Among views of Genesis 1 held by Reformed thinkers, the Framework view has attracted much positive interest over the past hundred years or so. It is not, however, a novel view, as we shall see. The basic idea is that the week of Genesis 1 is a “literary framework”. Its highly artful, complex, quasi-poetic form shows that it isn’t a simple historical narrative; no one would communicate such a narrative in such a form. It is an “exalted prose hymn”. The material of the prose-hymn is arranged into the shape of a week, but it portrays God’s creative activity in a topical or thematic way rather than strictly chronologically. E.g. days 1-3 form a perfect parallel with days 4-6, the text “revisiting” the first three days in its account of the second three. How much time the creation week took (whether short or long) in real “calendar time” is not addressed by the prose-hymn.
Augustine, arguably the most brilliant and influential of the early church fathers, and first great defender of the doctrines of grace, is the fountainhead of the “Framework” view. He teaches his version of it in his Confessions and his commentary on Genesis. Some form of the Framework view is found among the great Augustinian theologians of the Middle Ages, e.g. Anselm of Canterbury and Thomas Aquinas. It has been accepted and defended among modern thinkers by (for example) W.H.Griffith Thomas, N.H.Ridderbos, Meredith Kline, Lee Irons, Henri Blocher, Bruce Waltke, Tremper Longman III, Gordon Wenham, John Walton, and J.I.Packer.
A variant is offered by notable Reformed Old Testament scholar and Intelligent Design thinker, C. John Collins, whose recent commentary on Gen.1-4 offers a lucid exposition. The illustrious Hugh Miller (1802-56) held a view somewhere between the Day-Age view and Framework view: he thought the days of Gen.1 were not “days of creation” but “days of revelation”, in which visions were given to Moses regarding different aspects of God’s creative activities. However, Miller also held that each visionary day referred to long ages of geological time.
In this two-part essay, I offer a summary of arguments in favour of the Framework view. The bottom line is that the nature of the language in Genesis 1 tells strongly against the view that it is a straightforward historical account. Quite simply, a straightforward historical account would not be written as Genesis 1 is written. The style and genre are not that of historical prose. Continue reading