Hi everyone, I must say I agree with Mark Twombly wholeheartedly on this matter. I believe that BioLogos seems to be more interested in making Scripture’s literal historical rendering of Genesis comply with evolutionary theory. Evolution truly fails even by it’s own standards. When we look at origins from a Catastrophic scientific philosophy and not a Uniformitarian scientific philosophy of interpreting it it comports quiet perfectly with Genesis even from a literal historical standpoint. But beyond this, even seminary students learn in hermeneutics that the first most simple and reasonable interpretation of a passage of scripture is typically the way the human author and ultimately God intended it to be understood. When the Bible is using other genres it makes that clear in its presentation. Psalms are clearly presented as poetic. But even in their poetic genre there are historical events being referred to. And prophecy in the Psalms are also referring to future historical events. This distinction is always very clear in Scripture. Genesis is most simply rendered to be literal history. It is confirmed in later books of the Law. It is confirmed in the New Testament and it is confirmed by Christ Himself. When Jesus was being metaphorical he was clear that he was teaching a parable. Some of his parables where related to actual history. There was no mystery there. The Prodigal Son may or may not have been an actual person. But Jesus doesn’t teach the parable as if he is speaking about an actual historic person that all would know. The same with the Good Samaritan and others. The Parable of The Vineyard we know Jesus is being more historically specific because of the context of the chapter and the reaction of the Pharisees after He tells it. These are the most simple explanations and renderings of these passages. Genesis does not present itself nor is it referred to later as being of a different genre and meant to be interpreted that way. In fact I can’t think of another example in Scripture of another genre which compares with how Genesis is written to suggest that Genesis is metaphorical. Our understanding of our Creation, and the entrance of sin. Who is our Creator? Who is our Adversary? How did creation become cursed are all answered in the first three chapters of Genesis and are foundational to the Gospel and all of Judeo-Christian theology. At what chapter would Genesis stop being metaphorical or to be interpreted metaphorically and why? What about Jesus’s geneneolgies? Or those of Chronicles? To say Genesis is to be take metaphorically is not an affirmation of the inerrancy of Scripture at all in my opinion. Thank you for letting me share.
Welcome to the forum, Ernie. I made your post its own thread since it was somewhat tangential to the inaccuracy of the OT thread and I thought you might get more interaction if it weren’t buried at the end of that one.
Welcome to the forum, Ernie.
If Genesis was always intended to be regarded as literal history why was there such a range of views about its genre and interpretation in the early church?
Thanks for the welcome Dennis. It depends what you mean by the early church. Certainly the apostles referred to it in the New Testament as literal history as did Jesus. What could be more authoritative than that? The later early church also affirmed the cannon as God’s word. What is there in the text itself implying it’s metaphorical or allegorical? Where else in Scripture is it being referred to as anything but historical?
Catastrophic scientific philosophy reveals that an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs and forever altered the biosphere of the planet 65 million years ago. That is just one of five known global catastrophes that are known to science.
I agree that Genesis is historical. If it was God who made up the story, well, what a lengthy fabricated tale he told. If it’s just a story written by man to make some religious points then how were they able to know the future by placing prophecy or prophetical events in it. Here’s just a few. Gen 1:14,15 Gen 12:2,3 Gen 15:13-16 Gen 17:1-8 and 15,16
Then you have the whole interaction with Abraham. The covenant God made with him and it’s fulfillment through Issac and that Issac was a type of Jesus. The fact that Jesus said that Abraham, Issac and Jacob would be in the kingdom of God. Or when Jesus quoted what God said “Matthew 22:32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” The times when he spoke of certain individuals he interacted with being children of Abraham. And the big one when he said John 8:56 " Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad." John 8:58-59 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” The apostles using Abraham as the example of the of faith and that salvation is based on the same type of faith that Abraham had.
Jesus and the apostles speaking of Noah.
And other things that have been said by Jesus and the apostles that came out of Genesis.
To many things that point to Jesus and that Jesus confirms from Genesis. It’s obvious it’s historical. Are there really some Christians who don’t think it is?
