The Garden Story Never Happened. The Garden Story Always Happens

Putting together some thoughts on Genesis and I expanded a document I saw here. I’ll post all the sections in here over the next few days. Any constructive criticism is appreciated.

The Garden Story Never Happened. The Garden Story Always Happens.

Section 1: Multiple Creation Stories in Genesis
Section 2: Scientific Problems and the Creation Accounts
Section 3: Seven Potential Indications the Creation Accounts are Figurative
Section 4: God vs the Sea Monsters: Creation Mythology in the Bible
Section 5: Creation and Flood Parallels with Ancient Near Eastern Mythology

Section 1: Multiple Creation Stories in Genesis.
A careful reading of Genesis shows that it starts with two different creation accounts. The first account depicts a more transcendent God and occurs in 1:1-2:3. Genesis 2:4a serves as a concluding summary for the first narrative and the second account, depicting a more immanent God with more anthropomorphic features, picks up there through the end of the second chapter (Genesis 2:4-25). The evidence for this view is delineated below.

[A] Who is the Creator?
1st Account: God is referred to as Elohim throughout
2nd Account: God is referred to as Yahweh throughout

Throughout the text of Genesis we see the alternating names Elohim and Yahweh. Alone this would prove very little and the documentary hypothesis has a long and complicated history, but coincidentally the two divine names often occur in places where we seem to have different versions of the same story or where one part of a text creates friction with another. The two creation stories not only look like two completely different stories, but the first one uses Elohim for God and the second Yahweh. This indicates we are dealing with two different authors and two different stories here.

[B] What did the Primordial Earth Look Like?
1st Account: Dark, deep, formless void with waters (chaotic to ordered)
2nd Account: Dry land turned into a garden paradise (desert to oasis

There is much more to this if we look at ancient near east mythology. In Slaying the Dragon : Mythmaking in the Biblical Tradition , Bernard Batto writes, “In the ancient Near East there were two primary, equally powerful symbols of chaos. One was the primeval flood or ocean, frequently portrayed as a dragonlike monster; the other was the barren desert, sometimes portrayed as a dreadful land beast. Life—at least human life—was impossible under either of these conditions; hence the utility of the sea and the desert as symbols of nonexistence, or chaos.

The author of Job understood and utilized these symbols well. As part of his literary ploy to emphasize the Creator’s awesome transcendence vis-a-vis a mere human, the author of Job 40:15-41:34 has Yahweh challenge Job to play the role of creator, if he can, by subduing Behemoth and Leviathan, the traditional twin chaos monsters representing the dry wasteland and the unformed ocean, respectively. Since Job obviously cannot subdue the chaos monsters, Job has no right to challenge the Creator about the way he runs this world.”[1]

It seems then that the first creation account uses the primeval ocean where God is hovering over the waters and draws parallels with Babylonian creation mythology in the Enuma Elish . The second creation account is more entuned with the Atrahasis myth and appeals to the motif of a barren dessert that God transforms and cultivates into a lush and fertile garden. In fact, in Genesis the humans were meant to tend to God’s garden just as in the story of Atrahasis they were servants, expected to work the land for the gods. The second creation account is embedded in an agricultural time period. People lived off of what they grew. The ground is what sustained them and where humans come from. Once kicked from Eden, Adam’s problem is partly with the ground (“cursed is the ground because of you”) as he turns from a gardener into a farmer. The story behind the creation of Eve herself might reflect the humor of ancient agricultural perspective as well. After failing to find a suitable mate for Adam in attempt after attempt with new creations, “God’s Yahweh then tries a second way, the way of the gardener, and performs the world’s first clone. If you really want a second plant in every way comparable to the first, the best way is to use part of the one you have, It works the same with humans: like from like!”[2]

[C] What was the order of Creation?
1st Account: Light (not the sun), a dome, dry land and seas, plants and fruit trees, sun and moon, sea creatures and birds, land animals, human beings.
2nd Account: A stream/water rises from the ground, Adam, the Garden with many trees, land animals and birds, Eve after Adam names the animals.

