Collected Stories? (RJS)


I’ve been busy the last week or so and didn’t get as involved in comments as I often do. But Scot put up a couple of interesting posts last Thursday, one on Evangelicalism’s Radical Diversity 4 with a discussion on inerrancy and the other on Evolution: A Remarkable History (not by me) discussing the history and development of evolutionary theories. These posts were somewhat related because of course the interpretation of Genesis and other parts of scripture are impacted by our view of cosmology, geology, and biology. This impacts some views of inerrancy.

I would like to focus here on one specific part of the comments on the first post. This was, for the most part, an excellent conversation with views put forth clearly and commenters treating other viewpoints fairly. One of the commenters, however, put this in the middle of a comment:

If you’re going to see Gen. 1-11 and so on as just collected stories (as RJS) then you might as well employ the same hermeneutics as the Jesus Seminar… and while you’re not going that far in your conclusions as the Jesus Seminar might, you’re using the same reasoning that they are to interpret the historical validity of a text… that seems pretty dangerous. (comment 106)

The first part of this paragraph surprised me a bit, shows something of a misunderstanding, -and brings up a question I would like to ask here.

What is Genesis 1-11? What is the purpose and genre? Is it collected stories, historical account, or something else?

This comment surprised me because I do not see Genesis 1-11 as “collected stories.” Rather I see the text as an edited whole communicating a coherent and important truth. We do well to pour pore over these chapters, understand them, study them – even memorize them. We need to bring questions to the text and let it teach us. What does this text tell us about God and his interaction with his people?

The Jesus Seminar searched the synoptic gospels to identify “authentic sayings of Jesus, dismissing or discarding the rest as later interpretation of the church. The historical Jesus enterprise searched for the “real” Jesus behind the text. This hermeneutic is foreign to the way I approach any of scripture – from Genesis to Revelation.

I would suggest that having accepted the text as the word of God we have to let the text tell us what this entails. Our attempts at harmonizing and putting together the puzzle to match a preconceived idea of what is proper for the word of God is a misreading and misinterpretation of the text. When we look at Genesis 1-11 there is no sifting and searching for bits and pieces of truth amidst “error,” interpretation, or myth – we take the whole as given.  But reading the text literally with literary intelligence sees forms of truth-telling that are different in genre, form, and purpose. We misunderstand scripture when we look for correspondence between modern science and the cosmology of the Ancient Near East. We misunderstand the nature of scripture when we equate ANE cosmology with error. We also misread Genesis if we don’t recognize that the form of historical truth-telling in Genesis 1-11 is different from the historical truth-telling in Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. The historical truth-telling in Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles is, in turn, different from the form of historical truth-telling we expect in historical monograph today.

So consider Genesis 1-2.

Genesis 1 has God creating vegetation on the third day (before the sun!); water creatures and birds on the fifth day; beasts of the earth on the sixth day – culminating with the creation of man, male and female, “and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

Genesis 2 has no shrub or plant “for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground.“… then God creates man, then he plants the Garden, then he creates animals as “companions” then he creates woman as the perfect companion. The culmination is in the institution of marriage as a sacred gift from God … “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

We can try to rationalize and harmonize these texts to match our sensibilities for history, or  we can take what is given to us and look for God’s truth in the literary form set before us. I think that we distort the text when we try to harmonize – and we may, in fact, harmonize away the truth. The so-called discrepancies aren’t problems to be solved, but clues as to the form and purpose of the text.  The fact that the order of creation is different in these accounts tells us that the purpose and form of the text is not historically accurate chronologies, and this is just fine. Realizing this we can relax and look at the text as it is, not worrying about concordance with science or history, and not worrying about internal consistency at this level.

If we start on the road of harmony we will be patching over and over and over again as we read through scripture, in Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Kings and Chronicles, Mark and John. Why would we view scripture as the word of God on one hand – and seriously distorted in transmission on the other?

The Bible is a coherent whole – but we have to let scripture itself tell us what this means as we read and study. We need to take the text we have and let it teach us as we immerse ourselves in the story, in the word, with the guidance of the Spirit.

What do you think?

