Why I believe Genesis 1-11 is (embellished) real history

(RiderOnTheClouds) #1

I’m not in the EC crowd which tends to dismiss Genesis 1-11 as pure myth, albeit not without valuable spiritual lessons. I believe the writer of genesis 1-11 understood the characters of primeval history as real figures. Now I don’t believe the earth was made in six days, in a talking snake, a global flood or one language 4000 years ago, but at it’s core, genesis is recalling things which really happened, not without some embellishment of course (accuracy was not the aim of the game in ANE historiography), but the gist of it is real.

I believe this because many of the characters in primeval history appear in 1 Chronicles 1, a chapter with no great lessons to tell, it only mentions their names. Why show them there? Because the author wanted to tell us that they were real.

(Mitchell W McKain) #2

I think the inclusion of a genealogy is even stronger evidence that these are intended to be real historical people who existed at a particular time. In my view, this makes a dismissal of the story as pure myth a little too strong of a dismissal of the book altogether. However the argument that some of the elements of the story are symbolic in nature is quite a different matter.


I tend to agree with you that early Genesis presents a stylized history rich in symbolism as a story of origins for the Hebrew people. I don’t hold to this position dogmatically but I think it best coheres with the rest of scripture as I understand it.

While the first genealogy of 1 Chronicles seems to affirm the historicity of persons mentioned, I don’t think proving their historicity is the main authorial intent. ANE genealogies had a variety of forms and functions so the “plain reading” is not always the best interpretation. I think the main point of the genealogy from 1:2 to 2:2 is to convince the exiles on their return of the continuation of their legitimate status as God’s covenant people.

(George Brooks) #4

To accomplish this defense, you have to accept that the timeline has been manipulated beyond recognition.

[1] Abraham, deep in the bronze age, cavorts with the Philistines? Even though there are no Philistines until 1200 to 1130 BCE?

[2] Abraham pretends to be the brother of his wife, because she’s such a beautiful 68+ year old woman, he is afraid for his life?

[3] You believe Esau exchanged his birthright for a bowl of mush?

[4] You believe Lot’s wife was turned to salt?

[5] You believe in a talking donkey?

Just where do you draw the line in a book like Genesis? I’m not even going to dwell on Jonah…

(Christy Hemphill) #5

To say something is based on real history (i.e. actual individuals who lived at some point) is not the same thing as saying you think everything in the OT should be read at face value as an objective fact. What do you think “embellished” means?

(Doug Webber) #6

The first 11 chapters are symbolic, a mythical history. True history begins with Genesis chapter 12. Moreover chapters 1-11 are based on earlier myths. See Is Genesis Historical? A Revelation from Heaven

(RiderOnTheClouds) #7

Not 1 Chronicles.

Why not the other way around?


What makes 1 Chronicles historical? Could it not be simply a retelling of the mythical history?

I noticed that genealogy wasn’t mentioned until verse 29. Could that be an indication of where the actual history begins?

(RiderOnTheClouds) #9

The genealogy begins in 1 Chronicles 1:1.

(Mitchell W McKain) #10

That is like saying were no such things as doctors before 1796 (when vaccines where invented), or like saying that there are no such things as Persians in this day and age. It is a chicken and the egg sort of fallacy. We are talking about things which have a long history of change and continuity both. So there is less reality in the arbitrary lines you are drawing than in the statements of the Bible.

There are numerous puzzles with regards to statements of people’s ages in the early part of this text, but that is no reason to think that the story isn’t essentially historical. Though, of course, this is far more likely to be put in the category of a tale than history, and I am not even sure it fits the modern category of biography.

People do much crazier things than this. I don’t find anything particularly unbelievable about that.

First of all these are stories in which people tell us what they see and not some science text which give a reasonable account of why they see what they see. Sometimes bizarre events like manna falling from the sky can be found to have perfectly reasonable scientific explanations. For example, the pillar of fire following the Israelites at night and a pillar of cloud by day sounds an awful lot like a nearby volcanic eruption to me. This pillar of salt is no exception to such speculations.

No. Nor do I believe in talking snakes. But I do believe in a spiritual aspect to our existence and that people can experience this aspect of our existence is great variety of ways. For example, I have no reason to believe in fairies, ghosts, or UFOs, but this does not mean that the limits of my experience define the limits of reality. Though the lack of objective evidence does strongly suggest to me that these are in the category of spiritual experience. The talking donkey like the talking snake may be just a literary device, or it could be a actual experience. I am reminded of that TV show “Wonder falls” where a girl experiences inanimate objects talking to her.

(Doug Webber) #11

Because the Sumerian myths are much older, Moses we can date to the 16th-15th centuries B.C. However prior to Moses there were earlier revelations, and in those ancient times they always wrote things down in a mythical style.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #12

They may have been written down before, but they could still be recalling the events Genesis talks about.

(George Brooks) #13


You can date Moses to 16th to 15th centuries?

How do you do that? Here are verses, one from 2 different chapters in Exodus:

Exodus 13:17 - And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the Way of the Land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt:

Exodus 23:31 - And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee.

It is now well established that the Philistines were not well entrenched on the southern coast of the Levant until about 1130 BCE:

  **[Be sure to click on image for maximum legibility!]**

(Doug Webber) #14

The Pentateuch was not finalized, as far as I know, until the 6th century B.C. So there are references there that would be known at the time they were finalized, but may not represent the actual places name or people. You cannot use that reference as a sole source for chronology.

(George Brooks) #16

Absolutely … I would be the first one to agree to that @Doug_Webber.

But the same reasoning that makes you think there are things that wouldn’t be known … is the same reason why you can’t rely on writings from the 500s BCE to conclude that Moses existed during the Hyksos period of Egypt.

Are you claiming Moses left Egypt before or after the Hyksos were expelled?