- The Genesis Creation Account: Three Interpretive Models – 1
- The Genesis Creation Account: Three Interpretive Models – 2
- The Genesis Creation Account: Three Interpretive Models – 3
- The Genesis Creation Account: Three Interpretive Models – 4
The first two chapters of Genesis present an intriguing dilemma: two individual creation accounts with strikingly different features, which appear to contradict each other (Bosman 2004, p.43). A survey of three interpretative models – historical, polemical, and theological – will demonstrate the importance of contextualising Genesis. When returned to its original socio-historical setting, the creation narrative develops new meaning and a clearer purpose emerges.
Genesis 1-3 reads as a historical drama (Utley 2001, p.3) reflecting the pre-scientific worldview of its author, which we are not required to share. Cosmological features are described in the phenomenal language1 of the period (‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters… God called the dome Sky’, Genesis 1:6,8).
Time is recorded in the simplest way, by reference to natural cycles (‘And there was evening and there was morning, the third day’, Genesis 1:13). Christians have traditionally assumed that the Bronze Age audience of this creation account understood it as a literal record of historical events, and that we must follow suit.
The historical interpretative model still prevails in contemporary Christian exegesis, which habitually combines a presumption of absolute historicity with a rigidly literal hermeneutic.2 Christian apologist Dan Story speaks for many when he asserts ‘Christians are logically justified and philosophically consistent to accept biblical creation without investigating scientific evidence.’3
But the historical model can take milder forms. Popular alternatives involve interpreting the 7 days of the Genesis creation as vast time periods (e.g. millions of years), or proposing a chronological ‘gap’ between Genesis 1 and 2 to account for the plethora of ‘pre-Adamic’ life found within the fossil record.4
- Phenomenal language describes the world as Biblical writers perceived it (Waltke & Yu 2007, p.195). [↩]
- Belief in a literal 24-hour, 7-day creation period is commonly known as ‘Young Earth Creationism’ (Young & Strode 2009, pp.54-55). [↩]
- Story, D. 1997. Defending Your Faith (139). Kregel Publications: Grand Rapids, MI. [↩]
- These fall under a broader paradigm known as ‘Old Earth Creationism’ (Young & Strode 2009, pp.55-57). [↩]