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Should Genesis be taken literally?

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Scene from God's Story: From Creation to Eternity - a chronological telling of God's story from Genesis to Revelation

Evolutionists sometimes accuse Creationists of believing that the whole Bible should be taken literally. This is not so!

Rather, the key to a correct understanding of any part of the Bible is to ascertain the intention of the author of the portion or book under discussion. This is not as difficult as it may seem, as the Bible obviously contains:

  • Poetry - as in the Psalms, where the repetition or parallelism of ideas is in accordance with Hebrew ideas of poetry, without the rhyme (parallelism of sound) and metre (parallelism of time) that are important parts of traditional English poetry. This, by the way, is the reason that the Psalms can be translated into other languages and still retain most of their literary appeal and poetic piquancy, while the elements of rhyme and metre are usually lost when traditional Western poetry is translated into other languages.

  • Parables - as in many of the sayings of Jesus, such as the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-23), which Jesus Himself clearly states to be a parable, and in which He gives meanings for the various items, such as the seed and the soil.

  • Prophecy - as in the books of the last section of the Old Testament (Isaiah to Malachi).

  • Letters - as in the New Testament epistles written by Paul, Peter, John, and others.

  • Biography - as in the Gospels.

  • Autobiography/Testimony - as in the book of Acts where the author, Luke, after narrating the Apostle Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus as a historical fact (Acts 9:1-19), then describes two further occasions when Paul included this conversion experience as part of his own personal testimony (Acts 22:1-21; 26:1-22).

  • Authentic historical facts - as in the books of 1 and 2 Kings, etc.

Thus the author's intention with respect to any book of the Bible is usually made clear from the style and the content. (Click here to find out who the author of Genesis was).

If we apply the normal principles of biblical exegesis (ignoring pressure to make the text conform to the evolutionary prejudices of our age), it is overwhelmingly obvious that Genesis was meant to be taken in a straightforward, obvious sense as an authentic, literal, historical record of what actually happened.

More information about the literal interpretation of Genesis

  • Who wrote the first book of the Bible - Genesis? Answer

  • How should we interpret Genesis 1-11? Answer

  • Are there contradictions between the 1st and 2nd chapters of Genesis? Answer

  • Genesis 1-11—an actual record of authentic historical facts? (Biblical Evidence Within and Outside Genesis) Answer

Author: Russell Grigg, M.Sc. (Hons.), Creation Ex Nihilo Dec 93 - Feb 1994, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 38-41. Supplied by Creation Ministries International

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