Is BibleProject Biblical?
Why it matters what ministries teach about Genesis
BibleProject has become increasingly popular in recent years. While the production value of their resources is high, we believe that there are some concerns that need to be addressed. What some perceive as minor differences among believers on Genesis has far-reaching implications.
What’s not to love?
The project uses colourful and engaging videos, along with powerful and thought-provoking visuals. This format with insightful and concise teaching makes BibleProject a very exciting resource for Christians that can be passed on easily to fellow believers or lost friends and family. Especially in a time of seemingly increasing biblical illiteracy, this should be a breath of fresh air.
They have produced a video overview for every book in the Bible that culminates in a beautiful tapestry of the book in picture form. There are even videos on biblical concepts, Hebrew and Greek word studies, and commentaries. The idea is that the Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus.1 The series of videos they produce captures key themes and motifs and shows just how connected the stories are. In this regard, the project is excellent.
But aside from the glossy appeal, Christians should ask some hard questions and look beneath the surface. Such as, what specifics are being taught? Is there anything not being said? How are we to take these stories and did they really happen, or are they just pointing to a spiritual truth? What does BibleProject believe as a ministry? What kind of resources are their studies pulling from?
Unfortunately, after a closer look, the colour, cleverness and theological novelty start to wear off. A good place to start with any ministry is their statement of faith. By nailing one’s colours to the mast, it helps believers understand where a ministry is coming from. BibleProject has no real statement of faith though, and that is very troubling. As with any Bible teaching, believers should test the spirits (1 John 4:1) and discern for themselves. If there isn’t sufficient information on a statement of faith, what is taught about Genesis (especially chapters 1–11) can be a very effective litmus test. In our experience, if a church or ministry abandons basic traditional doctrines, one will also find that they don’t take Genesis as real history. Genesis is, of course, the seedbed of all Christian doctrine. That being said, it comes as no surprise that their second most popular video is on Genesis 1–11. In fact, you can find two videos on Genesis 1–11. Except for minor errors, these videos have little to disagree or contend with. Anything that could be taken issue with can be explained away as a creative choice of wording given that they cover 11 chapters in under eight and seven minutes respectively!
However, BibleProject has podcasts that dig deeper into the subject matter of their videos. A visual commentary on Genesis 1 also paints a different picture to a straightforward understanding of the text. It’s a picture of theistic evolution. It is in this section where the Framework Hypothesis is introduced.2 If this is a new term for you, check out The Framework hypothesis, missionary societies and the Gospel.
BibleProject’s compromised position with the Framework Hypothesis
BibleProject is not pioneering anything new here. The Framework Hypothesis was unheard of until Dutch Prof. Arie Noordtzij (1871–1944) proposed it in 1924.4 He acknowledged that Genesis 1 teaches a concept of six creation days or what can be described as ‘six literary days’. He asserts that these are not days of history but a literary framework. The adage “If it’s new, it’s probably not true” is apt here. This is an attempt to reconcile what the Bible says with what secular science claims. The problem here isn’t so much that there is a supposed literary structure. The problem is that this specific literary structure is used to deny the historicity of the text. Framework advocates tend to claim that if it can be shown that there are thematic and literary structures in Genesis 1, then the chapter can be interpreted as poetry; and if it is poetry, it is not history. This supposedly allows scholars to explain away the apparent conflict between Genesis 1 and evolutionary/big-bang theory.
BibleProject states that if “Genesis 1 and 2 are not making scientific claims at all and are therefore compatible with a wide range of scientific views,”5 then Genesis becomes irrelevant to science. Objections can be waved away because the Bible is not a science textbook. This sounds good on the surface, but BibleProject’s approach brings up major concerns about what interpretative methods are being used, about the clarity of Scripture, and about the accuracy of Scripture (hermeneutics, perspicuity, and inerrancy). This is reminiscent of Dr John Walton’s view of ‘functional creation’. The aforementioned quote is actually from a BibleProject podcast featuring him (see Analyzing John Walton’s ‘functional creation’ view of Genesis 1).
So maybe you’ve watched the visual commentary and thought, “So what? Why is this incompatible with a literal, 6-day interpretation?” A breakdown of the concept as laid out in the video might help:
‘Visual Commentary’ on Genesis 1
BibleProject says there is a “problem” stated in Genesis 1:2, because there is no order and no inhabitants. God is said to fix this in a series of two, three-day patterns. Take a look at their structure below:
So, is there a literary triad structure in Genesis 1? How does the video compare to what the text says?
