Re: Apologetics and Genesis

George Murphy (
Tue, 10 Nov 1998 07:30:31 -0500 wrote:
> We are engaged in the struggle to find an acceptable framework in which to
> interpret Gen. 1-11 so that it is not discredited by science and yet is true
> in its own terms.
> I find a paper by Paul Seely to be helpful in doing this ("The Date of the
> Tower of Babel and Its Implications"). Following Warfield in principle, he
> introduces the concept that the penman of Genesis wrote "in the ordinary
> opinion of his day."

I think this is right, with the qualification that there was more than one
"penman" & apparently an active editorial process involved as well.

That strikes me as a crucial concept. The penman did
> not write as if he were writing allegory, poetry, myth, parable, novel or
> scientific history. Nor did he write as God's secretary. He wrote in terms
> of what was the ordinary opinion (cosmology, pre-history, geography) of his
> day. What else could he do? What would we have done if we were the penmen or
> penwomen of Genesis?

Until fairly recently, "ordinary opinion" didn't differ radically from the
best scientific opinion. I.e., science was in accord with "common sense." It isn't any
longer, & that's one reason there seems to many to be dissonance between science &
> Seely wrote, "But did not the writer of Gen. 11:1-9 intend to teach history
> also? I think it is more accurate to say that as with the cosmology of the
> times, the writer simply accepted the historical tradition and motifs of the
> times, the ordinary opinions of his day about prehistory with no critical
> concern about their historicity, even with a certain willingness to remold
> them for theological purposes."

> Would it not be more appropriate for us to stress this "theological" meaning
> in dealing with biblical critics--that God is the Judge of collective human
> pride--rather than falling into their trap of trying to justify a historical
> basis for the story? The theological meanings are as relevant today as they
> were in early biblical times, and put the discussion on an entirely different
> and sounder basis.

Yes. It is always the theological meaning of the text which is important,
whether the text is an accounting of straight history or not.

George L. Murphy