From the Literal Interpretation of Genesis to the Doctrine of Literal Six-Day Creation
This lecture shines light on what has become an obscure idea: literal meaning and interpretation. Literality has become obscure because different biblical interpreters mean many different things by it. Yet literality matters if Thomas Aquinas is right that only Scripture’s literal sense establishes doctrine. In this lecture, Vanhoozer will explore the diverse meanings of literality by examining the history of interpretation, using the opening chapters of Genesis as a case study, in particular, the creation of light and lights. He will then examine arguments for and against young-earth creationism, a flash point in the debate over the necessity of literal interpretation for biblical authority. The constructive proposal that emerges sets out a properly dogmatic account of creation and introduces the concept of “theological literality,” a notion used to highlight the importance both of divine intention for understanding the literal sense of Scripture and of literality for understanding the personal agency of God.
Kevin Vanhoozer (PhD, Cambridge University) is the Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Widely published, some of his more prominent books include Is There a Meaning in this Text? The Bible, the Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge (Zondervan, 1998), The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology (Westminster John Knox, 2005; Christianity Today Best Theology Book of the Year, 2006), and Biblical Authority after Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity (Brazos Press, 2016).