Day 1, Genesis 1:1–5
BibleProject disagrees with the translation that God created the “heavens and the earth”. Instead, they believe that verse 1 should be translated as “skies and the land”. In other words, they teach that Genesis 1:1 is merely a summary statement limited to the creation of the “skies and land”.
But this is self-refuting and cannot be true because skies and land are not created until day 2 and 3 respectively. A mere ‘skies and land’ summary, as we will see, is insufficient for what is about to unfold.
The phrase, “heavens and earth” is a term of totality, meaning all of creation or everything that God made.6 This is called a merism. A merism is a figure of speech where two opposites are used to refer to a whole. For example, if a store says it is “open day and night” it means it is open all the time including dawn and dusk. Or if one “searched high and low” it means ‘searched everywhere’. Thus, God is creating His entire universe, including our planet (e.g. Genesis 14:19, 22; 2 Kings 19:15; Psalm 121:2). Exodus 20:11 also confirms this when it includes “the sea and all that is in them”, thus taking the merism of totality a step further.
We can know that Genesis 1 refers to the creation of everything and not just a summary statement of only ‘skies and land’ because Genesis 1:1 is alluded to in John 1:1–3. There, we are told that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” And in 2 Peter 3:7 it says that “by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”
In Genesis chapter 1, verse 2 flows from verse 1 as it is now describing one of the created things, Earth. Thus verse 1 must be a summary statement of God’s creation of everything in the universe. It cannot be limited to just the creation of skies and land.
BibleProject states that in verse 2, the land being “wild and waste” or “unordered and uninhabited” and the “deep abyss” are ways of declaring a “pre-creation state”, “nothingness”, “non-reality” and “non-existence”.
However, this would be a stretch from a straightforward reading. The text names the formless and void Earth along with water that are present in Genesis 1:2. 2 Peter 3:5 affirms this. Therefore the waters mentioned in Genesis 1:2 are part of God’s creation on Day 1.
Jeremiah 4:23 also uses the same Hebrew phrase to say ‘without form and void’. It would be hard to see how this refers to non-existence when, just like Genesis 1:2, the earth is present. No, it is describing an existing earth in an ‘unformed and unfilled’ state, meaning ‘no features’ and ‘no inhabitants’.
BibleProject does not include verses 1 and 2 on Day 1. They start Day 1 with “And God said” and describe the light created as “God’s own glorious light”.
This is a bit misleading as the light was something that God created, while God Himself is eternal and had no beginning. What is created would be the phenomenon of how His light interacts with His created universe in the physical laws He set up (see Light, life and the glory of God).
Day 2, Genesis 1:6–8
BibleProject states that the waters above and below constituted the skies and the sea on this day. Additionally, it is stated that “in the ancient culture of the biblical authors the sky was perceived as a solid dome”.
BibleProject errs again. While the waters above the expanse are completed on this day and the expanse that lies between both bodies of water is named ‘Heaven’, the waters below are not called ‘Seas’ until Day 3. Yet in the triad structure, the sea is placed on the second day.
The idea of a solid dome effectively has BibleProject claiming that the Author of Genesis is accommodating human error by using the language and cultural beliefs of the time. In practice, this would mean depending upon a fallible understanding of ancient pagan cultures and then imposing that as a hermeneutical framework on Scripture. This undermines the sufficiency, inerrancy, and infallibility of Scripture. See Ancient cosmology and Genesis 1.
Furthermore, the idea of a solid dome has been heavily refuted in other places. See Is the raqiya’ (‘firmament’) a solid dome?; Isaiah 40:22 and the shape of the earth; and Does the Bible really teach a three-storey cosmology?
Day 3, Genesis 1:9–13
BibleProject names the creation of the land and a “bonus act” of plants. This bonus act is supposed to match what happens on Day 6 to emphasize the triad structure.
The Bible declares two acts that are ‘good’ on Day 3. The creation of the land and seas, and then the creation of vegetation.
Day 4, Genesis 1:14–19
BibleProject claims that God “installs” the lights as signs and symbols in relation to the time aspect of Day 1.
God did create the Sun and the Moon (Day 4) to rule over the Day and Night (Day 1). However, the ‘Heavens’ where the Sun, Moon and Stars are placed were not created until Day 2. This does not work with the triad structure of creating and filling.
