Genesis: Fact or Fiction?

As I was thinking about Christian Families it occurred to me that some people might not have the same foundational material as I do.  Some people reject the accounts in Genesis because they believe them to be non-factual. Can someone who is genuinely committed to Christianity and the Kingdom of God reject Genesis as actual history without damaging their faith in the process?

I think not.  Here’s why:

First, to be fair, I admit there is a spectrum of belief on this matter.  Some people reject a literal reading of Genesis because it seems too incredible to be real.  “Six days?  Come on, you’ve got to be kidding me!”  I have heard this over and over again. “A Flood?  Surely an asteroid is a better explanation…”  They speak as if one requires more or less faith than the other.  Other people accept Genesis as a book but say its purpose is not to record actual history but instead is to record something they call ‘redemptive history.’  In other words, Genesis tells us “Who” did the creating and “Why” they did the creating but does not tell us exactly “How” they did the creating and certainly does not tell us “When” this creation happened.  Yet there is a simple question I have about this position:

If we cannot trust Genesis for the details then how can we trust Genesis for the bigger picture?

In the end, a rejection of a literal reading of Genesis can lead to huge problems and inconsistencies.

Rather than trying to go through a bunch of science and statistics, we can approach the question at the top of this post in a different way.  We can simply ask, “What did Jesus think?”  Did Jesus think Genesis was literally history or did He think it was something else?

Being God, Jesus would have known the answer.

Being a teacher, Jesus would have clarified errors.

So what did Jesus think?

One of the clearest reference points for Jesus’ view on Creation is found in Matthew 19 when Jesus is challenged about divorce.  Matthew 19:3 says, “Some Pharisees came to Him to test Him.  They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”  Again, rather than trying to do a lot of work looking at the background to their question, let’s just look at how Jesus responds:

“Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh?”  So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

Right away you can see Jesus viewed the special creation of Adam and Eve as something which actually happened.  Why is this so obvious?  Here are a few reasons:

  • Jesus made no room for a world without a Creator and so Christians who want to follow Jesus must not be agnostic or atheistic when it comes to the doctrine of Creation.  Jesus clearly believed in God as the Creator.
  • “At the beginning the Creator made them male and female.”  A better translation of this verse could be “He that made them made them from the beginning a male and a female.”  The words ‘male’ and ‘female’ in the text are singular and not general.  This means the Creator created a man and a woman.  This denies any evolutionary claim which suggests people evolved over millions of years.  There was a Creator who, at the beginning, formed one man and one woman.
  • Jesus bases his teaching on divorce on the history of God joining Adam and Eve together.  If Adam and Eve were not joined together by God but rather were some kind of ‘breeding pair’ who chose each other sometime during the history of evolution then what Jesus says makes very little sense.

I could cite many more passages from the New Testament which quote the book of Genesis as historic fact.  There are roughly 103 such quotations.  Sixty of those quotations refer specifically to the first eleven chapters of Genesis.

If we are truly followers of Christ then we must follow His understanding of the book of Genesis.  Not only will this allow us to be true to Christ but the book of Genesis provides very solid foundations for a genuinely Christian worldview as well.

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12 thoughts on “Genesis: Fact or Fiction?

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    1. What I have asserted is that one of the reasons why we can believe Genesis is an account of actual history is because Jesus believed Genesis was an account of actual history.

      Obviously, you disagree. Yet you have not stated any reasons for this disagreement. Likewise, you have stated that Genesis does not make an inch of sense. In what way is this true? The English is very clear and easy to understand. There is a very clear narrative being put forward throughout Genesis which is helpfully delineated into a few sections. There are some very obvious points of Divine involvement with people in Genesis which presage the rest of the Old Testament narrative. Which bit of this doesn’t make ‘an inch of sense?’

      1. This post is going to be quite long but you did ask for it. First of all which Genesis? There are actually 2 stories. The most common one is the first chapter, but the second chapter also describes creation and it contradicts the first one.

        Lets presume you mean the first chapter. Firstly God separates light from darkness. This is scientifically impossible as darkness by definition is the absence of light therefore it is impossible for the 2 of them to be mixed.

        On the second day God separates the water in the sky from the water in the ocean. This might make sense to someone sitting in a desert thousands of years ago but it doesnt make an inch of sense to us.

