Were the events of Genesis 1 revealed to humans via a dream?

But that is the only conclusion when you have already decided there is only one God! The people that are behind Genesis were already monotheists. That isn’t some great revelation. These people made a new religion with only one God, probably out of spite or just to be edgy and different. Isn’t that the more rational conclusion than to believe it must be true because they were the first (that we know of) to do it?

This makes no sense. You can say the same for every single teaching in the Bible… that these were already people who believed that. It is nonsense. Abraham did NOT come from a family which believed any such thing. The whole Bible is filled with conflict between people with different beliefs. It always arguing for certain beliefs in contrast to contrary beliefs of the people around them, and monotheism versus polytheism was one the persistent conflicts in the Bible. Your argument is absurd – so much so it was incomprehensible to me when you made it the first time.

My point is, I think you could take a literal, real God out of it and still end up with the same results.

Without special revelation. Without the text making sense to the reader unless they have someone else to explain it to them. It could just be a nonsense book right?

I want to see special revelation. I want to see a creation account that makes sense and follows the scientific facts we have at our disposal. I want to read something in the Bible that could NEVER have come from people. But reading the views on this forum, most of them, it’s just that. Man-made.

I don’t want that to be my take away.

That’s good. Hold on to that thought; anything - if it’s only of us - and not from God, then it will fade away.

They aren’t hitting the same notes at all. Mitch is right about that. These weren’t monotheists - and in fact we even still see Abraham’s descendents still carrying household gods around with them as just a casual matter. There is a reason that God was at such pains to try to rid his people of their idols - throughout their history even - and at least two of the ten commandments were used to deal with this directly. None of that would have been necessary if they were already breathing nothing but monotheistic cultural air.

This makes it sound like you want modern science to be the real adjudicator for what’s special or not. You’re insisting that these scriptures need to demonstrate their mettle on modern scientific terms as the way to distinguish itself from other works of the same periods. In contrast to that, Walton is just taking an interest in trying to read the scriptures on their own terms.

Perhaps. Or … is Walton just the messenger here, and the reason it sounds that way to you is because that is what scriptures actually sound like at that point? I’m sure no believers here (nor Walton either for that matter) would deny that God created everything. But we reach that conclusion solely from the opening verse of Genesis one and also from other passages scattered around the rest of scriptures. The rest of Genesis one and two by themselves were apparently not written to convince you about the material questions that you’ve now been conditioned (by our own science-oriented culture) to find important.

So when seen that way, couldn’t your question be turned on its head: Do you want the scriptures to speak to you on their own terms about things that were important revelations from God to those peoples (and through them then to all the rest of us)? Or do you want to reduce scriptures to being just another ‘how-it-was-done’ science manual whose only purpose was to give a headstart to ancient peoples about things that we now see would be discoverable by other means anyway? Is it just another science text (and a poor one at that, then!) or a revelation of much more profound nature that we could not have discovered for ourselves?

The reason Walton’s view does not convince me is because we aren’t just dealing with things being set up as functional. We’re dealing with the origins of species. The first life forms being created. The Earth being made able to inhabit life. The first Humans. Genesis is about origins, not functions. I MIGHT concede that Genesis 2 is more about functions as a sequel to Genesis 1. But Genesis 1 is DEFINITELY stating not only that God did the creating, but HOW He did it. And there’s an order to events.

Yes! And have you noticed that order? There is a definite functionality about it. First three days are the domains (that would later be populated in the last three days): first there was light (not the sun or moon, mind you) - and this is already after the opening verses that presume the pre-existence of unbroken waters, over which the Spirit could hover. Then there was the ‘expanse’ (what we later call ‘sky’) to separate the above from the below. And finally the waters themselves get separated to form land in between the still remaining oceans. Then in the last three days, God finishes out populating these domains, day four, the sun and moon populate the expanse, day five the birds and the sea creatures populate the above - now separated from the below, and finally day six the land brings forth creatures. I’ve not read Walton’s book myself (yet), but from what I know of it as others have discussed it around here, he makes a pretty good case for the functionality of this account. I certainly find that a lot more compelling and biblical, anyway, than trying to force the account into some sort of modern science script.

I want both. There’s is no reason the events cannot coincide with what we know happened. If it is true, it should match the facts.

Genesis 1 is concerned with the form and function of creation and making it a “dream sequence” misses the elephant in the room: it serves as an etiology for the sabbath. It also fails to take into account all the ancient mythology it was steeped in and borrowed from. The Bible as a whole is steeped in pre-scientific and mistaken cosmology. I put together a list of problems here and I need to add a few things to it.

