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The Genetics of Scripture

“In the Alpha words of Genesis 1, we should be able to discern some clues to the Omega words of the Apocalypse.”

This foreword was kindly written by Dr Peter Leithart for Bible Matrix: An Introduction to the DNA of the Scriptures.

Beginnings are seeds. Plants grow up from seeds. So do animals, and humans too. Seeds are beginnings, but seeds also initiate a process of growth that will be fulfilled in the middle and end. So beginnings contain endings. Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow, but mighty hippos do not. For that, you need some hippo seed and preferably a female incubator to nourish it along. It is certainly one-sided, but T. S. Eliot had something right when he said, in East Coker, “In my beginning is my end.” As seed, we already are from the beginning what we will become.

Texts are not organisms, but for writers who are in control of their tools and materials, textual beginnings are also seeds that determine what sort of text will spring up. No book illustrates this more clearly than the Bible, which begins in a well-watered garden full of fruit trees and peaceable animals and ends with a vision of a garden restored, complete with crystalline river and prolific trees.

For Christians, the inner link of protology and eschatology, the organic movement from beginnings to ends, is rooted in the fundamentals of our faith. Christians confess that God is Triune, which is as much as to say that in God there is not only a “beginning,” the Father, but also an “ending,” a product, the Son, begotten by the Spirit. The Son is irreducibly different from the Father, as different from the Father as ends are from beginnings. Yet the Son is also the exact image of the Father, so that in seeing the Son one can see the Father. Between this Beginning and the End, nothing leaks out or is wasted. All that the Father is, the Son is, except that the Father is Beginning and the Son End.

At a different register, Christians confess that the Son is Himself Beginning and End. He is the “firstborn” of the Father, the Father’s first and unique Word, who was with the Father from the beginning. Yet He is also the final Word, the Judge appointed by the Father who will, at the very last, tell us what it was all about and reveal once and for all who wore the white hats, and who the black hats, and who the black hats painted white. Christ is the first letter and the last, the Alpha and the Omega, in the alphabet that is human history.

That is not quite right. Creation does not circle back to square one. The story of the Bible is not a circle, but a history of creation in development, creation becoming. It is the history of a garden growing up to be a garden city that is also a bride. Along with the trees and river of Revelation 21-22, there are walls and streets and nations hauling in their treasures. The biblical story is not merely creation and return, not merely beginning, loss, and recovery of beginning. Scripture tells a story of creation’s glorification.

And that too, unthinkably, is rooted in Triune life. The Father is wholly God, but He is also, mysteriously, “more” by begetting a Son than He would be otherwise. He has, of course, always had that Son; the Son is, as Athanasius says, “proper” to the Father’s essence, and the begetting of the Son is an eternal begetting. The Father has eternally been “more.” We might put it this way: The Triune God is not so much a timeless God as a God who has always already realized His future. He is the Alpha that has always already been, equally and simultaneously, Omega. He is the infinitely productive seed that is always already eternally tree and fruit.

Press our two main observations together, and we get to the premise of Mike Bull’s remarkable Bible Matrix. On the one hand, the Bible’s beginnings are the seeds from which the rest of the Bible grows; on the other hand, the Bible’s story is one of glorification. If both are true, then we should expect to find, within the Bible’s beginnings, hints of the story of glorification that reaches its end in the New Jerusalem. In the Alpha words of Genesis 1, we should be able to discern some clues to the Omega words of the Apocalypse.

And so we do. Each day of creation week is an advance over the last. That there is anything—even a dark, formless emptiness, or empty formlessness—that is other than God is a remarkable enough fact by itself (Genesis 1:2). But on Day 1, Yahweh determines that the world needs light, and over the subsequent days, He speaks the world into shape and fills it with all manner of delightful clutter. Yahweh will move the world along and make it better along the way. We know that because that is how the story starts. From the seed of the beginning, we form a nascent sense of what the full plant will look like.

This insight is the heart of Bible Matrix. Mike Bull does more than show us the big story of the Bible, the movement from glorious beginning to the greater glory of the end. That is a story so obvious that even academic Bible scholars can see it. But Bull sees what few have seen, namely, that this big story is present seminally in the opening chapter of the Bible, and more than that, that the glorification of the world is not only the big story of Scripture but also the shape of nearly every little story of the Bible as well. Seed, tree, and every leaf and branch of the tree, is imprinted with the same Triune pattern.

Bible Matrix connects pieces of the Bible that might have looked like scattered fragments. It shows coherence and recurring sequences where you might have seen only randomness and confusion. It gives the world in a grain of sand, as Bull explains how each passage and portion of the Bible is a lens through which the whole is uniquely refracted. Bull roots around in the genetics of Scripture and everywhere discovers not a circle of identical return but the chiastically coiled DNA that moves creation from glory to glory.

My hope is that Bible Matrix will itself be a seed, and that its creative and arresting insights will burrow down into the souls of readers until they germinate and begin, by the power of the Spirit, to produce the fruit of a transformed, biblical imagination.

Peter Leithart is President of Theopolis Institute and an adjunct Senior Fellow of Theology at New St. Andrews College, Moscow, Idaho. He is ordained in the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC). He is the author of many books, most recently of Gratitude: An Intellectual History (Baylor, 2014) and Traces of the Trinity (Baker, forthcoming). He writes a blog at firstthings.com, where he also writes a regular bi-weekly column. He has published articles in many periodicals, both popular and academic.
Leithart has served in two pastorates: He was pastor of Reformed Heritage Presbyterian Church (now Trinity Presbyterian Church), Birmingham, Alabama from 1989 to 1995, and was pastor of Trinity Reformed Church, Moscow, Idaho, from 2003-2013. From 1998 and 2013 he taught theology and literature fulltime at New St. Andrews College, Moscow, Idaho.
He received an A.B. in English and History from Hillsdale College in 1981, and a Master of Arts in Religion and a Master of Theology from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in 1986 and 1987. In 1998 he received his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge in England.
He and his wife, Noel, have ten children and seven grandchildren.


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