At what level should we look for truth and harmony within scripture and between science and scripture?

If you wish you may contact me directly at rjs4mail[at]

  • Dan

    RJS. You write: “The Jesus Seminar searched the synoptic gospels to identify “authentic” sayings of Jesus, dismissing or discarding the rest as later interpretation of the church…I would suggest that having accepted the text as the word of God we have to let the text tell us what this entails.”
    Most of us who have disputed with you see your treatment of Paul as similar to the search for the “authentic” meaning, rather than letting the text speak for itself. Yes, it is possible that the author of Genesis was writing in a way that is not meant to be read as literal history (the genre argument). The problem is that the rest of scripture treats Genesis as historical (which is not to dismiss difficulties in understanding certain details).
    In the entire book of Genesis, I would say that a central theme is history, where did the Jewish people (and all of mankind) come from? The promise to Abraham has bearing on his actions in the test with Issaac, has relevance to the stories of Isaac and Jacob and are critical to understanding Joseph’s actions in Egypt. GOD spoke to Abraham, made a promise, that promise was kept, led to a family and a nation, and that verbal promise was key to the history. Likewise, to me, Adam is important not as a “scientific” detail, but as an historical reality. He is mentioned in genealogies alongside Abraham and David. Is this history or a “later interpretation” to be discarded?
    The genealogies and the use of Adam by Paul and Christ himself disallow treating Genesis as less than historical if indeed we are letting the text speak for itself rather than looking for some more “authentic” interpretation. And seeing Adam as less than historical changes the story of who we are, why we are here, why there is evil in our world, etc.
    No, Genesis 1-3 is not a scientific description, but I think the overwhelming consensus prior to the modern era was that it was historical (with allegorical or prophetic implications.)

  • RD

    I think Gen 1-11 are a hodge-podge of stories, mostly influenced from stories that originated in ancient mesopotamia. They try to answer questions about origins (of the earth, of plants and animals and people, of differing languages, etc). I think the Hebrew editors of the Torah included these writings as a way of introduction to their own broad story. God, as depicted in Gen 1-11, is nothing like the God that Jesus represents to us. This God is very similar in character to other ancient near eastern dieties (vengeful, violent, jealous, impatient, agressive, tribal, concerned with borders and territory, etc). I think God is depicted this way because ALL gods were depicted this way in the earliest oral traditions.
    Does this fact mean that these early chapters should not be viewed as “God’s word”? I don’t think so. I think they show us the arc of development with regard to ideas of who God is and what God is like and how God truly wishes to interact with all people in all times and places. Bruce Feiler’s books, “Where God Was Born” and “Walking the Bible” are two really good reads that deal with much of these ideas.

