Jesus and Genesis


(Mark Twombly) #1

I’m simply asking for a response to the actual words of Jesus in Matthew 24 on Noah, and in particular, I am eager to hear from Dr. Duff (@Joel_Duff) on that.

None of us can know what Jesus thought apart from His words, and that is my focus here. To the point of ritual impurity, the Gospels are instructive here, particularly the words of Jesus in Mark 7:1-23, where Jesus’ focus is on the real issue of moral impurity in the heart of a person. To that point, we know from the counsel of Scripture that our insight and wisdom are directly related to our obedience to what we already know (e.g. Psalm 111:10, John 14:21).

If you believe Jesus was wrong on anything He said as recorded in the Scriptures, then we have an issue with regard to Christian orthodoxy.

I’m simply asking the readers here to come to grips with what the Scriptures say, and in particular what Jesus said about Noah.

Thank you for your kind consideration, readers!

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.” (Psalms 111:10, NASB)

" “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” " (John 14:21, NASB)


Did Modern Animals Evolve From the Inhabitants of the Ark?
#2

A good point
There is good and helpful view of Jesus humanity that says when the Word became flesh and lived in Jesus the living Word subjected itself to the limitations of human knowlege and experience. (Its called “Kenotic” Christology, from Philippians 2, “He emptied Himself…”). Jesus knew somethings by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that rested on Him but he lived His life as man with the cultural knowledge existing at the time. Jesus was sometimes surprised by people ancd did not always know everything. In this way he really was like us in our humanity.


#3

Perhaps you are reading more into this than is actually there. To me, Jesus’ words simply show he wanted to teach a strong point and to use a story (i.e. Noah) that all could relate to and would understand. It could be that His listeners generally believed that the story of Noah was true but this in no way means that He did. Correcting them on this would not serve His purpose. As a teacher and a parent I have used stories many times to make points without getting into the details of whether the stories were literally true. Isn’t this common practice?


#4

I just had a thought that would make an interesting study. What would you see if you collected all of the stories that Jesus told? Off the top of my head I would say that they all would sound like true stories, but we know many, the parables, are not. And perhapes someone who understands the ANE cultures could chime in here, but wouldn’t the people who heard the stories just assume that they were “true” in some sense?


#5

Exactly! If a kid pretends to drown, you teach him about “the boy who cried wolf.” The story has a valid, important point but is not meant to be taken as historical.


(Mark Twombly) #6

It seems to me we are now firmly planted in mid air in the realm of speculation.

I don’t lie to my children, and neither does Jesus lie to us.

This discussion thread continues to reinforce what I hoped was not true, namely, that Biologos encourages a sub-Biblical view of the Bible. I want to learn more here, but it becomes increasingly difficult to trust those who undermine the Scriptures, both directly and indirectly.

I’ll simply end with the words of Jesus, praying that we continue in His word and experience the freedom that He intends for His followers.

“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” " (from John 8:31-32, NASB)


#7

This is all very disingenuous. To say Jesus definitely believed in a literal Noah is clearly speculation. To say that Jesus ‘lied’ unless he believed in a literal Noah is clearly illogical. To say that Biologos encourages a sub-Biblical view of the Bible (whatever that means) clearly ignores the fact that you and everyone else have been allowed to express their views equally. Disingenuous.


(Andrew M. Wolfe) #8

Hi Mark,

As Brad (our fearless moderator) is often quick to point out, the Forum is not a representative cross-section of the BioLogos-supporting community, much less of the BioLogos administration. They’re just a bunch of random folks who happen to be (for whatever reason) drawn to discuss these things day-in, day-out. They are very diverse: unitarians, calvinists, episcopalians, anabaptists, methodists, atheists, students, scholars, missionaries, crackpots, pastors, high-schoolers, seniors, young parents, ID supporters, YECers, ECers, change-is-a-worldview-ers, and everything in between. BioLogos did not get to pick who came and who stuck around. So please don’t blame them for the responses you see here. :slight_smile:

Many blessings to you, brother.


