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Discussion in '2004 Archive' started by Craigbythesea, Feb 15, 2004.
Is the Book of Genesis historical or allegorical?
It all goes back to what you believe about God: did He tell the truth, or not? Is the word of God really the word of God?
But, then, if Genesis is really an allegory, then who are we to know what other parts of the Bible are allegory or literal? And if the Genesis acount is really allegory, doesn't that mean that God really lied to the children of Israel by having Moses write it? Or did Moses (or whoever you think did it) just make it up as he went along? I mean, since it is allegory and not the literal truth, what would be the difference?
Of course, if Genesis was allegorical, then evolutionists everywhere would be having the biggest celebration ever! I mean, that would mean that God is a liar, and that all their theories aren't, right?
Yes, I have been more than a little silly here, but for a reason. If you take the low road of Genesis as allegory, you might as well chuck the rest of the Bible out with it. The entire Bible stands on the foundation laid in Genesis. Without a foundation, no house will stand. But, isn't that exactly what man has been trying to do for centuries?
If one were to believe that all of the Bible is to be taken literally then one would see God as having hands, feet and wings. That would make him a glorified chicken. If you believed that, then you would believe the Mormon doctrine of Jesus as a glorified man. Which agrees with gnosticism.
What about Genesis is allegorical?
I see you must have heard Walter Martin's tape against Mormonism in his Kingdom of the Cults series
I believe it is historically accurate 100%. Of course the rules of interpretation exists, where allogory, such as mentioned here, is treated for its greater meaning.
I believe the Genesis account of creation is historical, not because everything has to be literal--it doesn't, but because our inspired commentary on the OT (the NT) gives every indication that the Genesis account is historical.
However, the Genesis account also contains a great typological truth. The principle of the sabbath as a rest at the end of God's creative work points toward its typological fulfillment--Christ's rest we enter at the end of His redemptive work.
"It all goes back to what you believe about God: did He tell the truth, or not?"
The fact that a text is allegorical doesn't mean it isn't telling the thruth.
Jesus certainly believed it accurate historically. Where is the problem? Believe Jesus.
Genesis presents itself as a saeries of eyewitness historical accounts. It should be accepted or rejected on its own terms, not on terms foisted onto it by someone not feeling comfortable with its historicity. The Hebrew language is very clear when allegory, poetry, and parable are being presented. None of those language indicators is present anywhere in Genesis.
There are at least three great dangers in using an allegorical method of interpreting scripture vs. using a gramatical-historical method.
1. It does not interpret scripture. It is merely that which is left to the imagination of the expositor. It does not draw out the legitimate meaning of the author's language but, merely the illegitimatethoughts of the interpreter.
2. The basic authority in interpretation ceases to be the Scriptures but, becomes the mind of the interpreter. When once we say that whole passeges and books say one thing but mean another then the foundation ceases to be the Bible and is now the "teacher".
3. One is left without any means by which the conclusions of the interpreter may be tested. To state the the principle meaning of the Bible is a second-meaning and that the principle method of interpretation is "spiritualizing" is to open the door to almost uncontrolled speculation and imagination.
Finally, there is a world of difference between interpreting an allegory and using an allegorical method of interpretation.
(With special thanks to J. Dwight Pentecost's "Things To Come")
The Genesis problem is simple. We have learned to much to accept the years of the generations cited in Genesis as the limits to the time of our world and our universe; we have learned that the world rotates, rather than that the sun goes around the world; we have learned that life extends backwards in time over millions and millions of years, sharing a common ancestry; we have learned that there is no solid dome over our heads that contains the sun, moon, and stars as our lights, but rather space and time are unimagineably more vast than ever before suspected. This information has been slow and painfully put together against strident opposition from those who deny the evidence and yet it has come.
But we can still read Genesis and share the same faith that God created it all. Does this mean we believe God lied? Of course not; it means we see how God has always accomodated His essential truth to the ability of man to understand the vehicle in which it is shared.
God used the narratives of Genesis to form His people and guide His revelation. He did not stop revealing about Himself at any time.
The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork. It is not right to deny what they tell us.
Genesis Chapter One is not written as allegory. It is written to be understood as a literal description of creation about 4000 years before Christ. That does not happen to be what really occurred.
We find, however, that this does not mean we have no revelation of God in this passage. We learn of God as creator and source of the universe and all life. We take the meaning today in a non-literal fashion because we must, but we still take it as our standard of doctrine and faith.
We have not all come together in this. So many still disagree with science as it is commonly understood. Agreeing with science is seen as being against what God said.
What can we do about this? We endure. God's truth will endure regardless. We love. The greatest commandment is love. We share opinions and get to understand each other better. And we disagree.
I don't suppose there's any way to get out of that.
Artimaeus, nice post.
Paul of Eugene, what you think you have learned is not necessarily more than what atheists want you to believe from their interpretations of the data. For the years I have been talking to you on these boards, you have consistently preferred man's explanations over God's Word. That is up to you. You say you take Genesis in a 'non-literal' fashion because you must. You must because of your presuppositions -- those your are encouraged to accept by those who are in rebellion against God.
But God's Word and the actual data not only both stand, but agree -- without 'interpretations' dependant upon your presuppositions.
In addition, playing with the 'dome' thing and the earth's rotation are red herrings and both have been amply, ably, and MANY times answered. It makes no difference to those who believe what they want to believe, regardless of the facts.
"The heavens declare the glory of God." True. But the glory of God is Christ, not twinkling stars and far away galaxies. These are totally dwarfed by God's glory.
