Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Why would God use a human-made construct of time to create all of time and matter? Yet in our eagerness to bring the intriguing stories of Genesis to life, we often get it wrong. Re: Genesis: Literal or Contextual? The topic of whether we should take Genesis 1 to be literal or allegorical can be traced back for centuries. Abraham, known primarily from Genesis 12-23, is referred to over 70 times in the New Testament as a real person, to whom God made irrevocable promises, from whom the Israelites were physically descended, and after whom our faith is to be modeled. the non-literal reading of Genesis is just as false as the metaphorical one. Because the purpose of Moses in writing Genesis was not to produce a paean of praise as here, but to create a reliable literal historic record, and to do so he wrote in Hebrew prose. It seems to me that the best understanding of Genesis is that it is a theological polemic in response to ancient near eastern cosmogonies. Again, if Adam is only metaphorical, if Adam was nonexistent, if Adam was not a real person, what are we to think of all the other people in this genealogical line? Some of the most well-known Rabi’s and church fathers throughout history have written about this allegorical interpretation– namely, 4th century Saint Augustine, 1st century Philo, and 3rd century Origen of Alexandria. The reason for understanding Genesis figuratively stems from three reasons each to be addressed in turn: 1) there are two distinct creation accounts; 2) Genesis 1 contains semi-poetic language, while Genesis 2 reads like a narrative; and 3) the genealogies in Genesis are not necessarily a literal transcription of familial lineage. Genesis was clearly intended to be taken by its author as history, and it was clearly taken to be such by both the Israelites and the apostles, and further, by Jesus Himself. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are even referred to by Jesus Himself as living people in Matthew 22:32, Mark 12:26-27, and Luke 20:37-38. Genesis 1: 9 ‘And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered in one place, and let dry ground appear” and it was so.’ Not much to say here, we have the waters under the sky being gathered, presumably talking about oceans, though this notably leaves out water under the ground i.e. In Genesis 1:24, we have man being created after all other animals. Had a discussion with an atheist. My only request is that you pray for spiritual guidance, since the Holy Spirit can teach us what our pride usually rejects. Change ), You are commenting using your Facebook account. Without a literal interpretation of the Creation account, the fall of Adam, and the flood during the days of Noah the rest of Scripture is just nonsense. Of course, symbolic images in dreams or visions do occur within the story - but they are usually interpreted immediately in the text itself. Lets look at the accounts found with in Genesis and its literal aspects; GEN 2:4 This is the - account - of the heavens and the earth when they were created. I told him, “hey, if it was not for the Holy Spirit working on my heart, I’d probably be an agnostic atheist too, man. Genesis 1:11-12 states, “Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. But it is clear that we cannot require a strictly literal reading. The Lord of the Rings has sold many, many copies. kind of thing. One of the primary purposes of providing such genealogies is to tie the people and events therein to history. Given his out-of-hand dismissal of any of my speculation (as well as any of my analogies, and ofc he won’t let go of any of his assumptions or framework behind his logic). Take a look at how one scholar discusses the relationship between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. You have a supposed account of six ’24 hour days’ yet the sun was not created until the 3rd day which would make the first 2 days impossible or, at best, very improbable. But, that certainly does not mean there is no truth. I pointed out his a priori assumptions of “God’s actions must be rational to us” or “our logic is infallible” or “if I was God, I’d do XYZ; God did not do XYZ, therefore God is not good or not real” etc., I pointed out the assumption that “one must always be literal when possible & as accurate to reality as possible always” i.e. Why not? The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good.” Now, the reason this is odd is because this verse is implying that the earth “brought” these things forth within this single day of creation. If Genesis is literal, how do you reconcile that with science (age of the earth, etc?) Meaning, God never actually rests which would be a metaphorical set-up for practicing the Sabbath. Return to text. Far from it. How could these plants and vegetations “come forth” in 24 hours? A similar genealogy is provided in Genesis 5, from Adam to Noah, making it clear that not only did Luke want his book to be taken as history, but the author of Genesis desired that his book be understood in the same manner -- as a historical narrative. He can pick any place where God/author says/writes something that is not scientifically accurate & say “there! The common belief regarding the first chapter of Genesis is that it points to a literal seven day creation, and that God rested on that literal seventh day, after completing day six. Genesis 1:3 – And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. Are they also metaphorical or nonexistent? Hosea 6:2 uses the same word in the same sort of setting and it is undoubtedly used in a metaphorical way. It seems erroneous and somewhat uncanny. 