Sorry Ron it doesn’t. That’s not Catastrophic philosophy. The Catastrophic event that made existinct many though not all dinosaurs was Noah’s flood. That’s why we have all the fossils. They were preserved in the sediment from the deluge I agree
Hi Ernie, welcome here. That’s an interesting assessment of Jesus’ stories. I’d be surprised if many people, even among young-earth creationists, agreed with it all. Some think that giving a character a name or nationality (such as Lazarus or Samaritan) implies that the person really existed. Others see no problem with all the stories you mention being parables without need of historical referents – it doesn’t matter to many that Jesus didn’t clearly identify them as parables. While you may think you’ve arrived at “the most simple explanations” for texts where the meaning lies right on the surface, most who have pondered these timelessly challenging stories see layers and depth.
As far as style of writing, I think Revelation 16’s description of seven bowls of God’s wrath is quite similar to the seven-day account in Genesis 1. Both accounts divide neatly into seven items, set off the seventh item as special, have a repeated refrain, and show God’s involvement in events on earth. Both reveal things for which there were no eyewitnesses, leading to a more symbolic and visionary style. I take the days and bowls as a literary device to arrange the material: the point isn’t that God’s creative work literally took six days any more than God’s wrath really is a liquid that can be poured out of bowls.
For the Eden account in Genesis 2–3, I would say the closest stylistic parallel is Ezekiel 16 where Israel’s sordid history is told in graphic form (some would say pornographic form, both for its sex and its violence) through the tale of a woman named Jerusalem. In both cases, there is real history underneath, but it is compressed into a story with a few characters (with meaningful names) and shorter time frame. This style also allows God’s involvement in events to become clearer than through flat reporting of historical events. Of the two, I far prefer the Eden story!
Another example of telling history like this is one you mentioned, Jesus’ story of the vineyard. Again, I think it speaks to real events, but the actions of characters in the story correspond to a multigenerational plot line that spans centuries. Can you see how accounts like this reveal truth, even historical truth, without corresponding to actual individuals?
I agree with you Cody!
Even those who feel the first 11 chapters of Genesis are more mythical feel that a shift occurs with the story of Abraham. He interacts in realistic ways and details emerge that makes the story more historical in tone.
Ironically, sometimes I wonder if there are actually Christians who deny the creative work of God that we observe in nature and instead distort and twist it to serve their idiosyncratic views? So, guess it just depends on your perspective.
An earth shattering asteroid is not catastrophic?
The point is, the YEC characterization of mainstream science as somehow beholden to uniformitarianism is archaic. Current science recognizes all sorts of dislocations.
Those who believe it is myth, did you come to that conclusion before or after you began to believe in evolution and billions of years? In other words, did man’s limited knowledge of God’s creation lead you into believing it was only a story.
And if you believe it is a story who wrote it. If man, how did he know to put prophesy in it? If it was God and at some point through Genesis he did change it from fiction to nonfiction why would he do that without letting us know. How would small minded humanity be expected to know this?
Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel."
Cody, I’m guessing you take a figurative reading of Genesis 3:15 and think it’s about much more than Eve’s sons stepping on snakes. I take a similarly figurative reading to the whole Eden story.
As for sequence, I grew up young-earth creationist but became convinced of an old earth due to various lines of geological evidence (particularly seeing how creationist talk about polystrate fossils didn’t do justice to mainstream geology). That led me to the gap theory for reading Genesis. For a while that worked for me, but I was pretty sure it was shaky textually and shaky scientifically.
The textual shakiness bugged me more, so I committed to studying Genesis. That slowly led to how I now read the text. After changing my mind about what Genesis teaches, the scientific evidence looked different to me, since I no longer needed it to come out a certain way. I gave up fighting evolution shortly afterward.
Well, that’s debatable. The early church certainly didn’t uniformly see it that way. Origen, Augustine, and others looked at it ways that were allegorical. They are much closer to the NT authors than we are, and no one in the early church said anything to imply they were off base. They fought over all sorts of theological things, but not about interpreting Genesis in allegorical ways. A particular interpretive framework for Genesis has never been required for orthodoxy.
All that to say that one man considers Genesis to be literal history, and another man considers it not to be. Let each be convinced in his own mind. In other words, it’s a non-essential.
I don’t think it is necessarily either/or. Back in the 70’s prior to Henry Morris, in my experience - others may vary - virtually everybody I knew in my evangelical, fundamentalist circle held to some form of the gap theory as mentioned by Marshall above and favored by the classic Scofield Study Bible, or day age variation. Scripture opens with the “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void.” From childhood, I always took that as God putting the heavens and earth in place. Something was there - uninhabited by people, a wasteland from man’s perspective, but for an indeterminate time was there. For me, that was not so much a gap as a natural reading of duration. The rest of Genesis one is a beautiful poetic exposition of the progression of creation culminating with man.
