Meredith Kline and the Fall of Lucifer

Over on the Triablogue, they tackle the question “When did Lucifer fall?” and examine the arguments from Genesis propounded by Meredith Kline in his book Kingdom Prologue from 2000.

Kline basically propounds the framework hypothesis, arguing for the fall of Lucifer “in the white spaces” between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.  He also suggests that Genesis 1:1 records the creation of the celestial heavens and the physical earth (which, according to Kline, includes both the terrestrial heavens and the physical earth), where as Genesis 1:2 and following simply record the creation of the terrestrial heavens and the physical earth.

And after reading Kline, consulting his references and examining the text of scripture, I’d say that Kline is more concerned with finding novel answers to questions than he is with fairly representing the text of scripture.

His arguments are not compelling:

1. On pages 23-24 Kline argues that scripture outside of Genesis 2:1 says that God created both the earth, the terrestrial heavens and the celestial heavens (spiritual heaven, the angels, etc.)…therefore Genesis 2:1 is likely referring to the creation of the earth, the terrestrial heavens and the celestial heavens when it simply says “heavens and earth”.

My response?

Kline completely ignores both the language and context of Genesis 1:1-2:1.

He is suggesting that in the phrase “heavens and earth” (Gen 2:1), the “earth” actually means “earth and terrestrial heaven” (though הָאָרֶץ never anywhere else refers to both the physical earth and the terrestrial heaven) and “heavens” refers to “celestial heaven” which in Neh. 9:6 is instead indicated by the phrase שְׁמֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם “heaven of the heavens”.

That phrase appears in Deuteronomy 10:14, 1 Kings 8:27, 2 Chronicles 2:6, 6:18 and Psalm 115:16 as specifically referring to the celestial heaven, over and above the terrestrial heaven. Kline amazingly mentions these verses on page 25 but only suggests that the phrase שְׁמֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם “heaven of the heavens” seems to usually mean “invisible celestial realm”.

He strangely doesn’t point out that by the phrase שְׁמֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם “heaven of the heavens” appears in Deuteronomy 10:14, 1 Kings 8:27, 2 Chronicles 2:6, 6:18 alongside the phrase הַשָּׁמַיִם “heaven” [הַשָּׁמַיִם וּשְׁמֵי הַשָּׁמָיִם] to clearly differentiate between the terrestrial heaven [הַשָּׁמַיִם] and the celestial heaven [שְׁמֵי הַשָּׁמָיִם]. The word הַשָּׁמַיִם always clearly seems to refer to the terrestrial heaven in the Old Testament. It appears strongly that Kline is arguing over and against the clear meaning of the text.

One is much more exegetically and grammatically justified to suggest that “all the host of them” in Gen 2:1 refers only to what is previously mentioned in the context to be “in” them – namely the stars, moon, animals, people, etc. Interpreting a phrase by ignoring it immediate context and importing meanings from other scripture is called eisegesis, not exegesis.

2. On Page 24, Kline then says “Given this understanding of Genesis 2:1, a referent must then be found in the preceding account for the mention of the creation of angels in the Genesis 2:1 summary statement and the only possible such referent is Genesis 1:1”

My response?

“This understanding” is demonstrably in opposition to the biblical data he himself presents, and over and against the context and language of the text of Genesis. At this point, his argument is over. Either way, he gives another ‘proof’ that we can examine.

3. Then, on page 24-25 in a confusing and needlessly verbose argument, Kline suggests that Proverbs 8:22-30 suggests that Genesis 1:1 is the record of an event preceding Genesis 1:2. He suggests that Proverbs 8:22-23 indicates that the “beginning” (apparently in Genesis 1:1) is before the waters of the vast deep (Genesis 1:2) and any creation achievements, due to an implicit indication of (apparently) 8:24 (he doesn’t give a verse reference). He reasons “Therefore, according to Genesis 1:1, a ‘heaven’ existed in distinction from an ‘earth’ at a time prior to developments described in the following verses.” He then comments on how the heavens are created from the earth in Genesis 1:6-8, which insinuates that the heaven mentioned in Genesis 1:1 must be a different heaven than what is made in 1:6-8.

My Response?

First, arguing from a poetic text to establish the meaning of a narrative text is simply exegetically irresponsible. Separate literary genres use figures of speech and grammatical construction much differently. It’s the mark of a desperate man to cross literary genres to make specific arguments about matters of language and grammar; like establishing the meaning of an English word by appealing to its Greek ancestor.

