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Genesis: the least relevant book in the Bible?

Published: 5 December 2015 (GMT+10)
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The Bible says that all Scripture is profitable for “teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). So even for the so-called ‘least relevant’ parts of the Bible, there are things we can learn from them for our growth in Christ. But is Genesis one of those ‘least relevant’ parts of the Bible? G.C. writes:

I am a Christian who has studied the Bible fairly extensively. My question is: Do you think it is more important to bring people to an understanding of the teachings of Jesus; or to turn modern educated people away by arguing about science based on the least relevant book of the Bible. I believe the words of Jesus as given to us by the New Testament are spiritual messages that have applied to humanity through the ages. To distract people from his message by having a pointless argument that engenders scepticism and derision of Christian beliefs is not what Jesus meant when he commanded us to “make disciples”.

CMI’s  responds:

We would simply reject the validity of your question—Genesis is far from the least relevant book in the Bible. Please see the hard data on how Genesis was used in both the Old Testament and New Testament (in the New Testament, only Psalms, Isaiah, Exodus, and Deuteronomy are quoted or alluded to as much or more than Genesis is), which clearly shows just how relevant Genesis is to understanding the gospel. Jesus also considered it foundational (Jesus on the age of the earth). Genesis is one of the most relevant books of the Bible.

Besides, the gospel is more than just the words of Jesus; more prominent in the gospel message are Jesus’ identity as God incarnate and His actions to die “for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28) and be raised from the dead. Nevertheless, not even this is far removed from the origins debate. If we ask “why did Jesus have to die for the forgiveness of sins?”, the obvious answer is that we’re all sinners. But why are we all sinners? Genesis 3 supplies the simple reason—the Fall, and it’s unsurprising that Paul takes up the theme in Romans 5 and Corinthians 15. But if the Fall didn’t happen as recorded in Genesis 3 (in the historical context supplied by Genesis 1–11), then death preceded the Fall, and thus sin is not the root cause of death. But if sin is not the root cause of death, why would Jesus have to die for the forgiveness of sins? Apart from the Fall, Jesus’ death is meaningless. See The good news without the bad news is no news at all!, as well as Genesis & the Gospel Connection DVD

Kerry H. from the US writes (in red), with responses from CMI’s Shaun Doyle interspersed:

YOU SAY: “The increasing confusion caused in the church by long-age compromises (which, by putting suffering, death and bloodshed before Adam, undermine these truths) is a major reason why so many today cannot give reasoned answers to basic Gospel-related questions”

You are seriously going to overlook the overwhelming evidence existing, even in the Bible, of an “Old Earth” because you do not understand death and mortality BEFORE Adam?

And what “overwhelming evidence, even in the Bible” would that be? The very reason this is seen as a problem by long-age Christians is that there is no clear interpretation of Scripture that harmonizes with deep time (ultimately because there is none)—which is why there are so many conflicting attempted harmonizations of Scripture with deep time. And how did the church and the synagogue miss that biblical evidence for (at least) 1800 years? Before the rise of deep time geology, the church and the synagogue were practically unanimous that the Bible teaches that the world is only a few thousand years old. See our Genesis Q and A page for more details.

What was the purpose of the OTHER Tree in the Garden? The Tree of Life. If Adam & Eve had not eaten of that Tree periodically… their bodies would have died, even while sinless.

Even if Adam and Eve could have died before the Fall by starving themselves, why would they? Even if they could have, it doesn’t mean they would have. God not only sovereignly plans the ends, but also the means. See Did Adam and Eve have to eat before the Fall? (including the comments) for more information.

What of “accidents”… yes even animals have deadly accidents, falling off of cliffs or falling into holes or deaths by quicksand, and drowning.

Are we really to believe that an omnipotent deity couldn’t create a world in which fatal accidents didn’t happen before the Fall? God is all-powerful; if He was able to keep the Israelites’ shoes from wearing out in the wilderness, then He was able to keep accidents from killing animals before the Fall. For more on this, please see Pre-Fall animal death? (including the comments).

 How could Adam UNDERSTAND the meaning of DEATH , IF HE HAD NEVER SEEN IT?

Why would Adam need to see death to understand what it is? I don't need to see God to have a basic grasp of what He is, so Adam wouldn’t need to see death to understand what it is. God could easily create Adam with a ‘built-in’ understanding of death.

Adam could not have made the Moral Judgment without the knowledge of Death and Adam could not be held accountable for something HE DID NOT UNDERSTAND.

Then why did God give Adam the command not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and tell him that the consequence for doing so was death (Genesis 2:16–17)? That God gave the command clearly implies that He thought Adam could understand both the command and the consequence for disobeying it. And if God thinks Adam could understand it, then Adam could understand it, since God knows everything.

Helpful Resources

Readers’ comments

Phil K.
With regard to pre-Curse accidents, I can't help but think that Kerry H. is thinking with a post-Curse mindset. We know that all animals are wondrously made-especially humans. But all animals have even now, post-Curse, a wonderful ability to heal. In the absence of disease, about the only thing I can think of that could lead to death are accidents.

