Is there something about the culture of ancient Israel I don't understand here?

All evidence seems to point to Genesis 1-11 being an attack on Babylonian, Caananite, and Egyptian myths debunking their theological concepts and putting forth the Israelite’s worldview instead. The evidence for this is that every story in Genesis 1-11 has a parallel in Babylonian myth but turns these myths on their head and puts forth something different.

There is only one hang-up I have with this interpretation of primeval history which I’ve stated before and that is Exodus, Jesus Christ, Paul, and other New Testament authors seemingly talking about these stories as if they literally happened?

Now I made a thread asking why these places seem to take these stories literally but no one really gave any answers that satisfied me. So I must ask, is it some cultural thing of the Israelites that I am not understanding?

Is there some cultural reason why they would speak of these passages literally? (the reason I ask about culture is that I think right now that this is the most plausible answer) If not can anyone give a plausible reason for this?

As said before, as I recall, how could they not take it literally according to their ancient epistemology? Literally and allegorically at the same time. Jesus died for His epistemology.

So why the hang up?

1 Like

It would simply be that they did think they were real. Or they knew it was ahistorical and mythological and still understood it’s key importance to doctrine and righteousness and talked about it.

If you asked a Norwegian a thousand years ago or so about thunder and lightening you would have someone talk about Thor literally.

Regardless of Genesis being literal or hyperbolic or mythological it does not change the fact that the stories points towards truth and that the rest of the scriptures uses patterns set up in there to point towards Jesus and righteousness.

Jesus was a man. He was god made flesh and he became a man just like any other man. Jesus was not all knowing and all powerful. We can see that from the fact he also did not know when the end you’ll be and said only the father in Heaven would know. However it worked out Jesus was cut off from his god nature until he resurrected. Paul, though a brilliant man who was revealed mysteries to by God was still a ancient Hebrew man raised up with roman education as well. He would have no idea about the stuff we know now concerning science.

Throughout the Torah we can see the spirit influencing the prophets to write in ways that are their own and based on their own understanding. We can see them using various literal styles such as poetry, songs, and stories to convey the truth and even Jesus himself used parables (short fictional stories and analogies) to teach truths.

There is no reason to assume that God the father who influenced all of those words for thousands of years through the spirit did not also consider using the same technique ( fictional tales to look towards a moral and doctrinal truth ).

I also dobt think it’s main objective was to be a smear on other Mesopotamian faiths. It’s main objective was for God to teach ancient Jewish people a story that directed them towards God. As time went by, and understanding permitted it, we see that story grow more and more until it climaxes with the Christ.

1 Like

There’s no smear. God radically inverted, everted the Persianized Jews’ understanding. And it was all the Persons of God, not just the Father.

Well I believe that it was all the persons of God just not all at the same time. Like I don’t believe in a preincarnate christ. I believe that Christ did not exist until he was born and then developed a personality throughout his life like anyone else.

I believe that before a Christ as a person existed there was simple God as one being. He used his word “power” to influence the world. Then as Hebrews teaches in the gospel, the word became flesh and dwelt among man and God made himself into the form of a man and that the man, Jesus, did not consider himself equal to God. I believe throughout his life he came to that realization and it’s implications and so on because he was cut off
From it and was nothing more than a man until he died and resurrected. He was given the authority. Then, after he has overcame everything he eventually hands the kingdom back over to God.

I agree with your first para, but can’t thereafter. The grammatico-historical orthodox mistakenly make God the Son coterminous with The Son of God, which is impossible, irrational to the point of meaningless. But denying incarnation makes God unnecessary.

I believe in incarnation ( some what depending on the exact nuances of it ).

I do believe God became flesh and that flesh was the word becoming flesh and that was a Jesus. He was called Immanuel for a reason.

However Jesus was cut off from his godliness while in human flesh. Son of God was not even the big deal. It was being the son of man that separated him from others ( such as all those called the son of god).

After work if I have time I can post the verses that I believe supports my belief and fits it systematically into scripture as a whole.

Maybe it is not an issue of the culture of ancient Israel in particular, but of all the ancient world compared to modern culture.

