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Genesis: Literal Or Metaphorical?


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#1 SeeJay

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Posted 30 October 2009 - 01:06 AM

It's seems to me that much objection to evolution does not stem from the inadequacy of the evidence, but from its contradiction to a literal interpretation of Genesis.

I do not here oppose the concept that the Bible is inspired of God. What I do argue is:

1. A literal interpretation is Genesis (that the days are 24 hours, and all life was created ex nihilo) is not the only possible interpretation consistent with its being inspired.

2. A metaphorical interpretatation of Genesis (that the duration of the creation is not specified, and God used natural forces as part of His creative method), is another possible option, and it is a serious option based on accepted, valid, and reasonable exegesis.

3. In choosing between two possible interpretations, literal and metaphorical, we are justified in referring to the "natural revelation" of the physical world to help us choose rightly.

4. The evidence from the physical world favours a metaphorical interpretation of Genesis over a literal one.

Discussion of any of these points is warmly welcomed.

SeeJay

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Posted 30 October 2009 - 01:36 AM

Not being a theist, but looking at it as a former Roman Catholic Theistic Evolutionist, I would say that Genesis is allogorical..To explain creation in a manner and language in which mankind would understand at that time.

#3 Adam Nagy

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Posted 30 October 2009 - 01:49 AM

1. A literal interpretation is Genesis (that the days are 24 hours, and all life was created ex nihilo) is not the only possible interpretation consistent with its being inspired.

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If the Bible is God's Word and it is excepted as His message to us then tell me this; If God did want to tell us that he did create the world about 6000 years ago in six ordinary days, how would He have told us differently than He did in Genesis? ...you know, just to make it clear?

4. The evidence from the physical world favours a metaphorical interpretation of Genesis over a literal one.

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No, the evidence from the physical world does not favor a metaphorical interpretation of Genesis. The only thing that favors a metaphorical interpretation of Genesis, and all miracles in the Bible for that matter, is a commitment to sola philosophical naturalism. Philosophical naturalism and a belief in a creator god fit together about as naturally as Barack Obama and Rush Limbaugh.

#4 Ryyker

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Posted 30 October 2009 - 02:23 AM

Please show anywhere in the text of Genesis that indicates the creation account is not meant as a literal account of creation.

The sentence above this one is meant to be taken literally.

#5 Loungehead

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Posted 30 October 2009 - 02:45 AM

Please show anywhere in the text of Genesis that indicates the creation account is not meant as a literal account of creation.

Does the text of Genesis indicate either way; whether it is meant to be taken literally or metaphorically?

#6 Ryyker

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Posted 30 October 2009 - 03:27 AM

Does the text of Genesis indicate either way; whether it is meant to be taken literally or metaphorically?

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The claim was made in the OP - 'it is a serious option based on accepted, valid, and reasonable exegesis.' I have read Genesis more than once and found nothing to indicate that this is so regarding the creation account , so I am asking to see the reason(s) for such a claim.

Every thing in this post that was written by me is meant to be taken literally.

#7 Ron

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Posted 30 October 2009 - 04:23 AM

Does the text of Genesis indicate either way; whether it is meant to be taken literally or metaphorically?

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Absolutely! But, if one wants to remain in denial, they can disagree. The linguistics of Genesis literally screams non-allegorical.

#8 Loungehead

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Posted 30 October 2009 - 11:54 AM

The claim was made in the OP - 'it is a serious option based on accepted, valid, and reasonable exegesis.' I have read Genesis more than once and found nothing to indicate that this is so regarding the creation account , so I am asking to see the reason(s) for such a claim.

Every thing in this post that was written by me is meant to be taken literally.

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I understand your question and what you're asking. But it's one-sided.

It only asks for comfirmation of one account - metaphorical. I'm curious to know what the confirmation for a literal reading is.

Ron says, "linguistics of Genesis literally screams non-allegorical." But I don't know what they means, because he doesn't explain anything. And I can't read Hebrew.