The first creation account depicts animals being created before humans while the second depicts God creating land animals and birds after he creates Adam but before he creates Eve. Some interpreters have sought to get around this difficulty by using a different translation of the underlying Hebrew text. It is claimed the text could read God “had formed” these creatures as the NIV and ESV have it. Thus in Genesis 2:19, Adam would be naming pre-formed animals. Of course this interpretation is not the one most experts prefer as God has just said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” That God is now making a helper for Adam and creating these animals is the simplest interpretation of the text itself. The whole scene is troubling in itself as God’s behavior is comically naïve and perplexing if the account is not figurative. Armstrong writes,

“When God had finished creating the animal kingdom, he paraded them all before Adam. . . . God’s purpose was . . . to find a mate for Adam from among “all cattle,” “the birds of the air,” and “every animal of the field” (2:20). It is a comic picture. Like an eager matchmaker, God presented the inexperienced Adam with one animal after another. Bison? Elephant? Kangaroo? We are not surprised to hear that at the end of the day, “for the man there was not found a helper as his partner” (2:20). How could God have imagined for one moment that Adam would find a mate in this way? The God who appeared to be so omnipotent and omniscient in Chapter 1 was now unable to fathom the desires and needs of his creature.”[3]

[D] How long Was God’s Creative activity?
1st Account: God creates everything in 6 days and rests on the seventh.
2nd Account: “In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens (Gen 2:4b)

[E] How does God Go about Creating Things?
1st Account: God creates by his divine word. He speaks and it comes to pass (“ bar’a)
2nd Account: God fashions and forms things more intimately ( yatsar ).

Regarding the second account Robert Alter writes: “In this more vividly anthropomorphic account, God, now called YHWH ’Elohim instead of ’Elohim as in the first version, does not summon things into being from a lofty distance through the mere agency of divine speech, but works as a craftsman, fashioning ( yatsar instead of bar’a‚ “create”), blowing life breath into nostrils, building a woman from a rib.”[4]

[F] Purpose of Human Beings
1st Account: In God’s image, rulers of the earth (given dominion).
2nd Account: Adam and Eve were servants or caretakers in God’s garden.

[G] Anthropomorphic Features
1st Account: God is transcendent, creates by mere word, humans are fashioned in His image.
2nd Account: God creates more intimately, fashioning and building things.

God decides Adam needs a mate (it doesn’t look preplanned at all) and He doesn’t realize none of the animals will be a suitable match for Adam before he tries to woo him with each one. God seems to be fashioned more in our image in the second account.

Concluding Remarks
It does appear we have two completely distinct creation accounts that don’t agree on all details kicking off Genesis that are tied extensively to older creation myths. In order for the accounts to make sense as part of our Sacred Scripture, we should not understand them as in competition with science or each other. The Bible reflects the cosmology of its time and offers us a theological hierarchy and understanding of God and humanity in the midst of a pantheon of other deities and ancient near east mythologies. These are theological narratives meant to teach us truths about God and ourselves, not specifics in how exactly He created the world. If we get the genre wrong then we do a disservice to our Sacred Scripture as we are surely misinterpreting it. Thompson writes, “The garden story is an aetiology. It is a fictional tale that evokes a perspective of reality that helps us understand the truth of things, and here, the truth about being human. The garden story isn’t a story about a romantic place of paradise where no one is hungry, no one suffers and no one dies. Quite the contrary, its story’s goal is the real world we live in, where hunger, pain and death are commonplace, and where each, unfortunately, does a thorough job of defining us as human. The story does not talk about history. It talks about the realities of human life, and how we are defined through our hunger, our pain and our deaths.”[5] To steal the format of famous saying from a historical Jesus scholar: The Garden of Eden never happened. The garden of Eden always happens.[6]

[1] Bernard Batto, Slaying the Dragon: Mythmaking in the Biblical Tradition , pg 47-48

[2] Thomas Thompson, The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel , p. 84

[3] Karen Armstrong, In the Beginning

[4] Robert Alter, Genesis Translation and Commentary , p. 7

[5] Thomas L. Thompson, The Mythic Past Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel , p 85

[6] Crossan famously wrote in Jesus A Revolutionary Biography , “Emmaus never happened. Emmaus always happens.”