2 thoughts on “ Why Genesis 1 is Not Literal ” McFarvo May 26, 2015 at 4:41 am. Wit… Just Give Me Evidence! Twitter feed. Arguments and Evidence – Should an Argument Be Considered “Evidence”? The literal, clearly indicated, meaning of yom for Genesis one must be an unspecified, long period of time. When Augustine described his later works on Genesis as “literal,” he intended to distinguish them from the allegorical approach of his earlier two-volume work on Genesis against the Manichees. You also have an internal contradiction on how God formed both plants and animals. A similar genealogy is provided in Genesis 5, from Adam to Noah, making it clear that not only did Luke want his book to be taken as history, but the author of Genesis desired that his book be understood in the same manner -- as a historical narrative. Why not say “I created the sun, which gives light to the Earth in the day” not all this weird out of order, highly figurative stuff. Some people at this point would interject that all you need for a day is to have “light” and “darkness” which were made in the first day, but this goes against the very definition of what a day is: “the interval of light between two successive nights; the time between sunrise and sunset” via http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/day. The Creation of Adam | Michelangelo. Play nice and we won't delete your comment. He claims that even 1 error in the Bible invalidates the entire religion. ‘If Christians don’t believe in a literal Genesis, they have no foundation for their doctrine’ Creationist Ken Ham discusses his belief in a 6,000-year-old Earth, what might have happened if Noah ‘had swatted those two mosquitoes’ and why he views the Bible’s opening 11 chapters as so important. But, we can go further– looking into the literary devices used in Genesis 1 that can make a positive case for an allegorical interpretation. Profanity is prohibited, along with any kind of threat, Genesis 1:4 – And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. In other words, the Big Bang can only be true if the God of scripture exists. wrong!” & the burden of proof is on us to explain why a god would lie/expressthingsthatway (after all, adults of the Bronze Age were smarter than children of today, yet children of today are taught science). -the seventh day God rests as a pure act. So, these first two days are either impossible or not 24 hour days. Yet, in an interesting paradox, if the God of scripture exists, the Big Bang cannot be completely accurate, given God's own clear account of His creation in the book of Genesis. You’re swayed one way or another by things outside of yourself.” Of course, this is irrelevant to the argument. Sometimes there is not literal truth. 47 comments. Sometimes there is literal truth. Why explain “God made matter & energy, singularity, big bang, form stars, stars make elements, make planets, our star is the source of light & energy for our planet, formed over billions of years, life, speciation, etc.” vs the Genesis 1 & 2 accounts of creation. Before we answer the question, it’s helpful to recall that there are two ways of understanding creation (or two “levels” of creation). Anyhow, what are your thoughts? Some like to interject that recent scientific discoveries in geology, cosmology, and biology have forced Christians to change their interpretation in order to find harmony with science. Secondly, lets look at the contradictions between the two creation accounts of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Love genetics, evolutionary biology and the biomedical sciences. poetry or figurative language is a no-no. Biblical creationists often refer to their interpretation of Genesis 1 as “literal.” However, because of the caricature and negative connotations with this label, it is better to describe it as a grammatical-historical interpretation. ( Log Out /  He held that if the eternity of the universe (what we would call the Steady State theory) could be proven by logic (science) then the biblical passages speaking about creation at a point in time could and should be interpreted fig… I hope you're not equating volume of sales with truth? “Christians are Retarded” and Other Stupid Things People Say, On Interacting With Street Epistemologists, A Manual for Creating [totally unreasonable] Atheists, Consider the Following – Ham Vs Nye Debate. You are about to read the Genesis creation account and see (probably) for the first time what the text really says. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology student. The question needs to be asked, if Genesis is an allegory or a parable does it say it is? How about you write up your "disproof" of Darwinian Evolution in a paper, get it published in a reputable, peer-reviewed journal, then sit back and wait for the Nobel Prize that you so obviously richly deserve, all the while enjoying the silence as every single atheist in the world shuts their trap. This is all well-and-good given/assuming that the Bible is true/infallible (if it is not, then there is no reason to cling to it). Copy held by the author. In addition to being added to this page, your comment will also show up in our Let’s set aside any other issues with taking Genesis 1 literally that don’t have to deal with scripture itself. -the sun and moon are commanded to “rule” over the day and night (v. 16 and 18) as if referring to animate people. In Luke 3, the "beloved physician" Luke provides a Genealogy of Jesus including his step-father Joseph, King David, his father Jesse, Boaz (husband of Ruth), Judah, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Shem, Noah, Seth, and (yes) Adam. In order for a person to accept evolution as the beginning of creation it is necessary for one to