Interestingly, these astronomical bodies were also created to “give light on the earth”. While Earth should be referenced as being created on Day 1, BibleProject has Earth translated as ‘land’. Land is created on Day 3 and therefore doesn’t exist yet on Day 1.
Day 5, Genesis 1:20–23
BibleProject shows this day as filling the realm of Day 2 with creatures in the sky and sea.
Genesis 1:22 says, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” Seas and land are created on Day 3, not Day 2.
Additionally, the waters that were separated above and below the expanse on Day 2 were created on Day 1. This is interesting given that the creation and naming of the waters happen over a period of three days.
Day 6, Genesis 1:24–31
BibleProject says that the land creatures emerge out of the ground from Day 3. “And then matching that bonus act of creation on Day 3, God makes a special land creature, human or in Hebrew, adam.” The plants from Day 3 are now given as abundant food.
First notice that nothing created on Day 6 fills the seas created on Day 3. Other mismatches for a triad structure are that Adam and Eve are given dominion over the creatures that are made on both Day 5 and Day 6, and that plants created on Day 3 are also given as food for the birds from Day 5.
Comparing the literary triad structure with what the text says, one can conclude the triad structure is not even consistent with the text. It is an artificial construct that has been imposed upon Genesis 1, without regard to what the text actually says. Christians should be able to easily jettison this view. The specifics of each day do not fit into this nice package, so using this pattern to deny historicity is folly!
Continuing into Day 7, Genesis 2:1–3
BibleProject says, “And so were completed the skies and the land and all their inhabitants”.
Again, ‘skies and land’ are too restrictive for the context of all that is created. See Day 1 again about “heavens and earth” being a term of totality for all creation.
BibleProject rightly shows that Day 7 does not contain the phrase “and there was evening and morning”. It is then reasoned that this is because it has no end, unlike the other 6 days.
By this reasoning Day 7 has no beginning either since the phrase “evening and morning” mark the beginning and end of a day.7 Yet no sound theologian of Scripture has ever proposed that the seventh day did not start—so why the inconsistent hermeneutics, applying it only to the end of the seventh day, but not the start of the day?
Exodus 20:8–11 and Exodus 31:15–17 gives a command that presupposes God operating within a 7, 24-hour time frame. Does God command people to work in 6 literal days because He worked in 6 literary/figurative days? No other commands in Scripture function this way! See Is Genesis poetry / figurative, a theological argument (polemic) and thus not history?.
It is likely that BibleProject is showing that Day 7 is a literary pattern in Scripture similar to what we see in Hebrews 4. This is loosely referred to when they say that Genesis 1 is “God’s ideal vision for the whole cosmos”, and “a place where God lives with his partners to rule the world in harmony forever”, and that “the seventh day is the goal of creation”. It should be pointed out that the continual rest that we see from God in Hebrews 4 is one of salvation. What has no end is the rest that He offers to us.
BibleProject shows that there are 7 announcements of ‘good’ for the days of creation.
However, they strangely tag ‘good’ to Day 7 and only ‘very good’ for Day 6 in the video, whereas the text states both ‘good’ and ‘very good’ for Day 6. Instead, Day 7 is blessed and made holy.
Despite the problems, the video highlights some important aspects we can all take away as Christians:
- God is the One in control.
- We should reflect Him as image bearers.
- We should be good stewards of His creation.
- Humans are the pinnacle of God’s Creation and He wants fellowship with us.
- God’s ideal was for us to rule and reign Creation with Him.
- God defines what is good and God chooses what He blesses.
- While the Framework Hypothesis denies historicity, BibleProject is bringing out that there is more than just a chronology here, and that should be commended. God is revealing something about Who He is to the reader.
Positives as a ministry:
- Their video overviews of each book of the Bible are genuinely helpful and can generally be taken at face value without having to dig too deep into theology.
- Many of the reviews show that BibleProject has gotten people excited about reading their Bibles again. Their eye on literary patterns and themes in the Bible has successfully achieved their mission statement of showing that the Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus.
Let us remember that God’s Word will not return empty or void (Isaiah 55:11).