(James McKay) #9

Just my two cents on this one here.

Contrary to what AIG/ICR/CMI would have you believe, Jesus said very little about Noah and the Flood. In Matthew 24:37, He seems to acknowledge Noah and the Flood as a real event happening to real people, sent in judgment for sin, but that’s about it. There’s no indication of whether He thought it was global or regional (the Hebrew text can be translated either way, and if anything, as far as I can make out, actually seems to favour the latter), nor is their any indication of when or where it took place. In fact, if anything, the main thing He had to say about the Flood was that it was a foreshadowing of His return at the end of the age.

One thing that both Jesus and Paul make clear is that an over-literalistic, pedantic view of Scripture is unhelpful as it completely misses the point. That’s the mistake that the Pharisees were making at the time, and they got so caught up in the fine details of their Biblical literalism that when Jesus came along and started healing people on the Sabbath, they took offence at it. See for example 2 Corinthians 3:6, John 5:39, etc.


(Mark Twombly) #10

I appreciate that response about who chimes in here, and I appreciate that.

When I see more dialogue which is dismissive or disrespectful of the Scriptures than holds it in high regard or at least tries to explain (rather than dismiss) it’s statements, I think Biologos has to take some ownership here for encouraging this - or at least for not addressing it.

For example, I have simply asked Dr. Duff what he believes Genesis is actually teaching about Noah. Like many of my direct questions about the Scriptures, they are met more often by dismissiveness or silence. Perhaps I missed it, but Dr. Duff has not answered.


(Mark Twombly) #11

The mistake the Pharisees were making was not Biblical literalism, but rather substituting the Scripture with their own man made tradition (see Mark 7) and teaching it as if it were God’s word. This is a warning for all of us!


(Mark Twombly) #12

From dictionary.com:
disingenuous = lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity.


(Phil) #13

One problem I see with these boards, is that often questions are asked not in the spirit of reaching a better understanding, but with a hope that they can trap others and the poster can say “gotcha.” That paranoia tends to sometimes bleed over to poison legitimate posts.
Regarding your original question, I think that first we have to define what Jesus was trying to communicate in that exchange, and also look at it in terms of both his deity and his humanity.
We would a agree that Christ was sinless, but how is that different than being perfect? Did he make a 100 on all his math tests?


(Andrew M. Wolfe) #14

Perhaps Dr. Duff hasn’t logged in in some time to where he might see the tag. I think the charitable view would be that he is not ignoring your post on purpose.

A little gentle pushback: If the moderators had to flag every statement BioLogos disagrees with here, cautioning people to be more respectful to Scripture and tone-policing, they would accomplish little else in their work day! :slight_smile: @BradKramer does occasionally come through and weed out posts that most clearly violate the community guidelines, which requires “gracious dialogue,” defined as

-Focusing on a commenter’s arguments, rather than an assessment of their character
-Contributing thoughts to the topic at hand, rather than veering discussion off-topic
-Assuming legitimate Christian faith on the part of other commenters, unless they identify otherwise
-Showing eagerness to learn from perspectives of others, rather than simply reminding others of the rightness of your own position.

At times he’s gotten a good bit of flak for that, because in at least one case I skimmed, some people came away feeling he was throwing the baby out with the bathwater, deleting otherwise informative posts that happened to be too cutting in their tone.

I haven’t seen him weeding out people’s posts for not taking a high enough view of scripture, though, and I actually think that’s a good thing. I’m not sure they should be policing these things, even if they could find funding to pay someone to lurk on the forum all hours of the day and censure all the lower views of scripture. I mean, such judgments are always subjective: One man’s “high view of Scripture” is another man’s “hopelessly liberal view of Scripture.” Also, sometimes a post comes from someone who’s holding onto faith by a thread, and they need to know this is a safe place to air views where they are trying to hold onto Jesus even if they view some parts of Scripture with suspicion. Other times, it’s good to have a place where people with different views can hash it out, and we hope that folks with a higher view of Scripture will win out in the end.

