Recently, a few Scripture passages came together for me that highlight an interesting perspective about the Genesis creation account. First, a verse in Hebrews made me think about the nature of revelation, and then it connected with a couple other Old Testament verses that relate to the Genesis account. Taken together, these truths raise an interesting question about how we received the account.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” Job 38:4
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, Hebrews 1:1
And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream.” Numbers 12:6
In Job, the Lord asked a rhetorical question in order to point out that Job was not there at creation, and in fact, no human was. This begs the question of how we can know anything at all about what happened. The Hebrews verse reminds us that, at least in the OT, such divine revelations were given through the prophets. The Numbers passage points out something that is clearly evident throughout Scripture, that God used dreams and visions when He spoke through the prophets, full of figurative elements.1
What does this imply about the Genesis creation account? If it was given as divine revelation through a prophet, should we expect it to be highly figurative or literal? A natural reading of the passage points to a literal interpretation, but we must not let human wisdom replace God’s wisdom when interpreting His Word.
Now, I don’t think these passages conclusively prove anything, but they do make it obvious that a figurative perspective is a very Biblical possibility and should not be casually dismissed. In other words, there’s no danger of over-spiritualizing the passage, since Scripture itself points to the possibility.
So, why isn’t this perspective more common? I’ve brought it up to a few people, and although no one has pointed out any clear error, it generally seems to be a new idea to them. Considering how much discussion goes on about Biblical creation, I would have thought something so basic would have come up before, even if just to be refuted.
The thing that really worries me is that simply disregarding this part of the context leads to proof texting rather than solid Bible study. A truly seeking heart diligently looks for answers, works for them, and calls out to the Lord for wisdom regardless of whether it fits in with popular thought. Unfortunately, we also sometimes seek Biblical perspectives just to justify an intellectual belief that we already have. Ignoring the possibility that divine revelation is part of the context appears just like that sort of rationalization. Instead, let us seek Truth with an open heart, and let Him lead us.
1. Moses may seem to be an exception, but consideration of things like the tabernacle and the Law, show us that God still used figurative terms when speaking through Moses, albeit in different ways.