Every proper theological school teaches this, one of the first scares to a bible scholar: Genesis chapters 1 to 11 are not historical but rather clever stories laced with theological themes. Hard to swallow, but that is what professors and Bible scholars have come to agree and BRIGHT MHANGO goes in search of the answers as to why the chapters are rejected and looks at the implications.
Scholars used to believe that Genesis was the true and not-to-be-opposed word of God, factual and historical until about 200 or so years ago when they started re-examining their stance.
The Calvin College has seen some of the staunchest scholars coming out hard against the historicity of Genesis 1 to 11.
From the same college came professor of geology Davis Young who in the book The Biblical Flood: A Case Study of the Church’s Response to Extra biblical Evidence, rejected the historicity of the account of the flood in Genesis 6-9.
“There is no evidence whatsoever to indicate that human or animal populations were ever disrupted by a catastrophic global flood.
The account of the flood in Genesis is Scripture’s exaggerated-enormously exaggerated-description of some local flood or other once upon a time in the region of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.”
In another book titled: Portraits of Creation: Biblical and Scientific Perspectives on the World’s Formation. In a chapter entitled, “What Says the Scripture?” John H. Stek, at that time a professor of Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary, boldly asserted that Genesis 1 draws on heathen, Egyptian myths; is non-historical; is a “metaphorical narration”; and is, in short, a “storied rather than a historiographical account of creation.”
The myths Stek referred to are those of the Noah’s Ark, for example. In Mesopotamian mythology there is a similar story called the Enuma Elish which saw gods planning to destroy man and one god tipped one man to get ready.
Genesis is also said to have borrowed from the Atra-Hasis epic which also has the Creation, the Flood and its aftermath stories. The two also share numerous plot-details (e.g. the divine garden and the role of the first man in the garden, the creation of the man from a mixture of earth and divine substance, the chance of immortality, etc.), and have a similar overall theme.
Even the idea of the tree of life is also present in another Mesopotamian myth called The Epic of Gilgamesh in which the hero is given a revitalising plant which is then stolen from him by a serpent. Very close to Genesis.
The Mesopotamian myths were written earlier and this has made some say that the Bible authors stole from the myths.
Some scholars also expand the argument by saying that never in a sane world can a man build a container that can host all of the world’s animals for a period like Noah did. Can he feed, let alone hold from Kangaroos to Dinosaurs to Crocodiles some of which are endemic to faraway lands like Australia?
If this assertion that Genesis Chapters 1 to 11 are not factual or related to any traceable history be anything to go by, then as one Christian cum scholar, Gary Wearne, sums it: this world was not created via God asking his fellow deity to create man and going on to do creation in seven days.
“The human race never did originate from a man, Adam, who was formed by the hand of God from the dust, and from a woman, Eve, built by the hand of God from a rib of the man as we read in Genesis 2. Sin and death never did enter the world by the man’s eating a piece of forbidden fruit at the instigation of his wife and by the temptation of a speaking serpent as Genesis 3 tells us.
“There never was the development of agriculture, herding, music, and metallurgy as Genesis 4 reveals. There never was a universal flood as taught in Genesis 6-8. There never was a Tower of Babel occasioning the dividing of the nations by confounding of the language as set forth in Genesis 11,” writes Wearne.
And Professor David Engelsma sums it as:
“Genesis 1-11: Myth! This is the prevailing opinion in evangelical, Reformed, and Presbyterian seminaries, schools, publishing houses, and churches at the beginning of the 2lst century.”
This cannot be true! It would tear apart the very fabric that makes Christianity.
Jesus actually referred to Genesis for example on Mark 10:6 Jesus, in speaking to the question of divorce declared: “But from the beginning of the creation, male and female made he them.”
The famous John 1:1 would also be nullified; the fact that Jesus traces his roots to Genesis would also mean that he should find a factual past.
This is what the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) argues. It says nobody can refuse the first part of genesis without refusing the whole Bible as the whole Bible is built on Genesis.
“If Genesis is not true, then neither are the testimonies of those prophets and apostles who believed it was true. In the Old Testament, for example, Adam is mentioned in Deuteronomy, Job, and 1 Chronicles, while Noah is mentioned in 1 Chronicles, Isaiah, and Ezekiel.
“There are at least 100 quotations or direct references to Genesis 1-11 in the New Testament. Furthermore, every one of those eleven chapters is alluded to in the New Testament, and every one of the New Testament authors refers somewhere in his writings to Genesis 1-11,” says the Institute.
In the end, the answer to the question cannot be arrived at a one go. The Bible needs to explain why it borrowed Mesopotamian myths and those arguing against Genesis should explain why Jesus respects the current state of Genesis.