by Richard Peachey
The literary framework or structure of the book of Genesis indicates that the book as a whole is intended to be understood as history. Note the recurring phrase: "These are the generations" (or "This is the account").
|2:4||These are the generations of the heavens and the earth, when they were created.|
|5:1||This is the book of the generations of Adam.|
|6:9||These are the generations of Noah.|
|10:1||These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.|
|11:10||These are the generations of Shem.|
|11:27||These are the generations of Terah.|
|25:12||These are the generations of Ishmael.|
|25:19||These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son.|
|36:1||These are the generations of Esau (that is, Edom).|
|36:9||These are the generations of Esau, the father of the Edomite|
|37:2||These are the generations of Jacob.|
The New Testament writers, as well as the other writers of the Old Testament, clearly understand Genesis (including chapters 1 and 2) as true history. (Italicized references below are from the New Testament.)
|1:1ff.||Hebrews 11:3||Creation "ex nihilo" by God’s word.|
|1:1–2:3||Exodus 20:8-11||Creation in 6 days; rest on 7th day.|
|1:1||Psalm 8:3||The heavens made by God.|
|1:3||2 Corinthians 4:6||God commanded light to shine.|
|1:6,7||Psalm 19:1b||God made the sky.|
|1:6,9||2 Peter 3:5||Earth formed out of water, by water.|
|1:14-18||Psalm 104:19||Purpose of the moon God made.|
|Psalm 136:7-9||Purpose of sun, moon, stars God made.|
|Isaiah 40:26||Stars created by God.|
|Jeremiah 31:35||Purpose of sun, moon, stars.|
|1:20-22||Psalm 104:24,25||Seas filled with life by God.|
|1:26,27||Psalm 8:6-8||Man given rulership over creation.|
|Matthew 19:4||God created them male and female.|
|1 Corinthians 11:7||Man is the image and glory of God.|
|James 3:9||Man was made in the likeness of God.|
|1:31||1 Timothy 4:4||Everything created by God is good.|
|2:2||Hebrews 4:4,10||God’s rest on the 7th day.|
|2:7||1 Corinthians 15:45,47||Man made of earth, a "living soul."|
|1 Timothy 2:13||Man was created before woman.|
|2:17||Romans 5:12||Death came through sin.|
|2:18||1 Corinthians 11:9||Woman was created for man’s sake.|
|2:21-23||1 Corinthians 11:8||Woman originated from man.|
|2:24||Matthew 19:5||Verse spoken by "the Creator."|
The later chapters of Genesis are plainly intended to be taken as historical — and no distinct boundary line exists before which the author obviously means earlier chapters to be considered as non-historical. A tight genealogical continuity is given from Adam through his sons and the succeeding generations right up to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. No point can be specified where "myth" would end and "history" would begin.
(Interestingly, Charles Darwin himself accepted the historical validity of at least one aspect of Genesis 30, as evidenced in his discussion of selective breeding in the first chapter of Origin of Species. Darwin states: "From passages in Genesis, it is clear that the colour of domestic animals was at that early period attended to.")
Within the disputed first eleven chapters of Genesis, mention is made of 64 geographical terms, 88 personal names, and some 20 identifiable cultural items (e.g., gold, onyx, brass, iron, mortar, musical instruments, cities). In the first two chapters, such "real world" categories are found notably in Genesis 2:8-14. Such specificity is not expected in a "myth." (I owe this point to Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. 1970. "The Literary Form of Genesis 1-11." In J. Barton Payne [ed.]. New Perspectives on the Old Testament. Waco, TX: Word. p. 59.)
There is no substantial literary indication in Genesis 1-2 that these early chapters are intended to be taken as allegory, legend, parable, poetry, or any other sort of "non-historical material."
Despite the exalted tone of this section, the genre is plainly narrative prose, not poetry, as indicated by: (a) lack of parallelism, (b) use of the direct object marker, and (c) use of the waw consecutive with verbs to describe sequential acts. (See the following paragraphs for details on these technical issues.)
(a) Lack of parallelism: Hebrew poetry generally uses a "parallel" structure, in which the second line either restates or enhances the first line. (This is sometimes referred to as the rhyming of thoughts rather than of word sounds.) If the second line involves a restatement, this can be either positive, repeating the same idea in different words (synonymous parallelism), as in Psalm 35:4; or negative, giving a comparable thought but from an opposite perspective (antithetical parallelism), as in Proverbs 10:1. No parallel structure is found in the first two chapters of Genesis except possibly in 1:27 and 2:23 (note that the New International Version, for example, indents these verses differently from the rest of Genesis 1-2).
(b) Use of the direct object marker: The "direct object" in a sentence is the person or thing receiving the action of the verb. In the sentence, "Tom kicked the ball," the direct object is "the ball," which receives the action of the verb "kicked." In Hebrew narrative, the particle אֶת (eth) is often written just before the direct object in a sentence, because Hebrew word order is flexible and does not always clearly indicate the direct object. Hebrew poetry often (not always) omits this particle, but in Genesis 1-2 it is found 40 times, including those instances in which the particle is incorporated as part of a personal pronoun (1:1 [2x], 4, 7, 16 [4x], 17, 21 [3x], 22 [2x], 25 [3x], 27 [3x], 28 [2x], 29 [2x], 30, 31; 2:3 [2x], 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 19, 22, 24 [2x]).
(c) Use of the waw consecutive with verbs to describe sequential acts: In Hebrew, the letter ו (waw, pronounced "vuv," rhymes with "love," and is transliterated as either "v" or "w") is often prefixed to a verb. This letter carries the meaning "and," but when prefixed to a verb, it also has the effect of changing a verb in the past tense to the future tense, or vice versa. For example, יֹאמַר (yo’mar) means “he will say,” but וַיּאׄמֶר (vayyo’mer), with a prefixed waw, means “and he said.” This interesting feature is often found in Hebrew prose, but is typically less used in poetry. (A notable exception is found in poetic material that is clearly intended as historically-based, such as Psalms 105 and 106.) The waw consecutive appears 75 times in Genesis 1-2 (1:3 [2x], 4 [2x], 5 [3x], 6, 7 [3x], 8 [3x], 9 [2x], 10 [2x], 11 [2x], 12 [2x], 13 [2x], 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 [2x], 20, 21 [2x], 22, 23 [2x], 24 [2x], 25 [2x], 26, 27, 28 [2x], 29, 30, 31 [3x]; 2:1, 2 [2x], 3 [2x], 7 [3x], 8 [2x], 9, 15 [2x], 16, 18, 19 [2x], 20, 21 [4x], 22 [2x], 23).
For further reading:
"A Critique of the Framework Interpretation of the Creation Account (Part 1 of 2)" (by Robert V. McCabe) <http://archive.dbts.edu/journals/2005/McCabe.pdf>
"A Critique of the Framework Interpretation of the Creation Account (Part 2 of 2)" (by Robert V. McCabe) <http://archive.dbts.edu/journals/2006/McCabe.pdf>
Bruce Waltke on the Genre of Genesis 1: A Critique <http://www.creationbc.org/index.php/bruce-waltke-on-the-genre-of-genesis-1-a-critique/>