HOW CHRISTIANS INTERPRET THE GENESIS CREATION STORIES
How Christians interpret Genesis:
Differing religious beliefs about origins of the species, the Earth, and
the rest of the universe have their foundation in different views of the
creation stories -- in the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Scriptures, and in
other passages elsewhere in of Bible:
Conservative Christians generally
believe in the
inerrancy of the Bible. Thus they regard the creation stories in the
first part of Genesis to be literally correct. Many believe that the
events covered six actual 24-hour days.
Some believe that God created the world exactly as stated, and they
believe that it happened circa 4004 BCE. This date
was computed by Bishop Ussher by working backwards in the Bible from
the year during which Saul became King.
Others have estimated creation as early as 8,000 BCE. They
base this upon the assumptions that the many "begats" in the Bible did
not necessarily refer to a father begatting a son; rather, they may have
described a grandfather begatting a grandson. This would insert an
unknown number of generations into the calculations, and push the
creation date back further into history.
Other conservative and mainline Christians have attempted to
reconcile the Bible with the findings of science. They believe that the Earth is billions of years old. They follow the day-age
old earth, or gap theories described elsewhere in
this web site. By harmonizing Genesis and science, they can continue
their belief in God's inspiration of the
Bible's authors, and the resultant inerrancy of the Bible.
Post-Christians, and most liberal Christians do not accept the
inerrancy of the Bible. They note that that the authors of Genesis lived
in a pre-scientific world. Even elementary geology, cosmology, astronomy,
biology etc. were beyond their knowledge and ability to understand. These
Christians may accept the creation stories in Genesis as:
A fallible human product by the ancient Israelites; an imaginative
creative work that is unrelated to reality, but was the best that the
authors could do with their primitive scientific knowledge.
A myth derived from earlier Mesopotamian creation stories that was
re-worked by the ancient Israelites to remove most of the original polytheistic
references and show God's superiority over nature -- creator over
An allegory that was never meant to be interpreted literally. A myth
that is used as a vehicle to teach spiritual truths. 6
Why is the debate over origins so important?
Conservative Christians commit a great deal of effort and money into the
promotion of creation science. Many work persistently to have it taught as
part of the science curriculum in public schools. One reason is that the
liberal and Roman Catholic positions, which favor evolution, throw into
doubt Adam, Eve, and the Garden of Eden as actual people and places.
Creation science supports the creation stories as literal truth. If the
creation stories in Genesis are religious myth, then the story of Adam and
Eve eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
would probably also be considered as a fable that never happened.
Historical Christianity teaches that humanity's isolation from God and
descent into sin stems from this event. If the original sin and fall of
humanity did not happen, then people would not need to be saved. Yeshua of
Nazareth (Jesus Christ) would not have had a role as savior; his execution
and resurrection would not be needed. Thus, many conservative Christians
treat the creation stories as of paramount importance. If the stories are allowed
to be interpreted as myth, religious conservatives see foundational Christian beliefs
collapsing like a row of dominoes.