Help! Common Arguments For Literal Genesis


The days in Genesis are regular days, but the story is allegorical to begin with. The name Adam is just the generic Hebrew word for mankind, and Eve is just the generic Hebrew for mother. These are allegories. Genesis 7 talks about clean and unclean animals before they’re first revealed in the Torah to Moses. Adam being created from dust is an allegory for mortality (from dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return) – Psalm 103:14, 1 Corinthians 15:48 also say that we’re all made of dust. Etc, etc, etc.

(Richard Wright) #62

Yes, I completely agree. You’ve given me some more ideas for my, “how the bible itself has evidence for the origins traditions as being allegorical and not literal” post. I hope you don’t mind if I steal some of your stuff!

(Phil) #63

Enjoying the conversation, and while reading it struck me that we (people in general) really like concordism, and in fact even the evolutionary creationists have a hard time not picking verses here and there and claim it supports the position Biblically. (Usually the “bring forth” verses.).
I think this is something we are pre-wired to do, as seeing correlations and relationships is a very useful trait to have in surviving and thriving in a hostile environment. However, it can lead to error and misunderstanding when we see relationships when there is none. I think this is what is happening in some interpretions, and we have to step back and look more objectively.

(Richard Wright) #64

Hello Chris,

I agree with this, and Exodus 20:11 and 31:17 confirm that the Genesis 1 days are 24-hour days,

Yes, that is how I see it - the Genesis 1 days are literal days in an allegorical, theological narrative, used to promote the Sabbath.

(Christy Hemphill) #65

Yes, they are different devices. But humans are good at processing both kinds. The shepherd one is a standard metaphor in which one thing is described in relation to another thing that shares a common trait.

I think the creation week is an example of something called conceptual mapping, which is a common thing humans do with cognitive metaphors. Cognitive metaphors are foundational to human thinking and communication and involve conceiving of a complex concept in terms of a concept that is less abstract. For example, lots of languages employ the cognitive metaphor “love is a journey.” So a marriage can be conceptually mapped onto a road and we can talk about the speedbumps, the crossroads, the detours, getting stuck in a rut, and realizing you are in a dead end relationship. When the cognitive metaphor is common in our culture and language, we do this effortlessly, without realizing we are even doing it most of the time. No one would think that we are literally describing a couple’s travel experiences.

In Genesis, the cognitive metaphor “creation is God’s work” is explored by conceptually mapping the workmanship of creation onto a standard work week. I don’t see how knowledge of modern science would be necessary at all to process this fairly common thing people do with language if the cognitive metaphor “creation is God’s work” was readily accessible in the culture.

(Richard Wright) #66

I just was on the RTB site and they don’t hold to a literal Genesis, they are concorders. And as I’ve written before, no 2 concordances of Genesis 1 are alike.

“Tons of fully formed animals” didn’t just appear in the Cambrian, really referring to the early Cambrian period, which was about 20 million years long. We know about animals in the pre-Cambrian, in fact the fossil of a rather large one (about 3 feet long) was just discovered. There are radiations, or explosions, in evolution, and one of them took place in the early Cambrian. But things didn’t just pop into existence there, but, because of the increase of oxygen in the atmosphere at that time, the rate of evolution increased. And because the increased oxygen allowed hard-calcium shells to be formed, the amount of fossils formed in that period was much higher than in previous periods, making the increased rate of evolution seem all the more dramatic.

Yes, population genetics rules out a sole progenitor couple of the human race, if you equate a human with a modern homo sapien, since there have never been less than ~10,000 modern homo sapiens on earth.

(George Brooks) #67


If you read me agreeing fulsomely with @Korvexius on most any topic… you really need to sit up and take notice. His paragraph above (quoted in the box) is about as perfect a short paragraph as one could write on the topic.

Richard, in a prior post you say Concordism “doesn’t work” … and yet here you are arguing all these other things that “really” don’t work. The idea behind Concordism is, presumably, that God wanted to couch some Bible narrative in the language and context of the day … and yet still have a document that would impress later generations. I’ve always found this to be a reasonable scenario … if you really really really don’t accept that the Bible could just be wrong here and there… and “all in a row” way over this way…

Joel Edmund Anderson (in the article linked here by Korvexius in posting #59) does as nice a job as anyone for how to face down all this Genesis silliness:

“I believe that Genesis 1-11 should be understood fundamentally as “mythological literature.” Now I’m not using “myth” in the way most people use it, namely as a pejorative term to denote something that isn’t true. I’m using the term in its proper literary context: namely, it is a specific genre of ancient literature that was used to explain a given culture’s fundamental beliefs and worldview concerning … the created order.”