You wrote: Genesis Chapter One is not written as allegory. It is written to be understood as a literal description of creation about 4000 years before Christ. That does not happen to be what really occurred.
You are playing word games. If something is said to have occurred which really did not occur, there is a name for it: a lie. You are quite clearly accusing God of at least using lies in His Word. I don't think you will find that goes over with a whole lot of Christians!
Simply believing that God created things to run the way evolutionists say they ran is to deny what He says He did. God did not say He front-loaded the system to take off and do its thing. And that is what the long-agers and evolutionists are trying to get away with saying. But the clear message of Genesis is quite different: God was intimately involved with every step of His creation and it happened exactly as He says it did and in the order He gives. This is in clear opposition to the 'interpretation' you and many others try to foist off on it. Take it as it is or let it go. But don't tell God what He 'meant' to say!
It is not love or truth to deny what God either wrote Himself or caused to be written.
And, in response to your last point, the idea is not to get to know each other better, but to get to know God better. That's really hard when you are trying to deny what He has said and reinterpret to explain what He really 'meant' to say. Whatever would He do without men to explain what He really means?
I rather think He would do just fine, actually. He knows how to communicate to us. He did then, He does now.
Make up your mind. Either what God said was true or it wasn't. Can you not see the inconsistency in your statement that God didn't lie, it is just that what He said isn't what happened. It has nothing to do with how you or I interpret it. It is a straight forward statement of fact or not fact, truth or not truth, literal or not literal, it happened or it didn't.
What standard? If each person get to interpret "the real meaning" then there is no standard just a whole bunch of floating opinions.
Can I then say that I do not disagree with what science says but that I disagree with what science means?
Paul of Eugene,
Creation as described in Gen 1, "does not happen to be what really occurred". Incredible! How do you know? What is your authority? You have called God a liar at the worst or the Bible incorrect at the least. It is really frightening that professing Christians take it upon themselves to decide what they will and will not believe in God's Word and do it in His Name. Why not just say "I don't believe God's Word and so I have joined so many others to create my own religion." If the biblical text cannot be trusted in Genesis, what makes it trustworthy any where else.
This has been my beef against these theistic evolutionists from day one. If Genesis is an allegory and death has been ramped through this earth for millions of years, then they’re undermining the very gospel itself. It there was no Adam, then there was no fall; and if there is no fall, there is no Hell; and if there is no Hell, what’s the point of Jesus Christ? The whole biblical system of salvation collapses!
Hi Helen - hope this posting finds you well and blessed.
Atheists and Christians alike can agree when the facts show the way. Atheists and Christians can keep the same set of financial books for a company, can serve in the same jury trying a defendant for murder, and can do science together. It only takes a willingness to face truth when we see it. Indeed, it is God's plan we be together doing these things, so we can witness to them.
For the years I have been talking to you on these boards, you have consistently preferred denying evidence from God's creation in favor of your interpretation of God's word. That is up to you.
It is not a rebellion against God to count the annual layers in the greenland ice cores and find there are well over 100,000 of them. Its just a count! It is not a rebellion against God to measure the distance from here to the nearest galaxy and discover it would take light millions of years to traverse the distance. It's just a measurement! It is not rebellion against God to agree with Copernicus and Gallileo and assert that it is the earth's rotation, not a moving Sun, that causes day and night. It's merely an observation!
Only if you agree to not interpret the scriptures literally, as for the moving of the sun around the earth, the dome of the sky, and so forth. Precisely the thing you deny me the right to do.
What I see happening is that whenever a modern would be literalist, such as yourself, cannot bring themselves to deny the findings of science, they allow themselves the luxery of reinterpreting scripture in a non-literal fashion; for example, as to whether or not the sun goes around the earth as a cause of night and day, or whether the firmament is solid over our heads. But in areas of science that you do not see to be compelling to your mind, you feel free to deny the findings of science.
It comes down to what parts of science are compelling in your mind, that's all. It's not my fault that the radioactive decay dating and the light speed arrival times and the continental drift evidence and the lake bottom layer count evidence and the tree ring counting evidence and the ice layer counting evidence and the vestigal organs evidence and the nested hierarchy of relationship between species evidence and the many kinds of geological record evidence and the Astrodial Kirkwood Gap evidence and the crater bombardment evidence and the magnetic reversal record evidence and the background radiation evidence are not especially compelling in your mind.
That's exactly what Martin Luthor said about Copornicus. Since then most Christians have reconciled to that particular reinterpretion of scripture. We're just going through another reinterpretation phase. I'm sorry you got caught up into it so much as you have.
Scientists aren't trying to say anything about God, at least when they are being scientists. Scientists are just reporting their findings. If their findings disagree with your interpretation of what God said, that is not their fault, nor is it God's fault. Corpornicus was right. Gallileo was right. Einstein was right. Hawking was right. Darwin was right. Hubble was right. These and others merely opened men's eyes to new insights into God's truth - and all truth is God's truth, whether written in the Bible or written in the skies.
Exactly the scientific attitude. Instead, find out what is really out there and let what we find speak for itself.
The evidence appears to indicate He chose to accomodate His revelation into narratives within the understanding of the men to whom He gave that revelation. I dare not question Him or call Him a liar for doing that.
The question as to whether or not Genesis is literal or allegory changes my faith in no way. The fact is, the creation is by God...he had the power to do it whichever way He chose to do it. Genesis records God's relationship to man, and I see it as thus, not simply as a historical document.
Bottom line: I will not make a claim either way. I can accept it either way. My faith remains, unshaken.