comes to expression eschatologically in the elect “family”;
“in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18).

Q. 74. So the promise of an eschatological Adam now becomes an eschatological Abraham?

A. Yes, the line of election flows through the woman’s seed: Adam→Seth→Enoch→Noah→Abraham.

Q. 75. Hence, we have a new beginning for mankind in the call of Abram?

A. Yes, it is a new creation motif once more. (NB: the “new” thing God does is ever the eschatological thing; something of divine, eternal grace penetrates into time and space. The vertical line of eschatology intersects with the horizontal line of
history: Y-axis [eschatology] interfaces with X-axis [history]. This is a specifically Vosian emphasis, as a close reading of his profound inaugural address makes clear: “…revelation is organically connected with the introduction of a new order of things into this sinful world. Revelation is the light of this new world which God has called into being. The light needs the reality and the reality needs the light to produce the vision of the beautiful creation of His grace,” (Geerhardus Vos, Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation [1980] 9–10.)

Q. 76. Is the Abrahamic covenant God’s initial covenant with man?

A. No, you will remember the covenant of works with Adam (in the Garden) and the covenant of grace with the Second Adam (in Paradise, reflected in Eden) at the fall.

Q. 77. What then is special about God’s covenant with Abraham?

A. It is the covenant foundational to the Hebrews as a nation.

Q, 78. Was this covenant intended to be restricted to ethnic Hebrews?

A. No, the promise of the Abrahamic covenant is universal—inclusive of believers from all nations.

Q. 79. How are all believers ‘Hebrews’?

A. They are pilgrims as Abraham was (Heb. 11:13-16)

Q. 80. How many elements are there in the Abrahamic covenant?

A. Three: Emmanuel (“I will be with thee”); Heritage (“I will give thee this land”); Messiah (“In thee, all nations will be blessed”)

Q. 81. Who is the eschatological Emmanuel?

A. Jesus Christ (Mt. 1:23)

Q. 82. Who is the eschatological heir?

A. Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:2)

Q. 83. What is the eschatological inheritance?

A. Heaven (Heb. 11:16)

Q.. 84. You mean Canaan/Palestine was not the destined inheritance?

A. It was the provisional inheritance of the Hebrews, but it could not be the eternal inheritance of any of God’s people.

Q. 85. Why not?

A. Because it too will pass away. It does not partake of the eternal or everlasting (cf. Heb. 12:27).

Q. 86. Who is the eschatological Messiah?

A. Jesus Christ (Mt. 16:16)

Q. 87. What is God revealing in the covenant with Abraham?

A. He is particularizing and expanding the dimensions of his saving, gracious covenant. The eschatological seed of the woman is now particularly Hebrew, while directed to the nations/Gentiles, assuring them of a land of promise—an inheritance through great Abraham’s greater Son. 

Q. 88. What is the supreme crisis of Abraham’s life which subjects these pledges to jeopardy?

A. The command to sacrifice Isaac on Moriah (Gen. 22)

Q. 89. What was God’s intent in commanding Abraham to offer Isaac?

A. To try or test Abraham’s faith in the covenant promises.

Q. 90. What was Abraham’s response to God’s design?

A. To trust and obey

Q. 91. How could Abraham do what God commanded?

A. Because of the eschatological character of his faith

Q. 92. What do you mean by the “eschatological character of his faith”?

A. Abraham’s faith brought him into union with the God who is able to do all things—even call the dead to life (cf. Rom. 4:17; Gen. 17:15–17; 19; Heb. 11:

Q. 93. What transition of death to life had been the object of Abraham’s faith prior to the command to go to Moriah?

A. The en-livening of Sarah’s dead womb.

Q. 94. So Isaac was, at conception, a token of life from the dead?

A. Yes—that which was dead, by the power of God, brought forth life.

Q. 95. What does Abraham believe as he sojourns to Moriah?

A. That his God is faithful; having promised that Isaac is the son of (covenant) promise (i.e., through Isaac Abraham’s seed will be more numerous than sand on the shore; will inherit the promised land; will be the ancestor of the Jew-and-Gentile-blesser), if he slays him, God will bring life to the dead. For God cannot deny his promise (cf. Heb. 11:17–19). NB: the chiasm of “go” and “return” (22:5) with “returned” and “went” (22:19)—a pattern of reversal and
symmetry which demonstrates Abraham’s confidence in God’s faithful promise.

Q. 96. So Abraham lays Isaac on the wood believing that God is able to raise him up from the dead?

A. Yes; the eschatological end of his only son is life, not death.

Q. 97. Is this not an intrusion of the life of God’s only-begotten Son into the history of Abraham?

A. Yes; we see the end (of the history of redemption) from the beginning (the history of Isaac). God himself will offer up his Son in the certain assurance that he will pass from death to life. The substitute on the eschatological Moriah (Mt. Calvary) will be raised up to life so that in him the children of Abraham (= believers, Gal. 3:7) will be gathered from Jewish and Gentile nations; will be made heirs of the Kingdom of light; will be blessed in their true Messiah.

Q. 98. How does the remainder of Genesis reveal this pattern?

A. The covenant sons—Isaac, Jacob, Joseph—bear the promises of eschatological life. Jacob is saved from death (Esau) and transformed by an encounter with God (Peniel). His name change (Jacob = “schemer”; Israel = “prince with God”)
indicates a transition from death to life (a regeneration). Joseph is given up for dead, but God saves him and makes him the instrument of life for his people (descent into Egypt).

Q. 99. How does the conclusion of Genesis reveal this pattern?

A. Jacob and Joseph both testify to the eschatological aspect of faith. They give instructions to be buried in the land of promise. By faith, they possess the land which belongs to God and their fathers.

Q. 100. How does the book of Genesis end?

A. With Israel in Egypt

4 Responses

  1. Pingback : The End in the Beginning: A Biblical-Theological Catechism (Genesis) – Feeding on Christ | The Great Exchange

  2. Pingback : Notable & Newsworthy | ACTIVE/didactic

  3. Bill Snodgrass

    Hi Nick: Thank you for the post. I pray for you, especially now. This catechism was written by James T. Dennison. William has taught on this matter (the 2003 Kerux conference).
    Bill Snodgrass

Leave a Reply