Please Take Genesis 1 Literally

I am really tired of those pseudo-literalists known as young-earth creationists. I really want people to take the entirety of Genesis 1 literally, and not just the parts they find acceptable. Saying that you believe in creation in six literal days, but without a literal dome over the earth, and without the greater and lesser lights fixed in that dome, you are not taking the account literally. If you say that there was a vapor canopy in the upper atmosphere, when Genesis 1 says that the solid dome had waters above it, you are not taking the account literally. It is just the same for the rest of Genesis – if you say you are following the Bible literally, and then make a replica of the ark that is 510 feet long, you are in fact being less than literal.

The big issue in our time is not that too many people take Genesis literally, but that not enough people do.

If more people took the account literally in all its details, they would have no choice but to acknowledge that the account is incompatible with our modern scientific and other knowledge when taken that way. And so they would recognize that taking it completely literally leads not to young-earth creationism, but to the acknowledgment that the text's depiction of the natural world may be either mistaken or symbolic (or both), but under no circumstances can be taken as factual and accurate.



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  • Philip Wesley Davisson

    Excellent post today! The best way to read Gensis is literarily, not literally.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Around a year ago I ran into the explanation that Genesis 1 is structured as a PARODY of Mesopotamian Creation Mythology, with digs on the Enuma Elish running all through it. The Torah reached its final written form during the Babylonian Captivity, where the Mesopotamian Creation Myths were common knowledge. So when reconstructing the Old Stories from oral tradition (previous written forms destroyed when Nebuchadnezzar rolled over Jerusalem), they used the Mesopotamian structure and gave it a one-eighty twist.

      I’d known for some time that the refrain “And the evening and the morning were the Nth day” is characteristic of Classical Hebrew POETIC structure, and a Jewish contact confirmed Gen 1 is written as a poem or song.

      The latter got me turned into a pile of rocks every time I broached it to YECs, to whom Gen 1 was a Science Textbook of FACT FACT FACT. I haven’t tried the former, as I no longer associate with YECs at all.

  • Herro

    Well, one *should* read the talk about the dome literally, right? I.e. it wasn’t a metaphor or something like that? So we should take it literally but just realise that the author was mistaken.

  • TomS

    Yes, true, but on the contrary, one could argue that such of the depictions in the Bible are obviously not true if taken literally, so they are not meant to be taken literally. (The Sun being created on day 4, when there were three previous days is one.) The flat Earth under a solid firmament was understood as not a literally true picture of the cosmos from antiquity. And we have direct observations of the true shape of the Earth.
    The argument then runs that the “young age” of the Earth is not something which is subject to that. It was always accepted as being literally true. And we have no direct observations of the “old age” of the Earth, only “historical science”, which is not as reliable as direct observation.
    It seems to me that there is at least one generally accepted fact of science which is not subject to this treatment: the fact that the Earth is in orbit about the Sun. It was (as far as I know) never contested, for something like 2000 years, that the Bible was meant literally when it said that the Earth was fixed. Not until the rise of modern science was it contested. Moreover, we have no “direct observations” of the Earth being in motion, but it is “remote science”, as reliable (or not) as “historical science)”. No one, I dare now say, would think of finding a heliocentric interpretation of the Bible except for the prior acceptance of the authority of science to inform our interpretation of the Bible. And I also point out that very few people can point to a scientific observation for the motion of the Earth – rather it is a matter of the acceptance of the authority of modern science.

    • lance Geologist

      Tom, there is no ” historical science”, there is only science. One does not have to have lived during the Devonian to observe Devonian rocks.One can propose a hypothesis and look at various rocks and confirm or disprove a hypothesis, thus observing the past.We have direct evidence for the age, one only has to open your eyes and see.Check out different dating methods!As far as the rest of your dribble, it does not even warrant a comment.