I’m really looking forward to reading back through it more slowly and responding , or rather sharing additional things since I’m essentially agree with it.

Though I don’t think it’s two different stories as much as two different versions of the same story.

Sort of like how Michael Meyers and Jason are completely different stories. But within the Halloween story there are multiple versions. There is Halloween that plays off the films
Halloween (1978), Halloween (2018), Halloween Kills (2021) and Halloween Ends (2022) where Laurie is not the sister and there is another set that’s where Lauri is the sister based off of Halloween 1,2,3 ( excluding 3 season of witch ) and 4.

So if you’re not familiar with the series that may not help. But essentially I do think it’s the same story just two different versions of it. Since both are myths, the contradictions does not really matter except that they highlight various aspects of it. Not sure if that distinctions matters or not to others but to me it does. I also think that the editors also altered it for drama. The first account does not name the god “ God “. It’s not like the god God and the god Zeus. It’s just the God. I think it’s left mysterious so that when they were telling the stories the people around upon first hearing it would be like “ whose the god? Which god? “ and so on. Then the next part would explain who the god is. It’s like one of theirs sequels that are also a reboot at the same time like how the 2013 Evil Dead is a sequel and reboot of the 1980s “ The Evil Dead “ series.

I think that genesis 1-2 and really all of 1-11 really helps set up the biblical patterns that gets reused , inverted and hyperlinked back to repeatedly.

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Yes, we see two different traditions that contradict each other, and the redactors of the Bible didn’t feel the need to pick one and discard the other.

Well, they are both creation stories attributing creation pretty much exclusively to the Jewish God. Aside from that I think there are some very substantial differences. Genesis 1 is a pure statement of monotheism and to put the matter simplistically, God’s omnipotence and lack of rivals. Genesis 2 shares in some of this but it is just beginning its parallels to Atrahasis which continue on for a while through the flood narratives which certainly know of it. I think Adam and Eve also have parallels to Enkidu and Shamhat. I also think the creation stories were probably written at very different times. One author didn’t sit down and create both. I’d guess the second one predates the first one. After many tellings and retellings of one or both, someone probably put them together and both may even be redacted in their final canonical form.

I agree the contradictions do not matter as the details are not meant to be taken literally in the modern sense. The correctness or accuracy of the accounts should be judged by their intended purpose in conjunction with their literary genre. Or rather than even thinking about ancient myths in terms of “correctness or accuracy” we may want to stick with only “meaning.” We can make these stories say almost anything we want. That is an issue. I don’t think the modern meaning most Christians assign to the whole garden story is remotely correct. We have a lot of original sin and atonement baggage skewing the original meaning and purpose of Genesis–along with Romans 5. We might even overemphasize details in the narrative today that were just incidental and part of most conventional creation myths at the time. I think after the two creation stories proper the rest of the garden is more of a statement of the human situation. We can even say the same of some other creation stories. Ours does not have a monopoly on truth or the human situation. Most if not all creation myths speak to the human predicament in some sense. I am not so sure how much some of it means to actually teach us besides affirming what it means to be human. Parts could be a lamentation of human suffering and ultimately asking why things are the way they are? I don’t think that whole Paul/Adam thing has anything to do with the original garden story in context and I hate interpretations that force it to agree with 2,000 years of Christian history because I think it gets it all wrong. Making the serpent the devil and so on are all things completely foreign to the text. Reading about Enkidu and Shamhat in the Epic of Gilgamesh will give us more clues to understanding the alleged fall in Eden than Romans 5 or St. Augustine.


The gospel always happens too.

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Thanks for all the work you put into this well-organized, well-edited, concise statement, which includes references to books.
I am probably guilty of “liking it, because I agree with it”. But I think you’ve done a lot of work here, and done it well.

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That’s a great collection of thoughts, Vance. Thanks for sharing it. I’m looking forward to your next instalment.

