Is Genesis all literal, all allegory, or somewhere between?

Discussion in 'Sacred Scripture' started by ZachT, Jun 27, 2021.

  1. ZachT

    ZachT Well-Known Member

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    I would say this is uncontentious. The Adam of Genesis 1 and early Genesis 2, and the Adam of later Genesis 2 and Genesis 3 must be different.

    So God created Adam in his image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.
    But the Adam of late Genesis 2-3 is clearly a single man not a plural them nor gender neutral/intersex him. So Adam is both a word for "humankind", and is the name of a person. I see Adam filling the role in Hebrew that 'man' does in English - meaning both a singular male person and a collective noun representing the entire human race.

    Therefore it doesn't seem unreasonable to suggest a generous gap in time between the first Adam that represents all of humankind, and the singular Adam who eats the fruit.

    I'd go further and say perhaps there was a poetic reason the first man was called Man. Perhaps there was no single historic individual who ate the fruit but rather Man (as a collective) ate the fruit.
     
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  2. Carolinian

    Carolinian Active Member Anglican

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    When it comes to the Genesis creation account, I believe it is extremely important to maintain the existence of a literal Adam and Eve. The "days" could be extremely long periods of time individually. Obviously, the Bible isn't what anyone would consider a science textbook, so it definitely shouldn't be treated as such. However, the moral messages/truths that arise from Genesis and explained by the Apostles and Christ should be maintained at all costs. As Christians, we (or should) have faith in the word of God and thus know it to be true. I don't have the same level of faith in "science." Who knows? Maybe when we all get to heaven everything will all hopefully make sense. God for sure can do a lot of things that would probably seem improbable to those well versed in modern science.

    (This is all speculation): I ascribe to a wired theory that Adam and Eve lived extremely long lives and had many children that married each other. I would say the same for Noah and his family. Through this familial intermarriage, the human race slowly developed shorter and shorter lifespans. If you could picture one person living for a few hundred years with the ability to have children throughout most of the duration of that time, it suddenly makes sense that whole nations could arise from Noah's family.
     
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  3. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    If Adam and Eve are meant to be understood literally, but the days are not, how does one know, i.e., by what hermeneutical rule, does one decide, when to interpret literally and when to interpret figuratively? In the case of Genesis 1, if the author had intended to convey that literal 24-hour days were meant, it’s hard to know what else he (or she) could have said to make that plain. It refers to evening and morning: the normal daily cycle we all experience. It counts the days, which would be pointless if they were in fact many days (in fact, I’m not sure the counting of days ever occurs in the Hebrew OT without literal days being meant). There’s no inherent reason the account can’t be both literal and non-historical. And, it’s widely thought that Gen. 1 was composed separately from ch. 2-3, and then the two accounts were later stitched together. It’s entirely possible the human author of ch. 1 knew nothing of Adam and Eve or the story in the garden. If that’s so, then there’s no need to reconcile the accounts. They may never have intended to tell the same story.
     
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  4. Carolinian

    Carolinian Active Member Anglican

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    When i
    When it comes to the word “day(s)” in the Bible, there are multiple instances of the the word being used to describe either a single 24 hour day or a period of time. One such example would be the day of the lord. So, I feel that would provide a basis for the concept that the days in Genesis may be periods/ages rather than 24 hour days. I agree that each of the books of the OT may have different or multiple authors. However, we still must consider, as Christians, that the Bible truly only has one author: God. I would hesitate to go down the road of Genesis as a collection of make-believe, near-eastern folklore.
     
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  5. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    If by the term 'infallibility' we are meaning scripture will infallibly always achieve in those who read it exactly the intention of the God who inspired it, then I agree that the message of the bible in its original language and most of the translation of the original is infallible. It will infallibly achieve its purpose as intended by God.

