Is Genesis 1–11 history, pseudo-history, poetry, allegory or parable? By ‘pseudo-history’, I mean something which was written to look like history, but was not genuine history. Before the rise of uniformitarianism and the theory of evolution in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the vast majority of Christians, including all the Reformers, regarded Genesis 1–11 as straightforward history. But since then, many Bible-believing Christians have tried, in one way or another, to reconcile these chapters with evolutionary, long-age beliefs. Some, such as the ‘gap’ theorists and ‘day-age’ theorists, have tried (unsuccessfully) to preserve the historicity of the Bible while allowing for a pre-history of millions of years. But others, such as the ‘literary framework’ theorists, have abandoned any such attempt and regard these chapters as figurative or symbolic.1
Is the creation account symbolic?
The literary framework approach has become very popular amongst evangelical academics in recent years. They argue that these chapters are not meant to be taken as real history, but say that they still teach important theological lessons. Some academics may accept that the biblical account looks like history, or they may describe it as poetry, allegory or parable. But whatever they call it, they believe it is a figurative account that only symbolizes certain truths. For example, even if they accept that the account is describing days of creation that are 24-hour days, they believe that they are not meant to be taken literally─they are symbolic days.
There are many reasons why the literary-framework belief is wrong.2,3 For example, the grammatical structure of the Hebrew is that of consecutive narrative prose, not poetry. And the context, which includes the rest of Genesis and the rest of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, indicates clearly that Genesis 1–11 is describing real history.4 This disqualifies all interpretations that treat Genesis as non-historical literature, including narrative prose, such as allegory and parable.
But another important consideration concerns the impact of the message of Genesis. Messages conveyed by genuine history have power and authority but pseudo-history is weak and powerless.
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