As Robert Alter points out later in your post, the second account uses Yahweh Elohim. I think it’s nearly the only place in the Bible we get that, and it seems to be an intentional edit to show that Yahweh is indeed the Elohim we’ve already met.

I hadn’t heard that before. If that’s the case, Behemoth seems to live in an oasis in the desert. It eats grass and is covered by reeds in marshes. It’s not frightened by the turbulent river. The picture uses a lot of water imagery for a monster depicting a dry wasteland. But I do see how it, like the Eden story, fits with life on the banks of a river, the ground usually dry but occasionally flooded. The problem for life isn’t so much the absence of water as its unpredictability.

Those quibbles aside, I appreciate how you’ve caught the contrasting pictures of creation and God in these stories. As I’m sure you’re aware, there are many ideas about how they came together into the text of Genesis, perhaps as a way to unite two tribal groups who each had their own preserved narrative. What I find fascinating is how much better they are together than apart.

The first pictures God as remote, aloof, totally in control, voicing decrees that impose divine order on a chaotic cosmos. In the second God is practically a man, reacting to the various problems he mumbles about by getting his hands dirty and sculpting mud, tearing one earthen vessel apart to make two. Either story on its own depicts a God that is hard to worship, either too transcendent to address or too human to esteem. But by insisting they are both God – both the one God – something profound happens. With our left eye on Genesis 1 and our right eye on Genesis 2, a deeper vision of God pops into our mind, a vision that with all its incongruities cannot be flattened to any precise shape.


The Garden story did happen AND the Garden story always happens.

The thing about extracting metaphorical meanings of a story is that it works whether the story is about real events or not. So yeah if the magical mythical elements of the story get in the way of believing this story has anything to do with reality then you can go with this idea that it is just a fable with a timeless moral to the story.

But just because a story has a profound meaning for our lives doesn’t mean it has to be a fable. And there are other ways to understand the magical mythical elements of a story. There is also allegory and symbolism where the abstract and invisible elements of life are given a visual representation that you can picture in your head. This is, after all, something which the Bible does quite frequently and it is even a traditional way of understanding the story of Adam and Eve in the garden, where the tree of life represents our greatest hopes and dreams and the talking snake is not animal but a spiritual being.

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The Garden of Eden story is really an attempt to explain how humanity arrived on earth in the first place. It is remarkable because it manages to capture evolution before the theory of evolution was even dreamed about. In an effort to explain how death and sin became a reality, a serpent was introduced as a tempter. Evolution has taught us that our brains are accretive, and our hindbrain is essentially the equivalent of a reptile’s brain. Therefore, we now have an explanation for the dilemma that Paul expressed when he said that what he knows he shouldn’t do, he does, and what he knows he should do, he doesn’t do. What the story says about the tempter is that it is external. What evolution tells us is that it is internal.

I am adding to this post to address the doctrine of original sin. The Scripture is very clear that neither Adam nor Eve knew the difference between right and wrong until after they had tasted the fruit from the tree of knowledge. They did not possess self-aware consciousness. So, here again we see the text foreshadowing evolution by revealing there was a time when our ancestors shared the consciousness level possessed by our fellow primates. The God given gift of self-aware consciousness is what makes it possible to have relationship with God and knowing relationships with others. The list of punishments that are enumerated because of eating the fruit are not punishments at all, but consequences of becoming aware of toil, pain and even death. The idea that they were banished from Eden because of eating the fruit is erroneous. According to the story, they were driven out because of the other tree in the garden. The tree of life which, if they ate the fruit of that tree, they would have become immortal. The point of this is that the idea of original sin is not endorsed by the Genesis account. It was promulgated by Augustine and adopted by the early church for its own reasons.

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Or 20% of the garden story happened and the garden story always happens. Based on prior correspondence you reject the historicity of around 80% of the material. You believe a kernel in the sum total of the garden story is historical. If I read a narrative on Lincoln where 80% of it was clear fiction, it would hardly make sense to make the blanket assertion that the Lincoln story did happen or this was a true story. I mean if Lincoln’s existence was one of the only few things in the narrative, what are we really saying by affirming it?

