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

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

  1. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    XX. Of the Authority of the Church.
    The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God's Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation.​

    On the contrary, my friend, the approach taken is well within the confines of Article 20. The method put forward is interesting, and perhaps to me a little novel, yet that of itself does not make it wrong. The suggestion that the method should be applied equally through scripture would be unusual, as there are many different parts of scripture, many different genres of literature, and how we expound and understand the text, will take that into account, along with context and historical setting.

    As we have been discussing the early chapters of Genesis my mind goes back to a Bedouin Campsite, as we sit around the fire and talk about the stories our fathers and grandfathers told us about how things came to be. And this does not need to compete with the moderns stories well tell of Big Bangs and Evolution. All of this is bound in seeking after truth, and trying to understand, who are are, and how we came to be here, and where do we go from here.

    It is on this last point, the hope of the gospel, where the Christian Story is rather more hopeful than the story of science in the modern era with its contemporary and pressing apocalyptic.
     
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  2. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    The only way to say that, is to draw a wedge between Scripture and God, where the connection between the two is hypothetical, or tenuous, or implicit. Anything other than an explicit, hard bond of the one with the other.

    But the orthodox Christian draws a hard bond between God and the Scripture text:
    1. on the basis of all of prior church history, even prior than the New Testament, with the Qumran and Old Testament communities all asserting a hard bond between the Scripture text, and God.

    2. on the basis of reason, that God if he exists with the attributes that we understand him to have, he will necessarily communicate with mankind. That communication being either internal or external, only the external communication qualifies for the purposes of being Objective. And thus that's what Scripture is, God's logically necessary communication to Man.

    3. on the basis of Scripture itself, which ascribes to itself the attribute of Inspiration, and being God-breathed. This means that us relying on Scripture to be God's word is not merely a historical fact; or a logical necessity. It is a condition of piety. In other words to deny Scripture's inspiration, to deny it to be God's work, is itself a mark of impiety, infidelity, and rejection of God (thereby being cursed by him).
     
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  3. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    “As Frodo Baggins overcame Sauron, so shall the Messiah overcome evil at the Last Day.” The meaning is comprehensible to anyone familiar with The Lord of the Rings, and the statement is true. There’s no rule of logic or law of nature that says an antecedent must be historical just because a consequent is.
     
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  4. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    I think that’s exactly what the Decalogue requires. The Scriptures are created, temporal, contingent. God is not. We aren’t talking about the Quran here.
     
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  5. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    The point I would wish to make (which was probably unclear in my previous post) is that the historical versus symbolic analysis, as presented by Tiffy, shows the trap he has fallen into. The trap is the "all or nothing" concept, i.e., that if any of the Gen. 3 narrative contains symbolism, therefore all of it is symbolic. Can you see the fallacy of that reasoning? There is no reason why the symbolism of Lucifer as a serpent renders non-historical the account of his deception and Adam & Eve's disobedience. Moreover (and most significantly), the word of God in the N.T. directly refers to the events as though they were historical events.

    I can accept that there are things in the Gen. 3 narrative I don't fully understand, such as whether there was a literal serpent whom Lucifer co-opted (recall the demon-possessed pigs) and spoke through, or whether the 'serpent' is fully symbolic (a representation of Lucifer's devious nature, perhaps). But the things I don't understand do not preclude me from accepting it as a real event that took place in history.

    Throughout this thread I have presented what I believe are cogent reasons, drawing from scripture, why the account is essentially historical and factual. Those reasons have not been contradicted with other scriptural reasoning; instead, some people have merely expressed their desire to disbelieve the factual nature of the account (and their 'right' under the Articles to disbelieve). When people don't respond to reason from scripture, there are no more grounds for discussion with them; no sensible rationale will make a difference to a closed mind.
     
  6. Carolinian

    Carolinian Active Member Anglican

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    Technically Frodo didn't overcome Sauron. It was just the creature biting his finger off that saved the world (at least in the movies).:)
     
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  7. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    True. And technically it is the Father “putting all things into subjection under Christ’s feet.” And yet the statement communicates what it needs to. :thumbsup:
     
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  8. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    If the Scriptures are temporal and contingent, then that means,
    1. You go against all of the New and Old Testament saints, prophets, patriarchs, and martyrs, holding yourself on a higher plane than all those "bronze age cave dwellers".

      I on the other hand consider us to live in a corrupt, plastic broken civilization, filled with corrupt degeneracy. And the culture of the Scriptures to have had the holiest people who have ever lived, with infinite spiritual depth, buying into whose wisdom yields peace, harmony, virtue, and unity with God.