  • Norm

    Some very good observations in this article. Genesis 1-11 carries with it 2000 years of interpretive baggage that causes us more problems than it typically solves. One of the key interpretive functions that is often overlooked or ignored is that other OT and primarily the NT scriptures interpret it for us if we will allow it to do so naturally without our science and literal tendencies. If the bible is consistent as I believe it is then that means Ezekiel and Daniel use its symbols correctly and finally John in Revelation puts the final stamp on much of early Genesis meanings. What this means is that when John states in Rev 21:1 that there is a New Heaven and Earth being established through Christ that is what He literally means. However a little studying of how the term H&E is used in scriptures demonstrates that it is not a physical cosmic understanding by the Hebrews but simply a description of God establishing a Covenant world of the faithful. The first one with the Law passed away and with it all of its attendant functional assignments. That is why there is no more sea and the sun and the moon are no longer needed in the New Heavens and Earth as Christ is the lamp. This means that there is no Gentile wall of separation and that physical Temple worship with signs and seasons are no longer needed. They were functionally assigned in Genesis One and have been functionally de created in Rev 21.
    Now that we have a glimpse of the possibilities of what the Heaven and Earth is all about at the end then we can go back to Genesis and examine the First Heaven and Earth in a Hebrew light instead of a literal cosmic rendering which was not the Hebrew intention. Heb 1:10-11 says that the beginning H&E are going to be rolled up and in Chapter 12 they will be shaken and changed. This is simply Hebrew lingo for the changing of the Guard regarding the old covenant of Law which is what Hebrews is all about.
    Trying to determine the author’s intent of Gen 1-11 is probably the most challenging job theologically in scripture outside of Revelation. Revelation is actually much easier after you understand its literary symbolism. You are indeed correct that it is not a hodge podge of stories cut and pasted together as any modern student of Genesis should quickly recognize. In fact its literary style probably necessitated the height of the flowering of Hebrew literature to produce it which means it was very probably a late first Temple construction product.
    Walton is essentially correct that Gen 1 can be determined to demonstrate an ANE Temple construction pattern of seven Days. However it is a proprietary Hebrew design and should not be too closely tied to other nations. Walton draws little conclusion which is disappointing but I’ll do it for him. To us moderns’ you can think of Gen 1 as the Table of Contents set at the beginning of the book with the details to come later, it is an exalted minimalist summary in effect of the totality of the book and in this case from Gen 2:4 through Revelation. It is not a cosmic story in the manner that many would speculate but it simply details the epochs (ages/stories) of Israel from Adam to Christ in the barest and simplest of Hebrew symbolic images. All the images of Gen 1 are found expounded and defined for us through a thorough study of scripture. Augustine came very close to getting it right when he stated that each Day represented a significant Hebrew age starting with Adam on Day one and culminating with the completion of the full Image of God on Day six through Christ intervention. That then brought in the never ending Day 7 of the Sabbath Rest of God and Man.
    Gen 1 then details simply the story that is to come concerning the first dispensation of Adam to be consummated with the eternal dispensation of the Second Adam Christ. Chapter 2 & 3 tells us some details but even then that story is highly figurative and has much prophecy in it basically paralleling Israel’s fall from Garden status because of “Law” but it uses the historic Adam for this illustrative purpose. The Cain and Able story finds its ultimate application in the last days so it should be considered highly prophetic as it simply illustrates the shepherd of Grace being murdered by the brother who lust after the works of the Ground/flesh which is why these stories are so prevalent in the NT conflict between the faithful and the Apostate Jews.
    These stories must be understood through the Hebrew Messianic fulfillment viewpoint otherwise we will chase every symbol down the too many rabbit trails. Staying within the Biblical context narrows the focus and is more productive. The ANE mindset is important but not nearly as much as learning the theological mindset of the totality of the Hebrews concerning the coming Messiah. This means one needs to get their eschatological house in order to appreciate the beginning of the story.

  • Scot McKnight

    Dan, I recommend you read Hans Frei’s classic The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative: A Study in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Hermeneutics. The whole word “historical” is what he investigates.

  • T

    I haven’t personally settled on a way to view Genesis just yet. But if we take Genesis 1 & 2 as first and foremost historical, what exactly do we say about the plants and shrubs as a historical matter? Were they around before man (as in 1) or after (as in 2)? Are these factual discrepancies to be solved or are they, as RJS is arguing, clues of the way Genesis is trying to speak? A flat reading of each chapter separately would lead to opposite and obvious conclusions. If they are intended as chiefly historical, that seems like a very odd contradiction to put so closely together.

  • Michael W. Kruse

    C. S. Lewis wrote the following books:
    Mere Christianity
    The Screwtape Letters
    The Narnia Chronicles
    All talk about important theological truths. All make reference to historical events. The first three are written as though the events are factual and historical. Yet through perception of genre, the author is expects the reader to perceive what literary devices are being employed without the author having to explain it.
    Does the fact that I don’t treat The Screwtape Letters in the same manner as I do Mere Christianity mean I am undermining Mere Christianity? Does the fact that the Screwtape Letters uses a genre other than a “reporter on the scence” historical quality diminish the theological truth it communicates?
    Ancient Near East culture had multiple genres just as we do. Imposing a “reporter on the scene” factual recounting of historical events with no regard for genre is the equivalent of concluding that C. S. Lewis believed there is a parallel world with talking animals. We distort scripture with our “plain reading” of the text.

  • Jon Porter

    Maybe a new variant of Godwin’s Law is emerging, specific to the Jesus Creed Blog. I think it should be called “Reductio Ad JesusSeminarum”.

