googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Could It Be More Plain?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Could It Be More Plain?

A while back, I wrote about the plain meaning of the words of the Bible. Many Christians want to believe the Bible but seem to exhibit a greater confidence in the opinions of scientists whose theories contradict the plain words of the Bible. Rather then call the Bible wrong, these Christians assume that the Bible simply doesn't mean what it says. They allege that the creation account in Genesis is a “story” akin to a metaphor or analogy. What is worse, they not only believe that a metaphorical interpretation was intended, they further claim the original readers (the fledgling nation of Israel) would have immediately understood it to be figurative! It's truly incredible.

In English, there are certain clues that alert the reader to when grammatical devices are being used. For example, when a person reads the word, “like,” he should be on the look out for simile (he runs like the wind). Equative verbs that compare two different objects identifies metaphor (his car is his baby). Assigning anthropomorphic characteristics to concepts is personification (Reality is a cruel mistress). Get it? So where are the literary clues in Genesis? If the passage is “easily understood” to be non-literal, there surely must be some grammatical device we can point to.

Of course, Hebrew does have some poetic devices not used in English. One device is a type of alliteration where each passage begins with consecutive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Psalms 119 is the most complete example of this. Another type of Hebrew poetry is where the author repeats the same point using slightly different words. Psalm 91:4 says, He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” Covering us with His feathers is not much different than taking us under His wing. Also, a buckler is just another word for a shield. Curiously, neither of these devices are used in Genesis 1 or 2.

I've discussed this issue more than a few times with many, many people who hold the non-literal view. I ask them earnestly to clearly explain the literary construction in Genesis that helps them identify it as figurative and to give me a few examples of where else it is used in the Bible. They almost invariably retreat to a position of, “well, science has proven it can't be literal so it must be figurative.” You can see how that is not persuasive. Neither does it explain why the ancients would have understood it to be figurative because they did not have the “benefit” of modern, scientific theories of origins. They would have interpreted it “plainly” as should we.

But to those people still who hold a figurative interpretation, let me ask a question: What if God had intended Genesis to “really” mean six days? How could He have written it any more plainly? Think about this for a moment: Each day enumerates specific creative acts by God and the days are clearly delineated with the phrase “evening and morning” and identified with an ordinal number (first day, second day, etc.) Assuming for a moment it's not literal, I'm not sure how it would be substantially different if God had truly meant it to be literal.

Obviously anyone can read the creation account for himself but let me sum it up in paraphrase. The creation account reads something like this:

On the first day (during the day and the night) God did this...
On the second day (during the day and the night) God did this...
So forth until the seventh day when God rested (ceased creating).

That all sounds pretty factual to me. If the plain meaning of the words in Genesis 1 cannot be understood to mean what they clearly say, then no part of the Bible can be believed with certainty. If God did not create the world in 6 days, then how do I know Jesus rose on the 3rd day? How do I even know He literally “rose”? How do I even know if Jesus was a literal person? If the words of the Bible don't mean what words ordinarily mean, than the entire Bible is meaningless!

If I had written the account with the intention of making sure it would be understood to be literal, I'm not sure what more I could have said except perhaps to add a qualifier: “these were not metaphoric days but real, ordinary days!”


freebobafett said...

The reason Genesis 1-2 don't conform to the other parts of the bible you mentioned is because Genesis 1-2 was stolen directly from The Book of the Dead.

It's Egyptian. That is why it doesn't seem like Hebrew. It isn't.

What if the God you worship is Ra? What would that mean?

Also, while Jesus didn't come to replace the Laws and the Prophets, he certainly did come to add upon their teachings.

Later in the bible, Paul adds a great deal to what came before him...why can't those who have gained knowledge not available 2000 years ago also add a thing or two as they live a Christian life? (What Paul wrote is considered the word of God, when 1 and 2Corinthians clearly states that it is the word of Paul and a Rabbi, writing letters to Jews in an effort to convert them...strange...when the actual authors are clearly called out at the beginning of each book, why do you believe that the author was someone else? It's like...what if God LITERALLY meant that Paul wrote those letters...what then?).

RKBentley said...


It's good to hear from you. It's been a couple of years. I suspected you were a “one hit wonder” - that is, one who visits, leaves a comment, then I never hear from him again. Thank you for visiting and for your comment.

I'm sorry to tell you that you're entirely incorrect in your characterization of Genesis 1 & 2. Where did you get the idea they're not “like Hebrew”? I said that they're not written in the style of Hebrew POETRY. They are perfectly ordinary Hebrew narrative.