You certainly are not the only one with a hangup in regards to a genealogical Adam but regardless of that issue, in lieu of your actual beliefs, your statement looks unintentionally misleading from my perspective. A genealogical Adam is not synonymous with the garden story.



Westermann agrees.

“The divine name in Genesis 2-3 is always “yhwh Elohim”; in Genesis 1 it was “Elohim”; from Genesis 4 on (from J, the Yahwist), it is “yhwh.” “yhwh Elohim” (translated “the LORDGod”) as a divine name in Genesis 2-3 is prob- ably meant to form a transition between the two names.” Genesis pg 18

I’ll footnote it!

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Part 2 is out. Constructive criticism appreciated. i wonder if those lists are too long and should just be cut into a paragraph for readability…

Section 2: Scientific Problems and the Creation Accounts
Christianity has a long history of both advancing and fighting science. John Calvin famously wrote:

“We will see some who are so deranged, not only in religion but who in all things reveal their monstrous nature, that they will say that the sun does not move, and that it is the earth which shifts and turns. When we see such minds we must indeed confess that the devil possess them, and that God sets them before us as mirrors, in order to keep us in his fear. So it is with all who argue out of pure malice, and who happily make a show of their imprudence. “[1]

People who thought the earth moved were deemed deranged and possessed by the devil at one time but this isn’t as bad as it seems. Incorrect beliefs can be warranted and the proponents of them like Calvin can be intellectually forgiven. It is customary for pre-scientific people to embrace pre-scientific ideas and it takes time for major paradigm shifts to occur in human thinking. Conventional knowledge at the time would tell Calvin the sun moved and the earth stood still. The Bible is, after all, “unashamedly geocentric.”[2] Sometimes scientific progress is at odds with what has been considered the plain understandings of Scripture for hundreds if not thousands of years. In today’s world it is no longer heliocentric vs geocentric ideology. For most that issue has fully worked itself out but now we have biological evolution lopsidedly battling intelligent design in the limelight. It is true that scientific errors appear scattered throughout the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures . Parts of the Bible refer to the four corners of the earth (Is. 11:12) , think thoughts come from our kidneys (Psalm 16:7), believe there is a solid firmament in the sky (Job 37:18), proclaims as Galileo found out, the earth is immutable and does not move (1 Chron 16:30; Ps 93:1, 96:10, 104:5; Is 45:8), that the earth is flat (Mt 4:8, Dan 4:10-11), stars are small and close enough to the earth they can fall from the sky and land on it (Rev 6:13-16, 8:10; Mt 2:10, 24:29; Dan 8:10). A host of problems are also evident if the details of Genesis 1-2 are taken as literal, factual history. A sampling is presented below and all of these texts could be multiplied several times over. We can certainly quibble over some of these potential conflicts and debate their intended meaning but overall, they make a pretty compelling case that God did not intend to leave us a scientific guide to creation nor did he feel the need to override the incorrect scientific and cosmological background knowledge of the Biblical authors. They, unaware of the Scopes Monkey trial, clearly were not concerned with the same scientific issues as us. By proxy it doesn’t seem God was either when inspiring our Sacred Scripture. Maybe we should pattern ourselves after His likeness!

Some Problems With The First Creation Account:

