Sunday, April 1, 2012

False Assumption #1 of Young-Earth Creationists

Alice C. Linsley



As I have written here, the false assumptions of Young-Earth Creationists present the greatest obstacles to understanding Genesis. Their assumptions are the most pervasive cause of confusion and their doctrines are contrary to what Genesis reveals.

In this essay, we consider the first of five Young-Earth assumptions and evaluate its veracity in light of relevant texts.


Assumption 1: Genesis is history and should be read as a chronological account.

Genesis contains historical details that can be verified through disciplines such as archaeology, anthropology, linguistics, molecular genealogy and climate studies. However, the book should not be read as a chronology of past events. That is not how Abraham's ancestors recounted their tribal histories and stories.

It is often repeated that the Hebrews viewed events as moving along a straight line, but Abraham and his ancestors were not Hebrews. They were Nilotic peoples who tended toward binary tensions expressed in parallel accounts.  The parallel stories highlight similarities such as the moral lapses of Noah and Lot while drunk.  Noah's misbehavior led him to blame ("curse") his grandson. Lot's drunkeness led to incest with his daughters.

Sometimes the parallel stories contrast the character of two figures, as in the accounts of Abraham and Isaac attempting to pass off their wives as their sisters. Sarah was Abraham's half-sister whereas Rebecca was Isaac's patrilineal cousin. In other words, Abraham did not lie and Isaac did.

Other parallel accounts include the two creation stories. Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3 are parallel accounts from different traditions. The second story about the garden, the serpent, and the tree of life is older than the first story about the six days of creation.

Likewise, there are two flood accounts. In one we read that Noah was to save one pair of animals, a male and female, and in the other we read that he was to save seven pairs of "clean" animals.

This parallelism is not limited to the book of Genesis.  It is found in the Psalms and throughout the Old Testament. Adam and Enoch are paralleled in Hebrew in Psalm 8:4. The story of Korah opposing Moses' authority has a parallel in the story of Sheba who opposed David's authority.  In the end, both Korah and Sheba lost their lives.

The blood on the door posts in Egypt has a parallel in the story of the passover of Rahab and her family by the scarlet cord hung from the window.

The story of Sarah's miraculous conception of Isaac is paralleled by Hannah's conception of Samuel.  In the New Testament, we find a parallel between Elizabeth's miraculous conception of John the Baptist and Mary's conception of the Son of God, to whom John would bear witness.

There are also parallel stories about cousin wives. Nahor, Abraham's older brother, married his cousin wife Milcah before ascending to the throne of his father, Terah. This happened before Abraham made his journey to the land of Canaan. However we are not told about Nahor's wife and children until after Sarah's burial.

Likewise, Abraham married his cousin wife before Sarah died, but Keturah is not mentioned until after Sarah's burial. This has lead people to assume that Abraham married Keturah after Sarah died. Instead we have parallel cousin-wife stories.

Abraham and all the Horite rulers listed in the Genesis "begats" had two wives.  This was their custom. The first wife was a half-sister, as was Sarah to Abraham. The second wife was a patrilineal cousin or niece, as was Keturah to Abraham. This pattern describes Moses' wives also.  His first wife was his Kushite half-sister and his second wife was his Midianite patrilineal cousin, Zipporah.

By insisting that Genesis be read as a chronological history, Young-Earth Creationists miss the remarkable parallels which are intended to enlighten us as we read Scripture. They miss the patterns of the Bible because they are intent on forcing the Bible into their preconceived template. They miss that Jesus Christ, as the Heir to the eternal Kingdom, is prefigured in the marriage and ascendancy pattern of Abraham's people. St. Paul understood this. That is why he wrote that the Gospel had been proclaimed to his Hebrew ancestors (Heb. 4:2).

This is not to say that Abraham's ancestors lacked a device for narrating linear events. This was done through recounting the lists of rulers found in the Genesis Begats. These are authentic king lists that establish that Noah lived before Nimrod and Nimrod before Abraham, etc. We can imagine a Nilotic story teller elaborating on the character of various rulers as is evident in Genesis 4:23, where we are told that Lamech bragged to his two wives. Another elaboration is found in Genesis 10:8-12 concerning the Kushite kingdom-builder Nimrod.

To make the Bible fit their template, Young Earthers overlook many significant details. They seem unaware that Abraham had at least eight sons, and Isaac was not his firstborn.  They ignore the intermarriage between Abraham's people and the Horites of Seir/Edom (Gen. 36).  They overlook that Nimrod was a Kushite (Gen. 10:8-12) and the founder of a Mesopotamian empire to which Abraham's father and older brother were heirs.

