Yeah they can. Characters in stories can be condemned for what they do to other characters in those stories without any of it having literally happened. Jesus has these kinds of things happening in his parables all the time! Think of the unforgiving servant - indeed people are condemned for a lot less than murder. But should that all be discounted as inferior teaching if it didn’t indeed literally happen somewhere?
When Jesus condemned the experts of the law, they were not in a story about a fictional person named Abel. Luke 11:47 “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. 48 So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. 49 Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ 50 Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all”. They and that generation were real people who would be held responsible for the real blood of real prophets.
I don’t understand this. Maybe Abel was a historical person. I don’t know. But just because someone makes a literary allusion, doesn’t mean the person has to be historical. Macbeth murdered Duncan in Shakespeare’s narrative. I could make a philosophical point about how your sins will find you out and allude to Macbeth’s murder of Duncan. My allusion to support a point does not make Macbeth a historical person. Just because that murder did not happen in history does not mean that the murder of Duncan is just “allegorical.” either. It happened for real in the story. People get condemned for the murder of a person all the time in stories.
I don’t see how this declares Genesis is literal science and history.
Both. God revealed himself to us in Jewish literature.
I fully affirm that the Bible reveals God and his Christ and is the inspired, true, and authoritative revelation of God’s character and work for us. It convicts us of sin, shows us the path of redemption, and instructs us in righteousness and wisdom. But I don’t think Genesis is intended to be read as a blow by blow account of the physical formation of the world or the human race.
Many of the people on this forum have a different approach to exegesis (deciding what a given passage means) and hermeneutics (deciding how we should apply that meaning to our lives today) than you do. So, listing out verses and telling us what you think they mean probably won’t accomplish much, because people are just going to keep coming back with “I don’t think it means that” and “I don’t think that is the right application.” But you should not assume that a different approach to exegesis and hermeneutics means that we have less respect for the Bible than you do, or that we don’t know what the Bible says.
If you are happy with your interpretation of the Bible, why are you here? What is wrong with other Christians having a different approach? What do you think is at stake?
I agree that Jesus was talking about Abel in a way that presumes he was a historical person. But ancient histories were written with different rules than we have for modern history telling. It was common and allowable to mix mythologized figures and historical figures. So I don’t think it is as clear cut as you make it out to be. That is how people talked about history at the time.
Unbelievers use the types of deductions about the word of God that I have read in many threads.They reason about other religions, and ancient traditions and stories thereby nullifying and diluting God’s word thereby easing conscience or justifying their thoughts. By mans knowledge and reasoning they make void the word of God. By mans scientific reasoning so called knowledge, man dilutes God’s word. They take away the authority of Jesus’s word, men of no understanding, they are brute beasts that blaspheme the word of God and the name of Jesus. Just as Satan tempted Eve by saying “Did God really say”, he continues to do so today using as many avenues as possible.
When Jesus was tempted by Satan he responded “It is written”. If the word of God is only ANE thoughts, myths, cliches and homespun wisdom used to teach us about him, then I don’t have a “Thus Saith The Lord” when I am dealing with Satan. What I have is a “Here Is An Interesting ANE Tale We Instruct Our Children About Our God With”.
2 Corinthians 10:3 “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” .
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Ephesians 6:13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
I need that same true word spoken from God’s mouth that Jesus trusted in.
Christy, look how you have been influenced by this type of logic. In that statement of Jesus’s there is only one way to take it, Abel was a real person but you have a hard time admitting with full confidence that Abel was a real person, even after what Jesus said about him, which as I’ve quoted before he attributes his words as the Father’s. I am not condemning you just pointing out the situation. The mindset of the world weakens the children of God and should have no place in them.
Ephesians 1:17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
So what? You are a Christian if you confess Jesus is Lord and believe he died for your sins, not because you use one logic instead of another when reading the Bible.
What does it mean to you to “make void the word of God?” What makes you a Christian, your relationship with Jesus Christ, or your beliefs about the Bible? Where does it say we are saved or sanctified by whether we view the Bible the right way? How does it take away from Jesus’ saving work on the cross or Jesus’ power and authority over sin and death if I say Adam might not have been a historical figure?
Strawman. Nobody here said anything close to that. I love the passages you quoted. I believe spiritual warfare is a real thing.
