Creation Series: How do I even read this?

To begin our journey down the rabbit hole, I figured we would begin at the beginning. I'm reasonable like that. So the first chunk of blogs will be fully centered around the theory of creation. I won't focus on pulling scripture apart chronologically; there are ideas tumbling around in my brain that are a little to wonky for me to stick to any kind of linear plan of attack. Simply, I'll be thinking about the idea of creation, I'll be reading Genesis (and other supplementary books/podcasts/etc. on this topic), and I'll write about the goings-on of my mind. 

The first thing that springs into thought as I crack open my (substantially dusty) bible is a question. No surprise there. But it's one that I think deserves attention. 

Simply, "How do I even read this book?"

Truth be told, I ask that question for all of the bible (and you should too), but for the sake of this discussion and because Genesis is it's own hairy beast, today I ask it only of the first book. 

There are a few different ways to think about the book of Genesis. Let's explore.

  1. Literally. Some believe that Genesis (and all of the bible) can be interpreted literally. This belief suggests that God created the heavens and the earth, and that he did so in six literal 24-hour days. Usually, this belief infers that the earth was created less than 10,000 years ago, and that the bible is the inerrant word of God, meant to be interpreted literally (unless otherwise stated by the author).
  2. Within a similar (but not identical) framework as a literal interpretation is the Day-age Theory which suggests that the account of Genesis is literal, but that the "days" in which creation took place were not 24-hour periods. This theory breaks off into multiple explanations, referencing things like the expansion of time and the expansion of the Universe, which suggests that a "day" may have been longer then than it is now (like billions of years longer). It can also point to the interpretation that the term "day" was not meant to be used as a description of a 24-hour period, but rather as a way of saying "in the day of" like "in the day of Jesus." In summary, this belief says: Genesis can be interpreted literally but "day" doesn't refer to what we now call a 24-hour day.
  3. As allegory/metaphor/poetry. Some people (Christian and non-Christian alike) believe that the creation story in Genesis can be read symbolically, like a poem or an allegory. Some who think of Genesis this way still believe it contains much theological truth, but that it cannot be relied upon for the literal science and history of the beginning of the earth. It's seen as a framework rather than a historically accurate account, containing truth solely in principle.
  4. As a book which contains no historical truth whatsoever, and offers little (or nothing) in the way of allegorical truth.

You can get much more into detail here if you're interested in knowing more about the rest of the known theories. There are lots, and they get very detailed. For the sake of what I'm exploring, all that matters is that we identify this:

As you read Genesis, there are at least four ways to see it:

  1. As literal, inerrant, historical fact
  2. As historical fact within a different context: "Day" does not refer to 24-hours, but rather a longer period of time
  3. As metaphorical truth, but not historically accurate
  4. As a load of hogwash

All of us likely fall somewhere into these categories, even if our specific views may splinter off into a million different nuances and intricacies. So as you read your way through the first book of the Christian bible, it's important to consider a few things:

  1. What are all of the ways of understanding this book?
  2. Which theories are best supported?
  3. What theory do I find myself connecting to most?
  4. Can I keep an open mind as I explore this book, knowing that no one theory is absolutely proven?

As an English major, I've read and dissected a fair amount of literature. In truth, it wasn't until my last semester, when I took a World Literature course, when I realized that the same mentality should be applied to scripture reading. We should be asking: Who wrote this? When was it written? To whom was it written originally? What was the first translation and how accurate is this version? Is this book meant for our time, or is it contextually outdated? What was the political, spiritual, economical, and ecological climate of that time? Etc. Etc. 

Asking these questions can only bear good fruit.
If you're a Christian, it's a good idea to get a handle on the book you essentially base your entire life on.
If you're not a Christian, we're talking about a book that claims it comes straight from the mouth of God, so deciding what you believe about it seems pretty important, and it makes sense to approach it diligently. 
Whether you're a Christian or not, if you choose to read the bible, do so as an informed student, rather than flipping through the pages haphazardly and ascribing whatever meaning you want to whatever verse you like. That's how wars are waged, my friends. 

Let's discuss! In the comments, share with me what you believe about the book of Genesis, and cite compelling sources. Ask some questions you've always wanted to ask. Tell me about how this blog expanded your perspective. Share your journey with me. I like that stuff.

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