Young Earth Creation: History or Myth?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, July 18, 2014 2 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

Psalms 11:3: “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

Many of you have noticed that Bill Seng, Steve Risner, and I have been addressing a lot of different issues about the Bible, Evolution, and many origins issues. As Christians, why are discussions about origins so important? Why can’t we just focus on the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ? Why can’t we just say “God created the universe and that is that”? Our view of origins actually directly affects how we live our lives, and as Christians, the model of origins we believe in also affects our view and our ability to live the Christian walk. I will emphasize that “age of the earth” is not the central issue, but a fruit of central issues. If we get those central issues in order, the age of the earth will take care of itself. I also want to emphasize that discussing origins ultimately means nothing for a Christian if we do not intend to point to Christ through it all.

In the last three weeks, I briefly talked about differences with the Old Earth Creation models and Scripture. I could not get into all the details without making each post 10x longer, but the common theme I demonstrated was that these Old Earth Models trust in the knowledge and wisdom in man to tell us how to read Scripture instead of taking Scripture as the highest authority and building a model based on that. There is one model that does start with Scripture and tests all things with Scripture: Young Earth Creation, or as Ken Ham would prefer it to be called, Biblical Creation. The moniker Young Earth Creation (or YEC) was coined in the late 19th century in response to the Old Earth Models, however the position that YEC takes is the same position that the church and the history of the Jewish nation held. It was not until the last 200 years that the “age of the earth” was even an issue. The debate in the early church was between a 6-day creation and an instantaneous creation, but the age of the earth was never up for discussion, until recently.

So with this post, I am starting a new series about YEC, why I hold it, why it is the model that best fits the records of the Bible, and why it is important for Bible-believing Christians to hold it for their model of origins. And this does play a role with Christ at the cross. But first, I am going to discuss one of the major challenges to the YEC position: Is Genesis 1-11 historical or mythical? A record of history, or an allegory?

I am a published author and I know a thing or two about myths, allegories, metaphors, etc. A myth is a grand story that may have some basis on historical events but the intention of the account is not to tell factual history. The Odyssey is a myth that may have had some historical truth but was never intended to be told as truth. An allegory uses a fictitious tale to describe how something may look like in the real world. The Chronicles of Narnia has allegorical elements in how Aslan deals with the Pevensie children. A metaphor uses a picture of something that is well-known and well-understood to describe something that is abstract and more complex.

When I see people object to YEC claims and suggest that Genesis 1-11 is allegorical or metaphorical, I have to suggest that these people do not understand these terms. If the Creation account is allegorical or metaphorical, what is the picture that is trying to be described? In Jesus’ parables, we see this done right. Because, with understanding of the culture of the time, Jesus’ parables give us a clear understanding of what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. He took something that was well known and well established and used it to describe how his Kingdom works.

But Genesis does not do this. The idea here is that the people of the OT did not understand modern science so God had to give them a myth, an allegory, a metaphor, and idiom, until they could understand the “deeper meaning.” However, the “deeper meaning” being referenced here is the secular account of origins which looks absolutely nothing like what is described in Genesis 1-2. I mentioned this in my post on Progressive Creation two weeks ago. The order of creation is very different in all the Old Earth models than in the Biblical account. It’s not just an interpretation issue. It is a total structure issue. The YEC model is the only origins model that actually follows the order of Creation in Genesis 1.

So now, we have to address the myth vs. history aspect. A myth may have started out as history but that aspect is lost over time with embellishment and such. With accounts like Sodom and Gomorrah, the Crossing of the Red Sea, the Conquest of Jericho, and more and more in the Bible, Creation is not the only account that would suggest “myth” in Genesis. But myth has no intention of showing history. All of Genesis and many other books of the Old Testament clearly show history. The genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11, along with the annals of the Judges and the Kings, show history. The genealogies of Genesis are repeated in Luke’s genealogy of Jesus. And in Middle Eastern and African cultures, genealogies are among the most valued historical documents you can have. They prove your lineage of where you came from. Jesus had to be of the lineage of Adam to be able to cover for the sins from Adam. I will go into detail on that later. So Genesis 1-11 can’t be a myth.

Some argue that Genesis 1-11 is poetic. However, there is a problem. In Hebrew, there is a very distinctive difference in writing style between historical narrative and poetic genres. The RATE Project comprised of eight years of studying radioactive decay and the dating methods involved there, comparing it to the Genesis account. One of their studies was a statistical analysis of the styles of verbs used in historical passages (such as Joshua, Samuel, Kings, etc) with poetic passages (such as Psalms, Hannah’s Prayer in 1 Samuel 2, Deborah’s Song in Judges 5, etc.) And what they discovered is that Genesis 1 in particular shows more verbs that were used in historical narrative passages than most of the passages analyzed. This can be checked out in the book or DVD “Thousands not Billions.

A very important thing to note is that Hebrew is a pictographic language. Each word and each letter of Hebrew is a picture or even an idiom. If you have time or interest to check out how this works, no single source I know of better illustrates this concept than Eric Ludy’s sermon “The Cry of the Roman Soldier,” a study on the word “Amen.” Hebrew uses pictures and idioms as a basis for their language. And this is completely independent of genre. This understanding of Hebrew cannot be used to determine what genre a text is because it is used universally in all genres.

A final thing I will address here is that no Bible scholar questions the historical account of Genesis from Genesis 12 on. Genesis 12 is when the scope of the Biblical account narrows from a worldwide account and zooms in on Abraham, the Father and Progenitor of the Hebrew Nation from whom Christ would come. Prior to that, there is absolutely no logical break, no visual cue to suggest there is a change in genre. Abraham’s name is listed in the Genesis 11 Genealogy and it is written in the same style as the rest of the book. An interesting observation is that the translators from Hebrew to English saw the differences in the genres as well. Look in your Bibles. You will see that historical narrative passages are written in standard paragraph form like any other book and poetic passages are written in a very distinct poetic form. You can visually see the differences in the genre.

The reality is, Genesis is historical narrative. It is not poetic, it is not mythical, it is not allegorical, and it is not metaphorical. It records history. And it is this history that forms the roots of everything Christians believe. I will have another post on that particular aspect soon. It was treated as history by every author of the Bible who referenced it, including Luke, Peter and Paul. Jesus himself did too. If they treated Genesis has history, so should we.


Bob Sorensen said...

When people want to say that Genesis is mythology or allegory, it is up to them to substantiate the claim. Also, as you said, why is Genesis 12 onward any different than the first 11 chapters? It is clearly written as history. I am glad you pointed out at the end that Jesus and the others took it as literal history. In fact, there is no hint anywhere in the Bible that the opening chapters are anything other than history. I strongly recommend Refuting Compromise by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati, which dismisses so many of the strange claims that compromisers and mockers will make. Not only in examination of the text, but with science as well.

Charlie said...

I find frequently that those who suggest Genesis is anything but history demonstrate a very lack of knowledge of literary genres and terms. Ultimately, especially in the allegory and metaphorical claims (but in the others as well) in order for such claim to be substantiated, they are effectively calling God a bad writer. Genesis simply cannot be a picture of any sort of the Old Earth Models because they are SO different. And anytime someone suggests it could be by suggesting it is allegorical, metaphorical, idiomatic, etc, etc, they either do not understand the term or they are calling God a bad author. I'll stick with what God plainly says.

The Bible was written to a group of people intended to be read aloud and for the people to understand it. The amazing thing is when these people who are really smart people are able to get into the depths of the meaning of the Cross but can't figure out how to read Genesis. It shows there is a mental roadblock and that roadblock is listening to what others say the Bible says instead of listening to what the Bible says the Bible says.