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A Study Of Genesis - Is The Story Of Creation Literal

GENESIS - THE BOOK OF BEGINNINGS - origin or beginning

In this post, we will begin a study of Genesis and look at the question: is the story of creation literal?


Genesis 1:1 - In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis is one of my favourite books to read and study because it gives so much history and background to everything else found in scripture. It is a foundational book, and it answers so many life questions.

Genesis is Relevant To Our World View

This book is especially relevant given all that we see happening in our world today. Many Christians, even churches and pastors, have been deceived by the ideologies of our day. They don’t examine many of these world views in direct conflict with the foundational teachings in Genesis.

For example, something to think about: everything is a result of a random cosmic accident or everything is created with intention and purpose by an all-powerful creator.

This brings with it questions that many have today:

  • Who am I?

  • Where did I come from?

  • Why am I here?

  • Where am I going when I die?

If we are a cosmic accident, these questions don’t matter because the answer is somewhat troublesome. There is no design; all this is a random happening. Some atheists may find some temporary purpose, but in the whole of time, space, and the universe, we don’t matter. We live - We die - It’s over!

If everything is created with intention and purpose, then these questions (who am I, why am I here) carry a lot of weight. We live - We die - but there is a lot before - in between - and after that must be considered. One of the biggest things to consider: who is this being that created everything, and what is my relationship status with this person?

is genesis literal or an allegory

Genesis is Foundational to the Rest of Scripture

The Old Testament tells the story of Israel's nation and God’s interaction with them. It reveals God’s plan and prepares the world for the coming Saviour. The New Testament tells the story of a Man named Jesus. Interestingly, in the NT, we see the Creator becoming human to save His creation. His appearance is the most important event of all history: He died to purchase us and is alive now. The most incredible privilege is to know Him. The beginning point of all these things is Genesis.

Genesis also gives us the start to many of our theological and doctrinal ideas:

  • Creation

  • Man & Woman

  • Marriage

  • Sin

  • Murder

  • Sacrifice

  • Grace

  • Cross

  • Justification by Faith

Genesis anticipates and outlines answers to wrong philosophies:

  • Atheism - In the beginning, God exists.

  • Polytheism - Genesis teaches there is One God.

  • Humanism - Genesis reveals that God, not man, is the ultimate reality.

  • Evolutionism - Genesis says God created.


That is a question many have. Anyone who reads the Bible understands that there are different kinds of literature in the Old and New Testaments. There are parables, poetry, prophetic visions, dreams, epistles, proverbs, symbols, types, pictures, and historical accounts.

For example, in reading Paul’s instruction from 1 Corinthians 11 the Cup and Bread are symbols of Christ's Body and Blood.

When it comes to the question of whether we should take the beginning of Genesis as literal or not, there are two main camps.

One side says that Genesis is an allegory, and we should treat elements of the stories as such. One reason for this is if you look at the stories, they don’t make rational, logical or scientific sense.

Example: Concerning Noah and the Flood - how did Noah get all the types of animals in the boat?

Example: Science shows us that the world (universe) has existed for billions of years. Science has given us evidence that evolution is accurate, so the story must not be literal because it doesn’t align with the scientific community.

Note: These arguments have some problems, but we will deal with them later in our study.

This brings us to another reason I like to study and why I think it’s essential to study Genesis. It gives us an understanding of how to test ideas biblically.

Bereans - Acts 17:11 - … they received the word with all eagerness, daily examining the Scriptures, to find out if these things were so.

There are things we don’t do to test spiritual or Biblical concepts. We don't define those things by:

  • Human Experience, yes, experience may be involved. However, we never define the Bible by our experience; the Bible should define our experience. Many errors in the church are because we interpret scripture by experience.

  • Human Reasoning and Rationale, while we certainly use proper thinking processes, we never limit the Bible to human reasoning and rationale.

  • Human Predesigned Ideas and Concepts - for example, science and specifically evolution. Most of the ideas and concepts that form the theory of evolution originated from the idea that God does not exist. To tie this God-denying science with scripture is almost hypocritical and will lead to error.

The literal side says that the creation, flood, and other events are actual historical events and happened as described.

So, how should we read and interpret the first 11 chapters of Genesis? Is it real history? Did it happen as described? Is it a symbolic picture of what happened? Is it a parable? Does it matter anyway?

Genesis Literal or Symbolic?

When considering this question, we must let the Bible speak for itself. The Bible interprets itself; it has the answer.


Let's first look at what is said about the author of Genesis, Moses, and his interaction and relationship with God.

Moses received the information he put into the books he wrote. Some of these things were probably passed down from others, but God (the Holy Spirit) inspired it all. So God told Moses what to record.

