The Genesis Myth, Part 1

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, July 25, 2019 8 comments


by Steve Risner

“That's your interpretation,” is a very common response when I explain what Genesis tells us about the creation event and that the text was written as a historical narrative. This has always been a strange response, in my opinion. We're not talking about some hard to decipher or highly encrypted information. We're not looking at some natural phenomenon we know little about. We're talking about a very specific communication from God Himself about how and when He created the heavens, earth, seas, and all that is in them. It's pretty obvious, when other books of the Bible make references to Genesis that they're viewing it as real history that actually took place. God seems to think the creation event itself was fairly important. He points back to it throughout the entire Bible including the New Testament. Every single New Testament writer makes mention of creation and/or the Flood somehow. Jesus mentions creation and even people closely associated with it as though He thought the events and people were real history.

So, what's the deal? Is it really that crazy to think that the text means exactly what it says? Those same folks that tell me, “That's your interpretation,” rarely if ever offer up what their interpretation is. They may say the text is misinterpreted through our “modern Western” eyes or that it's allegory or mythology or folklore, but this fails to answer the question. I don't get a straight answer on what the “proper” interpretation is; I'm just told mine is wrong. Since we know the three most important things to consider when reading a section of the Bible are context, context, context, what does the context tell us about how it should be read?

Genesis contains the history of the creation of the world and life as well as the first 2000 years or so of earth’s history. It is continuous, without a break from the first to the last chapter in form. Found in its pages are some of the most riveting stories of human struggle as well as narratives of God's wrath and His love. The foundations for the Christian and Jewish faiths are found in these pages, and it seems rather impossible for those faiths to have any merit at all if the stories told in Genesis are not actual history. I realize that for an atheist, this is perfectly fine. But this writing is not for the atheist, per se. It's for the believer who may feel that taking God at His Word in light of “scientific” evidence is a foolish thing.

Within Genesis, we find a clear, detailed history of a family which gives rise to the Messiah. This family line traces from Adam through Seth to Noah. Noah had 3 sons—one of which was Shem. From Shem comes Eber and through him we have Abraham. Abraham is the father of the faith. From Abraham come the Hebrews (named after Eber), who are descendants of Jacob, Abraham's grandson. They moved to Egypt due to a famine in the land and that's where the history in Genesis ends. It picks up about 400 years later in Exodus. But the whole story is filled with indicators that the text was intended to be read and taken as an actual history. What are those indicators?

By using the phrase “This is the family history of...” we can tell with a fair amount of certainty that the book, whether compiled over centuries or not, was intended to give a narrative of a family history—that of the Hebrews, tracing their lineage back all the way to Adam and Eve. You can see this phrase or something similar in Genesis 5:1 where it specifically states it's going to tell us about the descendants of Adam. How would this actually look if it were to give us real history? My opinion is that it would look exactly like it does because it's intended to be taken as history. That's why other Biblical writers seemed to take it as such. The genealogical-historical framework of Genesis, from start to finish, tells us it is to be taken as historical. How else could you take it and be consistent?

“But you're reading it through your modern Western eyes,” is usually something I hear. What does that mean? The text is timeless and, dare I suggest, God is capable of expressing Himself rather well. The writing is an ancient historical narrative. If an ancient near Eastern man were to write a history of the world from the first utterance of God as He created everything, what would that text look like? What would the structure of that narrative be? What details would be included if we were to understand the events actually happened? The details in many of the accounts in Genesis are extremely specific. For instance, we are told exactly what day the rain that caused the Flood started and exactly what day it ended. We are told specifically where the Ark landed and how long from this landing it was before birds were sent out to investigate. We are then told exactly how long it was before they disembarked from the vessel. Does this seem like mythology? Allegory? Or history that actually happened?

