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The real value of The Biblical Book of Genesis. History or Allegory? Does Creationism ruin The Message of The Bible?

Updated on January 15, 2013


Genesis. A morality tale, not History.

The real message of The Book of Genesis.

Understand the real message of The Book of Genesis.

The real point of it all.

Not actual history.

Adam and Eve. Actions have consequences.
Adam and Eve. Actions have consequences.
Not the literal truth.
Not the literal truth.
Tower of Babel. Beware of Excessive Pride.
Tower of Babel. Beware of Excessive Pride.

Genesis. A morality tale, not History.

Much has been written about The Book of Genesis over the years. The interpretation of the first book of The Bible has divided scholars since it was first written. Indeed there is little agreement among people as to when it was actually compiled. Some say that it was dictated to Moses by God, and that it is an exact account of how The Earth, and everything on it, came to be. Others that it was written by Hebrew priests after the return from Babylon in the fifth century BC. The protagonists for the later authorship believe that it was felt necessary to establish a history, and a relationship with God going back into prehistory, for the newly free Jewish nation. The notion that God rested on the seventh day was put in to reinforce the belief in The Sabbath as a special day to be set aside for the worship of God.

A debate has been raging since the nineteenth century between fundamental creationists, who insist that the account in The Bible is the literal truth about how we arrived on this planet, and Darwinian evolutionists who believe that we are the result of a series of gradual modifications in species that have, through the course of many millions of years, resulted in the handsome and intelligent beings that we mostly are today.

The sad thing about this controversy is that extremists on both sides have used it to vilify each other. On the one hand we have people like Richard Dawkins, who insist that the science of evolution is an absolute proof that there can be no God, and on the other side we have the creationists who scream all the time that to consider the notion that the arguments of Charles Darwin might have merit, is to be on a fast track to Hell.

Sadly both sides feed of each other, and both sides are wrong.

But I am not writing here to back up the arguments of either side. Neither do I have enough knowledge of biblical studies to form a definite opinion on the origins of The Book of Genesis. It may well have been dictated by God to Moses. He may even have held the hand of the prophet. I don’t know. Perhaps it was written by priests in the fifth century BC. It might even have been compiled by Kermit the Frog in collaboration with Miss Piggy. I have to admit that the last one is the least likely. But what I will say about it is that it is definitely not an account of how the world was created. What it is, however, is a morality tale of the first order; and it is in this way that it should be read and understood by people of faith, and people of no faith.

The real message of The Book of Genesis.

There is a tradition in literature of pointing out the difference between right and wrong. Actions have consequences. In popular fiction the good guy usually wins. We can see this all the time in writing so diverse as Grimm’s fairy tales, where the good Cinderella wins out, and the bad Ugly Sisters are thwarted; or in the stories of Charles Dickens, when the Good Oliver Twist wins out over the corrupt Mr Bumble. There is a very sound reason why these stories should end as they do. It is important for the moral development of the readers that sound role models are put before them. If the bad guys were always winning, we might begin to believe that evil actions were the way to proceed. This is not the way to build a successful society.

It was ever thus. The accounts in Genesis are exactly the same. The evidence for the literal truth of the creation accounts, and the worldwide flood, are so contradictory of what we do know from the fossil record, that we can dismiss those notions out of hand. There may have been a localised flood that killed the greater proportion of the people living in a limited area. But that is the best that anyone can honestly say.

So we have to look for another reason to give value to The Bible's first book. I have to say that it is primarily a demonstration that wrong actions can have unfortunate consequences. When it tells us that Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden because they disobeyed God by eating a forbidden fruit, it is not relaying a real story, but it is pointing a very important moral, i.e. we should keep our agreements, and if we break our word there will be a cost.

The same lesson is to be learned from the account of Noah's flood, and from the story of the tower of Babel, although the Babel episode also warns us against the dangers of hubris, and of overreaching ourselves, (a lesson most of us have still failed to learn).

Understand the real message of The Book of Genesis.

To conclude, let me just say that it is a pity that The Bible has become the "football" of the extremists. There is no real reason why it cannot be read, and benefit be taken from it, by people of great faith and of no faith. I personally believe in God, and in the Divine Inspiration, that guides the texts of The Bible. But it was never written to be read as literal truth in every particular, and The Book of Genesis was definitely never meant to be a textbook on creation. To maintain this is to just make a mockery of the truth, and that is what God is supposed to be about.

