The Genesis account was written to be interpreted literally
Round 1: Acceptance
Round 2: Arguments
Round 3: Pro rebuts Con's argument in Round 2 and vice versa
Round 4: Both sides defend their original arguments
I accept the challenge. Good luck to my opponent!!
What I think my opponent and I can agree upon is that the many passages of the Bible can fall under these categories:
Poetry – As seen much in the book of Psalms
Parables – As in many of the teachings of Jesus, for example in Matthew 13:3–23 (And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since…)
Prophecy - As seen in books of the last section of the Old Testament
Letters – For example, the writings of Paul
Biography – As in the Gospels
Autobiography/testimony – as in the book of Acts
History – For example, the accounts of 2 Kings
The big question is where Genesis falls under these categories. Chapters 12-50 are undisputed as history as they document the lives of Abraham and his descendants. Most Jews would agree as they take these passages as the true history of their own people. However, chapters 1-11 which documents the creation of the universe, Adam and Eve and their descendants, and Noah’s flood is the issue of this debate. We can start by eliminating obvious ones. They aren’t parables as whenever Jesus used parables, he often would say that it is a parable or use similes to make it obvious that it is a parable.
In the full context of Genesis 1-11, the chapters are not prophetic in nature. Although, there are one or two verses that spell out a prophecy. For example in Genesis 9:11 (“….never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth”).
Because these chapters are written in a third-person view, it would be safe to assume that this isn’t some autobiography or testimony.
There is nothing that would indicate that Genesis 1-11 are letters.
Since this section of Genesis covers different events involving different persons, it wouldn’t fall under biographies as biographies are limited to the accounts of a single person.
The most controversial is whether Genesis 1-11 was written as history or as poetry as many Christians believe. In order to determine whether or not it is poetry, we need to look at how poetry is written in the Bible. One distinctive feature in the poetry of the Bible is the use of parallelism.
Parallelism - Parallelism is the usage of repeating words and forms to give pattern and rhythm to a passage in literature. Parallelism often either juxtaposes contrasting images or ideas so as to show their stark difference, or joins similar concepts to show their connection.
For example, Psalms 1:1 shows a triple parallelism.
(‘Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.’)
Although in Genesis 1-11 there are examples of repetition of certain phrases such as ‘and God saw that it was good/very good’ which was used seven times, it is more of a statement of fact rather than poetic parallelism. The reason of repetition is more likely to put emphasis on such phrases. Because Genesis 1-11 lacks the properties that define poetry elsewhere in the Bible, it can be concluded that Genesis 1-11 is not poetry.
There is more affirming evidence other than the process of elimination to confirm that the Bible teaches Genesis 1-11 as history. If you compare Genesis 1-11 and 12-50 you will notice that there isn’t much difference in the writing style. Why would one be considered history and the other not?
Most, if not all experts in Hebrew would agree that the Bible teaches Genesis 1-11 as history. Oxford University’s Professor James Barr, Regius Professor of Hebrew at the University of Oxford, has written:
“Probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that: (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story (c) Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark. Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the "days" of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know.”
In addition, there are also multiple references across the Bible that refer to Genesis 1-11 as history. For example, Jesus has often referred to the book of Genesis as history in Matthew 24:37 (“For as were the days of Noah……..”) or in Matthew 19:3-4 (“3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,”).
In conclusion, without pressure to make the Bible to conform to evolutionary principles, it is obvious that Bible teaches Genesis 1-11 as literal history.
The Holy Bible
Letter from Professor James Barr to David C.C. Watson of the UK, dated 23 April 1984. Copy held by the author.
The introduction of Pro's argument was pretty clear and correct. I basically agree with the classification he made of the biblical texts.
My opponent has already expressed that the problem here is determining if Genesis was poetry or history. This is not completely true. Proving genesis is not poetry does not mean it was intended to be interpreted literally. It could have been a fantastic narrative, or an elevated prose.
" In order to determine whether or not it is poetry, we need to look at how poetry is written in the Bible."
I do not agree with this. The bible was written by many different authors. Therefore, we can't expect stylistic consistency.
"Most, if not all experts in Hebrew would agree that the Bible teaches Genesis 1-11 as history."
That's not true. Actually, the scholars are divided in a more even way.
Figures of speech
Figures of speech are present throughout genesis. These are a way of talking in a non literal way. Genesis is full of figures of speech. Here are some examples:
If there's so much figurative speech in genesis, how can we interpret it as literal? If the authors of genesis wanted to write a literal text, why they used so much figures of speech? Obviously, because genesis was not intended to be interpreted literally.
A text intended to be literally interpreted must have some coherence. If a text was intended to be literal, then it had to be well written. I understand that scientific knowledge was not very developed, however some things are just common sense.
- Genesis one and two contradict each other. In genesis one god created plants, then animals and then Adam and eve. In contrast, in genesis two god created Adam, then plants, then animals, and then eve.
- In chapter one the creation is described as a 6 days long procedure. However, in genesis 2:4 it say the creation took one day (" in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens."
- In the first day, god separated the light from the darkness. But in the fourth day he created "two great lights (...) to divide the light from the darkness" .
- Thought the bible it's claimed that god is one and only. Nevertheless, the genesis uses plurals when referring to god ("And God said, let us make man in our image" ; " And the Lord God said, Behold, then man is become as one of us, to know good and evil")
- God limited the human life span to 120 years in genesis 6:3 ("Yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years"). However, many humans after that lived more than 120 years( Noah 950, Shem 600, Abraham 175, Ishmael 137).
How someone who intended to write an historical text had so many errors? This is conclusive evidence supporting my point.
The grater piece of evidence supporting my point is, ironically, a book of the bible. Epistle to the Galatians is the 9th book of the New Testament. It's a letter from the apostle Paul to some Christian communities in Galatia.
Among many things, Paul here labels the stories from genesis as allegoric (not literal).
As a matter of fact, the literal interpretation of genesis is quite modern, Ancient interpretations always look at genesis as allegorical.
There's actual textual account of this interpretation. Some of this may be found in the works of Saint Irenaeus, the Alexandrian school, Saint Agustine, Philo, Gregory of Nazianzus, Maimonides, and many others.
Also, there are important church icons supporting my point in modern days, like Pope John Paul, Pope Francis, and others.
Genesis was not intended to be interpreted literally. It is constructed allegorically, using figures of speech, symbols, non constant stories, etc.
The aim of genesis is to teach Christians that god created earth, and how is the human's fault to suffer and sin. To do so, it uses a simple story that can be understood by anyone, that is interesting, and appealing.
- The bible
- De Principiis
- Against Heresie
- Origen of Alexandria
- The Literal Interpretation of Genesis
- The City of God
Violation of Debate Structure:
Con has violated the debate structure that I set in Round 1. I explicitly stated that Round 3 would be where
"Pro rebuts Con's argument in Round 2 and vice versa "
However in Round 2 Con immediately sets to refuting my case. Voters should consider this when casting their vote.
I will not address this until Round 4 where counter rebuttals are set.
Figures of Speech:
Con asserts that on day one where God separates light from darkness as a figure of speech meant to state that he created day and night. He disregards the very next verse Genesis 1:5 which stated that "God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. " The point being that Bible actually did mean that God separated light and darkness and called them night and day.
As to his second assertion, Con hasn't stated what verse in the book of Genesis he is referring to. He might be referring to Genesis 1:5 and if so, I have no clue as to what translation you are using as both NIV and KJV don't use that language.
On to Con's third verse. The biggest and most prominent problem with Con's argument here is he forgets the fact that the Bible states that God is omnipotent. It is God who, "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth." (Psalm 33:6). God can be physical as he is omnipotent and he has become physical as the son of God Jesus took on the form of man. And with the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all one. Take for example John 10:30 "I and the Father are one ".
Again with your last argument. You do not provide the biblical verse where this is stated making it hard to check to see if the Bible actually says it. And when I did check that, it appears you have taken Genesis 2:23 out of context. This is not figurative language as Genesis 2:21-22 state:
"21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the manâ€™s ribs[g] and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib[h] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man."
Here it states that God literally takes the flesh of Adam to create Eve.
As I prove here, Con's "figures of speech" aren't a problem for a literal interpretation if you look at their context within the Bible.
Con's assertion that Genesis 1 contradicts with 2 is unfounded as he does not provide specific verses to back up his claims.
With Con's argument about Genesis 2:4 he makes the mistake of taking the short phrase from the verse out of context. Here is what the full verse states:
"These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,"
What Con also forgets is that there are multiple definitions and meanings of "day". The verse makes much more sense if the definition meaning time period as in "Back in my day, ___________".
Contradiction #4: You forget that the Bible also teaches the Trinity which I have already discussed with God being the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Not to mention that there was also the existence of angels.
Biblical lifetimes: There is no indication that God would carry this out immediately, however you do see the decline in lifetimes as you progress forward in biblical chronology.
Your arguments here are nothing but bare assertions. You claim that Paul stated that Genesis was not literal, yet you do not provide Bible verses to back this up. The same applies to the biblical icons and church officials you name. You provide no proof that this is actually what they believe.
Conclusion: Con arguments hinges on misusing the text of the Bible by taking them out of context and displays a lack of knowledge of basic biblical doctrines.
The Holy Bible (NIV)
look the comments.
Oh, and just to fulfil Pro's curiosity, apostle Paul says in Galatians 4:24:
"(talking about genesis)These things serve as illustrations (or in other translations) This is allegorically speaking"
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