Even if we assume it was a revelation or a dream sequence from the perspective of the earth’s surface it gets a large number of things wrong. Anything correct in the order of Genesis 1 is probably coincidence and some of it is contradicted by the second creation story in Genesis 2. Understanding Genesis from the perspective of the earth’s surface is a key feature of old earth creationists. I think its eisegesis and bad apologetics but I am not a Hebrew language expert. It does remove the difficulty with the sun, moon and stars appearing late. Instead, they are not created at that instant but only appeared on the surface of the earth as the vision or “dream sequence” showed things from the perspective of an earthbound observer. Its phenomenological language just like “sunrise.” While that is an interesting take, all the other cosmological errors and things we know the pre-scientific creation stories get wrong lead me away from it. I agree everything is given from the perspective of an earthbound observer. That is all they knew back then. But the interpretation is solely based on the need to make the Bible accurate with science. I also think the author of Genesis 1 believes God created everything. When it says God made these objects, I tend to believe the author probably believed what he plainly narrated.

At any rate, whether you agree with such an interpretation that means the sun only “appeared” or not, too offer such an interpretation and and then say “The fact is, the Genesis account of creation is quite accurate in the way it describes the formation of the primordial Earth. It certainly surprises me” is problematic to me. @Benjamin87

That is very circular and begs the question [EDITED for more gracious wording]. The Genesis account of creation is not quite accurate. You have forced accuracy into it since science is being allowed to control its narrative. Genesis 1 gets lots of things wrong as we would expect and its not the only account with light and such before the sun if my memory serves me well. Doesn’t this show up in Egyptian accounts?

If God is supernaturally making everything then I am sure his light is capable of sustaining sunless plants. Its a categorical error to see God creating things via divine fiat (miraculously (in the supernatural sense) and inexplicable) literally as Genesis 1 describes and also wonder how grass survives without a sun. It has God. End discussion. This objection just confuses two different worldviews. The bottom line is the Biblical sequence does not match the scientific one on many key points and there are many dozens of examples of similar, inaccurate cosmological views in the Bible. Time and again it shows itself to not possess any special, miraculous scientific knowledge.

This is what I get out of Genesis:

  • It has zero interest in 24 hours vs long epochs.
  • It has zero interest in evolution vs intelligent design.
  • It has zero interest in and possesses no knowledge of modern science
  • It has complete interest in monotheism. There is only one God (thus flouting polytheism which was the norm)
  • It has complete interest in talking to us about God, as does most of Scripture.
  • It teaches us God is sovereign. God alone has all the power and creates by His mere command.
  • It teaches us God has always been sovereign and has never had rivals (no conflict mythology).
  • God did not need to rise to power because He has always been in power.
  • It teaches us the created order is due solely to God’s foresight and planning.
  • It teaches us humans were not created after a debate between the gods. God chose to create us and did so by his mere command.
  • It teaches us Humans were not created because the lesser gods were tired of menial labor and rebelled. We were created as stewards in God image, not slaves to tend the land.
  • It teaches us the Sabbath is of such immense importance to God that it is tied into the created order.
  • It teaches us those astral deities worshipped by some people are just lights or lamps God put in the sky
  • It teaches us the great sea monsters are just another part of God’s good creation and subservient to him.

The purpose of Genesis 1 is about establishing the primacy of God. It is accommodated and steeped in cosmological error. Yet I find myself completely agreeing with its central point. The best way to deal with Genesis is in its ancient context. How is it different from all the similar mythology out there? Its difference is the key to unlocking its meaning for me and I believe it was the same then as this story certainly had rivals and competitors.


No one says the events cannot coincide with what we know happened. The simple fact is they do not coincide with what we know happened. The end.

I don’t know anything about what you mean by “if its true . . .” The Bible serves the purpose for which God intended it. Nothing more, nothing less. If you want a book of facts, read an encyclopedia. The Bible is concerned with story and narrative meant to move a reader/hearer into a proper relationship with God through his Son. I completely and unequivocally reject your imposition of modern, fact-literal westernism on the Bible. You are confusing genres and worldviews.