The whole point of it all.

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    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 6 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      Hi cam8510.

      Thanks for reading and taking the trouble to post a comment. You certainly should know what you are talking about because you have done it all. I hope you prosper in your new intellectually honest life.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 6 years ago from Missoula, Montana at least until August 2018

      I appreciate your article. Very thought provoking and it doesn't raise one's ire too much (unlike my own approach to writing on these topics). I saw that one of the comments mentioned the sequence of creation in Genesis 1 being impressive. Really? Light first, then days later the sun and moon. Plants on one day, then the sun later.

      Liquid water in a sunless universe.

      I agree that there are things to learn from the Bible. I grew up in the evangelical world, went to Bible College, became a missionary and pastor. Then I finally began pondering the questions in the back of my mind. My life is very different today, but it is an intellectually honest life.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 6 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom


      There was a pinchpoint about 70,000 years ago, when the population plummeted. This was caused by the Javan supervolcano eruption, not by a flood. There have been extinction events frequently in the past, not the least of them being the one 65,000,000 years ago that resulted in the death of the dinosaurs. If there was a world wide flood six thousand years ago, how did the marsupials from Australia fare? Were there kangaroos in the ark? Or were they created after the flood?

      Just because some bad people decided to use the science of evolution to push evil agendas is no reason to condemm Darwinism as such.

      If we adopted that attitude, we could condemm God for promoting genocide in the Old Testament. And would you say that christianity was an evil creed, after reading about the massacres and the persecutions that have been done in it's name? I instance only The Crusades, and the religious wars in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. You cannot blame Charles Darwin for any of this.

    • profile image

      Prisoner1967 6 years ago

      I beg to differ with your assertion that the fossil record does not support a worldwide flood. In fact, the fossil record shows both an explosion in life forms (hmmm, God creating complete animals, not ones that had to evolve new body parts over time) and also a layer that implies sudden destruction (hmmm, layers of mud worldwide - how did that happen?). Clarence Darrow easily discredited William Jennings Bryant in the Scopes Monkey Trial, because WJB did not believe in Genesis to be a historical account. Bryant did not believe God's Word to be true, and therefore his credibility was destroyed. Why does any Christian trust Darwin over God? What has Darwin wrought? Atheism, Eugenics, Holocaust, Communism, Euthanasia, forced sterilization; the list goes on. Check out Answers in Genesis for more information

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 6 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      Thanks Wesman.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      You've certainly hit on one of my favourite topics here - and done a fine job of it too. Cheers for the common sense. . . .I should say "Uncommon Sense!"

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 6 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      I,m kind of in the middle on the Adam and Eve issue. There is too much evidence for evolution. But I am considering the notion that at some stage in evolution mankind developed an understanding of the divine, and God might have put in a soul at that point.

      Perhaps he singled out a couple to be the first people He interacted with, and He tested them.

      That might have been Adam and Eve.

      The most recent thinking on Genesis, however is that it was written during the Babylonian captivity, or shortly afterwards. Not so many people believe any more that it was written by Moses.

    • profile image

      ruffridyer 6 years ago from Dayton, ohio

      An interesting hub. I agree with your idea that the bible is not a biology study. It basically tells us how we should live with our fellow man, not details on how we came to be.

      It is about spirit not science.

      However I am one of those "Shutter," people that believe Adam and Eve were real people. Mankinds first parents. Cain,Abel and Seth were as real as Adolph hitler, Mahatma Gandi and Goerge Washington. Mose's was shown the vision of the begining by Heavenly Father and wrote genesis based on his vision.

      As for cain's wife, Adam and Eve had many children, son's and daughters. Not just three boys. Yes, they married their sisters. The only game in town.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 7 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      I think Wesman that would be fun to see, and you understate your own capacities. You are no fool.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      I'd personally like to see Richard Dawkins and Fred Phelps. . . .arm wrestle. It could be the day that two fools meet. (it's the same most days that I meet anyone though, sadly.)

    • profile image

      Trinidad49 7 years ago

      Yes christopheranton,i think evolution explains better how humans came to be on earth.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 7 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      Hi Trinidad49.

      The early part of the book of Genesis was a creation myth, designed to tell us some truths about how God deals with people.

      There was no Adam and Eve, or Cain and Abel.