        On the third day he makes plants and grass despite the fact there is no sun so they could not live.

        On the fourth day he makes the sun and moon to provide light. The only problem is the moon does not provide light, it just reflects the suns light. Also how were there days before the sun was created? And as a side note God creates “stars”, not trillions of planets and galaxies but stars whose sole purpose is to provide light for us, despite the fact we can only see a tiny fraction of all the planets that exist. Again this would have made sense thousands of years ago when they made up this story. Its a bit ridiculous to still believe it today.

        All animals were created for humans this ignores the fact that 99% of all species that existed were extinct before humans were around.

        You could literally write a book about how absurd the story is. It presumes the Earth was created at the same times as the universe or that humans have been around since the beginning of the earth. Absolutely none of this has any evidence to support it. So Genesis, definitely fiction

      2. Sorry not to have replied sooner! Job requirements have kept me busy and away from the keyboard quite a bit in the past few days. I have replied to the first part o your objections in a new post called Genesis: One Story or Two. I will reply to the other objections in a similar way so they get a respectable treatment.

        Thanks for the feedback and the comments! They help me to study and keep my brain sharp.

  1. Hi Josh – you raise some good points. Scripture of course is always interpreted ( out of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek to begin with) and contains a variety of truths, the ulimate truth about both God and humanity being Jesus. The Word became flesh and lived amongst us, and the wriiten word contiues to point to and reveal the Living Word Jesus whom we experience today as God the Giver of Life the Holy Spirit. We do not compare like with like when we look at so called empirical evidence, which also has its own truths. Sola Scriptura is not the sure foundation we might want it to be, Sola Christus – and that is why I hold onto the formula that ‘Scripture contains alll that is necessary for salvation’ even this needs unpacking but it gives God’s Word the place it has occupied with the worldwide church since it was written down in the first two centuries and passed onto us subsequently. I also love the creation accounts in Job and the Psalms – the question might be which came first, the Bible doesn’t say so. Perhaps I’m asking the wrong question since the Bible doesn’t always answer the questions we ask, just as Jesus didn’t either when he was asked questions – which should be no surprise, since it is His book. I believe in God the Father, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, of all that is seen and unseen . . .

  2. Interesting post. I haven’t heard this case argued from the point of what Jesus thought before. However, The fact that Jesus opens the section that you have quoted with the words “Haven’t you read” would seem to imply that he isn’t asserting the creation story as scientific/historical truth. Instead, the only truth claim he really seems to be making is that the story of creation IS in the bible and that it is at least figuratively true. It seems that because he is directing his thoughts from the question ‘haven’t you read’ Jesus isn’t really commenting on the historical truth of the creation story at all but is working from the bible as text, which could or could not be read literally.

    This may be different if he had said something more along the lines of ‘didn’t you know?’ thus asserting the truth of creation from outside of the bible and thus outside of the context of a piece of literature…

    This use of figurative truth seems plausible to me because didn’t Jesus present parables as a kind of truth? And yet, he (and presumably his audience) knew that they were just tales? Could the same not be true for his references to creation?

    I haven’t spent nearly as much time writing out this post as I should have, but I look forward to your reply.

    1. What you are saying could be true if Jesus had only said “Haven’t you read…?” But Jesus went on to anchor a current, literal doctrinal stance in something which had happened before. So because Adam and Eve were literally created as man and woman then Jesus’ words make sense. Equally, because Jesus takes God’s pronouncement (“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”) as an actual statement then His point about marriage being binding becomes relevant. If Jesus viewed these accounts as merely figurative then would His words have carried the same strength and meaning? Probably not. Furthermore, Jesus was quite happy to point to the real meaning behind what people read. So in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus used this formula of quoting an accepted text or saying and then clarifying its meaning. If Jesus was aware of a misunderstanding of the biblical text of Genesis One and Two then this would have been a brilliant opportunity to clarify it. Rather than contradicting a literal interpretation of the text, Jesus relied upon such an interpretation and built his own doctrine of marriage and divorce upon it. So I think it makes the most sense to say Jesus understood Genesis to be literal.

      There is a great explanation of this here:

      http://creation.com/genesis-new-testament

      I would encourage you to read it! 🙂

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