Big Buts of the Bible: Genesis
Genesis means beginning. In the Bible’s first book we find beginnings, beginning to end. The origin of all that is, the beginnings of the human race, the beginnings of all troubles and disorder, and the beginnings of God’s redemptive plan to rescue it all from that trouble and disorder—it’s all found here.
The outline of Genesis moves beginning to beginning. Nothing to everything we see: the first human to the first nation; the first family to the first domestic violence; the first covenant to the first breach; the first passions, first jealousies, first lies, first anger, first rage, first aggression, first murder, first… Do you get what I’m saying? It’s ALL here!
Most importantly, in Genesis we have the beginnings of God’s revelation of Himself to mankind. All that follows in the Bible springs from here. That said, in Genesis, we find Jesus!
Scholars have noted, “What was begun in Genesis is fulfilled in Christ.” The genealogies here in chapters five and eleven, for instance, are completed with the birth of Jesus in the New Testament. He is the offspring promised to Abraham. He is the one in whom God’s promised blessings are realized. A well-rounded picture of Jesus Christ cannot be gained apart from beginning here.
Studying the sciences? Cosmo, Geo, Bio, and Theo—all of the ‘ologies’ really—you’re wise to start in Genesis. A well-rounded picture of our lives and the world we live in begins here. Could you effectively study anthropology—the study of the human race—without the foundation Genesis provides? Talk about a missing link! Why, even debates in our day over things like Climate Change and peace in the Middle East are informed by the Bible’s first book.
You’ve picked up your Bible and turned to page one before. You made it through the story of creation, scratching your head over whether those were literal days, generations or eras, and whether it even matters one way or another. Then you got to the story of Adam and Eve and wondered: ‘What’s the big deal if they ate the fruit or not?’ Then you came to a genealogy. Next thing you knew, you realized that you had dozed off and drooled on the pages. Chapters five and six are stuck together. You pressed on a little farther. All those people living hundreds and hundreds of years, and all those names made up of seventeen consonants…. you’d had it, and you returned your Bible to the nightstand. Genesis? Yeah, you tried reading it once.
I want to encourage you to try again. You know the contents are worthwhile. This time, I’ve got a tool for you to use that will make a difference. It’s been there all along. But this time, you’re going to know to look for it.
Consider the word but. In grammatical terms, it is a conjunction—it conjoins two or more things by comparing, contrasting, arguing or otherwise stating an exception. You know the word but. It shows up in almost every conversation. Whether you’ve thought of this or not, you do pay attention when you hear the word but in conversation. Whatever follows the word but could be of vital importance. If someone says to you, “I am sorry, but…” you will need to give rapt attention to what follows. Did they just apologize or make an excuse? “I am sorry that I stepped on your toes, but if you didn’t have big clown feet weren’t sticking out in the middle of the room it wouldn’t have happened!” Buts are important clarifiers.
And there you have it: a tool that can forever change the way you read your Bible—but.
Good news. The word but appears 160 times in the book of Genesis. If you’re willing to take another run at it, this time following appearances of the word but all the way through, I believe you will come away with an entirely different result. You’ll have a better grip on all the beginnings mentioned earlier. You’ll have a better feel for confusing passages and an appreciation for genealogies and long vowel-challenged names. Well, maybe not the names. But (see that word?) you will come away with a much clearer picture of the whole, and where and how some of those silly names fit in the bigger story—God’s redemptive story. It is, after all, your story.
Big Buts of the Bible: Genesis traces each appearance of the word but found in the Bible’s first book, and is organized into fifty brief chapters, each corresponding with a chapter of the book of Genesis. We wind up with nearly a verse by verse scene by scene consideration of the Bible’s first book, and each step of the way this little three-letter conjunction helps to tie difficult passages, concepts and doctrines together. What do you say? Shall we start from the beginning?