8 thoughts on “Facts In Genesis: Is The Creation Account In Christianity Correct?

  1. Comments go too nested again! So I’m jumping back out.

    ” though I have also heard from the mythicist side that the stories of what Jesus did in the new testament are not intended to be literal, as there are many stories where the literal interpretation makes no sense at all while the metaphorical one makes so much more sense. ”

    There’s a concept called Low Christology versus High Christology. The Synoptic Gospels are written from the perspective of Low Christology; John, High. The symbolism steps up in the latter. It’s an interesting lens through which to study the Gospels.

    “There are things such as rules for life like the ten commandments or rules for slavery that seem pretty clear, the later I don’t think gets resolved simply by calling it non-literal, as what would that interpretation even be?”

    That’s a good point, and one I don’t see discussed often enough.

    Among other things, the Old Testament is the story of a people coming together. Their community had factions, which is why you see the various traditions contradict each other from book to book (Kings are good! No, Kings are terrible and Judges are good!).

    In the same way to community’s character evolved over time, so did its understanding of morality. There are times when the Old Testament presents the Ban as a good thing. I’d like to think we know better now. It presented slavery as acceptable. I’d like to think we know better now.

    You can tell a lot about a person’s character by which passages they give the most weight!

    For example, when someone screams about how the Old Testament speaks ill of homosexuality, ask that person about Exodus 21:7-11:

    “When a man sells his daughter as a slave…”

    Talk about problematic! That aside, ask the speaker how much he’d charge for his daughter. Ask if he takes Visa.

    Theologically accurate. Everything else? Take liberally with salt.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah I definitely heard that, I didn’t want to say because I didn’t know for sure, but John was the one I was sure was supposed to be mostly metaphorical. I don’t think that’s an amazing thing for Christianity since John would be the only first person witness ignoring the fact that they’re anonymous.

      I’d like to think we’re better than that as well. I also don’t think it should be so easy to dismiss it through context, the fact that it says so much endorsing slavery yet doesn’t ever condemn it specifically (as far as I know) is a huge problem to me. Morality is a product of the time, but they should have been getting these moral messages from their God early, not late, even the new testament says ” Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear,” in Ephesians 6.5!

      Anyway I’m glad we can use the morality we already have to know when to dismiss things in the bible. I am very happy our society still doesn’t follow “but God said it so it must be good” for obvious reasons.

      I still think all of the passages against homosexuality is not a good thing. If not for the content of the passages, the wider effect of so many people being sexually repressed and needing to hide their nature for fear of persecution in the past (and still in some places today)

      Granted it’s not on the same level of misery slavery has caused, but these are all problems worth talking about.

      “Theologically accurate. Everything else? Take liberally with salt.”

      In my opinion it really boils down to what you consider theology. If you consider all those massacres, endorsing slavery, punishing people for the sins of their parents, and the first humans then it leaves you with a really bad impression of God. If you can dismiss these as “now we know better” it brings the idea of picking and choosing what you like, and having no real basis to know which ones are true about God. When you say “Theology” my interpretation is information on the nature of God and what he’s like and what he has planned for us, maybe my confusion is in the definitions though, I feel like to some it can mean many things, just thinking about my friends who I used to go to church with. So I just wonder what exactly you mean with theology, as I wouldn’t say all of it is good, potentially accurate, but not good.

      Yes, taking it with a heavy amount of salt is a good idea. For everything the natural explanation is more probable than the supernatural one (until the supernatural is proven but then I guess the supernatural would just become natural)

      This topic continues to be so interesting to me!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t believe I’m about to defend this position, but there it is…

    We know how old Scripture is. We know that it’s not a document founded on empirical science. It’s a document that’s trying to get theological ideas across.

    In this case, the whole point isn’t the specific sequence of creation. It’s that there’s a Creator responsible for it all.

    That means two things.

    First, religious folks really shouldn’t point to a 3000 (or so) year old document and try to insist it supersedes our current understand. It doesn’t. It doesn’t try to.

