Re: Apologetics and Genesis

George Murphy (
Wed, 11 Nov 1998 16:24:23 -0500

Dick Fischer wrote:
> George Murphy wrote:
> >I agree that the literal/physical aspect of Gen.1-11 should be ignored. It
> >is talking about God's relationship with us & our world.
> Please correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that Genesis 1-11
> does not fit your philosophical position that it purports to describe the
> origins of mankind, that it fails on scientific grounds, and thus must
> serve some other purpose.

First let me note an unfortunate error in my previous post. I should of course
have said "should NOT be ignored."

> My philosophical position is that Genesis 1-11 was written to tell the Jews
> of their origination, including the region, the approximate time frame,
> etc., and therefore has an entirely legitimate "literal/physical aspect" to
> the Jews that us outsiders are free to observe inasmuch as it has been
> incorporated in our Christian Bible.

I think this limitation to the Jews is quite wrong. Gen.1-3 speak about the
creation of the universe & humanity & a problem of sin which pervades the human race.
There is no picking out of any "chosen people" until Abraham. Trying to get a match
between the early chapters of Genesis & historical & archaeological results by limiting
those chapters to the people of Israel is an example of throwing out theological meaning
for the sake of a supposedly literal interpretation.
> >I would refer again to the
> >"rivers section" of Gen.2 here. The fact that some of the rivers this
> refers to are
> >ones which we can identify is an indication that the text is talking about
> our world >and not some mythical space. But that does not mean that
> > a. we should use the text to try to figure out the location of Paradise, or
> > b. try to find out what each of the 4 rivers "stands for" in allegorical
> > fashion.
> If by "our world" you mean "your world," then no, Moses wasn't interested
> in your world or your beginnings.

A natural response might be "then why should I be interested in Moses?"
God's purpose for Israel was always for the ultimate sake of "all nations" - cf.
Gen.12:3b. & Israel was not primarily a "racial" group but a covenant people until the
post-exilic period, when emergency ideas about ethnic purity unfortunately got hardened.

> If by "our world" you mean "their
> world," then it most assuredly describes an identifiable region - Southern
> Mesopotamia.

Of course Genesis uses mid-eastern rivers & not the Mississippi or Yangtze - the
writers were from the mid-east.
> Read the entire text. Genesis 2:13 mentions Cush, though Cush means
> "black," and has been rendered "Ethiopia" in some translations. The area
> of the descendants of Cush, Noah's grandson, are identified on some maps of
> Persia and the region is still called Khusistan to this day.
> Genesis 2:14 says the Hidekel (Tigris) "goeth toward the east of Assyria."
> Can we locate Assyria on a map? Did the Tigris not go there?

See my comment above.
> Please permit me to restate something I have said before.
> It says in Genesis 2:5 and 2:6 that "the Lord God had not caused it to rain
> upon the earth ..." "But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered
> the whole face of the ground."
> Some have contended that a vapor canopy surrounded the earth and came
> crashing down in a flood.

The waters above the heavens are a part of biblical cosmology & according to
Ps.148:4 were still there in the psalmist's time. Maybe Seth wrote Ps.148. Or maybe
we're not bound to obsolete physical cosmologies just because the biblical writers used

> Others have maintained that this is when God
> created rain. But the Septuagint version of Genesis doesn't use the word
> "mist." It uses the word "fountain." There is a whopping difference
> between a fountain and mist. What this verse refers to is irrigation.

NRSV has "stream." But your final sentence is bare assertion.
> Now, holding on to that thought, it says in Genesis 2:10, "And a river went
> out of Eden to water the garden ..." Ezekiel 1:1 mentions the "river of
> Chebar" in Babylon. The only river in Babylon is the Euphrates. The
> "river" Chebar is an irrigation canal. They named them in those days. Now
> we see that the OT sometimes uses the word "river" when it means "canal."
> And the word for "desert" in Sumerian and Accadian is "edin." Now
> substituting in Genesis we can see that "a (canal) went out of (the desert)
> to water the garden." The garden of Eden was irrigated.

_If_ one insists that Gen.1-11 must be read as historical narrative, your
interpretation would be moderately plausible though hardly compelling.

> And where were the cities irrigated? In Southern Mesopotamia.
> Just this one bit of understanding goes a long way toward Bible-science
> resolution. The early cities of Southern Mesopotamia were irrigated. If
> the garden of Eden was in this region and in this time frame, around 7,000
> years ago, then the Adam of Genesis appears far too late in human history
> to start the line of hominids from which human beings descended. Adam, the
> one "created in the image of God," was the first of the Jewish race, not
> the first of the human race, as we have commonly misunderstood.

This makes hash of the Christ-Adam imagery of Paul.


George L. Murphy