Which view of Genesis 1-11 do you favor and why?

I notice that people who think as we do in the Biologos fashion tend to have two interpretations of Genesis 1-11. There is the mythic view and the mytho-historical view.

The mytho-historical view is the view that the events of Genesis 1-11 describe historical events that happened in the Middle East or the Mediterranean world at the most and that these historical events are mixed in with mythical and figurative language. In this view, many would say that Adam and Eve were not the first humans but the ancestral figures of everyone in the Middle East and the Mediterranean and that original sin was Adam and Eve failing at their election to represent all of humanity as priest kings in the Garden of Eden. My favorite Christian apologist Inpiringphilosophy holds this view.

The Mythic view would state that though there are historical memories in Genesis 1-11, the characters found within are ahistorical such as Adam and Eve just being archetypes for all of humanity and that Genesis 1-11 should be understood mostly figuratively and as a work of theology or as a myth (understood not as an untruth but as a deeper truth expressed through stories and figurative language.)

Which view do you favor and why? Or do you take another view?

What historical memories?

I suggest there could be at least one more additional category to the two (‘mythic’ and ‘mytho-historical’) that you put forward. There is something that might be labeled ‘agnostic-historical’ (I’m sure there would be a much better name) for any who either don’t know or aren’t bothered by which parts of or how much of the early Genesis accounts are historical. They see more important teachings and truth being put forward and are willing to let the historicity question go either way - or even remain unanswered.


Much of my life, I would probably have been placed in the mytho-historical camp, but find that as time goes on, I have drifted more into the mythic category for 1-11, with the rest of Genesis being mytho-historical.
I now feel 1-11 was written for theology, not history, and does not address historical events at all, though they may well be trying to explain who we are and how we got here from a retrospective viewpoint when written. That does not rule out there being a man and woman who were first endowed with the image of God, but the text maintains its full meaning whether or not that was the case.
Despite that being my leaning, I like Mervin am pretty flexible on it, though would be more agnostomythic than agnostic-historical. :wink:


I am view it as mythology and loose history wrote to tell a hyperbolic folktale to better understand theology. I believe the patterns it sets helps to understand the rest of the Bible. Like the earth coming out of the water, the ark saving people from a flood, moses in a basket being saved floating down a river, Christians being baptized into Christ through immersion in water. All things tied to water being used to represent escaping from evil, sin or chaos and resulting in a life that would have otherwise been extinguished continuing to exist.

Adam and Eve are real people and the events are real but the story is full of symbolism as acknowledged elsewhere in the Bible. There are no magical fruits giving knowledge and eternal life comes from a relationship with God not from a fruit on a tree. There are no talking animals, just spiritual beings that can speak to us in a variety of ways. We are descended biologically from common ancestors with rest of life on the planet and not from golems created by necromancy. The breath of life from God is the inspiration of His teaching bringing our minds to life, and not some magical life stuff turning inanimate objects into living creatures.

Compare it with the myth of Santa Claus. Real person - Saint Nicholas. No flying reindeer, elves, or workshop on the north pole - just a regular human being becoming a catalyst for a knot of ideas that changed humanity all over the world forever.

The general methodology here is to take the Bible seriously with the science as the perceptive filter for understanding what is real (without science dictating the limits of reality beyond what it has actually established). Accordingly there is absolutely no reason not to believe most of the people in the stories are real, but good reason to doubt that God violated the very laws of nature He created just to impress ignorant savages who wouldn’t know the difference anyway. It is a matter of deriving the greatest meaning from the stories you can as real people and events without the disconnect that magic makes with reality as we all experience it – with only the kind of miracles which we experience as Christians in our own lives.

So take the story of Noah for example. There wasn’t even a notion of the earth as a planet when this was written. Described as a table with corners, the earth is clearly only a small portion of what we call the earth in modern times. Huge devastating floods happen all the time with tremendous loss of life wiping out entire cities and thus could easily wipe out the earliest human civilization, with a person Noah managing to save His family and animals known in the area where he lived. But there is simply no reason to imagine this flood covered the planet or reduced humanity to a single family which does not agree with the scientific evidence.

