Is Genesis infallible?
Published: 22 November 2014 (GMT+10)
Robin B. from New Zealand wrote in response to ‘What if Jesus tells you you’re wrong?’:
Lita, your reply to AK is based on the premise that Genesis is the infallible Word of God and is literally and exactly true. Who actually wrote Genesis is speculation, but whoever it was must have been either Moses or a post Moses individual as we find references to Yahweh, a post Moses term. So where did Moses or another author get his information? As fundamentalists we may respond it was direct revelation from God. Pragmatists however may argue it was from oral tradition passed down through the generations down to Noah and his children through the Patriarchs and eventually finishing with Moses/post Moses author. Most fundamentalists don’t like the pragmatist interpretation as is allows an error-prone human element into holy writ, so would go for the Divine origin as the source Moses or whoever the collator/author of book of Genesis got via revelation. A 6,000 year universe or billions of years universe is something I don’t think God is perturbed about.
However you cannot compare Genesis to NT scripture. Genesis covers an alleged history of thousands of years, whereas the gospels and epistles found in the New Testament were written within 60 years of Jesus crucifixion and are eyewitness accounts or third party accounts from eyewitnesses, plus beliefs and teachings of Apostles of the fledgling first century Christian church. They are theological and make no scientific claims.
CMI however try to interpret Genesis scientifically whereas believers such as myself and possibly A.K. interpret allegorically rather than literally. To compare the book of Genesis to the eyewitness accounts of the Gospels is erroneous in my view. The book of Genesis was not penned by an eye-witness.
Lita Cosner responds:
Well, you have one thing right. My reply was absolutely “based on the premise that Genesis is the infallible Word of God and is literally and exactly true.” I might quibble a bit over the ‘literal’ part, because I do believe there are various kinds of figurative speech throughout the Bible (for instance, when David longs to hide in the shadow of God’s wings (Psalm 17:8), he doesn’t literally think God has feathery appendages). But I believe the plain sense of Scripture is the best when it comes to interpreting the Bible.
I also believe that Moses was the author of the first 5 books of the Bible, because Jesus affirmed that he was (for instance, John 5:46). I have no problem with Moses having existing records that he compiled into the book of Genesis; the ancient conception of authorship most definitely included what we would call more of an ‘editor’. And Genesis itself has the toledot structure that seems to indicate pre-existing documents. This is perfectly consistent with the fact that God inspired Scripture by superintending what the human authors wrote (2 Peter 1:20–21).
If God didn’t care what we believed about the age of the earth, why would He include so much chronological data in Scripture? Even if the age had no theological implications, the fact that it is in Scripture would make it important. But see Did God create over billions of years? for the reasons why we believe the age of the earth is actually a Gospel issue.
We can compare Genesis to NT Scripture, because the same God inspired them both. And while I agree that the purpose of Scripture is not primarily to make scientific claims, both the Old and New Testaments certainly make historical claims that impinge on science. For instance, Peter affirms a global Flood from which only 8 people were saved in the Ark (1 Peter 3:20). Jesus affirmed the historical Adam (Matthew 19:4–5), and Paul made him the centerpiece of his arguments about atonement (Romans 5:12–21) and the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). If the NT authors took Genesis as authoritative, which they certainly did, but Genesis is full of error, then we can’t preserve the NT either, because Genesis is its foundation.
CMI does not interpret Genesis scientifically. But we believe it is a true historical account, and that will necessarily have an impact on scientific theories (more specifically, in the area of historical science where we try to reconstruct what happened in the past). The book of Genesis was not compiled by an eyewitness, but it was inspired by an eyewitness, the Creator Himself.