Text: Genesis 1:28
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number;
fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in
the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.
This morning we will be looking at some translation issues with this text that have led to many abusing the earth. Who says words don’t matter? Most of us know that the first mention of stewardship in the Bible is in Genesis where God puts Adam and Eve in charge of the garden, not as owners but as stewards.
The controversy lies in the words “in charge of.” Some translations say “rule over” and yet others use “have dominion over.” One of the challenges of faithfully interpreting the Bible is knowing the constant meaning of many words through the centuries. The King James Version of the Bible has the phrase, “I prevented the dawn.” In Elizabethan English, “prevent” meant “to go before” not to stop something from happening.
The word “dominion” is rooted in the concept of Lord or Lordship and implies much more than simply having power over a person or country. When I was serving as interim pastor in Pipe Creek Presbyterian Church, I attended a pastor’s association luncheon in Bandera. The brethren were upset that four meth labs had been discovered in recent days. Their solution? They wanted us as a group to go to four different spots around Bandera County, plant a cross in the ground and in their words, “Reclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ in Bandera County.” I raised my hand and asked, “How, when, and where did the Lord God Almighty, Creator of the universe, lose lordship over this county?” The motion was tabled.
Having dominion has an element of caring for and promoting the common good. And quite frankly, we humans have done a terrible job of caring for the garden. I am a flaming capitalist but sometimes economic theory doesn’t cover all the bases. For economists, a beautiful forest has no value until it is cut down. We can and must be better stewards.