At any rate, I hope Dr. Duff responds soon, and that you find his response helpful as you reflect on these matters.


(Brad Kramer) #16

Every word of this is correct.


(Mark Twombly) #17

I understand, thank you.


(Nathan) #18

thank you all for your input - I think our primary task is to understand what the Scripture is teaching - we have to be convinced that the primary reason the flood story was written was to speak of God’s judgment and salvation - it was not written to explain geological formations and the extent of species etc. In fact I imagine there was nothing further from the writers mind. His primary concern was the judgment and salvation of God. When Jesus referenced it he was speaking of the truth in the story. I don’t think the argument that says ‘I think Jesus thought they were real so they must be’ is a helpful argument - it too becomes speculation. Our task is to avoid reading into scripture and work hard at reading out of it.


(Brad Kramer) #19

Lately, I’m seeing a lot of versions of this same critique of the BioLogos position: “Jesus seems to affirm a YEC interpretation of the Bible, and he’s God, so how can you question him and still be a Christian?”

Here’s my two cents on the question:

  1. When Jesus talks about the events in Genesis (which is not often), he seems to reference a perspective similar to (what we now call) young-earth creationism. I don’t think this is shocking, at all, given that everyone in those days would have affirmed some version of that perspective. If you were to ask the average Jew 2000 years ago, “Did God create the world in six days?” They would answer with an emphatic yes. They would also probably affirm that all humanity descended from a single primal couple. They would certainly affirm a global flood as well. No Jew would have said, “well, Genesis is a bit vague, so creation could have happened in six days or billions of years.” The BioLogos position on Scripture is not trying to deny this historical background, but rather argue that scientific advances give us new ways of understanding creation that ancient people (including the Jews) did not have. See point 3 below for more.

  2. Whether Jesus actually believed in young-earth creationism is not only impossible to know, but irrelevant to his status as God’s son. Why would we not expect Jesus to use the framework familiar to his listeners? It’s like asking if Jesus really knew if the mustard seed was not actually the smallest seed in the world (do we seriously expect that he would give his listeners a botany lesson just so future Evangelicals can have a cleaner doctrine of Scripture?). I don’t see how this is an important question, or one that can actually be answered. Furthermore, even among orthodox theologians there is significant disagreement about what sorts of limitations Jesus had during his earthly existence. He grew in wisdom as a youth (Luke 2:52), which implies he gained more wisdom as he developed. What exactly does it mean that Jesus emptied himself (kenosis) when he took on flesh (Phil. 2:7)? Nobody has a neat and clear answer to that question.

  3. We often forget that the Bible (including the teachings of Jesus) is written by and addressed to ancient people, not us. What we read in the Bible—both Genesis and the Gospels and everything in-between and after—is a record of how ancient people encountered God, written in a language and cultural framework far different than our own. The modern conception of ancient texts is that they need to be rescued from their ancient-ness in order to be true. Evangelicals have largely accepted this premise, unthinkingly. But if we move beyond that, we can accept both the divine inspiration and ancient limitation of the texts without having to choose between those options. Of course, that doesn’t solve all the hard questions about how to read the Bible. But I think it’s a more realistic set of expectations that we bring to the text.

  4. Addendum to the above points: If you look at the context of Jesus’s references to Genesis, he’s not making a point about Genesis. He’s using common beliefs about origins to advance his teachings about the Kingdom. (Matthew 19:1-11 is a good example). At no point in Jesus’s ministry does he deliver a sermon on exactly what happened in creation.

  5. I think it’s worth pointing out that if Jesus is really the creator of the universe (john 1), and the evidence in creation strongly points towards evolution and an old earth, then denying that evidence is creates a theological problem much larger than anything Jesus said about Genesis while he walked on earth. Sometimes I sense that people who throw down the “Jesus gauntlet” on this question also think that the scientific evidence is pretty much a toss-up, and we should look to Jesus to settle the balance. But the scientific evidence is voluminous and overwhelming. So even if you do think Jesus demands a young-earth perspective of his followers, you still need to explain why he created the world in such a way that scientists (including many Christians) almost universally find that the evidence says something different.

