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Genesis 1 & 2: Fact or Parable?

biblical adam and even in garden of eden As a Christian living today there are a number of voices who claim to be speaking for all of us, they assail science and insist that we must literally accept every word in the Bible as true. In doing so they fail both themselves and others for much in the Bible is parable or metaphor. When we, as Christians, insist that parable must be accepted as literally true we put a stumbling block of, well, biblical proportions in the way of earnest seekers.

It is for such seekers that I write this article.

Should you happen to visit the Answers in Genesis site you will find, among other things the following comment,

"... We return to the question which forms the title of this article. Should Genesis be taken literally?

Answer: 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..."

But are they right?

Modern science shows that the earth is billions of years in age, it comes to this conclusion in a number of ways and I recommend the following site for information even a non-scientist can understand, .

Is there then a meeting place between science and the Book of Genesis? Yes, there is and it comes from the understanding that Genesis is not a science text-book, that it was written in order to understand, not HOW the world came to be but WHY.

Genesis 1 & 2 are parables, they are parables about why there is an earth, why humans and animals and plants share it in common and why there is pain and suffering in the world. Parables are stories which may or may not be literally true but which imparts to us an important spiritual truth. In the New Testament we have parables such as the Good Samaritan, the evil vine-dressers; the parable of the prodigal son.

None of those New Testament stories are literal fact but they are true in a deeper, more meaningful way. So it is with the parables of Genesis 1 & 2. In them we are not being told that the world was created in six days, six thousand years ago. We are, however, being told that the world was created by God's intention, that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God and that God is a close to us as a friend who walks and talks with us in the cool of the day.

Adam and Eve, the Fall, the Serpent, Noah and his Ark may or may not be literal truth but they are markers of ultimate truth, of truth which can be held only in the imagination, of truth which can only be shown in images and symbols.

Genesis can only be understood in that it is our story, each of us is Adam, each of us is Eve, we misunderstand the Genesis parables when we fail to realize that they are addressed to US. Genesis, then, is our unique, individual story told as parable it is not some pre-scientific attempt to explain how all things came to be but rather a profound series of meditations on why things should be in the first place.

Once we realize this, we can see there are no contradictions, can be no contradictions between the findings of science and God's word to us in Genesis. Let us happily give up our insistence on a literal Genesis and seek the deeper, religious truths that await us there.

Ray McIntyre is a Priest and Theologian living in New Zealand.

Copyright 2006 Roger and Eileen Himes

About The Author
Ray McIntyre is a Priest and Theologian living in New Zealand.

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