“Simply put, myths were not meant to be understood in historical terms–they were stories full of metaphor and symbolism that tried to make sense of existence. In any case, I believe that Genesis 1-11 serves that function for the Bible: it sets the stage of Jewish worldview and belief that puts their history into its proper perspective. And so, I thought it would be helpful to take a few posts to provide a basic overview of the significance of Genesis 1-11 as a whole.”

“So what are we to make of Genesis 1? For starters, we have to make sure of exactly what Genesis 1 is describing. . . . The people in the ancient world did not picture the earth as a blue sphere, suspended in space. In fact, they didn’t even have the same concept of space—how could they? Rather, the extent of their understanding of the universe was based on what they could see with their own eyes, along with some creative and imaginative images that led to their conceptualization of the created order…”

But then Mr. Anderson tries his hand at the notion of “The Framework Hypothesis”, as championed by @pevaquark in a prior posting! - - like so!

The Structure of Genesis 1
“The literary structure of Genesis 1 has long been noted by biblical scholars. To get the point, although there is a clear seven-day structure to Genesis 1, it would be a mistake to think of it in literal, historical terms. John Walton goes into depth on this point in his book The Lost World of Genesis 1.”

"I will just point out one basic thing: there is a clear poetic, literary structure to how the days are laid out. Basically, in Days 1-3, God establishes the “spheres of existence” (think “boxes”)…
whereas in Days 4-6, He “fills those boxes up.”

[A1] “And so, in Day 1 we have night and day, and . . .
[A2] . . . . . . . in Day 4 those “boxes” are filled with the sun, moon and stars.”

[B1] “In Day 2 we have the seas and the skies, and
[B2] in Day 5 those “boxes” are filled with birds and sea creatures.”

[C1] "In Day 3 we have the establishment of the land, and
[C2] in Day 6 that “box” is filled with animals and human beings. "

“The point of that structure should be obvious: the one true God is a God of order, and He exercises completely control of the natural order.”

It looks so beautiful and perfect, doesn’t it? Until you actually try to make the “poetry” work. Here is a sampling of one BioLogos contributor attempting to make the Framework Hypothesis plausible using another historical rendering - - this one pertaining to having one’s breakfast:

"The Platform Hypothesis Applied Breakfast"
“. . . for breakfast this morning I had
a glass of juice,
a fried egg,
a bowl of cereal, and
a half a grapefruit.”

Looking at this list, “[w]e … think to our modern selves, “well then, the whole thing is obviously a strictly ordered sequence!” But it would appear that our attempt to extend such modern logic probably leads us astray.”
^^^Yes!, Apparently so!

"Of course that list has an order because lists have to come that way.[!!]
"But you would probably be mistaken if you inferred from my account that I first finished the juice. Then I started in on a fried egg, after which I ate the cereal, etc.; when in reality I may have been partaking of much of these simultaneously. . . . "

"… You will say, “but hold on … I never mentioned anything about ‘evening’ and ‘morning’ and then a day in my breakfast list, while they certainly do in Genesis 1.”

But all of this is an exercise in futility. These fantastic gyrations of logic avoid the simple truth that

    • if the point of Genesis 1 was to provide a poetic description of THREE (3) days of creation - -
      the most beautiful way to render it would have been to describe it as 3 days.

While, nevertheless, if creation was SIX (6) days, the most beautiful way to render it would have been to organize Genesis 1 without the inconsistencies and contradictions that are laced throughout the purported elegance of the 6 day treatment!

@pevaquark, this is where the analytical side of your profession will be rewarded! It is not as we are
led to believe.

But things do start off well. See below. Day 1 we have Light and Darkness. And Day 4 we have luminaries that can be seen in Day and Night.

PLATFORM “A” - - [DAY 1] + [DAY 4]
[DAY 1] Genesis 1:3-5
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
and God divided the light from the darkness.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.
And the evening and the morning were the first day.

[DAY 4] Genesis 1:14-19
Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven
to divide the day from the night;
And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night:
And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

But then things go a little screwy… Day 2, we have the waters divided from the waters, and a reference to the firmament/sky. Then in Day 5 we have “waters bringing forth” creatures, implicitly (apparently) describing fish and BIRDS! We might think that the sentence is just divided at the wrong time, but Day 5 deviates from the parallelism of the Platform Hypothesis: “… and let the fowl multiply in the Earth.”