The writer of Genesis isn't embellishing old traditional stories from his culture's past. He's telling us about events he believed happened and, for that matter, Jesus seemed to think they happened as well. There are some theistic evolutionists and old earth creationists who will actually claim that Jesus was wrong in this! If you doubt the Word of God (the Bible), you may begin to doubt the Word of God (Jesus). But the author (most likely Moses) is giving us a history in story form. There are other genres of writing that can do this. This means that poetry, of which there are very minor elements in Genesis, is certainly a possible genre for transmitting history. See the Psalms for examples of this. Writing a history poetically doesn't take away at all from the fact that the events, places, and people are real. But, again, there are very minor elements of poetry in this text and they are generally expressed by a person in the narrative, i.e. Adam, God, or someone else speaking. I believe it is pretty clear that the writer of Genesis (or the compiler if you like) intended to convey a literal history to the people of his day. Historical narrative is a straightforward way to transmit historical information.

Genesis 1-50 are continuous in their form and writing style. Someone recently told me, when asked about where Genesis begins to be actual history, that it's after chapter 11 because it's less bizarre. That's right: the reason we can't take Genesis 1-11 as historical is because it's weird. I thought that this was one of the most pitiful explanations for one's beliefs—that it's too weird to think God made the earth in 6 days and that He destroyed most of life on earth because of sin. These are bizarre, I guess, and so much so that we will rewrite the clear message of the book so it makes us feel better about it.

There is literally no disconnect or break between Genesis 1-11 and 12-50. Genesis 12-50 tells us about the origins of Israel. No scholars (or laypersons to my knowledge) reject that this is the intent of Genesis 12-50. Genesis 1-11 tells us about the origins of earth and life, sin and death, and God's hatred for sin as well as the widespread effects of sin on creation. Why would we reject that if the rest of the text is acceptable as history? How else can we make sense of Genesis unless it's telling us the truth? How can it be the truth if the events, people, and places (which are directly connected to Jesus Christ) were made up? It tells us about specific people doing specific things in specific places within a specific timeline. How else would a historical narrative be passed on? People commonly will cherry pick from the Bible the things they want to believe. If it goes against their desire to sin or their beliefs about the “real world,” they'll cast truth out the window, even if it's undeniably clear in the Bible.

There is a great deal more to say on this subject as I have hardly begun to scratch the surface. The case for the historicity of Genesis is overwhelming and has been the overwhelmingly accepted belief in the passages for thousands of years. I'll continue next time. Until then, God bless you and thank you for taking the time to read. I hope this equips you to share the truth and love others.

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8 comments:

Unknown said...

Dear brother Steve,
I hope and pray that you would be able to read Genesis 1 with a plain grammatical-historical method of understanding.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day."

A plain simple reading from the beginning of verse 1 says that God created the heavens and the earth – the universe to the point of the creation of the earth. Then the earth was without any form – just a sphere of rocks and water – with water at the surface, and the Spirit of God was located at the earth's surface, over the water. This is the frame of reference with God telling us the story written in Genesis 1.

There are six repetitive phrases of "Then God said." representing the beginning of each of the six Days. So plain grammatical reading from verse 1 has verses 1 and 2 BEFORE verse 3 which sets the beginning of Day 1. This is plain grammatical-historical reading.

I believe that this is a much better literal reading of the biblical text than ignoring verses 1 and 2 or rolling them into Day 1 where they do not fit. I go for the literal reading that God meant what He said, not what you and all YECs read your presuppositions into the text – that is human eisegesis, which I NEVER want to add something God has not written with a plain literal reading.

Does Science Conflict with Biblical Christianity? Listen to Dr Michael G. Strauss, a creationist with the old-earth view, as he describes the evidence that the origins of the universe point to a transcendent Creator — God.
http://owl.li/8kS730kUJmU

Here is a clear explanation that anyone can understand. You can get Professor Strauss' book here:
https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The+Creator+revealed

I am not so concerned that you believe the earth is young. But I am very exercised that YECs use their presuppositions — which I believe are unbiblical — and spread counterfeit science to young people causing them to risk a crisis of faith — they want to know that their faith is not a lie. The counterfeit science also communicates to our scientific culture that Christianity is shear nonsense — analogous to believing that the earth is flat.

In no way do I question the sincerity of your belief, or that you are saved by your belief in Jesus as the Son of God, and His resurrection.

You brother in Christ,

Ken

D.M. said...

When our society was mainly "Christian" one would realize the strength in the Bible and find it easier to realize the truth in it. Now it's hard to see any strength at all now that satan has taken the place as the "Common good" or "Social Justice" completely blocking out the real events from the Bible in making it possible creating a place like America.