There is almost never “one way to take it” when it comes to understanding Scripture. Jesus was rebuking the people who refused to recognize his Messianic authority and the message of the coming Kingdom. “Abel is a real person” was not the heart of the meaning he communicated in the passage at all, nor does it have any bearing on whether or not Jesus is the Messiah or whether his Kingdom is coming. Both of which I whole-heartedly believe.
What situation is that exactly? I don’t need Abel to be a historical person to love and follow Jesus with my whole heart. I am not strengthened to follow Jesus by the historicity of Genesis, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. The hope to which I am called and the glorious inheritance of the saints has everything to do with the inaugurated but still contested Kingdom that will be perfected when Christ returns for his Church and everything is made new. It has nothing to do with Adam and Eve being historical people.
You hit the nail on that, we are saved not by knowledge as in the terms of Gnosticism (in that we are saved by gaining some esoteric hidden knowledge) but we are saved in the finished work of Jesus Christ who came and died for sinners. As Eph. 2:8 says, " For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…" One is saved by the finished work of Jesus Christ, not by what view they take on Genesis 1.
Cody, the Abel–Zechariah saying is worth a deeper look. It seems to me that Jesus’ choice of these two names points to a literary reference (to characters in literature rather than actual people in time), and his description of Abel as a prophet suggests Jesus sees special importance in the figurative statements in Genesis.
Here is Luke’s version of the saying:
Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in his wisdom said, “I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.” Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all. (Luke 11:47–51, NIV)
Which Zechariah is it? In 2 Chronicles 24, a priest–prophet named Zechariah is murdered in the temple court. This matches well with Luke’s version, but Matthew includes an extra detail: Zechariah is the son of Barachiah. This suggests the minor prophet with that name (see Zechariah 1:1). The trouble is there is no mention of how or where this Zechariah died, yet both Matthew and Luke specify a Zechariah killed in the temple.
The language of “son of” can simply mean “descendant of,” so it’s possible a Barachiah is somewhere in the list of ancestors of the Zechariah killed in 2 Chronicles 24. It’s also possible that the minor prophet Zechariah was killed in the (later) temple as well. Either way, one has to speculate about details not in the text (either that, or perhaps Matthew or someone else simply made a mistake in adding the name Barachiah). The connection with the Zechariah killed in 2 Chronicles 24 seems most plausible, and virtually certain for Luke’s version that doesn’t include the name Barachiah.
How are Abel and Zechariah extremities? In English, this seems to be the A–Z of murders, but that doesn’t work in Greek since the letter omega ends the alphabet, not zeta. So how is Abel the first and Zechariah the last? Abel can easily be read as the earliest one killed, but Zechariah doesn’t work as the most recent killed prophet. A few chapters earlier, Luke speaks of how John the Baptist – a clear prophet – was beheaded (9:9). Since neither John nor some other more recently-killed person is mentioned, the focus can’t be strictly chronological.
Most likely is that Abel is the first murder and Zechariah the last in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the Hebrew canon, the last book is 1–2 Chronicles. The last clear murder of a prophet in that book is of Zechariah in 2 Chronicles 24:20–22. The focus is on what is written and in what order it appears, not on history and chronology.
How is Abel a prophet? In Genesis, Abel never speaks. His very name means “vapour” (it’s the word translated “vanity” or “meaningless” in Ecclesiastes), and Genesis underscores how he’s snuffed out and replaced by Seth (4:25). Aside from the effects on Cain, it’s like he never existed. He’s never called a prophet elsewhere.
But though in life we have no record of his speech, in death his blood cries out (4:10)! Abel is a prophet due to a figure of speech in Genesis. Jesus takes the story in Genesis so seriously that even the clearly figurative parts matter. Since Abel’s blood speaks to God in Genesis, Jesus calls Abel a prophet – the first murdered prophet in the Scriptures.
Anyway, I don’t see anything in this saying that suggests Jesus is emphasizing (or rejecting) the historical reality of Abel. That’s completely beside the point. Jesus’ saying requires his audience to have familiarity with the Hebrew Scriptures, not with some gapless history of every prophet ever killed. They need to know the literary Abel – the Abel who is a prophet because, as the story is told, his shed blood cried out to God. What they know or believe about Abel’s historicity doesn’t matter.
