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What do the Creation Stories Tell Us?
By : Nigel Pegram (EO, National Council of Churches of Christ)
Rating : Average Rating : 5.06 From 18 Voter(s)
Views : 3631
Why start the Bible with an account of creation? To our western, scientific mind it might seem the best place to start, you know, at the beginning. Yet, for the ancient Hebrews, I doubt that this was the reason. For them, the Scriptures explained who they were as a people and who the God was they worshipped. They started with these creation accounts because they defined in very clear terms who their God was and who they were as human beings. COPYCATS It is no accident that the stories of Genesis chapters 1–11 are written so that they are very similar to other ancient near eastern (ANE) creation and flood stories. The ancient Hebrews chose to model their stories after those of their neighbours. Why? Well, whenever we want to get a point across, we use terms and ways of speaking that will communicate most effectively with our audience (I’m sure we’ve all listened to sermons, read books or seen TV programs which were a little less than “effective” in communication).

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Comments / Feedback
Ted Bjorem
Hi,
Is it not so, one's conclusions regarding the nature of the early OT is influenced by their presuppositions of how we got here? Thus colour how we read the data? That is...
Were we created by God, rebel, etc.
Were we infused with a soul at some time on our evolutionary path? - Thus becoming "man & woman"?
Are we merely evolved and "faith" the result of natural seeking for something higher to give life meaning?

Each of these three "assumptions" will deliever very different readings of Genesis and the Bible.

Why should the Jew's copy ( and greatly enhance ) the literature of their captors? And why not? As I study there is no hard evidence for either view. But will not the "story" we beleive is true of "how and why" we are here not colour our conclusions?

Personally, I beleive God created Adam and Eve ( with no predecessors ) is the best fit for the data we do have.
Nigel Pegram
My argument is that the Bible is more interested in the issues of who created everything and why the world we live in is so imperfect, rather than than with how it was done. The comparisons with the other creation stories tell us that the who (God) created the world perfect and that human rebellion (sin) cause the imperfections. (I assume you've read these other stories to see the starkness of the similarities and the importance of the differences.)

My issue is that the evolution/creation debate involves the overlaying of modernist issues on the Biblical text.

My starting point for Biblical interpretation is to understand what the writers were trying to convey in their original context (the authorial intent) and to then translate that into a modern context--it's application for today. To me, to do otherwise, to place our agendas on it first, is to not give the Bible the authority and respect it deserves.

The original writers weren't trying to address issues of evolution vs creation. They were trying to articulate their faith in a pluralistic society, not an atheistic one.
Carramar Church of Christ
I was extremely disappointed to read this article. Churches of Christ once were definite that the Bible was indeed the Word of God. It's quite clear from Scripture that the contents were inspired by God Himself, and certainly the creation story was not a secondrate copy of pagan people.
If we can't accept Genesis 1 to 11 as the true and inspired Word of God. how can we accept any of the Word at all, and what is our faith based on. I am deeply saddened that we have an Executive Officer who could write this article.
Gladys Wainwright.
Michael Bull
Dear Mr Pegram,

Your well-written and researched article demonstrates the fine art modern evangelicals have made of sitting on the fence. Why is it that atheists can see that evolution undermines the Bible but many Christians can't? You set up quite a number of straw men to burn down and misunderstand the heart of the issue.

I have some constructive questions for you, submitted humbly:

At which verse do we start reading Genesis as history?
Why do the top Hebrew scholars state that if the author(s) of Genesis wanted us to believe that God created the world in 6 'morning and evening' days, it couldn't have been stated any clearer than it is?
Evolution is a process that includes death. If man evolved, why does Genesis state that there was no death until man sinned?
If there was physical death before sin, why is Jesus' resurrection the solution to anything?
Why did Jesus quote early Genesis as though it was history?
How could God state that the world "could not be better" if death was already present?

I am not a scientist, but I have studied the evolution/creation debate for 25 years. Evolutionists have failed to produce anything that contradicts the Bible that moves beyond 'debatable'.
1 - Fossil record: No missing links. No semi-developed forms.
2 - Natural selection: Preserves species, but does not create new species.
3 - Mutation: Mostly harmful.
4 - Variation of species: Due to loss of genetic information, not gain. ie. degradation, not development.
5 - Dating methods. Flawed and contradictory.

Put simply, evolution is just another faith. It is a modern "Just So" story and all data is interpreted with this prejudice.

The statement in your final sentence that the Hebrews revised the faith stories of their day is baseless opinion, and puts the inspiration and integration of the entire Bible in doubt. The only way the Hebrews' 'story' could articulate their faith in a pluralistic society is if it had the authority of truth. Surely that is the issue that is at the heart of the debate today! When we present the Gospel, humanists point at their 'science'. If creation is just our story, it has no authority whatsoever.