So what do we make of that? Day 2, we have fish and birds… and apparently birds are parallel to fish because birds have the oceans of the sky to fly in … while fish have oceans of the earth to fly in. But then the scribe flies off the rails with a reference to the Earth!: “… and fowl that may fly above the Earth …”

Maybe that was just a flourish, yes? But the scribe repeats the oddity, making the deviation even more noticeable:

“and fill the waters in the seas,” < “and FILL!”
“and let fowl multiply in the earth.” < “and MULTIPLY”!

You don’t have to be a modern reader to be struck by the incoherence of the middle section:
fish breed in the water, so “multiply” should have applied to the fish…
so that “birds” could “fill” the SKY!

Instead, we have fowl multiply on the Earth (which I suppose most do, except for those that actually do mate in the Air!). The whole parallel structure is blown up by bringing in The Earth, instead of The Sky! And it happens twice!

PLATFORM “B” - [DAY 2] + [DAY 5]
[DAY 2] Genesis 1:6-8
… let [the firmament] divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament:
And the evening and the morning were the second day.

[DAY 5] Genesis 1:20-23
Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature[s]…
and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly…
and every winged fowl after his kind…
And God blessed [these creatures]. . . multiply,
and fill the waters in the seas,
and let fowl multiply in the earth.
And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

And so we come to the final section of parallels in the Platform Hypothesis: Days 3 and 6.
In Day 3, we find the Dry Land making its appearance. But unlike Day 1 or Day 2, we suddenly
have living things growing on the land!: Grass, Herbs, and Fruit Trees.

There is no similar reference to plant life found in Day 2’s discussion of the waters. There is no mention of sea weed… or reeds… or Lilly Pads growing right on top of the water. Then in Day 6, we read about cattle, and
creeping thing[s], and beast[s] of the earth… (logical enough)… followed by humans. Whereupon the scribe immediately delineates the role of Humanity:
let them have dominion
over the fish of the sea, and
over the fowl of the air, and
over the cattle, and
over all the earth, and
over every creeping thing… and
over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

So: Humans have dominion over everything that moves upon the Earth (clear enough),
and over the Fowl “of the Air” … but didn’t we just establish in the middle section that
while Birds may fly in the air, they are “OF THE EARTH”… where they multiply?!

And while Humans have dominion over All the Earth, they are
not given dominion over “All the Sea”!!!

PLATFORM “C” - [DAY 3] + [DAY 6]
[DAY 3] Genesis 1:9-13
And God said . . . let the dry land appear: and …
And God called the dry land Earth. . . .
Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb…and the fruit tree
upon the earth… the earth brought forth grass, …herb … and the tree[s] yielding fruit…
And the evening and the morning were the third day.

[DAY 6] Genesis 1:24-26, 28 (plus part of Genesis 2)
Let the earth bring forth the living creature…
cattle, and
creeping thing, and
beast of the earth…

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness:
let them have dominion
over the fish of the sea, and
over the fowl of the air, and
over the cattle, and
over all the earth, and
over every creeping thing… and
over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.



We could all use fulsome agreement every once in a while.

(Doug Webber) #69

The first 11 chapters of Genesis are written in the form of a symbolic myth. True history begins with chapter 12. See Is Genesis Historical? A Revelation from Heaven

(Randy) #70

Welcome @Doug_Webber. Can you elucidate? What makes you say that?

(Richard Wright) #71

Hello George,

Long time, no debate with. :smile:

Where did you get that idea that God wanted Genesis 1 to, “impress later generations”? That is not from the bible, that is the remnant of an unbiblical version of inerrancy called Chicago Statement-style, where some believers just can’t accept the obvious, that Genesis 1 is not historical but theological in nature. Why is that so hard to accept?

And it certainly doesn’t impress this generation - just look at any site for skeptics - they all viciously attack the strawman of the scientific Genesis, and rightfully so.

Concordism doesn’t work, George. Genesis 1 is clearly written using the science of the day, the three-tiered universe, with the sun, moon and starts in the sky, the sky being a solid structure holding up the, “above waters”, and the land floating on the, “below waters”. Even Peter believed in the ancient primal waters, that support the land (2 Peter 3:5):

"But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water.

There is no way to reconcile the ancient 3-tiered universe and modern knowledge of it. And there is no need to! The ancients knew that the text wasn’t meant to be taken, “literally” by:

  1. Ancients knew that the sun couldn’t have been created on day 4

  2. Ancients knew that the sun couldn’t have been created after plants

  3. The events of days 1 and 4 being the same (which is perfectly explained by the Framework Theory)

  4. The poetic cues in the Hebrew

I can absolutely accept that the bible can be just wrong, and do believe that is in several places. However, my honest, objective view of the text, which has evolved quite a bit over time, is that it’s not errant since it was never meant to be taken as historical truth.

