I spent the last five days at the biennial Bible Translation Conference in Dallas. The last paper presentation I went to was an analysis of the discourse structure of Genesis 1-2 by retired Hebrew professor Andy Bowling.
I bring it up because I often hear from the YEC /OEC side that the only reason that someone would come to a “non-historical” view of Genesis 1 is because they are trying to “impose science” on the Bible or make it fit with ancient earth or evolution. This paper is another example of how that contention is wrong. The author is a conservative Evangelical who mentioned he recently visited Ken Ham’s Ark.
However, based on textual elements alone, the author concluded (somewhat hesitantly because he was obviously uncomfortable with being lumped in with heretics like us) that Genesis 1-2 “were never intended to be a single, chronologically ordered, historical presentation.”
His argument was that multiple textual elements indicate it is not a narrative text, but is rather expository. The analysis was based on the text structure and the use of a certain Hebrew word, wyyqtl, which has typically been indicative of narrative mainline. However, he presented evidence from other texts in Genesis where this word was clearly used for “ancillary” actions in a non-narrative context. He argued that the repeated Genesis 1 structure of a creative intent, followed by execution, naming, and evaluation is not attested in any other sequential/historical Hebrew narrative he has seen and that it is clearly a topical organization. He also noted that when you pair day 1 and 3, 2, and 5, and 3 and 6, the amount of text about doubles between the first member of the pair and the second. This is not a recognizable narrative structure (which usually follows a pattern of exposition/setting/participant introduction, developing action, peak, resolution).
He claimed the point of both chapters 1-2 was not to tell history, but to deal “with significant life issues of the Old Testament World as seen by the faith of the ancient Hebrews.” Even the parts that are sequentially ordered are first and foremost explaining the answers to “Big Questions.”
It follows then—I believe—that these two chapters give somewhat vague truth, but still truth about the universe which is as true now as it was then about those ages. But it is not truth that can be forced into the thought, cultural, or scientific patterns, or into the specific scientific dogma of any given age in the history either of pre-Christian saints or the saints of the post-Paul Church Age.
All that from a quite senior Bible scholar who has no ideological commitments to evolution or ancient earth.