    1. God creates the heavens and the earth together “in the beginning” but we now know that roughly 9 billion years separates the origin of our universe and the formation of the earth
    1. The earth is incorrectly described as being created before the sun. The earth and sun formed out of the same cloud of dust and gas (solar nebula) and that order should be reversed as the sun proper probably existed before the earth proper fully accreted.
    1. The text describes there being evening and morning without a sun!
    1. Describing the sun and moon as being created at the same time is also incorrect as the moon is thought to be the result of the coalescence of debris caused by the collision of a massive body with the early earth. This means the moon was formed after the earth.
    1. It describes plants and fruit trees existing before the sun and the moon. Obviously sunlight is needed for photosynthesis and the sun must predate plants. Ancient authors would presumably understand the importance of sunlight for growing things which is probably a hint this is not meant to be a historical-scientific narrative. Though many other creation myths also do something similar in having night and day before the sun! [3]
    1. Technically the moon is not a light as it only reflects sunlight but this phenomenological statement which occurs in several parts of the Bible, including the lips of Jesus, is not considered problematic by many. No more than mentioning a “sunrise” is despite us knowing that the sun does not actually rise.
    1. The stars in the sky are created after the earth on day four. We know stars predate the earth and we are literally composed of star dust and our sun is probably a third-generation star.
    1. The earth (in a formless void state) and waters predate the creation of light itself. Light formed shortly (seconds) after the big bang (photon epoch) many billions of years ago. The majority of the elements on earth, including all the oxygen in H2O, formed via nucleosynthesis in now deceased stars over billions of years. Water simply did not exist in the beginning of our universe and it most certainly does not predate light.
    1. The order of creation is off in that marine life started before fruit trees and grasses started on land. Also if the “great sea monsters” represent whales, we now know they are relatively recent on the evolutionary ladder appearing roughly 50 million years ago–after the non-avian dinosaurs were extinct. Life, both plant and animal, probably existed in the ocean for a very long time before on land.
    1. The account mentions a firmament in the sky separating the waters above and below probably representing incorrect ancient cosmology. Robert Alter says “The Hebrew raki’a suggests a hammered-out slab . . .”.[4] There are no waters above in space or solid firmament preventing space travel, much to the chagrin of conspiracy theorists who think the lunar landings were staged. The stars, our sun and moon are not held in the sky by any solid “dome” that God lives above. The account itself starts with God hovering over these waters, probably not what we would perceive as a global ocean today.
    1. The earth is much older than a literalistic interpretation of Genesis suggests (see radiometric dating, transit time for light, the fossil record and geologic column, etc.).

Some Problems With The Second Creation Account

    1. The first man is created, apparently as mature human being out of dust from the ground. Humans are actually part of a long product of evolution that started billions of years before them.
    1. Humans were also not around before land animals and the first woman was not created after both land animals and the first man nor was she created out of the first man’s rib!
    1. I also get the impression Genesis 2 incorrectly suggests the first human was created before it ever had rained!

Divine Accommodation
There is no realistic way to harmonize a literalistic interpretation of Genesis 1-2 or some other portions of the Bible with some of the most basic findings of modern science.[5] Physics, geology, astronomy and biology all stand at odds with a literal Genesis. From this, for one who subscribes to Biblical inspiration, it is only natural to conclude God accommodated his message through time-conditioned revelation. Some think this makes God out to be a liar but interacting with people on their level in their own culture, with ideas they can understand seems the most effective method of communication to me. God has to condescend himself no matter how he communicates with us sinful human beings. Much more needs to be said on accommodation but for those who label this lying, I wonder if Jesus was equally a liar or being deceptive when he used phenomenological language in conjunction with the conventional knowledge of the time in stating the sun rises in Matthew 5:45 or thinking that stars could fall from the sky (Mt 24:29)? Only a village atheist would find fault with Jesus for not saying, “God causes the earth to rotate and therefore, the sun appears to rise on the just and unjust.” Correct cosmology in this case is superfluous to the point Jesus is making and it doesn’t matter for Genesis either which doesn’t attempt to resolve whether or not we evolved or the first human was spontaneously created mature from the dust in the ground. That is a modern issue the authors of Genesis knew nothing about living in a pre-scientific culture. They knew next to nothing about the distance past and there were no witnesses aviailable. What is emphatically stated in the first two chapters of Genesis is that God is our creator, he is all-powerful with no rivals, humans are made in his image, man and woman are meant to join together and we are stewards of the earth. Science is left to ponder the question of how exactly we were created by God.