The Bible doesn’t have to have accurate scientific background knowledge to have value or serve God’s purpose. God alone provides its value. To make it contingent on clever apologetics or the abilities of man is bad theology. As I wrote elsewhere:

God has to condescend himself no matter how he communicates with us sinful human beings. Scripture makes a pretty compelling case that God did not feel the need to override the incorrect scientific and cosmological background knowledge of the Biblical authors. Maybe we should pattern ourselves after His likeness! So for me, errors in the Bible are not “God making mistakes.” The human authors God chose to speak and accommodate his message through made the mistakes just as some exegetes today make the mistake of assuming a top-down heavenly perspective in the Bible. A ground-up earthly perspective where God moved over the authors and influenced them is much more consistent with what we find in scripture itself. The most important part is of course God moving over us as we read Scripture! Without that it may be little more than cellulose. As Dale B Martin wrote:

We may trust scripture to provide what we need for our salvation. We may trust that we can read scripture in prayerful hope that God will speak to us through our reading that text. But ultimately this belief-or, perhaps better put, this stance, attitude, or habitus-is actually an expression of our faith not in a text but in God and the holy spirit. We “leave it up to the holy spirit” to protect us from damnable error in our readings of scripture. We depend on God to keep us with God in our readings of scripture. Properly understood, the doctrine of the infallibility of scripture is a statement less about a text and more about God." [The Meaning of Scripture in the Twenty-first Century]

Longer version:

The Third Approach to Genesis: Divine or Biblical Accommodation
Proponents of accommodation believe God spoke through the worldview and cosmogony of ancient Israelites. God did not feel the need to correct mistaken scientific beliefs as those issues were not germane to His purposes. Longman and Walton (Lost World of the Flood) write

“The Bible was written for us, but not to us. We have no reason to believe that God gave ancient authors special knowledge of perspectives on geology, cosmology, astronomy, or any other scientific information beyond that known at the time. Nor do we have any reason to think that God embedded such information in the human author’s writings beyond the latter’s conscious knowledge.”

This view is possible since God is sovereign and can speak to us how He chooses but is also warranted by the fact that we know God did not make such corrections in many other parts of scripture (Is. 11:12, Psalm 16:7, Gen 1:6, Job 37:18, 1 Chron 16:30; Ps 93:1, 96:10, 104:5, Is 45:8, Mt 4:8, Dan 4:10-11, Rev 6:13-16, 8:10; Mt 2:10, Mt 24:29, Dan 8:10 and so on). God is very much okay with using phenomenological language when it comes to things like “sunrise” and accommodating the beliefs of his people to speak truth through them and move salvation history in the direction He wants. The Bible is unashamedly geocentric and this compelled John Calvin to once opine that people who thought the earth moved were possessed by the devil. We can forgive him of this understandable error and instead focus on a wonderful snippet of his commentary on Psalm 136:

“The Holy Spirit had no intention to teach astronomy; and, in proposing instruction meant to be common to the simplest and most uneducated persons, he made use by Moses and the other Prophets of popular language, that none might shelter himself under the pretext of obscurity . . . the Holy Spirit would rather speak childishly than unintelligibly to the humble and unlearned.”

God accommodated his message through time-conditioned revelation. He speaks to us through a language, culture, and worldview, all of which will be understood slightly differently from person to person. Interacting with people on their level, in their own culture and 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. For a detailed treatment of Biblical accommodation and one attempt at appropriating the with the findings of critical scholarship, I’d recommend Kenton Sparks’ God’s Word in Human Words .


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But, if you got that, wouldn’t that be a creation of your making? We struggle with the scripture, and ultimately learn from it with the help of the Spirit. Perhaps we could say that much of the inspiration takes place within us. Proverbs tells us both to confront and to ignore foolish people, and we have to learn the wisdom needed to know when to do each.
It would be nice if the Bible were an owner’s manual for life, and a lot of people seem to think it is, but ultimately it is not.


What @Benjamin87 wants is what I would probably deem a house built on sand. Many of us sought that at one point only to deconstruct. We thought the Bible was something it was not and more and more studying and discussion caused us to realize it isn’t what we once thought it was.

Benjamin wants facts but “facts” change from person to person, group to group, country to country, culture to culture and over time. The earth is immutable and stands still. Everything must move around it. Oops. Slavery was justified by Biblicists for centuries. Its was factual that God allowed and regulated the practice. They could cite scripture after scripture in line with the convention of the times. Same thing with misogyny and so on. Everybody everywhere seems to think the Bible teaches the “facts” as they know them in all their mutual exclusivity. Even today facts cant convince everyone. Fact to some: masks work. Facts to others: masks don’t work. Fact to some: the US presidential election was rigged. Facts to others: it wasn’t. Global climate change? Now obviously I don’t think all “facts” are created equal and as a science teacher and NT history hobbyist I think some beliefs are much better than others. But its only hubris to imagine we have it all figured out and our “facts” are the correct facts for all time and history. But in the end, there is a lot of diversity in the world so some “facts” might not be all they are cracked up to be. Making faith in God contingent on human ability to get “facts” correct is bad theology to me. We all want truth, and have a tremendous desire not to be duped by a sham, but taking a step back and looking at the big picture may help temper our incessant desire for “facts” and trying to base our faith on them. Whose facts? Is correct doctrine or intellectual head knowledge really that important?

