Leading Hebrew scholar E.J. Young:
Genesis is definitely not poetry
Edward John Young (1907–1968), of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was one of the leading biblical Hebrew scholars of his day. In one of his books on Genesis, he writes:
Is Genesis Poetry or Myth?
To escape from the plain factual statements of Genesis some Evangelicals are saying that the early chapters of Genesis are poetry or myth, by which they mean that they are not to be taken as straightforward accounts, and that the acceptance of such a view removes the difficulties.
Some are prepared to say that the difficulties about the resurrection of Christ are removed at once if you say that the writers of the Gospels do not mean us to understand that a miracle occurred, and that they are simply giving us a poetic account to show that Christ lives on. To adopt such a view, they say, removes all troubles with modern science. But the truth is that, if you accept such beliefs and methods, you are abandoning the Christian faith.
If you act thus with Genesis you are not facing up to the facts, and that is a cowardly thing for Evangelicals to do. Genesis is not poetry. There are poetical accounts of creation in the Bible—Psalm 104, and certain chapters in Job—and they differ completely from the first chapter of Genesis. Hebrew poetry has certain characteristics, and they are not found in the first chapter of Genesis. So the claim that Genesis one is poetry is no solution to the question.
The man who says, “I believe that Genesis purports to be a historical account, but I do not believe that account,” is a far better interpreter of the Bible than the man who says, “I believe that Genesis is profoundly true, but it is poetry.” That latter has nothing to commend it at all. I disagree with the first man, but he is a better exegete, he is a better interpreter, because he is facing up to the facts.
E.J. Young, In The Beginning: Genesis 1–3 and the Authority of Scripture, 1967; pp. 18–19, Banner of Truth, 1976.
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