Genesis 1-11: Neither Myth nor Truth

I haven’t looked into it, but I’d conventionally always heard that the Israelites were enslaved for over 400 years, so the “two generations” comment made no sense to me.

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Exodus 6

17 These were the names of the sons of Levi according to their records:… Kohath… Levi lived 137 years.

18 The sons of Kohath were Amram… Kohath lived 133 years.

20 Amram married his father’s sister Jochebed, who bore him Aaron and Moses. Amram lived 137 years.

Pick a number. 430 years, 215 years. From Abraham or Jacob. Whatever : )

It’s ALL myth.

I believe they are real people, so I wouldn’t call it all myth, but I also wouldn’t assume that the text uses numbers for all of the same purposes that Western 21st-century journalists would.

The names and relationships might be basically real. But what else? This wasn’t finally edited for a thousand years and more. How can it not be mythic?

Oral tradition is strong. I’m not saying it’s 100% journalism – and my faith doesn’t rest on whether every single detail happened exactly as described – just that I don’t put it in the category of “myth” as we often think of it.

Hi John, I think the problem is that people haven’t worked hard enough to solve these problems. If there is a way for the events to be true, shouldn’t we take a look at it? No, I am not a young-earth creationist, I am an geophysicist who fully accepts the age of the earth and that we arose at least in part though evolution. My problem with changing what seems to be written as history (Gen 2-11) into mythology or allegory is that we cease trying to solve the problems. I also have an ethical problem with changing what the Bible clearly says. My friend Klax says the whole thing is mythology. At least he is logically consistent which is to be preferred to the position where one gets to pick uncomfortable parts of the Bible and say they are allegory/mythology, but then proclaim other parts as historically true(the resurrection). So, here is why I dislike altering the Bible to make it what we want it to be. In my mind, either make it true or make it mythological–all of it, but don’t inconsistently pick and chose due to the need of the moment.

Over in the thread " Did Noah’s Flood Kill All Humans except his family?" I have presented a scenario whereby the events of early Genesis could be true, so far as observational data can confirm. Unfortunately people prefer not to have a true Eden and a true flood. Yet we are still assured that this book full of mythology is God’s word.

I am often asked why historical events in Scripture is important. I am always amazed by this question because we supposedly worship a living, real God. Why don’t I just change what appears to be historical statements into mythology and then we don’t have to have to worry about these unlikely events. From my point of view, if I have to change accounts like the Fall and the flood to mythical, it seems that I am changing what the Bible seems to say. Changing data is bad and I’m going to tell a couple of stories from my career which illustrate why one shouldn’t change data–ever.

Back in the mid 80s, I found myself unemployed because of my young-earth beliefs at the time. A vice president of the company I had worked for from 1974 until 1986 had found out that I was a YEC and she wanted me gone, no matter that I had gotten the top performance review 3 times in those years. I was a YEC and had to go.

Four months later I found a job as a consultant for a small oil company, which turned out to be a very strange place to work. There was a guy who sold oil deals to this company and I was asked to review one of them. The general manager(GM) and my boss flew me down to Louisiana to meet with this guy. I will call him Buster(not his real name) cause we used his real name as a euphemism for dry hole. We called them Buster dusters The prospect had major problems, which I noted. Indeed, we debated quite strongly about the issue. What was weird was the louder I squawked about the prospect being a dry hole in the making, the larger the percentage the GM wanted. It turned out to be a dry hole.

A bit later this same guy came to us showing a seismic line with a Texaco well with a small bit of production and a good reservoir possibility up dip of that well. What he showed is shown in diagramatic form below. The tan water bearing sand was penetrated by the Texaco well, which barely intersected the presumed gas reservoir (orange). Our proposed well would be up dip from that Texaco well, and such wells, up dip to pay have a high chance of success.
The General Manager asked me 3 times in the meeting if we could get up dip to that Texaco well. I thought that was odd. My boss, who reported to the GM, didn’t trust Buster, and my boss, a friend, had me take a hard look at the data, so I went to my office and stared at the line. There was no doubt that this was a good prospect.