The true beauty of the creation accounts are diminished if we strip them from their ancient contexts and impose modern questions upon them they never intended to address. As Derek Kidner wrote in his commentary on Genesis, “The main point of Genesis 1 is about God. It is no accident that God is the subject of the first sentence of the Bible, for this word dominates the whole chapter and catches the eye at every point of the page: it is used some thirty-five times in as many verses of the story. The passage, indeed the Book, is about him first of all; to read it with any other primary interest (which is all too possible) is to misread it.”[6] The Bible is not at all interested in the specifics of how God created the earth and the universe. The Bible is interested in teaching us correct theology about God amidst a polytheistic sea of rival suitors. It dumps them all on their heads and this is why the charge of lying is inapplicable. Bill T. Arnold captured the profound meaning of Genesis 1:1-3 in his commentary:

“We fail to appreciate the profundity of vv. 1–3 for two primary reasons, among several others. First, it is exceedingly familiar to those of us in the West, who still benefit from the long years of Judeo–Christian education and influence. Second, we have overemphasized the similarities between Gen 1 and the other ancient cosmogonies without fully appreciating the differences. This text soars above them in such a way as to deny implicitly any possibility of the theologies expressed in the Egyptian or Mesopotamian accounts. If we consider it an ideological polemic, we must admit it is not specifically so and only indirectly. It contains no theomachy, or cosmic conflict among the gods, or victory enthronement motif. Both are excluded by “in the beginning when God created . . . ”! Israel’s God has no rivals. There can be no struggle with forces opposed to his actions or corresponding to his power. There can be no victory enthronement motif because God’s victory was never in doubt; rather, God has never not been enthroned. There can be no enthronement portrait here because God has not become sovereign; he has simply never been less than sovereign.”[7]


[1] —John Calvin, “Sermon on 1 Corinthians 10:19-24”, Calvini Opera Selecta, Corpus Refomatorum, Vol 49, 677, trans. by Robert White in “ Calvin and Copernicus: the Problem Reconsidered “, Calvin Theological Journal 15 (1980), p233-243, at 236-237:

[2] To use Derek Kidner’s phrasing in regards to the fourth day in Genesis an Introduction and Commentary .

[3] Hugh Ross suggested that if we understand the Genesis account as being written from the perspective of an earthbound observer (through visions), then the sun and stars could have been created long before the earth but only appeared later on day or epoch four when the atmosphere went from opaque to transparent at some point in the earth’s long history. This has several difficulties, one being what a straight-forward translation of the text actually states, another is that it assumes a very narrow context and finally it does not resolve the majority of the problems in the text. This pattern is also evident in other ancient near eastern creation accounts. Ross accepts the antiquity of the earth but denies the overwhelming evidence for evolution. So what can initially appear to be an ingenious solution is actually bad, backpedaling eisegesis invented to circumvent clear errors in the text when the literary genre of Genesis is misidentified.

[4] Robert Alter, Genesis: Translation and Commentary.

[5] See above and also the following for a more complete listing of verses on creation that I shamelessly poached from McKnight and Venema’s Adam and the Human Genome : Job 38–41; Pss. 19; 74:13–16; 136; Prov. 8; Isa. 40–45; Jer. 10:12–16; 27:5)

[6] Derek Kidner, Genesis an Introduction and Commentary .

[7] Bill Arnal, Genesis New Cambridge Commentary , pg 32

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I consistently denounce all ideas of a genealogical Adam & Eve, because I repudiate the idea that our humanity is a matter of genetics. Is that what you mean by “hangup in regards to a genealogical Adam”… that I repudiate it? Does that mean you are an advocate of this???

Or… is it that you automatically equate any idea of an historical Adam with a genealogical Adam and thus your distaste for the latter makes you opposed to the former?

seems the truth is that you are VERY confused about what I believe…

Touché. I forgot, you just think God had interactions with a person named Adam (who existed alongside many other humans) some x thousands years ago. That makes your statement about the Garden story being true even more of a stretch.


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Just because one believes King Arthur, Robin Hood, and Santa Clause are historical doesn’t mean you think the Walt Disney productions are accurate accounts. Some of the issues with Garden story is a matter of the allegory and symbolism used in the story and some of it is a matter of interpretation. For example… when it says Genesis 2:7 then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being, I certainly do not understand this as necromancy of adding magical life to an inanimate object. But rather, God formed Adam of the stuff of the earth according to the laws of nature and then gave the divine breath (inspiration) which brought his mind to life. And to be a father and mother does not always mean genealogical descent.

