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Is the creation story in Geneses a literal or figurative story?

Discussion in 'Creation & Theistic Evolution' started by biblestudy123, Feb 12, 2007.

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  1. manchambo

    manchambo Well-Known Member

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    I think you need to be more specific as to what you are referring to regarding differences in linguistic style. If you are saying that Genesis was written in a more mythico-poetical-metaphoric style than, say, a newspaper, I agree with you, but I hardly see how that supports an argument that the Genesis account is literal.
     
  2. intricatic

    intricatic ...a dinosaur... or something...

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    See, this is what I find interesting. In modernized thought, this concept of mythic-poetic style in writing is very prevalent mostly due to the Grecian influences on our culture as a whole. However, one simply transposes the Greek influence on the Hebrew style of expressing events because they stylistically resemble the Greeks on certain obscure points.

    In the Hebrew culture, these stories were seen as historically accurate representations of events, though greatly condensed in formal content. They didn't need much exact or specific content because they expressed the details that were required and not much more. When articulating a story of an event, that's generally how it was done - not in exact, mind-numbing detail, but only via the relevant details that held implication to the intents of the author in expressing it.
     
  3. intricatic

    intricatic ...a dinosaur... or something...

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    The reason I brought up genealogies previously was because genealogies in Hebrew generally traced back to Adam and Eve in order to be a complete genealogy. Of course, not all did, and any given genealogy could be routed in numerous ways to be complete, but the fact stands that Adam and Eve are nearly universal not only in genealogical methodology in the Hebrew culture, but they were also representative of histories that could verifiably be traced back to the original source of a family heritage. This is one example of the cultural utility of the Genesis account, but there are far more. It's exceptionally difficult to look at the Hebrew culture and not take note that these people literally understood Genesis, nor is it easy to explain why they would have been mistaken given their advanced geocentric oral tradition (that is, they had checks and balances to maintain the integrity of the preservation of their oral history).
     
  4. jds1977

    jds1977 Regular Member

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    Genesis has a writing style of conjunction-verb-subject-object which is a narrative style, in contrast to subject-verb-object which is poetic. So, gen. 1 should be read as literal, besides, it's backed by other scriptures such as Ex. 20:11.
     
  5. Zimfan

    Zimfan Well-Known Member

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    :) I also rather doubt that the writer, or any of the thousands upon thousands that heard the story over the next few thousand years, were too dull to notice what seemed like differences, too.

    I agree with your analogy that the two stories are like two newspaper stories, both true but pointing out different facts. However, since starting a college course on genesis and looking at the texts much more in depth than when i was younger, a few things are tripping me up regarding whether they're both literally true.

    Here's an example of a few things that came up in class that confused me.

    In verse two of Chapter one of Genesis the Earth created by God is first described as being , and apparently covered with water , with dry land being created a bit later.

    Gen 1:2 The Earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. But a wind sent by God moved over the face of the waters.

    As the six days of creation goes on, God shapes the world into an ever more familiar form, light, the sky, dry land and plants,the sun and moon(after light itself, interestingly), birds and fish, land animals and finally man. Everything seems to have built up to the creation of man, as if the world was created for the humans He creates.

    When the account in chapter two starts, there is no vegetation.

    Gen 2:5 And every plant of the field before it was in the Earth, and every herb of the field before it grew; for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the Earth, and there was not a man to till the soil.

    In this chapter we seem to have skipped ahead a bit through the first few days, I suppose to around day three, when dry land and plants are created. In Gen 1 God asked the Earth to "grass grass"(or so the original Hebrew says) and the Earth "sent forth grass" as well as the other plants. Now in Gen 2 it appears man is needed to till the soil, or no plants will grow. In contrast to the watery void of the first account, we have a dry, desolate planet.

    Man's purpose in Gen 2 seems to be as a means to an end, to till the Earth, rather than the end in itself, as in Gen 1. But when man is created, God instead puts him in the garden, and we jump straight to the Adam and Eve story.

    At this point I would think that second account just skipped parts of the creation mentioned in Gen 1, but something odd comes up.In Gen 2:19 God creates the land animals and birds, after creating man. Suddenly rather than skipping bits it seems the order is changed.

    Gen 2:19 And out of the ground the Lord formed every beast of the field and every fowl of the sky and brought them unto Man(Adam) to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Man called each living creature, that was the name thereof.

    When none is found to be a suitable companion, God creates woman.

    So, in the two accounts we seem to have several differences.

    -The start of the world seems different(possibly just due to stories starting at different points of the creation).

    -The first account seems to culminate in God's creating man, and in the second man seems to just be a means to an end. This might just be a difference in emphasis between the two accounts.

    -The order is different. In Gen 1 plants, animals and birds are all created before man and woman, created on the same day. In Gen 2 Plants are created but not "sent forth" (their seed remains in the ground), then Adam is created, then the first plants grown in the Garden of Eden, then the animals, then women. If plants are created(and moreover, "sent forth" from the Earth rather than just planted in the ground) on day three, birds on day five, and animals first then both man and woman on day six, how can the account in Gen 2 also be literally correct? :scratch:
     
  6. intricatic

    intricatic ...a dinosaur... or something...

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    The important thing to notice here;

    First of all;

    4 This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,

    The first few words here; This is the history of the heavens and the earth...

    This is the conclusion of the world's creation, the end of the summary.

    7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

    Restating how God made man.