  • Jon Porter

    Oops, bad link. Try again:
    “Reductio Ad JesusSeminarum”

  • AHH

    On the genre question, it should not be settled by the uninformed opinions of amateurs (like me, or most preachers on the topic) but we must give weight to our brothers and sisters who are experts in the literature of the Ancient Near East. People like John Walton, Bruce Waltke, Meredith Kline, Conrad Hyers, Paul Seely, and Pete Enns.
    Then the question of “harmony” between Genesis and science (or within Genesis) partly depends on the genre question. If the experts told us that the genre of Gen. 1-11 was that of a scientific treatise, there would be one expectation. But if (as seems to be the case) the experts tell us the genre is more one of symbolism and reworking of existing themes in the ANE to make theological points, it would be unreasonable to demand the text “line up” with science (or with itself in detail). Instead we have the idea of “complementarity” where science and the text (and potentially different parts of the text) address different aspects of reality, like pictures taken from different angles.
    Of course to some extent science can inform our thinking about genre; the fact that assuming a literal-scientific genre leads to readings contrary to the evidence in God’s creation (for example, such a reading would have the Earth only 6000 years old, the Earth created before the Sun, and a solid firmament in the sky holding back the waters above) weighs against such a genre.

  • Scott Morizot

    Perhaps because of my lifelong interest in ancient cultures and history as well as my pluralistic religious background, the two creation narratives have never seemed as mysterious to me as they seem to be to some. I doubt I understand all that they mean, but in the context of the ancient world,a few things have always stood out to me.
    The first narrative stresses that all things are created by and subject to God. The sun and moon are not gods. Nothing had eternal existence. The seas are not gods or ruled by other gods. Moreover, it stresses that the material creation is both deliberate and good. Both of those run counter to ancient perspectives.
    The second narrative further stresses that man is not the lowest part of creation, an accident, or a mistake. Man was lovingly fashioned by God, filled with the breath og God, anwas in fact the pinnacle or creation. That was a pretty radical assertion in the ancienr world.
    I also have seen the gospel genealogies linked into a discussion about Genesis. That seems strange to me and perhaps reflects an anachronistic understanding of ancient genealogies and how they were used. In the case of Matthew’s gospel the purpose was pretty clearly to establish Jesus as the Messiah of Israel while Luke seems to be writing to Gentiles primarily and is mostly interested in showing how the Messiah of Israel is also Lord of all nations and why that’s good news.
    It’s hard for me to see any connection between how we understand the gospel genealogies and how we understand the creation narratives in Genesis. It seems to me that some are trying to draw connections that don’t actually exist.

  • Charlie Lehardy

    Your final question is a good one. All Scripture conveys truth because it is God-breathed, and God is truth. So proceeding from that foundation, we have to say that the differences between Genesis 1 and 2 were intentional, and that therefore they may be teaching us about the nature of God or his purposes in creation rather than the historical, scientific steps he took to achieve creation. I’ve tended to think of Genesis as an allegory whose purpose is to convey the intended relationship between God and man, God and creation, and man and creation.
    Jesus himself taught by using allegory in order to teach about the nature of unseen things by comparing them to concrete and commonly understood everyday realities.
    The difficulty, of course, is where and how to draw the line between concrete historical truth (a specific king lived and ruled at such and such a time) and a literary device that is true on a different level but not necessarily historic or scientific. Jonah is a good example. I truly don’t know whether to take all or part of that story literally or figuratively. I’m willing to read it both ways, frankly, because I believe in a God who does miracles, but I’m dubious, I confess, that he was really swallowed by a great fish.
    Ultimately, I think these questions can’t always be settled dogmatically. As Christians, we have to agree to the historicity of the virgin birth, the incarnation, the miracles of Jesus, the resurrection, but we should be guided in all of these matters by the Holy Spirit. Archaeological evidence has settled some of the apparent discrepancies, but most will remain unsettled and unproven one way or the other. They then become matters of faith, and questions of how we view the nature and character of God and his habits and purposes in his relationship with humanity.
    These are good questions, Scot. Thanks for stimulating my thinking.

