Was Genesis a Lie?
This is a response I sent to an email I received about my belief that genesis is an allegory and not litteral. I put it here because
it is typical of the questions I get from people all the time. If you feel that my belief is wrong, or if you find an error in my
thinking (other then typos or annoying nit-picking of details I have stated are just for example and not meant to be taken as truth!),
let me know.
hey i just have a question for you. If you believe the Bible is true then why do you think that Gen. is just poetry? If God was
lying about creating man and the world then why would he tell the truth in the rest of the Bible. If he lied in Gen. then he must be a
liar and therefot can not be God. Please e-mail me back
It looks to me like you have asked 3 questions:
1) Why do I think Gen is just poetry?
2) Why is Gen a lie and the rest truth?
3) (Part of 2) Is God therefore a liar and not God?
I'll answer 2 first, then 1 then 3.
First off, I really do believe that the bible (including Gen) is
TOTALLY inspired by God. I don't think there is a single word
there that was not breathed by him. I also do not believe God was
I would like to think He was using a story to teach us some very
valuable lessons. Before you get upset by this statement ask
yourself the following questions:
1) Did Jesus teach by parables?
2) What is a parable?
The answer to the first question is very simple. I don't think
anyone who has read the gospels would say that he did not. It's
quite clear that Jesus used parables to teach everyone from
roughneck fishermen to the religious elite (pharoses) of the day.
So what is a parable? Here is the definition verbatim from the
'Random House Webster's College Dictionary'.
parable, n. 1. a short allegorical story designed to illustrate
or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. 2. a
statement or comment that conveys a meaning indirectly by the use
of comparison, analogy, or the like. [1275-1325] ME.
(In case the word allegory is not one you see everyday, it can be
loosely translated to mean a story that conveys religious, moral
or other abstract meanings through the use of fictional
Now let's put these all together. When a legal expert asked
Jesus, 'Who is my neighbor?' (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus responded with
the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus used the parable to
explain the truth of loving others. Is the story any less
significant simple because the characters are not real?
Absolutely not! History is filled with examples of times when
allegory was used to explain many things. Most (if not all) of
Aesop's fables would fit into this category, not to mention the
entire religion of ancient Mesopotamia. (The evidence we have
found leads us to believe that the Greeks didn't actually believe
in the gods, they just used them to teach moral and ethical
Here we come to the hard part. Somewhere in the past, a group of
people thought that if Genesis were not LITERALLY true then their
whole religious belief system would fall apart. To prevent this
from happening, they decided to teach it as TRUTH that genesis
happened exactly as the King James Version translated it. This is
very dangerous. Jesus himself tells us that the greatest
commandment is love, and that all other commandments are brought
under this one. It does not sound to me like Christians bickering
over whether Genesis is true or not shows God's love to
Let me now move on to question 1, Why do I think Genesis is just
poetry? First off, there is little debate that Genesis is poetry.
Scholars tell us that when you read the original ancient Hebrew
poetry, then compare that to the first 2 chapters of Genesis it
becomes very clear that it is most definitely poetry. The real
question is this:
Is it poetry that talks about a real event, or is it an
There are (obviously) two sides to this debate. Both sides show
'evidence' to support their claims, but for the most part this
'evidence' was gathered in entirely the wrong way. Both sides are
equally guilty of this. Western culture (ever since Aristotelian
thinking began) is brought up to believe that there is no truth
without proof. Plato's most famous claim of this is the idea he
attempted to portray that a chair didn't hold you up. The IDEA of
'chair' held you up. Once the chair is seen to hold you up, then
you can say that the idea of 'chair' has been proven to be
factual. (This was not his main point; it is just to illustrate
the thinking of the time.) Scientific reasoning is supposed to
follow a simple pattern:
1) See something in nature.
2) Hypothesis why it happens.
3) Attempt to reproduce it.
4) Make a generalization about it.
For example, if you see an apple fall from a tree many times, you
might say to yourself, 'Hmmm. It appears that apples will always
fall down. I wonder why?' Then you would set up many experiments
in which you attempt to make an apple fall UP. When they all
fail, you would say, 'Apples will always fall down.' That's the
theory of gravity in a nutshell. What creationists (mainly) are
guilty of is saying:
1) The bible is true.
2) The theory of gravity seems to support my theory that the bible
3) The bible gave us the theory of gravity!
This is, admittedly, a terrible example, but it shows my point. I
was once an adamant creationist, but when I stopped to think that
the core of Christianity is the love of Christ (according to
Christ himself) I wondered if the first two chapters of Genesis
could be like the parable of the Good Samaritan. Does it make it
a lie? Absolutely not. It seems to me that the original
recipients of the work (the oral traditions of the Israelites)
would know it was allegorical, if that is the case. The parables
that Christ used to teach were known to the recipients as stories,
not factual accounts. Could Genesis be the same way? I don't
suppose we will ever know in this lifetime. But we are left to
wonder the following:
If the accounts in the first two chapters of Genesis are
allegorical, does that shake my faith, or hinder my personal
relationship with Christ? No way. I still believe in everything
the bible teaches me. You may ask, "But you just said you didn't
believe in the Genesis account?" To which I would answer, "No,
you misheard my response." I don't disbelieve in Genesis. I
think it has been misinterpreted over the years. Now that we have
the scientific evidence to show us how to better interpret the
bible, what do we as a community of believers do? We bicker that
it's 'immoral' or 'Blasphemous' to think this way. Is this
portraying the love of Christ? I think answers the first
Seen in this light, it now becomes clear that (question 3) God
does not have to be a liar if the first two chapters of Genesis
are an allegorical story. We are guilty of not using the very
brain he has given us to attempt to understand more thoroughly the
truths he has placed in the bible for us.
I hope this answers your questions. If you have any more, or if
you see any flaws in my reasoning, please let me know. I never
hate getting email from fellow believers.