first reject God's words which describe in detail how it was done. There are numerous reasons why we should doubt Genesis 1 is a historical narrative. However, what if you do not assume the Bible is true? Genesis 1:5 – And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. Learning to read according to the right genre is key to understanding what the Bible has to say to us today. For the Christian, the reality, historical reliability, and veracity of Genesis is absolutely beyond question. Why did God choose to write Genesis 1 & 2 the way He did? The Apostle Paul compares Jesus to Adam in the book of Romans, chapter 5, verses 12-21, and in such a fashion that if Adam were not a real man, one would have to conclude that Christ were not either. The Problems for Literal, Chronological Days The first common objection is, "Genesis 2:4 speaks of the entire creation week as a 'day,' showing that 'day' may not be literal." The Apostle Peter (in 1 Peter 3:19-20 and 2 Peter 2:5) refers to the flood of Noah, which we are told about in Genesis 7 and 8, as an actual historical event. Change ), You are commenting using your Twitter account. Why not? TDOT 6:15). But, is this true? I conjectured that God thought His accounts to be the most suitable vehicles for delivering the truly important facts that 1) God exists, 2) God created, 3) Man sinned, etc. Genesis is nonliteral. First off, let’s look at the internal contradictions of chapter 1 if we take it to be a historical narrative. I don’t know why God did what He did. How about this, Tim? It just doesn't make sense to me. Read Romans 5, a comparison between Jesus and Adam. Get out your Bibles and be prepared for a shock. I guessed perhaps that the Bronze Age contemporaries held a paradigm that would make another explanation unpalatable, in addition to the monotheism. In response, the phrase here is actually b e yom, an idiomatic expression meaning "when" (NIV, NRSV, NAB; cp. To take Genesis as non-literal is to open it up to endless fantastic interpretations. What makes these patterns so fascinating is that they are actually embedded in real history. Letter from Professor James Barr to David C.C. This is problematic for the person who thinks these are 24-hour days. Having now read points 3 and 4 of my conditions, and having read my opinion on evolution, it should be clear what my stance is: Genesis is not literal history. In the Middle Ages, Saadia Gaon argued that a biblical passage should not be interpreted literally if that made a passage mean something contrary to the senses or reason (or, as we would say, science; Emunot ve-Deot, chapter 7). Here are five mistakes to avoid in teaching Genesis to children. Equally obvious is the fact that Genesis is not written in this style. So talking about Washington crossing the Delaware is literal. What if the burden of proof is on us to prove the Bible is true? I've been on the fence about Genesis for ages. However, when read in its context, the literary genre of Genesis 1 should be understood as a historical a… (He claims my assertions or speculations about “God/Master vs Man/Dog” or “explain it to an ant” or “the squirrel cannot fathom the blue whale” etc., but he rejects all “appeals to ignorance” or “God’s ways are a mystery to us”.) This is why I believe that the day-age Genesis one interpretation is the only biblically sound interpretation for the creation of the world and life on it. Some of the most well-known Rabi’s and church fathers throughout history have written about this allegorical interpretation– namely, 4th century Saint Augustine, 1st century Philo, and 3rd century Origen of Alexandria. A literal version of the first eleven chapters of Genesis is foundational to the rest of the Bible. How we do respond to non-believers who claim that any problem in Genesis anywhere then invalidates the whole Bible, thus destroying Christianity? This is all well-and-good given/assuming that the Bible is true/infallible (if it is not… If it’s literal, it was meant as “this actually happened”, reporting on the facts, etc. Rather, they were former slaves—mostly uneducated— on their way to … ( Log Out /  Does it say that Genesis is not a parable? None of the interpretations of Genesis 1 has explained everything. However, the description of those events is symbolic since the author uses rhetorical and literary techniques. Many Christians today seek to compromise the message of God with modern theories like Darwinian Evolution or the Big Bang. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/day, Incorporating Adam and Eve With Evolution. -there is some figurative language used throughout including anthropomorphic statements as if God is actually “speaking,” “seeing,” and “feeling” like humans do. You don’t. Please leave a comment. But, is this true? He dismissed all of this. Two last quick notes- It seems somewhat absurd that God would create the earth in six literal 24-hour days when, in reality, units of time such as “hours,” “days,” and “weeks” are merely human constructs to measure time. Oh, we might get the literal facts right, but we can easily miss the mark on interpretation and application. EVIDENCE EVIDENCE EVIDENCE! I know that there is no formal position on if Creation in Genesis is to be taken literally or not. For those that don’t think Genesis is literal, how would this affect the doctrine of original sin? Also, there is a lot of controversy over the Hebrew word yom which Genesis 1 uses for “day.” And, as i’ve done some research on this word, it seems clear to me that we do not have to take this to be a literal 24 hour day (though it is used for that purpose other times in the OT). Change ), You are commenting using your Google account. If Adam and Eve weren’t literal, it seems the ramifications would tear at the doctrine of original sin and make it not literal … It is both real and symbolic. The high level of (supposed) figurative and pictorial language means that the passage, therefore, should not be seen as literal. Yet, in Genesis 2:18-19, we have man being created before all other animals. Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Future Doctor. What then? Anyone that knows anything about plantation or gardening  knows that it takes months for plants and vegetation to fully grow. If not, does it say anything at all about what Genesis is? If Genesis is not literal, though, why bother providing the reader with specific measurements for the ark or the genealogies of people who never existed? Note that Prof. Barr does not claim to believe that Genesis is historically true; he is just telling us what, in his … -the way the text is written (the constant repetitions of certain phrases and statements) implies a style which is very synonymous to a blend of prose and poetry (simply in how it’s constructed). It’s not that we are reading an allegorical interpretation into the text (via eisegesis), we are reading the text and coming away believing it’s allegorical because that’s the only way it could internally make sense. It is real in that it describes events that truly took place but symbolic in that it does not recount an exact scientific and historical rendering of events. He claimed it was meant to be literal (challenge: prove him wrong), so every factual inaccuracy thus invalidates the entire Bible, thus destroys all biblical religion. I think this is also a good argument that suggests the author wasn’t actually writing about literal days. They’re reporting an event as factual history that happened. He focused in particular on Genesis 1 where God made light before ever making the sun, which of course doesn’t make logical/chronological sense. I don’t. Or, just do an internet search on “ … Related. For instance, Genesis 1:20 claims (KJV) that the sea “brings forth” the “moving creatures that hath life” yet, in the very next verse, Genesis 1:21 claims God supernaturally made every animal- “God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth.” There seems to be a contradiction within these two accounts. Where is the flaw in the argument against a "metaphoric reading of Genesis"? Is God not free, therefore not morally perfect? There are patterns and symbols throughout the Bible, from the life of Moses to the life of David to the life of Jesus, all of which are equally literal and symbolic. To answer that, we should remember that the original readers of Genesis were not scientists or Hebrew scholars. What I mean by “literal” and “nonliteral” is fairly distinct. To further support this view many Christians don’t even take the bible as a literal interpretation. This helps us to see that the properly literal meaning of a text need not be the same as the meaning that lies on the surface. The difficulties involved in literalism show that the account is not intended strictly literally. The Genesis Record, p. 97. General interests in apologetics and philosophy. Is Genesis 1 a Literal Account of Creation? I was primarily talking about genetics, biological evolution, saying that God had no good reason to spend time crafting a scientific manual explaining these processes & facts when they are largely irrelevant (and certainly non-essential) to the narrative of God, Man, Sin, Israel, Gospel. We don’t choose what we believe. We can also look at Genesis 1:11-12 to see some uncanny things happening if this is a historical narrative. terrorist communication, etc, etc. He then claimed that the burden of proof was on me to explain why God wouldn’t just tell the truth when it came to these matters. I’ll just quickly highlight a couple that standout: If God is both transcendent and immanent—and far beyond us in creativity— we should expect that there are numberless things built into the creation and its history that uniquely reveal Hi… Hello readers, literal or allegorical? These works had included such ideas as taking the days of Genesis 1 as 7 epochs of redemptive-historical history, and 7 stages of the Christian life.De Genesis contra Manichaeos 1.23.35-1.25.43, in Augustine, On Genesis, 62-68. Watson of the UK, dated 23 April 1984. Change ). If there was no REAL Adam and Eve, then there was no REAL "disobeying god" then there was no REAL "sin", so, there is no reason for a savior to save people from something that did not actually happen. Thus we see that when the Christian regards the evidence in its proper context, internal and external, Genesis must be taken literally because of the impossibility of the contrary. ( Log Out /  When God described to us creation he wasn't forced to give us details, but God did us details. If Christians don't read Genesis 1-11 as literal, scientific or historical documents, does this undermine the reliability of the Bible? Is it unbiblical that God grounds moral goodness? The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a … If those people had the capacity to understand a truthful creation story, why use one that is so flawed/illogical/nonsense? What does this mean for our interpretation of Genesis 1—3? Moreover, by and large, the objections to Genesis 1 being understood as a straightforward historical account are primarily driven by the desire to make it fit with an evolutionary view of the world. And the evening and the morning were the first day. Quite simply, it keeps our attention on the communication act between Moses and the generation of Israelites he led into the Sinai desert. 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