    Second, as people with a greater scientific understanding of the world, we really shouldn’t point to Genesis and say it’s wrong because it doesn’t support modern scientific theories. They weren’t intended to; they’re theological documents.

    Unfortunately, I’ve had too many discussions with people who try to use Scripture to disprove modern science — all the while driving to work and using devices provided solely by modern science.

    We’re a strange race…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, the main point of this was to show people who point to Genesis as if it’s correct science that it’s wrong, and not something that is right or fair to do. This has no bearing on the truth value of the religion itself outside of science.

      My problem with your second point is that the bible seems to claim that these scientific stories are true. There isn’t any section at the start saying please don’t take this literally, and it’s telling you these things as if they’re fact. If it said “In the beginning God created the universe” and that was it I wouldn’t have a problem with it, it’s just when they claim God did these events in this order that is when it is incorrect.

      For many years people have believed Genesis as fact, to the point of many people still disbelieving science today and the church persecuting people who disagree with science. If you have something that shows these aren’t making factual claims, then I really want to hear about it so I can use it to make people more inclined to believe science.

      It’s just when the bible blatantly says “This event that completely contradicts science happened” in it’s text it’s hard to see anything but it wanting the literal interpretation.

      Even when I was a Christian I still would have believed that it was intended to be taken literally, the books were just wrong. So if you have an answer for this I really want to hear it.

      It’s a really interesting perspective, thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve heard many Jewish scholars say that if you want to best understand the Old Testament, you need to ask a Jewish scholar.

        In all my experience studying Scripture, I have to say that I agree.

        Why’s that important?

        “There isn’t any section at the start saying please don’t take this literally, and it’s telling you these things as if they’re fact. ”

        There’s also no section that says, “Don’t hurl yourself off a mountain.”

        Well, not that I know of, anyway.

        Exodus didn’t start out saying “This is not empirical science” because the community already knew that. There was no reason to enumerate that which everyone already knew. Besides, the type of writing was narrative or story. Everyone knew not to take it literally.

        The scholars always knew it. When Christianity fragmented in the 1500s, the good news was that everyone was encouraged to read Scripture. The bad news is that no one with the necessary knowledge prepared them to read it.

        So they just interpreted it however they wanted.

        Which is, by and large, did not take into account the knowledge and experience in the communities who actually write it.

        “It’s just when the bible blatantly says “This event that completely contradicts science happened” in it’s text it’s hard to see anything but it wanting the literal interpretation.”

        Remember: They only had a handful of literary types: narrative, history, letter, or list, for example. They did not have an objective science category. Everyone in the early community knew the stories were stories — theologically true, but otherwise stories to illustrate the deeper truth.

        No, Sol III is not 6000 years old. No, Scripture doesn’t even suggest how old it is. Scripture asserts there was a Creator. Scripture asserts that the Creator created everything.

        There’s no discussion of method or timing. That wasn’t the point; it wasn’t important.

        In modern time, what really annoys me to no end, is that when rational people discover these previously known facts, the quite reasonably reject the whole framework.

        So if you wonder why I try not to discuss these topics anymore, you now know about reason!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ok I clearly will have to look more into this. It makes a lot of sense to me, due to the contradictions and historical absence of evidence, but I’m still held back a little by the fact that it blatantly says that these things did happen.

          ““There isn’t any section at the start saying please don’t take this literally, and it’s telling you these things as if they’re fact. ”

          There’s also no section that says, “Don’t hurl yourself off a mountain.””

          I don’t think these are equivalent. I get the point that it’s not said because it should be obvious. However when this is an all powerful God your talking about it comes with the assumption that his book might contain the right facts, since this God would have the right method of delivering those facts.

          I would hope that you’d agree that if they were intended not to be taken literally then at the very least it’s misleading.

          Also to what extent would you apply this? New testament as well?

          If we say that one passage that tells you events as if it’s fact is not literal, then how can we distinguish other books that also tell it as if it’s fact? It can just leave us with a dilemma of not knowing what to take seriously until science disproves it.