I'm curious to know what guidance, if any, God provides in his own work; literal of metaphorical.

#9 Ron

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Posted 30 October 2009 - 12:15 PM

I understand your question and what you're asking.  But it's one-sided.

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The reason its one-sided is because it’s obvious. Well, obvious to anyone who opens their eyes and reads.

It only asks for comfirmation of one account - metaphorical.  I'm curious to know what the confirmation for a literal reading is.

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Because, according to the reading, there is no reason to believe in an allegorical account.

Ron says, "linguistics of Genesis literally screams non-allegorical."  But I don't know what they means, because he doesn't explain anything.  And I can't read Hebrew.

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Get yourself a good interlinear Bile, and you can read the direct translation. Or you can take classes, and learn to read it for yourself. Or you can continue to pretend that the translations currently on hand aren’t so blatantly obvious in their literal context that it gives the naysayers fits.

I'm curious to know what guidance, if any, God provides in his own work; literal of metaphorical.

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The guidance is clear (if you read it).

#10 SeeJay

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Posted 30 October 2009 - 05:40 PM

If the Bible is God's Word and it is excepted as His message to us then tell me this; If God did want to tell us that he did create the world about 6000 years ago in six ordinary days, how would He have told us differently than He did in Genesis? ...you know, just to make it clear?
No, the evidence from the physical world does not favor a metaphorical interpretation of Genesis. The only thing that favors a metaphorical interpretation of Genesis, and all miracles in the Bible for that matter, is a commitment to sola philosophical naturalism. Philosophical naturalism and a belief in a creator god fit together about as naturally as Barack Obama and Rush Limbaugh.

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Hello Adam. Thanks for the response.

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:


I believe there's little point in discussing what God could have done; God could have done anything. What we are discussing here, is what did God in fact do.

Paul's strong words in Romans are very clear: God "wrote" the revelation of the natural universe just as surely as He wrote the special revelation of scripture. The unfolding of the world and the unfolding of His Word are both part of His divine plan and faithfully reflect His nature -- "so that [we] are without excuse".

It is therefore obvious, to me, that we ought to interpret the world and the Word as an harmonious whole that reflect God's order and purpose, and we should approach all God-given facts (both in special and natural revelation) with humility, acknowledging that we are fallible humans, and not with obstinate pride in our own understanding.

I submit that any approach to God-given facts that involve stating that they are illusions ("apparent age" and "light created in transit" and such arguments) or that facts from the real world don't make any difference to what is true (ID arguments) are not humble arguments, but prideful ones, and accordingly are of lesser weight.

I'll close by noting that a metaphorical interpretation of Genesis is accepted by a large number of Christians, so your characterisation that the only thing that favours such an interpretation is philosophical naturalism, is simply incorrect.

Thanks
SeeJay

#11 SeeJay

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Posted 30 October 2009 - 06:50 PM

Please show anywhere in the text of Genesis that indicates the creation account is not meant as a literal account of creation.

The sentence above this one is meant to be taken literally.

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Hi Ryyker

We know the scripture contains many figures of speech, such as literal history, parable, allegory, poetry, and many, many metaphors, especially for divine action. The question is how to determine the figure of speech being used in any particular part.

There are numerous indications within the text of Genesis (not referring at all to the physical evidence of the real world) that indicate that the creation account is metaphorical, not literal:

1. The whole of Genesis 1 is in a very poetically structured form, having three complementary pairs of concepts and a strong rhythm. This is a primary indication of its metaphorical nature.

2. "Day" (yom) is used in Genesis and other parts of the Bible to refer to metaphorical or indeterminate periods of time.

3. "Morning" and "evening" are used in the Bible with metaphorical meanings; see e.g. Psalm 90.

4. "Evening", "morning" and "day" used together in exactly the same form as Genesis 1 appear in the Bible to refer to metaphorical or indeterminate periods of time - Daniel 8:26.

