- 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
From this review of the models examined, it is apparent that a combination of the polemical and theological interpretations of the Genesis creation offers the best exegetical framework for an accurate understanding of the text. All forms of strictly historical interpretation are rife with scientific contradictions and anachronistic contrivances.
Genesis 1-3 is not a historical narrative in the modern sense,1 and cannot be compelled to surrender a message it does not contain. Instead it is written in the style of a typical ANE primeval protohistory, telling a story about creation and God’s purpose with it.
The author was concerned with the spiritual rationale behind creation and employed a degree of literary license.2 This was expected and accommodated by his original audience, who found it compatible with their unscientific worldview.3 What they saw in Genesis 1-3 was a traditional narrative reflecting certain concrete realities with historical elements for a polemical and theological purpose.
21st Century Christians too often forget that Genesis was not originally written for us. As latecomers to the creation account we must strive to understand how its first audience understood it. This approach informs our understanding of the details, offering a legitimate basis for alternative interpretation while preserving the essential meaning.4 The net result is greater insight into the original purpose of Genesis 1-3 and a coherent exegesis which is valid for all ages.5
Debates over historical and scientific accuracy have no relevance to documents which make no claim to possess these features. When we read the ancient texts in a way that is sympathetic to their language and period, we share the eternal truths first revealed to the primeval believers.6 Provided the original context is properly recognised, their core message remains the same regardless of when they are read, or by whom.
- ‘Recognizing the literary technique and form and noting the literary background of chs. 1–11 does not constitute a challenge to the reality, the “eventness,” of the facts portrayed. One need not regard this account as myth; however, it is not “history” in the modern sense of eyewitness, objective reporting. Rather, it conveys theological truths about events, portrayed in a largely symbolic, pictorial literary genre. This is not to say that Gen. 1–11 conveys historical falsehood. That conclusion would follow only if it purported to contain objective descriptions. The clear evidence already reviewed shows that such was not the intent.’ Sanford LaSor, W., Hubbard, D. A., Bush, F. 1996. Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament. (74). Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, MI. [↩]
- ‘Genesis 1–3 (and for that matter, much of the book of Revelation), is not intended by its original inspired author to be taken literally. “How it all began” and “How it will all end” is veiled (and must be for fallen mankind) in literary genre.’ Utley, R. J. D. 2001. How it All Began: Genesis 1-11. Study Guide Commentary Series. Vol. Vol. 1A (19). Bible Lessons International: Marshall, Texas. [↩]
- ‘Genesis 1–11 is not a scientific document, but in some ways modern science parallels its presentation (order of creation and geological levels). It is not anti-scientific but pre-scientific. It presents truth: 1. from an earth perspective (a human observer on this planet); 2. from a phenomenological perspective (i.e. the five senses; the way things appear to the human observer). It has functioned as a revealer of truth for many cultures over many years. It presents truth to a modern scientific culture but without specific explanation of events.’ Ibid. (13). [↩]
- ‘To take a literary passage and demand it to be literal when the text itself gives clues to its symbolic and figurative nature imposes my biases on a divine message. Genre (type of literature) is the key in a theological understanding of “how it all began” and “how it will all end.” I appreciate the sincerity and commitment of those who, for whatever reason, usually personality type or professional training, interpret the Bible in modern, literal, western categories, when in fact it is an ancient eastern book.’ Utley, R. J. D. 2001. How it All Began: Genesis 1-11. Study Guide Commentary Series. Vol. Vol. 1A (16). Bible Lessons International: Marshall, Texas. [↩]
- ‘Genesis 1–11 is a theological necessity for understanding the rest of the Bible but it is an ancient, literary, succinct, artistic, eastern presentation, not a literal, modern, western presentation.’ Ibid. [↩]
- ‘Genesis reflects true knowledge but not exhaustive knowledge. It is given to us in ancient (Mesopotamian) thought forms, but it is infallible theological truth. It is related to its day, but it is totally unique. It speaks of the inexpressible, yet it speaks truly. Basically it is a world-view (who and why), not a world-picture (how and when).’ Ibid. (14). [↩]