My initial topic was that adam of Gen1 one was the same Adam as Gen 2. The reason for bringing up Abel, was that by Jesus mentioning the account of his death along with the other prophets that were killed, was to show that Jesus acknowledged he was a real person. If Abel was real and he was the son of Adam and Eve then they were real people and as it is written of Eve " She would become the mother of all the living". When I quoted the scriptures of what Paul said about man being formed first then God made the woman, it was to point out that God made the woman because with all the other creatures he had made non were suitable for Adam, thereby showing there were no other humans other than them.
The words you use are so similar to many on this board, such as “literary Abel” or “as the story is told”.
When I hear these expressions combined with what others have said on other threads that speak so flippantly about scripture, it reduces it to stories, fables, and tales of the feats of imaginary kings and prophets.With that mentality some continue on to speak about Jesus as if he believed that these tales were true so you cant really trust what Ihe says. When you get to the apostles writings everything is up for grabs. Paul was a chauvinist because he quotes Genesis which says that woman was made for man. I know that there are multiple people who post, so multiple points of view and not all agree. But if a non a non christian reads this forum, he could easily conclude that the word of God is a fairy tale from beginning to the end and that none of the scripture tells any true account of real people or situations or actual Thus Saith The Lord. Its similar to what Jesus said about the Pharisees, that by their traditions they make void the commandments of God. It is near impossible to take anything said here as something from God. There is no heavenly authority behind what is spoken here.
Just curious, Cody, what you think of Job and perhaps Jonah. Many feel Job is wisdom literature and represents a story illustrating attributes of God and the human condition, but does not record the events historically, even if inspired by someone named Job who suffered and had a measure of restoration. Jonah is thought by many to be a parable, and of course he is mentioned in the New Testament as a prophet.
You also seem quite sure that your judgement and interpretation is the only one that is correct. How and with what attitude do you feel are we are to approach scripture?
Yes, I know I jumped into a side topic. If I have time, I might jump into the main topic later. We have more common ground there. Not only do I see continuity between adam in Genesis 1 and 2 and 5, I also see continuity with adam in Genesis 6–8 onward, including the 500 or so Old Testament references beyond Genesis.
My reason for responding in some depth was to show how Jesus seems unconcerned with proving that. The details Jesus draws out demand a serious reading of Scripture that does not dismiss the figurative or literary as false or unimportant:
Jesus mentions a time frame from the beginning of the world to when he is speaking. If his purpose was historical, Zechariah isn’t a good choice to bound one side of this time frame, since other prophets were killed after Zechariah. But Abel’s murder appears near the beginning of the first book and Zechariah’s murder appears near the end of the last book in the collection of inspired Hebrew literature. These are literary bookends, not historical bookends. Jesus is, in effect, throwing the whole book at them.
Jesus makes Abel one of the prophets, not because historically Abel had a prophetic vocation, but (probably) because of a figure of speech in how Abel’s blood cries out after his death.
Jesus puts Abel’s death at the feet of the Pharisees, not because they can be uniquely shown to descend from Cain, but because figuratively they follow in his line. (In Matthew’s version, they’re even kin to snakes!)
Pairing Abel with Zechariah, implying Abel is a prophet, placing Cain in the Pharisees’ ancestry – all of this is based on a literary, figurative use of Scripture.
I’m trying to show how Jesus’ figurative use of Scripture doesn’t in any way reduce it, nor is it flippant. Moving from Abel to Adam, I care about Genesis’ stories about Adam because Adam is humanity. Perhaps they even matter more to me, since I see myself in those stories and also see the general plotline of humankind. It’s not just a collection of odd historical facts about long-dead individuals.
I’ll edit this post to add the comment that even from the beginning of the church, we see variation in how Genesis was interpreted. A particular interpretation of Genesis has never been a litmus test of orthodoxy.
Matthew 12:38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.”
39 He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.
Verse 41 makes it clear that the people of this city were real and at the real judgment day they will condemn the people of Jesus day because they did repent after hearing the word of God through Jonah. Real judgement, real condemnation from real people who repented from a real prophet preaching the real Thus Sayeth The Lord. That’s a lot of reals. And Jesus, the one who is greater than Jonah, who always spoke what the Father told him to, new it to be true it. So that’s what I have confidence in also.
