Hebrew Scholar Affirms That Genesis Means What It Says!

Interview with Dr Ting Wang, lecturer in Biblical Hebrew

by Jonathan Sarfati

Dr Ting Wang earned his M.Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary in California (Escondido) and his doctorate in Biblical Studies at the Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion (Cincinnati, Ohio). He now lectures on biblical Hebrew at Stanford University in California,1 and is a pastor for the Youth and Children’s Ministries at Korean Central Presbyterian Church. Dr Wang is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and the National Association of Professors of Hebrew. He has also been a college instructor in biblical and classical Greek. Dr Wang lives in Palo Alto with his wife, Becky.

While the creation evangelism message is helping to win many people to Christ, there is strong resistance within parts of the church. While most attacks focus on the science involved, many otherwise conservative theologians claim that Genesis really doesn’t mean what it says, is not meant to be a historical record, or that it’s not really so important anyway. Since Genesis was written in Hebrew, I asked a real Hebrew scholar, Dr Ting Wang, about what the author really meant.

Original languages

Why would anyone want to study biblical Hebrew so deeply? Dr Wang gives his own testimony:

‘The Lord used the Bible to save me. I was very despondent during my second year of university, so I bought a Bible, and read it as a “last resort”?. The words were unlike any I had encountered before—Jesus, the bread of life, the one who eats this bread would never hunger; Jesus, the light of the world; “if anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” [John 7:37–38].

‘This sounded so good to a parched and desperate soul, and subsequently God made it clear to me that whatever I did in life would have to revolve around the Word of truth. By His grace, I was able to study both Hebrew and Greek for years. And why did I want to? The Word is so important that I did not want to read a translation!


Old and New Testaments

Many in the church say that the New Testament is all that matters, or act as if this were true. But Dr Wang explained why the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is important for Christians today:

‘The Law is a schoolmaster pointing the way to Christ (Galatians 3:24). Jesus Himself said that if one does not listen to Moses and the Prophets, one will not understand the New Testament, for one will not believe even if someone rises from the dead [Luke 16:31]. Indeed, on the road to Emmaus, Jesus explained that the Old Testament essentially taught about Him [Luke 24:27].

‘Moreover, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught that He did not come to abolish the Law and Prophets, but to fulfill them—that until heaven and earth disappeared with a roar, nothing in the Old Testament would become obsolete [Matthew 5:17–18, cf. 2 Peter 3:10]. Jesus explicitly said, “Scripture cannot be broken” [John 10:35].

‘God has elevated above all things His name and His Word (Psalm 138:2), and the person He esteems “trembles” at His Word (Isaiah 66:2). And despite the fact that the heavens continuously declare the glory of God, how else but from the Old Testament would we learn details about Creation and the Fall?’

What type of book is Genesis?

A number of theologians claim that Genesis is not meant to be taken straightforwardly, that it is really poetry or allegory, or just a polemic against the surrounding paganism. But Ting said:

‘Because Scripture is living and active, relevant to past, present and future, it escapes easy categorization. Genesis is world history, particular history and theocentric anthropology [God-focused study of man]. It is prophecy, promise, wisdom, covenant—words that ‘God breathed’ (2 Timothy 3:15–17, 2 Peter 1:20–21)—“the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). From a secular perspective, Genesis has been called a historical record of origins, which is also accurate.’

What does ‘day’ mean?

Many ‘old-earth creationists’ claim to believe that Genesis was truly history, but they want to fit in the billions of years proposed by scientists who weren’t there. So they assert that the creation days were really long periods of time. Dr Wang firmly refutes this suggestion:

‘The semantic range [list of all possible meanings] of the English word “day” is not unlike the range of the Hebrew word  (yôm). No-one denies that “day” can mean a period or era in some contexts in both languages. For example, that’s what we mean if we say, “in Martin Luther’s day … .”

‘Similarly, in Proverbs 25:13 we find “as the cold of snow in the time/‘day’ of the harvest.” However, it’s totally improper to claim “day” can mean “era” in a different context. For instance, “on the last day of Luther’s life … ,” “day” clearly must mean an ordinary day—the modifier “last” and the context—Luther’s passing—render the meaning clear.

‘In Genesis 1, yôm comes with “evening” and “morning”, and is modified by a number. So it’s obvious that the Hebrew text is describing a 24-hour day—the exegetical burden of proof rests crushingly upon those who view otherwise (notice too that in Jeremiah 33:17–22, God’s covenant with the day and the night, so that both will come at the appointed time, is as unalterable as the promise that a son of David will reign). But no amount of evidence will convince those who are persuaded to play devil’s advocate—just like the serpent in Genesis 3, they must ask, “Did God really say?”’

Some have claimed that biblical Hebrew had no long-age words available. However, Dr Wang showed the falsity of this: …

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