It is the following ten chapters of Genesis that really presents the difficulties. I would LOVE to say I have the answers, or that I find the arguments presented by YEC convincing, but I cannot unknow what I know and unsee what I’ve seen.
They referred to the OT narratives. For me, it’s a big interpretive leap to claim a reference is proof all the narratives were “literal history.” That would make every literary allusion into a reference to literal history, because there would be absolutely no difference in form or genre if Jesus or Paul were alluding to historical or literary characters. Literary characters are “real” in the stories they inhabit.
Good points. Also this is a good read:
To clarify, I believe that Genesis 1-11 is mythologized history. That is to say, I think God’s actual interactions with real people and events have been recounted in an theological narrative form which sometimes co-opts and reworks elements of the cultural stories and myths of the time in the telling. I don’t think any of it is a completely fabricated out of someone’s imagination or that it is “fiction.” I think the point of the narratives is to teach inspired, revealed truth about God’s character, human nature, and the way God deals with people. I don’t have any intellectual problem with story being a powerful vehicle for truth. It is actually far more common in the cultures of the world to privilege story for truth-telling over simply recounting “facts” or listing propositions.
I came to this conclusion studying the Old Testament in its cultural literary context (my academic background is in literature, linguistics, and anthropology). It was only later, when I needed to homeschool my children that I began seriously looking into the science and became convinced that the earth was ancient and evolution was a good model to explain the diversification of life. There is nothing in the Bible that teaches the earth is ancient or evolution happened because modern science was not part of the conceptual framework of the ancient audience.
I was taught YEC as a child, though I became skeptical of it at my Christian college when I realized all my devoutly Christian professors with PhDs thought it was completely untenable. I completely changed my mind from my childhood ideas after reading Coming to Peace With Science along with multiple articles on the site and lots of science books geared toward children.
I believe that is often what happens when Christians got to college that they begin to question the literal history of Genesis. I believe that is very unfortunate. As to “Coming to Peace With Science” The title assumes that the literal historical reading of Genesis is not at peace with science. If you got to You Tube or visit Creation.com or the Institute for Creation Research you will find many PhD’s that will show you this as well. One of the biggest issues with current mainstream science is the issue of Uniformitarian interpretation of science rather than Catastrophic. One excellent Astro Physicist is Dr. Jason Lisle who does a great job explaining the difference and that science is completely compatible with the literal historical view of Genesis. I would encourage you to go to YouTube and watch a few of his videos. You will see that the issue is philosophy with interpreting scientific evidence and not the evidence itself. There is great book In Six Days, why 50 scientists who are leaders in their fields believe science backs taking Genesis as literal history. There are so many more resources like this. I would encourage you to look into this. I also don’t understand why we would want to makes peace with macro evolution. It fails on so many levels. Read Tornado in a Junkyard or The Case Against Darwin by former non Christian James Perloff. The Big Bang while showing the universe had a beginning also fails by its own standards. Thanks for considering this. It’s vital.
Because in fact, it isn’t. That’s the crux of the issue. I am not going to spend any more of my time reading anything at Creation.com or ICR or AIG. I put a good five years of my life into investigating how the Creationist claims I grew up with hold up, and they don’t. Over and over I discovered how those organizations misrepresent data and research, propose wild and often impossible explanations for observations that don’t fit their paradigm, use arguments that have been soundly disproven for 40 years as if they are still valid, completely ignore the revolution in science caused by the mapping of genomes, take quotes out of context to deceptively imply research supports their views, and overall engage in divisive rhetoric and sub-standard academic practices that I think are not befitting the Christian witness.
Your understanding of uniformitarianism in geology is out of date. Modern geology recognizes that cataclysmic processes affect the geologic record. Flood geology is not tenable. There are piles and piles of evidence about this and plenty of Christian geologists who have written books explaining it. There are even articles on this website explaining where Jason Lisle is wrong.
I’ve checked out Creationist resources. I have decided with much thought and investigation they are wrong about just about everything. Having an open mind does not mean you stay in a perpetual state of undecidedness about issues. I’ve made my decisions, based on thousands of pages of reading. They are settled in my mind now, so I’m not going to go back and return to questions I already have satisfying answers for.
Why do you think it is vital?