Ezekiel 14:12 The word of the Lord came to me: 13 "Son of man, if a country sins against me by being unfaithful and I stretch out my hand against it to cut off its food supply and send famine upon it and kill its men and their animals, 14 even if these three men — Noah, Daniel and Job — were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign Lord.
Ezekiel was a real prophet that the word of the Lord came to. In this word of God there is no hint of allegory, parable, neat instructional story. Nothing but Gods declaration of truth. I brought up allegory ect. because I know some people believe Job and Noah as well as Jonah are not real people. So God uses these three real men in his word to Ezekiel. Job is placed right along with Daniel and i can’t imagine anyone denying that Daniel was real, though i’m sure they do.
In reference to your last question. These are the attitudes we should have when searching the scriptures. We do this so that we can come to the full knowledge of our Master and Savior Jesus.
Poor in spirit, no high mindedness about ourselves.
Mourning over any sins we may have committed.
Meek and humble, with an absolute hunger and thirst for righteousness in thought, word, deed and with a heart filled with holy affections towards our Father and Jesus.
With mercy in our hearts for others.
With a pure heart, holding on to no known sin and seeking the Father to expose any thing that may be in us that is unholy.
With the goal of learning from the Father how to bring others to peace with him through repentance from dead works and trust in Jesus to deliver them from all sin.
I study the scriptures with the knowledge that persecution will come for obeying Jesus, and wanting the Father to make me joyful when it comes, knowing I am in good company with the prophets, Jesus and the apostles.
If we receive the word of God with these attitudes, then an abundant entrance will be given us into the kingdom of heaven.
Could I please have as many responses as possible as to what you mean by literary figures and figurative speech.
A real person with non fictional life experiences.
A fake person with fictional life experiences.
My example of figurative speech would be something that is declared a parable, such as Matthew 13:3-9.
Ezekiel 37:1-10 is the figurative, then the explanation follows in 11-14
This way I will have a general consensus of what is meant when I see it in a post. Though if there are differing interpretations I guarantee you I will not remember who understands it which way, so don’t hold it against me if I miss judge your meaning.
Ezekiel isn’t exactly the poster boy for bland historical narrative. Two chapters later, without any introduction like “this is a parable,” he tells a gruesome story of a woman named Jerusalem with two sisters, Sodom and Samaria. I don’t think anybody is going to insist on a real woman named Jerusalem just because Ezekiel speaks of her without explicitly identifying the story as an allegory.
Read in context, the saying of Yahweh about Noah, Daniel and Job works just as well if any of those characters only exist in literature. “Even if Romeo and Juliet had lived and died within the city, they would only accentuate the drably dreary jejune banality of all their neighbours.” That’s what good literature does. It creates widely known memorable characters who can become a shorthand for referring to certain qualities, moods, traits. Real people can evoke this too, especially when preserved in good literature. The common denominator is being preserved in a compelling and widely known story, not being historical.
By a literary figure I mean a character in a story or other work of literature. The character may be loosely or closely based on a real person, may only exist through the story, or may personify something real that is larger than an individual (such as a nation or virtue).
Figurative language is when words and phrases are pressed beyond their surface meaning: metaphor, wordplay, allegory. Typically, figurative language is what Google Translate can’t translate.
So when it is not actually declared a parable by Jesus or explained by them, then it must be taken literally, such as…
Matthew 9:16 You think Jesus is giving us a lesson on patching clothes?
Matthew 9:17 You think Jesus is concerned that we understand how to store wine properly?
Luke 15:11-32 You think Jesus is just telling a story about a man with two sons?
Most Christians think these are parables even if Jesus did not say they were parables, and even though nobody explained them either. Your rule for when things should be taken figuratively in the Bible is a failure.
A literary figure is a character we recognize for their role in a literary work that is a familiar part of our cultural landscape. Dante is a historical figure, but also a literary figure since he is a character in his Divine Comedy. Most people are more familiar with Dante the literary figure than Dante the historical figure, even if they haven’t read the work. Most people are probably more familiar with the literary Julius Caesar of Shakespeare’s play than the historical figure.