      So it's all how you frame the Scriptures in your mind. It's not their fault; you bring yourself into the equation. You're actually on trial, when you condemn the Scriptures. Based on your reaction to it, it will be possible to determine what you brought into the equation.

    2. You go against logic and reason which requires for there to be an external communication from God to man, in some sort of form. And you go against science which has unreasonably corroborated the most impossible claims from the Scriptures.

    3. You go against Scripture itself, which tells us that it is God-breathed.
    Rejecting all three of these, especially the last one, leaves a very slender pathway for how one could still conceivably remain a Christian.

    Comparing with the Quran is exactly like the bogey man, to gaslight the faithful. How about we put the murderous unitarian heretics aside, shall we?
     
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  9. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    I wasn’t comparing the Scriptures to the Quran; I was contrasting the Scriptures with the Quran. Orthodox (Sunni) Islam holds that the Quran is co-eternal with God, yet not in such a way as to compromise God’s unity. This is closer to the Christian understanding of Christ, not the Bible. The Bible is a list of books containing teachings from God that were communicated in time, in creation, to particular human beings. It is not ‘the Word of God’ in the same sense that Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, is.
     
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  10. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    How silly? Genre Rexlion, genre. None of the references you quoted are myth or legend. They are letters written to early house churches or congregations in various locales. Two were written by a known apostolic author, the last was probably written by someone wanting his readers to think it was written by a known apostolic author, because he may not have actually been an apostle, just a believer in Jesus Christ, but his attempt was widely accepted as 'inspired' by the early church, so it was included in the canon of scripture. Dozens of other similarly, probably, pseudapigraphic manuscripts wern't.
    .
     
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  11. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by [Tiffy] that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I believe Adam is historically real,” or “I think Noah existed,” or “I say Paul wrote 1 Timothy,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Adam crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Noah? :p
    .
     
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  12. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Everyone on this thread, from what I can tell, is committed to the proposition that Scripture is “inspired” and is “the Word of God”. There seems to be some agreement that, if the term “inerrant” is appropriately used of the Scriptures at all, it is with reference to the end or goal of its message. The remaining items, concerning which there isn’t agreement, are mere questions of authorship and literary genre, which are legitimate fields for scholarly inquiry, and upon which no article of faith rests or falls.
     
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  13. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    I've lost track of the times I've heard fundamentalist literalist believers say "If the bible isn't as true as I think it has to be, then I wouldn't believe in it". which only shows where their 'faith' resides. Not specifically and primarily in Christ but in a supposedly inerrant and perfect collection of books in a floppy black calfskin cover.
    .
     
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  14. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Not entirely. I'm only advocating for a restricted facticity, for a select passages which everyone (including the authors) understood to be meant as 'functionally' true rather than 'factually' true. However they understood many other parts of Scripture as not just functionally true, but factually true.

    I am committed to seeing Scripture the way they saw Scripture (as hard as that may be), rather than the way the modern plastic world sees it, as a transient, plastic book, not any less transient/plastic than itself. Our culture would like to make every truth transient and plastic; I refuse that impulse.

    And I know that looks like a caveman mentality to a mindset used to seeing literally everything about their world as entirely contingent and malleable. Not for me. I'll be the caveman who holds to objective eternal truth. "Before they hated you, remember that they hated me first".
     
  15. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    1 Corinthians 7:25
    Now concerning virgins, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.​

    This of course leaves one to ask what is infallible, is it infallible that Paul does not have a word from the Lord on this, or has Paul's opinion become inerrant and infallible?

    I do not use the term inerrant in terms of Holy Scripture. I don't know what it really means, and I know many of those who use the term in this part of the world use it to weaponize the sacred writings of my faith, and in so doing have done damage the the faith of many.

    God in Christ Jesus is encountered in the words of scripture (it is not for nothing that we stand for the Holy Gospel) and God in Christ Jesus is encountered in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar (it is not for nothing that we used to kneel to receive); HOWEVER GOD IS PRISIONER OF NEITHER BOOK NOR TABERNACLE NOR INSTITUTION.

    Sydney Carter penned these challenging words some time ago, and I share them here.
    PresentTense.jpg
     
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  16. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    This seems more like a difference of degree rather than kind, to me. Certainly we both wish to uphold eternal truths. Fortunately, eternal truth is such that it does not need any holding up to remain what it is.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2021
  17. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    And so a little more spiritual knowledge, beyond the bald and boring mere historical facts, as if believing these, perhaps mythical events, actually, literally and historically happened is some kind of 'faith' qualification unto salvation. Of course they may have happened but they needn't of necessity have happened historically, as described, for the account to be truth.

    Gen.3:4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

    (H) The snake made a suggestion to the woman.