    If however the intention of labeling scripture 'infallible' is to purport that no translation of it contains errors, misprints, faulty translation, ambiguities, ommisions or additions altering its meaning or otherwise departing from the truth intended by God to be conveyed when God originally inspired those who put pen to papyrus and wrote it, with all their ignorance of modern science, geography and cosmology, then I disagree that 'infallible' is an appropriate term to use to describe most or all translations of the Holy Scriptures. I feel the term 'close enough not to matter much' would be more appropriate, (though I would be reluctant to apply even that to the New World Translation or many of the modern, evangelically or otherwise influenced, transliterations and paraphrases available today.
    .
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2021
  6. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    So would I, but you have to understand that mythic literature, which is what much of the contents of the first 11 chapters of Genesis are, is not 'myth' in the way we understtand the term in common usage. Myth is a theologically technical term applied to literature which though not having a purely literal application nevertheless conveys spiritual truths which are probably unable to be bourne by actual plain historical genres. Many of these myths are based upon actual events and sometimes actual people but are not necessarily accurate historically. They were not recorded by historians, they were passed from generation to generation as tales which defined them as a people belonging to God, with a history.
    .
     
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  7. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    That's a big statement to make, and I think it would need to be backed up with plenty of reasoning, evidence, and/or examples. My first reaction is: it's not possible to be both. One example should suffice: if, as the Bible states, the enemy literally tempted Eve, then it must be a matter of historical fact; conversely, if no such temptation event occurred in history, then what the Bible says about it can't be taken literally. Thus I maintain that an account can't be both literal and non-historical, pending clear and convincing logic or evidence that shows otherwise.

    2Co 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

    1Ti_2:13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
    1Ti_2:14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

    Our inspired word of God represents to us in several different scriptures that the events described are both literal and historical facts.

    1Co 15:42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
    1Co 15:43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:
    1Co 15:44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
    1Co 15:45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
    1Co 15:46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
    1Co 15:47 The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.


    What is a "living soul," if not a mortal human being? Adam was a "natural" and "earthly" man of flesh and blood, alive unto God until he and Eve sinned. If one is to reject these as literal, historical people and events, then to be logically consistent one must also reject all the scriptures that refer to them as literal and historical.
     
  8. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Not really. Plenty of things are literally true without being historical. Pi is the circumference of a circle divided by its diameter. It’s always right to do good. The force of gravity is directly proportional to the difference in mass, and inversely proportional to the distance between, two bodies. The Samaritan walked along the mountain road. Robin Hood rescued Maid Marian. The is only one God.

    All literal. All true. None historical.
     
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  9. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Ah, but consider the difference in the first three examples: none of those have been purported or represented to be historical, whereas the account of Adam and Eve in the garden is presented in the manner of a historical event.

    As for the Samaritan...
    Luk 10:30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
    Luk 10:31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
    Luk 10:32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
    Luk 10:33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

    I suggest that Jesus spoke of a certain (i.e., specific) man who fell victim and of a certain (specific) Samaritan, of whom He knew. This would make the event both literal and historical. However, even if one were to interpret this parable as non-historical, then it is an illustration (and example) and is no more literal than if I were to tell you a story beginning with, "Three men walked into a bar: a priest, a rabbi, and a Protestant minister...."

    Robin Hood rescued Marian.... in a work of fiction, perhaps, but I don't take fiction literally. Do you? And of course it's not historical, either (even though the story is placed into a historical setting of a certain era, just like fictional accounts of Tom Clancy's character, Jack Ryan).

    "There is only one God" is a matter of literal fact, but like God Himself, and one might state that the fact of His unique Being transcends history, so this is the best one of the bunch. Yet we know that God has existed throughout all of history (and even before the beginning of history), so His existence and uniqueness are both literal and historical.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2021
  10. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    You can't say Robin hood is not historical. He was a real person. The Earl of Loxley. It must be true, otherwise no one ever "Robbed the rich to feed the poor".

    There was a real Sheriff of Nottingham too and a real King John and Richard the Lion heart. You can't believe anything nowadays with all these people who think Sherwood Forrest was just a myth and a fable. It was a REAL forest with proper trees in it. So there!

    I've never heard such utter unbelieving nonsense. :laugh::biglaugh: :wicked: You'll be telling me next that William Tell didn't exist or King Arthur and his knights. :disgust: :doh:
    .
     
