YOU CAN GET IN TROUBLE using the words myth and Genesis in the same sentence.
As in “The Genesis story about God creating Eve from one of Adam’s ribs is a myth, a bit like a parable. It’s making a point, not teaching a history lesson.”
Many Bible experts, even some conservative ones, would agree with the statement I just wrote.
Revered Bible commentator Matthew Henry (1662–1714) might not have felt comfortable with the “m” word. But he did say he thought the Genesis poet had this in mind:
Eve wasn’t made out of Adam’s head, to top him,
or his feet, to get trampled on.
She was made from Adam’s side, to be equal with him;
from under his arm, to be protected by him;
and from near his heart, to be loved by him.
Just so you know, many Bible scholars are relaxed about reading some Bible stories as myths that have little to do with history and a lot to do with perception—with the way people in ancient times tried to make sense of why life is the way it is.
The scholars say they see some Bible stories as teaching something other than “one truth” about history. They say the stories, which they call myths, are teaching “many truths” about the culture of the day in which they were written.
I know, you’re probably uncomfortable with that. Please don’t shoot the messenger. But I’m seeing enough of a trend in this direction that I thought you might want to be aware of it and to think about it a bit.
Here’s an example of that brand of thinking, reported in the current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
“The Eden story seeks to answer ‘present’ questions: why people wear clothes, why men have to work hard to produce food from the earth, and why women have pain in childbirth and are dominated by their husbands” (“The Multiple Truths of Myths,” by Shawna, Dolansky, adjunct professor, Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario).
In other words, the Genesis writer wasn’t quoting God. He was reverse engineering. He was starting with where he could see the world was—with people wearing clothes, working hard, and giving birth in more pain than rotator cuff surgery performed on your face. And he was brainstorming about how that might have come to be.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting you read the Bible that way. I’m saying that many people who make their living studying the Bible do.
And I’m saying you should be aware of that, since you already know that most of us wear clothes in public, work hard when the boss is watching, and ask for the strongest painkiller known to humanity when the Little One is about to arrive, larger than life.
Where NASA and the Bible agree
Now for those who feel uncomfortable with the idea that the Bible has a bunch of myths in it, you might enjoy the following counterbalance.
It’s a short video I had fun putting together for you. It’s to whet your appetite for A Visual Walk Through Genesis, coming July 1.
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