A final warning on the effects of a compromised view of Genesis
Unfortunately, the bad vastly outweighs the good. We cannot recommend BibleProject as a ministry. If a ministry or teacher has a confused view of Genesis, you will likely find errors in other areas of their theology as well. Some things to consider:
A denial of historicity is a denial of inerrancy
Based on a variety of blogs, podcasts, and videos, it seems BibleProject affirms that Scripture is a divine-human book; that it was inspired and that it is without error. However, they can only maintain this by redefining the historical evangelical definition of inerrancy and infallibility. In practice, BibleProject seems to have a low view of both doctrines.
In The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Article XII, there is a connection between historicity and inerrancy:
Article XII. “We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit. We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.”8
Similarly, the Chicago Statement of Biblical Hermeneutics, Article XIV states:
Article XIV. “We affirm that the biblical record of events, discourses and sayings, though presented in a variety of appropriate literary forms, corresponds to historical fact. We deny that any event, discourse or saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated.”8
There are similar statements in Article XVIII of the CSBI and articles XIII, XIX, and XXII of the CSBH.
It would be fair to say that BibleProject is in agreement with Article XII of the CSBI, but the loophole is they claim that Genesis is not making a historical statement. In fact, it is hard to distinguish from their teaching when history actually begins. There are two resources from BibleProject here that seem to suggest this strange notion that Biblical characters or events can be ‘historical’ yet not what actually happened. Consider these BibleProject teachings:
In a podcast on ‘How To Read the Bible’, BibleProject teaches that when Genesis tells us about Abraham, it is not about a real person called Abraham. Rather, the ‘Abraham’ of the Bible is just a “literary representation of Abraham so that you know what happened, but more importantly, you understand the meaning of what happened.”9
In a blog on the ascension of Jesus, BibleProject describes Jesus’ ascension in Acts 1 as just imagery. The reader is not supposed to believe this is an eyewitness account of actual events. It states, “Luke is not giving his readers video camera footage of what happened that day. Instead, he is purposefully using geographic and spatial-relationship language of going up to convey transcendent meaning.”10
This is confusing at best. Credit should be given where it is due, however. In the same podcast with Abraham, there is an understanding that the significance of certain events hangs on their historicity.
What one believes about Genesis has major implications for the Gospel and faith
If the first Adam is only literary or figurative, then on what basis is the “last Adam” not also literary or figurative? (Luke 3:38, 1 Corinthians 15:21–22, 45, Romans 5:12, 1 Timothy 2:13, Jude 14). The New Testament writers thought of Adam as a historical figure. Where in the Bible do figurative events stop and real events start? How is it justified that Jesus is not lying when He says “but from the beginning”? (Mark 10:6–9).
Death and suffering are foreign to the creation week
God declared Day 6 to be “very good”. There is no room for death and suffering in a “very good” creation. Theistic evolution is a very serious compromise to biblical truth as it logically puts death and suffering before the Fall. A Bible teacher who puts a fossil record underneath the feet of Adam and Eve, undermines the foundation of the gospel. Consider these quotes from Did God create over billions of years?:
“A central part of the Gospel is that death is the last enemy to be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26). Death intruded into a perfect world because of sin, and it is so serious that Jesus’ victory over death cannot be entirely manifested while there is a single believer in the grave. Are we expected to believe that something the Bible authors described as an enemy was used or overseen by God for millions of years and was called ‘very good’?”
“A major part of the Gospel is the hope we have in this Resurrection and restoration of the creation to its original perfect state. The Bible is clear about the New Heavens and Earth as a place where there is no carnivory, no death, no suffering, and no sin (Isaiah 65:17–25; Revelation 21:1–5). But how can this be called a restoration if such a state never existed?”
BibleProject is partnering with others that share errant views
The list below are just a few, high profile apologists that hold to a mix of views that include God using evolution, belief in death before sin, denial of a historical Adam, denial of original sin, etc. The links here present a summary of their positions.
N.T. Wright11 (see Christ evolution)
John Walton12 (see Lost World of John Walton)
Biologos13 (see Biologos evolutionary syncretism)
Joshua Swamidass14 (see Review: ‘The Genealogical Adam and Eve’)
Scot McKnight15 (see Adam and the Genome: Reading evolution into Scripture)
Finally, let’s look at some quotes from BibleProject and/or Co-Founder Tim Mackie. Please check the references for your own study. This is to demonstrate that BibleProject’s errant views are nothing new and that they have been answered and dealt with ad nauseum.