  6. Jesus references heaven as being physically “above” the Earth, e.g. Mark 13:26, Matt. 24:29, 31, and the fact that he ascended upwards in view of his disciples. So this must mean the earth is flat and heaven is physically above us, right? Why do we talk about Jesus’s references to Genesis and not his clear statements about the physical location of heaven?

(We don’t have good resources on this question on the BioLogos site, unfortunately. We’re working on a remedy.)

Note: This is meant to be a set of personal thoughts, not the official BioLogos statement on the subject.

Thanks to everyone for a good discussion on this subject. @Joel_Duff is still welcome to make an appearance, if he chooses.


(Joel Duff) #20

I apologize for my long absence. I did see the initial question and couldn’t provide an answer at that moment and then forgot as I was distracted by a number of other projects. A reminder from a moderator was very helpful.

As you might expect, I have come to the conclusion that there is no compelling reason to believe the Noahic Flood was a literal watery flood that covered the entire globe. The genre of the text, the use of hyperbolic language and the lack of any physical evidence of such a flood don’t require a global flood. Was there a flood? Yes, Moses recounts a flood to make a theological point. His audience may or may not have been aware of said flood but would not have understood the description in such literal terms even while they would have accepted that it was based on a real event.

I would also add, that I tend to view the Flood event from a coventental theological viewpoint. By that I mean that “all” is speaking of God’s chosen people at the time, the descendants of Seth. Cain’s descendants were outside Eden and effectively in the wasteland which is already a symbol of destruction/disorder. There was no need to destroy them with a flood. But the Sethites turned from God and Noah alone was faithful. Just like when God allowed the Israelites to die before entering the land. The other peoples of the world are not his immediate concern hence the need for a literal global flood was not necessary. Yet the salvific message of Noah still has universal implications because the covenant has been brought to the gentiles and so members of all nations can be grafted into his own.
So much more could be said. Sailhamer’s “The Meaning of the Pentateuch”, Tremper Longmans book “How to Read Genesis” and even G.K. Beals book “A New Testemant Biblical Theology” provides a great overview of the OT from a Biblical Theology perspective which I have always appreciated.
Below is a link to one part of a series by Longman which I think is useful even if I don’t agree with him on all points.


I hope this helps. I will freely admit that I don’t have a theological or scientific construct that adequately answers every question that I have about the Noahic account but I would be shocked if anyone truly believes they have a systematic theology that explains every piece of biblical and scientific data.


(Gregg Davidson) #21

I have not followed this thread in detail, but the general question appears to be less about whether the Flood was real or global, and more about how we are to understand the words of Jesus in scripture. An earlier statement was made that "If you believe Jesus was wrong on anything He said as recorded in the
Scriptures, then we have an issue with regard to Christian orthodoxy."
The implication here is that if Jesus made a straight forward statement about something, his words should be taken in their most literal sense as being accurate by all standards of measure, including scientific. The problem with this is that the orthodox church does not actually support this view. Consider one of many examples. In Mark 4:31, Jesus declares that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds. We now know of myriad seeds smaller than the mustard seed. Was Jesus wrong? We can’t just dismiss this as being part of a parable (as many try to do), for he was speaking to farmers who knew their seeds. He could easily have qualified his statement by saying the mustard seed was the smallest seed they knew of, but he probably also knew that such a qualifier would distract them from his point of something great deriving from something of small beginnings. They would have gotten hung up on his inferred existence of smaller seeds. Jesus was content to condescend to the imperfect knowledge of nature (and agriculture) at the time to make his point. The truth statement is in the meaning of the parable, not in the assessment of whether mustard seeds are in fact the smallest of all. Jesus was not wrong, because the objective of the story was not about nature. It was about the kingdom of God.
This example should make us cautious about imputing meanings on scripture that the author (in this case, Jesus) did not intend. We could find ourselves “putting words into Jesus’ mouth” and calling it truth.