    Going back to vs 3 to reinforce the idea here;

    3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

    We see the image of the finished creation; the earth, where God had created dry land, was utterly dry because there was no rain; the land was not tilled because there was no man to till it. In fact, this was not yet even a need until the end of chapter 3, which perhaps is foreseen by the author signifying the mention we have in chapter 2.

    Or in other words, and to simplfy, Chapter 1 is an overview, a summary, and Chapter 2 is the specific discussion of the specific incidents which are important to the author's intention of retelling this account to us in scripture. They were not mentioned for no reason, and they take the form they do in order to specifically find a grounding later in the Bible. The mode goes from a general overview to specific isolation of certain events that are brought to the front in order to point out important details that will later become more clear, or tie into something at a later point in time.
     
  7. NotHardcore

    NotHardcore makes the rockin' world go 'round

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    Figurative.
     
  8. koban4max

    koban4max Senior Veteran

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    I take it literal.:amen:
     
  9. relspace

    relspace Senior Member

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    Genesis as a whole is an historical account and so as a part of Genesis, the creation story is meant to be taken as a part of this historical account. However the story clearly reaches into a time before any written record, so we are dealing with an account that has in the very least been passed down in an oral tradition, and like other such stories it displays what are very clearly mythic elements. So even though we are meant to take it as a part of an historical account, it need not be taken literally in every detail.

    Historical yes, literal no! This is not mean't to be a "creation for dummies" book. The point is that God created the world and everything in it, not how God created the world and everyting in it. It does not mention the numerous aspects of the universe that we have come understand, but this does not invalidate the story because making a detailed account of God's creation of the world was not the purpose of the story. The purpose of the story was clearly to describe man's relationship with God and so aspects of the story which do not bear directly upon that purpose should not be twisted to a different purpose for which it was not intended.

    The story of Adam and Eve sets the stage for the entire Bible and so this story and what happened MUST be taken seriously or much of the Bible and its message is undermined. But transforming the Bible into a science textbook is just as damaging for it reduces the Bible from the premere spiritual text that it is, to a characterature in we which we must believe that God is a necromancer in a fairy story.
     
  10. jad123

    jad123 Veteran

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    Literal.
     
  11. elsbeth

    elsbeth Out of my mind...back in 5 Minutes.

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    I believe its an ALLEGORY.

    Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary entry
    for the word "allegory":
    1 : the expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence; also : an instance (as in a story or painting) of such expression
    2 : a symbolic representation

    I believe it is a representation of spiritual truth, not a literal history.
     
  12. praying

    praying Snazzy Title Goes Here Supporter

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    Ditto!
     
  13. JuJube

    JuJube Regular Member

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    Yes, I've got an incredible DVD. " Noahs Ark and the Flood." You can find it at www.grizzlyadams.com believe it or not, but it really does some incredible explaining. I'm a believer! But I was even before tho.
     
  14. Harry3142

    Harry3142 Regular Member

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    I believe that The Creation Story was neither literal nor figurative; it was a demythologization. This is because of whom it was written for.

    The Hebrews of Moses time had spent decades in a country which worshipped an entire pantheon of gods and goddesses. There were no weekends, so the only times they did not have to work were the times when festivals for these gods or goddesses were celebrated. By the time that Moses took the Hebrews out of Egypt many of them had been thoroughly indoctrinated in the religion of the Egyptians, and were therefore Hebrew by ancestry but polytheistic in their belief. The golden calf was an example of this holdover from that time.

    Now take a look at Genesis 1&2, remembering what the egyption gods and goddesses looked like. Moses systematically stripped every star, planet, the moon, aquatic animals and land animals of the divinity which their representation on these gods and goddesses had given them. The sun and moon were nothing more than objects, as were the stars which lit the night sky. The animals which they saw around them were merely other animals which shared this planet with them. Nothing which they saw around or over them had any divinity in it; the only divine person was a being who could never be seen, and in whom there was an absolute knowledge as to what he saw as good and what he saw as evil.
     
  15. Piedpiper123

    Piedpiper123 Active Member

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    Allegory get's my vote as well.
     
  16. savedandhappy1

    savedandhappy1 Senior Veteran

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    Thanks so much for the link!!!:hug:
     
  17. jds1977

    jds1977 Regular Member

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    If its an allegory, then you have a lot of contradicting bible verses.
    Geneologies and geographical details help give credibilty to the author. Gen. 1-11 has plenty of both. the geneologies are supported by several other scriptures: 1 Chron.1, Mat. 1, Luke 3...
    many places in the bible talk about Noah and the flood.
     
  18. elsbeth

    elsbeth Out of my mind...back in 5 Minutes.

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    Why does it make for more contradiction if it were allegory? I don't see your point?
     
  19. jds1977

    jds1977 Regular Member

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    Well, an allegory is like a parable..fictional story but has a heavenly meaning. If Gen 1 is allegorical, then Adam really wasn't the first man like it says in 1 Cor. 15:45. If it's an allegory, then Jesus' geneology in Luke 3 is false. If God didn't really create man and woman in the creation week, then Mat. 19:4 and Mark 10:6 is false. If it's an allegory then Ex. 20:11 is a lie. see what I'm saying? I hope this makes sense, I can confuse myself sometimes lol.
     
  20. JacobHall86

    JacobHall86 Calvin is 500 years old, Calvinism is eternal!

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    Literal. Next Question.
     
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