Don’t miss this point
I was pleased to see you quoting James Barr to support your point in the article on the lengths of the days in Genesis. As you seem to hold him in such high regard can I take it as read that you would agree with him when he writes on "the Bible and the origins of the world" (chapter heading) in his book Escaping From Fundamentalism.
It would appear that you missed the point. Whenever we quote Prof. Barr on the meaning of the Gen 1–11, we make it very clear that he does not share our belief in the historicity of Genesis. In fact, we are delighted to do so, because this is precisely the point that makes his testimony so powerful for our case. If he were committed to an inerrant Bible, for instance, then we could be accused of quoting someone who is grinding the same axe as we are. In a court of law, it is more powerful to be able to get an admission/concession supporting one’s case when the witness concerned is intrinsically hostile to that case.
Barr is a world-class professor of Hebrew who is able to tell us that all professors of Hebrew at world-class universities that he knows of agree with him that the intention of the author (or authors, as his liberal views would have it) was to describe recent creation in six ordinary days. That testimony would be equally powerful if he were an atheist.
Let me state it clearly, to be sure that the point is still not missed: If one is a Bible-believing Christian, meaning that one professes to accept the authority of the Word of God and ascribe to it the meaning that was intended when it was written, then the testimony of world-class Hebrew experts as to the fact that it was intended to be what it appears to be, could hardly be more pertinent. The fact that few if any of these experts would accept that it was really what happened, and that some might still attempt neo-orthodox ways of wriggling out of the implications, is then obviously completely beside the point. So long as Barr’s statement is accurate and honest, it stands alone. Its significance for hermeneutics for the genuine Christian does not depend on whatever his other (well known) theological beliefs might be. Tactically, the fact that he does not agree with us makes the impact of his statements even more powerful.
It is no surprise that Hebrew experts who are more towards the liberal end of the theological spectrum are more likely to be open and upfront about what Genesis so clearly was meant to convey, as Barr is being in his famous quote. Because they have already abandoned the historicity of the Bible and its authority/inerrancy in their overall framework, and are thus not trying to juggle the biblical text to make it fit with their evolutionary ‘scientific’ understanding of history (see ‘It’s not science’), they are more likely to feel free to ‘tell it like it is’. Thus the quote by the late Dr Marcus Dods, also a Hebrew expert, who said: ‘If the word ‘day’ in this chapter [Genesis 1] does not mean a period of 24 hours, the interpretation of Scripture is hopeless’ (see Did God really take six days?).
I am a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. I have been saved by His love and grace and His victory over death. For many years I was a theistic evolutionist who felt the God of the Universe simply "tweaked" man as history progressed over millions of years. This belief I had in the process of evolution was taught to me during my school years and stayed with me after my salvation. But one day I heard the voice of the Lord saying to my heart, "Bradley, you have studied man's assumptions about MY creation, now I require you to study MY TRUTH about MY creation." I was convicted to the depths of my soul, for I had never considered this. I began a lengthy period of study where I read anything I could get my hands on about creation and evolution. During this time I stumbled across your website and the website of the Creation Research Institute. As I read, I examined everything in light of the Holy Scripture and the illumination and guidance of the Holy Spirit. I am writing this to joyfully tell you how I have been freed of the lies of Satan and the world and have been freed to a newfound aspect of my relationship with Jesus Christ. My life has found a new joy in a relationship with Christ, free of the burden of evolution's sinful and doubt-laced falsehood. The God of the universe has revealed Himself in His creation and in His amazing historical account of that creation week in the Book of Genesis. Because of websites such as yours, I have been able to learn and study about God's beautiful plan for mankind, and I also have been able to purchase excellent study material to read and to use for teaching in the ministry where I gleefully serve my Savior. Thank you for remaining faithful, AiG, and for taking the battle to those that would use doubt and man's fallible rational thought in challenging our God's Word of Truth. May God continue to use you to serve Him and to continue to reach others as you have reached me. (I will continue to pray for your ministry every day.)