Well, we drilled the well and guess what? We didn’t hit the sand updip of the Texaco well, we hit it down dip, lower than the Texaco well. I was shocked. I pulled that a xerox I had kept out of my file and stared at it wondering how I could have been so wrong. In a phone call with the guy who sold us that prospect I told him in no uncertain terms to bring that seismic we saw when he came to sell us the well.

When he showed up, he had an entirely different seismic line. It is shown below. There was clearly a major fault just to the right of the Texaco well, and it was clear that we would hit the sand DEEPER than the Texaco well. Deeper is bad. I told the GM that this isn’t the original seismic. The GM told me that the original seismic was ‘field processing’. I told him there was no such thing. He repeated that it was field processing and I got the idea that I best throw in the towel. I did.
What the guy who sold us this deal and the GM didn’t know, was that I had xeroxed part of that original line and had it in my file. I called my boss, who was also a good friend of mine, into my office and showed him the original next to what this crook has brought us. He told me that he knew that this was a scam but couldn’t do anything about it.

I started looking at the original line very closely and realized that someone had carefully cut out the original data and pasted it into the annotation for the real line. It was quite a good job, but tiny gaps that shouldn’t exist on a seismic film, were to be seen all around that original line. I hadn’t noticed them originally because they were so small.

We had been defrauded by fake seismic. Two days later, the president of the company and the GM’s boss asked me in the elevator on the way up to work what I thought of that well. I told him flat out that we had been defrauded by fraudulent seismic. He proclaimed that we would get to the bottom of that. And nothing happened. This place was weird. I left at the first opportunity. It took years for me to figure out what had been going on at that place.

Now I suspect that everyone will agree that perverting scientific data is a real no-no. It is unethical and fraudulent. I have seen people remove dry holes from maps so that they could get their prospect drilled. Such changes are making the world more 'accommodating to their views of the world, or of their needs. So why is changing what the Bible says any better?

When God made a covenant with Abram, The scripture says: When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. Gen 15:17
Do we believe that is what happened? We all know such things are not normal. Pots and torches don’t move on their own. Do we change this from meaning an actual pot and torch moved on their own to mean that it is a piece of mythological fluff from the Neolithic? It is just a small change and so easy to make. But is it different than what Buster did? No!

If we make the Bible say what we want it to say, turning places like Gen 15:17 into something we don’t really have to believe, are we not doing to the Bible what Buster did to the seismic? He changed seismic to suit his needs; we change Scripture’s obvious meaning to meet ours. Some say Eden didn’t exist. Others say the Flood was not as described but was really a puny riverine flood which matches nothing the Bible says about the flood… Still others say the Exodus didn’t happen. etc. Isn’t that just a theological version of cutting and pasting seismic data as described above? Isn’t that making up our own private reality (the Bible really didn’t mean to teach of a talking snake)? Doing this is no more ethical, in my opinion, than changing seismic data to make the earth appear more to Buster’s liking.

I await the clear non-contradictory answers explaining how doing this to God’s word is different than doing it to seismic data. sarcastic mode on- In the former, it is just the afterlife that might be affected, but the latter risks something more important, our money! Isn’t that right?-sarcastic mode off

Aye Laura. Folk tales are the strongest. Rapunzel goes back to the last ice age. The supernatural details of Genesis; Eden, the Flood, Babel, Sodom & Gomorrah, the Exodus are myths no matter that we might want to believe them to be God’s honest truth, preserved perfectly by the Spirit. I did for 30-40 years. But we made them all up. We being Chaldean settlers. There are three different Biblical timings for them being in Egypt. None from history. The details of names, no matter how accurately preserved, don’t feed back in to justifying the myths around them. And long lists of names in folk tales are as accurate as their lifespans I would suggest.

I can see why you see it that way – but I believe there is room between the false dichotomy of “we made it all up” and “it’s 100% literal to Western, twenty-first-century journalistic standards.”