Ben said...

Ken said, "I am not so concerned that you believe the earth is young. But I am very exercised that YECs use their presuppositions — which I believe are unbiblical — and spread counterfeit science to young people causing them to risk a crisis of faith — they want to know that their faith is not a lie. The counterfeit science also communicates to our scientific culture that Christianity is shear nonsense — analogous to believing that the earth is flat."

You believe that "YEC's" are basing their presuppositions on ideas that are unbiblical? Are you using the word of God to support your supposition? Or should I say... presupposition?

What I notice more often than not, is a "crisis of faith" developing among youth, with the presupposition that the 'science of the world' is the truth. IF Christians accept the 'science' that says the earth is old, spinning through the dark void of space, created by a cosmic and infinitely impossible accident and ALL LIFE magically evolved from non-life (or stardust... to quote some scientist God-haters) and all held together by some magic and unprovable thing called gravity... that would be enough of a stumbling block to faith. I see it often when I speak to people who have given up the knowledge that comes from God, and accepted (on faith) the knowledge of man, without question.

I mean... Why actually ask God for wisdom, knowledge, and truth from the Holy Spirit, when EVERYONE agrees that everything we know about our origins and the creation in which we experience reality is whatever man, textbooks, Dawkins, Tyson, Bill Nye, NASA, and the greatest atheist minds of our time (so called) tell us it is?

If I'm a new Christian and trying to succeed in government schooling, I CERTAINLY don't want to be laughed at and called an unbiblical Young Earther or worse... a "flat earther!!!" if I happen to read and believe the Bible's historical account of creation!! Best to just commit to memory what I've been told and pass the tests than to speak up for truth and risk ridicule.

And if other professing Christians are the ones claiming I'm the crazy one for not believing the 'science' of men who declare that God does not exist... Call me crazy, but THAT seems like more of a stumbling block to faith than your unfounded fear of YEC's ideas that ARE biblical, contrary to your opinion based on a presupposition.


And finally: You said, "A plain simple reading from the beginning of verse 1 says that God created the heavens and the earth – the universe to the point of the creation of the earth. Then the earth was without any form – just a sphere of rocks and water – with water at the surface..."

IF the earth is "without form and void" then where do you get the PRESUPPOSITION that it was "just a sphere of rocks and water"? Those weren't created yet.

God created the firmament to separate the waters above, from the waters below BEFORE the "rocks" or earth was placed on the surface of the waters.

But that's just me, reading the Bible and taking it at face value.

Your crack at "flat earthers" as being totally beyond credibility when it comes to the truth of God's creation/cosmology is interesting. Please provide all of the scripture references that suggest (even poetically) that the earth is a spinning ball, with water curving over the entire surface and spinning through the infinite void of nothingness. Because I haven't been able to find a single one.

In Christ,

Ben

Steve Risner said...

Ken
Thank you so much for your comment and your fairly polite demeanor. I have some concerns about your thoughts here.

1) You think my presuppositions are unbiblical. What would those be, please? And, further, how could they be unbiblical when they are based on what the text actually and clearly states? If one were to come to the text with no preconceived ideas, one would read the historical creation narrative and come away thinking exactly or nearly exactly what I believe about it. That's because I believe what the text teaches and what the Jews and Christians believed overwhelmingly for thousands of years.

2) I am not a "YEC." I reject the title. I have very little interest in the age of the earth save that it is outlined fairly clearly for us in the Bible. I don't care if the earth is 6000 years old, 10,000 years old, 24 million years old or 187 billion years old or any other number man arbitrarily assigns to it. The Bible gives us a timeline from the day Adam was born (or, more literally, the year he was born). From that we can determine when creation was. Why would God transmit what seems to be a very clear time frame for the creation using years to describe when things happened if He didn't intend for us to take Him at His Word? What's the point of giving us that detailed of an account without actually meaning what He said?