It is a completely modern notion that history should be written objectively let alone as something separate from the purpose of philosophy, science, law, theology, and entertainment. Thus we have no reason to be black and white about this to say that this must be either history or critical theology but not both.


We’re converging. Orthodoxly Jesus’ Godliness was in His nature. He was a human-divine hybrid. Fully each. The most complex entity, perichoresis, to ever walk the Earth. The ultimate manifestation of God.

But not God in Person.

As said before, as I recall, how could they not take it literally according to their ancient epistemology? Literally and allegorically at the same time. Jesus died for His epistemology.

So why the hang up?

I would like you to explain this in more detail. This seems like an interesting and possibly fruitful answer.

Maybe it is not an issue of the culture of ancient Israel in particular, but of all the ancient world compared to modern culture.

It is a completely modern notion that history should be written objectively let alone as something separate from the purpose of philosophy, science, law, theology, and entertainment. Thus we have no reason to be black ans white about this to say that this must be either history or critical theology but not both.

Yes, I was leaning toward this as well. Creation myths usually have a more allegorical meaning, a deeper meaning behind just the literal but i’m sure if an ancient person would refer to it as a literal thing in passing conversation because it’s part of their culture.

1 Like

If you asked a Norwegian a thousand years ago or so about thunder and lightening you would have someone talk about Thor literally

This is why I asked if it was a cultural thing that we moderns do not understand. The Bible was written in a high context culture rather than our low context modern culture. I was asking if this type of ancient culture explains why these things were taken literally.

I was saying that all ancient cultures have mythologies ( faiths ) that had fantastical creation accounts.

Well, it sounds like you’re falling for the false dichotomy that it either happened like the YEC view or it didn’t happen at all. There is a whole lot of in between there.

I think Genesis 1-11 happened. They’re real events and real people. I don’t believe the YEC caricature of what happened.

Some books that can be helpful in navigating Genesis 1-11…

John Walton’s Lost World of… series
Gregg Davidson’s Friend of Science, Friend of Faith
Carol Hill’s Worldview Approach to Science and Scripture

I know many here don’t think these things happened at all. But if that’s bothering you (as it does me), maybe there’s a reason it’s bothering you. :woman_shrugging:


Three points:

  1. The early chapters of Genesis cannot be literal history. This is evident from the fact that there are two creation stories with different orders and methods of creation. They are incompatible with each other as literal history.
  2. Jesus was not here to correct the erroneous views of people on science and history, so He made no effort to correct the views. His doing so would have been a distraction from His real mission,
  3. I suspect Paul and other leaders of the early church accepted the stories as literal history, but they did not know as much as we do about the history of earth and humankind.

It’s been most fruitful for me, oh King of the Franks, but I do not expect it to be transferable. I have had to deconstruct fundamentalism and reconstruct what I believe and why over 25 years. Only in the past 10 did I begin to lose the last vestiges of creationism and that took until last year to leave me with faith alone. Which is a stark, frightening place.

Which includes the fact that the cultures of two thousand years ago were two thousand years less developed than ours in philosophy, science, history, theology. Although they had done forty thousand years of astounding work. The Greeks had deduced atoms - a-tom; uncut, indivisible - were on the brink of calculus, gave us the Socratic method of rational enquiry. There were plenty of brilliant sceptics throughout civilization who knew that their ‘history’ was bunk [like Sportin’ Life in Gershwin’s 1935 Porgy and Bess, they were singing ‘It ain’t necessarily so’ under their breath]. There were always honest record keepers hidden in the propaganda [machine]. In Rome, Greece, India, China. There were atheists 1000 BCE as David derided in his Iron Age faith.

The Jews, like David, were completely lost in their theocracy, in their foundation myths. They all believed in God the Killer. All. Jesus was no exception. Privately He and other great Jewish minds like His contemporary Philo might have wondered. Jesus didn’t ascribe all of Moses’ sayings to God.

