I see from your articles that you view Genesis 1-3 as ‘true myths’ and I found this view really helpful. I wanted to ask how you determine at what point Genesis stops being a record of hebrew myth and becomes historical. Why, for example, do you not consider chapters 4-11 true myths? I know you have referred to how Jesus and Paul take the account of Noah literally, but it seems to me that they only take it literally insofar as they take Genesis 3 literally- i.e. they refer to the theological truths. It seems to me that Genesis 12 onwards is historical account, although I am now questioning what exactly makes me think this- is it just because it is more ‘believable’? This would suggest to me that I am only regarding chapters 1-3 (and possibly more) as myth because I find aspects of the stories such as an evil talking snake or a flood that covers the world more difficult to believe in. So I guess my question is how do you determine whether or not something is ‘true myth’ or not?
Thanks for your help!
Let me explain what I mean when I say I see Genesis 1-4 as a “true myth.” What I mean is that, although what is described is historically true, it is intended principally to tell a theological story rather than an historical story. I believe that God did indeed create these things and, in broad outline, he created them as described in Genesis1 and 2. I also believe that there was an original couple who were created in God’s image (whether their actual names were literally Adam and Eve, I do not know and do not worry about that detail), and who sinned and lost their place with God.
I take more or less the same position on the flood. I believe that there was an actual flood and that it was an actual judgment for actual sin, and that there was a family saved from that flood in an “ark.” Yet, as with the creation account, the principle importance of the account is theological, as it tells us about God and his interaction with us–about his judgment and his salvation.
When does the Bible become “historical”? For some people to make a distinction would be tricky. But for someone like you, I am not worried about being misunderstood. I believe that all the events in Genesis actually happened, but I would describe an event as “historical” as one to which we can assign a fairly precise date and place. I believe for sure that Abraham is historical in that sense. Therefore it appears that I start in the exact same place you start. Whether Babel is semi-historical (place and time) or not is up for debate to me. Genesis 11 is the grey area in my mind. Again, let me repeat, it is not that I question whether these events actually happened–whether they are “true.” It is whether we can tie the events to human recorded history. To me the thing that changes at Genesis 12 is not that it is more “believable” but that it is more closely tied in to human recorded history–time and place. Another way of saying it is that I believe the historicity of Adam and Eve and the flood largely because of faith in the Bible and in the veracity of Jesus and the other biblical witnesses, whereas by the time we get to Abraham, the believability of the accounts is based at least in part on the fact that we can tie them to evidence such as historical or archaeological data. I do not expect to ever have historical or archaeological support for Adam, Eve or the flood. I believe in them because I believe the Bible and in God’s ability to make such things happen.
Does that help?