So what’s real, Laura? These stories were finally edited three and half to one thousand years after they were set. The former distance from now takes us back to… the setting of Exodus. The latter takes us back to the Norman Conquest. Record keeping had vastly improved by then and we still don’t know and never will if William the Conqueror had a valid claim. He almost certainly didn’t. All of the supernatural events (and people’s ages) described in the Pentateuch are myths. That is a fact. Why would one want to believe them to be fact? But not the myths of Babylon, Egypt, Peru, India, China, Scandinavia? The myths and religion of the first two cultures predate and heavily influence Judeo-Christianity and Islam to this day through the time of Christ. Are they not therefore true, valid, inspired? Or evolved narratives.

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I’m content to believe that God revealed himself to the Israelites and inspired them to use common myths of the day to record truths about humans and about himself. It’s not important enough to me to try and parse all the historical details out right now. I may look into it more at another time.

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I never heard that before, but then Rapunzel is not my area of expertise. Such information sounds fascinating… What is the evidence for this?

I’ve overstated the age by factor of more than two, according to the BBC, my apologies. And Wiki is sceptical!

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Never apologize for making a correction. Going with the data is what people should do. It has happened to me and too often when I make a correction, people dismiss credibility. That is the wrong way around. Someone who makes corrections is someone you can trust.

That story even as it is, is quite fascinating. Whether it is true or not, I don’t know but it is an interesting possibility.

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I believe there is good evidence for an air burst that destroyed Sodom. The Bible just has the date wrong by (I think) a few hundred years.

What’s an air burst?

In this case an icy comet or meteor that vaporizes with a tremendous explosion. Think of the Tunguska event.

Dr. Steven Collins has a book out that is quite interesting to read.
Discovering the City of Sodom: The Fascinating, True Account of the Discovery of the Old Testament’s Most Infamous City

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That airburst caused rock to melt and they calculate that it required a temperature of ,8000-12,000 C for a few milliseconds.

When I was growing up, intelligent, well informed scholars thought Sodom was a stupid mythological just so story. From my blog:

During the last semester of my senior year in undergrad, I had to take 13 hours to graduate. I was taking some really rough physics courses as part of my degree that semester which required taking most of the Master’s level courses, just so my degree would read, Bachelors of Science in Physics rather than just Bachelors of Science. Stupidly I had thought that would make a difference to someone. I needed a pud course. I took a easy humanities requirement, Old Testament Survey. This was at Oklahoma University, so it wasn’t like we had someone who believed any of the stuff in the Bible teaching the course. I remember well, how the professor ridiculed and mocked the story of Lot’s wife as a just-so story, a story to explain the natural occurrence of salt in the Dead Sea area. Being a new Christian at the time, I didn’t like the way the prof ridiculed everything in the Bible but I had no answer to how Sodom happened.

That temperature, the pressure wave in the dead sea provides a perfectly sound scientific answer for the Lot’s wife story.

The problem is we still have 'well informed, intelligent" (WII) scholars who won’t accept that story as real–although are likely getting fewer in number.

Here is the problem. These WII scholars know the Bible is false and that is their starting point. Even while knowing of the statue of a Semitic man in a multicolored cloak, found in a pyramidal grave with 11 other Semitic graves in the back yard of a Palace with two rows of 12 pillars, at Avaris by Manfred Bietak in 1986, scholars have remained in denial that this could be Joseph’s palace. Such ignoring of the data in favor of a view that makes the Bible wrong amazes me. Unwilling to make a correction and say that the Ramses theory of the exodus is wrong, they cling to the idea that it is the Bible that is wrong. And if one places the Exodus at Ramses time, then there is no evidence of the exodus. Moving it back 200 years to fit the time of this palace, suddenly there is all sorts of evidence for the exodus including the fall of the walls of Jericho.

If Sodom and the Exodus can be true, why not some of the other stuff, like the Flood? I have shown here a flood (not at the time people prefer), which matches exactly the biblical description. Lasted around a year, covered high mountains,caused massive rains, destroyed the land (and it is still destroyed–it wasn’t destroyed and then recovered). But even showing that this story of the Bible could be true doesn’t move anyone. People prefer to have a mythological Bible. That is my take on the state of affairs. I don’t care what the justification is for wanting a mythological bible, it is still yielding to the concept that the Bible is false rather than looking for a way for it to be actually true… My most favorite reason is below because it is so weak

The bible wasn’t meant to teach us history. That certainly was the attitude of my 1972 OT survey teacher and at that time there was no evidence of the events of Sodom–it was mythology. Besides, no one ever tells my where or who they received the information that the Bible was not meant to teach us anything about nature/history or have any science content. It is as if these people have received a divine revelation from God which revealed his intentions to them but they don’t want to say it.

