There is what I would call a craze in Christendom today concerning the reinterpretation of the first chapters of Genesis. I have friends caught up in it. I have heard things like “A literal interpretation of Genesis is killing our testimony as Christians” or “If creation was accomplished in six literal days then God is being deceptive in the geological records.” The essence of most is that the biblical record needs to be updated according to present scientific understanding. There are some, however, who are truly seeking to understand the truth of what the Bible is saying. For whatever the reasons behind them, these reworkings and re-editings vary in degree but even the most mundane fail to admire the simplicity of those chapters. That enrages me somehow. I find myself wanting to become a guardian of major Biblical truths, indignant when I hear of it being muddied.
In my mind it all starts with Yom, because that’s the Hebrew word for DAY which CAN be interpreted as an indefinite period of time. Why, it could mean a whole age even! There is Biblical precedence for such stretching of Yom out of a 24 hr period. But is there precedence in the first chapters of Genesis?
When I first heard about all this reinterpretation I thought “Oh! Maybe I had this creation thing all wrong! Maybe there was nothing but light and dark for a whole age. Maybe there was nothing but animals for a whole age, etc. Maybe that would get those pesky evolutionists off my back about my absurd belief in a literal six day creation.”
That brings up an aside. Because as a friend who believes in an old Earth made by God said recently, no matter how much you try to find common ground, the non Christian scientist is going to reject any sort of Creator God. Oh they will accept every step you take toward their worldview, but they will never be satisfied until they’ve pulled you fully on their foundation or crushed you under it.
But back to business.
Actually, in all honesty it was very difficult for me to accept the possibility that six literal days is wrong. It just didn’t seem right. But I can’t base my beliefs on what seems or feels right or what I’ve been taught by others.
But then I remembered the phrase “evening and morning.” Wait, evening and morning were the first …age? Maybe we misinterpreted that phrase as well. Maybe it just generally means a complete cycle or time frame or something. So I looked it up. It turns out the Hebrew word for evening means … drum roll please … the time of day when night comes. And the meaning of the Hebrew word translated “morning” means the time of day when morning comes. Every time they are used that is their meaning. Interesting. But too simple. So lets convolute it a bit. Let’s say that even though evening and morning are everywhere else translated as evening and morning, HERE they mean beginning and ending of an age. Or if that doesn’t work for you let’s say its all metaphorical. It’s just a flowery way to say that an age has past. Sort of a simplification of language for puny human minds to comprehend. Or let’s jumble it up further and just read over that part real fast, trying not to think about it too hard, and say that it all means “evolution is real, so stop trying to deny it” so long as you read between the lines just right. But let’s not call it evolution, per se. Let’s give it a Christian spin and call it fine-tuning creation. Because that makes sense, right? He speaks and the big bang happens, then he slowly sculpts the world over the course of millions of years.
Wow! We’ve done it! We’ve just turned the Bible on its head to mostly match current secular scientific consensus! Congratulations to us.
But wouldn’t it be more Biblically sound to simply believe the Bible the way it was written by God’s inspired hand? Hmm. That takes the fun out of it, by which I mean it takes the human achievement and skill out of it. Hmm. That’s not a bad thing, is it? We don’t, after all, want to exchange the glory of God for the intelligence of man do we?
But this is all beside the point. For me, interpreting the Bible as literally as possibly is super important. Because every time I explain away the text with logical reasons why It can’t mean what it says I dig away at a little bit of the glory of God and wisdom of God and I pour in my own ideas, trying to make the two mesh.
Well being a Christian is not about meshing any more than it is about conforming. Rather, its about us being transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit, changing our way of thinking to His according to His word.
I could take any portion of scripture and decide to change the meaning of the words. I could decide any portion is not literal. I could match the words of the Bible to whatever view I like. That might be hard. That might be convoluted. But I could do it. The question is whether it’s the Biblically astute thing to do or not.
You might say “Benjamin, is any of this important in light of eternity?” To which I would reply “What do you think the Bible is if not the eternal words of truth?” The two go hand in hand.
The question I want to end with is “Could God have done things the way it is literally written in Genesis?” If so, “Is there sufficient internal scriptural evidence to reinterpret that?” if not, give the reinterpretive dance a rest.