The issue has nothing to do with the straw man argument of how or why. Either the Genesis account is true or it isn't. Either it is revelation or a Rudyard Kipling 'Just So' story. You can't have it both ways.

Though your thoughts are well-intentioned, you are undermining God's word. The Bible is not a scientific text, but it is not unscientific. Genesis is so foundational to the Bible narrative that you can't divorce it from the rest without the entire house tumbling down.

It's time more Christians really looked at the evidence FOR the truth of the Genesis account, and had some courage to stand up and say regarding this false philosophy called evolution that "the emperor has no clothes".

Any questions on Creation theory, see www.answersingenesis.org The evidence fits the creation model far better. Many of the writers are scientists and they have their own peer-reviewed science journal. They show that although the Bible is not a science book, we can be confident in its authority and its veracity from Genesis 1:1.

The debate is not about taking the Bible 'seriously' vs. 'literally'. It is not overlaying "modernist issues" on the text. It is about whether the Bible is true. Why should Christians be willing to die for a bunch of primitive "Just So" stories and the other fools (like Jesus and Paul) who have believed them since?

Genesis is the foundation of our faith.

With respect,
Michael Bull
Owen Wainwright
By the middle of the 1800's, Christendom was divided into hundreds of different denominations and sects, each claiming to represent the will of God.
In a number of nations, Christians began to be concerned that Christ's Church was becoming inoperative because of this division in doctrine, particularly that relating to the Gospel of Salvation.
In America a movement was commenced to restore primitive Christianity, in which the Bible was the only authority for the guidance of God in the life and teaching of the Christian Church.

It was known as the Restoration Movement, and the churches were known as "Churches of Christ", or "Disciples of Christ".

By the turn of the century there were Churches of Christ throughout the major nations, and the movement in Australia was growing quickly.

The Bible was their only authority. Where the Bible spoke, they spoke, and where the Bible was silent, they were silent. By the mid-1900's the Churches of Christ in Australia were well represented and known.

Then there arose a problem in some of the Colleges. Students were concerned that, when the Clergy were required to attend certain functions of public importance, the Churches of Christ Ministers appeared in ordinary garb, whereas other denominations wore "caps and gowns".

The young Ministers thought this was a poor image in the eyes of the public, and requested they be allowed to wear similar garg to others. They discovered that the "cap and gown" were associated with University degrees awarded to those who studied Theology, and, as Churches of Christ Colleges studied only the Bible, and Theology was not on the curriculum, they were not entitled to wear this garb.

Pressure by the students, and some of the Staff, eventually won the day, and Theology began to be taught in Churches of Christ Colleges.

By the turn of the century several important changes were introduced, and the opinions of Theologians and other lecturers, began to replace the Bible statements. The "faith only" theory of the 17th century, which Churches of Christ had rejected in the mid 19th century, was introduced through the instructions of the Theologians, and it now appears, as a result of the statements made by the E.O. National Council of Churches of Christ in Australia, that Theology has replaced the Bible, as far as he is concerned.

e.g. "One might ask, why did the Hebrews copy the others, and not the other way around? This is a good question. First let me say that the most ancient evidence comes from Israel's neighbours - we have cuneiform tablets from Babylon which are much older than any manuscripts we have of the Old Testament......It makes more sense to think that, in excile in Babylon, the ancient Hebrews learned of the stories of their captors and rewrote them to establish their own identity over and against that of their captors, than to assume the captor taking on the stories of their relatively insignificant captors."

In Genesis 1, there are at least 30 references to the involvement of God in the writing of Creation. Are we to assume the Creation was theory of some man or men who were copying a written account of some unbeliever? The enemies of the Hebrews were those who had turned away from God. They were not the source of knowledge, and the Hebrews merely a bunch of people trying to upstage the true believers, or the writers of "Fairy stories".

The Bible was given by God and is 100% accurate throughout.
Michael Bullard
In discussion like these (and they happen often) it seems to me that we use the term "accuracy" (or inerrancy) in ways that aren't appropriate. For example, I can be 100% accurate at maths. Or, I can know something is exactly 3kg in mass. But the Bible is something altogether different. The truth in the Bible is, more often than not, relational and story-based. How can a story be 100% accurate or 100% true. These sort of numbers don't apply when measuring relationships or stories. I can't rate a relationship as 100% sincere in the same way as I can grade a maths paper with a percentage.