Some say there isn’t any ‘secret’ information in the Bible. Thus God would not have inspired a writer with such knowledge that they couldn’t have known at the time. Really? Isn’t prophecy of Jesus’ advent ‘secret’ knowledge to the Jews? Again, who told them that God would not engage in this behavior of revealing information early? What about the fact that the description of Eden in Gen 2:8-14 exactly describes the geography of the world at the only time in earth history those four rivers could have interacted. It is geological fact that they did interact on the Mediterranean floor long ago. Is this blind coincidence, an example of us monkey’s typing gibberish long enough we finally get something right? Or is this a case of that secret knowledge everyone knows can’t exist?

Edited to add. The Bible says Havilah was located in Arabia: 1 sam 15:7 Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt. The last time Arabia was tilted so as to allow the waters to drain off into the Mediterranean was about 5 myr ago. Thus, Havilah is a real key to understanding when Eden occurred. From the Oligocene until the earliest Pliocene, Arabia drained a big river into the Med. After that time, the land tilted to where it drains into the Indian Ocean.

Is it coincidence that this Edenic site is situated in a deep basin which is the only place that geologically/scientifically can match the strange hydrology described in Genesis 2?

And is it further coincidence that this Edenic site is the only place on earth that experienced a flood matching the Biblical description of Noah’s Flood? The biggest problem for any of the candidates for the flood is that none of them can last a year and none of them can cover high mountains in a local setting. The Messinian flood can do that.

At least with Sodom it has now moved from mythological to real history during my life time. I have provided a pathway for all the other earlier Biblical stories to become real as well. Maybe it is peer pressure that keeps people from accepting new ideas. Even as adults we will look at our neighbor and go “Are you buying this nonsene?”. One doesn’t ask such a question unless one is at least tempted. If one isn’t tempted one says, 'this is nonsense".

Believing the Bible tells us real history is as out of fashion every bit as much as top hats, and hooped skirts. Our scientific colleagues look down on us if we support the reality of the Bible. No doubt a few of my former colleagues when they find out what I am now up to will think I have gone barking mad. But are we seeking the favor of men or of God?(Galatians 1) I can tell you from my terminal cancer perspective, almost all of what I did previously in my life isn’t of much value spiritually. It won’t matter a whit to God. What will matter is what we did to make God acceptable to our world. Telling everyone that story after story in what is called God’s Word, is myth, allegory, or Neolithic nonsense, does not make our God more acceptable to our world.

Sadly, Christianity is so used to losing the intellectual battles we have fought over the past 2 centuries that we have surrendered to the biblical criticism (most of which came from Atheists) and accepted their assumptions as necessary. The Bible is true history, or at least there is a way it can be true history if only we would not worry about what our colleagues thought about us.

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Air burst.

I want to add something about the claim that God doesn’t reveal advanced knowledge My son is a pastor in our little town and he just posted an incredible example of advanced knowledge–He posted on his facebook page:

           *But he was pierced for our transgressions, *
  •     he was crushed for our iniquities; *
  •     the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, *
  •     and by his wounds we are healed. *
  •     6      We all, like sheep, have gone astray, *
  •     each of us has turned to his own way; *
  •     and the LORD has laid on him *
  •     the iniquity of us all.* 

The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Is 53:5–6). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

We know that Isaiah was written long before Jesus came. Yet that is exactly what happened. By his wounds we are healed.

He was pierced. in the side

v. 7, he was silent—Mark 15:5, Jesus exersized his right to not reply to the accusers. lol

v. 9 headed for the grave of the wicked, but put in a rich man’s grave.

v. 10 though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, which is the heart of Christian faith!

If God gives no advanced information, then this has nothing to do with a major religion which arose almost 700 years later.

May we remember what our Lord went through on this Good Friday so long ago when nothing at all looked good

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Riiiiight. God the Pathologically Righteous strikes again.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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