Can Genesis 1-11 Be Interpreted Poetically?

December 17, 2013 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143,

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Some professing Christians try to hold to evolution and the Bible by interpreting the early chapters of Genesis as poetical or allegorical, but this is an impossible position because these chapters are presented in the Bible as literal history.

1. The first 11 chapters of Genesis are written as literal history, not as poetry.

“There are 64 geographical terms, 88 personal names, 48 generic names and at least 21 identifiable cultural items (such as gold, bdellium, onyx, brass, iron, gopher wood, bitumen, mortar brick, stone, harp, pipe, cities, towers) in those opening chapters. The significance of this list may be seen by comparing it, for example, with ‘the paucity of references in the Koran. The single tenth chapter of Genesis has five times more geographical data of importance than the whole of the Koran.’ Every one of these items presents us with the possibility of establishing the reliability of our author. The content runs head on into a description of the real world rather than recounting events belonging to another world or level of reality” (Walter Kaiser, Jr., “The Literary Form of Genesis 1-11,”
New Perspectives on the Old Testament, ed. by J. Barton Payne, 1970, p. 59).

2. Genesis is cited as history by Jesus. In Luke 17:26-32, for example, Jesus mentions Noah, the Ark, the Flood, Lot, the destruction of Sodom by fire, and Lot’s wife. Elsewhere Jesus mentions the Creation (Mk. 13:19), Adam and Eve (Mat. 19:4-6; Mk. 10:6-7), Cain and Abel (Mat. 23:35; Lk. 11:50-51), and Abraham (John 8:39-40).

Christ always treats Genesis as history, and it is impossible to honor Him as Lord and Saviour and disregard His teaching. In Matthew 19:4-5, Christ mentions both “accounts” of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 and treats them as history. Many theistic evolutionists, such as Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, claim to be “evangelical” and to honor Christ as Lord and Saviour, but this is not consistent with the rejection of His teaching about Genesis and human origins.

3. Genesis 1-11 is cited as history by seven of the eight New Testament writers (all but James); altogether the first eleven chapters of Genesis are quoted from or referred to 100 times. Genesis is always treated as history in the New Testament.

4. Genesis 1-3 forms the historical foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To deny the historicity of Genesis 1-11 is to deny the gospel.

a. Jesus’ genealogy is traced from Adam (Luke 3:23-38).

b. Adam is compared to Christ (Romans 5:12-19; 1 Cor. 15:45). It is obvious that the apostle Paul considered Adam an historical figure and Genesis as literal history.

c. The gospel is required because of the Fall of the human race in Adam (Romans 5:12). If the Fall is not real, the gospel is meaningless.

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