Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fesko's "Last Things First" 3

Knowing what it means to be in the image of God and one way in which Jesus fulfills or represents that which Adam ought not have corrupted, to examine further similarities and differences, Fesko reasons it is necessary to examine the setting in which the first things took place: the garden.

Some commentators regard Adam’s duty to tend and guard the garden as a work-ethic or merely something to keep him occupied. Fesko, on the other hand, in line with his claim that Adam was the first priest, believes that Genesis 1-3 typological richness includes the idea Eden should be viewed as the first temple. To substantiate this, Fesko separates Edenic comparisons to the temple into two categories: Eden’s features and the activity of its inhabitants. Collectively taken, the argument that Eden was a primeval temple is convincing:


- Eden’s eastern location (Genesis 2:8) correlates with God’s special presence as shown elsewhere (Ezekiel 11:1, 23, 43:1-4, 44:1-2, Luke 1:78-79).

- Eden rested on a mountain top from which the river flowed (Genesis 2:10-14, Ezekiel 28:14, 16), and God’s presence is again indicated elsewhere as special among mountains such like Horeb, Sinai, and Zion (Exodus 3:1, 18:5, 24:13, Psalm 48:1-2, Hebrews 12:22, Revelation 14:1, 21:10). Moreover, there is a close connection between the temple and mountains (Ezekiel 43:12).

- The river of Eden also identifies with temple imagery (Psalm 46:4, Ezekiel 47:1, 8). “River” is symbolic in Ezekiel as well as it is when used in reference to God’s word conjoined with the washing of the Spirit (Isaiah 8, John 7:38-39) in regenerating one’s body to become a temple for the Holy Spirit.

- The trees in the garden bear ecclesiastical significance. Firstly, the tree of knowledge is like the law of God (Genesis 3:6, Psalm 19:8-9). A copy of the law – the Decalogue – was kept inside the ark in the holy of holies with the book of the law beside it (Exodus 25:16, Deuteronomy 31:26). Touching the ark brought certain death as did eating of the tree of knowledge (Numbers 4:20, 2 Samuel 6:7). The law of God is always present in the temple, whether in the ark or a visual representation of God’s command. Secondly, the tree of life may be related to the temple menorah (Exodus 25:31-39), as both are said to be in proximity to God’s throne (cf. Revelation 22:1). Thirdly, there were many different kinds of trees in the garden (Ezekiel 31:8-9), reflecting the different decorations of the temple (1 Kings 6:18, 29, 32, 7:18). Trees are present in Ezekiel’s eschatological vision of the temple and appear in similar form in John’s vision as well (Ezekiel 41:18-26, 47:12, Revelation 22:2, 14). This in turn links to the river imagery (Ezekiel 47:12, Revelation 22:1-2) and has special association, as was referenced, to the tree of life. Finally, the connection between the temple and the church is also noteworthy. The church seems to be regarded by the apostles as the eschatological temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19, Ephesians 2:21, 1 Peter 2:5). If the garden typifies the temple, it would seem that trees correlatively typify the church (Psalm 1:3, Matthew 3:10, 7:17-20, John 15:1, Galatians 5:22). Just as Adam stood in the midst of fruit bearing trees, then, so too will the second Adam when He stands with His brethren.

- The precious stones and metals in the garden (Genesis 2:10-14) is argued in rabbinic literature to have been created for use in the temple. Ezekiel’s prophecy against the kind of Tyre reveals more types (Ezekiel 28:13), and while the bulk of tabernacle furniture was indeed made or covered by pure gold (Exodus 25:11, 17, 24, 29, 36), some precious metals reappear in the high priest’s vestments (Exodus 28:17-20). The breastplate was supposed to be a small replica of the earthly tabernacle modeled  on the heavenly tabernacle (Beale, Revelation, 1080), and that these items also appear in the foundation of the eschatological temple should, at this point, be unsurprising (Revelation 21:20, 18-20).

