Genesis 1-3 on How to Interpret Genesis 1-3

Genesis 1-3 on How to Interpret Genesis 1-3 February 9, 2012

As Evolution Weekend draws near, many of us will be taking some time to address matters related to evolution in our religious communities. Here are a diagram and a cartoon, as well as some links and other resources, that I think are useful on this occasion.

First, RJS at Jesus Creed wrote a post which  shares a useful diagram from Pete Enns’ book The Evolution of Adam which helpfully draws attention to the fact that there are internal inconsistencies within the early chapters of Genesis.


Far from viewing the contradictions as a problem to be resolved, we ought instead to treat these as internal indicators of something important about the author(s)/editor(s) of Genesis: they did not think that the point of these materials was to fit them into a unified coherent account of “what actually happened.” This is crucially important. Not only those who try to force Genesis 1-3 to agree with modern science, but those who try to harmonize all the details within those chapters, are going against the grain of the text itself, and thus show that their aim is not to do as much justice as possible to what the text actually says, but rather to force the text to conform to an Enlightenment understanding of truth, historicity, scientific accuracy, and consistency that the text is clearly not concerned with.

Next, here’s a cartoon that I’ve seen before and meant to share:

It is worth pointing out how well groups like young-earth creationists fit the type of Christian viewpoint that is being parodied in the cartoon. Their hodge-podge of details from Genesis and pseudoscientific claims depict the “truth about creation” as neither what scientists conclude, nor what most interpreters of Genesis have understood the text to mean down the ages. As a result, they set up their own perspective as though it were normative and the “historic Christian faith” when in fact it is a latecomer and a rather bizarre aberration in the history of Biblical interpretation and of Christian thought more generally.

Also on this topic are David Henson’s thoughts on giving thanks for Darwin, Brian LePort on John Walton’s seventh proposition concerning Genesis 1 (and it seems really timely that he is now reaching proposition 8!), and Open Parachute on “ID Research and Publications.”

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