  • RJS

    You are right – but this reliance on experts can be taken too far as well. We don’t weigh credentials and count experts to decide an issue, we also have to listen to and evaluate the form of the argument. Experts can and do disagree.
    Obviously in OT studies I rely on experts – first and foremost in the translation of the text as I don’t read Hebrew. I also rely on commentaries and experts exploring the nature of ANE culture. I read divergent views and evaluate the strengths of the argument.
    In the same manner as scientists we have an obligation to step back and explain to a non-specialist why we hold the positions we do in order to allow them to evaluate the relative strengths of the arguments, and to evaluate competing arguments.

  • Jonah

    You question if the Jonah story is literally true? Everyone knows that refusing to accept Jonah at literal face value is the largest threat to Christianity today :)

  • Norm

    Let’s consider the idea of following the experts down through the years.
    Historically the idea of the 6000 year old earth derives from a misinterpretation of early Christian literature in the first century. There was an early debate on the date of Adam and it probably derived from misunderstanding the Hebrew concepts of a Day as a Thousand years used by Peter in 2 Pet 3:8 but also found in the Barnabas Epistle which actually applies that concept to the Days of creation. The inclination was to take these days as literal 1000 years and derive one’s conclusion based upon that precept. Unfortunately what is missed is that the Barnabas Epistle and Peter most likely are quoting Jubilees 4:29-30 and not primarily Psalm 90:4. Jubilees provides an almost identical quote and gives us the Second Temple interpretation that the Day is meant symbolically and that 1000 years applied to Day becomes a metaphor for a significant age or period of time. It stamps the time frame with a fullness or completion concept and has little or nothing to do with an actual historic 1000 years. This has been the bane of interpreters for years now and has caused constant headaches for interpreters over the centuries but it appears to be understood during the early first century church before literalness set in.
    What is amazing about not understanding the 1000 years is that Jubilees actually presents that it was roughly 4000 years from Adam’s established covenant until Christ. Some previous biblical scholars actually grasped that this was the effective Date and so the scramble to reestablish the consummation all over again. Of course that would have put it around 2000AD and coupled with Israel coming in to existence last century is possibly what has fueled the contemporary Left Behind crowd not realizing it as symbolic. The Barnabas author since he quoted Jubilees would have been well aware of the time frame derived from Jubilees that the Messiah was due and spoke toward that fulfilled reality and fully realized the symbolic understanding of the 1000 years. John in Revelation also imports the 1000 year application and appears to apply it to the period of consummation from Pentecost until the end of the Old Covenant Temple calling that period a symbolic 1000 years. He may also be inferring to the seventh Day Sabbath Rest as a millennium period as well verifying that 1000 years was strictly symbolic and not literal in the Holy Spirit lead Hebrew mind. Also with no night coming in the seventh Day it means that the 1000 years is eternal as one might glean from understanding this Hebrew Day concept.
    Now the 4000BC date for Adam’s creation is considered the historic beginning of the establishment of the called Covenant people. Notice that in the genealogy of Gen 4:26 is when the lineage of Christ/Israel begins to call on the name of Israel’s YHWH (Jehovah).
    Adam was formed/created (functionally assigned) out of chaos and darkness of the pagan world and begins the establishment of the old church not humanity at large. Humanity at large was a spiritual desert wasteland with no rain/water to sustain them fully until Christ the River of Life redeemed Israel the old church and folded in the Gentiles at that time into the one Body of Christ (the church).
    So all along the idea of a 6000 year old creation is indeed correct for us today but it was the time of establishment of God with Mankind and not our physical creation and has now come and gone. The scriptures assume men as they were found and says nothing about their evolutionary development and so all concordist that attempt to establish that idea are following in the well worn path of past exegetes who floundered under the wrong premise to base their analysis upon.
    Defining the symbols of the Hebrew literature is paramount to understanding the narrative accurately.

  • David Warkentin

    Great summary:
    “The Bible is a coherent whole – but we have to let scripture itself tell us what this means as we read and study. We need to take the text we have and let it teach us as we immerse ourselves in the story, in the word, with the guidance of the Spirit.”

