Genesis: Bible authors believed it to be history
‘The important thing is that God created, isn’t it?’
Ever had someone tell you, ‘You’re missing the whole point! The purpose of Genesis is to teach that God is our Creator. We should not be divisive over the small details. Genesis teaches the theological truth of “Who?” and “Why?” not about the “How?” and “When?”’ Or else they say that the Bible is a book for faith and morality, not history.
An obvious answer is, why should we trust Genesis when it says God created if we can’t trust it on the details? After all, Jesus told Nicodemus, ‘I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?’ (John 3:12). So if Genesis can’t be trusted on an earthly thing, such as Earth’s age, the sequence of creative acts upon it, or the Flood that covered it, then why trust it on a heavenly thing such as who the Creator was? Also, if Genesis 1 were merely meant to tell us that God is creator, then why simply not stop at verse 1, all that’s necessary to state this?
However, the critic has overlooked something even more important—Genesis is written as real history. This is why the rest of the Bible treats the events, people and time sequences as real history, not parables, poetry or allegory.
What does the rest of Scripture say?
The age and unique creation of Adam and Eve mattered to Jesus
When teaching about marriage, Jesus said:
‘But at the beginning of creation God “made them male and female. … For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one’ (Mark 10:6–8).
Here, Jesus quoted Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 about a real first man and first woman who became the first couple, and this was the basis for marriage between one man and one woman today. Not a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, or more than two people. Evolution teaches instead that a whole population of humans evolved from a population of ape-like creatures.
The important thing is that God created, isn’t it?
Also, in the context of what Jesus quoted, the two become one flesh because Eve was taken from Adam’s flesh, and a man leaves his parents because Adam had none. Furthermore, Jesus said that Adam and Eve were there ‘from the beginning of creation’, not billions of years later.
Far too few Christians defend the foundation of marriage—the recent creation of Adam and Eve as Jesus taught. Then they wonder why sinful deviant acts such as adultery, fornication and homosexual behaviour are increasing, even within the church.
The timeframe of Creation Week matters to God
God Himself wrote the Ten Commandments with His finger. The 4th one is:
‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.’
The reason he gave is:
‘For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.’
Clearly the timeframe is important, otherwise this Commandment is meaningless. And if the creation days were really long periods of time, then logically the days of the working week would have to be as well. But ‘Work for 6 billion years and rest for one billion years’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it …
Adam’s sin bringing death mattered to Paul’s preaching of the gospel
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul explains the Gospel he had taught these people, and how central Jesus’ Resurrection is. And he explains why Jesus came to die:
‘For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. … So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit’ (1 Corinthians 15:21–22, 45).
Paul explains that the Gospel (= ‘good news’) is necessary because of the bad news that our ancestor Adam sinned and brought death to all people (Romans 5:12–19). Thus, the last Adam, Jesus, cured this by living a sinless life, dying for our sin, and rising from the dead. Also, Jesus rose physically from the dead (rising from an empty tomb with flesh and bones (Luke 24:39)). So the death Adam brought must also have a physical component, as shown by his return to the dust from which he was made (Genesis 3:19).
All compromise views place death before Adam’s sin, thus undermine the Gospel.
Jesus’ ancestry mattered to Luke
In chapter 3 of his Gospel, Luke traces Jesus’ lineage from Mary all the way back up to Adam. There is not the slightest hint of a break showing where historical characters end and mythical figures begin—all are treated as equally historical; none are mythical. This includes Adam himself, who was created directly by God, not through a long line of ape-like ancestors or pond scum (Luke 3:38).
This is important for Paul’s teaching in the above section. It is also vital for the Atonement. The prophet Isaiah spoke of the coming Messiah as literally the ‘Kinsman-Redeemer’, i.e. one who is related by blood to those he redeems (Isaiah 59:20, which uses the same Hebrew word גוֹאל (gôēl) as is used to describe Boaz in relation to Ruth). The book of Hebrews also explains how Jesus took upon Himself the nature of a man to save mankind, but not angels (Hebrews 2:11–18). So only Adam’s descendants can be saved, because only thus can they be related by blood to the Last Adam.
So if anyone thinks that Genesis history doesn’t matter, then ask how they should preach to the Australian Aborigines. If they have really been here for 40,000 years (according to carbon-14 dating that old-earthers accept), then how could they come from Adam, and how could they be related to Christ, so how can they be saved? Indeed, a compromising clergyman of Darwin’s day claimed that Aborigines had not evolved enough to preach the Gospel to them!1
Cain and Abel’s reality mattered to John
The Apostle John taught:
‘Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous’ (1 John 3:12).
Thus, in teaching the church about good and evil, John accepted the real history of Cain murdering Abel, as an example of real evil.
Jesus also believed that Abel was the first man whose blood was shed. And He taught that Abel’s blood would come upon that unbelieving generation as surely as that of the other martyred prophets throughout Scripture (Matthew 23:35).
Also, Hebrews 11 lists Abel, Enoch and Noah as heroes of the faith, without any hint that they were less real than any of the others listed.
The order of creation mattered to Paul
Paul taught much about the role of men and women in church. Paul justified it by citing the real history of Genesis. He wrote:
‘For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man’ (1 Corinthians 11:8–9).
Thus, Paul accepts the Genesis history that God created first Adam, who then named all the land vertebrate animals that God had previously created, then God made Eve from Adam’s rib—she was not an evolved apewoman! However, later on Paul points out:
‘In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God’ (1 Corinthians 11:11–12).
Here, Paul is following Genesis as well, for Adam named his wife Eve because she would become ‘the mother of all the living’ (Genesis 3:20).
Paul repeats this even more directly in his instructions to his pupil Timothy, ‘For Adam was first formed, then Eve’ (1 Timothy 2:13). Next verse, Paul teaches that Genesis 3 is also real history, ‘And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.’
Noah, the Flood and Ark mattered to Jesus and Peter
Jesus taught about the sudden reality of His future judgment by comparing it to the time of Noah:
‘Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the Ark. Then the Flood came and destroyed them all’ (Luke 17:26–27).
Here, Jesus treats Noah as a real person, the Ark as a real ship and the Flood as a real event that destroyed all people outside the Ark.
Peter likewise warned of a coming Judgment by comparing it with the Flood. He even said that one characteristic of ‘scoffers’ was a willful ignorance of two things: the reality of special creation of the world out of water, and its destruction by water (2 Peter 3:3–7).
But if we deny that the Flood was a real event, then logically the future Judgment must be denied as well. And if the Flood was merely a local Mesopotamian flood, then people could have escaped simply by emigrating. Logically, sinners could escape the future wrath of the Son of Man just by keeping out of Iraq!
These are only a few examples of where other Bible writers take Genesis as history. Indeed, the inspired writers treat the people, events and times as real, not merely literary or theological devices. And the reality of the history is foundational to crucial teachings about faith and morality.