      • TomS

        I have the feeling that you have totally missed the point of what I wrote.
        I presented the argument of YECs, and criticized it.
        I attempted to point out that characterizing some science as being unreliable for being “historical” makes no more sense than saying that “remote” science (the kind of science which describes the motions of the Solar System, etc.) is unreliable.
        And I suggested that one would have a hard time in arguing that the Biblical support for geocentrism is “obviously figurative”, unless one has a commitment to the authority of modern science.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy

          In Victorian times, there was a movement called “Zetetic Astronomy”, defending SCRIPTURE against Godless Heathen Science. It is still around today, but under a different name:
          The Flat Earth Society.

          • TomS

            I chose geocentrism rather than flat Earth because:

            1) From ancient times, it was recognized that the Earth is round, so there was developed an accommodation of that with the Bible. To be best of my knowledge, nobody felt the need with heliocentrism until the rise of modern science. There is well over a thousand years of head start.

            2) In the space age, the evidence for a round earth is there for anybody (pictures of Earth from space, intercontinental travel and communications). The evidence fits the demands of “observational science” (as distinct from “historical – or “remote”.

            On the other hand, the evidence for heliocentrism is not so accessible to the layman. It is “remote science”, or even “circumstantial evidence”.

            3) I’m not so sure that there is a real flat Earth society since the death of Charles K. Johnson in 2001. I would be glad to hear otherwise, but I remain skeptical. On the other hand, I have personally met believers in geocentrism, and they are sincere, intelligent and well-informed people.

          • TomS

            Oh, BTW. How about evolution, to complete the triad:
            1) The concepts central to evolution are not mentioned in the Bible. For example, the concept of species only arose about the time as modern science. So there is no need for accommodation.
            2) The evidence for “common descent with modification” is easily accessible to the non-scientist.
            3) Unlike the “flat Earth theory” and the “geocentrism theory, there is no worked-out account, alternative to evolution. There is really nothing to discuss.

    • lance Geologist

      Had a chance to see a beautiful sunset over the Jemez mts this evening. Amazing how the sun sets over different portions of the mountains during the year! This is due to ? How about the motion of the Earth?

      • TomS

        People knew about the seasonal apparent motions of the Sun since prehistoric times. Those observations obviously had to be accounted for the geocentric models of the Cosmos – in particular, Ptolemy’s. The obvious geocentric answer is that the Sun really is in motion through the Zodiac.

  • wer

    The hebrew word is not dome. It’s expans, sometimes used as vault. It comes from the root word Raqa, meaning to hammer, flatten, stamp, or spread apart. Not much implied towards a dome.

    • James F. McGrath

      The reason it is used for a dome or vault is that it was the sort of inverted bowl that would be made by hammering out metal. You don’t hammer out an “atmosphere,” to refer to a common rendering by those who want to persuade themselves and their readers that they are taking Genesis literally, and so render the word in that non-literal way in the interest of doing so.

      • John

        I would also add that, generally speaking, we do not assign meaning to a word based upon the words it derived from. If we did, English words like “decimate” would be rather badly misunderstood.

        • OCD

          Not when considering the original Latin from which Roman legions used the concept.

          • John

            The original latin means to reduce by one tenth. We usually use the word to refer to a considerably larger reduction.

        • TomS

          Perhaps my favorite example is “leave”, which is from a Germanic root meaning “remain”.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    It is just the same for the rest of Genesis – if you say you are following the Bible literally, and then make a replica of the ark that is 510 feet long, you are in fact being less than literal.

    I’d still like to know why “Ham’s Ark” has a Mediterranean galley hull, complete with ram bow. According to the text, the Ark didn’t need to maneuver, only float. Much less ram anything.

    • TomS

      As long as the model is not designed to go in the water, one would think that it has no need for things like prow, sails, oars, rudder, keel, and just be a plain rectangular box, like the Bible sort of describes. But I guess that that would not be much of attraction.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        Many years ago, I remember some big-name maritime museum having a miniature diorama of Noah’s Ark. They had a squared-off raft/scow/barge hull with a box superstructure extending almost to the edge of the raft hull. Their rationale was that Noah wasn’t a shipwright, so he’d have built as simple as possible, and the Ark didn’t need to maneuver, only float. So a raft/barge hull with a box on top was the simplest design for something that only needed to float while loaded.

        And I understand that recent “Noah” movie took much the same tack in the Ark’s design.