  • Charlie Lehardy

    Jonah: re: Jonah: What can I say? I come from a long line of heretics and have to carry on the tradition. :)

  • Barb

    I’ve just returned home after driving 1200 miles east and visiting many geological wonders: Lewis and Clark Caverns in Montana, Devils Tower in Wyo., the Black hills and Badlands of SD. What do people who believe that the world in only 6000 years old do with these places? we saw sea shell fossils in the ceiling of the Wind Cave–in the South Dakota. Do YECs think that all geologists are involved in a giant anti-bible conspiracy? Do they believe in a trickster god you buried silly stuff for us to dig up?
    Just looking at one column created by water on drip at a time–how do they explain that away? Not to mention the fossilized bones of extinct species that they’ve found in the Bad Lands alone.
    I don’t worship a trickster God–when I see these natural wonders–I worship the God of creation (period).

  • Justin Topp

    Just a group of collected stories? I would say yes. But the “just” in that phrase is a dirty one.
    As Christians we believe that the Bible is inspired. If it is not inspired, than how are “our” stories any better than the “other” stories? How do they more accurately reflect the truth of God than others? But I think that we tend to forget that one way in which these stories become inspired is because they describe the culture and traditions of Jesus and his people (ancestors and descendants). Of course, the New Testament is the “New” addition to these stories and a way to infuse them and complete them with Jesus.
    So I have no problem calling them a collection of stories but they are a special and very important collection because they reflect the history of Jesus’ people. Some might say then, “well why don’t you then say that the New Testament is just a collection of stories as well?” It is, but it’s genre is clearly (at least to me) more in line of history. We see accounts and personal letters. Does any mythology creep in? Perhaps. But we can compare it with the other works of history from that time, which are much better and more clearly works of history than the ANE origins stories which we compare Genesis with.

  • John

    This may be a bit of a knuckle ball, but since the central issue here is the problem of learning how to interpret the Bible, in this case the Old Testament, I will toss in a passage from an article by Paul Copan, current president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. These articles do not address Genesis 1-11, but rather the genocide passages later in the Old Testament. Can they be believed as literal, or must they be interpreted?
    Clearly, Copan argues they must be intepreted. Read them for yourselves and decide.
    Both these papers have been on the EPS website for some time, and so far I have not seen any cries of heresy. Of course, after this posting – look out.
    Here is the webpage for Copan’s articles
    The following quotation is found in “Yahweh Wars and the Canaanites”. The webpage for this paper is below.
    Here is the quotation – including the section so that people can find this.
    “6. Total Annihilation and “Bludgeoning Babies”?
    “(a) “All that breathes.”
    “I observed in my previous essay that the language of total obliteration (“all that breathes”) is an ANE rhetorical device, an exaggeration commonly associated with warfare. For example, in Deuteronomy 2:34 (“we captured all his cities at that time and utterly destroyed the men, women and children of every city. We left no survivor.”) and 3:6 (“. . . utterly destroying the men, women and children of every city”), we come upon what is a standard expression of military bravado in ANE warfare. In 7:2–5, alongside Yahweh’s command to “destroy” the Canaanites is the assumption they would not be obliterated–hence the warnings not to make political alliances or intermarry with them. That is, we have stock ANE phrases referring to a crushing defeat and utter obliteration in my earlier article, but this is what Goldingay calls “monumental hyperbole.”[30] After all, the books of Joshua and Judges themselves make clear that many inhabitants remained in the land.[31] “While Joshua does speak of Israel’s utterly destroying the Canaanites, even these accounts can give a misleading impression: peoples that have been annihilated have no trouble reappearing later in the story; after Judah puts Jerusalem to the sword, its occupants are still living there ‘to this day’ (Judg. 1:8, 21).”[32]
    “OT scholar Richard Hess has written on the Canaanite question, offering further insights on the entire discussion.[33] (Following Hess here, I shall present “Scenario 1,” which argues that the Canaanites targeted for destruction were political leaders and their armies rather than noncombatants.)[34] Hess’s research has led him to conclude that the ban (herem) of Deuteronomy 20:10–18 refers to “the total destruction of all warriors in the battle,” [35] not noncombatants. [36] But does not Joshua 6:21 mention the ban–”every living thing in it”–in connection with “men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys”? The stock phrase “men and women [lit. ‘from man (and) unto woman’]” occurs seven times in the OT–Ai (Josh. 8:25); Amalek (1 Sam. 15:3); Saul at Nob (1 Sam. 22:19 [only here are children explicitly mentioned]); Jerusalem during Ezra’s time (Neh. 8:2); and Israel (2 Sam 6:19 = 2 Chron. 15:3). Each time–except at Nob, where Saul killed the entire priestly family, save one (1 Sam. 21:20)–the word “all [kol]” is used. Hess contends that “the phrase [‘men and women’] appears to be stereotypical for describing all the inhabitants of a town or region, without predisposing the reader to assume anything further about their ages or even their genders.”[37]”