          How can you tell which sections to take literally? Or is that the point? That none of it is supposed to be literal?

          But if none of it’s literal, then why believe any of it? If every single story told is metaphorical why not assume the whole subject of the book is metaphorical as well?

          This is my main concern. Of course I get that you may not want to discuss it any more, but I hope it comes across that I’m just trying to find out more about this view of the bible than trying to disprove it.

          I hope you can empathise with this idea, as neither I, or really many Christians I know have never argued this, so it’s new and not necessarily easy to fully accept straight away without questioning and doing research.

          Liked by 1 person

          • “However when this is an all powerful God your talking about it comes with the assumption that his book might contain the right facts, since this God would have the right method of delivering those facts.”

            If we grant that Scripture is divinely inspired, we don’t necessarily have to postulate that it’s divinely _dictated_. The people who wrote it only had the vocabulary and scientific knowledge of their time. Even if the divine had dictated this sentence from Scientific American:

            “Physicists ascribe the inflationary spurt to the potential energy stored in a new quantum field, the inflaton, about 1035 second after the big bang.”

            People living in 2000 BC would have no idea what that meant.

            Now, you could ask why the divine didn’t teach the Scriptural writers All There Is so He could dictate a scientifically accurate depiction of creation. But, to what level would they be educated? The understanding of Newton? Our understanding? The understanding we achieve a 100 years from now, assuming we’re not extinct? A 1,000 years?

            “I would hope that you’d agree that if they were intended not to be taken literally then at the very least it’s misleading.”

            I agree it’s misleading, for people who haven’t been exposed to the original environment. For a Hebrew writer in 1000 BC, the idea that anyone would consider taking a story literally was alien. There were no literal scriptures. It was all meant to convey theological truths. I can’t think of a single Old Testament book that can be taken literally. So, those writers would not have considered telling people what was common knowledge. Nor could they have anticipated a dramatic change in what was understood 3000 years later.

            That’s a long time.

            That’s why I used the example of not jumping off a cliff. People of that time knew jumping off a cliff was a bad idea.

            The New Testament’s epistles (letters) have a lot of facts in them, and they’re closer to what we think of as a literal depiction. But even there, they use imagery and symbols to convey meaning, and the literal facts aren’t as important as the theological facts.

            “But if none of it’s literal, then why believe any of it?”

            I think there are two ways I can interpret your question.

            The first is by reading it like this: “If none of Scripture is literal, why would I believe it as a source of fact?” The answer is, you wouldn’t. There are too many contradictions to historical and scientific fact. I’d also argue it’s not designed to be read like that.

            The second is by reading it like this: If none of Scripture is literal, can it still be a source of theological truth? The answer is yes, in the same way that an anime like Concrete Revolutio can be seen as making statement as political realities using fantastical characters and settings.

            “If every single story told is metaphorical why not assume the whole subject of the book is metaphorical as well?”

            It depends on the weight you give to metaphorical insights. I think metaphor has a huge part to play in any literature, including Scripture. But I don’t think it’s safe to look to metaphor as the only source of truth in scripture. All of the literary tools of the Hebrew culture between 2000 BC and 0 BC (or so), then all of the literary tools of the early Roman, Greek, and Hebrew cultures (0 AD to around 300 AD) can be found, and all of them are working to get their points across.

            “but I hope it comes across that I’m just trying to find out more about this view of the bible than trying to disprove it.”

            I’m probably not the best person to explain it, primarily because I don’t understand the other perspective (literal understandings of Scripture). So, I don’t know how to bridge the understandings.

            “I hope you can empathise with this idea, as neither I, or really many Christians I know have never argued this, ”

            There are primarily 3 groups who come from the perspective I’ve tried to describe: Jewish scholars (and, as far as I know, the mainstream Jewish culture and faith), Roman Catholic scriptural scholars, and Greek Orthodox scriptural scholars. Taking Scripture literally is (literally!) a foreign concept in those circles, to the extent I’ve interacted with them.

