Genre Override In Genesis 1—2 -- By: Jeremiah Loubet
JODT 15:46 (December 2011) p. 71
Genre Override In Genesis 1—2
Jeremiah Loubet, M.A. student, Tyndale Theological Seminary; and, deacon, Standish Bible Church, Standish, California.
Perhaps no passage in Scripture elicits so varied a response in the Christian community today as the creation account of the first two chapters of Genesis. The attitudes range from indifference to fierce intent, while hermeneutics range from allegory or myth, to literal grammatical-historical. To hear most discussions, one would assume many of the positions to be relatively modern, but their histories are more profound than at first evident. Among modern evangelicals, whose hermeneutic is primarily (generally) literal, most of the bewildering theories have not been influential. The constant pressure from the world and the more liberal side of the church has, however, eroded the literalism of many with a predictable result. A growing trend today is the use of genre labels as an excuse to take certain passages less than literally. The most commonly targeted areas are prophecy, the gospels, and portions of Genesis 1—11. The purpose of this article is to evaluate the apparent motive, method, and ramifications of this practice as regards the Genesis creation account.
A brief look at history helps illuminate the present. The tendency of the church to interpret Scripture in a less that literal manner can be dated, at least, to Origen. In his work, De Principiis 4.1.6, he argued that the existence of days before the sun and moon was impossible and so could only be taken figuratively.1 Origen was certainly influenced by his time, that is, profoundly influenced by Greek philosophy, and by Philo, who prior to him regarded the Jewish Scripture similarly. Olsen wrote, “One of Origen’s purposes in allegorical interpretation was to relieve the unbearable pressure put on Christians by skeptics like the pagan writer Celsus, who ridiculed many Old Testament stories as absurd and improper to God.”2
JODT 15:46 (December 2011) p. 72
Unfortunately he began a precedent in the church that lingers even today in its far-reaching effects.
Another of the church fathers who left a troubling influence in this area is Augustine. While Augustine (City of God 12.10) defended Scripture from criticism by those who declared the earth and humanity to “have always been,”3 and asserted a biblical age for the earth, his evaluation of the days in Genesis 1 was p...
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