Genesis: History Fiction or Neither

This tag is associated with 3 posts

Sunday Quote!- Genesis 1-11 is Fiction?

3vgen-1-11Every 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!

Genesis 1-11 is Fiction?

Kenton Sparks argues in his chapter of Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? that Genesis 1-11 is “ancient historiography,” which is to say, largely mythic fiction. Why does he argue this, and what are the implications? He sums up his position nicely:

[I]t is no longer possible for informed readers to interpret the book of Genesis as straightforward history. There was no Edenic garden, nor trees of life and knowledge, nor a serpent that spoke, nor a worldwide flood in which all living things, save those on a giant boat, were killed by God. Whatever the first chapters of Genesis offer, there is one thing that they certainly do not offer, namely, a literal account of events that actually happened prior to and during the early history of humanity. If Genesis is the word of God, as I and other Christians believe, then we must try to understand how God speaks through a narrative that is no longer the literal history that our Christian forebears often assumed it to be… (111, cited below)

I’m sure some of this statement was for rhetorical flourish, but it is clear that Sparks has chosen to contrast his position with the staunchest literalist position. He references the Flood as global; despite many conservative scholars arguing that it is local; in the same essay he sets his position against 6-day creationism, but does nothing to hint at how his position might contrast with those who do not adhere to that perspective. As I said, I’m sure a lot of this is rhetorical flourish rather than ignorance, but his essay could have been stronger if he’d interacted with more nuanced positions.

That said, it is difficult to reconcile his statement that effectively nothing in Genesis 1-11 refers to a “literal account of events that actually happened…” with his statement that Genesis is the “word of God.” However, he does try to demonstrate this throughout his essay. I remain unconvinced that Genesis 1-11 is largely fiction, though I would find myself in agreement with Sparks at a few points in his exegesis.

What do you think? Would arguing that Genesis 1-11 is effectively fiction–theological fiction, but fiction nonetheless–undermine its viability as the word of God? What might this mean for interpretation of these early chapters?

Links

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Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Kenton Sparks, “Genesis 1-11 as Ancient Historiography” in Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Charles Halton and Stanley Gundry, eds. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015).

SDG.

Sunday Quote!- Genre and Genesis 1-11, does it matter?

3vgen-1-11

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?

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Gordon Wenham, “Genesis 1-11 as Protohistory”  in Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Charles Halton and Stanley Gundry, eds. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015).

SDG.

Sunday Quote!- Genesis as Sui Generis (Its Own Genre)?

3vgen-1-11Every 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!

Genesis as Sui Generis (Its Own Genre)?

I’ve been reading through Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? It is part of the Zondervan Counterpoints series in which authors with different views present essays and (usually) interact with each other’s views. In it, there is much debate over the genre–and thus in part the meaning–of Genesis 1-11 in particular. In his response to Gordon Wenham, Kenton Sparks argued that Genesis could not be its own genre or sui generis because:

…all intelligible discourse must conform to a significant degree with existing modes and patterns of discourse, else readers would not understand it… (102, cited below)

Thus, he asserted, we cannot see these early chapters of Genesis as standing apart or unique as a completely separate genre. To do so would be to make it unintelligible.

It seems to me that this is on-point. We shouldn’t just throw up our hands and separate Genesis from the rest of the Bible as its own genre, distinct from any other human writing. God would not have communicated in a way that we cannot understand.

What do you think? Is Genesis 1-11 completely unique? Should we give up on trying to discern its genre, or is it clearly discernible?

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Kenton Sparks, “Response to Gordon J. Wenham” in Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Charles Halton and Stanley Gundry, eds. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015).

SDG.

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