Your claim about the Egyptian Book of the Dead borders on a canard. Many people have similarly claimed that Genesis “stole” its “stories” (like the Creation and the Flood) from the more ancient (more ancient than the Egyptians, that is) accounts of Gilgamesh. Any resemblance of ancient myths to the true accounts recorded in the Bible can be easily attributed to the corrupt recollections of historic realities.

Thanks again for visiting.

God bless!!


Todd Williams said...

BobaFett, if you can show an actual reputable source by literary scholarship for your claims (and NOT just another Christ-myth website), then I'd be very interested to hear of them. Otherwise, I think you should treat those sites as you would "The DaVinci Code."

You should at least consider the writings of a person of scholarship, Joseph Campbell, the father of Jesus copycat theory. But then let me tell you why you should disregard it. Joseph Campbell's atheist worldview comes through loud and clear in the Masks of God series, and he begins the series on the presupposition that anything supernatural must be mythological. So it's obvious that he would find that any supernatural theme in Christianity would serve only to lump it in with the 'evolution of mythology' in our species. He makes sweeping unsupported statements (in reference to Greek myth and the Christian faith) like, "whereas, actually, the fabulous elements common to the two precisely contemporary, Eastern Mediterranean traditions were derived equally from the preceding, bronze-age civilization of Mesopotamia." He then does not provide any evidence whatsoever for this statement except for some thematic similarities and analogous speculation later on in the series. In addition, he does not address at all the historical accuracy of the resurrection testimony in 1 Corinthians 15, which the majority of scholarship agrees is dated within 30 years of Jesus' death. This kind of testimony is unlike anything you'll find in mythology, and you'll find no end of attempts by secular writers to expand the time gap between the crucifixion and the resurrection testimonies in order to explain what they believe to be the infusion of legend into the history. (continued)

Todd Williams said...

Another of Joseph Campbell's presumptive statements, "We have the earliest evidence yet discovered anywhere of the prodigiously influential mythology associated for us with the great names of Ishtar and Tammuz, Venus and Adonis, Isis and Osiris, Mary and Jesus," just shows how he was a believer in copycat theory when it comes to Christianity, despite the fact that the parallels mentioned with these deities are pretty weak, with Tammuz probably being the most convincing (relatively speaking) of the three. There is much better 'evidence' that Abe Lincoln did not exist when you compare accounts of his life and assassination to JFK! (both had a son die during their presidency, both were assassinated with bullet wounds to the back of the head, both assassins killed before their trial, both elected in '60, etc....[some of the many comparisons out there are urban legend, but there are quite a few real ones that make the point].

But back to your last question. I'm not sure what you're asking, but the evidence shows that New Testament writings have remained free of legend and cultic infusion thanks to the adherence to incredibly high standards of the Jewish copyists, which have resulted in only minor differences among the almost 25,000 surviving ancient biblical manuscripts. You compare any two copies in any language, from any time period, and you get the same text with no doctrinal differences whatsoever. So if you believe in the assimilation of legend into the Bible, you must be convinced of what would be the most successful, most elaborate and accurately executed hoax in all of history! When you have actual legendary embellishment, you get a myriad of different stories along the lines of Osiris, Adonis, Attis, Dionysus, etc. It's the miraculous testimonies that throw people off, and if there is a predisposition to disbelieve in the supernatural, then of course I can see how your only alternative is to believe that those stories were embellished. I just haven't seen any evidence for it, other than the dozens and dozens of copycat theories out there, which I really don't find compelling at all. In fact, I've found most of them rife with everything from overstated claims to complete fabrications.

BobaFett, I encourage you to do the hard work of scrutinizing these theories like you scrutinize the Bible. Find the's out there for you.

Sorry for the long post, RK, but I get fired up about this stuff. :)

RKBentley said...


Thanks again for visiting and for your comments. Don't worry about the length. There have been many times when I've had to split a reply in two because of Blogger's character limits. Your post was full of interesting info so it's well worth it.

I remember reading some of Campbell's stuff several years ago. I know he was an atheist and all but you reminded me of one point he raised that I've thought about using in a post. In his book, The Power of Myth, he talked about how there are many societies that practice a ceremonial “rite of passage.” At a certain age, young men will be subjected to some ritual (like circumcision or a bar mitzvah) and afterward, they were treated like men. His point was that there was a time in these young men's lives where they understand they need to stop acting like children and start acting like adults. The fact that we don't have any similar rite of passage in the US perpetuates adolescence. That's why we have adult men acting like teenage boys who live at home, don't work, and play video games.

But that's all beside the point. I'm sorry to have hijacked your reply. Speaking of scholars, check out my post, “Agnostic Owns Atheist.”

God bless!