The Liturgy of Creation
Holidays today are often established by legislation, and calendars are published on paper and smart phones. But how were holidays chosen and taught in biblical Israel? And what might these holidays have to do with the creation narrative?
In this book, Michael LeFebvre considers the calendars of the Pentateuch with their basis in the heavenly lights and the land's agricultural cadences. He argues that dates were added to Old Testament narratives not as journalistic details but to teach sacred rhythms of labor and worship. LeFebvre then applies this insight to the creation week, finding that the days of creation also serve a liturgical purpose and not a scientific one.
The Liturgy of Creation restores emphasis on the religious function of the creation week as a guide for Sabbath worship. Scholars, students, and church members alike will appreciate LeFebvre's careful scholarship and pastoral sensibilities.
"If as modern Bible readers, we want to understand Israel of the Old Testament, we must step out of our own perceptions of time and history and enter their world of thinking. This book will enable us to do that with insights that can revolutionize our interpretation of the Sabbath and its corollary, the creation week. Open these pages and let Dr. LeFebvre become your tour guide to an Israelite view of time and calendar. He did not always persuade me, and he may not always persuade you, but we can all benefit from his insights, and the suggestions that he makes are worth pondering."
"The Liturgy of Creation is an important book for many reasons. LeFebvre helps us understand the Israelite calendar in relationship to the significant annual festivals that were so central to the life and theology of the Old Testament people of God. His work on the calendar itself is worth reading, but he goes further and draws crucial conclusions concerning creation in a way that affects the present debate over the relationship between science and faith. This book is essential reading for all serious students of the Old Testament."
"Dr. LeFebvre has accomplished something remarkable: he has written something that is academically responsible and creative and is at the same time readable and clear for the intelligent layperson."
"Given the amount of ink that's already been spilled dissecting and debating the opening two chapters of Genesis, one would think there would be nothing left to say—or at least nothing fresh to say. Enter Dr. Michael LeFebvre's The Liturgy of Creation: Understanding Calendars in Old Testament Context. Drawing on his expertise in Old Testament law, Dr. LeFebvre offers us a winsome and, in many ways, compelling defense of reading the creation week of Genesis 1:1–2:3 as a calendar narrative. Here is something not only scholarly and substantive but insightful and original. Not everyone will agree with all of his conclusions. But surely everyone will be benefited by a close reading of this important book. I highly recommend it!"
"This is the work on Genesis 1 that I have waited for. Dr. LeFebvre offers a compelling understanding of the creation account by rooting it in the concerns of law, specifically the calendars that set the cadence of life for God's people. No one will be able to dismiss this work as mere accommodation, but it affirms students and working scientists to embrace without fear what they read in the book of nature."
"Michael LeFebvre has given us a significant contribution to understanding the early chapters of Genesis in a way that is faithful to the Bible and avoids the pitfalls of anachronistic readings of the text. His hermeneutical insights are tremendously helpful for understanding the concepts of time, chronology, calendar, and worship in the Bible and how these concepts are often confused when read through modern eyes. With the sharp mind of a theologian and the humble heart of a pastor, LeFebvre makes a compelling and eminently readable case for understanding the creation narrative as calendar text. In doing so, he calls us to the true priorities of the creation account."
"Given LeFebvre's brilliant doctoral work on Old Testament law, I expected this book to be carefully researched and lucidly written. I was not disappointed. LeFebvre skillfully brings into focus the parts of the Pentateuch readers are most likely to skip, showing how the purpose of each calendar notation in the Torah, including its opening chapter, is liturgical—to order the work and worship of the covenant people. His reassessment of Genesis 1 moves beyond the stalemate in the creation debates without recourse to extrabiblical or scientific arguments. His thesis grows organically from a close reading of the biblical text. LeFebvre shows himself to be a master teacher with pastoral sensitivity, able to patiently explain what he has so carefully studied. This book will change the way I teach the Torah. I can't wait to share it with my students!"
"Exegetically rigorous, theologically sophisticated, pastorally sensitive, and apologetically relevant, The Liturgy of Creation does three essential things as it delves into Israel's festivals and cultic calendar. First, it illumines the ancient Israelite understanding of time and rhythm, which ties together cultic life with daily (agricultural) life (i.e., worship and work). Second, it makes a compelling argument that the relatively few specific dates in the Pentateuch must be read through the lens of Israel's cultic calendar to evoke liturgical memory and commemoration. Third, the book applies this larger framework to Genesis 1, treating the creation week as a festival calendar narrative to help Israel 'remember God's work and God's rest through their own weekly labors and worship.' The thesis is reasonable and interesting, and it yields fruitful results (or talking points at least) for modern origins discussions—especially since this study comes from a pastor (in a conservative denomination, no less), whose intent is to speak directly to the concerns of the church."
Foreword by C. John Collins
Introduction: Dates, Stories, and Calendars
Part I: Israel's Calendars
1. Calendars in the Sky
2. Cycles of Sevens
3. The Festivals of Israel
Chart: Israel's Calendar of Holy Days
Part II: Festivals and Their Stories
4. The Festival Stories of Israel
Chart: Pentateuch Calendar
5. Dates for Remembering
6. Dates Assigned by Law
Part III: The Creation Week
7. The Creation Week as Calendar Narrative
8. The Plot of the Creation Week
9. Ordered for Fruitfulness (Days 1–3)
10. Populated for Blessing (Days 4–6)
11. Crowned with Communion (Day 7)
12. A Calendar for Sabbath, Not Science