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  11. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Tiffy, are you for real? You don't seem very literal, and you aren't quite old enough (getting close, though:p ) to yet be historical. :laugh:

    :friends:
     
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  12. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Only because it’s familiar to us. If we’d never heard it before and then suddenly come across it in the sacred text of another religion, we would instantly conclude it’s a fable. It features: a talking snake, a tree that grants knowledge, a tree that grants eternal life, a flaming sword, a deity approx. 6 ft tall who likes to take walks in the evening, and who didn’t know where the man and woman had hidden or what they had done, etc. That’s another thing that’s often overlooked (which James Kugel discusses at length in his book cited above, as does Benjamin Sommer in his The Bodies of God): the Pentateuch, but especially Genesis, contains some extremely anthropomorphic descriptions of deity, namely, in the J and E Sources, that the Church was never willing to interpret literally. If someone wants to see the story as history, there’s nothing saying they can’t. But that doesn’t mean better explanations aren’t available.
     
  13. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Hood
    The facts are that the historicity of Robin Hood is questioned. Does that mean that he did not exit? No. Does that mean that the story is entirely made up? No. In general behind Myth and Legend there is generally some truth.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Morte_d'Arthur
    Arthur, and the Knights of the Round Table is another example of Folklore, delving back in history. Was Camelot a real place? Probably not. None the less these tales are likely to have some basis in history, however what the basis of that history is we do not know.

    Yet I realize that often people can be very simple about this. One person recently told me that Cnut was a myth, yet the truth of History is that it was Cnut who unified Wessex and the Daneland bringing about the political reality of England.
     
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  14. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    Having listened to stories of origin in Papua New Guinea and among some Aboriginal Communities, I would say that it is presented as a story of Origin.

    It is also possible to understand the Big Bang Theory and the Hypothesis of Evolution as Stories of Origin. Somehow we are clever enough to call it science.
     
  15. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Isn’t there someone whose opinion we’re forgetting to include? Someone named Jesus?

    Or St Paul, the Hebrew of the Hebrews, the Pharisee of the Pharisees, and the scholar/philosopher/theologian par excellence?

    I don’t see how it’s possible to read the New Testament without concluding that these people saw many early parts of Genesis as historical.
     
  16. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    I would assume (or at least hope) that everyone on this thread is aware of quotations from Genesis in the NT. Certainly, both Jesus and Paul quoted from it to substantiate certain points of their teachings. The story of Abraham in particular is quite critical, as it was (and still is) in Judaism.
     
  17. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    They did more than quote from it, they relied on its historicity as the basis for their own claims being true. If there was no actual man called Adam, then there is no such thing as another "second" Adam.
     
  18. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    They certainly relied on it as authoritative. I do think we have to be careful not to read modern notions of historicity back into ancient texts.
     
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  19. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Let's back up and look one more time at these scriptures, which God inspired His people to write:
    2Co 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

    1Ti_2:13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
    1Ti_2:14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.


    1Co 15:42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
    1Co 15:43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:
    1Co 15:44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
    1Co 15:45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
    1Co 15:46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
    1Co 15:47 The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.


    Thousands of years after the event, the word of God says (i.e., "thus says the LORD!") that Adam was formed first, then Eve; that the woman was deceived by the serpent; that Adam was a living, natural, earthly being.

    Is God's own words authoritative enough for you? Or is He mistaken about the historicity of the events to which He refers?

    What we are seeing here is the difference between
    believing that the word of God is (essentially) 'God talking to us' in a cohesive, planned-ahead manner throughout the writings He caused to be written,
    versus
    believing that the Bible is a group of human authors communicating to us via an arcane, eclectic assortment of documents that they wrote after getting some 'bright ideas,' and that these authors wrote a mixture of facts and legends.

    2Ti_2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

    2Cor 4:1-3 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2021
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  20. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Opinions vary. There is no dispute that they are authoritative. If anyone wants to interpret these passages as literal history, no one is saying they can’t. Fortunately, the Anglican formularies don’t reach that granular a level of specificity, nor do they mandate a belief in plenary verbal inspiration or unqualified inerrancy. A broad range of views on the subject is legitimate. My own is that the passages under discussion are literal but non-historical, and that their purpose was to teach truth, not fact. Insofar as they teach the truth that God intended to reveal, they are authoritative. Insofar as they are made to teach merely what we want them to say, they are not.
     
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