“We only recently discovered that the earth is a globe spinning in space. In the ancient imagination, the land is disc-shaped, sometimes called ‘the circle of the earth’ (see Isaiah 40:22).”16
Refuted: Isaiah 40:22 and the shape of the earth
“But what keeps the land from just sinking into the waters? What keeps the ordered world in which humans live from descending into chaos and disorder? The land is kept from sinking into the waters below by the ‘pillars of the earth’ (see Psalms 75:3 and 1 Samuel 2:8). This is another ancient idea you’ll find in the Bible.”16
Refuted: Refuting flat earth
“So God’s not creating a thing here. And as you work through the days and Genesis chapter 1, often God’s not making or manufacturing anything. He’s creating as John Walton says … He’s bringing function and order out of chaos.”17
Refuted: Analyzing John Walton’s ‘functional creation’ view of Genesis 118
“So in Genesis 1, you have a sequence of events where you have land, plants, animals. Humans are the pinnacle of creation in Genesis chapter 1. In Genesis Chapter 2, humans come first. And then they tend the grounds for agriculture and then animals, and then man, and then female. So two distinct views and the author just plop both of them in front of us. So that’s the first clue that a literal like whatever [sic] you want to do with a literal reading. You just got a huge problem right there off the bat. Maybe the author is not trying to tell us about chronology. Maybe he’s sitting two distinct statements about the world in front of us. So when it comes to the human origins, again, the Israelite author is engaging with his Babylonian neighbors, and making a very radical claim.”18
Refuted: Genesis contradictions?
References and notes
- About Bible Project [Last Accessed: 10 Nov 2022]; bibleproject.com. Return to text.
- “Genesis 1” youtu.be/afVN-7vY0KA. Return to text.
- “Genesis 1” is copyright 2020 by BibleProject and is available for viewing at www.bibleproject.com. Return to text.
- Noordtzij, A., Gods Woord en der Eeuwen Getuigenis: Het Oude Testament in het Licht der Oostersche Opgravingen (God’s Word and Testimony of the Ages: The Old Testament in the light of Eastern Excavations), J.H. Kok, Kampen, Netherlands, 1924. Return to text.
- Genesis 1-2 Origins or Identity [Last Accessed: 10 Nov 2022]; bibleproject.com/podcast/genesis-1-2-origins-or-identity. Return to text.
- Sarfati, Jonathan. The Genesis Account: A theological, historical, and scientific commentary on Genesis 1–11 (p. 102-104). Creation Book Publishers. Return to text.
- Sarfati, Jonathan. The Genesis Account: A theological, historical, and scientific commentary on Genesis 1–11 (p. 288). Creation Book Publishers. Return to text.
- Chicago Statements [Last Accessed: 10 Nov 2022]; defendinginerrancy.com/chicago-statements. Return to text.
- Plot in Biblical Narrative [Last Accessed: 10 Nov 2022]; bibleproject.com/podcast/how-read-bible-part-7-understanding-plot-and-narrative-bible-stories. Return to text.
- The Ascension of Jesus [Last Accessed: 10 Nov 2022]; bibleproject.com/blog/the-ascension-of-jesus. Return to text.
- Getting to Know Apostle Paul [Last Accessed: 10 Nov 2022]; bibleproject.com/podcast/series-gospel-p9-acts-e5-nt-wright-interview-getting-know-apostle-paul. Return to text.
- Origins or Identity [Last Accessed: 10 Nov 2022]; bibleproject.com/podcast/genesis-1-2-origins-or-identity. Return to text.
- See ‘Referenced Resources’ at the bottom of various podcasts. Return to text.
- Genealogical Adam and Eve [Last Accessed: 10 Nov 2022]; bibleproject.com/podcast/genealogical-adam-and-eve. Return to text.
- Jesus Creed [Last Accessed: 10 Nov 2022]; bibleproject.com/podcast/jesus-creed. Return to text.
- Creation Through the Lens of Ancient Cosmology [Last Accessed: 10 Nov 2022]; bibleproject.com/blog/creation-through-the-lens-of-ancient-cosmology. Return to text.
- Science & Faith [Last Accessed: 10 Nov 2022]; bibleproject.com/podcast/science-faith. Return to text.
- This Creation.com article has been referenced twice now. This functional creation view is hinted at by BibleProject in various podcasts and classroom notes. Instead of God creating, He is assigning function to an already existing universe. Humanity is thought to have already had interaction with these elements but now God was giving them a sacred role. This is thought to now make Genesis compatible with a wide range of evolutionary views. Return to text.
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