Genesis 1-3 in a Liturgical Context: The Role of Liturgy in Christian Theological Interpretation of Scripture

Ever since the eighteenth century works of Bernhard Henning Witter and Jean Astruc, Bible scholars have tended to read Genesis 1-3 as two separate accounts which were woven together in an editorial process. Although not explicitly theological, source criticism has led many theologians to interpret Genesis 1-3 in light of its hypothetical literary origins. Although I do not wish theologians to completely neglect the historical critical method, I think this method’s hegemony in the church and in the academy demonstrates one aspect of modern theology’s Babylonian captivity to the modern project in which the historical critical method originated. In an attempt to read Genesis 1-3 theologically as a Christian, I propose reading the text liturgically. Following the works of biblical exegetes like Gordon Wenham and Moshe Weinfeld, I argue for reading Genesis 1-3 as a literary whole that has liturgy and worship as its primary content. Weinfeld argues for the liturgical content and structure of Genesis 1, whereas Wenham argues for the liturgical content of Genesis 2-3, based upon parallels with the tabernacle and temple. If both are correct, then many of the source critical assumptions may prove superfluous. Following the insights of theologians like Jean Daniélou and Scott Hahn, I maintain that the Christian liturgy is the primary context in which Christians should interpret Genesis 1-3. I will use the Sacred Liturgy and Lectionary of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church as the particular Christian example for proposing a liturgical hermeneutic for reading Scripture. Genesis 1-3 will serve as the biblical example for this hermeneutic. Such a liturgical hermeneutic is a potentially rich means of reading Scripture theologically as a Christian.