Clearly mythological and based off of similar stories in the area, some much older. Further, there is absolutely no way to substantiate the historicity of any characters involved using standard methods. When I see people discussing details of the garden story I can’t help but think that’s like asking about Jack’s beanstalk.

At best, in a round about fashion a Christian could argue Jesus mentioned Adam and Noah and therefore, both must be historical individuals.

I think that misinterprets the nature of the incarnated Jesus, however. He probably, incorrectly accepted the factuality of many Old Testament stories as did his contemporaries. Jesus was sinless, not omniscient. He also corrected portions of the OT so clearly we cannot affix modern inerrancy to his ideology.

That sounds superpositioned. Real and not real, literal and allegorical. Gap theory. I had that cake and ate it for decades too.

Genesis was literal and historical.

It seems someone here posted about the ridiculous ages given for those before the flood of Genesis. Of course, Moses was a barely literate caveman and not a physics or math major. He couldn’t have been smart enough to know the following.

Hey Patrick, you may be interested to know that the reported decay curve in Genesis was discussed quite rigorously back in Sept '19. The thread was a long one. As a result, the link below takes you to the point where the discussion begins to focus on the statistics of the curve itself:

If you find something within the thread you would like to interact with, feel free to quote it in a new topic. :+1:t2:


I agree that Genesis 1-11 is only concerned with “the Middle East or the Mediterranean world at the most.” But I think it’s basically literal. For examples: “the heavens” in the summary statement of 1:1, are literally “the heavens” where the birds fly (1:20) and are literally where the “lights” appeared (1:14-17). There’s no mention of the sun or moon on Day Four; only their light was made to be seen in the lower atmosphere. The revealing (barah) of local land in 1:1, literally came true in 1:9, when God gathered the water “into one place.”

So, you’re going to decide what fits into Genesis 1-11 or not, too?

I’ve said nothing about Genesis 1-11. Rather, I was sign posting you to previous content in which I thought you might be interested - which is part of my responsibilities as a moderator. I was also aware that it was a popular topic for discussion last time, so recommended a new post so that any thoughts you might have would garner maximum interest/interaction. I didn’t want what you might have to say to be unintentionally lost in a topic that seems to be more about generalities than specifics.

In short, I was trying to be nice. :slight_smile:

Sorry. Most of my interactions with mods here have ben anything but. I may be getting a complex.

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Just finished @DOL Denis Lamoureux’s book the Bible and Ancient Science , and recommend it highly to those interested in the subject. He makes a good case that neither what we often call a literal view held by YEC , nor a concordant old earth view makes sense when you look at how the original audience would have read it in the context of how they understood creation. I still feel that there might be historical roots imbedded in the story, but the meaning and message is not dependent on that position.

Thanks for reading my book Phil. The tendency to align Scripture and reality is deeply embedded in our epistemological category of correspondence. I get it. It took me years to hold that in check. As well, it also took me years to appreciate the category of story in Gen 2-4. But with that said, I think things start lining up with Abraham about Genesis 12 onward.

I suppose I hold a blend of the two. What sparked this opinion on this was the story of Cain and Abel and how Cain was so concerned that others would kill him. My immediate question to this was “what others?” Why wouldn’t he have said something like, “My parents are going to kill me!” Also, there is the concern of Cain’s wife. Where did she come from? I think this clues the reader in that these are not literal figures. So then, I have to believe that these are archetypes - but I don’t think that these are elaborate theological tales. I think that these are based on oral traditions and family histories that have some basis in truth.

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Welcome to the forum, @Psquared. Good to hear your voice. We miss a lot in the English translation, and it leads to adding a lot that may not really be there also. One of the things we tend to overlook is the very descriptive names in the original Hebrew of Adam (Man or humanity, and a play on words for dirt) and Eve (Life or Mother of Life), and Cain (lance, or spear) and Abel (breath or vapor) If we read the story with those descriptive names, the archetypical reading would seem quite natural.
Also, I agree that they were based on oral traditions, and if memory serves, Genesis 2 is thought to be from David’s time, and Genesis 1 thought to be from the exile or post exilic time with a redactor putting them together with no real concern for the obvious conflicting timeline etc, which would be the case if they were writing in a non-literal sense.

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