5. Numbered days as in Genesis 1 (Day 1, Day 2 etc) are used in the Bible to refer to metaphorical or indeterminate periods of time e.g. Zechariah 14:7-8.

6. "Day" (yom) is the most appropriate Hebrew word to describe metaphorical or indeterminate periods of time.

7. Genesis 2:4 states that the "days" of Genesis 1 took one "day", reinforcing the concept that the "days" of Genesis are metaphorical, not literal.

8. The seventh day does not appear to end with "evening and morning" like the other days, with the obvious intention that the first six "days" are the creative era, and the seventh "day" is the (as yet) unfinished historical era. cf. Hebrews 4:4-11. This clearly indicates that the days of Genesis do not all refer to the same literal time periods.

9. Genesis 2 tells us of many events of the sixth "day" that it is absurd to suppose all happened in 24 hours, such as the garden growing and Adam naming all the animals etc.

That's just off the top of my head. Many authors have covered this subject, so we can certainly go into in more detail if you desire.

Kind regards
SeeJay

#12 Loungehead

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Posted 30 October 2009 - 08:55 PM

The reason its one-sided is because it’s obvious. Well, obvious to anyone who opens their eyes and reads.

Because, according to the reading, there is no reason to believe in an allegorical account.
Get yourself a  good interlinear Bile, and you can read the direct translation. Or you can take classes, and learn to read it for yourself. Or you can continue to pretend that the translations currently on hand aren’t so blatantly obvious in their literal context that it gives the naysayers fits.
The guidance is clear (if you read it).

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So in summary, if you want to know how to read Genesis, just read it?

Thanks for the guidance. I would learnt as much if you didn't post anything at all.

I read the bit about the talking snake. All that tells me about interpretation is that if one is to take Genesis literally, they must suspend their disbelief. After all, no living snake or fossilized snake has been shown to have vocal abilities for communicating in human languages.

Or maybe its just allegorical?

#13 CTD

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 01:12 AM

Please show anywhere in the text of Genesis that indicates the creation account is not meant as a literal account of creation.

The sentence above this one is meant to be taken literally.

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Not only is there an absence of internal indication, to interpret Genesis so subjectively as has been suggested requires one to ignore a lot of external writings on the subjects.

Flood histories

http://home.earthlin...saak/floods.htm
http://www.worldwide...ood_legends.htm

Why it matters
http://www.grisda.or...igins/17051.htm

Creation-of-man histories surveyed
http://www.stephenja.../chapter09.html

Even post-flood history is very much in play
http://www.creationi...Flood/index.htm

Evidence is the bane of antihistory.

#14 SeeJay

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 02:36 AM

Not only is there an absence of internal indication, to interpret Genesis so subjectively as has been suggested requires one to ignore a lot of external writings on the subjects.

Flood histories

http://home.earthlin...saak/floods.htm
http://www.worldwide...ood_legends.htm

Why it matters
http://www.grisda.or...igins/17051.htm


Hi CTD

Thanks for responding.

You bring up some good points. I am hesitant to answer further because I had hoped to focus upon Genesis 1 & 2, and the issues of the antiquity of the world and creation of living things ex nihilo versus via an evolutionary process. I would be willing to grant, just for the purposes of this thread, that the Flood is literal history.

Creation-of-man histories surveyed
http://www.stephenja.../chapter09.html


A fascinating read, CTD, I appreciate you posting the 1st link (the 2nd did not work). It has been a long time since I read the amazing The Golden Bough by J. G. Frazer. However, I note that Frazer states:

These examples suffice to prove that the theory of the creation of man out of dust or clay has been current among savages in many parts of the world. But it is by no means the only explanation which the savage philosopher has given of the beginnings of human life on earth ...


So the article, whilst very interesting, is quite inconclusive.

Cheers
SeeJay

#15 Ron

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 05:04 AM

So in summary, if you want to know how to read Genesis, just read it?