Its on a different subject but I think its relevant what Luke Timothy Johnson writes when discussing whether Christian faith should be dictated by historical studies (facts?) or not: (I bolded the end if the quote is too long):

“. . . historical reconstructions are by their very nature fragile and in constant need of revision. They cannot sustain the commitment of the human heart and life. Even the most casual survey of all the Jesus reconstructions offered just in the last twenty years, furthermore, discovers a bewildering variety of conflicting portraits of Jesus, and a distressing carelessness in the manner of arriving at those portraits. If historians cannot be pious at least about their own trade, why should their suggestions be taken as the guide to religions piety?” A second reason given is that “although the Christian creed contains a number of historical assertions about Jesus, Christian faith as a living religious response is simply not directed at those historical facts about Jesus, or at a historical reconstruction of Jesus. Christian faith is directed to a living person. “The “real Jesus” for Christian faith is the resurrected Jesus . . . Whether Jesus declared himself to be the Messiah during his lifetime is irrelevant: by his resurrection, God has “made him both Lord and Messiah “ (Acts 2:36). Whether Jesus predicted the parousia is irrelevant; it is because he lives now as powerful Lord that the Church expects him to inaugurate God’s final triumph. “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep (1 Thess 4:14).”

Christians direct their faith not to the historical figure of Jesus but to the living Lord Jesus. Yes, they assert continuity between that Jesus and this. But their faith is confirmed, not by the establishment of facts about the past, but by the reality of Christs power in the present. Christian faith is not directed to a human construction about the past; that would be a form of idolatry. Authentic Christian faith is a response to the living God, whom Christians declare is powerfully at work among them through the resurrected Jesus.”

So rather than base it on historical or scientific facts on the past, I tend to go more with the experience of God in the present.

I have been looking at the potential geography snafu in Mark 5:1 and came across something in Robert Steins commentary on Mark that had an interesting take on developing tradition just today. His view is that as canon, its our job to just look at the end story. Mark 5 is a hot mess on many levels. Stein writes:

Due to the geographical and literary problems associated with the story (the name of the region [5:1]; the description of it being near the sea [5:1–2, 13, 18]; the place being near a mountain [5:5, 11] and a steep bank [5:13]) and the apparent disjunction of various elements of the story (the location of the command of exorcism [5:8]; the “two” encounters [5:2, 6]; the differing vocabulary [different words for “tombs” in 5:2, 3–5]; the different descrip- tions of the man as having an “unclean spirit” and being “demonized” [5:2, 8, 13, and 15, 16, 18]), numerous attempts have been made to unravel the present account into different layers of development (cf. Marcus 2000: 347). Some suggest that an original exorcism has over time been transformed into a mission story (Craghan 1968: 534–36). This took place in several stages: (1) There was an original exorcism story of 5:1–2, 7–8, 11, 14–15, 17, 19; (2) this was embellished by midrashic allusions from Isa. 65 to describe the man’s plight in Mark 5:3–6, 9, although some scholars see a greater influence being exercised on the tradition by the account of Pharaoh’s defeat and the drowning of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea (Derrett 1979: 3, 6–8; Marcus 2000: 348–49); (3) when the story was added to the pre-Markan complex in which it is now found, the setting was changed in 5:1–2 and verse 18 was added, as was the drowning of the swine in 5:10, 12–13, 16; and (4) Mark added his redactional comment in 5:8 (Guelich 1989: 273)."

A big mess though there is probably a historical core there. He goes on to write (and I again put the end in bold):

The question of a commentary’s goal comes into play in all of this. Leaving aside the issue of the historical desire to unravel the Traditionsgeschichte of the account and to find out how its final form came into existence, what is the ultimate goal of a commentary? In light of the hypothetical (some would say “extremely hypothetical”) nature of various historical reconstructions, where is the believing community to find a word from God in all this? Is it in the first stage of the tradition? The second? The third? The final? In the original event? If one brings to these questions naturalistic presuppositions, then one can seek some sort of meaning only in either the actual event, a possible accommodation of the writer(s) to his readers’ mythical worldview, or in the subconsciousness that gave birth to the myth. The first possibility confronts the reader with the dilemma of discovering by means of a hypo- thetical reconstruction what supposedly happened and finding some religious value in this completely natural and misunderstood event. Such a rationalistic approach provides little “meaning” for the believing community. The accom- modationist’s attempt to discover religious value in such a text stumbles over the problem of finding value in the gross deception of the biblical authors and the fact that the authors obviously believed that what they wrote truly happened. As to the mythical interpretation, it becomes increasingly difficult to derive deep religious meaning from stories of ignorant writers who were oblivious to the religious truths they were writing, since the surface meaning of the text is so radically different from the supposed substructural meaning of the myth.2 If the goal of a commentary, on the other hand, is to comment on what the Gospel writer was seeking to communicate to his audience by the text he has given them, then we should focus our attention on understand- ing the final form of the text before us. Whatever the legitimacy or value of Traditionsgeschichte, it presents the danger of majoring in minor issues and losing sight of the most important task of the exegete: to understand what the biblical author is seeking to teach by the passage being investigated. It is here that we find a word from God."