And just what sort of accidents could have occurred in a perfect pre-Curse world? Falling out of a tree trying to reach fruit just out of your grasp? I submit that broken bones and yes, even broken spinal cords, would heal to full. Fallen humans have a strange yearning to "cheat" death by skydiving, scuba diving, bull-fighting, etc. I am not so sure that the sinless humans pre-Fall would have such a yearning and thus have no need to climb mountains or wrestle alligators.
Matthew L.
"Adam could not have made the Moral Judgment without the knowledge of Death and Adam could not be held accountable for something HE DID NOT UNDERSTAND."
Isn't the entire problem that man (and woman) thought they needed something other than God's word to decide if they would indeed die after eating the fruit? How could Adam and eve know enough to make a moral judgment?... God ( truth Himself) told them whose character is the standard of all morality. How could they understand death having no experience with it?... We are not called to discern truth based on experience. Experience is an arbitrary and often faulty justification for truth, while the word of God is objective, and the ultimate authority of all truth. Maybe a better question would be: How could Adam and Eve (and we for that matter) think that they could know any truth or make any correct moral judgment apart from what God has revealed. It seems to me that herein lies the problem for all humanity: Will I believe God simply because of who He is and what he has said, or will I seek another authority (pragmatism, empiricism, my own experience) to sit in judgment of what God has revealed as a higher authority? Even in these questions asked by detractors it is evident that we do not fall far from the tree.
Dave J.
I often tell my fellow-church members that the Bible is made up of three halves [:)] :
1. Genesis 1-3
2. Gen 4 - Malachi
3. The NT
Just about in EVERY bible study sesssion we have at homegroup each week (we study/discuss the expositional preach of the prior Sunday) we need to go back to Gen 1-3. Our faith is rooted in those three chapters - and it's wonderful how they can always be used to support and explain the weekly preach - which is, mostly, on NT books.
Pray for your fellow Christians - and preachers, too - for our Lord to open their eyes to the wonderful truths in Gen 1-3. Only He can do it - and it would not only be marvelous in our eyes but their eyes as well!
Well done, CMI, for helping us all worship God in spirirt and in TRUTH.
Gian Carlo B.
I am so unamused and just chuckle at the fact how illeterate many liberal Christians and old-Earthers can be regarding Genesis. I mean how embarrassing can that be? They complain about how many are turning away from the Gospel, but ridicule methods such as CMI, ICR, etc. who spread the Gospel within a creationary perspective (how it should be as clearly taught in Scripture), and even build these lame, invalid questions just to demean your methods and themselves (and these are probably questions that even non-Christians would pose to downgrade the Gospel). There are answers and these guys are not following well the command of Peter and Titus to give a cohesive answer and study the Scriptures. I'm so glad CMI is still fighting consistently as always, keep up the good work. Genesis has always been indeed a very relevant book and it is the foundation of our faith and all aspects of the Christian faith: historically, socially and spiritually.
Jim M.
Kerry tries to use human logic/reasoning to get around what the Bible teaches. Logic and reasoning are great, but when God tells us something, I think He expects us to believe it and accept it rather than reason our way around it to make it fit our beliefs. That is what the skeptics do. They elevate human reason over God's truth. How is what Kerry is doing any different?
Chris B.
I really enjoyed this email and response. I have had some of the same questions about Adam and Death. I found the answers very logical.

Thanks you so much for your site. It has been a create resource. By reading through the articles it has broken down a lot of my illogical arguments and nonsensical reasoning.

Thanks again for your thoughtful and thorough answers.
graham P.
For years CMI has argued that both sides work from the same evidence, that the evidence doesn't speak for itself, that interpretations are the thing. However, since the recent CMI work on museums and their highly selective exhibits (leaving all modern animals out of dinosaur scenes) it becomes apparent that the evidence is disputed and differentiated after all. TV viewers and tax-funded students will have a very different collection of evidence about origins, to that available to CMI readers. Recent CMI articles also describe modern geneticists simply ignoring the fact of epigenetics, due to the ramifications for their thinking.
This means that GC and Kerry H have an entirely different set of 'scientific' evidence to think about when considering Genesis. Again, the fact that fossil-hunters aren't bothering to examine or collect non-dinosaur fossils means that there is a non-dinosaur horizon artificially placed on those fossil samples that are collected. It's not science.
Chris D.
The foundation - the least important part of a building? Nobody sees it, nobody uses it.

But, if the foundation is faulty, then everything built on top of it is faulty. Same goes for the Christan worldview. Without a foundation, Christianity cannot not stand.
Steve S.
Genesis is the solid foundation and framework for the entire Bible, not evolution. The Bible is filled with verses about how people neglect what God had done in the past. Evolution is more neglecting and is sinful.
john P.
What G.C. and Kerry H. do not understand is that so-called deep time and paleontology are Clayton's time and history- history and time that do not exist and never have. They are part of the naturalistic mythology masquerading as "science" but are really antiscience philosophy.
Earth certainly is old, 6000 years old. As God says it will wax old. A lot has happened in the past sixty centuries
Jesus did not think Genesis was irrelevant. After all it mention how He created earth and the universe and all life.History starts with Genesis1:1 and ends with the last verse in Revelation
Anyone who thinks there was death and suffering before Adam's rebellion obviously does not understand the Bible or their need for a Saviour, which every one of us has.Only Jesus is sinless and God's Son which is why He could die and rise again and forgive us if we repent.
Gordon H.
Those who take the view that Adam did not understand death seem to forget that Adam walked and talked with God "in the cool of the evening" (ie regularly) and therefore must have had a reasonable vocabulary from his creation. If he had concepts for "tree", "fruit", "you may eat" and "you shall not eat", he must have had a concept for "you will surely die".
Geoff C. W.
@G.C. Those non-Christians who deride Christians for their young-age beliefs are not likely to become Christians anyway. Or if they do, and with a long-age understanding, they are likely to fall away when they discover that the Bible (including the New Testament) doesn't fit with popular 'science', as discussed in other articles on this website.
And do you think that 'making disciples' of a faith that is built on a lie is what Jesus was asking us to do?

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