Richard Belcher, Jr. Replies to Collins's Reply
February 29, 2012
Editors' Note: Below is Dr. Richard Belcher, Jr.'s reply to Dr. C. John Collins's reply. We give Dr. Belcher the last word.
I thank Dr. Collins for his response to my "review" of his book. My response will be limited to what I see as the main issues arising from the substance of his book. I understand Genesis 1-11 to be historical narrative like the rest of the book of Genesis. Historical narrative can use figurative and symbolic language, but I believe Dr. Collins goes beyond that when he advocates for the advantages of a pictorial approach to the Bible (p. 20). After stating that the Mesopotamian origin and flood stories provide the context in which Genesis 1-11 are to be set in order to provide clues on how to read the literature, he states that there are reasons to accept an historical core to the story in Genesis (pp. 35, 66).
It is problematic to take our cue from the Mesopotamian stories on how to read Genesis and to argue that Genesis 1-11 has only an historical core. I do believe that Genesis 2:7 demands (his words) the view that God took soil from the dust and made Adam the first man by breathing into his nostril the breath of life. Only by taking "dust" in a figurative or pictorial way can it be interpreted as other than soil. Dr. Collins in his response acknowledges that "dust" may have gone through a few intermediate (genetic) steps and that the words of Genesis 2:7 do not actually rule out every kind of "genetic process." If genetic process is not ruled out in Genesis 2:7, then the door is open for allowing other scenarios of how God made Adam into a living creature. Although Dr. Collins does reject some of these scenarios, he is willing to accept the possibility that there were more human beings than just Adam and Eve at the beginning of mankind, who existed as a tribe, with Adam being the chieftain of the tribe (pp. 121, 125). At one point in the past the OPC has rejected similar views (see New Horizons, August, 1996), and so has the PCA in its declaration "That God made Adam immediately from the dust of the ground and not from a lower animal form and that God's in-breathing constituted man a living soul" (see the minutes of the General Assembly, June 1999).
Richard P. Belcher, Jr. is professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte. An ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, he is the author of The Messiah and the Psalms (Ross-shire: Christian Focus), among other books and articles.