How could God make people accountable if Genesis isn't literal?

In the Bible, there is a lot of passages saying that the word of God is infallible.

Let’s say, how could God make an agnostic accountable (in the event that evolution is true) of not following the Bible, if he says that he was excusable since some parts of the Bible he knew did not happen, so how could he believe that the Bible is infallible. And that there was no reason to believe that those passages could not be interpreted literally since they talk about genealogies, etc.

Well you need to realise that there’s a difference between “infallible” and “interpreted literally.” Take a read of 2 Corinthians 3:6 for example:

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant–not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

In any case, the Bible was written in languages that don’t even support being “interpreted literally.” Interpreting something literally isn’t something that humans can do reliably because our fallible brains all too easily make mistakes, misunderstand things, and get hold of the wrong end of the stick. To interpret something literally, you need a computer, and languages specifically designed for computers, such as C, C#, Java, Python, JavaScript or Ruby. If God had wanted us to take a strict literal interpretation of Genesis, He would have written it in one of those languages, not in Old Testament Hebrew with its figures of speech and anthropomorphisms and metaphors and poetry and all the rest of it. And nobody would have understood it because they didn’t have computers in those days.


But, look at Genesis 5. How could be this interpreted in a non literal way? Or Genesis 10.

Same reason I don’t think God is going to hold Christian women accountable for not following his infallible word and wearing gold and pearl jewelry (1 Tim 2:9) or uncovering their head in the assembly (1 Cor. 11:13) or Christian men accountable for not lifting their hands when they pray (1 Tim, 2:8) or not having short hair (1 Cor 11:14). All Scripture needs to be interpreted, we need to decide what it is saying to us and how to live it out in our current context. No one consistently takes everything in the Bible at face value.


The genealogies you mean? There is a point there, though there is an element of symbolism in the numbers themselves. It’s quite common in many cultures for numbers to be treated non-literally in certain contexts.

I remember reading an account by one missionary, for example, who worked with a tribe which assigned ages to people depending on their authority. For example, they would describe the chief as being sixty years old even if he was only thirty, because that symbolised his level of authority. The head of a household would be described as thirty or forty years old regardless of their actual age, and so on.

Another account that I read talked about a tribe that was surprised at how many names there were in the genealogies in the Bible (in particular, in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke). Their own custom was to include no more than fourteen names because that was all that the people could remember: when the tribe’s chief died, they would knock out one of the previous members of the list to make room for another one.

These tribes weren’t being dishonest or even inaccurate in how they used the numbers or constructed the genealogies. They just attached different cultural assumptions and interpretations to them.


No there isn’t. The word infallible is not in the Bible at all.

The only thing we are accountable for is our own choices and that is because we are created by those choices. It is not about us or God being held accountable to some kind of contract. That is legalism – a delightful religion for scribes and lawyers, but this is not the Christian gospel. And nothing written in the highly flawed and ambiguous medium of human languages could ever be infallible.

The genealogies indicated an historical intent, but this doesn’t make everything in the same book literal any more than the genealogies in the gospels of Matthew and Luke make the parable of Jesus, also told in those gospels, to be literal.

God makes people accountable for only one thing.

You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and you shall love others as you love your self.


Roger makes a great point. We are not accountable to the Bible, we are accountable to God. We are condemned Paul said in Romans1:18-20 by our wickedness, not by our understanding of the Bible. That is not to say the Bible is not important, just that it is not the focus of our faith.
Welcome to the forum, Carlos. Spend some time here and explore. There are lots of resources on th site that you may find interesting.

The Bible is there because quite a few humans met God and had thoughts about God and put them down in written form.

Now we just discuss why their experiences contradict our experiences.

This seems a bit nitpicky – there are certainly references to the word of God not failing. In Luke, Gabriel tells Mary that “…the word of God will never fail.” 1 Peter says that the word of the Lord “endures forever.” I think it’s more an issue of what is meant by “the word of God.” Obviously Gabriel was not referring to the modern Bible in the context of Luke, but I think many take that as a generalization about what comes from God, and the Bible is seen as coming ultimately from God.

NO! The meaning is not the same. When you change words like that you edit the text and replace what the Bible actually says with your interpretation of it. There is a HUGE difference between infallible and not failing, and an even bigger difference from “endures forever.” This is the blunt and fallible nature of human languages. Words mean so many different things. I know that this word “infallible” is certainly not used in the translation I like and if someone had found a translation in which the word was used then I would have pointed out that none of the text was written in English. And then there is the gap between the Bible and “the word of God” in the text, not only because the word “scripture” would be closer, but because the canon didn’t even exist at that time.

