Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!
Genre and Genesis 1-11, does it matter?
The central question of Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? is the question of the genre of Genesis 1-11. But does this question really even matter? Gordon Wenham argues that shouldn’t trump interpretation:
[U]ltimately we must recognize that how we define the genre of Gen[esis] 1-11 is a secondary issue: our primary concern must be the interpretation of the stories and their application today. The definition of genre refines and clarifies the message of Genesis, but disagreements about genre should not obscure our substantial agreement about the theological teaching of these stories. Whether one calls Gen[esis] 1-11 doctrine, history, fiction, or myth, it is clear that these chapters are making profound statements about the character of God and his relationship to mankind. Elucidating these truths must be the goal of every interpreter. (74,cited below)
Later in the book, Sparks argues that Wenham is mistaken and genre does determine much more about the text–even what might be considered binding to believe. What are your thoughts? How important is it to determine the genre of Genesis 1-11 in order to properly interpret it? Can we focus instead on the texts themselves?
Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)
Gordon Wenham, “Genesis 1-11 as Protohistory” in Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Charles Halton and Stanley Gundry, eds. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015).