To use Steins language, what the Biblical author was trying to teach in Genesis clearly must be understood in its ancient pre-scientific context in light of the complete narrative. We may disagree but I also think we should be looking at the final version (canonical dimension). Once we ask whether the days are long periods or 24 hours we may have already asked the wrong question (as sympathetic as I am to it) and jumped the shark by imposing modern ideas on what the Biblical author meant to teach. He was most certainly not trying to answer questions about the age of the earth or whether or not evolution was true. The text is about God just as the Gospels are about Jesus (whether or not all their plain details actually occurred exactly like that in the past). One can use stories and teach things even if all the details in them are not completely historical or factual. That is a modern preoccupation. No, the Bible is not devoid of history but its primary concern always seems to be God in the present and it uses stories to move people to action. We sometimes lose the forest for the trees.



You keep using that word, I don’t think it means what you think it means.

I’m going to have to take a MASSIVE step away from this line of thought. Facts are absolute truths, whether one believes in them or not. Belief becomes irrelevant when stood next to a fact.

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As for the rest. I appreciate the additions, but I’m left unsatisfied. I am sure an ancient Greek could do a similar job writing a text explaining how Zeus did it all instead, in fact he’d probably get more correct without even trying. What reason do we have to treat the Bible as any more true than Discworld cosmology?
Shame. I don’t know where to go from here, really. I can understand and sympathize with YEC peoples who decide to ignore and deny science in favour of their precious faith. Without it, what are we, right?

There are certain facts the Bible would need to get right if it was inspired. If it doesn’t, then it’s no better than the Koran or an ancient, Indian myth of creation.

Some facts are a little fuzzy for me. I came from an Old Earth Creationism position before Tremper Longman helped me to become open to Evolutionary Creationism in his book Confronting Old Testament Controversies. A book I really liked for how he treated topics on evolution, the Exodus, violence and sexuality.

The fact that matters most is Jesus of course, and you’d be surprised how much hesitancy there is around here to accept the manner in which Peter preached “therefore know for certain.” (Acts 2:36)

People are able to read the Bible as a basically reliable collection of religious texts and by the work of the Spirit be able to receive it with divine authority and then do what they will in trying to understand it as being with or without error. And by the same Spirit seek to understand it more fully. I think it was Genesis 7 that I read one night and I thought I had come to the end of the road. There is no way this can make sense. I dug a little and thankfully found a commentary that explained the chiastic structure of the passage.

It honestly sounds to me like you have a very narrow, Cartesian understanding of inspiration. I have been there before. But scripture isn’t the problem. Your expectation of it is the problem. You have it all backwards. In Christianity we don’t get to boss God around or tell him how he should have inspired the Bible. That is the obvious point of Genesis 1 which you are missing.


I feel pretty much that way about Young Earth creationism. When it became obvious that it was fact that the earth was old and evolution happened, then the only option was to conclude that a literal-historical way of reading Genesis was not a different opinion, it was in fact just wrong. Now, there are lots of things that do not have that level of certainty, and that may be true in different ways depending on perception, but I would agree that other things are fact and truth.

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There may still be literal historical elements to the text. I’m still partial to the view that the darkness which covered the Earth was due to the opaque atmosphere, which became translucent before it became transparent.

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Certainly, historical elements can be intermixed, but I always wonder if those concordant ideas are really just wishful thinking on our part, and really unintentional in the text. I used to think that the wording in verses such as " And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures …" was an indication of evolution, and it still has beauty and meaning to me in that way, but I know in heart that it is more poetic phrasing and not a scientific explanation of origins. I think it can have meaning to us even if the original author did not mean it that way.

I believe Genesis was written in a spirit of prophecy so I would be very surprised if it didn’t convey actual literal and historical truths. I don’t expect it to be scientifically or historically precise, but there is real theological history there.

A dragon tempting human beings to be like God is about as theologically rich as it gets.

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