Genesis 1-11: Trust-worthy, Metaphorical, Literal, Important?
Can Genesis 1-11 Be Trusted?
The Bible is the foundation of Christianity. It has proven itself to be infallible historically, archeologically, and scientifically in every way. It has withstood the most scrupulous investigation by the harshest critics for nearly 2000 years. It has stood against the flood of critisim by centuries of skeptics. It has sold more copies than any book in the history of the world. It has proven itself in it's power to change people's lives.
Yet, when it comes to Genesis 1-11, many modern day Christians suddenly have a problem. Some brush it off as simply inaccurate, some water it down as a "metaphor" and not literal history, and others choose not to talk about it at all. For various reasons, they have problems accepting this part of the Bible as literal history. Let's look at some of the reasons people give for not trusting in Genesis 1:11...
Genesis Is a Metaphor?
Genesis Is A Metaphor?
Some Christians insist that Genesis is a metaphor. The problem is - absolutely no evidence exists to support this claim. The Bible talks about Adam being a literal person, the Garden of Eden being a literal place, the Flood literally happening, and so on. There is simply no indication that the first part of Genesis is a metaphor. If the first part of Genesis is a metaphor, why isn't the rest of Genesis a metaphor, too? It is arbitrary that we stop at Genesis 11. Is the story of Abraham or King David not literal history? If you cannot trust that the Genesis account really happened, what other parts of the Bible did not really happen? Is Christ's death on the Cross just a metaphor, too?
Genesis Is Inaccurate?
Some Christians compromise and say that Genesis is simply inaccurate. Yet, the Bible claims to be the inspired word of God, and God cannot make mistakes:
2. Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
Saying that this part of the Bible is inaccurate casts suspicion on the entire book. The Bible, by definition, cannot be inspired by a perfect God and, at the same time, be flawed. If Genesis is inaccurate, then the Bible is making false claims about itself. Therefore, in our professed worldview, God is a bald-faced liar and makes mistakes.
Jesus Quotes from Genesis
Apparently, Jesus was not informed that Genesis cannot be trusted, because he quoted directly from it.
Mark 10:6-8 But ‘God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation. ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”
Putting on our thinking caps, without Genesis being true, then marriage - a man and a woman making a vow of commitment before God - has no basis! If we take Genesis out of the picture, what's our basis for marriage?
The Apostle Paul Quotes from Genesis 2:24
The apostle Paul also quotes from Genesis when he is giving marriage instructions to the Ephesians.
In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body. As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” (Ephesians 5:31)
Paul is quoting from Genesis 2:24 as is Jesus. As I said above, if Genesis is not true or is not literal, what basis do we have for marriage?
Six Literal Days in Genesis
After doing quite a bit of reading on the subject, I've come to realize that the main reason many people have a "hard time" with Genesis is because they have been taught the earth is billions of years old. It's just a "scientific fact" as many of our modern day pop- science books have claimed.
If the earth is billions of years old, how does that fit in with the Bible's claim that God created the world in six days?
Many Christians just accept this "scientific fact" and try to cram it into Genesis. Numerous theories have been proposed, from the Gap Theory to the Day Age Theory to Theistic Evolution; all of which try to make millions of years/evolution compatible with the Creation account of Genesis.
I recently heard a radio program in which creationist Ken Ham (who is considered to be a Genesis expert) made this observation: "Do you know why there's all these different views? [Day Age Theory, Gap Theory, etc.] Because none of them work!"
I, personally, agree with Ken Ham. Some of these theories I have studied, and I reject them simply because they rewrite what God's Word clearly says. Genesis is clear just like the rest of the Bible is clear.
Later on in the same interview, Ken Ham made this humorous observation:
"People have a problem with the six days of Creation. They say we don't know what the word 'day' means in Genesis 1. Here's the interesting thing: you know the Hebrew word 'yôm' - the word for 'day' is used 2,301 time in the Old Testament and we know what it means everywhere it's used except in Genesis 1."
Touche! God left no room for error regarding six literal days of Creation (it's as if God was omnipotent or something, and knew mankind would try to pull something like this!).
Genesis 1:5 God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.” And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day.
Genesis 1:8 God called the space “sky.” And evening passed and morning came, marking the second day.
Genesis 1:13 And evening passed and morning came, marking the third day.
Genesis 1:19 And evening passed and morning came, marking the fourth day.
Genesis 1:23 And evening passed and morning came, marking the fifth day.
Genesis 1:31 Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day.
What about millions of years then? Millions of years is NOT a scientific fact. There are many scientists who reject this idea and there is ample evidence that shows the earth is actually only thousands of years old.
Despite man's theories about the distant past, as Christians we need to remember that God's Word is the real authority. Man's interpretation of evidence is constantly changing, but God's Word stays the same. Who should we trust? Man's fallible opinion or God's infallible Word?
"But I don't want people to label me 'anti-science'!" You may be tempted to think. This is true. Many people who reject the theory that the earth is millions of years old are labeled "anti-science" even though they are accomplished scientists! That is just the culture we live in right now.
Adam Is A Literal Person in the Bible
The Bible clearly states that Adam was a literal person. If you cannot trust Genesis about Adam, then you cannot trust these parts of the Bible as well.
1. Chronicles 1:1-4 The descendants of Adam were Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah. The sons of Noah were Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
Hosea 6:7 But like Adam, you broke my covenant and betrayed my trust.
Luke 3:38 Kenan was the son of Enosh. Enosh was the son of Seth. Seth was the son of Adam. Adam was the son of God.
Romans 5:14 Still, everyone died -- from the time of Adam to the time of Moses -- even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come.
This last verse is extremely interesting and leads to an insightful quote by an unusual source - an atheist.
Even Atheists Realize the Importance of the Genesis Account
This is a quote from an article called "The Meaning of Evolution" published in the American Atheist Magazine:
"Christianity has fought, still fights, and will continue to fight science to the desperate end over evolution, because evolution destroys utterly and finally the very reason Jesus' earthly life was supposedly made necessary. Destroy Adam and Eve and the original sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the Son of God. If Jesus was not the redeemer who died for our sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing."
G. Richard Bozarth, "The Meaning of Evolution", American Atheist (September 20,1979) p. 30
This atheist is precisely right. If there is no original sin, there was no reason for Jesus to die on the Cross. Reject Genesis and Christianity becomes meaningless. But why don't Christians get this?
We Should Trust Genesis 1-11
Genesis 1-11 can and should be trusted as literal history just like the rest of the Bible. It takes faith to believe in the Creation account. Even the Bible itself acknowledges this:
Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.
We were not there to see God create the world. Every belief in origins takes faith - whether you believe in the random Big Bang from nothing or a Big Creation - because none of us were there.
I challenge you to trust in God's Word. There really is no middle ground as a Christian. You are in an indefensible position to say that the foundation of Christianity is trustworthy only some of the time. Genesis 1-11 can be trusted just as much as the account of Christ's death on the Cross can be trusted. The story of Abraham is no more a metaphor than the story of Adam. God created the world in six literal days, just like Christ rose from the dead in three literal days.
Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection.