Is the Bible Creation Account a Myth?
A student in my Bible class says he believes that the Genesis account of the creation may be a myth, or at least just symbolism. How do I respond to him?
There are several lines of evidence which may be employed to show that the Genesis record of the creation is not a myth, nor is it symbolic.
First, though, we must emphasize that in approaching this matter one must recognize that the student will have to possess sufficiently developed study skills to be able to evaluate evidence. Many of our nation’s youngsters today readily believe anything they hear—whether at school or via television. Frequently they array this sort of public propaganda against the Bible school teacher, whom they feel is a nice person and well-meaning, but not nearly as informed as the “experts.” We must train them to think, to analyze, to logically scrutinize, and then to draw sound conclusions.
Consider, then, the following:
The language in the opening portion of Genesis is in the same literary style as the balance of the book. It is historical prose. For example, it considers Adam and Eve to be actual people—just as Abraham and Sarah were. Eden was as real as Ur of the Chaldees. There is no change in style as the narrative progresses. One must have a valid reason, therefore, for dismissing Genesis 1 as myth. A mere assertion by some TV personality will not accomplish that.
There is a vast contrast in the dignity and tone of Genesis 1 and the creation myths that are common to the ancient world. For example, the Babylonian creation account (Enuma elish) is fraught with ridiculous absurdities that are lightyears removed from the stately manner of the Genesis account. In that story, Enuma elish has two “gods” at war; one kills the other and cuts her body into two pieces. From one of these the earth is fashioned, and from the other the heavens are formed.
Dr. George Barton, who served as professor of Semitic languages at the University of Pennsylvania, has written: “[T]here is no better measure of the inspiration of the Biblical account [of creation] than to put it side by side with the Babylonian [record of creation]” (1946, 297-298). Elsewhere, we have discussed this in greater detail (see The Uniqueness of the Biblical Creation Record).
There is no basis for suggesting that Genesis 1 is symbolic. Some liberal critics have argued that the “days” of the creation week are mere figures of speech, representing millions of years. Others contend that the “days” are simply poetic devices that outline the author’s main theological points. These baseless theories clearly contradict Exodus 20:11, which views the creation days in the same literal sense as the Sabbath. The only rationale for this novel interpretative approach is an attempt to harmonize Genesis with the chronology required by the evolutionary scheme of history—which is without scientific substance (see The Age of the Earth).
Though penned many centuries ago, the Mosaic narrative is still brilliantly relevant. There is not a factual scientific error to be found within it. In fact, famed archaeologist W. F. Albright once said that “modern scientific cosmogonies show such a disconcerting tendency to be short-lived that it may be seriously doubted whether science has yet caught up with the Biblical story” (1948, 135).
Jesus Christ accepted the literal historicity of the Genesis account. He affirmed that the first human beings: (a) were made by God; (b) were made male and female; and, © had a history extending back to the “beginning of the creation” (Matthew 19:4; Mark 10:6).
The only response to this is to charge that Jesus was either ignorant or dishonest relative to these facts. In either case, Christ would be indicted as an impostor—because he claimed to have been at the creation (John 8:58) and the New Testament attributes to him the role of Creator (John 1:1; Hebrews 1:2).
Even skeptics are loath to so castigate Jesus. Steve Allen said that Christ approached “the ideal of perfection more closely than anyone else who has ever lived” (1990, 229), and atheist Charles Templeton described the Lord as “the greatest human being who has ever lived . . . a moral genius” (Strobel 2000, 21). One cannot consistently characterize Jesus Christ in this fashion and ignore what he said about the creation account.
The conclusion, therefore, must be this: Genesis 1 is not myth; it is not symbolic or poetic; it is straight-forward, literal history. That is the fact of the situation.
- Albright, W. F. 1948. The Old Testament and Archaeology. H. C. Alleman and Elmer Flack, eds. Philadelphia, PA: Muhlenberg Press.
- Allen, Steve. 1990. Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, & Morality. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus.
- Barton, George. 1946. Archaeology and the Bible. Philadelphia, PA: American Sunday School Union.
- Strobel, Lee. 2000. The Case for Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.