- The cherubim were posted to guard the entrance of the garden upon man’s exit (Genesis 3:24) and were likewise guardians of the inner sanctuary of the temple (1 Kings 6:23-28), the ark itself (Exodus 25:18-22). and were decorated on various parts of the tabernacle and temple (Exodus 26:31, 1 Kings 6:29). Ezekiel too mentions the cherub, to which he compares the king against whom he is prophesying (Ezekiel 28:14); this is similar to the function described by John (Revelation 4:6-8). Of significance is the fact that they guard the eastern entrance (the place of God’s presence) and that Moses was instructed to hang the curtain between the inner sanctuary and the holy of holies (Exodus 26:33). Such implies Eden itself was the holy of holies in which man had direct access to God’s presence. Any who tried to enter the garden after the fall would be struck down like those who attempted to enter the holy of holies. Only the high priest could safely enter and only on the day of atonement (Leviticus 16:2). The Christological connections are clear: Christ tore the veil (Matthew 27:51) – which, given the cherubim were decorated on the veil, typified our separation from God’s direct presence – and moved the cherubim back before God’s throne. Man may, through Christ, come to God in the holy of holies (Hebrews 9:24-25).

Activity of inhabitants

- God’s presence is referenced in the garden (Genesis 3:8) in same manner as in the tabernacle (Leviticus 26:11-12, Deuteronomy 23:14, 2 Samuel 67:6).

- Many parallels exist with respect to the days of creation. The seven days of creation (Genesis 1:1-2:3) correlates with the seven speeches given to Moses for the construction of the tabernacle (Exodus 25:1-27:19). After the seventh speech, Moses was told to rest upon completion of his construction just as God rested (Genesis 2:2-3, Exodus 31:17, 40:35). Moses had to wait six days before ascending Mount Sinai to receive these instructions (Exodus 24:15), and, interestingly, Christ ascended the mount of transfiguration after six days (Matthew 17:1, Mark 9:2). The relation between creation and the tabernacle is striking in rabbinic interpretation of the meaning of the temple, as shown in Fesko’s charting:  


One/Creation: Heavens stretched curtain (Psalm 104:2)                    

One/Tabernacle: Tent (Exodus 26:7)

Two/Creation: Firmament (Genesis 1:6)

Two/Tabernacle: Temple veil (Exodus 26:33)

Three/Creation: Waters below (Genesis 1:9)                            

Three/Tabernacle: Laver or bronze sea (Exodus 30:18)

Four/Creation: Lights (Genesis 1:14)

Four/Tabernacle: Light stand (Exodus 25:31)

Five/Creation: Birds (Genesis 1:20)                                       

Five/Tabernacle: Winged cherubim (Exodus 25:20)

Six/Creation: Man (Genesis 1:27)     

Six/Tabernacle: Aaron the high priest (Exodus 28:1)

Seven: Cessation, completion, blessing (Genesis 2:1-3, Exodus 39:32, 43, Numbers 7:1)

- If creation is a part of God’s cosmic temple, then Eden was the first holy of holies and Adam its first priest, further corroborated by his responsibilities.

- The duty of Adam to “work” and “keep” the garden (Genesis 2:15) uses verbs which, when mentioned together, are only otherwise used to describe the duties of a Levitical priest (Numbers 3:7-8, 4:23-26, 8:26, 18:5-6). Adam seems to have typified Levitical priests as well as Christ (who also represented the fulfillment of the Levitical priesthood).

- Specific terminology used to describe Adam’s post-Fall vestments (Genesis 3:21) is the same as that which was used to denote the garb of Levitical priests (Genesis 41:42, Exodus 28:41, 29:8, 40:13, Leviticus 8:13, 1 Samuel 17:38).While the clothing certainly anticipates our clothed righteousness, one should not miss that priests were required to clothe themselves in the presence of God (Exodus 20:26, 28:42).


These sum of these considerations can be traced back to pre-incarnate literature (e.g. book of Jubilees) and even theologians as recently as Karl Barth have, in passing noted the Eden-temple typology. The new earth which Christ will bring to fulfillment is not a generic city-farm but a city-temple. The last things show what the first ought have been. Adam, like Samuel, was taken to the temple to dwell in the Lord’s presence (1 Samuel 1:22) and minister (1 Samuel 3:1):

“God produced in Eden a microcosmic version of his cosmic sanctuary.  The garden planted there was holy ground with guardianship of its sanctity committed in turn to men and to cherubim. It was the temple-garden of God, the place chosen by the Glory-Spirit who hovered over creation from the beginning to be the focal site of his throne-presence among men... By virtue of the presence of this theophanic cloud-canopy over it, Eden had the character of a holy tabernacle, a microcosmic house of God.  And since it was God himself who, present in his theophanic Glory, constituted the Edenic temple, man in the Garden of God could quite literally confess that Yahweh was his refuge and the Most High was his habitation.” (Meredith Kline, “Images of the Spirit,” pgs. 35-37)

[As a personal note, this is one of my favorite chapters in the book. Fesko's argumentation and bibliographical references are nothing if not thorough.]

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