            In my previous comment, when I mentioned that rational folks might reject the whole framework, what I meant was that if a Christian asserts that Scripture is without factual error, and a rational person discovers that there are in fact errors, that rational person might conclude that Scripture is false.

            That’s a problem. I mean, even if we don’t believe Scripture, there are still some good ideas in there (like the Beatitudes, for example). Cutting the world off from those insights might not be the best idea.

            If we start from the understanding that Scripture is primarily a theological work and is not a history, or an astro physical treatise, or any other kind of scientific work, then discoveries of apparent factual error in, for example, a historical timeline, simply means that the writer was more interested in conveying a theological truth and used events the same way a novelist uses plot. Scripture’s role as a source of theological truth remains intact. And instead of arguing about why all four Gospels disagree at different points, we can ask more relevant questions, like how do we live out the last command from the Christ (i.e., love one another as He loved us).

            To me, that seems like a much more fruitful and accurate question.

            “I hope you can empathise with this idea, as neither I, or really many Christians I know have never argued this, so it’s new and not necessarily easy to fully accept straight away without questioning and doing research.”

            I’m just some guy on the internet. I have no expectation that anyone will listen to anything I say. I think it’s a great idea for you to host these conversations, though, because there are important ideas. I don’t find many forums who really want to understand another perspective.

            Liked by 1 person

            • So when we are born we know absolutely nothing, yet as we grow up we are taught these incredibly complicated facts and concepts to the point where we can understand complicated sentences like that.

              It’s not like these people were idiots, they would have been able to learn these things if God properly explained and told it to them.

              As well as that though we can postulate it’s not divinely dictated its not any far stretch at all that an all powerful God would be able to in whatever way possible make every word exactly what they wanted it to be. That’s why I’m not calling anyone crazy for taking the literal approach.

              To what level he should tell us facts is a fair point. I would argue why not give us as much information as possible to prove his existence? He could have done it in such a way like giving us the experiments for us to test it for ourselves that it would make the religion massively difficult to dismiss. Just think about all the problems simple germ theory would have solved in history!

              Granted he didn’t need to. Easy concepts like the earth being roughly spherical and starting from an individual point in space would have been massively more compelling on their own, or just enough information to not contradict.

              This is not to disagree with your point that it is intended not to be taken literally. The main thing I’m considering is why an all powerful God wouldn’t have made it literal and made sure everything in there was factual and true in the first place. But it’s kind of besides the point.

              I agree that if it’s not literal you can still get moral messages from it. It would also seem to me that whether this God exists or not would be even less testable than it already is, as we cannot possible verify it’s compliance with anything in the real world.

              Yes it’s more important to scrutinise the new testament as it’s not nearly as literal, though I have also heard from the mythicist side that the stories of what Jesus did in the new testament are not intended to be literal, as there are many stories where the literal interpretation makes no sense at all while the metaphorical one makes so much more sense. That’s something else I will also need to look into now.

              I personally don’t think theirs any moral messages in Christianity that could only come from Christianity. These moral concepts would not be lost with scripture. That’s not to undermine the potential good that they caused, just that I don’t think it would be lost.

              I don’t think it’s quite as simple as none of the contradictions in the old testament mattering because it’s literal. There are things such as rules for life like the ten commandments or rules for slavery that seem pretty clear, the later I don’t think gets resolved simply by calling it non-literal, as what would that interpretation even be? As well as that, knowing that the whole old testament is intended to be non-literal doesn’t immediately rectify things, as I can see it directly after making the God claim even less believable (from the perspective of a Christian who might deconvert after seeing the factual inaccuracies or contradictions)

              I agree “love one another as He loved us” is a more important of a question. However in terms of assessing the truth claim, it’s not the one I’m interested in.

              Yeah that’s exactly what I want to be! This idea is absolutely fascinating to me and I’m really happy to be able to talk about it! I am busy with frantic exam revision, and it takes me ages to write comments, never-mind blog posts. I would certainly like to do a blog post about this idea having done more research, but currently that’s difficult for me.

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