To get any possible, “science” out of Genesis 1, the days must not be literal days, obviously. But there are meant to be taken as normal days, Exodus 20:11 and 31:17 tell us that. Beyond that, no 2 concordances of G1 have even been the same. For instance, my apologetics instructor says the light in v3 is from the center of the galaxy, while a poster here recently said that it’s from small movements of electrons in the early universe. And beyond that, it’s all nothing an ancient would ever have imagined in their wildest dreams.

The Framework Theory is about a structure, not a list. There are 2 reasons why I like it, one, I think the order that it displays is so obvious that it can’t be something people just, “made up”. And two, it is the only theory that makes sense of days 1 and 4 being the same.

This is just plain wrong. The point of Genesis 1, in any theory, is to show that the world was created and ordered by a purposeful God. It used, instead of historical events, the science of the day and six literal days to show this order and promote the sabbath. God is capable of doing 2 things at once, after all.

Well, creation wasn’t in 6 days, and the fact that there are no internal inconsistencies or contradictions has no say in whether Genesis 1 is historic or not. And if we’re on days again, one, the days are regular days, God tells us so in Exodus twice. And if you want to go with non-literal days, what are they? Why would God, if he wanted to tell us history, do it in a way that leaves it open to literally any interpretation?

(George Brooks) #72

Here’s my version, @Richard_Wright1:

[a] The ancients had zero cosmological information, and had no idea how long it took for them to appear.

[b] The ancients knew that even if the Sun was 100% blocked by the moon, there was still daylight.

[c] As little as the ancients knew, they knew not to label one day with two different numbers.

[d] The poetic cues in Exodus 3:4, rendered in English as God saying: “I AM THAT I AM”
reads in Hebrew: “E-ah Asher-ah”, which explains why He/She is referred to as Elohim, or,
in other words, the Elohim was an androgenous deity, both male and female, mother and father
to all of Israel: Yah-Asherah… which happens to match perfectly the inverted Hebrew:
Israel = “Ashera-EL”.

If you reject this last assertion, I can’t believe the poetry and symmetry didn’t convince you!

(Doug Webber) #73

The scholarship is rather clear on that, there were many Sumerian myths that preceded the account of Genesis. Before Moses and Judaism there were prior revelations and they wrote in a mythical style, somewhat similar to a parable.

(Randy) #74

I would agree, esp after taking Denis Lamoureux’ Coursera online course. I was just curious where your reasoning came from and your background. Sounds good. Thanks.

(Richard Wright) #75

Hello George,

You didn’t address the major difficulties of concordism that I laid out in my post, and the one section that you did address, that consisted of 4 parts, you merely pasted the parts together and gave your, “version”, without countering any of my specific points. So, to carry on this discussion, I’m asking that you address the following (let’s limit the debate to Genesis 1 for now):

  1. What in the Genesis 1 text informs us that there are actual historical events being referred to?

  2. If, as you say, God used the ancient 3-tiered universe as a context for G1, how can that be reconciled with modern science?

  3. A) If God wanted to relay historical information in G1, why is it written in a way that allows any possible interpretation?

    B) If God wanted to relay historical information in G1, then why have no 2 concordances ever been the same?

  4. If God wanted to relay historical information in G1, then wouldn’t it have to be considered that God essentially lied to everyone before 1700 or so, since they had no way of knowing that the days were meant to be, “ages”?

  1. How can the days be anything other than normal, 24-hour days when Exodus 20:11 and 31:17 declares them to be, and that each day’s description is followed by, "and then there was evening, and there was morning, the ______ day?

That is orthogonal to the debate. They could easily understand that there cannot be 3 days before the sun.

I don’t see how the above statements are pertinent to the discussion.

More scholarly works on G1 get into all the poetic cues in the Hebrew. As for your point, Isreal and “Ashera-EL” are written in English while the text was written in ancient Hebrew, so there is no conversion with me to the inversion!

(Chris) #76

Of interest is the Nippur tablet dated c.2100BC which records a flood story.
“Also of significance is that the language of the Nippur tablet is quite different from that of most of the other tablets recovered alongside it. It is very close to biblical Hebrew,8,9 again indicating that the Genesis account was not derived from Babylonian myths. It also lacks the gross polytheism of the Gilgamesh account.”