The other key assumptions of Young-Earth Creationists are:

Assumption 2: The Genesis “begats” list the first people living on Earth.

Assumption 3: Bishop Ussher's timeline is reliable and can be used to calculate the age of the Earth.

Assumption 4: All the peoples of the Earth came from Noah’s three sons.

Assumption 5: The world’s linguistic diversity is the result of God’s judgment at the Tower of Babel.


Each assumption will be considered in subsequent posts at Just Genesis, so stay tuned!



Related reading:  Cousin Brides and Their Ruler Sons; The Genesis King Lists; The Scarlet Cord Woven Through the Bible; Kushite Wives; Binary Sets in the Ancient World

6 comments:

jckstraw72 said...

is it really an ASSUMPTION if we can open the Church Fathers and find that they accepted Genesis as history? So many of the people mentioned from Adam and Eve on are even commemorated as Saints on the 2 Sundays before Nativity, and Abel is commemorated on March 20.

Alice Linsley said...

The Church Fathers accepted that the people in Genesis lived in the order found in Genesis. That is, Noah lived before Nimrod and Nimrod before Abraham, etc. I agree with them. I'm not saying that Genesis isn't historically accurate. I believe it is.

The Fathers also recognized the patterns in Genesis that Young-Earth Creationists fail to see. For example, Young-Earth Creationists completely ignore the "begats" of Genesis 4. They assume that all of that line died in the flood. They miss that Lamech the Younger (Gen. 5) was the grandson of Lamech the Elder (Gen. 4) and the son of Methuselah. Read what St. John Chrysostom wrote about Lamech. You will find this here:

http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2007/07/chrysostoms-interpretation-of-lamechs.html

St. Augustine believed that the days of creation in Genesis 1 were figurative. http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2009/07/days-of-creation-literal-or-figurative.html

St. Jerome tended to a non-literal interpretation of Genesis and recognized that not all people named in Genesis 4 and 5 before Noah died in the flood.

http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2009/03/st-jeromes-extraordinary-insights-on.html

Grant Dexter said...

Genesis is historical narrative, but it's most certainly not rigidly chronological or literal.

Alice Linsley said...

Grant,
I agree. The historical narrative tends to be presented in binary sets.

Maximilion said...

Thanks for reading "Genesis on Religion vs. Science", I hope the quite long series on just a few verses didn't tax your patience :)

I did provide my sources in my essay but forgot my promise for the series, I will do so now.

Do you claim that the "7 pairs of clean animals" is from a different book than "2 pairs of other animals", and that they were merged, and if so, could you mention some of the sources where I can read more on this?

If you fancy writing something on the lineage of tradesmen in Genesis 4 I'd love to read it :)

Alice Linsley said...

It is said that the Jews presented events as linear history, but the events of Genesis come from Abraham and his ancestors who were not Jews. They were Nilotic peoples who tended toward binary tensions expressed in parallel accounts. The parallel stories highlight similarities such as the moral lapses of Noah and Lot while drunk. Noah's misbehavior led him to blame ("curse") his grandson. Lot's drunkeness led to incest with his daughters.

Sometimes the parallel stories contrast the character of two figures, as in the accounts of Abraham and Isaac attempting to pass off their wives as their sisters. Sarah was Abraham's half-sister whereas Rebecca was Isaac's patrilineal cousin. In other words, Abraham did not lie and Isaac did.

Other parallel accounts include the two creation stories. Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3 are parallel accounts from different traditions. The second story about the garden, the serpent, and the tree of life is older than the first story about the six days of creation.

Likewise, there are two flood accounts. In one we read that Noah was to save one pair of animals, a male and female, and in the other we read that he was to save seven pairs of "clean" animals.

This parallelism is not limited to the book of Genesis. It is found in the Psalms and throughout the Old Testament. Adam and Enoch are paralleled in Hebrew in Psalm 8:4. The story of Korah opposing Moses' authority has a parallel in the story of Sheba who opposed David's authority. In the end, both Korah and Sheba lost their lives.

The blood on the door posts in Egypt has a parallel in the story of the passover of Rahab and her family by the scarlet cord hung from the window.

The story of Sarah's miraculous conception of Isaac is paralleled by Hannah's conception of Samuel. In the New Testament, we find a parallel between Elizabeth's miraculous conception of John the Baptist and Mary's conception of the Son of God, to whom John would bear witness.

You may read about the Aqualithic rulers here:

http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2012/07/origins-of-word-horite.html