And Luke 1:37??? using the New Living translation? Really? The vast majority translate this as something COMPLETELY different… “for nothing will be impossible with God.” When you look at the Greek the dishonesty and blatant editing of the text to make it what you have quoted is quite astounding!

The claim that the Bible is infallible IS NOT IN THE BIBLE! It is not there! Not anywhere!

I believe the Bible comes from God and I even say that it is the word of God, BUT I explain what I mean when I do so, because there are excellent reasons for considerable caution, such as the warning in John 5:39. “The Word of God” is also used quite differently in John 1, for example, so equating these two is not warranted at all!

I’m not a translator so I’m not making judgments on what the “best” translation is for either of those. I’m just saying that “the word ‘infallible’ is not in the Bible” is not enough to wave away the OP’s assertion. Since, as you say, the Bible was not written in English, it doesn’t make sense to dismiss an entire idea just because a text search of one specific word turns up 0 results.

One definition of “infallible” is “not liable to mislead, deceive, or disappoint.” Gabriel told Mary that God would do what he promised even if it seemed impossible, and God keeps his promises – these are recurring themes throughout scripture. It sounds like the real problem is, as you imply, conflating that “word of God” with our modern idea of the Bible.

So I’m saying the progression is probably:

  1. People continually encounter biblical themes about the complete reliability and enduring nature of God’s promises or the word of God.
  2. The Bible is continually referred to in Christian circles as “the word of God.”
  3. Ergo, many people (and I’m sure I can include myself in this) develop erroneous notions about the degree of textual perfection we should expect from the Bible and conclude that it must always be read in a literalistic way.

Anyway, I need to go beat my kids at Candy Land now, so I’ll probably bow out of this discussion. :wink:


And I like those as descriptions of the Bible! The problem is that this is only one definition of infallible and other definitions are quite different and imply things which are not supportable as a description of the Bible. Thus the word “infallible” goes too far.

I call the Bible “the word of God” because I think He should be considered the real author with all the proprietary rights, particularly forbidding any alteration of the text imagining we could do better than God Himself. But I don’t think this means we should apply things said about the “the word of God” in the Bible to the Bible itself.


Laura and @mitchellmckain,

There is good reason why this definition of infallible is not acceptable is this context. The context is Evangelical thought where the infallibility of God’s word has been defined by first the Fundamentalist papers and the more modern Chicago Statement.

Both of these positions indicate that the infallible Bible indicates that the universe was created in 6 days. Now I hope that the people at BioLogos know that the situation is much more complex than this. Unfortunately it seems that BioLogos has failed to come to grips with this issue so it continues to cause confusion.

The problems is this. In order to “defend” the Bible from the “attacks of science,” Conservative Christians felt that has to assert that the Bible is the Word of God, meaning that God dictated Genesis and the rest of the Torah to Moses. If the Bible is composed of the Words of God then they had to be Absolutely True.

The problems is that Jesus Christ is the Absolute Word of God. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is perfect in that He is without sin, not that He is infallible in all knowledge.
The Bible is true and holy in that it is about Jesus the Savior, not because it is about science Jesus is the Logos, the Rational Word of God through Whom the Creator created the universe, so indirectly Jesus is about the universe or science.

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Yeah, I think it all has to do with how you treat words like “infallible” and “inerrant.” These can mean different things depending on who’s using the word, as you imply. I don’t think they’re necessarily bad terms – I don’t think scripture is, in a general sense, going to mislead or deceive me, but that all depends on what I expect from it. If I expect it to be a science textbook, then I will either be disappointed or spend the rest of my life refusing to look science in the eye.

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There is a difference between not believing there was a 6 day material creation 6000 years ago and not believing Genesis 1-11 happened. You’re making a false dichotomy.

I believe the stories in Genesis are real people and real events. I don’t believe the YEC interpretation that the Bible is saying there was a 6 day material creation 6000 years ago. I do believe God used evolution to create humans and that that is not revealed in the Bible, since the Bible isn’t a science textbook telling us how God creates everything.


Unarticulated premise (I don’t know how much this matters to your question): “The Bible is equivalent to the ‘Word of God.’”

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