At the end of the day, I suggest it is more profitable to talk about our "confidence" in the ability of the scriptures to convey to us God's heart and mind, rather than our "certainty" that this or that is 100% true. Faith, after all, is a matter of confidence, not a matter of certainty.
Ken Smith
To bring a bit of balance to the discussion, may I suggest that people might like to look at
http://www.iscast.org.au
The Institute for teh Study of Christianity in an Age of Science and Technology is an organisation of scientists, theologians, philosophers, medicos, ... all holding evangelical beiiefs, but also convinced that the findings of modern science can be relied on to provide us with information about the history and structure of the universe, and our planet in particular.
There are many useful articles, and downloadable copies of issues of the Bulletin, freely available.
Ken Smith
Gifford and Sallyanne Smith
I am dissapointed at the small mindedness of people and the driving of their proverbial barrows, in short view points. If people cannot accept that the bible was written by people that followed the one true God and wrote it to speak to the cultures around them then there are major problems. WHY? Well isn't this exactly what Christ did in becoming human? Did he not relate to the culture of the day and meet the people of he day head on? So why do we reduce the bible to a legalistic document that does not tell the true story of the great God of the universe and His personal love and passion for us, ( tipified by the beauty of Christ for us). Don't be discouraged Nigel, clearly you are close to God's Heart and His Grace.
Harold Hayward
My difficulty with the creation versus evolution debate is that eventually it degenerates into a brawl between two ways of scientific thinking i.e. “my science is better than your science”. The scientific paradigm is very limiting, subject to human reasoning and available evidence. Creation scientists want to establish the “truth” of Jesus by establishing the truth of Genesis. For me, the truth of Jesus helps me understand the truth of Genesis. Genesis 1: 1 - 5 is an exciting commentary on John 1: 1 – 3. In so far as the study of intelligent design helps us to understand the glory of God’s creation, I am happy for it to be pursued – but pursued as a science, not a theology.
Ken Smith
Looking over the comments on this article, there are a few words I wish to add to my earlier comment.
There are clear resemblances between the early chapters of genesis and the literature from surrounding cultures. But these other cultures were polytheistic, and worshipped all sorts of things: trees, rivers, rocks, sun, moon, stars, ...

As Conrad Hyers writes in his book "The Meaning of Creation", what we have in Genesis 1 can usefully be interpreted as a polemic against all these other gods. Three, animals, and even human beings are not deities to be worshipped, but are creations of the One True God.

Ken Smith
Blythe Mann
Was the world created in 6 days (Genesis 1) or 1 day (Genesis 2)? Which is "The Word of God"? Did God's inspiration have a lapse of memory or what (1 Corinthians 1)? Did God rest on the 7th day (Genesis 2) or is God still working (John 5)? I think we are still in the 6th day—God's still working on this man(n)!
Graeme Ritchie
"At the end of the day, I suggest it is more profitable to talk about our "confidence" in the ability of the scriptures to convey to us God's heart and mind, rather than our "certainty" that this or that is 100% true. Faith, after all, is a matter of confidence, not a matter of certainty.",

Is this a scriptural statement?

Mike at which point do I have confidence or that I am certain that Jesus was born of a virgin or that He rose from the dead or that he actually died for my sin? Seems to me that the scriptures are either accurate or not. I am not just just hoping I have confidence in this but have a complete certainty (based on my relationship with Jesus Christ) that what the scriptures give as an account of the beginning, the ending and all the in between of the human race is about as certain as one can be in a society that says the opposite about the TRUTH of Scripture...At what point do we consider the role of the Holy Spirit in inspiring man to write the truth of scripture whereby it is certain, accurate and infallible...is it at Genesis 1 or the Gospels or Pauls letters. The issue of evolution and creation is relevant and needs to be discussed because that is what Nigel has raised with his thoughts on the meaning and purpose of Genesis (of which I disagree).
Scott Vawser
I have just finished reading Barna's new release (or re-release with Viola) called "Pagan Christianity." Essentially it is a brief history of the Church. He shows that so many of our church traditions are not, as we so often suggest, "New Testament Church" practices, certainly not in the form we have them today at least (Communion, baptism, sermon, worship, paid clergy, buildings and the like). Many of the things we claim to be biblical or at least NT church practice were in fact just practices picked up from the world around them, not all wrong in and of themselves, but certainly not "biblical" or NT practice.
I for one am completely fine with our bible being pulled together as a result of observation, comparison and copying from other cultures, authors and texts. It certainly does not mean God is not the 'author' of our scriptures, the source or the inspiration, nor does it mean to me that they are any 'less'. There is no such thing as a non-bias or 'para-culture' piece of literature. Everything we do, read, listen to that has human influence (everything!) comes with the shades and colours of the culture from which it emanates. That's our challenge in reading any scripture, to read into it the culture of the day, then translate it into the culture of ours, all good hermeneutics!
Nice article Nigel.

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