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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

Hi Annette,

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 lying.
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 characters.)

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 truth.)

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 others.

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 allegory?

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 is true.
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 question.

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.

In Christ,

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