      Mankind evolved. We were not created.

    • profile image

      Trinidad49 7 years ago

      Truly we can learn a lot of things from the bible just like from any other book,let's say a book written by a psychologist or a might also be important to question this possibility which maybe true or not in regards to the book of genesis,the story of creation.there are two stories,who wrote these two different gen 1:27 the first story says that God created people,male and would seem he created many people at once (might answer how & where the vagabond cain got his wife) and not just adam who replicated other human beings and in gen 2:7 it says one man was created,then eve and others were born.

      How does one reconcile these two sets of creation stories,which is true.and pliz don't say it's a style of writing used by the author,there are two versions of this story.anyone please,which one is the best.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 7 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      Hi mysterylady 89.

      Thanks for reading.

      The archeological, and geological evidence indicates that there was a cathastrophic flood around 12,000 BC.

      It was probably the memory of that that inspired the stories of the floods in Genesis, and the Epic of Gilgamesh.

      Happy New Year to you also.

    • mysterylady 89 profile image

      mysterylady 89 7 years ago from Florida

      You do a great job of showing the value of the book of Genesis. I have been fascinated by the similarity of the story of the flood in Genesis to the flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh.

      Happy New Year!

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 7 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      Thank you Martie for that supportive, and very intelligent comment.

      And have a Happy New Year, you and all yours.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 7 years ago from South Africa

      Moses, or whoever wrote Genesis, was a genius. The sequence of creation in Gen.1 (as well as in Gen.2, which is a different version of Gen.1) is impressive. The Ten Commandments is truly the core of all laws. The morals of all those stories and legends are still applicable. As you said: ‘What it is, however, is a morality tale of the first order; and it is in this way that it should be read and understood by people of faith, and people of no faith.’ Arguing about the Bible and its rich contents of legends, poems, chronicles, biographies, metaphors of good and evil and even science fiction equals in my opinion arguing about the truth in the writings of Shakespeare. Airing one’s views about the Bible, is proving the depth of one’s insight and the width of once lateral thoughts. Great hub, voted UP and UP.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 7 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      Hi Austinstar. I did read your hub on The Christian View of Blood. It was excellent reading, and I strongly recommend it to everyone else.

      Thanks for commenting.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 7 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      I am all for people reading the bible and learning from it. A book that has stood the test of time has many important things to say.

      What I cannot abide are those that would use the bible as an excuse for allowing their children to die. (see my hub on A Christian View of Blood). Or to dictate to others on how to join their cults.

      No book should have that much power.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 7 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      drjb. Thanks for your comment. It all seems pretty obvious to me.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

      Bravo, christopher, for this literate and compelling article. You have written a genuine think piece.

    • msorensson profile image

      msorensson 7 years ago

      I looove Handel's Messiah!!

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 7 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      CMerritt. I agree there. The problem seems to be that there is no meeting of minds between those who regard it as a "Fairytale", and those who insist it is a biology/history textbook.

      But I suspect that the extremists feed off each other. Neither one is interested in the real message.

      msorensson. I love The language of The King James Bible myself.

      I feel that "Handel's Messiah" must be the stock fare on offer in Heaven.

      I believe, like you, that we cannot know the mind of God completely. We can only go on the clues he has left us in his scriptures, and in sensibly observing the world around us.

    • msorensson profile image

      msorensson 7 years ago

      It is in the holding of opposite sides of any argument that one arrives at his own argument, but one has to experience it.

      I love the King James Version of the Bible. I have read several versions.

      That every action has a consequence is truth. All religions point to it, no matter how it is written. All religions point to truth one way or another. Ir is up to us to find out. No one can do it for us.

      By definition it is impossible to know the mind of God for one has to be God in order to do that.

      Religion has a function, just like governments have functions. They give some kind of order.

      It is the task of a human being to learn, both by reason and by faith, what is necessary.

      It is why we have free will so that we will be able to sift and by our own experience synthesize our own truths.

    • CMerritt profile image

      Chris Merritt 7 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

      I think in many ways you are right. At the bare minimum, it should be taken at face value. I think the main lesson is clouded by those who choose not to beleive, and that is God gave us a "rules book" on how to live this life, and examples of what happens to those who follow and those who don't. More importantly the message of salvation is quite clear and yet it is disregarded as a "fairy tale".

      Nice hub!


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