Thanks for the guidance.  I would learnt as much if you didn't post anything at all.

I read the bit about the talking snake.  All that tells me about interpretation is that if one is to take Genesis literally, they must suspend their disbelief.  After all, no living snake or fossilized snake has been shown to have vocal abilities for  communicating in human languages.

Or maybe its just allegorical?

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Oh, so here I can use the evolutionary equivocation and say "well, we just haven't found it YET"... Then it becomes alright and sciency!

You are saying that just because you haven't seen something, then it cannot be so Lounge? You learn not, because you don't wish to.

#16 CTD

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 05:11 AM

Hi CTD

Thanks for responding.

You bring up some good points. I am hesitant to answer further because I had hoped to focus upon Genesis 1 & 2, and the issues of the antiquity of the world and creation of living things ex nihilo versus via an evolutionary process. I would be willing to grant, just for the purposes of this thread, that the Flood is literal history.
So the article, whilst very interesting, is quite inconclusive.

Cheers
SeeJay

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Not sure what you mean by "inconclusive". We don't have to rely exclusively upon Genesis; that much is easy enough to conclude.

I won't try to anticipate what kind of story you intend to propose to reconcile a "figurative" interpretation of Genesis' early chapters with all the recorded history. I won't even offer a suggestion. Go right ahead on your own.

#17 Loungehead

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 11:05 AM

Oh, so here I can use the evolutionary equivocation and say "well, we just haven't found it YET"... Then it becomes alright and sciency!

Why be contrary? The topic is Biblical literature, not evolutionary biology.

You are saying that just because you haven't seen something, then it cannot be so Lounge? You learn not, because you don't wish to.

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Where in the Bible does it say that those who cannot see, wish not too.

John 20:24-29 Thomas asked for evidence. Christ acknowledges his need for evidence. He said, "Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."

Christ makes no additional statement, "By the wayeth, thou who cannot accept thee evidence do not wish to see it."

I did what you said, "read it", now you're telling me I have to read it with wishful thinking. I guess it wasn't so simple as you suggested after all.

#18 Ron

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 11:41 AM

Why be contrary? The topic is Biblical literature, not evolutionary biology.

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This is not about literature meaning, but literal meaning. There is a difference.


Where in the Bible does it say that those who cannot see, wish not too. 

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Romans 1

John 20:24-29 Thomas asked for evidence.  Christ acknowledges his need for evidence.  He said, "Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."

Christ makes no additional statement, "By the wayeth, thou who cannot accept thee evidence do not wish to see it."

I did what you said, "read it", now you're telling me I have to read it with wishful thinking.  I guess it wasn't so simple as you suggested after all.

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Absolutely, By intent, when Jesus said "blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed", those who do see, and yet don't believe are damned. And, it's because they "wish not to"...

#19 Loungehead

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 09:46 PM

This is not about literature meaning, but literal meaning. There is a difference.

You're at least admiting evolutionary biology has nothing to do with it, so I'll give your otherwise contratian answer a pass.

Romans 1

You need to be a bit more specific.

Absolutely, By intent, when Jesus said "blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed", those who do see, and yet don't believe are damned. And, it's because they "wish not to"...

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I do not see how you can infer Christ's intention from that statement. Also, I think your claim that seeing truth in the Bible,requires wishful thinking, would be offensive to many Christians. It makes me doubt you actually believe what your write, and whether you are Christian. I do not believe any Christian would believe truth of the Bible requires wishful thinking. I suspect you may be parody.

#20 CTD

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 11:17 PM

  I do not believe any Christian would believe truth of the Bible requires wishful thinking.  I suspect you may be parody.

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I do not believe any Christian would dismiss a brother on the basis of such a shoddy misinterpretation. But perhaps some actual parody of a Christian will happen by and so reveal himself?

Here moley moley moley! Here moley moley moley!




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