Second, Kline’s argument basically takes the word רֵאשִׁית “beginning” (Prov 8:22) to mean exactly what it means in Genesis 1:1, though the word is part of the phrase רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכֹּו [“(in) the beginning of the works of him”] in Proverbs 8:22 as it appears as a substantive in Genesis 1:1 בְּרֵאשִׁית “In the beginning” (the beginning of what? It’s just “the beginning”, and “the beginning” seems to be a title for a specific beginning; i.e. ‘the beginning of beginnings’, or ‘the beginning’).

o “The beginning of the works of him” in Proverbs 8:24-29 is the time when there was “no depths” and “no fountains” (8:24, which Kline apparently equates with Genesis 1:2), “no mountains” and “no hills” (8:25), “no earth” and “no fields” and “no dust” (8:26). Why does Kline apparently cherry-pick 8:24 as his parallel and not 8:25 or 8:26? He gives no reasons for his arbitrary selection and no treatment of the text.

o Strangely, Proverbs 8:27 has Wisdom claiming that she was there “When He established the heavens” and “When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep”. The second quote contains the phrase פְּנֵי תְהֹֽום “face of the deep”, which only occurs in 2 other places – Job 38:30 and Genesis 1:2…but Proverbs 8:27 has the phrase as paralleling the time “When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep” with the time “When He established the heavens” , and “heavens” in Proverbs 8:27 is שָׁמַיִם (heaven – terrestrial heaven) and not שְׁמֵי הַשָּׁמָיִם (heaven of heavens – celestial heaven). The parallelism in Proverbs 8:27 suggests that the time “When He established the heavens” was the same time “When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep”. There is no way, from the text of Proverbs 8:27, to suggest temporal sequence between the establishment of the heavens and the inscription of a circle on the face of the deep; they’re two events that are paralleled as being synonymous.

o The only way to show that Genesis 1:6-8 is referring to a different heaven than Genesis 1:1 is by establishing that the same noun (שָׁמַיִם) in a very local context (within 6 verses) has two clearly different referents (terrestrial vs. celestial heaven). This relies on his first argument, which is demonstrably fallacious.

Kline cannot build up any suggestion of Lucifer falling between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 because there is no time in the text between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, or at least it’s not demonstrable from the text of Genesis. His exegetical attempts to establish ‘time’ between Genesis 1:1-1:2 and to establish that Genesis 1:1-2:4 somehow suggests the creation of both the celestial and terrestrial heavens both fail.

So when did Lucifer fall? I don’t know; the text doesn’t say. Genesis 1:1-2:4 is talking about the creation of the terrestrial heavens and the physical earth and they were created good, regardless of whether or not Lucifer existed already (i.e. the pronouncement of “it was good” in Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25 then refer to the terrestrial heavens and the physical earth, but do not necessarily refer to what is not being created…if the celestial heaven or Lucifer are not being created in Genesis 1:1-2:4).

God also certainly made the celestial heaven, but as to when, Genesis doesn’t tell us.

o (On an exegetical side note, Genesis 1:1 is a general overview and Genesis 1:2 shows the story focusing in on a specific detail. It’s like a wide angle shot in a movie that zooms in on a single person. I say this because Genesis 1:1-1:2 has anadiplosis [end word of 1 verse is the 1st word of the 2nd verse.] and the exegetical significance of an anadiplosis is that it shows a narrowing of focus in the narrative. People who argue for temporal relationship are simply ignorant of the finer points of grammar of Biblical Hebrew.)

Was the celestial heaven around before Genesis 1:1? Possibly…Genesis doesn’t say one way or the other, though Job 38:7 suggests that the angels may have witnessed the creation of the earth (though they could have also been created on day 1 and witnessed days 2-7).

It’s possible that God created the celestial heaven and the terrestrial heaven/physical earth simultaneously and Lucifer fell instantaneously. It’s also possible that there was an amount of time before Genesis 1:2 where Lucifer invented the accordion (the text doesn’t say, but I have my own suspicions!)… it is slightly unlikely though. Genesis 1:2 just starts with the earth being formless and void, with darkness upon the surface of the deep and the Spirit brooding over the water.

When does Lucifer show up in the Bible? Genesis 3:1. Any placement of him before that, doing anything specific, is sheer speculation.

If the text doesn’t say, then I should be cautious before I do.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “The Armchair Theologian” Unger

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