But against peer pressure, the lack of intellectual structures, of epistemology including post-Enlightenment rationalism from 1600 years later, how could they have believed otherwise? [This site epitomizes the pre-Enlightenment stage of Renaissance humanism in reaction to the “narrow pedantry” associated with medieval scholasticism, struggling in its front of house.]

How could Jesus not have seen Himself in the thousand year evolved text? Even though He isn’t there? Given that He was the divine incarnate and that the Spirit blew ineffably in to and through that thousand years.

Jesus was right for the ‘wrong’ reason.

Sola fide Clovis.

I read some comments here and i have to point it out. I think a lot of you guys make God persons to be "deifferent"from each other which is against scripture. I m just kinda confused. And another example Klax you said that Jews were believing in a killer God ? Which i assume youre saying that Jews believe that God The Father was evil? Really confused there.

It is hard to know what you are talking about without specific examples of “make God persons to be different from each other.” The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are different persons, but only one God – one being so that when you see/know one, you see/know them all. This suggests to me that the differences between persons is not of such great significance and it is the ways in which they are the same which is important. goodness? love?

Well i meant seperration. Sorry about that. Like some comments make them sepperate like Jesus having no connection with the father for example
God bless

For me personally this is part of what I mean. To me often the simplest answer , especially with systematic theology, is the one that shows up clearly. It does not take a lot of outside pressure to bend it. The text is just clear. Now not everything is as simply and straightforward put such as myths and metaphors and revelations and parables. But many other parts are.

So for me the first thing to look at is what does the spirit guiding a man to say about Jesus choose to say.

John 1:1-5 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

  • These verses right here is about the word. Later on we know the word becomes embodied in flesh but at the moment that’s not what is being talked about. Before the word became flesh and was called Jesus the word was simply the word. It’s ambiguous. We don’t know exactly what it means. We can force concepts into it but letting scripture simply state itself we see that this is about the word and this is about the word before the word became jesus. The word was with God and through the word all things was created. This is obviously hyperlinking all the way back to genesis when it said “ God said let there be…” that was Gods word. That’s the word that created everything. That’s the word that was God and was with God. Then as we continue to read a new revelation is revealed to us.

John 1:14 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The Word Made Flesh
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

*We now find out that this word became flesh. The word became Jesus. The word was God and God’s word became flesh. God became flesh. That’s why it mentions the prophecies of Immanuel (God with us)

So what does it mean for the word of god to become flesh? Scripture tells us.

Philippians 2:5-9 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.

  • Here it says Jesus did not consider himself equal to God. He considered himself a man, not god. He existed in the form of God but clearly by taking on the form of a lowly bond servant he was no longer in the form of God. Jesus became a man. He did not became a half man half god. He fully became a man in every way. The word of God was a form of God. That form became flesh and when it became flesh it became the form of human. Later on that human conquers death and becomes God once more in some fashion that again is not clear as I will show later on.

Hebrews 2:9 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

9 But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.

  • For a little while he was made a little lower than humans. He became human, fully human, just like any of us, so that he could defeat death and sin.

Hebrews 4:14-16 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

  • Jesus was tempted because he was a man. God can not be tempted. -

James 1:13 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.

  • Jesus died. God can’t die.

Mark 13:32 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

32 But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

  • God knows everything but Jesus did not.

Luke 22:42 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

42 saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”

  • Jesus had a will of his own but choose to do Gods will.

Matthew 28:18 New American Standard Bible
18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

*God does not need authority but Jesus did need to be given it.

Was there anything Jesus himself may have said that was clear .

Mark 10:18 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.

*Jesus said don’t call him good only God is good.

John 14:28-30 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

28 You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe. 30 I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me;

*Jesus says god is greater.

What about in the end. Do we see the son ruling forever?

1 Corinthians 15:24-28 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death. 27 For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. 28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.

  • After Jesus defeats gods enemies he hands the kingdom over to God the father and he becomes subjected to him.

So to me it seems like Jesus was distinctly different t from God. We can’t explain it perfectly. But if someone is arguing Jesus consider himself God while on earth and was not separate that’s a larger road for them to walk and prove.

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

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.