This is a pretty complicated topic and the average person doesn’t usually know what they are talking about. (I feel like I can say this because I have done academic research in the discourse analysis of figurative language in the last year. )
To oversimplify, in linguistics, “literal meaning” is the meaning of a sentence with no pragmatic inferences. Pragmatic inferences are things that the hearer assumes the speaker intends to communicate based on a shared context. So the literal meaning of “I’m starving” is that I am dying of malnutrition, but if I say this to someone while perusing a menu at a restaurant in perfect health, the hearer will make the pragmatic inference that my intended meaning is not literal, but it is a hyperbole intended to communicate that I am looking forward to a good meal. If I say “The window is still closed” the literal meaning is a proposition about the window’s position. But if I said that in response to my husband asking if I felt hot and we shared knowledge that it was cooler outside than in the house and I had asked him five minutes ago to open the window, the pragmatic inference about my meaning would be that I was offering an explanation for the temperature and my state of discomfort, and probably making a request that he open the window. Almost all of our communication involves pragmatic inferences based on shared context, not “literal meaning” of the words we use.
Words themselves can have multiple senses, a primary ('literal") sense, and an extended figurative sense. So a hawk in its primary sense is a bird of prey, but in its figurative sense is someone who favors aggressive military responses. It’s important not to conflate words with figurative senses and passages with figurative meanings, because words are often used in their primary, literal senses in figurative passages. When Langston Hughes writes "Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair/It’s had tacks in it/And splinters/And boards torn up/And places with no carpet on the floor— " you do not need to posit special figurative meanings of the words tacks, splinters, boards, or carpet to understand the figurative meaning of the passage-- that the life described has had times of irritation, danger, and lack of luxury. The brain calculates this all rather effortlessly by a process called conceptual domain mapping, and it is they way we understand figurative language. It doesn’t have to do with certain words being “figurative.” We just infer pragmatically that Hughes is not talking about a literal stairway and our brains map what we know about stairways onto life and allow us to understand the figurative meaning.
When you talk about parables, you are talking about genre. Genre does not tell you whether language is figurative or not. You can have intended literal meaning in poetry and intended figurative meaning in a weather report. Language is figurative if it requires conceptual domain mapping to process an underlying metaphor. Language is non-literal if it relies on pragmatic inferences.
When people talk about literal history, they really aren’t talking about the language used or the genre, they are talking about whether they interpret the speaker to be intending to communicate straight facts. This judgment is actually much more difficult than people pretend it is and it’s not something you can calculate based on grammar, vocabulary, or genre. You have to understand the shared context of the original speaker and hearer, understand their conventions and expectations for how different kinds of information would be typically communicated, and try to recreate the pragmatic inferences that would have been assumed in the context. When people say that Genesis would or would not be interpreted as straight facts, or as a story intended to teach a truth, they are making assertions about the inferences that would have been normal at the time. And that involves saying what was going on in other people’s minds, which is not an exact science and can’t be definitively proven by pointing to words in the text.
I look forward to reading your comprehensive book on how we communicate. You make it all very accessible. I suspect teaching children puts you in a mindset for clear communication. Please do let us know when you publish.
Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
Genesis 2:7 the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Genesis 2:18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” 20: But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said,“This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,'for she was taken out of man.”
Some say that adam in Gen 1 was different than Adam in Gen 2. If this is true there would have been no need for God to created Eve, there would have been plenty of women for Adam to select from but as scripture states “But for Adam no suitable helper was found”. Adam was not alone if other humans existed, just get a woman outside the Garden. So adam 1 is the same as Adam 2. Adam 1 was made in the image of God, nothing more was needed for Adam 2 to get a wife, no need to create Eve. Eve was called woman because she was taken out of man so what do you call the females in Gen 1 since supposedly they weren’t taken out of man? And if the women in Gen 1 were not taken out of man then the following would not apply to those humans, Genesis 2:24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
If Cain supposedly chose a his wife from a population of women that already existed, then God would have had no need to create Eve for Adam. So Cain married his sister which was not condemned until the law, for whatever reason God chose to do so. Just as God chose to change the covenant from the old to the new in Christ. Old contract said don’t eat certain foods ect. New contract said all foods are permitted. Old said “honor the Sabbath”, new says, “don’t let anyone judge you on Sabbath days”.