The Genesis Myth, Part 2

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, August 1, 2019 2 comments

by Steve Risner

Last week, we began to take another look at the Genesis narratives and discuss whether or not they are intended to be taken as historical or some other way. We saw how the “That's your interpretation” argument doesn't actually make sense since “my interpretation” is exactly what the text says. It's a timeless series of narratives. It's grounded in space and time, telling us about real people, places, and events and claims to be explaining where the universe and earth came from, as well as our present human condition including our desperate need for a Savior. It also gives us the family history of that Savior. Genesis claims to be a family history, tracing all mankind back to Noah and then to Adam. These same people are mentioned throughout Scripture and in the lineage of Jesus in Matthew and Luke. Adam was obviously a real person and Jesus mentions his son Abel and Noah. The author of Hebrews also mentions Abel as though he were a real person in history. If you believe that these are references to mythical people or folklore, then your faith is based on cute stories that have no grounding in reality. If you disagree, I'd like to hear why.

Some suggest Genesis is poetic. To this I ask: which parts? It's 50 chapters long and has no indication of any sort of break. The text is uniform from its opening verse to the end of chapter 50. My next question is: why does that change the historicity of it? There are many psalms and songs of praise in the Bible that tell about actual events. We have songs written today about real events. Claiming the text is poetry doesn't actually matter. However, it's not poetry. According to John Currid, author of “Genesis” (a commentary on Genesis): “Genesis 1 contains little or no indication of figurative language. There are no tropes, symbolism, or metaphors.”

Genesis doesn't have any of the primary markers of Hebrew poetry like parallelism and figures of speech. There are small bits of poetry within the Genesis narratives, but they are generally found in statements made by individuals and inserted into the narrative. Examples are Genesis 2:23, Genesis 4:23-24, and Genesis 9:6.

If you read the rest of Scripture, you'll find that the writers of all other references to the creation narrative or the Flood refer to them as historical. The writers of the New Testament point to the creation, Fall, and Flood as precedents for what God says He's going to do in the future. Are these prophetic words to be taken as some kind of future folklore or myth? It's a seamless historical book from the start and gels with the rest of the Bible all the way to Revelation. It gives us the line of Jesus all the way back to “...the son of Adam, the son of God.” If we are to assume there is some break in the story, this would mean the text would have made some concealed leap from real people to mythical people that we like to tell stories about but weren't real.

Hebrews also gives a detailed flashback to many of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11:4-38. However, verses 4-7 would somehow be taken as folklore or mythical since they contain persons found in the first 11 chapters of Genesis while, without any indication whatsoever, the writer moves to real people and events in verse 8. But this passage in Hebrews doesn't leave the book of Genesis until verse 23 where it mentions Moses.

Genesis claims to be an etiological story of the origins of everything that exists and why man, who was created special, has a sin problem and why a sacrifice is necessary to pay for that sin. Without this natural reading of the text, I'm not sure where the foundation of Christianity even rests. If the human condition is based on a made-up story about a man who never lived who passed on sin to all of his offspring who didn't live and to theirs and so on, I'm afraid I don't see a need for a Savior at all. Or, perhaps since Adam is considered to be a mythical figure by some, so is the Savior Himself since He is listed as the Second or Last Adam.

Do you think Jesus was a real person who suffered a very real death on a cross for your sins and mine? If He was real, Adam must have been as well. And if Adam's sin brought death to all, then certainly he was created special. If not, doesn't that mean animals would require a Savior as well? If man is just an evolved animal who has a bigger than average brain, is he truly special? Is he separate and distinct from the rest of the animal kingdom? If so, how? If God didn't create him in His image, who is man? The theological issues that arise when we decide to not take God at His Word are a tidal wave! It's hard to make sense of anything in Christianity if Genesis isn't a real history about real people and events. We can talk like it makes sense without Genesis, but that story is very shallow. What is the human condition in old earthism or theistic evolution? Why do we need a Savior? What are we being saved from? Why did Jesus die physically if He only freed us from spiritual death? So many unanswered questions. If you have time, please help me out.

There is literally no reason based on the context, based on how the narratives are used in other passages of Scripture, based on grammar/word usage, based on the continuity of the narratives from Genesis 1 through Genesis 50 to read the narratives as anything but ancient historical narrative. Someone finding another way to interpret it is coming to the text with an agenda and preconceived ideas that are extra-biblical. They cannot be coming from a Scriptural stance as the text doesn't so much as give a hint that the narratives are anything else but historical. The overwhelmingly held position since these passages were written is that the text conveys a real history about the origins of the Jewish people and, eventually, the Messiah.

My worldview is anchored in His Word. A person viewing this text as something other than history is anchored in humanism and its origins myth. I would encourage anyone who falls into this trap to reconsider and take God at His Word. There is much more to discuss on this topic, and I look forward to getting into it further.

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Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post, I agree in the Historical narrative, in a time where Genesis is under attack even by Christian's, this leads us back to the true perspective and true interpretation, all culminating to the coming of our Lord, the fulfilment of the prophetic Word and the redemptive power of the Cross! Blessings Mykal

Steve Risner said...

Thank you, Mykal, for your comment and your support. I think you're on to something!