This thread is relevant to this particular point:

Yes but it makes little sense call the Walt Disney production historical or say “The Garden story happened” when slightly more of it could be historical as compared to a Disney fairy tale.

I think of the other ancient creation myths having people come for the clay/dust in the ground from the ancient near east and all the clear overlaps in the Biblical accounts with other myths. I don’t think these authors or cultures who possess erroneous background knowledge by the standards of modern science somehow knew about evolution thousands of years before it was a thing

We have farmers and people living off the ground where things grow. A text without a context is a pretext and I prefer to take these stories in their historical context rather than impose modern meanings on them the authors couldn’t have possibly known or cared about. I see your interpretation as an anachronism. It is the textbook definition of eisegesis.


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You yourself stated “Calvin endorses a stationary earth.” I am not arguing Calvin was an anti-science YEC. Quite the opposite. I am not interested in apologizing or vilifying Calvin. Both postures are fruitless to me. Calvin was unashamedly Biblical and the Bible is unashamedly geocentric. There is no need for apologetical whitewashing. Links between Calvin and geocentrism are clearly evident in the extant literature and it fits the time period and issues of the day. The earth is immutable and does not move as the Bible says to Calvin. This does not mean he would not be open to science and change. He nonetheless compares belief with thinking the earth moves with thinking black is white, hot is cold, etc. He clearly did not think too fondly of the idea.


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As the earlier post said, he was quoting Cicero, and hence that does not necessitate a vehement disagreement, as opposed to the typical period “interesting idea, and it works well for doing calculations, but it doesn’t make sense for the earth to move”.

John Calvin, “Sermon on 1 Corinthians 10:19-24”, Calvini Opera Selecta, Corpus Refomatorum, Vol 49, 677, trans. by Robert White in “ Calvin and Copernicus: the Problem Reconsidered “, Calvin Theological Journal 15 (1980), p233-243, at 236-237: [The Christian is not to compromise so as to obscure the distinction between good and evil, and is to avoid the errors of] those dreamers who have a spirit of bitterness and contradiction, who reprove everything and prevent the order of nature. We will see some who are so deranged, not only in religion but who in all things reveal their monstrous nature, that they will say that the sun does not move, and that it is the earth which shifts and turns. When we see such minds we must indeed confess that the devil posses them, and that God sets them before us as mirrors, in order to keep us in his fear. So it is with all who argue out of pure malice, and who happily make a show of their imprudence. When they are told: “That is hot,” they will reply: “No, it is plainly cold.” When they are shown an object that is black, they will say that it is white, or vice versa. Just like the man who said that snow is black; for although it is perceived and known by all to be white, yet he clearly wished to contradict the fact. And so it is that they are madmen who would try to change the natural order, and even to dazzle eyes and benumb their senses.

Can you highlight what exactly you are claiming is a quote of Cicero and explain how it changes anything? Calvin’s thoughts here are very clear to me.

Here is Calvin on Psalm 93:

The Psalmist proves that God will not neglect or abandon the world, from the fact that he created it. A simple survey of the world should of itself suffice to attest a Divine Providence. The heavens revolve daily, and, immense as is their fabric, and inconceivable the rapidity of their revolutions, we experience no concussion — no disturbance in the harmony of their motion. The sun, though varying its course every diurnal revolution, returns annually to the same point. The planets, in all their wanderings, maintain their respective positions. How could the earth hang suspended in the air were it not upheld by God’s hand? By what means could it maintain itself unmoved, while the heavens above are in constant rapid motion, did not its Divine Maker fix and establish it?

The immutability of the earth and motion of the cosmos attests to Divine providence per Calvin! You can call him pre-Copernican instead of anti-Copernican. Same difference to me. The idea the earth moved, which was relevant issue at the time is deemed absurdity by Calvin. His commentary on genesis offers Geocentrism as well. I don’t see any way around that or the plain sense of his words.I hope all this is more than just needlessly embarrassed reformed theologians wanting to whitewash Calvin’s statement.


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