    (S) The snake's suggestion is truly 'snaky' (1) You won't die. (turned out to be a lie, eventually, but not a lie immediately). God had actually said "In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Eve did not die the day she ate.
    (2) The snake said, God knows - it will make you wise - (so far that is not literally a lie, but actually God knew that the mythical 'tree' imparted only the knowledge of both good and evil, and wisdom is considerably more than just knowing the difference between the two) - God knows you will be like God - THAT is a lie, because no one can ever be like God, except God, Ex.9:14, Isa.46:9.

    Actually Eve wanting to be like God was not sinful. It was a very laudable ambition. Matt.5:48. Jesus is very like God, (because He is), and we should be like Jesus. We should certainly not go through life with our eyes closed, in ignorance of the difference between good and evil, so was God perhaps intending, by placing the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in such a prominent position, in pride of place, in the middle of the garden, in the story, that WE should fully understand - 'what is good and what is evil'.

    Det. 1:35-39. Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers, Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly followed the LORD. Also the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, saying, Thou also shalt not go in thither. But Joshua the son of Nun, which standeth before thee, he shall go in thither: encourage him: for he shall cause Israel to inherit it. Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, (they had not the knowledge to choose wrongly), they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it.

    (The promised land is also a metaphor for Heaven).

    See also Ps.34:14, Ps. 37:27.

    1 Cor.15:45.
    (H) Adam was a man.

    (S) it is written--(Gen 2:7); "Makind (the word Adam means mankind), became, (was made to become) a living soul," that is, endowed with an animal soul, the living principle of our body.

    the last Adam--the LAST Head of humanity, who is to be fully manifested in the last day, which is His day (John 6:39). He is so called in Job 19:25; see on Job 19:25 (compare Rom. 5:14). (Adam in this sense is figurative of mankind). In contrast to "the last," Paul calls "man" (Gen 2:7) "the FIRST Adam."

    2 Cor:11:3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

    (H) The snake deceived Eve. Paul's converts might equally be deceived.

    (S) Everyone knew the story of Adam and Eve. Paul could just as easily have said Red Riding hood was eaten by the wolf and you are likely to get devoured by the lies of false prophets, wolves in sheeps clothing. (No necessity to assume that Paul implied Eve's historicity as an individual, he could have been refering to her as a figure, as he was when referring to the FIRST Adam meaning unregenerate mankind.

    He would have been making exactly the same point just as forcibly using Red Riding Hood but the Corintians didn't know the story of Red Riding Hood, so Paul didn't refer to any of the charaters in it. He referred to a Character in the Story of creation in Genesis because it is a Jewish story they all knew.

    1 Tim 2:13-14. The author may have believed that he was refering to actual historical individuals but there is no guarteee that he had actual evidence upon which to base that belief. It therefore is not proof of the historicity of two individuals named Adam and Eve with the surname 'Mankind'. They wern't religious back then, at the dawn of time, so they wouldn't have has actual Christian names anyway, would they. :laugh:
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    Last edited: Jun 30, 2021
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  18. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    The only thing I would want to be careful of when pursuing the non-historical approach is not to assert that each human being is his/her own Adam/Eve (which is Pelagianism). 1 Cor. 15 does make it clear that we are fallen because Adam was, so the relation is one of causation, not identity. However, to say that Adam and Eve are not historical is not tantamount to saying that there was no historical Fall. Examples of cruelty abound throughout the animal world; human beings are the only ones who commit such acts with a veneer of rationality. And while we have an awareness of this, we have never succeeded in framing conversations about good and evil in purely natural categories. Human beings know from personal experience that we are (already) fallen, even if the origin of the state remains shrouded in mystery.
     
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  19. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    There is in the Creation and Fall Narratives a theme of grace and the abandonment of grace. In the first instance humankind is created in the image and after the likeness of God. The argument that the snake puts is that if they eat the fruit they will be just like God, so the temptation is to create for themselves that which they already have, the gift of being human made in the image and after the likeness of God.

    So it is by grace we have been saved through faith
     
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  20. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    The evidence that all have sinned and fallen short is staring us in the face through history and experience itself. The original historical reason it is so has become almost just an interesting irrelevance. The remedy for the condition is however of paramount importance.

    I think the only reason literal fundamentalists are so insistent that Adam, Eve and the talking snake were real historical characters is in defence of their assertion that every word of the Bible must be taken literally. It is a matter of what has the right to control one's behaviour. The Bible for them is an authority, not merely an inspired collection of self help healing books and a travel guide and road map back to God. It has been provided, according to their way of thinking, by God, to legislate and control our behaviour, threaten destruction to the wicked, and provide instructions for salvation for the elect. It's not supposed to be an entertaining and informative read. :laugh:
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    Last edited: Jul 1, 2021
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