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  • Work as Worship in the Garden and the WorkshopGenesis 1–3, the Feast of St. Josephthe Worker, and Liturgical Hermeneutics
  • Jeffrey Morrow (bio)

Theology is in dire straits because of the fragmentation of the theological disciplines. The most tragic of all is arguably the chasm between theology and biblical studies. Throughout Christian history, theologians were nothing other than interpreters of Scripture. The challenge today of reuniting theology and the Bible, of making biblical studies more theological and theology more biblical, is an urgent one. David Fagerberg explains that “our task is to let the connection between liturgy, Scripture and theology be a path to a thickened understanding of each of them. That is what we have ceased doing because we no longer see these three in the light of the singular mystery of God.”1 In this context, the Church’s liturgy emerges as an important site for studying Scripture, and for making such study theological. This present article is a modest attempt at contributing to the reunification of the Bible and theology by highlighting the promise contained in a liturgical hermeneutic for accomplishing this goal. As a concrete example, I have chosen the theme of work as worship within Genesis 1–3, and as read in light of the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. I begin with a discussion of the liturgical content and structure of Genesis 1–3.2 I then put forward [End Page 159] both historical and theological reasons for reading Scripture liturgically.3 I conclude by picking up on the theme of work as worship in Genesis 1–3 as read and experienced in the context of the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker to show what such a liturgical hermeneutic might look like.

The Liturgical Sitz im Leben of Genesis 1–3

Genesis 1–3 depicts the world as a macro-temple, and humanity as created for liturgical worship as cosmic-priests on earth, which suggests a liturgical Sitz im Leben (situation or setting in life).4 Ever since Henning Bernhard Witter (1711) and Jean Astruc (1753), scholars have argued for two different sources underlying Genesis 1–3.5 The first portion, namely, Genesis 1:1–2:3, is usually taken as the later priestly account (P), whereas the second portion, Genesis 2:4–3:24, is understood as an earlier Yahwistic account (J).6 A century after Astruc, Hermann Hupfeld (1853) became the first to isolate the priestly source (which he called the “older Elohist”), even though a long tradition had already developed for over a century distinguishing between the two accounts of creation.7

These critical distinctions concerning foundational sources notwithstanding, liturgical concerns link both accounts in their final form. Form critics like Moshe Weinfeld have underscored numerous priestly and liturgical elements in the first creation account.8 The emphasis on the seventh day reflects priestly concerns for Sabbath observance.9 Not only is the seventh day the narrative climax, but there is a sevenfold dimension to the three formulae involved in creation: fulfillment, description, and approval. This sevenfold structure is retained through the omission of specific formulae where we might expect them. In Genesis 1:6–8 there is no approval formula “God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:9 omits any description of the act whatsoever. Finally, Genesis 1:20 omits the fulfillment formula, “and it was so.” The significance of these omissions is highlighted by the fact that the Greek Septuagint (LXX) fills in [End Page 160] these missing formulae; the sevenfold structure of the Hebrew text is thus lacking in the LXX.10

The priestly and liturgical nature of the creation account is further indicated by its many parallels with the priestly account of the construction of the tabernacle, which is portrayed as the chief liturgical structure in the book of Exodus.11 There are nearly identical Hebrew phrases linking both passages, and both are structured with the heptadic pattern of the number seven.12 More recently, Crispin Fletcher-Louis’s textual analysis of Sirach indicates that Sirach relies upon a tradition of interpretation that assumes the parallels between creation and tabernacle construction.13

Unsurprisingly, in the biblical canon these accounts orient readers toward...


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