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History and the Bible: Genesis

Updated on December 18, 2017
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Chris spent 50 years in the Evangelical world as a layman, as a student at a prominent Christian University, and as a missionary and pastor.

Purpose of This Article

My purpose in this article is to describe the highlights of biblical history up to the time of Abraham when biblical and secular history merge. I do this so that believers in the biblical record and nonbelievers alike can have a better appreciation for how the final events of the first twelve chapters of the book of Genesis dovetail with secular, documented history.

Ziggurat of Ur

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Secular History

Secular historians begin to trace civilizations according to written history from between 4000 to 3000 BC along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in the region of modern day Iran and Iraq. Archaeology extends the founding of those civilizations back to around 6500 BC which is known as the Ubaid period. One of the important cities of this period was called Ur. Archaeological studies tell us that in Ur, there were structures known as ziggurats which were constructed for religious purposes.

The Dovetail of Biblical and Secular History

It is during the Ubaid period that biblical and secular history meet. An interesting observation at this point is that in Genesis chapter eleven a tower was being built by the descendants of Noah that would reach to the heavens. In the very chapter of Genesis in which this tower is described, we are introduced to a man named Abram (later Abraham) who lived in the Sumerian city-state of Ur where, according to documented history, there existed a structure known as the Ziggurat of Ur which was for all practical purposes, a tower. The biblical man, Noah, who lived in what secularists call prehistory, had descendants who extended into the Ubaid, historical period. These descendants of Noah were also the ancestors of Abraham. They even constructed a tower in or around the city of Ur, where such structures have been confirmed by archaeologists and historians.

Fertile Crescent/The Levant, Cradle of Civilization

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Abraham: Historically and Geographically

What we have then is a documented time and place in history, characterized by a unique type of architecture about which biblical history and secular history agree. While this does not necessarily validate all that the Bible describes prior to Abraham, it does seem to validate the man himself. The tower in Genesis and the ziggurats of Ur help to place Abraham, a biblical character, at a certain place and time in history.

Noah's Ark exhibit at the Creation Museum near Covington, Kentucky.

Source

Highlights of Genesis Chapters One through Twelve

The bulleted points that follow are the highlights of Genesis chapters one through twelve. Notice how seamlessly the final points, by use of genealogies, link Noah with Abraham, a man who lived in a verified, documented time and place called Ur in the Ubaid period of early civilizations.

  • Creation G1-2 (G=Genesis) These two chapters give two accounts of Creation. Chapter one is a day by day description of the six days of creation. Chapter two focuses on the separate creations of Adam and Eve,followed by the description of their place and purpose in the Garden of Eden.
  • Fall of Adam (and of mankind in general) G-3
    -God prohibits Adam and Eve from eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
    -Eve is deceived by the serpent (described later in the Bible as Satan) and eats from the prohibited Tree, sharing the fruit with Adam.
    -Adam and Eve are cast out of the Garden of Eden as punishment for eating from the Tree.
  • The story of Cain and Abel G4
  • The genealogical record from Adam to Noah G5
  • The flood of Noah G6-9
  • Descendants of the sons of Noah to the time of the Tower of Babel G10
  • The Tower of Babel and the creation of nations G11
  • Genealogy of Noah’s son, Shem, to Abram (Abraham) G11
  • Abram (Abraham) living in the city-state of Ur during the Ubaid period of civilization G 11-12

Respect for the Opposing Position

It is my belief that when people disagree about a particular subject, understanding of the opposing position helps to promote peaceful coexistence. Those who believe in the events described in the first twelve chapters of the book of Genesis are often ridiculed by those who do not believe. My goal is that those who do not believe in the historicity of the early chapters of Genesis will at least recognize an intellectual foundation that exists for those who do believe and therefore treat them with a modicum of respect.

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