Re: Did man originally speak a single language?

George Murphy (
Mon, 02 Nov 1998 10:26:58 -0500

Glenn R. Morton wrote:

> In another regard, I am going to say something to make people mad at me.
> I
> would note that the allegoricalization of Adam and Eve, which is so
> widespread in Christianity and especially among the members of this
> listserv, leads to NO research program looking at the what the Bible might
> say about early human history. Allegorys by definition give little impetus
> for further research. The YECs advance an already falsified research
> program, but the hypothesis I have advanced over the past few years, does
> lead to lots of new ideas and findings and suggestions in the area of
> apologetics. This linguistic input requires too old an earth for the YECs
> and the allegoricalizers have no interest. My view requires something like
> this, which is why I went looking for it.

I can speak only for myself, but since I'm sure I'm one of "the members of this
listserv" Glenn has in mind, let me do so.
1) I have little interest in "allegorizing" Genesis. That method of
interpretation, developed in the hellenistic period to make the Homeric poems more
"edifying" & heavily used by ancient & medieval Christian interpreters, involves a
detailed mapping of the literal aspects of the text onto supposedly more spiritual
realities. Thus references to wood "mean" the cross, water = baptism, the "coats of
skins" of Genesis 3 the material bodies of Adam & Eve, &c. Unless used with great care
& discipline it allows one to say anything = anything.
Scripture uses allegory (e.g., Gal.4:21-31) & it can be legitimate as a
secondary interpretation in some cases. It is NOT, however, what I would encourage
with Genesis 1-11. It is most important to understand the accounts of creation &c _in
the context of all of scripture_ THEOLOGICALLY. I.e., they are authoritative statements
about God's relationship with the real world and humanity. Thus Gen.1 & 2 say (in
varying ways):
The existence of the world depends on God alone.
Creation is through God's word.
The material world is fundamentally good.
Human beings have a special place - i.e., privilege AND responsibility - in
The creation of living things is mediated.
Human sexuality & marriage are part of God's intention for creation.
(The list isn't exhaustive.) None of these statements depends on "allegory" in
the strict sense.
2) Does this lead to a "research program"? It depends on what kind of research
program you're interested in. It certainly can be part of a theological research
program in the sense in which Nancey Murphy develops the idea in _Theology in the Age
ofd Scientific Reasoning_. But it will not lead to the type of
geological-paleontological-archaeological research program in which Glenn is interested
- which is not to say that theology has no interest in geology &c.
3) A demonstration of the unity of human languages at some basic level would
certainly be of great interest scientifically & might shed some light on Gen.11. But
the emphasis in the Babel story is not on the original unity of languages but on their

George L. Murphy