Numbers tells us about how God communicated with Moses, and it says in Numbers 12:6-8 - He said, “Hear now My word. If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord will make Myself known to him in a vision, and I will speak to him in a dream. 7 Not so with My servant Moses; he is entrusted with all My house. 8 Face to face I speak with him clearly (plainly), and not in riddles (dark sayings), and the likeness of the Lord will he behold.

Unlike other prophets, where there could be riddles, visions, and dreams, we should not be looking for anything mysterious in what Moses wrote. God spoke to him clearly and plainly, suggesting that what Moses wrote was plain and clear, without mystery.


How do other authors from the Old Testament treat the Genesis accounts?

Psalm 104:5-9 - You laid the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved. 6 You covered it with the deep as a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. 7 At Your rebuke they fled; at the sound of Your thunder they departed away. 8 The mountains rose up; the valleys went down to the place that You appointed them. 9 You set a boundary that they may not pass over, that they may not again cover the earth.

Here David writes and describes creation similar to the account in Genesis 1. Again, this is inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the report mirrors what Moses wrote.

Let's see what Isaiah says, Isaiah 54:9 - For this is as the waters of Noah to Me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no longer cover the earth, so I have sworn that I would not be wrathful with you nor rebuke you.

Here just as God made a covenant with Noah, He now makes a promise to Israel. If the flood was only an allegory and never happened, there is no literal basis for God to say that He made a promise to Noah. God's promise to Israel would have no credibility if it were not based on historical facts.


Moving to the New Testament, we get some of the most compelling evidence of scripture to the literal interpretation of Genesis.

Genealogies are crucial to the Jewish people, and we have two records in Matthew and Luke. In Luke it records the origins of Christ - Luke 3:23 Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, who was the son of Heli, … 31 who was the son of David, 32 who was the son of Jesse, who was the son of Obed, … 34 who was the son of Jacob, who was the son of Isaac, who was the son of Abraham,

Until this point, there would be no arguing that each of these individuals existed. However, if the records of Genesis are figurative, then the genealogy of Christ changes from literal to figurative in verse Luke 6:36 - who was the son of Shem, who was the son of Noah, who was the son of Lamech … 38 who was the son of Enosh, who was the son of Seth, who was the son of Adam, who was the son of God.

These genealogies must all be historically true and accurate, or we would have to recognize that Jesus descended from a myth. That would seriously question and create doubt in Jesus being human and therefore Savior and Lord.


How does Jesus treat the Genesis text? He quotes from it in Luke 11:50-51 - that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the beginning of the world, may be required from this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it shall be required from this generation.

How can Jesus say that Abel is the first prophet killed, comparing him with the prophet Zechariah, a real person, if Abel is not a real person?

When Jesus spoke about His Second Coming, He said in Matthew 24:37–39 - As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage… How could we believe in the Second Coming of Christ if the promise of it is tied to something symbolic? Maybe the Second Coming is only an allegory.


Does it matter if the beginning chapters of Genesis are Literal or Not?

Indeed, we have seen some areas where yes, it does matter. But let's look at what Paul says. Let's see how this impacts some of the essential doctrines of scripture: sin, salvation, and Jesus.

Romans 5:12 - Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, so death has spread to all men, because all have sinned.

Romans 5:19 - For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One the many will be made righteous

1 Corinthians 15:21-22 - For since death came by man, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Paul established his doctrine of sin and salvation on the fact, found in Genesis 3, that sin and death entered the world through Adam. We have all fallen short of God's glory; we have all sinned because we are all tied to Adam. If Adam didn't exist, where does all this originate?

If Adam is a symbolic character and not the literal head of humanity, how does Paul draw the comparison between a symbolic person to the real person of Jesus Christ? Jesus, as the Last Adam, came into the world to bring righteousness and life to people and undo the first Adam's fall.

Suggesting that Adam is a symbolic character jeopardizes the whole Christian faith. Many severe problems of faith come into a non-literal interpretation of Genesis.


Faith is not inconsistent with science, but faith is not based upon science but God’s Word.

We need to remember that God’s Word is a supernatural book and that we serve a supernatural God. God set the laws of science in place. They did not limit him. His creation of the world and the historical accounts that He gave us in Genesis were not limited by the laws of science or human reasoning. He laid the foundations of everything we know and observe in our natural world. We must remember that He gave us the account of the beginning because He was there.

Job 38:4-7 - “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if you have understanding. 5 Who has determined its measurements, if you know? Or who has stretched the line upon it? 6 To what are its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone 7 when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

He is powerful and faithful. This should build our faith and trust in Him. If He can set the earth's foundations in place, He can work in your life what you need.

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