  • RJS

    The use of “just” is a sticking point. For example we would all agree that the Bible is a collection of texts. But it is not “just” a collection of texts, it is a very specific collection of texts.
    In the same way Genesis 1-11 is not a “just” a collection of stories or anything else … it is a collection chosen and edited as part of a whole for a reason. If we do not approach the text open to listen to what we have before us, then we have a problem.

  • DRT

    To your point on using the word “just”. It reminds me of the slippery slope argument in that it seems that if you concede that they are stories then it is a short hop to just adding the word “just” and then before you know it there is no god at all. I think that step from stories to “just” stories is not a small step but a very big one. They most definitely are not “just” stories, but they are stories.
    We have to stop sliding all the way down the slope, perhaps get some cleats. Just acknowledging that they are not historical narrative does not mean they are meaningless and that argument has to prevail.

  • Justin Topp

    I appreciate the danger of the “slippery slope”. But I do want to add a paraphrased anecdote I heard at a recent conference. Slippery slopes aren’t just encountered when we are going downhill; they’re also encountered when we climb a mountain. So being afraid of the slippery slope may actually prevent us from ascending towards the truth. Something to think about…

  • DRT

    This is one for the Rolodex (or whatever you will now use).
    captcha – some chummed, I guess I chummed for that one.

  • Daniel

    Barb @17, many YEC would say the fossils are the left-overs from the flood. They would argue that they worship the God of creation too.

  • SLOG

    Genesis is a collection of stories, of course. True stories, just not science stories.
    I feel the YEC do a great disservice to God when they ignore his powerful hands over millions of years of evolution. Devaluing science is devaluing the work of God. To take Genesis literally is to tell God you don’t feel a need to use the reason He gave you, that you’d prefer to take the easy, lazy way out.

  • Ann F-R

    RJS, you remind me of the value of attending a fine liberal arts college. Thank you for your thoughtful and caring treatment of the text. My answer to your question is that I don’t look for direct correlations between scripture and science, but both of them, in their own ways, inspire and awe me with beauty, majesty and truth. Through each of them, I gain appreciation for the other. The correspondence isn’t academic, but spiritual, valuable and true.

  • Dave

    Great post. At heart I think you’re getting at some of the issues that we have because of the differences between Systematic and Biblical theology. When we try to “harmonize” the texts to fit systems or preconceived perspectives, it almost always does a disservice to the text. Hermeneutics is everything. I particularly am interested in what you have pointed out: our definitions of “history” and “science,” etc, may have nothing to do with the Semitic mindset that the Bible was given through, or they may have things in common. But applying modern notions, philosophical or otherwise, to the text without consideration of what the text itself is telling us about itself is problematic to me and sets us up for unnecessary conflict. “Is it historical” can be different than “is it history.” (In the modern sense of the word). “Historicity” can be different than a factual list of events presented in chronological order. The order of events matters if the original intent is for the order of events to have mattered. But we have to ask how it matters and for what. The Gospels certainly don’t make much of a pretense of chronological order, though there is a general flow to the accounts, obviously. All of which seems so simple on the face of it, but I find it all challenging. And yet it increases my faith when I go at it with a heart to see God more clearly in Christ.