3) What is the point? If God created the heavens and the earth eons before He created life and the stars and all the rest found from the days of creation, what does that do for the old earther? The answer is simple: it does nothing at all. If the earth was without form and void (from the text we find it was simply water) this doesn't do anything for the deep time proponent. It just means the formless earth sat in space for eons with nothing happening. Again I would have to ask: why on earth would God begin His creation by making the heavens and the earth only to let it sit with no activity for eons or even billions of years? Was He too tired after He got started? Did He get distracted by something in the nothingness of space? Was He considering what He would create during the creation week and wanted to get it just right? Why would He let the earth sit for so long and then begin to form and shape His creation, putting life on it and, finally, man? The answer to that is also simple: He wouldn't. I guess, more accurately, He didn't. The Bible sums up the creation account in this: For in 6 days God created the heavens and the earth and seas and all that is in them. That is stated on two occasions in the Bible.

Steve Risner said...

Ken, I will end with a response to this quote from you: "I am not so concerned that you believe the earth is young. But I am very exercised that YECs use their presuppositions — which I believe are unbiblical — and spread counterfeit science to young people causing them to risk a crisis of faith — they want to know that their faith is not a lie. The counterfeit science also communicates to our scientific culture that Christianity is shear nonsense..."

I am glad you're not concerned that I believe the earth is young. I don't. I feel it is just over 6000 years old as the Bible quite obviously teaches. I can show you that if you like. I've recently written on that in a response to another old earth/TE. I don't feel 6000 years is young by any stretch. I am 41. I can't imagine calling anything that is 6000+ years young. This is the result of the indoctrination of the humanist origins myth and its absolute necessity for the universe and earth to be very very old--unfathomably old.

Again, you mention my presuppositions. Can you tell me what they are and explain why they are anti-biblical? They seem to be the same sorts of things that the writers of the Old Testament thought and every author of the New Testament and Jesus Himself. What beliefs do I have that are not based on the text?

You think Biblical creationists are spreading "counterfeit" science. This exposes a fundamental misunderstanding on your part of what science is and can tell us as well as a fundamental misunderstanding of what the historical narrative of Genesis is. I just told you what it is--it's a narrative about history. History isn't a scientific topic. The history of Matthew and Luke tell us that a virgin conceived a child and He became a man Who died for the sins of the world only to rise from the dead on His own power 3 days later. This is historical. Science tells us these things are 100% impossibilities. Only a crazy person would accept them from a scientific standpoint. Yet, if you are a believer, you must believe these things. Likewise, Genesis is not a scientific treatise of the creation. It's quite obviously a historical narrative and the writing style of it and its continuity with the rest of Genesis tells us it's intended to be read as a real history, describing real people, places and events that happened at specific times.

Steve Risner said...


"...to young people causing them to risk a crisis of faith — they want to know that their faith is not a lie."---Studies show quite clearly that the humanist origins myth being perpetuated as a scientific fact is what is leading people away from the faith in droves. This is also something I've written on quite a lot. You can find that in the blogger section of the WVW website. I think it starts with something like "Why It's Important" or something like that. Young people hear nonsense from people who are rightly called scientists but who are peddling gibberish that is nothing more than a counterfeit. It's a false religion and its priests are proselytizing for it, masquerading as scientific speakers when they are actually scientists trying to convert people to their faith. They are claiming some sort of authority by their education or vocation and then it's a bait and switch. Evolutionists and old earthers do this all the time--bait and switch. Once you talk about origins, you are no longer acting as a scientist. You are only an evangelist for the belief system you're selling at that point. Darwin and Lyell have, with their teachings, damned a great many to hell because their teachings are clearly exceptionally anti-Christian, anti-Biblical and are peddled as scientific. Science was developed by Biblical creationists. How on earth could one suggest that this same process of acquiring knowledge has shown the clear teaching of Scripture to be false? And how can anyone be serious when they suggest that, although the Bible has taught and it's been believed for thousands of years that the earth was created in 6 days about 4000 BC that God put Charles Darwin on earth to explain the truth? Really? I think you're much smarter than this.

Thank you again for reading and taking the time to make a comment.

Steve Risner said...

D.M. --thanks for commenting. We must be watching for the schemes of the devil, my friend.

Steve Risner said...

Ben, thank you for your well thought out response to Ken. I appreciate your time and your attention. God bless.